Rat Patrol episode review: The Chase of Fire Raid

Anyone who watches Rat Patrol knows you can’t take it too seriously, or else you wouldn’t enjoy it.  There’s a difference, however, between taking it too seriously and taking it too far.  Here I do the latter, like I do with everything.  If you look carefully you may find some serious observations and critiques, but I try my best to refrain from anything in that constructive vein.  The thoughts and nitpicks herein are long-winded and rambling and incredibly petty.  But this intro is about to be, too, unless I shut up, so here we go. 

We open on a desolate, empty desert, silent save the wistful sighing of the ceaseless wind.  The title card informs us that this is THE RAT PATROL IN COLOR, although for now it’s all just one color: sand. 

Featuring: sand.

In the distance, a trumpet sounds; the scene changes, and we see M7 Priests toodling along a desert road, painted banana yellow so you have no doubt that they’re German even if they’re, you know, M7 Priests.  It turns out the trumpet was the intro to Lili Marlene, because our Germans may be a bunch of deaf-and-blind psychos intent on world domination but that doesn’t stop them from being men of culture.  This scene is significant in the sense that it’s the only time Hauptmann Dietrich, to whom we shall soon be introduced, really uses the radio for anything besides communication.  I suppose after everything that happened in this episode he just got too depressed to even bother turning the thing on, because he knew he wouldn’t get through the whole song before the Rats came smashing down on his head, blowing things up right and left and just plain ruining his entire day.  

While the tenuous strains of Lili Marlene drift across the empty sand, we pan over a stretch of dunes to see that the sand isn’t quite as empty as we, and Dietrich, first thought.  Instead we have a dude in an Aussie hat, peering through spanking new field glasses at a tall fella in the passenger seat of one of the German halftracks minding its own business down below. 

Rear Window: Desert Edition.

This tall fella, of course, is Hauptmann Hans Dietrich, whose ineptitude is rivaled only by his pointless determination and iron will to eventually not lose someday.  He’s wearing his big goofy goggles and standing up in his seat because if there’s one thing you need to know about this man it’s that he apparently does not bend at the waist and is allergic to sitting in moving vehicles.  That’s two things, but the point still stands because it can’t sit either.  Even though he’s keeping a sort-of eye out for danger, it’s apparent he’s pretty content with his lot in life at the moment and in no great hurry to get where he’s going.  Poor, naive Dietrich.  We hardly knew ye.  

The face of a man who does not yet suspect his life is about to suck mighty bad.

While Dietrich and the Wacky Wakakians are rolling so blissfully along with all those Caissons the army isn’t using, it turns out that Sergeant Sam Troy, Aussie Hat Dude, isn’t alone but has brought his handy dandy sidekicks with him, complete with two jeeps bedecked with the latest in .50 cal fashion.  There’s a quick, silent run through the fellas waiting on Troy down at the base of the dune (the ones that matter, anyway): Private Mark T. “Hitch” Hitchcock, the blond, bespectacled one with his bubble gum and stupid French kepi, and Private Tully Pettigrew, the Silent Kentuckian with his goggles, matchstick, and bad case of helmet hair under that M1 pot smacked on his head.  We find out their actual names later but I adamantly refuse to refer to everyone as “Aussie Hat Dude” and “Guy With Helmet Hair” until their actual names come up in the plot.  These two, the jeep drivers, are listening to the Germans’ station on their own radio and exchange a Knowing Look that means I don’t know what and we go back to the Germans driving.  But wait, what’s this? There’s a third fellow standing down there by the jeeps, but don’t worry—he doesn’t matter.  It’ll make sense in a minute.

Lili Marlene ends and some dude announces we will now hear den Wehrmachtsbericht, which I in my limited wisdom have never seen as an actual word before but I guess this show knows what it’s doing.  Der Wehrmachtbericht, or armed forces report, was the daily communiqué sent out so the left hand would know what the right hand was doing, liberally sprinkled with victory-infused propaganda.  Beginning pleasantly with the declaration, “Das Oberkommando der Wehrmacht gibt bekannt,” the Wehrmacht High Command announces, it gave updates on the military situation and how the Dallas Cowboys were doing (terribly, as usual) and who blew up what that day.  This is apparently Dietrich’s favorite part of the news, because he turns up the radio and we switch back to the Rats, lurking out of sight behind their dune.  Something happened in the early hours of the morning, according to the announcer, but whatever it is we never find out because Hitch, rude thing, snaps his radio off.  I was listening to that, but never mind. 

Standing next to him is the Third Fellow, whose face is obscured by his goggles and big ugly helmet but what profile we can see looks like Walter Matthau and no one will ever convince me otherwise.  This fellow is Sergeant Cotter, who gets no lines, no first name, no closeups, and no development.  

