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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 3 E 80 A Quality Of Mercy

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Rod Serling: It's August 1945, the last grimy pages of a dirty, torn book of war. The place is the Philippine Islands. The men are what's left of a platoon of American Infantry, whose dulled and tired eyes set deep in dulled and tired faces can now look toward a miracle, that moment when the nightmare appears to be coming to an end. But they've got one more battle to fight, and in a moment we'll observe that battle. August 1945, Philippine Islands. But in reality it's high noon in the Twilight Zone.
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Air date: December 29, 1961

August 6, 1945. During the final days of World War II, a group of American marines on Corregidor are monitoring a cave in which Japanese soldiers are taking refuge. While spotting for a mortar company, their new commanding officer, Lieutenant Katell (Dean Stockwell), joins them. Almost immediately he wants to assault the cave and flush the soldiers out, even though the could easily be contained and bypassed. After a conversation with his sergeant Causarano, Katell reaches a compromise; bombardment will continue until dusk, and then the assault will begin. That evening tensions flare as the reluctant veterans point out that the Lieutenant does not care about anything other than killing Japanese in an effort to validate himself. After an argument with Sgt. Causarano, during which Katell states that all Japanese soldiers are to be killed, end of the war or not, he accidentally knocks over his binoculars, which he had been using to monitor the cave.

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The scene changes to day, and a Japanese soldier picks up the binoculars, handing them to his commander who dropped them. We then see the commander, who obviously is Katell. Not realizing his change, he runs for shelter in the cave. However, upon nearing the cave he is shot at by an American soldier in an outdated uniform. He retreats to his Japanese squad, and upon questioning learns he is on Corregidor on May 4, 1942. His squad, who believe him to be Lt. Yamuri, is unnerved by his confusion and ramblings, which brings him under suspicion from a captain. Katell wises up and plays along, and he learns that the Japanese plan to attack the cave in a frontal assault, even though most of the Americans inside are not fit for combat. Upon stating that they should bypass the cave or just take the Americans prisoner, he is slapped by the captain for cowardice. When he continues to ask why they must attack the cave, the Japanese captain states that the enemy must be killed, giving a speech similar to Katell's rant earlier. The Japanese squad moves out, leaving Katell behind.

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The scene shifts back to the American marines on August 6, 1945, with the lieutenant back to normal. Causarano picks up the broken binoculars, and over the radio command orders them to fall back, as the atomic bomb has just been dropped and they assume this will end the war. The marines celebrate, with Causarano telling Katell that there will be other wars for him to fight. The humbled Katell silently replies that he hopes that there aren't.

A young Leonard Nimoy plays Hansen, the radio operator.


A Quality of Tropes:

  • An Aesop: Even though war may change people for the worse, human compassion should never be forgone. Because the measure of a real soldier is one who shows mercy where it's needed, not by killing for the sake of killing.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Deconstructed when Causarano calls out Lt. Katell, telling him that he is afraid of being seen as a wuss rather than a true soldier, and points out that Katell only wants to kill the weakened Japanese in order to prove how much of a man he is. He warns Katell that War isn't all that it's cracked up to be, and no one is impressed with his blood thirst.
  • Blood Knight: Lt. Katell. He is insistent on attacking and killing the weakened Japanese soldiers. Causarano is convinced that its just because he's desperate to prove himself for self-centered and selfish reasons. After his vision, Katell gets over his tendencies.
  • Chromosome Casting: Given its military theme, this episode has an all-male cast.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: A less cruel example. After his experience, it seems Katell looked more than willing to call off the attack and opt for a bypass instead, only for the war to end anyway.
  • Heel Realization: During his experience in the shoes of a Japanese commander, Lt. Katell is not only astounded to hear his earlier words repeated by the Japanese Captain (see Ironic Echo), but also how cold-blooded and ruthless they sound coming from someone else.
  • Ironic Echo: "How many must die until you are satisfied?" "Off-hand, I'd say all of them. No matter who they are or where they are, if they are the enemy, we destroy them. First day of the war, last day of the war, we destroy them."
  • The Neidermeyer: Lt. Katell, who is completely willing to sacrifice his troops so he can have some glory, at least until his experience.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Causarano exchanges this with Katell. On one hand, Katell thinks his soldiers only want to bypass because they're tired. On the other hand, Causarano sees Katell as a green horn trying to prove himself, and has no idea how hellish war is because he hasn't even tasted it yet.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Katell has one when he returns to his own time as he has seen the war from another perspective and has come to realize that killing a weakened enemy is not as black and white as he initially believed.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After having the tables turned on him, Lieutenant Katell realizes that the Japanese are men like he is and that his blood-thirsty attitude is in no one's interest.
  • War Is Hell: The battle-hardened marines have been fighting the Japanese for two years, which has made them war-weary. Andrew J. Watkins tells Katell that they have seen enough dead man to last the rest of their lives and that they aren't going to stand up and cheer at the opportunity to kill more. Causarano later says that the platoon consists of "dirty, tired men who have their craw full of this war."

Rod Serling: "The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes." Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, but applicable to any moment in time, to any group of soldiery, to any nation on the face of the Earth or, as in this case, to the Twilight Zone.
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