"This is as bad as my war gets." -Cpl. RuddigerThe 1st Marine Division is back in action as Part Four begins, but Basilone is back home selling war bonds (and appears only as a character in a comic book being read by Pvt. Loudmouth) and Sledge is still in basic training. So the man of this gripping, nightmarish hour is Bob Leckie, in a tour de force performance by James Badge Dale, who shows you just how bad another man's war can get.
The Battle of Cape Gloucester isn't a particularly famous one, but Part Four worked as a reminder that all battles have their terrifying moments - and that the time in between action can be just as oppressive and soul-wearying, particularly in environments like New Britain and Pavuvu during the rainy season.
So we got that mesmerizing battle scene where the Japanese charge in the torrential rain like a horde of Orcs from "Lord of the Rings," while Leckie has to stand in the intelligence tent and wait to see if he has to blow it (and, possibly, himself) up to keep it from falling into enemy hands. But we also got a lot of scenes of the Marines slowly going crazy amid the rain and the mud and the waiting. Lebec eats his gun (stripping off his clothes first to keep the blood off his uniform). Gibson strangles a Japanese soldier to death and winds up being sent to a mental hospital - where Leckie himself joins him after everyone assumes his bed-wetting is a sign of him losing his marbles.
Leckie does, in fact, suffer from enuresis, but the mental hospital isn't an inappropriate place for him to be. As Dale shows throughout the episode, Leckie is struggling to keep it together out in the jungle. He can hold up enough to take out a Japanese squad by himself when he gets separated from his patrol, but the endless rain and fighting and waiting are getting to him, even worse than the other Marines. For Leckie to wind up in the loony bin, even briefly, is a shocking thing to see in a World War II story(*), but it really did happen to Leckie, and could just as easily have happened to anyone else in his company.
(*) As Bruce McKenna points out, "Band" did show Buck Compton cracking, "but you don't see Buck in the mental hospital after."
Ultimately, Leckie just needs a respite from the front, where Gibson appears irreparably broken, but watching this episode, it's not hard to understand how this could have happened to either of them, or so many other men like them.
Some other thoughts:
• This one was both directed and co-written (with Robert Schenkkan) by "Band of Brothers" veteran Graham Yost (who's now doing FX's "Justified"). Yost also served as one of the showrunners of "The Pacific." Matt Craven, who plays Dr. Grant, is a staple of Yost's work, having appeared in the Yost-directed episode of "From the Earth to the Moon" (my favorite one, about the engineers who built the lunar lander), a couple of episodes of Yost's "Boomtown" and was a regular on his short-lived Jeff Goldblum cop show "Raines." When I interviewed Yost for this feature about Elmore Leonard and "Justified," we eventually got to talking about "The Pacific." Yost told me a story about how Craven was on vacation in Europe and happened to cross paths with Tom Hanks, who was there to either film or promote "Angels and Demons." Hanks saw him, smiled, and said (in that high-pitched voice Hanks uses when he's about to be sarcastic), "Matt? Matt Craven?" Then Hanks looked around, puzzled, and asked, "Where's Graham?"
• That's Nate Corddry as Loudmouth. I wouldn't put his appearance on par with Jimmy Fallon's "Band" cameo (which many people felt was too distracting), in part because Corddry isn't as famous, in part because he already has a track record in drama (he was one of the better parts of "Studio 60"), but I have to admit it was briefly jarring to see him, particularly since he was a new addition to the company. (Had they cast Corddry as, say, Runner, I'd have more easily gone with it.) The real Loudmouth, by the way, was described by Leckie as being quite a bit heavier than Corddry, and was apparently killed by a falling boulder when the Marines tried to dynamite a path through the jungle.
• Soldiers wanting to bring home a Luger as a souvenir was a running story in "Band" (and got at least one paratrooper killed), and here we see Leckie and Lt. Larkin battling for ownership of the Luger-looking Japanese pistol. (I don't know much about weapons, but a cursory Google search suggests it was a Nambu.) And that in turn leads to the great scene where Ruddiger is collecting Leckie's potentially suicide-aiding possessions and Leckie points the gun at him. Who, in that moment, wouldn't take him as a crazy person?
Keeping in mind once again that we're going to avoid discussing any details about the main characters past the events depicted in this particular episode (for the benefit of people who know that we won the war but not what happened to Leckie, Sledge or Basilone), what did everybody else think?