Thursday, April 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Enlisted - 1.13 - Alive Day - Review and Episode Awards

Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.

Through my column Last Week in TV, I review every almost every new show and the thing I miss most this season is good new comedies. Besides Benched and Fresh Off the Boat, there haven't been many I've liked enough to watch more than a handful of episodes. Last year I was watching The Goldbergs, Trophy Wife, Surviving Jack, The Crazy Ones, Playing House, Growing Up Fisher, and more. Besides The Goldbergs, all were canceled. While I am glad to still have it, the worst cancellation last year was by far Enlisted. Stuck with a crummy Friday night time slot in midseason, FOX pushed this one out for reasons I still don't understand. Right from the beginning, it had that great combination of heart and laughs that are sorely missing this season. Sure some episodes were straight up silly but overall Enlisted made me laugh until my sides hurt and actually had me tearing up on more than one occasion. Although I love Homecoming too, I chose Alive Day to review for this week's Throwback Thursday. It may be the best paced comedy episode I have ever seen. Yes, it's that good.

The Recap:

As the company stands at ease, Sergeant Major Cody announces the annual ball will be held at the local seaside hotel which Dobkiss lovingly says has a free ice machine. He has low standards. This time it's extra special because the guest of honor is no other than…Sergeant Major Cody. Hmmm. At least they don't need to spend the party budget on travel expenses. Meanwhile Randy is determined to pamper Pete in celebration of his Alive Day, the anniversary of when he almost died in Afghanistan. Pete protests the cake, but he's stoked about the Hill are Alive, Sound of Music tribute t-shirt Randy has made. Nothing like a full body-suited soldier with his arms wide out and flowers at his feet to make you think of My Favorite Things. Randy: "Dude, I love that we can talk about this now. It's like you've opened up your heart chambers and now I can roam around." Um, okay buddy. Pete and I agrees that therapy has been good for him since the Pete of the first few episodes had a lot of PTSD issues, which made him harder to love as a character. Instead of holing up in his trailer with the others silently partying outside in support like in the third episode, this Pete seems ready to embrace life and move forward. I still love that silent party aww scene though. Randy has no time to waste in nostalgia because he's got an entire day of Pete pampering planned. Have to admit that I am jealous of that back rub. Sadly pampering must wait because Derrick bone headedly broke up with Erin before the big ball so that it would be less painful when she left. I can actually see the logic in that but he goes about it all wrong. Trust me buddy, the rewind thing never works. Ever. Still I am having too much fun at Pete and Randy's reaction to Derrick's tale of woe to feel properly sad for him. Comedy in tandem gets me every time.

Since he's the kindest and most romantic person ever to step on an army base, Randy suggests winning Erin back, Office and a Gentleman style. Hey don't knock it. Sometimes the grand gesture can cover over a multitude of stupid. Ever the pragmatist Derrick gets caught up in the details, like what actually did happen at the end of that movie? So much for the big romantic gesture. Pete's turn. "Let me put on my headlight and go spelunking in Derrick's heart chambers." I'm with Derrick on this one. That sounds way too weird. He psychobabbles about letting it out but Derrick's form of truth snarkily halts that. Pete: "He's not ready to talk yet." Ha! They leave to give Derrick his space, heading to the office Pete shares with Jill where Randy continues to give Pete a backrub. Jill: "You know that's super weird right?" Randy: "It's not weird. It's brothers." No, it's definitely weird. As Randy makes smoothies, Jill practices her very, very dull speech for Cody and taunts Pete for not having a plan to honor Cody at the ball. That sends Pete into a panic. He asks his platoon what their plans for the ball are. Robinson: "Oooh, I'm gonna challenge Gumble to a dance off." Gumble: "Oh you do not want to step to this." Ha! Dobkiss plans on getting wasted, while Park wants to make her ex jealous. Chubowski has bigger dreams though, a date with Lori Loughlin of Full House fame. Good choice. While Jill rubs her platoon's plans in Pete's face, Cody interrupts to say the ball has been canceled due to budget cuts. Jill: "I can't believe they cancelled the ball. Now I don't get to give my Cody toast. I was going to make people cry so hard, they get ugly face." Pete: "You've got some weird goals."

