the awesomeness that is AVERY

{This post will not make any sense whatsoever to anyone who’s not watched Combat! and, specifically, the episode “A Gift Of Hope”.  However, Ashley and Jane are still both away/busy so this is MY blog [muahahahahaha…] for right now, and this is what I wanted to post, so I’m doing it.}

{Also, this will be more of a mini-theawesomenessthatis post because Avery is only in one episode.  Still, he makes a powerful impression.}

“If you lose yourself, your courage soon will follow.  So be strong tonight…remember who you are.” ~lyrics from “Sound The Bugle”

Avery is a paradox for me.

Normally, I dislike (or, at the very least, feel an annoyance for) authority figures in war movies who do a lot of shouting at the men under them, ordering them around, and generally behaving like jerks.  (I also tend not to really like characters on Combat! who crack up under pressure, but I’ll get to that a little later.)  And, yet, I fell in love with Avery (in the ‘this is just a fictional character’ sense, of course).  I will admit that it took a couple viewings of “A Gift Of Hope” for my liking for him to fully come together, but now I like him just as much as all the show’s regulars.  I believe the reason I still really liked Avery was because he’s not just an overbearing platoon sergeant.  Or just a guy who breaks under the strain of war – and a gift of hope.

Really, it’s surprising just how much characterization Avery gets in an episode that’s less than an hour long.  We see him go from rough-and-tough platoon sergeant (who, I’ve got to say, does looks out for the New Guys very, very well) to a suspected deserter to a man cracking under pressure to someone who Saunders hardly recognizes (as Avery prepares to really desert) and then back to how we see him in Kirby’s flashback.  Avery’s character is shown to us bit by bit, layer by layer, until by the end of the episode, you really feel like you know him.  And…you do.  Avery is a deep, true, real character and I love that.

Avery is my favorite.  Also, Rip Torn is now one my most favorite actors of all time.

There’s something about Avery that’s just so cool.  I know it’s horrid slang to be using for the kind of person he is, but it’s true.  Mainly in Kirby’s flashback.  Everything from his helmet – it’s great, it’s so unique – to the way the words keep flying out of his mouth (alternately scolding and encouraging the new replacements), to the whole name/place thing…he’s so cool.  He really cares about the men under him, as shown perfectly by one of trademarks, that I unimaginatively call ‘the name/place thing’.  Consider…

Avery: “Batally (sp?), where’re you from?”
Batally: “Madison.  Wisconsin.”
Avery:  “Oh, yeah?  That’s a great town, I used to work there once.”
Batally:  “Yeah…”
Avery: “Had a wild little bar downtown, what’s the name of it?  Used to hang out there.”
Batally: “Uh…Angelo’s?  Third Street?”
Avery: “Yeah, that’s the one.”
Batally: *laughs a little*

Saunders: “Madison, Wisconsin.  You worked there, huh?”
Avery: “Well, sometimes maybe it helps to think that somebody knows your name, where you’re from.”

Plus, Avery’s the only person I know who can be on the receiving end of a Saunders’ Look and respond with a, “Well don’t look at me like that, Saunders.”  And that’s way. too. awesome. in and of itself. (Admittedly, the Look wasn’t one of Saunders Glares, but still…)

Speaking of Avery and Saunders, one thing that strikes me about him the most is how close he and Saunders are.  Saunders isn’t one to give his friendship like that to just anyone, and Avery really has his trust.  He’s been through North Africa and Italy and Sicily just like Saunders, which leads me to believe that perhaps Avery and Saunders knew each other before D-Day. That personal headcanon of mine makes what Saunders says about about “I never thought I’d want to see you dead” all the more heartwrenching. (On a slightly unrelated note, I love how the beginning of the episode dumps us right into the action without any real point of reference – we have no clue who this Avery guy is.  It feels very immediate and natural.)  

And I also like what White Queen has to say about the two of them in her review of the episode

Avery in the first flashback makes me grin — he’s being such a stereotypical sergeant, all loud and bossy. Saunders gives him a series of, “Do you have to do this?” looks. They’re like flip sides of the same coin, those two. Saunders is normally all into helping people over rough spots, but he can get loud and bossy when he needs to, and Avery’s the exact opposite. I dig it.

So after convincing Saunders that he didn’t run, he didn’t desert, Avery strikes out on a quest (dun-dun-DUN) with Saunders to clear his name.  They go back up to the front (much to Hanley’s mystification) and it’s while disabling a mine and walking through places that have shells falling pretty close in, that Saunders begins to see that, while Avery might not have deserted, he’s lost his nerve.  The climax of the episode comes when, after killing off a machine gun next of Germans singlehandedly, Saunders looks over to see Avery crying, completely shattered.

M'kay.  Let me talk about this scene for a sec.  Or, more specifically, the MUSIC in this scene.  Most of them time whenever an ENG or basically anyone besides a regular cracks up/loses their nerve, there's really scary/jittery music in the background.  But when in THIS scene, what is playing?  The C! theme, soft and quiet.  Makes me cry EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Oh, man.  That part always, always gets to me in hugely emotional way.  See, I’m the kind of person who notices the minutiae of music in films and TV shows.  I’ll listen for repeated musical themes (or even just notes) and tie in the fact that “OH MY GOODNESS THEY RE-USED THE SAME THEME FROM THAT SCENE FOR THIS SCENE IT MUST MEAN SOMETHING”.  I sometimes go a little overboard, but I can’t help it.  It’s just something I notice.  And, usually, whenever a character breaks up/loses their nerve on Combat!, the music is all moody/jittery/scary – total mood music.  But you know what they decided to play during that little bit of Avery just before the dramatic commercial break.  The theme tune, played slow and low.

THE THEME TUNE, PLAYED SLOW AND LOW.

Immediately, it gives Avery a distinction (in my mind) from all the other random guys who lose their nerve.  The whole thing is more respectful, in a way, and that’s what I love about it.  Plus, when the theme’s played like that, it’s sort of achingly beautiful.  So I cry a lot.

