Season 5 Episode 20

The Gantlet

Aired Tuesday 7:30 PM Feb 07, 1967 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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out of 10
5 votes
  • A great example of television trying to push boundaries during the 60's....WARNING - Spoilers Ahead

    I don't know that I can agree with the earlier review. Yeah, the morphine-induced third act certainly makes things interesting but further showcases the complexity of Sgt. Saunders and just how good Vic Morrow was in the role. He's one of those soldiers that it's almost impossible to imagine living some kind of normal, quiet civilian life after the war. The motorcycle & morphine segment gives us a glimpse of just how tightly-wound Saunders is at this point in the war. He cuts loose with a manic laugh as he rides his captured German motorcycle through the middle of a mortar barrage that would make the Joker proud.

    What's also interesting about this episode is that Morrow has to play Saunders with a minimal amount of dialog. In fact, you can probably count on one hand how many words come out of the Sergeant's mouth once he gets separated from the few fellow survivors of a desperate escape from a prisoner transport train. The final scene delivers a very satisfying "punctuation" to the whole affair that lives up to COMBAT!'s usual high standard. Not my favorite episode of the series but definitely in my top 10.
  • Wow, psychedelic, man! And a few groovy battle scenes too...paisley spoilers ahead...

    I found this a very hard episode to give a rating to. Most of the episode was very well crafted, finely scripted, and filled with action...but, inexplicably, a middle act completely stretches the boundries of what COMBAT! was as a show, totally beyond comprehension.

    The episode is almost epic...Saunders is captured, rides the long train behind German lines, escapes, and makes his way back. And, most of it so very well done. There's certainly no shortage of action here...Saunders barely survives an ambush; is fragged by a grenade, attacked by a dog, and is shot...and those are just the highlights. I think the most amazing thing about the episode is how much happens it it...and it's one heck of a fabulous ride. That is, until we get to what is labeled on the DVD as "Chapter 4: Morphine Induced".

    In a German aid station, the wounded Saunders is administered a dose of morphine. But, this morphine has some very peculiar properties that would have made it a Haight-Ashbury hit at the time of the 1967 broadcast. We see the world shift, from Saunder's perspective, as the drug takes effect...time, space, and sound dilates, distorts and compresses, and for several very long minutes, we are treated to a virtual acid trip. These scenes make APOCALYPSE NOW's Do Lung bridge scene seem inadequate, and it's too bad that a Jimi Hendrix backing track couldn't have been used here. When Vic Morrow finally rides away on the motorcycle, I'm not sure if he was laughing at the purple haze of the fiery bombardment or the total absurdity of the previous scenes. What were these guys on? Did they drop acid at Franklin Canyon when they filmed this?

    It's a shame, because this is otherwise an excellent episode. I would've have given it an 8.5, but the ridiculous, artsy trip segment docks it at least two letter grades. Back to film class, boys, and leave those chemicals behind. They didn't just jump the shark with this episode, but I suspect that they smoked it as well.
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