Despite this, he’s a dutiful guy, and as Troy slithers back down the dune toward them he yanks the cowl off the Browning and hops up into place behind it on the jeep bed, ready to be murdered as a plot devi—I mean, kill some Germans and win another victory for FDR and democracy.  Meanwhile Troy jumps in back of Tully’s jeep, grabs onto the .50’s firing handles, and away they go on some silent signal, implying they’ve done this many, many times before.  

As a prior Rat Patrol watcher, one might notice the odd seating arrangement of Troy with Tully and Sgt. Nameless O. Cotter with Hitch, but it’s only the pilot so we can forgive them for committing a sin they are as yet utterly unaware of.  Anyhow, the four Rats fling themselves over a dune to rain despair and hot brass down on Dietrich’s unfortunate column, with Cotter barely hanging onto his .50 as Hitch takes the jump in their laboring jeep.  Small wonder this guy dies in two minutes; he sucks at this. 

The Rats come up on the rear of the column and open fire, with lots of fun angles and blowing up of supply trucks while all the Germans instantly panic and start driving every which way.  Dietrich is understandably upset by this and hollers something into the handset of the radio that I simply lack the braincells to translate because his accent is too weird even while speaking German for me to comprehend.  While it’s incredibly rude of him not to sound exactly like the dialog in my language courses, this is a minor detail that takes an aside to the main action, which involves lots of explosions, screaming Wehrmacht men, one guy on fire, and spent cartridges flying every which way. 

I’m glad shrapnel isn’t a thing, or we’d have big problems.

For once the Rats don’t demolish the entire convoy before retreating from whence they came, because Cotter takes one for the team and flops dramatically into the jeep, so all four of them turn tail and skedaddle, leaving Dietrich’s column remarkably intact.  For a Rat Patrol episode, anyway.  The Hauptmann watches through his own spanking new field glasses before lowering them and looking rather displeasedly off into the middle distance with a subtle Jaw Twitch.  Cue intro.

The face of a man who begins to suspect his life is about to suck mighty bad.

The intro is full of explosions, actor closeups, leaping jeeps, and peppy music, but that’s just too bad. I’m not putting it here because we’ve got too much else to talk about. Moving on.

We next find ourselves in a happy Arab town full of happy GIs and Tommies and one blond gal in an ugly hat in a bar. She zeroes in on Troy, chilling in a corner with his beer because sure, Cotter died earlier and everything but life goes on and besides that gal is pretty, and after a peck on the lips it’s clear they have a date.  This is followed by what one could call extensive lip-pecking which is then interrupted by Pretty Boy Hitch sauntering in with neatly combed hair and a knowing smirk to inform his sergeant that The Colonel wants them to get back to the unit.  Now.  (At least, that’s the impression he got.  Cue second, even more knowing smirk.)

British Blondie Chick looks pretty steamed at this news, so Troy sends Hitch on the fool’s errand of bailing Tully out of whatever trouble he’s in (his words, not mine) and they’ll all rendezvous later.  This does not appease British Blondie Chick in the slightest, since she and our Ratty sergeant apparently had 72 hours of leave together, but in the most brutal brush-off of the century Troy tells her she can write his congressman and the scene transitions to what I must assume is the fabled unit of Hitch’s self-satisfied communiqué.  It’s populated with mostly camels, Arabs, and the odd, rare soldier, which makes me wonder exactly what the Allies are fighting the war with.  

Troy cruises onto the scene in his jeep and is waylaid by a random GI who commandeers it and tells Troy that The Colonel wants to see him, which I was pretty sure Troy knew already or he wouldn’t be there, but all right.  Troy starts off across the camp at a leisurely pace, which leads to the soldier hollering, “On the double!” after him, so he speeds up for about two seconds and then returns to his unhurried walk.  

As an aside, The Colonel’s name is Quint, which you find out in the credits but nowhere else because Rat Patrol is bad about naming characters and keeping it a secret.

In Colonel Quint’s tent (which was an unintended rhyme, I swear), the three Rats gather to be lambasted for their daring to take a breather in the middle of a war.  Quint is just a bucket of bad-tempered, sarcastic sass for some reason, but for me the best part about this scene is the adjutant guy behind him pulling the weirdest faces throughout this whole exchange.  

Grouchily Quint informs the Rats that the British 8th Army has a mission so Special and Vital they sent over one of their own guys as a replacement for poor Nameless O. Cotter, whose few moments of glory are long behind him.  Warily, Troy inquires of this replacement, “An Englishman?” 