And the way Avery comes back around?  Perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  He’s leaving for good, going off to desert, even after Saunders told/asked him not to.  So he’s walking away, all firm and determined, when a group of young (verrry young) GIs call out to him and ask him, in so many words, if he can direct them to King Company. (Let me just say that the way Avery says – of King Company – “Yeah, that’s a good outfit” always makes me smile.)  No, he can’t, he’s being sent back to the States, etc, etc.  And then…and then… (I WILL NOT CRY.  I WILL NOT CRY.  I WILL NOT CRY.)

GI #1: “Hey, Sarge, did you ever see any of those new Kraut tanks?”
GI #2: “You know, the ones with the flamethrowers?  We heard they burned out a whole company from the 23rd.”
Avery: “Who told you that?”
GI #3: “Well, everybody knows it.”
Avery: “Well I don’t know it.  And if they haven’t thrown it at me, they ain’t got it.” [brief note: right after he says the above, you can see him thinking, kind of like “Should I walk away or keep talking?” and it’s amazing acting on Rip Torn’s part]  “You stop listenin’ to all that garbage, you hear me?  Learn to count on yourself.  There ain’t gonna be anyone up there to boost you over the rough spots, you gotta realize that…what’s your name?”
GI #2 (I think): “Pittinger.”
Avery: “Where’re you from?”
GI #2: “Tacomba.  Tacomba, Washington.”
Avery: “Yeah, I used to work up there.  Spent a lot of time in a real wild little bar downtown on the main drag.”
GI #2: “Tony’s!”
Avery: “Yeah, that’s the place.  I used to have some real wild times there…”

*melts into a puddle of feels*

Anyway.

They could’ve ended the episode there, and it would have been practically perfect, but they added in the greatest little tag scene with Saunders and Avery that’s one of my favorite scenes in the whole show.  From Avery’s little hand wave when Saunders wakes up to the “For a while back there, I almost thought that…”/”Yeah, for a moment back there, I almost did.” to Saunders’ smile, it’s an all around wonderful scene.  Just wonderful.

Also, Rip Torn is a great actor and he was wonderful in ‘Pork Chop Hill’ too and I love his Texas accent.

Eva

the awesomeness that is DOC

“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.” ~Markus Zusak, I Am The Messenger

Oh, man. This quote. This quote so perfectly sums up Doc’s character. I have so many feels about it. See, in the last post I did that was a character study (about Dietrich), I had a quote at the very top of the post, so I thought I should have one for Doc. I was running through the list of awesome quotes I keep catalogued up in my head, despairing of ever finding a good one, and then I remembered something I’d pinned to my Book Thief Pinterest board (yes, yes, I know the quote’s from Messenger – so sue me) and from what I could remember, it was perfect. So I looked it up. And it was.

*re-reads quote* *squees at the awesomeness*

Let me give you a little background on the show, Combat!, first. Still holding the title of longest running TV show about WWII ever, Combat! ran for five seasons and delved into many issues of war and friendship. It’s my favorite thing, my current fandom, and I can’t watch enough of it to suit me. Combat! chronicles the adventures of a squad (and their Lieutenant) fighting their way through France after D-Day. There are hardly any references to historical battles or important people like Patton or Churchill, just episode after episode about the struggles and trials of the main characters. (and, boy, do they go through a lot of struggles and trials) It may not sound all that interesting, but believe me, it is. And the characters wrap themselves so tightly around your heart that it’s crazy. I really could do a character study on each and every one (and maybe I will someday), but for now, I’m focusing on Doc.

Doc TWO, to be exact. Doc ONE has zero personality, zero competence rating, and zero courage. Seriously. Thankfully, he’s only in season one, and we get Doc2 (or GOOD Doc, or just Doc, like it’s going to be through this whole post) for all the other seasons. Awesome, right? Well, it might not make any impression on you right now (I’m looking at YOU, Ashley ;)), but once I’m done this post, it will. Or once you watch the show. I recommend you watch the show first, actually, because this post is going to have spoilers and reading spoilers for Combat! would be a terrible injustice. So go watch the whole show and then come back and read this. It’ll keep. (btw, even I haven’t watched every episode yet, so I might not cover everything about Doc in this post…but don’t worry. If I don’t, I’ll just write a follow-up.)

You back? Good. Let’s get into the post.

There are so many reasons to love Doc. So. Many. I couldn’t list them all if I tried, but even so, this is going to be a very long post. I have several points I want to cover, so without further ado, let’s get to them, shall we?

First of all, there’s Conlan Carter, the guy who portrays Doc. I don’t make it a policy of idolizing actors and actresses, and I’m not going to start now, but he brought so much to the role of Doc. For one, when he found out through his agent that he’d landed the role, he went out and took some classes in bandaging wounds and taking pulses, stuff like that, so he’d look comfortable/accurate whenever his character had to patch someone up. And just to give you an idea of how good his acting abilities are, he was the only actor in the show who was nominated for an Emmy (besides Vic Morrow for the episode ‘Survival’). (and my sister and I agree that Conlan Carter and Vic Morrow are the two very best actors in this show) That was for the episode ‘The Hostages’, and he totally deserved to win as well. But getting nominated is pretty big as well. I’ll be talking about ‘The Hostages’ a little later on, because it really is the ultimate episode for Doc fans.

Oh, and I just plain love his voice. That Southern accent… ❤

(fun fact: even though Doc2 didn’t make an appearance until season two, Conlan Carter played two different, small parts in season one: an MP in ‘Hill 256’ and a German soldier in ‘Survival’.)

Now that I’ve talked a little bit about Conlan Carter, I will devote the rest of this post to Doc. It’s going to be long. And full of gushy fangirling. And quotes. And feels. And pictures. But, hey, this blog was specifically created for word vomiting about feels and fandoms, so I don’t feel the least bit guilty about this outrageously long post. And Ashley will back me up on that. (still, if you’re not a Combat! fan, most of this will probably go over your head)

“Sarge, there’s a wounded man out there and he needs this. [some morphine, I believe]  And if I don’t try to get it to him, well, there’s no point in me being here, is there?”

