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Thread: "To Kill Or Be Killed" turns 50

  1. #1
    Tonight 50 years ago, one of the best episodes of the series aired: S03E17 "To Kill Or Be Killed".

    The episode covers a complicated (and one of the most controversial at the time) issue: the Vietnam War. Five-O investigates the death Army Lieutenant Jack Rigney (Peter Jason) who died in the parking lot six stories below his apartment. The question initially is whether he was pushed or jumped himself. Things become convoluted from the word go because Jack's father is Brigadier General Earl Rigney (John Anderson) stationed in Hawaii. The general tells McGarrett that suicide is out of the question because he considers his son pretty level-headed.

    However, the general doesn't inform McGarrett of one important thing: he has another son, Michael (Michael Anderson, Jr.). Michael is up for the draft and must report in a matter of days. To his credit, Michael looks at all his options including escaping to Canada and seeing a counselor at a draft-dodging organization in the Hawaii Committee to Aid Draft Resistance. The last option is facing a three-year jail term.

    As if things weren't snared enough, Army Criminal Investigations is involved snooping on Jack prior to his death. They're also following Michael but it's never made clear why. Were they concerned about what Michael knew? This part isn't made clear.

    In the end, all the flaws of the episode fall away due to a gut-wrenching final scene. After pulling some major strings in DC, General Rigney is able to listen to a tape made on Jack's final moments. Things become clear on Michael's involvement in Jack's death in trying to prevent it. Turns out, Michael took Jack's gun from him after Jack was close to blowing his brains out. Jack was despondent on his role in a village massacre. He felt he had nowhere to turn, especially his father who he saw as one who wouldn't understand the turmoil Jack was dealing with. To the show's credit, they didn't hold back as we hear Jack jump to his death after Michael's departure. It is a moment that is so shocking for the viewer and to those in the room listening, including McGarrett and Danno, all are affected and rightly so.

    Mr. Mike's 4-star review is here:

    This is Five-O at its best, in my opinion, because it tackles the human element of the controversial issues before it. General Rigney sees things in black and white and is part of the old school military. He sees service in Vietnam as service to the country and he isn't wrong (again, my opinion but understand I'm retired military myself). However, the village massacre clouds this stance but the general discounts this as "an isolated incident". That could be, but it's what people focused on at the time. Ken Burns created an excellent documentary on the Vietnam War and its worth checking out. It answered a bunch of my questions that I frankly couldn't ask (my dad fought in Vietnam).

    There's some quirky stuff in this episode, such as calling Canada "Trudeau-turf" which I find completely stupid and uncalled for. (Sorry Mr. Mike, I feel your pain!) They couldn't come up with something like "White tundra"? Speaking of white tundra, Alaska even gets a mention when the guy in charge of the hippies talks about why bananas grow in Hawaii and not Alaska.

    Mr. Mike also mentions in his review about Danno going undercover. I could see it working. Danno wasn't a draft dodger necessarily, but an Army deserter. I get the age difference, but I could buy it. However, if they did try to put him undercover as a draft dodger, then they would have had problems. I still find it hilarious that he's handed a joint at the house and can't get rid of it! Then his cover is blown just as the raid happens. Lucky break!

    One of Mr. Mike's questions concerned General Rigney and the fact that he fought in three wars. I would suspect General Rigney was in more of a headquarters role rather than being boots on the ground like Jack. I bring this up because Jack tells Michael their father didn't fight "this kind of war". That's one answer I have for it, but I know that's splitting hairs.

    Happy 50th "To Kill Or Be Killed"!!

  2. #2
    I was born during the middle Vietnam War years, so obviously I don't remember it. However, as I was growing up, I heard plenty about the just-concluded war, and saw plenty on TV and in the movies. I've always empathized with the kids who were drafted. If you sign up for the military, that's one thing -- you know the risks. If you're just a regular kid drafted into war, that's a different story. In general, I don't believe the draft should be utilized unless the war is one which urgently must be fought.

    I briefly had to face the prospect of a draft. In January 1991, I was almost 19, and the Gulf War began. There was talk about a possible draft, and in fact a draft order was set. As the war was over quickly, no draft ever occurred. I was in college at the time, but there was no college deferment anymore at that point. However, I was likely going to be ineligible to serve because I was slightly under the minimum required weight for my height. (Interestingly, even if I were young enough to be drafted today, I would be OVER the required maximum weight for my height!)

    Anyway, back to the episode.

    This one was one of the few Five-O episodes to have no villain. The closest thing we had to one was the guy arranging draft dodgers to escape Hawaii, in exchange for money. However, it seemed he was operating just slightly above cost, at one point noting, "We'd do it for free, but we gotta eat, man."

    General Rigney seemed to soften throughout the episode, showing tremendous concern for both dead son Jack, and living-but-wanted son Michael. However, after hearing the tape exposing Jack's death as a suicide -- and Michael's laudable efforts to both stop him and convince him to get help -- the general doesn't seem touched. Instead, he wants Michael to still accept the draft, even after what happened to Jack (and all the related trauma to Michael).

    I would have preferred an ending where the general hugs Michael, and then gets him out of the draft due to the emotional trauma -- a realistic possibility given the circumstances. Instead, he coldly tells him, "Then I have two dead sons", and walks out. Brutal!

    It was strange seeing "Doc" and "Manicote" in other roles in this one, though I know Five-O did this sort of thing all the time.

    I agree with Mike that Danny -- who was 32 at the time of filming, and looked it -- was too old to play an AWOL solider who was semi-recently drafted. In fact, that entire scene was weird and unnecessary.

    Mike did well in the love department, as his girlfriend Gail is pretty, sweet, and incredibly loyal. It's unclear what will happen with them, as it seems Mike is likely going to jail "for 3 years" for draft dodging. Joy Bang, who played Gail, inexplicably quit acting in 1973, despite only being 28 years old, and having moderate success. Here's a fairly long webpage about her career, including a bunch of semi-nude pictures from back in the day:

  3. #3
    Five-O Home Page Author Mr. Mike's Avatar
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    Mar 2019
    Vancouver, B.C.
    I am watching Mission Impossible's 5th season, and Joy Bang is in S05E02, "Flip Side." She is in the teaser as "Girl," who is freaking out and flailing her hands as she is dancing, having ingested a bunch of dope. Seemingly regarded as a pain in the ass, she is dumped at some place which has a psychedelic light show, the suggestion being that she dies there. Also in this show is occasional Classic H50 actor Sal Mineo playing a major league drug dealer. In this show, Barney climbs into a moving truck carrying a shipment of drugs and plants a transmitter in a bottle of pills after removing its "safety seal." There is no indication as to how he "reseals" this bottle ... or the box it was contained in, which he had to cut open.

    In this season's first episode (the one before this one), Robert Conrad is a hired killer. At the beginning, his girl friend is also shown dancing, flailing her arms around. Conrad is an unpredictable killer. After arriving in the town where he has a contract, he chooses a hotel from the phone book by just sticking his finger randomly on a page after arriving at the airport. He is picked up by a cab driven by Leonard Nimoy and told to go to the Bower Hotel, which is the one he selected (Nimoy relays this info to his "dispatcher"). But this real hotel is at a specific street address, mentioned in the phone book listing. Despite the IMF team preparing some other hotel building to receive Conrad in an extremely short time frame and making it look like the "Bower," there is (I think) no mention of them changing the street signs in the neighborhood to the one this pseudo-Bower Hotel is on ... as if Conrad would have noticed that detail when he chose it.

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