five reasons why “losers cry deal” should be your go-to combat! episode

Every time I re-watch this episode, I love it even more.

I wasn’t really sure about whether or not I was going to write this post, because hardly anyone (any of my contemporaries, that is) knows much about Combat! and this post would be a break from Regular Programming, etc., etc.  But then I found out that today is the 50th anniversary of “Losers Cry Deal” premiering on television, so I simply had to buckle down and get this thing published.  Don’t worry…I’ll be back to book reviews and Current Fandom Stuff next post – this one is more for me, myself, and I than anyone else, so feel free to ignore it. (Although if you do want to learn more about Combat!, go here.  The article gives an excellent overview, much better than Wikipedia’s.)

(in no real order of importance, except the first one)

{#1 – Directed by Vic Morrow}

Almost all the best episodes are. :)

This point is not to be taken lightly.  Along with portraying one of the show’s main characters (if not the main character), Sergeant Saunders, Vic Morrow also directed six episodes of Combat! and he directed them fabulously.  “Hills Are For Heroes” is the episode that most people think of when Vic Morrow’s directorial skills on Combat! are mentioned (and HAFH deserves it, too), but “Losers Cry Deal” is a forgotten gem of directing that needs more recognition.  Vic Morrow could pull the best performances out of the cast, and it really shows here.  Everyone is absolutely top-notch in this episode, which leads me to my next point…

{#2 – Great Characterization}

"I think he needs to see a doctor."  "Yeah, Sarge, me too!"

For alllll the regulars. (Except Billy, who wasn’t in it because it’s season three, and he isn’t really a regular but he should’ve been.)  The stellar characterization is why I’ll always use this episode to introduce people to the show.  You get an excellent ‘feel’ for everyone.  I can forgive Shirl Hendryx the wonky characterization in “The Letter” because of this episode. (he wrote the scripts for both)  Whenever I need a good dose of The Squad, this is the episode I watch.  Crowning Moments Of Characterization include…

  • When Hanley says “It’s a tough war.”
  • When Saunders tells Jackson to watch out for Hicks and Other, Random Guy.
  • When Doc asks Saunders to take care of The Littlejohn Situation.
  • When Caje gets angry with Jackson. (I really feel like this is a Caje-focus episode…)
  • When Littlejohn gets angry with Jackson.
  • When Kirby imitates Hicks.

{#3 – Minor Characters}

I HAD to pin the larger version of this.  I mean, LOOK AT HIM.

THE MINOR CHARACTERS ARE THE BEST.  ESPECIALLY HICKS. (pictured above, btw)  I know Tom Skerritt plays an awful role in “Nothing To Lose” and he’s a German sergeant in “The Gantlet”, but his roles in “The Prisoner” and “Losers Cry Deal” make him out to be so, I don’t know – adorable? – that he’s still one of my favorite Combat! actors.  Hicks is naive and inexperienced and stuck in the middle of Jackson Drama sometimes…but my sister and I really like him.  He brightens/lightens the whole episode.  Plus, he has a great grin.  And then there’s Marcus, who I love watching in the background.  His facials reactions to Jackson’s obnoxiousness and Doc’s sense of humour, and pretty much everything are hilarious and awesome.  There’s Kelly and Johnson and Sergeant Sloccum, all of whom are great, as befits this episode, even if they only get a couple seconds of screen time apiece.

{#4 – Uniqueness}

Sleepy Doc is adorable. And Sleepy Doc Looking Out For His Friends In A Poker Game....well. It's pretty awesome.

There’s really no fighting. (Except the first two minutes, and a little bit in the middle of the episode.)  There’s no spies or secret missions or patrols.  This is the episode where the whole squad (plus Third Squad) gets to relax and have some downtime for practically the whole forty-five minutes.  They walk into the chateau, or whatever it is, and sleep and play poker and sleep some more.  Of course, there’s still tension and drama, courtesy of Jackson, but there’s no immediate danger to anyone – “Losers Cry Deal” provides a nice break for both The Guys and the audience.  (And I can tell you that staying up so late does shorten tempers and make things crazy and I love how that was portrayed.  I really need to watch this episode during an all-night sometime; it’ll make it seem all that more real.)

{#5 – Caje}

Oh, man...if I had Saunders and Caje looking at me like this, I'd be trembling in my boots.

Remember what I said about this being a Caje-focus episode?  Well, it is.  Saunders gives Caje temporary control over Third Squad (instead of Jackson) and he definitely doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.  Jackson rags on him, but Caje just ignores him and keeps on taking down the names of all the guys in Third Squad.  And then Caje loses a man the very first time he’s acting squad leader. “Losers Cry Deal” is Caje’s story.  It really is.  It shows how he deals with the loss of one of ‘his’ men, his anger at Jackson, his strong sense of duty with making sure he has everyone’s name.  Despite Tommy’s death, I still think Caje would make an excellent squad leader.  (And, really, it was Tommy’s fault, because he didn’t listen to what Caje told him to do.)  And if you aren’t a Caje fan already (which you SHOULD be), I’m pretty sure this episode will make you one.

Every time I re-watch this episode, I love it even more, and I’m sure you would too.  Just give it a try. (Or another try, if you’ve already seen it and not liked it all that much.)

The End.



11 thoughts on “five reasons why “losers cry deal” should be your go-to combat! episode

  1. Agree 100% Eva. This episode is a powerful example of mid-1960s television drama with unexpected 1940 film noir style touches. Vic Morrows direction is brilliant and captures the mood perfectly. Not surprisingly, the story was written by a Second World War veteran. You will never find something as authentically atmospheric as “Losers Cry Deal” ever made again for prime time TV.


  2. Just a tidbit, Shirl Hendryx is a man. I’m sure he was constantly explaining that in his writing career. I heard him commentate on a combat episode that he wrote from the disc set. He liked to write episodes where the characters were stuck in a place (like a cave). Love Loser Cry Deal too. You caught many of the underlying strengths from this episode.


  3. Sometimes I forget how good this one is. It’s not an ep I had as a kid, so it’s not one I’m super-duper familiar with. We taped about 50 eps off TV when I was 14, and until the DVDs came out more than a decade later, those were the only eps I’d seen, with the exception of four or five that someone kindly dubbed for me once. So I tend to fall back on those eps I grew up with as “my favorites” and forget how truly good many of the others are too. Like this one — mmmmm! It’s so very good. Bumping it up higher on my rewatch list 🙂 Thanks!


  4. Since you rate this one so highly, I’ll have to add it to my mental list of episodes to see. 🙂 And I always like scripts where the whole thing develops through the interaction of characters thrown together in one place for a while. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the notion of Tom Skerritt playing a character who’s not vaguely annoying…he’s turned up a few times in my favorite TV western The Virginian, and for some reason seems a little irritating even when he’s supposed to be a good guy.


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  8. I grew up watching Combat as a young boy. The show was very good and since my Dad had landed at Omaha Beach and all my friends Dad’s were also WW2 Vets these shows meant a lot to us as kids as we grew up.
    My Dad was in his late 30’s in the 1960’s and these shows at times took him back 20 years to when he was a teen at 18-19 years old fighting his way across Europe hoping to live each day.
    I am amazed at what my father went through as a very young man and Combat still holds my attention to the edge of my seat as I view them again decades later.


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