“Anything wrong with that, Sergeant?” snaps Quint in what is obviously the actor’s attempt at acting stiff and colonel-like after watching five minutes of newsreels through busted binoculars from several miles away, but just comes across as an average angry dude whose panties are all in a wad. Admirably, Troy doesn’t cave to this petty behavior and answers honestly, saying he does in fact have a problem with that because he won’t know this replacement, and having a good understanding of his fellow men is imperative when it comes to their line of work.  That sounds reasonable enough to all the sane people in the room, including, one must assume, the face-pulling adjutant, but Quint just gets nastier and informs Troy that the man he’s getting “was in this desert when you were still sweating out the draft.”

Gee, thanks, Colonel, we’re all intimately familiar with him now.  Piece of cake knowing exactly how he’ll react making split decisions under fire in the middle of a war zone. 

Troy’s face says all this in exquisite silence, but he’s wise enough not to talk back any more. Having won this verbal sparring match by virtue of the birds on his collar, Quint introduces Sergeant Jack Moffitt, a veritable skyscraper of a man who is tanned enough he does, in fact, look as though he has been in the desert since before Troy was even thinking about sweating out the draft.      

Right off Quint slips up and says he’s with the 2nd Division, to which this prim and pleasant Englishman says, “Scots Greys, actually, sir.”  The three Rats all look at each other, either annoyed at his exactness or impressed by his polite confidence in correcting Colonel Stick-In-The-Mud, and handshakes are exchanged.

“Think there’s something to this guy after all?” “Doubtful.”

“Any questions, Troy?” asks Quint dangerously.  Troy is bad at reading the room and answers in the affirmative, followed by a very loaded,


Oh dear.

Quint looks like his last nerve has just up and committed ritual suicide at this blatant insubordination, but Moffitt intervenes while Adjutant Man makes some more faces in the background.  The British sergeant informs Troy that he’s really really smart and knows a lot about sand and nomads and his dad teaches at Cambridge, so there.  In fact, this dad even dragged him around North Africa all the time before the war and they played in the dirt and dug up dead crud and if that isn’t a worthy qualification for being thrown onto the front lines with a bunch of strangers then I don’t know what is.  

Troy doesn’t get much out of this besides the derogatory nickname “Doctor” for this well-put-together fellow and thinks, reeking with sarcasm, that their new fourth Rat is “smashing”.  Quint tells him in not so many words to shut up and accept the replacement he’s shoving in their faces and draws a lot of comparisons between naval warfare and the desert, which is just like naval warfare but with less water, and how since there’s no real front line that makes for bad supply problems, which the Germans have a lot of. It seems G2 read in the local gossip columns that Rommel’s planning a big move and needs a lot of gasoline and ammo to get his troops where they’re going, and according to the long and ancient tradition of desert warfare first penned by Aristotle whoever runs out of that stuff last wins.  At least, I think that’s what he says, because he’s got such a weird overbite I keep staring at it and not paying attention to the dialog.  

How is one supposed to stay focused with his mouth doing the things it’s doing?

While he’s talking Troy and Moffitt keep giving each other odd eye signals that make me suspect they’re both fantasizing ways of murdering each other as politely as possible, and Adjutant Man pulls some more faces.  Quint finishes up his dictatorial rant by announcing the obvious: their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to stop Rommel from getting any more goodies.  This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

In a half-hearted attempt at a cool transition, the camera focuses on the big tabletop map Quint has been whacking at during his last line, and when the scene changes we see another map closeup with a languid pair of long-fingered hands wandering over it.  

Wait for it. . .

Impressed, aren’t you? Thought so.

The hands and the map both turn out to be Dietrich’s, because he hasn’t been sitting around twiddling his manicured thumbs while Troy & Co. were boozing it up in Olde Araby but instead plotting in his own little corner of paradise, complete with oasis and palm tree. 

He says something in German which he then kindly translates for the old Arab dude standing around watching him.  “I said, when one looks for a needle in a haystack, one may get one’s finger stuck in it.”  Wise words, Hauptmann.  He’s been reading the gossip columns, too, because he knows the English have a fuel and ammo dump hidden somewhere nearby, and he’s got to find it before they can get to it.  He tells Arab Dude this with admirable North German conviction, but before we see the kind of reaction it elicits the scene returns to the Quint tent and the disagreeable characters therein.

Moffitt is flexing his desert knowledge muscle, explaining that the English buried about 500 tons (tonnes?) of petrol and ammunition they planned to use when they returned to the area, but the Germans heard about it and have been trying to find it ever since.  This means the Rats must compete against Dietrich and the Wacky Wakakians to reach the dump first.  This appeals to Troy’s inner competitor, and he follows up with a few extremely reasonable questions.

Troy: “You know where this dump is? Map, coordinates?”

Moffitt: (with polite standoffishness) “Of course.”

Troy: (turning his attitude on Quint) “Then what do we need him for, sir? Navigation, demolition; that’s our ball of wax.”

But Quint is prepared for this question, because Moffitt brought a Powerpoint presentation showing some stunning before and after photos of the dump, with the “before” being a recognizable landmark and the “after” being literally just sand.  

