Season 1 Episode 12 – The Prisoner

Directed: Robert Altman
Written: Robert Kaufman
Released: 25 Dec 1962

This episode features Braddock as the protagonist, played by Shecky Green.

This is probably the funniest episode that I’ve seen of the entire series.

Hanley finds out that Braddock traded some radio batteries for some K-Rations. When he confronts him with it, Braddock swears he didn’t switch out “good batteries” for the K-Rations but that he actually tricked the other private for some K-Rations for some bad batteries. Since Hanley no longer has a means of communicating with regiment via radio, he sends Braddock back with a message as a runner.

“I’d like to be where I’d be most valuable to the Platoon sir.”

In the meantime, Saunders low crawls up to Hanley’s C.P. and says how the Krauts can’t get their range right because they are too close to their lines. What they’ve been doing is lobbing 8.8cm anti aircraft rounds (Kraut 88’s) straight up in the air hoping the shell will land somewhere inside American lines. Hanley is reluctant to pull back because of the amount of casualties they would take, which is why he needs to send Braddock back with his report. They also discuss how the Americans have captured a Kraut Colonel. A Colonel Hoffman which Saunder wonders if S2 could get something out of him.

When Braddock arrives back to headquarters with the information, he overhears the Company commander talking about Col. Clyde needing a driver. Thinking that he’ll land a skate job, he volunteers for the job.

He arrives at Col. Clyde’s office where his Master Sgt Wolfson is at the desk. Played by Richard Bakalyan.  The Master Sgt. orders Braddock to get a shower and some new clean fatigues and to be ready for the Colonel in 30 minutes.

Col. Clyde looking for his missing cigar which he happens to be smoking

Master Sgt. manning the front of Col. Clyde’s desk reminds me of how I always wondered why they have a Master Sgt. doing this job when anybody else would do?

Braddock is in the shower singing an Italian song while showering. The Sgt. hurries him along for the Colonel but Braddock forgot his ID’s and personal gear which the Master Sgt. went in to retrieve in the shower but before he could give it to Braddock, the Colonel had already come outside and they drove off with the Colonel behind the wheel. Because the Colonel used to drive “Midget” racing cars back in the states. He asked Braddock if he’s ever driven a Midget and Braddock’s reply was “No, they won’t drive with me.”

Col. Clyde is played by Keenan Wynn. He’s a hard talking, cigar smoking Colonel who uses phrases like “Come on! You gonna stand around suckin’ on a prune pit all day? Let’s go!” He’s a comical looking character with that mustache of his.

Col. Clyde now uses the Jeep like a race car and you can see Braddock hanging on for dear life as Col. Clyde winds around the French countryside as fast as he can go in his “souped up” Jeep as he called it.

They stop so the Colonel can observe K Company’s position. While stopped there, Braddock sneezes so Colonel Clyde gives him his overcoat to wear since he has a “chill”.

As you can guess, they end up having an accident in which is probably the funniest scene of all of Combat’s 5 seasons. Col. Clyde sees a cow on the bridge in front of him and he veers left to avoid it and sends the Jeep over the side and into the creek below. Braddock manages to bail out before the Jeep enters the water. Col. Clyde is nowhere to be seen and we’re led to believe that he’s assumed drowned.

Colonel Clyde’s Jeep going into the creek while Braddock jumps off

Some German soldiers find Braddock unconscious on the bridge wearing the Colonel’s coat. When Braddock stands up, he puts on Colonel Clyde’s helmet by mistake and both German soldiers snap to attention and salute and call him – “Herr Oberst” which means Colonel.

They take him back to their field headquarters where he’s introduced to a Hauptmann Gemmerman, who is a Captain. Played by Sasha Harden, the Hauptmann speaks English and thinks Braddock is playing some sort of joke when he tells him that he’s not actually a Colonel but a private. He introduces himself as “My name is Braddock. Buck Private Braddock.”

After being frustrated about not being able to convince them that he’s only a private, he begins to play along and asks for some food as well as some “Cognac”, which he pronounced with a Cog as in “cog in a wheel” and  Nac as in “Knackered”. The Hauptmann corrects him with the proper pronunciation.

He eats his meal and they prepare to go back to headquarters so that he could be further interviewed. Before getting into the car, he’s introduced to 3 privates who will be going along. He’s angry that they haven’t been fed so he uses his new found power of his position as a Colonel so that the men could eat. He even gives them a sip of his Cognac. One of the men is Tom Skerritt, who also plays a squad member in a few episodes and other characters for a total of 6 episodes.

“A box of K-Rations would seem like a feast right now!” says the trooper on the right because they weren’t fed today

One thing I enjoyed about this scene is how the German soldiers acted. They were all very deferential to their authority figure while American soldiers always gripe and have things explained to them or ordered to do so. The German soldier, they are all business. In the case of how they’re portrayed in Combat, not in real life I mean.

Next, he makes the Hauptmann let the men ride in the staff car or Braddock refused to go.

They arrive at a chateau that the Germans have obviously appropriated. The furniture and paintings are all misplaced and crooked. Braddock meets a Colonel and an interrogation officer who asks Braddock for some identification. Braddock is unable to keep up his charade when the Germans agree among themselves that he is indeed not a Colonel but a private.

The Germans send back one of the privates with a message that they will exchange Braddock for the captured German Colonel that the Americans have. The private is the one played by Tom Skerritt, Pvt. Glinski.

Glinski gets back to American lines and tries to convey the message about the trade of Colonel Clyde with the German Colonel in the morning. While he’s trying to convince them, in walks the real Colonel Clyde who wasn’t dead after all. Col. Clyde was the one that figured out the ruse that the Germans wanted to pull on them.

They find a couple of German privates and dress them as officers and the exchange is made the next day by the river. It’s pretty soon when the Germans discovered that they’ve been tricked and they start lobbing shells at the Americans, one which landed right where they were standing.

Fake prisoner swap

Combat was always doing this. Having somebody leave a position only a second away from that position being hit. I always wondered why the Germans couldn’t have hit the position just a second earlier? Were they that bad of a shot, even with a machine gun?

Braddock remains Col. Clyde’s driver despite his objections to the job. He’s forced to get in the passenger side of the Col’s new “souped up” Jeep and hangs onto his helmet as the Colonel goes speeding off.

This episode was pretty light hearted and nobody was killed on either side.





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