Unfortunately, I don’t know the episode where that quote comes from (got the quote from a clip in a fan-video, actually – one I’ll share at the end of this post), since I haven’t watched them all, but that’s a loose summation of Doc’s character. He’s fiercely dedicated to saving lives (which makes the ending of ‘The Hostages’ – which I’ll get to soon – all the more heartbreaking), even at the risk of his own, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get aid to the wounded. One moment that sticks out more than others in my mind is in the episode ‘The First Day’. The entire squad is pinned down by machine gun fire, Caje is wounded and several yards away from the rest of the squad, and Doc insists on going out to help him, even though Saunders warns him not to. Bullets are flying everywhere, and Doc still goes out to help Caje. I had to pause the video for a moment and just…breathe. Because that moment was amazing and powerful and exactly what Doc is like.

“Caje is hit.  Maybe Tobin and Lomas too.  I’m going.”

He runs out under heavy fire, under shelling, even, to get soldiers the help they desperately need. Doc is brave. There’s a moment in ‘Hills Are For Heroes’, right at the beginning, when one of the soldiers going up the hill gets wounded in the face and Doc runs over and shields him from the killing fire coming from the German pillboxes. Bullets are peppering the ground all around both of them, but he doesn’t run away until he’s bandaged up the guy’s face and dragged him to safety. Or in ‘The Long Way Home’, when he’s being interrogated. A friend of mine, who loves Combat!, sums it up well in her episode review of TLWH (read the full thing here).

Doc looks so scared as Steiner questions him. And yet so calm. Watch him jump when Steiner whaps him on the arm with that evil riding crop. But he’s gutsy enough to tell his little Halloween story — and it’s a great story. I think it kinda shakes Steiner up — he can’t come up with a snappy retort. He just says, “I’ll think about it… while you think about it.” Lame!

Go Doc!

Of course, with all the times he goes out under fire to save lives, it would be unrealistic if he never got wounded.  Believe me, he does.  Not as much as the others, because he doesn’t take all the risks they do – sneaking around German OPs and running up hills five times under heavy fire, etc, etc. – but he does get shot a few times.  And whenever that happens, all I can think is “It’s so unfair.”  None of them deserve to be wounded, but especially not Doc. (and not Billy, but that’s a discussion for another day)  So it’s always awful when he gets hurt.

"I won't let you shoot a man in cold blood!"

Returning to the topic of Doc’s bravery, there’s one episode that sticks out the most when it comes to portraying it.  ‘The Hostages’.  I watched this episode for the first time just a couple of weeks ago and was absolutely blown away by it all.  The acting, the plot, the ending.  And through the whole thing, Doc showed amazing courage.  To put it in a nutshell, a sadistic German officer is holding Caje and Saunders hostage while Doc goes out and gets a truck that the German guy and his aide can escape in.  Only they take Doc and the others with them once they have the truck…to clear a path through a minefield.  Most of the episodes focuses on Doc’s attempt to get a truck.  Through the entire thing, you can almost feel the different emotions and questions running through Doc’s mind.  Kill the German officer?  Let his friends die to keep blood off his own hands?  On and on the moral dilemma goes until he finally acts.  And that’s one spoiler you won’t get out of me.  Just let me say…it was intense.  And I cried.

Well, I will give you another, potentially spoilery quote from my friend, because it really is great. (read the whole thing here)

This whole episode is really a fascinating character study about a man who’s sworn not to kill or do violence who is forced with the choice of either breaking that vow or seeing people he cares about get killed. The tension inside Doc mounts ever higher throughout the episode until finally he is forced to do something he probably thought he would never do. I really wish this ep had either a sequel or a longer denouement, so we could see more about Doc coming to grips with what he’s done. Saunders does the best he can, with his plea for help with his wound, but I don’t think Doc’s going to be brought back to normal quite that easily.

Ugggggggh.  Here come the feels.

Anyway.

Another thing I love about Doc is how he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. (side note: Doc1 was afraid of his own shadow.  It wasn’t attractive.)  In ‘The Hostages’, he demands to know where Aptmeyer (the German officer) is taking him and Saunders and Caje.  He really stood up to the guy and was pretty firm about having to know. (Aptmeyer lies to him though, as I’m sure he realized.  Still, it took guts to stand up to that creep.)  It was one of my favorite parts in the episode, actually, because he just…*covers face with hands*  Awesome.  So. Awesome.

But the example above isn’t the only time Doc has stood out and spoken up.  There are a couple of times in ‘Hills Are For Heroes’ that I remember well and one in particular – when Saunders has been wounded and Hanley comes in to see how he’s doing.

Hanley: “How is it?”
Saunders: “It’s not too bad, Lieutenant.”
Doc: “Don’t pay any attention to him, Lieutenant.  He’s got a whole area you could lose a grenade in.”
*Doc brings over some morphine*
Saunders: “No, Doc, forget it.  My leg doesn’t hurt that much.”
Doc: “Yeah, I’ll bet it doesn’t.”
Saunders: “I don’t want it.  Not till we get what we came for.  I’m not going to be any good asleep.”
Hanley: “May be quite a while before we get what we came for.”
Doc: “Well then you oughta take the shot.”
Saunders: “No, Doc, I don’t want it.”

Saunders can be stubborn too. 🙂  Just saying.  But Doc’s usually just as stubborn when it comes to getting men the medical care they need.  He doesn’t end up giving Saunders the morphine, but you can just SEE that he wants to.  Same as all the times there’s a wounded man on the field and he can’t get to them or there’s a wounded man and he doesn’t have his aid bag.  There’s an urge inside of him to help people, and when he can’t act on it, it’s one of the worst things.  That’s partly why when he said something in ‘The First Day’ about “I just try to keep people alive until we can get them to a real doctor” I was all like “You ARE a real doctor!”  I mean, he doesn’t have a medical degree or anything that fancy, he wasn’t even a doctor before the war, but he has the heart for it.  And he’s actually pretty competent.

