May 17, 2019
Welcome back to the War. In Episode 1 of Catch-22, we met our protagonist, John “Yo-Yo” Yossarian, and a peculiar cast of characters, stationed on the island of Pianosa, Italy during World War II. Yossarian is a bombardier in the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the Air Force being an independent branch of the military) and he’s terrified of dying. He’s terrified of dying and increasingly willing to do ANYTHING he can to get out of this war. However, the inscrutable commanders in charge of Yo-Yo and his friends aren’t quite ready to let them go home. At the end of Episode 1, John learns the meaning of a “Catch-22.”
Catch up on Episode 1 with our recap here. All caught up? Great. Now, read on for our recap of Episode 2 … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!
Tonight opens on our favorite soldiers playing basketball. They’re playing with a makeshift backboard consisting of a plank of plywood and a metal trash can with the bottom cut out as the basket. Any port in a storm … or war.
Colonel Cathcart and Lt. Colonel Korn pull up in a Jeep, looking for a Major in the group? Our Major Major reluctantly raises his hand. Cathcart is requesting that Major attend the group leaders meeting with him and Korn. Confused, Major asks what his part in this is?!? Korn explains that all senior command staff are expected to participate, duh. Major Major tries to explain he’s a sergeant and the funny coincidence of his name but Cathcart doesn’t have time for any explanations.
After Cathcart and Korn discuss the predicament they’re in – they can’t bring a sergeant to a senior staff meeting, they to promote Major. Cathcart loves it and, on the spot, promotes Major Major to Major Major Major. Technically speaking, his full name is now Major (rank) Major (first name) Major (middle name) Major (last name). Now more confused, Major Major inquires if he’ll have new or different responsibilities?
“Of course there are. You’re a Major. We don’t just hand out promotions willy-nilly.”
As the senior command drive off, we cut to Milo arriving at the mess tent with a Jeep full of watermelons. Schultz (Shai Matheson), the
current mess officer, isn’t expecting a shipment and is confused. Milo, semi-apologetically, tells Schultz that he is now mess officer.
Major Major Major has been given an office which resembles a wooden hut. Inside, he’s flummoxed at the influx of appointments he has to go through now that he is a Major. His assistant, Sergeant Towser (Martin Delaney), is running down his list of commitments, including Milo and a representative from the Southern Division Committee. Major Major looks positively baffled. He tells Towser he doesn’t want to see any of those people … ever. Major Major issues an order that he doesn’t want to see any of those people while he’s in and they can be shown into his office when he’s not in. Great plan! (I had the same thought when I used to manage staff…)
In the Mission Briefing Tent, Chaplain Tappman (Jay Paulson) leads the squadron in prayer before heading out on a bombing mission. If you’re interested, he’s reading them Psalm 23 (“Though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death …”) when Cathcart interrupts him, “look, enough with the death stuff huh? … Don’t you have something a little but more, I dunno, goddamn sunnier?” Tappman switches gears to the classic Irish blessing, “May the road rise up to meet you …”
Segues to an air battle, bombs bursting all around the squadron, shaking the planes violently. Yossarian drops his bombs towards the target and all arrive back to base safely.
Onscreen, the mission count ticks down to 3.
Cathcart is giving the men a mission debrief after their bombing run over Rome. Looking at after action pictures take of the bombings, Cathcart revels in a Basilica being reduced to rubble. When he sees the next picture, he becomes incensed that there’s no damage. He’s in mid-tongue lashing when Korn leans over and whispers to Cathcart that the non-damaged area is Vatican City. Immediately switching gears, Cathcart starts praising the bombardiers for recognizing that as neutral territory and for their precision bombing.
“Gotta love those Catholics, huh? … And the Jews.”
As pure exposition, Cathcart tells the men (and us) that Major —deCoverley is headed to Rome to secure accommodations for the soldiers — the military is planning to make a tactical move there for administrative duties as well as extracurricular activities. Wink, wink.
Cathcart’s tone shifts to one of reverence, telling the squadron how proud he is of them. The music picks up here and the camera pans to Yossarian, who sits up, brow furrowed, knowing what’s coming. Cathcart is talking about putting the hurt on the enemy, asking who’s with him? The camera starts to zoom in on Yossarian and the music gets snappier and louder. Yossarian does not like what he’s hearing. Cathcart announces he’s raising the mission count to 35.
