How do you fight a war when you can't rely on the man next to you?
"Burn Baby, Burn" is one of the best episodes of the entire "Tour of Duty" series in my opinion because it covers a topic that was highly controversial and tragic during the Vietnam War. We all know that it was hard being black living in a American in the first half of the 20th century. Things may have been picking up a little by the late sixties, but the hatred was still there, and many black veterans found themselves coming home from war only to get the same abuse they had been getting all their lives up before they went to Vietnam.
Ving Rhames makes a special appearance in this episode as Tucker, who is on his second tour in Vietnam. He explains that he volunteered for a second tour, because the world was just too crazy and in fact even worse when he went home. Himself and Darden, childhood friends, volunteered for a second tour together. The pair naturally become good friends with Taylor and Johnson, but their arrival into the platoon also comes at the same time as the arrival of some racist rednecks from the south - led by Private Innes (Played by Mark Rolston, best known for his role as the leader of the Three Sisters in "The Shawshank Redemption"). While off duty, Tucker beats the hell out of Innes in a bar fight after some racial abuse. Out in the jungle on patrol, the platoon is ambushed, and when Innes is meant to be covering Darden as he runs forward, Innes hides and starts slapping his rifle - saying that it has jammed. Darden is killed, and Tucker is heartbroken and furious at Innes, saying that he did it on purpose. The racial tension is set to explode, as Innes and the boys then put up a Southern flag over their tent back at base, resulting in another physical confrontation. Goldman and Anderson have a serious problem on their hands, as they have to take men out on patrol who don't trust each other and are not prepared to watch each other's backs. When Innes is found dead with Johnson's knife in his back, things get worse...
This really is a superb episode with fantastic performances from our two special guests - Ving Rhames and Mark Rolston. The story is very well told and it's a very important topic, and I thought the extent of the racial abuse and tension was highlighted very well as it gets to the point where the men can't trust each other when they are meant to be comrades fighting a different enemy all together. Tucker's speech near the end to Purcell was very moving.
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