Rabbit trail there.  Back to Doc speaking up and making himself heard when there’s something to be said.

My absolute favorite example of this is in the episode ‘Bridgehead’.  It’s one of my favorite episodes to begin with – one with all the squad, lots of epic fighting, touching moments….just an overall great episode.  In it, Littlejohn accidentally kills one of his friends with a bunch of grenades (yeah, ‘accidentally’ and ‘a bunch of grenades’ don’t seem to belong in the same sentence, but in this case, they do) and is really eaten up with guilt.  He gets wounded and Doc takes him back to headquarters, or whatever they call it, and Hanley’s there. (oh, and the entire squad’s being chewed to pieces by enemy fire all this time)  After listening to Littlejohn’s guilt and anger and anguish, Doc snaps. (not in a crazy, insane way – in an angry way)  And it’s awesome, albeit heartbreaking and totally feelsy in every way.

*Doc rips off his medic’s armband and tries to leave the room*
Hanley: “Now where do you think you’re going?”
Doc: “I want a rifle.”
Hanley: “You what?”
Doc: “I want to get in this shooting war.  I want a rifle.  Now I have had it up to
here with bandages and aspirin.  I want a rifle!”
Hanley: “Now you know that’s impossible.”
Doc: “Why?  Because of the rules?  I don’t shoot anybody, nobody shoots me?  We’re so civilized, we’ve even got rules to kill each other by.  Boy, that’s what I call organization!”
Hanley:  “Well don’t knock it.  Organization got us this far, all the way from Normandy.  Now he does his job, I do mine, and you do yours.”
Doc: “That’s fine, lieutenant.  But I’m beginning to think I’m going to be all by myself when this thing’s over.  Now the killing is getting way ahead of the fixing!”
Hanley: “Alright.  Now maybe we’ll all be dead before this thing is over.  But it won’t be because we quit halfway through to hold a coffee clutch.  Now we forget our jobs – you, me, him, the boys outside – and we’ll be dead that much sooner.  You read me?”
Doc: “Yes, sir.  I read you.”

Another quality of Doc’s that I admire is his peacemaker tendencies.  He always tries to smooth things over with the squad and keep the peace.  I think Saunders appreciates that about him, because if the squad is torn apart by fighting and bickering, how can any of them ever depend on each other?  This is actually shown really well in ‘Conflict’, an episode where Caje and Littlejohn are at each other’s throats for most of it.  Doc tries a gentler approach first, mostly observing the arguing and offering advice, but when that doesn’t work, he really lays into both of them (and this could go with the ‘says what needs to be said’ thing as well), calling them little kids and making them think, really think about what they’re doing.

Doc: “You guys oughta feel real proud of yourselves.
Caje: “Doc, I told you to skip the sermons.”
Doc: “Listen, you tell me to shut up and I’ll bust you one myself!  And that goes for you too, you big ape.”
Littlejohn: “Now wait a minute, Doc.”
Doc: “What’s the matter?  Don’t you like that kind of talk?  Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?  Well that’s exactly what you two have been sounding like all night, like a couple of kids!  Don’t even know what you’re arguing about anymore.  So you’re tired and you got a little wet.  And you need sleep.  Well, big deal.  So does everybody else!  What about the Sarge?  Boy, you’re really helping him, aren’t you?  Why do you suppose he left you two here?”
Littlejohn: “What are you talking about?  He-he left us here to cover him.”
Doc: “Did he?  Or was it because he was afraid he couldn’t trust you anymore?”

ASDOFIJAERDFAMEJRWERUIOJ.

You really can’t appreciate the scene fully unless you watch it, so go do it!  (all the episodes are available on Youtube, after all)  Now, moving on (this post is getting embarrassingly long), I just wanted to mention one other time – out of many – where Doc works above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to keeping things running smoothly.  There’s an episode in season five called ‘The Letter’, and a big part of it is Saunders trying to keep a new soldier in the squad out of harm’s way because he reminds Saunders of his kid brother.  The ENG (Expendable New Guy) is understandably frustrated with how Saunders constantly keeps him away from the fighting.  And that’s when Doc steps in, time and time again to offer explanations for Saunders’ behavior even if he doesn’t understand it himself.  Plus, he has a couple of talks with Saunders, once again playing the squad mediator.

A job which suits him perfectly, I might add.  Doc has one of the kindest, gentlest personalities I’ve ever seen onscreen or read of in a book.  That doesn’t mean he’s a pushover; he has opinions and he’s not afraid to share them.  He’s just a true, genuine, considerate, admirable person.  And I love him for that.  For all of that. *siiiiiiigh* Now, there are just a few more things I want to include in this post, and I’ll list them quickly in bulleted list.  And then I’m done.  I promise.

This picture makes me laugh :D

  • He looks out for Billy.  All the squad does, really, but I think Doc especially.  Of course, Doc looks out for the whole squad, but Billy…Billy is special.  He’s still basically a kid.  I’m torn between wishing Doc had been in ‘Glow Against The Sky’ because it would have been amazing and heartbreaking all at once to see him and Billy, and not wanting him because the squad did well on their own and I liked how they found a solution to everything.  Anyway, Doc-watching-out-for-Billy is one of my favorite things.
  • And what about Saunders and Doc’s friendship?  There are all those moments in ‘The Letter’ along with the bit right at the end of ‘Hills Are For Heroes’ where Doc’s supporting Saunders as they’re moving out. (it always makes me smile)  I think Saunders relies on Doc as a friend, a pillar of strength to depend on in time of trouble, and basically just someone to turn to in a crisis. (and there are plenty of those)  There’s a beautiful fanvideo commemorating their friendship that I highly recommend you check out.  It’s verrrry feelsy.
  • Last, but certainly, certainly not least, is The Bible Scene.  Oh. My. Word.  I totally freaked out.  TOTALLY.  So, you know, I’m just watching an episode (‘Gideon’s Army’) and then out of the blue, Doc takes a little Bible out of his bag and proceeds to read Kirby the passage about “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” and I’m sitting over here just….AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  THAT IS SO AMAZING. OAISJEORAWKEASDFNMWOEROI.  Etc, etc, etc.  He’s reading.  HIS. BIBLE.  CAN YOU NOT.  THAT’S JUST.  AWESOME. (and really fits with how I’d always headcanoned him as a Christian because his character and the way he’s got such a good attitude and gentle spirit and just….yep.  It’s my headcanon and I’m sticking to it.)

