While my favorite Combat! character is Doc (played by Conlan Carter, not Steven Rogers) I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow). And since this post is an entry in the Vic Morrow Blogathon, I’ll be talking about my favorite episodes of Combat! that focus on Saunders. It was super hard to narrow down my options, especially since Saunders is an integral part of so many episodes.
But here’s my list.
‘Far From the Brave’ (Season 1)
This is one of the Combat! episodes I’ve watched the most – and with good reason. It’s one of the best in the show, diving into Saunders’ character and the squad’s interactions. Though the banter between Billy and Littlejohn is one of my favorite moments, this really is Saunders’ episode. One of his best friends, Grady Long, is killed in the episode’s opening and the rest of the story is him (and the squad) dealing with the fallout from that. Even though Saunders behaves rather badly to the guy who comes to replace Long, you get where he’s coming from. A poignant episode all around.
‘One for the Road’ (Season 1)
Allll the feelings. The squad finds a baby and, of course, they have to take it with them because it won’t be safe otherwise. (I mean, it probably isn’t too safe with a bunch of American soldiers in enemy territory, but they can’t just leave it with no one around.) Saunders is dead-set against the whole idea but he eventually thaws and it honestly does make me cry. :*) I think this episode is some of Vic Morrow’s finest acting on the show (and that’s saying a lot).
‘The Long Way Home’ (Season 2)
More of a ‘whole squad’ episode, but I believe it focuses on Saunders enough to qualify for this list. The squad gets captured by and thrown into a POW camp. Saunders has to keep morale up and figure out a plan of escape while fending off (and enduring) attacks from the camp’s sadistic commandant. (I’ve never been able to trust Richard Baseheart since.) Saunders has to make some tough decisions; the whole situation adds yet another dimension to his character.
‘Mail Call’ (Season 2)
Saunders get put through the wringer again. In this episode he receives a letter stating that his brother (who I believe is fighting in the Pacific) is missing in action. He doesn’t tell anyone about the letter’s contents, though the whole squad knows that something is up. Saunders is quiet, detached, and abrasive to the new guy who joins the squad. (If this sounds like a rehash of ‘Far From the Brave’, it’s not. Some of the plot points are similar, but both episodes are unique.) Us viewers don’t actually know what’s wrong with Saunders until near the end of the episode, which is kind of nice. It puts us in the squad’s shoes as they try to cheer Saunders up + figure out what’s up with him. (Spoilers: his brother makes it out okay. *happy tears*)
‘A Gift of Hope’ (Season 3)
This episode will always be special to me because Hamlette and I watched it together. It was an awesome experience (one that I hope can be repeated with other Combat! episodes). But even if I didn’t have that connection with it, this episode would still be on this list because it’s superb in its own right. A friend of Saunders, believed to be dead, makes a reappearance and Saunders has to prove that said friend isn’t a deserter (his friend’s name is Avery and he’s the coolest, awesomest side character on Combat!). There’s so much going on in this episode, character- and action-wise, that I can’t stop re-watching it.
Saunders is a very special character and that’s thanks (in large part) to Vic Morrow. His spot-on acting skills made Saunders who he is (though the writers played a part in that as well). I watched ‘Blackboard Jungle’ a few days ago and Morrow’s role in that surprised me all over again because Artie West the polar opposite of Saunders. It’s a tribute to what a good actor Vic Morrow was…just like this post and the blogathon it’s written for.
Take the point!