I told you there was a lot of sand.

How anybody, even a college-educated chap who wrote his thesis on the nocturnal habits of the Arizona Hairy Scorpion or whatever it is he did, could possibly recognize one little section of sand amongst all the other, bigger sections of sand is utterly beyond me.  But I digress, and so does Troy, because he seems to accept this explanation.  Such is the might of the Powerpoint presentation.  It turns out that Moffitt is bad at reading the room, too, because even though Troy is obviously in the painful process of acquiescing, the Brit informs him that he could dig in that sand for a week and not find anything, because he is dumb and Moffitt is not. 

With all due respect. Tut, tut, old boy.

Meanwhile, Dietrich has been staring at his map without moving for an unreasonably long time, but he’s got a big beautiful plan now and nobody will be able to stand in the way of his wicked brilliance.  He gives Arab Dude some money and informs him there will be more once he and his men find the supply dump, but for the love of Jock Mahoney, watch out for the English.  Arab Dude expresses confusion that there could be English so deep into the German sector of desert, and Dietrich gets all philosophical and haunted and proceeds to spin a vague tale of a “certain unit” that runs around and causes him all kinds of grief—not that it bothers him, no sir, he’ll get those pesky Rats one day.  

For future reference, this represents 79% of Dietrich’s emotional state for the remainder of the series.

In fact, it would be pretty darn funny if said Rats led him and his band of misfits straight to that ammo dump, wouldn’t it, and he exchanges the corniest of choreographed looks with his version of Adjutant Man, whose faces aren’t nearly as funny but will have to do.   

Part the first.
Part the second.

Back at Quint’s, Troy is making sure for his ego’s sake that he’ll still be in charge of this whole charade.  Sure, says his commander, but Moffitt gets to make snide comments and critique his form the whole way.  That’s as good as anyone is going to get, so Troy agrees, Quint agrees, we all agree, and that’s that.  It turns out Adjutant Man actually has a name, but I don’t know how to spell it nor do I care.  It’ll be in the credits, so whatever.  He goes off to fetch all the necessary info they’ll need to get this mission done, and Quint slithers back to his lair, which leaves Moffitt and the three Musketeers alone with their awkwardness in the tiny confines of the tent.  Troy provides his two privates with a method of escape by telling them to go to supply and load up the jeeps, but Moffitt ruthlessly executes this possibility with a stomp to the larynx by saying he hasn’t actually met either of them, politely appalled at the blatant rudeness of his new American teammates.  He doesn’t say this, of course, but you just know he’s thinking it in the darkest recesses of his stuffy highbrow mind. 

Repressing an eye-roll, Troy makes the introduction rounds, and we learn that Tully is the bestest driver the Army’s ever seen because he was a moonshine runner back home in the wilds of Kentucky.  Tully reinforces this wild and rebellious image with a neat handshake and polite, quiet, “Howdy.”  That’s about as much as he ever says, folks, so let’s move on.  Hitch is a fancy-dancy college boy type whose main interests are guns and girls.  He grins too much and never shuts up, but these are observations on my part as a fervent Rat Patrol watcher, so for now we’re just told not to let his innocent face fool us.  

Troy shoos them both out and Moffitt swoops in for the kill, announcing, “I seem to upset you.”  But no, Troy’s not upset.  He’s just careful, and probably hates Quint for being a jerkface while he’s at it.  Knowing his guys keeps them all alive, and Moffitt he doesn’t know from a croquet ball (?), which is an. . .odd choice of words, but all right.  Instead of hanging around to actually get to know Moffitt and remedy this situation, however, he smacks his purdy Aussie hat on his head and leaves our Brit standing there feeling very much the intruding outsider.  Points all around for clear communication.  

How many Troys stacked on top of each other does it take to make one Moffitt?

With jaunty adventure music our four guys set out, with Hitch driving Moffitt and Tully driving Troy, which rubs veteran fans all kinds of wrong ways but it’s just for this episode so grin and bear it.  It looks like they know where they’re going, but this is apparently not the case because they pull over at the nearest Buc-ee’s for pralines and to take a look at the map.  Troy asks Moffitt, rather passive-aggressively, if he has any advice for the way they should go, and to add insult to injury he actually does.  His route, to Troy’s consternation, is longer, but he assures them that lost time can be made up for by traveling at night.  Therein follows a brief exchange that I love for its unintended irony. 

Troy: “At night? Across the open desert, with no lights?”

Moffitt: “Time is of the essence, Troy.  And we’ll have the cover of darkness.”

Troy: “Yeah.  At the bottom of a wadi with a busted axle.”