Sooooo.  Finally reached the end of this post (you and me both), and I just want to give you a couple of links to send you on your way 🙂  If you want more technical information, statistics, etc, about Doc there’s a great page for that along with a fantastic essay that I can’t seem to stop reading.  And, lastly, this lovely, tearjerker fanvideo – “Salute To Doc”.

Take the point.

Eva

the awesomeness that is DIETRICH

"In which Hans Gudegast/Eric Braeden is a terrifying actor. You can just see all of Dietrich’s men that have fallen to the Rats in his eyes. Right there. The men, the boys, the friends and barely-knew-hims he’s seen dragged out of flaming convoys because of Troy. And that is all in a moment of film, a sliver that you barely notice unless you stop the footage."

“…not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”

That quote is in reference to Captain America/Steve Rogers, but I find that it fits Dietrich’s character incredibly well.  He may not always agree with the Nazi mindset (okay, he never agrees with it) but he’ll still work through the twisted morals of his superiors to serve his country to the best of his ability…and at the same time, never sacrificing his own ideals for the sake of convenience or even safety.  There was one episode (‘Truce At Aburah’, which I’ll be discussing further a little later on) where a superior officer threatened to send a report to Berlin (a report that would probably get him pulled down in the ranks, if not executed) if Dietrich didn’t break a truce he had with the Rat Patrol (they’d agreed to a truce so that they could save a little girl out of a well), and Dietrich doesn’t budge.  His attitude is basically “do what you want, I’m not moving on this one”.  Because innocent civilians are more important than some crazy dude’s rantings.  And that’s just one example.

“I don’t want them to change me…Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not….I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show them that they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their game.”

*all the Hunger Games fangirls burst into tears*

Again, it’s not specifically from The Rat Patrol, but this quote…this quote so fits Dietrich.  It’s something he could’ve said.  I’m sure it’s something he thought on more than one occasion.  Like the time when he’s ordered to go find a certain kid, put a Star of David on him, drag him in to Nazi HQ, and send him off to a concentration camp. (from ‘Death Do Us Part’ – overall, the episode is probably my least favorite, but Dietrich is amazing in that one)  He doesn’t want to disobey a direct order, but the entire thing is wrong, and he knows it.  Consider…

German officer hands Dietrich his orders.
Dietrich reads over the paper and sighs heavily.
Dietrich: “So far we have been able to abstain from this sort of thing in the Africa campaign.”
German officer glares at him.
German officer: “What are you trying to tell me?”
Dietrich: “Merely that I want to register my objection to this.”
German officer: “Are you sure you can afford to?”
Dietrich: “I can’t afford not to!”
Dramatic music.  Hitch, Tully, and Moffitt look at each other.  Dietrich salutes and leaves.

Oh wow.  Ohhhhhh wow.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?

(plus, when he went to get the boy, he was so close to breaking down…it was horrible)

Would you call those puppy eyes? I’d call those puppy eyes.

Or in ‘Decoy Raid’ when a half-insane SS officer (hmm…there seems to be a theme going here) who I believe potentially has the authority to demote Dietrich, won’t keep his side of a bargain (a member of the RP – in this case, Moffitt – in exchange for a desperately needed medical nurse) and Dietrich practically loses it with him.  Flat-out yelling at a guy who’s crazy enough to kill him.  Dietrich rarely looses his cool, but in this case, he feels that the capture of the nurse was partly his fault and if he doesn’t get her back to the village she was taken from, an epidemic will break out.  So, he’s too frustrated to care anymore. (that SS guy was a jerk, btw)

“As a member of the SS, you are supposed to have a sense of honour.  As you recall, we concluded the bargain…for heaven’s sake, man, think of your sanity as a human being!”

(if you want to watch a good Dietrich-centric episode, ‘Decoy Raid’ is the one to go to, just so you know)

“One of my favorite moments is when Dietrich is in one Nazi’s office and mentions something about Hitler and gives the most dismissive, hate-filled side-eye to the bust on the man’s desk.”

I’m 99.99999999999 percent certain that the writers for this show based Dietrich off of Rommel.  Besides the obvious similarities in their gear/stance/etc, there’s the similarities in their characters as well.  Both were honourable men, who didn’t always agree with the Nazi mindset, but still stayed true to their country.  Plus, I recently read a book about WWII which stated that Rommel gained the respect of both the Allies and the Germans, and I think that within the little pocket of the North African campaign, Dietrich did that too.  He obeys orders, but he’s also fair when it comes to prisoners, civilians, and truces.  And let me go a little further and say that Dietrich probably met Rommel….

