When I noticed that this episode was the longest episode yet at 39 minutes, I was not thrilled. But directed by Bob Zemeckis and starring the amazingly still-alive Kirk Douglas, it was surprisingly great. Guess you get what you pay for.
And they must have had some budget for this episode as the extended opening battle depicting WWI in 1918 France is excellent. Sergeant Lance (not to be confuse with Lance Sergeant) Henriksen is climbing over dead and handless bodies looking for the lieutenant who is holed up in a bunker with a flask.
The lieutenant orders a retreat, but the Sargent refuses citing the General’s orders to take the hill. Lt. Kalthrob orders the retreat anyway. Henriksen reports this to General Kalthrob, the lieutenant’s father.
In a flagrant example of nepotism, the Lieutenant is played by Kirk Douglas’s real life son. It works though, as the younger Douglas does a decent job and has similar a voice and mannerisms to Kirk.
Lt. Kalthrob wants a discharge from the army, but the most his father will do is transfer him behind the lines — if he carries out a dangerous mission. He manages to botch this one, too. He freezes when he should have warned his squad of advancing German troops. The squad is mowed down with a grenade blasting Henriksen through the air on top of the lieutenant, looking worse than he did at the end of Aliens.
Lt. Kalthrob runs back to the bunker and tells the General that he did all he could to save his men. But Henriksen manages to stagger back to the bunker and tells the truth about the lieutenant — he’s the titular yellow. The General examines his son’s weapon and determines that it has never been fired. He orders the court martial of his son in one hour. After finding his son guilty, he calls for a firing squad at 6 am.
That night he secretly visits his son’s cell and tells him that there will be blanks in the firing squad’s rifles. He is to pretend to fall back dead and escape when the unit departs. The general asks only that he pretend to die like a man.
The next morning, he is pretty cool. He refuses a cigarette, but takes a drink from his flask. He refuses the blindfold. And then he is shot with live rounds and falls dead into a pit.
Only a couple of minor criticisms here. Lt. Kalthrob survives the firing squad and the fall into the pit at least briefly, making the audience question what just happened. And Dan Aykroyd was really miscast.
Otherwise, great piece of work despite being out of character for the series.
- Title Analysis: No wordplay; just short and to the point.
- Kirk Douglas is now 98. Eric Douglas died of an overdose at 46.