In this eighth installment of The Pacific, Sgt. John Basilone tires of being a pencil-pushing war hero and returns to Camp Pendleton to train a new batch of Marines. While there, he falls in love with Sgt. Lena Riggi, who initially resists his charms. Although much of the episode is devoted to the couple's courtship, eventual marriage, and Basilone's decision to re-enlist, the hour culminates in yet another masterfully shot battle sequence as Basilone leads his trainees into combat on Iwo Jima.
"You think you are fighting a bucktooth cartoon dreamed up by some a--hole on Madison Avenue to sell soap? The Japs I know — the Japanese soldiers — have been fighting since you were in diapers." — Basilone
Just as Basilone told his commanding officer before being shipped back home to go on a war bond-touting tour, he didn't feel much like a hero, despite his actions on Guadalcanal. As the action returns to Basilone's life, it appears that neither the radio appearances nor free drinks nor nights between the sheets with Hollywood starlets have really changed Basilone's mind. So, even though his enlistment is up in six months, he begs to return to training young soldiers.
A subtle montage shows just how out of shape Basilone has become, but he whips himself back into fighting form right alongside Pfcs. Tatum and Evanson and the rest of the company that eventually shows up. But it takes more than a few 10-mile runs and some machine-gun practice to turn Basilone back into a hero.
Enter Lena Riggi, the Marine sergeant in charge of the mess hall, who, unlike the other girls at Camp Pendleton, isn't swept off her feet by Basilone's reputation. In fact, she shoots him down on multiple occasions, only to see him try again. (And she makes the amusing, if obvious, comparison to his fighting style at Guadalcanal.) Eventually, the two share an early breakfast, and while discussing the power of a good cup of coffee, the barrier between the two comes down. (And then, their romance heads to Cliché Town, as they frolic in the surf and spend the afternoon kissing on the beach underneath a blanket, all while the musical score soars.)
"I'm in for the duration. Where do we from here?" — Lena
Rather than go home when his enlistment runs out, Basilone, who served four years in the Army before doing another four years with the Marines, stays on. Basilone's men get orders that they will soon be shipping out.
When Basilone nervously tells Lena about his re-enlistment, she lets him know that she's in for the long haul (both in the corps and in their relationship). And so, they get married. The beauty of the relationship is that being a Marine means the same thing to both Basilone and Lena. He can't quit, and she understands it, even if it means becoming a widow.
"It's good to be scared. Means you're awake. You're ready." — Basilone
Unfortunately, that's exactly what it means. As Basilone and his men storm the beaches of Iwo Jima, we are treated to another stunning battle sequence. Basilone proves to be just as alert and resourceful as he was on Guadalcanal, and the way he leads his men to safety proves he is the same hero. (Whether he believes himself to be a hero or not, going back into battle after seeing the things he's seen is utterly remarkable).
He puts up a good fight, and he keeps Tatum and Evanson safe, only to have them eventually see him take a couple bullets to the chest. The camera pans out, showing Basilone as just one of thousands slaughtered on Iwo Jima — one of thousands who left behind wives. It's clear that's where Basilone wanted to be — on the field fighting with his men, not parading around like a national treasure.
What did you think of the episode?
In this eighth installment of The Pacific, Sgt. John Basilone tires of being a pencil-pushing war hero and returns to Camp Pendleton to train a new batch of Marines. While there, he falls in love with Sgt. Lena Riggi, who initially resists his charms. Although much of the episode is devoted to the couple's courtship, eventual marriage, and Basilone's decision to re-enlist, the hour culminates in yet another masterfully shot battle sequence as Basilone leads his trainees into combat on Iwo Jima...