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Red Right Hand: TV08: THE UNIT: "Five Brothers"
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.


TV08: THE UNIT: "Five Brothers"

Continuing my review of my favorite episodes of stuff from the last calendar year. Not necessarily the best of the year, but ones I liked for one subjective reason or another.

There will be spoilers.
Nobody talks about The Unit. I don't get it. It's got David Mamet and The Shield's Shawn Ryan behind it. It's got some great and gritty stuff. I even had spec'ed an episode of The Unit early on, tyring to get ahead of the curve on the gamble that a show by those two names would get paid attention to by more than just the typical CBS demographic (which in it's first season, it was a top 20 show).

And this one was a tight, mostly bottled, show with a lot of brains and a sense of reality behind it.

And here's something I considered about this episode. The title. It's not very revealing, but to me, it conveys a sense of impending badness. The five members of the Unit. The five brothers, This is something the producers wanted to see in the title. The concept embodied between the quotation marks, But why? Something is going to strain them and strain them hard. Will there still be five when it's done.

This is one of any reason why I wish it were standard practice to put the title of individual episodes on the screen at the beginning of the show. I don't understand why it isn't done, especially as there simply is no reason not to. In fact, I think it engenders a certain level of fandom among casual viewers. Some might be alert enough to actually refer to episodes by their titles rather than "the one where..." It's something that seems to be done most frequently with scifi shows, but Aaron Sorkin does it with his, so it's not strictly a genre thing.

This episode finds the team holing up in an apartment in Beirut after rescuing a reporter who had been held hostage for months. The only problem being that the apartment is occupied by an innocent family. Immediately, our heroes are put in the position that would generally cast them in the light of assholes at best and the bad guys at worst. They're essentially holding this family hostage and using their apartment to regroup, wait for extraction and, worst of all, tend to Grey, who suffered a serious wound. His lung is collapsed, filled with blood and through out the episode, there is the ominous sense that death is imminent. Hector is constantly having to deal with the next and the next complication as Grey gets closer and closer to the end.

Worse, is that the team is being hunted and one of the kids in the family is in someway developmentally disabled and prone to rocking, crying and yelling. Of course, the team are not bad guys and immediately recognize this and try to deal with the situation humanely. However, only the teenage son of the family speaks English and he's also the one whose impetuous and immature enough to be rude to his captors and actively attempt to do things to result in their capture rather than to try and just wait out the ordeal and come out the other end safely.

It's Bob (Scott Foley) who gets put in the position of being the bad guy to the family, constantly having to threaten them, that he will shoot them and covering the fact that that is the last thing he wants to do.

Further, when Jonas (Dennis Haysbert) is forced to take the reporter out with him because he may be able to lead them to a sat radio to call for help. The reporter, however has gone all Stockholm and pulls a weapon on Jonas.

This seems like a perfectly reasonable thing that might happen but you never really see in television, a hostage who goes completely Patty Hearst on his rescuers, so it was nice twist in the middle of the episode.

Meanwhile, in the apartment, I'm just waiting for Grey to die. He just keeps getting worse

Serious spoilers now.
Cutting to the chase, they get their extraction and make their way out of the room just as an armed search party is making their way into the building. It's at that moment that the teenager makes a break for it and is going to alert the search teams, forcing Bob to shoot him in the back.

Once out, in the troop carrier that will drive them to a waiting chopper is when death finally strikes...Hector. A sniper bullet to the neck. One second he's there, the next he's not. Random as anything.

This episode, by a television veteran whose work goes back to The Equalizer and Miami Vice (though the bulk of his work has been in the last five years) has enough tension in it, you could cut it with a stainless steel survival knife. The verisimilitude of, not just this episode, but he entire series is outstanding. Ryan, Mamet and former Delta Force dude Eric Haney see to that.

I think this series should be a lot more popular than it is. I sometimes wonder that it's the B-stories featuring the wives of the unit that might detract from the series. I often hear that cited as the weakest part when I talk with others about the show (and you'll note I didn't refer to the B story in this one). It might have been better served to just be a straight up military action show of the sort that simply doesn't seem to exist. Not since the days of something like Combat or The Rat Patrol or something. And it's frequently very topical, what with the War on Terror and all.

The show, however has changed it's status quo in the fourth season. I haven't seen the new ones yet. The Unit was the first show that I elected to not watch while it's on and just watch the DVD's when I add them to the (enormous) collection. I started that with the third season.
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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