Pretty sure Troy’s main beef is precisely the cover of darkness, hence the whole no lights thing, but if Moffitt is wearing shorts and knee socks in public he’s obviously not terribly self-aware in the first place.  He follows up Troy’s acid remark with the sweetest, most satisfied smirk I have ever seen in my life, and turns his attention elsewhere, ending the conversation on his terms.  Tully, cradling his Garand like his own child a little ways back, summons his sergeant’s attention with a “Lookit” and something else that was cut out during editing, because his mouth moves but he doesn’t say anything.  They all proceed to lookit and discover that they’re being followed by a bunch of Arabs on camels—Dietrich’s hired men, trying to sniff out that English supply cache before those pesky Rats find it.  The music tells us to be alarmed.  Cue commercial.

Hope you weren’t alarmed for too long, because we’ve moved on from all those Arabs walking a mile for a Camel and have bigger things to worry about now, like a random Me-109 that has just decided to strafe the Rats’ jeeps for no good reason.  Luckily, everyone has atrocious aim and escapes unscathed, but as the Messerschmitt zips off into the sunset it’s clear Troy is pretty steamed—at the German pilot, at life, at the Camel-smoking Arabs, and especially at Moffitt.  Moffitt, the poor dear, is totally oblivious to this, and when Troy and Tully hop out and converge by his jeep, he announces, “Well, cat’s out of the bag now, I’m afraid.  And hardly a coincidence.”  

How To Be Oblivious 101: Moffitt Edition.

Incidentally, the sky is also blue, the sun rises in the east, and the boiling temperature of water is 212ºF.  Tully adds onto this litany of obviousness by adding, in an attempt to inject some cracker barrel philosophy into the situation, “Well, they got us spotted, all right.  Like possums in a gum tree.”  Cue violent flashbacks of that scene in Burt Lancaster’s The Kentuckian where everybody’s singing at everybody and dancing ensues.  Troy gives his resident Southerner an irked look, turns to Moffitt, and after some reluctant cogitation makes a decision.  Snarky, not-so-hostile dialog ensues.

Troy: “About that advice, Doctor.  We’re rolling straight through.  Till we get there.”

Moffitt: (feigning innocence) “At night? Across the open desert, without lights? Really, Troy.”

Aha, so our boys don’t hate each other after all.  Everyone runs back to their respective jeeps and the adventure continues. 

Meanwhile, Dietrich and his Wacky Wakakians are chilling on the open sand in a nice, vibrant wide shot of the kind that would make a good desktop background for hopeless Rat Patrol fans.  I wouldn’t know anything about that, of course; mine’s a Tiger tank.  But that isn’t to say I haven’t been tempted.  

Anyway, Arab Dude is reporting in to our Hauptmann on the Rats’ position when last he and his Camel Squad saw them, and Dietrich draws some lines on a map to connect dots with Xs, thinking aloud as he doodles.  The casual disdain as he says, “Connecting this point to where that idiot pilot shot at them. . . .” is one of the plethora of things I love about Dietrich.  He conveys so much annoyance in such an innocuous tone, and doesn’t even need an accompanying facial expression to get his point across.  He deduces the Rats’ destination with a nicely drawn circle and then, figuring they must stop somewhere for the night like all sensible commandos, pinpoints some location on this barebones, mostly blank map that is utterly unmarked with a name I’m not even going to try and spell.  Arab Dude knows what he’s talking about, though, and that’s all that counts.  Dietrich stresses that they can’t disturb the Rats just yet; he’s still convinced they can just subtly follow them to the supply dump without them noticing.  It’s an admirable plan, but he’s got no idea who he’s dealing with; it’s only the pilot, after all.  

The scene changes to what I’m convinced is a daytime shot of the Rats moving along that’s been underexposed to look like night.  Troy’s in front with his cockeyed saunter, hefting a Tommy as he walks ahead of Tully’s jeep to vet the path for obstacles.  He’s doing a shoddy job, though, because the next scene finds Tully more vocal than all the rest of the episodes combined as he complains that Troy needs to keep them out of the “bad places”, whatever those are, that are tearing up the jeep wheels.  

Since it’s pitch-black night (wink wink nod nod) Troy can’t see any farther than he can spit, and there’s not much he can do about it so they’d better all just suck it up and drive.  This doesn’t set well with the Silent Kentuckian, who’s so het up by all this he not only gets out of his seat but proceeds to go on what for him constitutes an impassioned rant about the condition of his beautiful, darling jeep forced to endure night driving in the most derisive tone possible.  

Moffitt is understandably disturbed by the deep emotional attachment of one man to an inanimate object and politely inquires what’s wrong.  Tully informs him that if they need wheels when they don’t got wheels, well, then they don’t got wheels, or something.  Moffitt sees the logic in this, and Troy tells the two privates to see what they can do.  Regarding what? They seem to know, because they immediately go off on their mission, but I sure don’t.  