OKAY I CAN’T BE CALM ABOUT THIS ANYMORE.  THIS IS MY FAVORITE IN-UNIVERSE HEADCANON AND I HAVE TO RANT A LITTLE BIT.  IT’S BASICALLY CANON.  Because what about all those times that Dietrich has failed a mission? (don’t get me started…I might cry)  And failed it in a big way, I might add.  Despite what Hogan’s Heroes may tell you, not all Nazis are idiots (although the guy in the tag scene from ‘Touch-And-Go’ was pretty stupid).  Dietrich would probably have been shot because of all those botched missions, right?  BUT HERE’S WHERE THE HEADCANON COMES IN.  Maybe early on in his North African career, Dietrich met Rommel.  And Rommel was really impressed with him, so he invited Dietrich to join him for dinner and they became friends and Rommel fields all of Dietrich’s reports and that’s why Dietrich hasn’t gotten pulled from the ranks or shot.  And every so often, Dietrich has dinner with Rommel and they discuss strategy and how the war’s going and Dietrich always feels cheered up after those visits.

One reason that headcanon is my favorite is because Dietrich always seems so lonely.  He’s only twenty-five, he has a huge burden of responsibility on his shoulders, and he doesn’t have a good team behind him (the way Troy does) because the Rat Patrol almost always kill off his men.  So I’ll bet that eventually he doesn’t allow himself to get close to anyone because they always end up dying, and he’s always the last man standing, and the burden of guilt and loneliness would be too much if he let himself be friends with anyone.  There have been a few episodes where things worked out.  ‘Moment Of Truce’ for one, since everyone survived (including cute bubble-gum boy – Heine) and ‘Touch-And-Go’ (which I love because it actually shows Dietrich working with his men…pretty epic).  But on the other end of the spectrum, there’s ‘Truce At Aburah’ where every. single. one. of his men dies.  After they’d had a little characterization as well.  Which was so heartbreaking.  I literally can’t.  His expression when he realizes he’s the last one standing.  I just.  No.

And it was only a couple days ago that I realized that the reason he hesitated for so long before agreeing to the truce wasn’t because he didn’t want to rescue the girl.  It was because he knew only too well how truces usually end (how missions in general usually end, for that matter) and he didn’t want to endanger his men.  But in the end, he agreed to the truce because ‘maybe we can save this little girl and maybe things will go well this time’.  AND THEN THEY DON’T AND IT’S UTTERLY HEARTBREAKING.  On a side note, I do love the little bits of interaction/protectiveness/commanding-officer thing we get between Dietrich and his men.  Like in ‘Touch-And-Go’ when they’re discussing what to do (at different times in the episode) or in ‘Moment Of Truce’ when Dietrich says “Don’t give orders to my men!” when Troy tells them ‘stop shooting at what they can’t see’.  You can see just how much he wants to keep them safe (well, as safe as he can during times of war) and that makes the whole thing so much worse.

"It speaks volumes of Dietrich’s experience with the Rats that he’s willing to go along with whatever plan it is that Troy came up with. And also about the fact that while Dietrich has his pride, boy does he have his pride, he is above all a practical man. Despite how it rankles, he will take Troy’s initial plans above his own when it comes to crazed escapes."

One thing I haven’t really discussed in this post is Dietrich’s frenemyship with the Rat Patrol (but especially Troy).  It’s really-it’s just one of the most epic things ever.  From the moment in ‘Chase Of Fire’ where they did the whole ‘glare-at-each-other-as-the-jeeps-ride-off-into-the-sunset’ thing to where Troy nearly fatally shot Dietrich in the very last episode of the series (‘Kill At Koorlea’), there’s this awesomely dysfunctional frenemyship that I find incredibly awesome.  The truce episodes are the best for showcasing the whole thing (although anytime Dietrich captures any of them is also good) and of all of those, ‘Chain Of Death’ is my favorite.  Short summary: Troy and Dietrich are captured by Arab slave traders and chained together. (with a very long, very heavy chain…what were those Arabs thinking?)  They manage to escape, and have to work together (with the chain between them) to get back to civilization.  There are so many epic things in this episode that I couldn’t begin to list them all, but a few of my favorites (i.e., the ones that illustrate Troy and Dietrich’s relationship to each other) are as follows…

  • Dietrich deferring to Troy’s hair-brained schemes because they actually do work most of the time.
  • Their [fake] slug-fest. (looked pretty real to me, though)
  • Nearly killing each other with the chain until they decide to work together. (basically this whole show)
  • Dietrich goes unconscious and Troy drags him under some shade before concocting a ‘let’s-get-out-of-this-chain’ plan.
  • And the tag scene.

oh, come on, like Troy's really going to shoot Dietrich.

I don’t think any of the Rats are even close to being friends with Dietrich, but they respect him and trust him, at least to some extent.  And that’s more than they give any other German guy (and quite a few Allied ones, as well).  I don’t think they’d kill him (or he’d kill one of them) but they’re still enemies.  Occasional allies, yes.  Friends, no.  There was that one time where Dietrich saved Moffitt’s life by getting him a  live blood donor.  Or when Dietrich saved Moffitt from court martial.  Or when Dietrich shot that crazy SS guy in ‘Decoy Raid’ before he could shoot Moffitt. (um, wow…I’m getting a theme here)  But there’ve also been times where he’s clearly angry/frustrated with the whole lot of them.  Or sometimes, more specifically, Troy.

Dietrich rarely loses him temper enough to start shouting, but there have been a few times.  Annnd they usually have something to do with Troy.  In ‘Boomerang Raid’ he and Troy actually started fighting (like, fists flying fighting) which never happens.  In ‘Tug Of War’ (another insanely good Dietrich episode) he starts yelling at Troy, mainly because Troy refuses to give him some information (and if Troy doesn’t give him the information, he [Troy, not Dietrich] will be hung).  I think he was frustrated in that episode, yes, but he was also worried because Troy had gotten himself into a very dangerous position and he couldn’t do anything about it.  OH AND IN THAT SCENE HE STARTS LAUGHING BUT IT’S THE SADDEST, MOST BITTER LAUGH YOU’LL EVER HERE AND I’M ALMOST POSITIVE IT WAS A ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ SITUATION.  FEEEEEEEEEEEEELS.

