Sunday, January 29, 2017

Foyle's War 6.2 - Killing Time

Plot: Are you ready for an episode about racism? No? Too bad, because Major Wesker, the commander of the American base near Hastings, has come with a request. he would like some of the pubs in town declared white G.I.s only, and others for the black soldiers. Because there have been some brawls in the bars lately, you see. Foyle is, naturally, opposed, but is outvoted by everyone else. We can derive some satisfaction that a couple of the local notables on the committee who voted in favor are later robbed by a man and woman who seem rather angry at those who did well financially from the war.

Concurrently, a man named Tommy Duggan returns to town. Tommy was a boxer, but also a conscientious objector, so he's been in Scotland on work crews during the war. Now he's back and wanting to take up where he left off. But some people aren't so keen on seeing him box, and his hopes of marrying Mandy Dean are complicated by the fact Mandy has fallen for an American G.I. named Gabe, and had a child by him. And Gabe is African-American. So Mandy has been booted from her home by her asshole mum, and is currently living at Adam and Sam's struggling guesthouse. Mandy is finding it difficult to cover expenses, and Adam, unaware of the millions of dollars he'll make in America in 65 years, is getting ready to give her the boot, over the protests of both Sam and Lucy, one of the other lodgers.

Meanwhile, Gabe is waiting for his turn to go home, but he isn't idle. He's trying to get Mandy to agree to marry him, and convince Major Wesker to sign off on the affidavit approving it so Mandy can get her visa and come back to America with him. Wesker doesn't seem eager to help, but in the face of Gabe's resolute attitude, and Wesker's own creepy appreciation for how pretty Mandy is, he agrees to put the paperwork in motion. Unfortunately there's Sergeant Calhoun of the military police, a bullet headed racist bully, who is determined not to see any black men hanging around white women, let alone marrying them. Even to the point of accosting Mandy on the street and telling her stories of what will happen to Gabe back home when he's seen with a white woman.

So it's rather curious when Calhoun allows the black G.I.s in to watch the illicit bareknuckle fighting ring he operates on base that evening, since he normally doesn't. Of course, the MPs soon start hassling Gabe's friend Paul, and then it turns into a brawl between white and black soldiers. When Calhoun wades in, Gabe gets a few hits, then wisely runs like hell into the woods nearby. Unfortunately, while in pursuit, Calhoun and his men find the corpse of Mandy Dean. And the brass, as Wesker explains to Foyle, are only too willing to pin it on Gabe and call it a day. Good thing Foyle doesn't take the same approach, and that Mandy being a British citizen means it's a matter for British police, rather than the American military, G.I. base or not. Of course, until things are sorted, there's still a baby with one parent dead, and another in a cell.

Quote of the Episode: Gabe - 'It's OK to be scared. But sometimes you just gotta close your eyes and jump.'

Does Foyle go fishing? He did at some point, since he brought Sam the fish.

Things Sam can do: Tell that Sgt. Calhoun to go fuck himself (more politely, but it boils down to the same thing). Look after a baby for awhile. Stand up for a struggling single mother.

Other: Early on, Wesker explains the black G.I.s are bored and have nothing to do since they can't be used on the Continent. Why? Because the Jerries don't like being bossed around by them. My response is, who gives a fuck if they don't like taking orders from black men? They're Nazis. If they had their way, they'd have killed every last black person on the planet, right alongside the Jews, the Romany, the mentally and physically handicapped, the Slavs, and so on. If they don't like taking orders, send them to the Soviet Union in place of those Russians from last week. The Nazis can see how much they like a bullet in the head instead.

While I appreciate Mr. Foyle's trying to be a good ally, I do wonder at his statement that Great Britain doesn't practice segregation. Perhaps not within the boundary of the island. I imagine, were you to ask some of the native people of Britain's many colonies in the 1940s whether segregation was practiced, they might have a very different answer. He's right to stand against it, regardless, but that was something that occurred to me.

Calhoun's a pretty awful human being. Not the worst by any means, unfortunately, but this is a guy who coerces a confession from Gabe for Mandy's murder by literally threatening to kill his child. And intimates that he has already killed other children in this war. Maybe he's talking about artillery hitting towns or something, but he asks whether it matters if you throw fire on a child, or a child on the fire, so I don't know. The fact Sam shut down his attempt at shitty humor at the dance takes a different light considering what we have to consider him capable of in light of later statements. Not that he was any sort of a winner up to that point, but you started to wonder if he isn't just psychopathic.

Right, so there was a dance in town during the episode. Most of the people at the guesthouse went, save poor Mr. Hains with his one arm, who was stuck looking after baby Catherine. I wasn't clear on whether they asked ahead of time, or simply set the bassinet in front of him and left. Anyway, the dance is initially just locals and white G.I.s Then Gabe, Paul, and a couple of their friends show up. Everyone kind of stops and looks, and most of the guys decide to leave. But Gabe stays, and dances with Mandy. And Sam grabs Adam, and Lucy grabs another fella, and two other couples follow, and there's this nice scene of these four couples dancing slowly around Gabe and Mandy, a protective circle from the obviously pissed Calhoun and other honkys.

It's mitigated somewhat by the next scene, which is Foyle finding Gabe on the roadside the next morning, beaten to a pulp by his fellow Americans once he left the dance. Reality intrudes harshly. And when the fight breaks out at the bareknuckle match, I have to imagine it was a deliberate choice to have a lone black man running through the woods at night, being chased by a bunch of white guys (whose job is theoretically to enforce rules, but are mostly abusing their power to suit their hate, and of course, the rules are already tilted against Gabe and the other black soldiers) with blunt instruments.

I really like Obi Abilli's performance as Gabe. There are plenty of times you can tell Gabe is scared, but he has this combination of resignation and perseverance, and awareness. Because this is all stuff he's lived through his entire life. He doesn't get explosively angry, even at the beating he took after the dance, because unfortunately, it probably isn't the first. He hates Calhoun, and rightly so, but knows he's stuck within the army's rules, and society's. So he can't fight back for the most part, he can't even really argue back at him, but he can stand tall and refuse to be intimidated. The only way Calhoun can make him give ground is to literally threaten to burn an infant alive (sounds like Calhoun should have been fighting for the Nazis, although he never did specify whose children he killed). When Wesker tries to scare him out of pressing forward with this idea of marrying Mandy and getting her a visa, Gabe keeps his cool, but remains resolute. He knows he can't tell this Major to fuck off, but he isn't giving up. Yeah, he knows it would be suicide to return to South Carolina, so he and Mandy will try their luck in New York. He's probably heard all the arguments, all the pushback, and he's ready for it.

The infuriating thing is, Wesker was never going to keep his word. Gabe and Mandy did everything the rules required, played nice, and were still going to get screwed over.

Tommy Duggan is frustrating in his own way. I understand his objections to the war, the reasons why he thinks it is ultimately not going to change anything. But he's proprietary towards Mandy, even though she hasn't given any indication she has feelings for him. Even when he tries, at one point, to apologize for stating that no one would want her now, he still insists that maybe they could be together if she'd give the child up for adoption. Ignoring the part where Mandy doesn't want to be with him. I don't think that ever sunk in for him, frankly. But he did some good at the end, with a push from Sam.

I think Sam should ditch the guesthouse and Adam (the two made some stuttering steps in the direction of a relationship), and go into social work. She has the energy for it, the willingness to go and try and talk to people who don't want to hear it. She's never shied away from risky situations, albeit usually because she doesn't realize how dangerous they are.

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