The scene changes to Moffitt and Troy flanking one of the Brownings, which they’ve detached and laid out on the sand to mess around with while Tully and Hitch “see what they can do” (whatever that means).  Troy has apparently just discovered the receiver cover has a hinge because he keeps moving the thing up and down and driving me nuts.  Moffitt is all huddled up into as miserable a heap as one can stuff a 6’2” frame that’s 90% legs, and the reason for this becomes clear as he mutters, “Bloody cold, isn’t it?” 

Moffitt channeling his inner Napoleon.

One would think, as a fellow who practically invented the desert and wrote his thesis on the migratory patterns of the Laperrine’s olive tree, he’d know just how cold it can get out there, so this comment is obviously an adorably awkward peace offering and attempt at conversation.  Troy doesn’t really take it, being too busy playing with the stupid cover of the .50, but Moffitt persists.  He straight-up apologizes for getting them into this situation and admits Troy was right about the night driving and he himself, shockingly, was wrong.  

Troy says no, he was wrong, and what’s worse is he knew it going in.  “It was a lousy gamble.”  I’m sorry, what? What’s a lousy gamble, the night driving? Following Moffitt’s advice? We may never know.  Troy smacks the cover closed and requests a status report from Tully, who’s built a giant pillow fort with a sideways jeep and a tarp and is currently going after that pesky front axle with a vengeance. 

He’s seen worse, because of course he has, and we return to a closeup of our two sergeants.  Moffitt, having had all the blame over their current situation forcibly removed from his shoulders, zeroes in on the jeeps’ ability to operate for his next fretting session.  Troy, now polishing the top of the stupid receiver cover for some reason, assures him that if Tully and Hitch, Jeep Whisperers Extraordinaire, say the things will go, they’ll go.  In response to this, Moffitt asks for permission to “brew up” and Troy looks at him like he’s lost his ever-loving mind.  

“Tea, you idiot,” says Moffitt, but politely.  Patiently he explains that one always asks permission of one’s commanding officers, even if one’s commanding officer is a boorish colonist with a stupid hat and no concept of the finer things in life.  The boorish colonist provides Moffitt with not only his blessing but the secret information that TNT makes a nice fire when cut up into small pieces.  Here the Million Dollar Troy Smile™ makes a sneaking little appearance, a portent of what is to come in later episodes.  

The olive branch has been extended, received, and returned, and our two sergeants are on friendlier terms now, if still wary ones.  The conversation turns comfortably idle, with Moffitt marveling that Troy, with his bucketloads of experience, hasn’t been made an officer yet.  They tried to, Troy tells him, which leads me to believe our sergeant is just too stubborn a cuss to ever leave his men high and dry in favor of a commission.  Moffitt relates to this, having been in the OTC at Cambridge.  He enlisted when the war hit, preferring to work his way up from rock bottom, much to the shock of his family as they considered him too much of a delicate little wallflower to make it amongst all the uncouth ruffians and noncoms that populated the ranks.  His offer to make Troy a cup of tea is politely declined, prompting him to go off on a brief, existential soliloquy praising the morale-boosting merits of Britain’s favorite beverage.  Thanks but no thanks, says Troy.  Shut up and brew up. 

Next comes a cool split-screen segment showing the Rats and Dietrich racing over the desert, with an overlaid map tracking the parallel paths—in blue for the Allies and red for the Germans—that eventually, inevitably meet.  The Rats are still being pursued by Arab Dude and his fleet of camels, but if they’re aware of this fact they don’t seem to care much.  

Who says the 60s didn’t have cool special effects?

At long last the two jeeps pull up and Moffitt hops out to get his bearings.  In this shot there’s a low-hanging cloud of drifting smoke right above the Rats, but its origins are never explained.  Anyhow, Moffitt looks through his field glasses at the way ahead and confirms that yep, there’s ammo in them thar dunes.  With hilarious irony, he identifies the hidden dump by the same low wall that was in the “before” aerial photo, even though the “after” one Quint was so proud of had no wall in it whatsoever.  The whole point of dragging Moffitt along was so he could commune with the desert and find the cache after the sand had covered all recognizable landmarks, and yet those landmarks are still there.  Following this logic, they didn’t even need him and we could have been spared this madness.  Oh, never mind. 

They drive up to the dump, get out, and Troy orders them to haul out the tools and start digging.  Moffitt says tut tut, pip pip and cheerio, no point in that just yet.  He’s finally done his desert-communing and deduced through clever means that the sand must be 15 feet deep.  Hitch takes issue with this and asks what they’re supposed to do now, to which Moffitt replies, with unquenchable cheerfulness, “Relax!” It’s his wicket for the moment (his words, not mine) and they can all sit back and watch him poke around until he finds a suitable place to break through.  He wanders off, very much the absent-minded professor, and resignedly Troy organizes everyone else into some kind of order, sending Hitch to mind the .50s and Tully up on a hill to watch for Germans. 