Dietrich: “Sergeant, can’t you get it through your head that unless you tell me where you disposed of the microfilm, you are going to be hanged tomorrow!”
Troy:  “I saw that possibility.”
Dietrich: “You don’t believe it?”
Troy: “I believe it.”
Dietrich: “Then face facts, man!  You cannot possibly deliver that film to the Allies.  So the very thing you are throwing your life away for is worthless.”
Troy: “Then why do you want it so badly, Captain?”
Dietrich: “Because, Sergeant, an exposure of classified information rattling under my nose is very uncomfortable to me.”
Troy: “That’s your problem, Captain.”

And the iconic episode where Dietrich pulls off and slugs Troy.  Knocks him right out.  But I don’t blame him that time (it was from ‘Trial By Fire’, btw) because Troy tripped him up, Dietrich was frustrated with all of his stupid tricks, and it just built up and built up until he just…punched Troy out.  AND in that same episode, Troy pulls a gun on him and tells Dietrich to call the guard (so that he can kill the guard) and Dietrich hesitates for the longest time.  BECAUSE HE DIDN’T WANT THE GUARD TO DIE.  MAYBE HE KNEW THAT GUARD.  JUST-I’m done.  I’m 24601% done.

Troy: “Looks like our friend found a home.”  PUPPY DIETRICH AND DOGGIE ARE NOW FRIENDS.

There are some happy Dietrich moments as well, and I’ll close of this [super-long] post with listing a few of them.

  • the above gif. (‘Darers Go First’)
  • when he tries to make sure a little girl gets her doll back in ‘Trial By Fire’.
  • eating cinnamon rolls.
  • being happy when he sends Troy/jeeps packing. (happened once, in one episode, ‘David And Goliath’, I believe)
  • WHEN HE SPEAKS ARABIC IN ‘CHAIN OF DEATH’.  He’s actually really mad when he does that, but it was so epic that I had to include it here.

What are your thoughts on Dietrich? (if you’ve seen the show, that is…if you haven’t get to Youtube post-haste!)

Eva

the awesomeness that is FARAMIR

Faramir wallpaperFARAMIR.

Faramir often gets a bad rap in the Tolkiendil community – especially by those who have never read the book or don’t care enough about him to look into who he is and deeply into his character. (Silly people.)

On the outside, Faramir almost looks like a wimp. After all, he’s mean to Smeagol (who’s playing the pathetic card at the moment), nearly gets killed in battle, then nearly killed by his dad (and a three foot Hobbit has to save him), then that’s basically all we see of him. Can you say, “Yawn”?

This is when I scream, “Either read the book or watch the extended edition, you filthy little maggot!!!” And then I smash them with my dogeared, coverless copy of the book.

So what is it that makes Sam say to him in the book, ‘“You…showed your quality: the very highest. You have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of—well, Gandalf. Of wizards.”’?

Faramir, in my humble opinion, is the best thing since pints of ale at the Prancing Pony. He’s my favorite character in the entire trilogy. Period. Exclamation mark.

Why? Well! I’m happy you asked!

Faramir-image-faramir-36101411-448-406Faramir is five years younger than Boromir, and he’s spent basically his entire life living in the shadow of his older brother’s greatness. (Much like Thor and Loki. But I digress.) While Boromir was being trained by the best swordsmen and tutors that could be had – all under the watchful eye of his doting father, Denathor – Faramir has been left by the wayside. Fortunately, he learns a lot of what he knows from Gandalf, who says of him, ‘“By some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in [Denethor]; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best.”’

While Boromir is being taught how to be strong in battle and lead men, Faramir is being taught different, but not less important, things, such as music and what is in the old scrolls. Tolkien says of Faramir in the Appendices, ‘Faramir the younger was like [Boromir] in looks but otherwise in mind. He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose. He welcomed Gandalf at such times as he came to the City, and he learned what he could from his wisdom, and in this as in many other matters he displeased his father.’

When we first meet Faramir, he’s traipsing through the woods with his men, shooting some Wild Men, and scaring the coneys out of Sam’s pot. In the Extended Edition of the movie *hack-cough* (which will now be capitalized because of it’s hightened level of awesomeness), he has this totally amazing line after he shoots a Wild Man: “The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he came from. And if he was really evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home. If he would not rather have stayed there … in peace. War will make corpses of us all.”

90ca9715de1fbbf5b42c300ab228c8e5Faramir takes Frodo and Sam (and, unknowingly, Smeagol) under his care. Yes, he was tempted to take the Ring, but ONLY because he’s been put under pressure from his father, Denathor, to be as great as his older brother. Denathor, who has almost completely overlooked Faramir and only believed that he had one son who was worth something. As Boromir says in the movie (the higher greatness of the extended edition, once again), “You give him no credit and yet he tries to do your will. He loves you, Father.” And Denathor has the audacity to reply, “Do not trouble me with Faramir. I know his uses and they are few.” (It took all of the Riders of Rohan to keep me from smashing my television screen when I saw this for the first time a few weeks ago.)

After a moment of temptation – which, might I add, even Boromir felt strongly – he says in the book, ‘“I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo. … Not if I found it on the highway would I take it I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take these words as a vow, and be held by them. But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.”’ (Am I converting you to a Faramir fan now???)

Then, to add to his awesomeness, Faramir lets them go. As it happens in the movie (one of the few lines taken directly from the book), the Ithilien Ranger whose name escapes me says, “You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go, your life will be forfeit.”

Faramir replies: “Then it is forfeit. Release them.”

(Okay, if you’re not converted now…. Read on, Lizzie.)

The next time we see Faramir, he’s fighting in the Battle of the Hornburg. Boromir isn’t here to save the day, however, and they have to retreat, which makes his status go even lower in his father’s eyes. (And, yeah – apparently that’s possible.)