Jill might want to make people cry, but it's Cody who earns the first sniffles of the night when he broadcasts the speech he was going to give over the PC. Cody: "When I was assigned to Rear D I thought, 'those aren't real soldiers,' but I was wrong. What you do is heroic and watching you grow over all these years has been the most rewarding experience of my career. Frankly, you've made me a better father to my daughter Britnay. You are real soldiers. You're my soldiers. Hooah." As the tears pour throughout the base, Pete declares the party back on. "Tomorrow night when that clock hits 1800 hours, we are throwing that man a ball." Pete hands out jobs tailored to everyone's party wishes and tells Randy to pamper Cody so he doesn't find out about the party, which he does with typical enthusiasm over Cody's objections. Randy: "Just because the army cancelled your special day doesn't mean you don't get a special day." Pete meanwhile pulls Derrick literally out from under the bed. Since he's listening to Angela's Ashes that's a great play. Since Derrick won't respond to brother Pete, Pete pulls rank and tells him to keep busy by shooting a Lori Loughlin invitation video for Chubowski. Chubowski: "I've got the steak. Now bring the sizzle." Derrick: "Are we still in the army?" Bwah! It never actually seems like it, especially when Pete is handling floral centerpieces. Huh? That's still better than Jill's speech so Pete helps her jazz it up through his extensive football banquet toast experience. Who knew jocks gave speeches at those things? Cody is full into his own speech, relating the event of how he lost his leg to Randy during the massage. The further this episode goes, the more I want my own massage. Randy needs to start his own business because he even got the "carafe of lemon-infused ice water" right.

On the other side of the spectrum, Derrick tries to damper Chubowski's hopes since the video probably won't work but Chubowski counters with a speech directed at Derrick's soul. "Well if she says no, there will be heartache but to have just one night with the person that means the world to you, isn't it worth the risk?" While watching the finished product, Chubowski asks who his Lori Laughlin is. I feel a new video coming on. Sadly it's interrupted by a classic Randy blunder. As Cody wakes up, he finds Randy nervously standing over him and asks what's wrong. Randy: "Remember your story about how you lost your foot? Well now I have a story about how I lost your foot." Uh oh. It's never good when you lose your boss' prosthetic. Only Randy. (shakes head) He monologues about leaving it on the roof of his car. The look Cody gives him is priceless but he has no time to argue. Randy claims the General is here to surprise Cody. Randy: "If it weren't the truth, you'd think it was a lie." Cody: "I can't meet the man with no foot." But all is okay because he stole a mannequin foot from a foot store. Randy: "Sergeant Major Cody, I told you I was going to attend your every need and right now what you need a foot." Aww. Cody grouses about his day alongside Randy right up until the motor pool garage door opens and reveals a stunning transformation. It does look like a ball and Cody is visibly touched that they would do this for him. Pete says they owe him. After all, Cody convinced Pete to go to therapy for his PTSD and it's made a world of difference for him. It's a magical night for all as Derrick takes pictures, Cody's daughter joins him, and Jill's speech does not suck. Jill: "Sergeant Major Cody has made me a better soldier and a better person. I know that I'm not the only one here who feels that way. So thank you, Sergeant Major. We all love you from the bottom of our hearts." Thank you, show. I love you from the bottom of my heart.

As the party kicks into gear, Ruiz walks around with a crown and scepter but talks like he's trying a case while Dobkiss samples his new concoction - chocolate milk and gin. Sacrilege, that's pure blasphemy towards chocolate milk, God's food gift to us. I'd pour it out too. Park decides to reconcile with her ex as Robinson and Gumble completely embarrass themselves in the worst dance off ever. Their trash talking is only outdone by the horrified looks on the spectators' faces. Pete: "This is a giant letdown." Well until they suddenly make out of the dance floor, sparing everyone else from watching their dancing. The outright comedy mood changes as Jill announces the father-daughter dance to none other than Up Where We Belong, the theme song from An Officer and a Gentleman. I'd lay good money down on Randy picking it. Cody and Britnay dance while Pete and Randy try to get Derrick to admit that Pete was right. This is better than Angela's Ashes. Before he can answer, in walks Erin who saw the video he did indeed make for her. They kiss to Randy's catcalls and demands that Derrick go full on An Officer and a Gentleman. Everything is appropriately sweet…until Sergeant Major Cody's foot breaks off. Right before he can fall, Randy swoops him up. One Richard Gere lift accomplished. Ha! The three finish the dance together while Dobkiss pulls out the missing leg, which he found by the liquor store and decided must be luckier than a rabbit's foot.