Random Moffitt height appreciation.

Speaking of Germans, they’re trundling along at a nice pace a little ways behind.  Dietrich calls for a halt and has Feldwebel Schmitt, aka German Adjutant Man, climb up this bizarre contraption that looks like the offspring of a firetruck and a cherry picker, mounted on the back of a truck.  Schmitt scampers up the rickety ladder to the railed platform at the top with no problem, but you couldn’t pay me to climb that thing the way it wobbles around with every move he makes.  He reaches the 13th floor, gets off the elevator, and looks through his field glasses until he finds what he’s seeking: the Arab Camel Squad.  The leader senses that he’s being stared at, somehow, and makes a bunch of whirly motions with his hand to indicate the Rats are nearby.  Schmitt calls down the news of their imminent success to our Hauptmann, who gives a little self-satisfied smile and motions his column onward while Dietrich Music™ plays.  

Back at the dump, the Rats hear the approaching theme music and Troy tries to get Moffitt’s attention.  “Moffitt! You hear those engines?” To which Moffitt replies, rather blissfully, “I do, rather.”  Tully looks like he wants to strangle him, and so do I at this point.  Pilot Episode Moffitt is such a flake compared to his character for the rest of the series, it’s a miracle he gets anything done.  He’s crawling around in the sand, feeling out the perfect spot to dig, and after spouting a bunch of smart stuff he finds it.  

Presenting the most emotion this man will ever show in an episode of Rat Patrol.

Dietrich’s column is speeding over the sand now, and the Rats are running out of time.  They grab their entrenching tools and begin to dig like mad; the way they’re arranged means everybody is shoveling sand into everybody else’s holes and nobody is actually getting anywhere, but for drama’s sake we overlook this and assume they’re making progress.  It’s not progress enough, however, and the Germans are getting too close.  Troy sends Tully and Hitch off in one of the jeeps as a distraction while he sets a charge, but after they zip away the M7 Priests open fire on the two sergeants at the ammo dump. 

I’m pretty sure Troy told his men to try and draw the Germans off, not charge them head-on in attempted suicide, but either I misheard or they did, because they fling themselves straight into the middle of the approaching DAK vehicles, with Hitch spraying everything in sight with the .50 while Tully tries to take corners without flipping the jeep over.  It’s notable that the Kentuckian has one of the chin straps of his helmet in his mouth for some reason, but I just report the news, I don’t make it up.  

While they’re keeping the two Priests busy, Dietrich arrives at the ammo dump in his halftrack with the rest of his column hot on his heels.  Troy and Moffitt have just connected the fuse when the Hauptmann pulls up, and with a mighty heave Troy crashes down on the detonator’s plunger.  The resulting explosion is mere inches from the passenger side of the halftrack and by all rights should leave Dietrich, engulfed in shrapnel-filled smoke, bloodied, deaf, and possibly dead.  As it is the blast is enough to knock the halftrack onto its side, as we see in a moment, and set off the buried fuel and ammunition that the entire area is liberally laced with.  

Tully and Hitch race back to the scene in time for the sergeants, giving up the first jeep as explosion fodder, to hop on the second jeep and go while all heck breaks loose with Germans running everywhere like headless chickens and random explosions shooting jets of flame into the sky. 

Dietrich’s plot armor is dented and dusty, but intact.  Apparently instead of immediately being shredded by the explosion that occurred right in front of his pretty face, he was flung from the halftrack after it randomly tipped over a minute later and half-scrambled, half-crawled his way to relative safety in a very undignified manner.  As the Rats’ remaining jeep circles around the destruction, it passes in front of him on his hands and knees in the sand, filthy and frazzled and absolutely, breathtakingly furious.  He meets Troy’s eyes as the jeep cruises by, and in that brief, silent exchange an unquenchable rivalry is born.  You can almost forget Christopher George in this segment; by itself, his stony visage doesn’t carry all that much weight.  It could fit into any other scene you put it in.  It’s Hans Gudegast’s face that makes the moment.  

Yes, I know it’s blurry. Action shots are hard.

He looks like he wants to kill Troy with his bare hands, and if his legs worked he probably would.  It’s an expression that’s weighty, vicious, and brims with unspoken anger.  He gives this pivotal moment the gravity it needs to get this entire series off the ground.  That’s not to rag on George, of course; his reaction makes total sense.  To Troy, this is just another day on the job: find the ammo dump, blow it up, don’t die, go home.  He’s got no clue why this German guy is looking at him like he’s on the menu, but he knows it must mean something.  

