(TV Series)

(1963)

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7/10
Flawed Episode
Claudio Carvalho21 June 2017
Saunders and his squad are trapped by a German tank but out of the blue, they are saved by Cpl. John Cross that blows up the tank. He joins the squad and remains aloof from his fellow members. Further, he becomes the next in command, causing friction with Pvt. Kirby. When Lt. Hanley assigns Saunders to take and protect a strategic hill from the Germans, Saunders heads to a farmhouse in the top of the hill with Cross and Kirby leaving the other soldiers protecting them on the bottom of the hill. While Saunders is checking the cellar, he is surprised by a German and Cross does not shoot the enemy but Kirby arrives and saves Saunders. He questions Cross in private but does not get a straight answer from the corporal. When two German soldiers arrive at the farmhouse to bring supplies to the others, Saunders and Kirby hunt one down and Saunders asks Cross to kill the other one in the barn. However Cross does not shoot the German soldier and lets him flee. What will happen to Saunders and his squad?

"Next in Command" is a flawed episode of "Combat!" by Burt Kennedy. Cpl. John Cross is a messy character and does not make any sense along the story. First he saves the squad in an act of bravery. Then he does not save Sgt. Saunders in the cellar giving the sensation to the viewer that he is an ambitious soldier. Then he lets the German soldier escape from the barn. In the en, he is a disturbed man. Saunders is completely incoherent in his attitudes. He learns that Cross is not a reliable man. But he sends Cross alone to kill the German soldier in the barn. He buries the corpses of the Germans he and Kirby killed in a heavy rain. However, he does not even check the body of the soldier Cross claims to have killed. Last but not the least, he leaves his squad under siege of a German platoon to chase the deranged Cross. Anyway, there are good and funny moments of friendship along the episode. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil):"O Próximo no Commando" ("The Next in Command")
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10/10
A Burt Kennedy Masterpiece
Jim Marchese21 July 2014
"Next in Command" is a story about human motivation and what makes a person tick. Corporal Cross (superbly played by Ben Cooper) is reassigned to Saunders' squad (called King Tiger in this episode.) He appears at first to be extremely competent but this drastically changes and the squad all become enraged at Cross thinking he is out for Saunders' position. To the viewer audience this appears very possible. But is it ?

I compare the logic of this plot (brilliantly written & directed by Burt Kennedy) to 1934 Nobel Prize author Luigi Pirandello's "It Is So, If You Think So.," in which the son-in-law claims his mother-in-law is crazy and the mother-in-law claims her son-in-law is crazy the reality of which cannot be proved either way. Saunders and the squad are looking at one obvious angle while there is another possible angle.

The opening sequence is high octane adrenalin. Character development is excellent amongst the entire squad. In great conflict, Saunders & Cross have 3 outstanding dialog sequences highlighting their superb acting talents. And watching Littlejohn on the air cooled is a lot of pure fun.

Extremely well done - Great episode.
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7/10
Crossed Up
zsenorsock10 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The squad is pinned down by a German tank when Corporal Cross (Ben Cooper) shows up in the nick of time with a bazooka and takes out the tank, saving all the men. It turns out Cross is a new replacement for the squad. Saunders is glad to be getting an experienced man as a replacement...until he discovers Cross' secret.

Fairly standard "Combat!" episode, which as usual has a lot of good scenes for Vic Morrow and virtually nothing for Rick Jason. I keep wondering watching this series how Jason managed to get co-star billing. He doesn't do much on the show and wasn't that big a star either before or after the series, as opposed to Morrow who had already done so much.

Dick Peabody as Little John has some amusing scenes, (director Burt Kennedy's strong suite) as he buys a bicycle and tries to take it along with them on patrol.
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