Sitting down, Pete surveys his success. Derrick and Erin are happy. Cody is in his glory with a beaming Randy waiting on his every need. It's all good until Jill beams a live message from Fort McGee. Looking at the wartime platoon, Pete spirals into that headspace he was avoiding. As Jill sends kudos out to Pete, they realize he's slipped away from the party to watch the sun rise over the beach. Cody, Derrick, and Randy join him as Pete says he feels guilty for being alive when his buddies died. Pete: "I mean why should I get to celebrate anything?" Cody: "Because you lived, Pete." Pete: "Yeah I've got to tell ya, sometimes that is really hard to accept." Cody understands because he has his own Alive Day too but over time he's gotten to the place where he can talk about it. Cody: "It's okay to feel guilt, son. It's okay to feel joy too." Awww, comedy is not supposed to be this touching, this real. Randy says he's glad Pete made it and Derrick chimes in that they all are as the rest of the platoon joins them to tell Pete how creating the ball enriched their lives. Cody: "You're supposed to be here, son." If that weren't enough to touch the hardest hearts, Derrick leans over for a brother head touch moment culminating with the cast standing in a circle, hands on each other's heads . Awww. Cody: "We are brothers." Pete: "Yeah, we are." They all celebrate by jumping into the ocean and general frolicking ensues. Just when I don't think this episode could get any better, Lori Loughlin appears over the crest looking for Chubowski and they all cheer. So do I.

The Review:

I still cannot believe that Enlisted was cancelled. This episode alone demonstrates the strength of the show. I'm no comedian so the recap doesn't do justice to just how many times I laughed here. Still the reason it shines is the heart. Very few comedies can tackle tough issues like PSTD in a humorous way without turning the issue itself into a joke. Enlisted ran with that story and many other issues soldiers face with grace and fun. It treated its characters the same way. Sure they mocked each other as sibling are wont to do but underneath ran a strong core of love and they weren't afraid to show it, especially Randy. I particularly enjoyed Pete's character arc and how he is much more humble these days than in the beginning. Sure he brags about himself too much but it comes off as eye rolling fun instead of outright douchiness. I also love how Derrick sets snark aside and takes a chance here. Don't get me wrong. Derrick's my favorite character because of his snark, but it was good to see him be real for a moment and his joy at seeing Erin paid off. Randy was a complete goofy delight here, as usual, and surprisingly the most competent at his job this time. Cody, now starring on Community, and Jill were topnotch as well. In the end though, the MVP of the episode was the pacing. It was heartfelt where it needed to be but never forgot that it was a comedy too. Very few episodes get an A+ from me but this was a perfect farewell love letter from the cast and crew of Enlisted to the fans. I will never understand how Enlisted was cancelled and so much garbage got renewed. Here's a show with so much heart, great characters, and more laughs than a third of the other comedies I watch put together. It's a perfect combination. Mishandling Enlisted was the biggest mistake of any network last season to me. I miss you, Hill brothers.

Episode Awards:

Best Scene - everyone joins Pete on the beach to encourage him to celebrate his Alive Day
Best Moment - Sergeant Major sees the ball they created in his honor
Biggest Aww Scene - Randy lifts up Cody in the An Officer and a Gentleman pose and helps him finish his dance with his daughter
Best Aww Moment - the brother head touch
Best Reaction - Pete and Randy to Derrick replaying how he screwed up with Erin
Best Cameo - Lori Loughlin
Best Quote - Perez: "You know that's super weird right?" Randy: "It's not weird. It's brothers."
Most Stirring Speech - Cody
Best Tag Line - The Hill are Alive. So the grammar sucks, but I love celebrating Pete surviving an RPG with a picture of him in The Sound of Music.
Worst Plan Ever - physically acting out rewinding when you've been a douche. Whatever happened to the Apologize Bit. It works a whole lot better.
Most Primetime Wallowing - Derrick listens to Angela's Ashes. That would depress the heck out of anyone.
Most Likely to have a Future in a Spa - Randy. I was jealous of Cody getting the royal treatment.
Least Likely to have a Future in a Bar - Dobkiss, who creates a chocolate milk and gin punch.
Biggest Shock - Gumble and Robinson making out in the world's worst dance off

Screencaps by 

About the Author - Dahne
One part teacher librarian - one part avid TV fan, Dahne is a contributing writer for SpoilerTV, where she recaps, reviews, and creates polls for The 100, Grimm, Teen Wolf, and others. She's addicted to Twitter, live tweets a multitude of shows each week, and co-hosts the Sleepy Hollow "Headless" and Teen Wolf "Welcome to Beacon Hills" podcasts for Southgate Media Group. Currently she writes a Last Week in TV column for her blog and SpoilerTV. ~ "I speak TV."
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