Even Eowyn, ‘saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle… this tall man, both stern and gentle….’

imagesCAB85QGOFor the rest of the trilogy, Faramir is constantly trying to please his father. Faramir, who doesn’t ‘“slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed.”’ Faramir, who ‘“would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.”’ Faramir, who Aragorn – the king of Rohan, may I remind you – says of him ‘“he is a man of staunch will, for already he had come close under the shadow before ever he rode to battle on the out-walls.”’ He appears to be “a man without fault” (even though I would be the first to say that, yes, even he is tempted by the Ring and, yes, he gets so obsessed with striving to gain his father’s approval that he abandons all reason and basically goes on a suicide mission in order to achieve this life goal).

Speaking of his suicide mission…. It’s really sad to think that, even though they accomplished some things, Faramir took his men out into battle so that he could show his father how worthy he was of his father’s love. Thousands of men died. Faramir was the only one left – brought back into Minas Tirith by being dragged behind his horse. Not his finest moment. (It’s at this scene when the waterworks start. And they don’t end ’til Frodo and the Gray Havens.)

cd40def2daa4c391ba152a46e96c12bdNow we come to The Funeral Pyre. This is the moment when you see that Denathor has truly gone off his rocker. He’s so shaken over the death of his son – isn’t it weird that people don’t really appreciate things until they’re gone? – that he decides he would be better off dead, too. Hence, The Funeral Pyre. I needn’t go into this scene any more besides saying that the shot where they’re laying Faramir down onto The Pyre always makes me cry – always – and that my younger sister constantly reminds me that her favorite character saved my favorite character.

In the Extended Edition, one of my favorite scenes from the book is included – the House of Healing. While we don’t see Faramir healed, we witness the powerful picture of loveliness that is the healing hands of a king. (“Weep, weep – all weep!”) Eowyn gets up from her bed, goes outside, and meets the more lovely eyes of Faramir. BOOM. Romantic plot line #2. Which, in my ‘umble opinion, is better than the first. Below, you’ll see my reasons.

First, the book’s account. When ‘[Faramir] looked at her, and being a man whom pity deeply stirred, it seemed to him that her loveliness amid her grief would pierce his heart.’ Later, he says, ‘“Then, Éowyn of Rohan, I say to you that you are beautiful. In the valleys of our hills there are flowers fair and bright, and maidens fairer still; but neither flower nor lady have I seen till now in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful. It may be that only a few days are left ere darkness falls upon our world, and when it comes I hope to face it steadily; but it would ease my heart, if while the Sun yet shines, I could see you still. For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.”’

Let’s all just pause and ponder those words, spoken from this wizard’s pupil. This is why he needed to be so learned in the “scrolls of lore and song” – so he knows how to eloquently encourage people and change their lives forever. Don’t believe me? Read on.

eaa030566a76633b0f7ee8b539258c0a‘[Eowyn] looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle… this tall man, both stern and gentle….’ This is when Eowyn starts to change. Faramir says, ‘“What do you wish? … If it lies in my power, I will do it.”’ She ‘for the first time doubted herself.’ ‘“But I do not desire healing,” [Eowyn] said. “I wish to ride to war like my brother Eomer, or better like Theoden the king, for he died and has both honor and peace.”’

Faramir’s reply completely rocks her world. ‘“It is too late, lady, to follow the Captains, even if you had the strength,” said Faramir. “But death in battle may come to us all yet, willing or unwilling. You will be better prepared to face it in your own manner, if while there is still time you do as the Healer commanded. You and I, we must endure with patience the hours of waiting.”’ I won’t quote the whole scene. Basically, Faramir ‘smiles, though his heart [is] filled with pity,’ gives the Warden a command to change Eowyn’s room so that her window faces eastward and asks her to keep him company while he’s waiting, too. Eowyn, in return, does ‘not answer, but as he looked at her it seemed to him that something in her softened, as though a bitter frost were yielding at the first faint presage of Spring.’

Fast forward to a few weeks later, during which Faramir and Eowyn talk and sit together, both waiting. After Faramir confesses his love to Eowyn, she changes and says that she ‘“will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, no take joy only in the songs of slaying. [She] will be a healer, and love all things that grown and are not barren.” And again she looked at Faramir. “No longer do I desire to be a queen,” she said.’ Later comes one of the most romantic passages in The Lord of the Rings (which is saying a lot):

‘And [Faramir] took [Eowyn] in his arms and kissed her under the unlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.’

Well, there you have it.

Faramir-and-Eowyn-faramir-and-eowyn-15796751-1195-1017This is basically my favorite scene in the entire Extended Edition. Eowyn says, staring out into the field in front of Minas Tirith where she recently engaged in a war, “The city has fallen silent. There is no warmth left in the sun. It grows so cold.” Faramir looks out into the field where he nearly died, looks back at Eowyn, and encourages her with a smile, saying, “It’s just the damp of the first spring rain. I do not believe this darkness will endure.” ‘Nuff said.

Sadly, this is basically the last scene in which Faramir appears in the movie. The very last scene in which he appears is my favorite – after Aragorn gets crowned, he walks in front of some of his subjects. Eowyn and Faramir are there, together, clapping along with everyone else and smiling at each other like they haven’t a care in the world.

In the book, Faramir has one last amazing scene where he is passed on his father’s position as Steward of Gondor by Aragorn and basically officiates Aragorn’s crowning. It’s a great scene, one which I wish had been in the movie.

This is FARAMIR. I hope you’ve understood why he’s my favorite character, and I hope you think better of him now.

I’ll close with Pippin’s first impression of Faramir, as told in Return of the King.

‘When he saw the pale face of Faramir he caught his breath. It was the face of one who had been assailed by a great fear or anguish, but has mastered it and now is quiet. Proud and grave he stood for a moment…and Pippin gazing at him saw how closely he resembled his brother Boromir—whom Pippin had liked from the first, admiring the great man’s lordly but kindly manner. Yet suddenly for Faramir his heart was strangely moved with a feeling that he had not known before. Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn at times revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race. He knew now why Beregond spoke his name with love. He was a captain that men would follow, that he would follow, even under the shadow of the black wings.’

(This post originally appeared on inklings press here)