To Dietrich, though, this is personal.  It’s a matter of pride.  He had his eye set on that ammo dump and those pesky, goshdarn Rats not only took away any chance he had of reaching it but blew it to smithereens right beneath his perfect Aryan nose, and now he’s out for blood.  Troy dares to be better than him, and he’s got to respond in kind.  Only when the jeep has passed him by does he break eye contact and let his shellshocked exhaustion take over, giving us our first official Dietrich Look of the series.  More on those later. 

While the entire ammo dump bursts forth in an unbridled display of shrapnel and general death, the Rats ride off into the sunset accompanied by triumphal music, lots of dust, and Tully giving the OK sign while driving at unsafe speeds when he really should have both hands on the wheel, but maybe that’s a trick he learned in Kentucky running moonshine.  Cue commercial.

Warning: do not try this at home, unless you live in Kentucky.

It’s nighttime, back in the same town that the Rats were painting red earlier in the episode before Quint summoned them to his desert office to chew them out for existing.  In the bar, Troy and Moffitt are chilling with some booze and casually comparing sergeant’s chevrons when the Brit of the bunch says, looking delightfully innocent, “I’ve got a spot of bad news for you, old man.”  

“Yeah,” says Troy, looking oddly as if he’s repressing a smile when he takes a swig from his beer.

“I’ve asked my people if I could stay,” Moffitt continues, adding casually when Troy’s head snaps up, “Hope you don’t mind.”  As it turns out, Troy doesn’t mind.  In an O. Henry-like twist, he’s already put in a request to have Moffitt transferred in for good, and the two bask in this contented moment of male bonding until Moffitt’s attention is attracted by British Blondie Chick, who has slunk into the bar in the hopes of snatching another man since Troy left her high and dry.  

She sees Moffitt in all his 6’2”, gray-eyed, quarter-Gypsy glory (well, Gary Raymond’s quarter-Gypsy glory) and immediately abandons all thought of reuniting with Troy.  The injured party takes it well by sulking into his beer and making a few sullen, sarcastic comments, which are duly ignored, as these Britons have eyes only for each other.

Gallantly Moffitt suggests dinner, and then even more gallantly suggests Troy go along with them because he looks so pathetic and lonely, even if he is smirking up his sleeve.  That smirk then turns into a full-fledged Million Dollar Troy Smile™ of the kind entire cities’ power grids can run on and, snatching up their respective headgear, the party of three leaves the bar and heads out into the night.  

I love this episode, because it’s such a marvelous introduction to all the characters.  Ironically, Tully gets more limelight than Hitch does, when the reverse is true for the rest of the series, but I’m not complaining.  Sometimes when I forget what his voice sounds like due to his lack of lines I come back and rewatch this episode so I can refresh that smooth Amarillo drawl in my mind.  Hitch, on the other hand, is 10% glasses and 90% smirk, so I can’t really draw any conclusions on how much he differs from his usual self in the rest of the show.  (He doesn’t chase a girl, not once, but the essence of Mark T. Hitchcock is still there. We’ll call this one a win.)

Troy remains rather the same throughout the show, with the pilot establishing the building blocks of his character that are further developed later: stubbornness, loyalty, a streak of wicked humor, and a smile that should by all rights get separate billing. 

Moffitt, as I mentioned earlier, is a flighty, dreamy sort of professor-type that hardly matches his sharp, ruthless logic later on, but Gary Raymond pulls it off anyway and looks darn good while doing it, even if he is wearing knee socks.  Luckily for us he drops the “rathers” and “old mans” that his speech is liberally sprinkled with throughout this venture, and we’re all the better for it. 

Dietrich, in my opinion, wins the most awards for development potential in this series, with his heart-on-the-fence way of conducting warfare and dogged sense of duty, and here his methods are basically no different.  Anyone who has seen Rat Patrol before, however, knows how strange he acts compared to the rest of the show.  He’s so innocent, poor thing, so naive and bright-eyed and full of hope.  He smiles, he jests, he listens to the radio and pretends his life hasn’t crumbled down around his jackboots.  I say let him enjoy it while he can; he pays for it enough in later episodes, after all. 

I like the scene with Tully’s jeep-related outburst for the outright standoffishness he shows towards Moffitt and his quiet disgust later on, especially when they get along so well for the rest of the series, but the hostility between them is never truly addressed or resolved.  It provides a nice contrast to their tight, unspoken friendship, even if we never see how that comes about.  I would have liked to see more of Hitch in this episode, since they did him dirty on the development level by giving him a handful of lines and no substance besides bubblegum, but one can’t have everything.  

Plot holes? Check.  Character discrepancies? Check; as their first outing, there’s nothing to compare them to.  Historical inaccuracies? Check. But naturally, I love it anyway. If I had any stars to rate this episode with, I’d give four out of five.  But maybe I’m just biased.   


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