Yossarian is running from the briefing tent towards Major Major’s office to complain about the upping of the mission count. Yossarian pleads with Major Major to do something for him with his new power. Major Major isn’t aware of anything he can do but he admits he hasn’t read the Group Leaders Operations Manual (GLOM) yet. Yossarian tells Major to find him in the hospital when he finds something that can help Yo-Yo go home.
Major Major returns to painting a large model ship on his desk. Oh, Major Major Major Major.
Hospital Tent. Yossarian is being brought into the hospital ward by wheelchair and he’s greeting his fellow patients who are bandaged and one, the Soldier in White, in a full body cast. He has a hole for his mouth and a hole for a tube coming out of his body. Otherwise, everything else is in a cast. He looks like a dead bug on his back, with his arms and legs suspended out from his body. Nurse Duckett greets Yossarian, asking what’s going on? He tells her he needs a few days to lay low in the hospital until his situation is worked out. She begrudgingly agrees.
Cut to Yossarian laying in his hospital bed, sleeping a lot. A soldier (Joe Massingill) with a loud Texan accent wakes John while he’s talking to the Solider in White. He’s yapping on and on and on about where he grew up in Texas and driving cattle. The way this is shot is just brilliant. The hospital beds are two rows facing each other – Yossarian is on the far side facing the Texan and the Soldier in White. The camera is behind the Texan, so you can see Yossarian in the bed across the way. Yossarian just wants this guy to shut up; he’s pounding his pillow and shoving the pillow over his head to drown him out. This guy just keeps talking.
Rome. Major —deCoverley is driving a Jeep through Rome. He pulls over at a cafe and sits down at a table al fresco. Using the most flat, American-tinged Italian possible, deCoverley orders a coffee and begins to try and establish who owns a building across the way. The poor waiter only mutters, “Scusi” and calls for “Giuseppe” to help . Giuseppe appears and speaks English. Major —deCoverley asks about the building on behalf of the “fighting men of the United States of America.” Giuseppe looks nonplussed.
The Hospital Tent. Some time has passed and we see the Texan is still talking to the Soldier in White. Yossarian implores Nurse Duckett to get him a private room. His woes are headed towards mental health issues now. He begs her to help based on the Hippocratic Oath. Nurse Duckett says that’s only for doctors. He begs her and she reminds him he’s there but for her good graces.
Korn and Cathcart are in a lookout tower on the airfield. They’re talking about plans to expand the airfield runways and what that will do to their overall flight capacity on a daily basis. Korn is throwing out some impressive numbers to Cathcart, who knows that this expansion will give him an advantage over all the other bases in the area. His greedy little eyes are bugging out at being the best.
Cathcart is looking out through binoculars when he spots something that scratches his touchy anger trigger. It’s a jeep brimming with tomatoes, driven by Milo. Milo introduces himself to Cathcart as the mess officer, and offers Cathcart a tomato dressed up with salt, pepper, and olive oil as Cathcart is spewing angry threats at Milo.
Cathcart’s anger dissipates in an instant once he takes a juicy bite of the tomato. He is in love. Milo proposes his sale of tomatoes to Cathcart, introducing his pyramid scheme in such a way that it’s irresistible to Cathcart, with hyperbole and bluster. They talk about the runway expansion plan and Milo sees how this will play into his plans. Cathcart protests.
“War is not about profit, son.”
“Absolutely, sir. Not only.”
“War is about the justs defeating the unjusts.”
“It is absolutely that, too, sir.”
The Hospital Tent. Sweet Jesus. That Texan is STILL talking to the Soldier in White. Currently, he’s yawning on about a baseball player he like. Yossarian is reading a book. Rather, trying to read a book. Finally, Yo-Yo explodes.
“He can’t fucking hear you. We don’t even know if he’s alive in there!”
A muffled sound of, “I can hear you” comes from the mouth of the cast. Yossarian ignores this and continues to stoke his own rage. The Texan gets to his feet as Yossarian yells at him to shut up and that everyone just wants some peace and quiet. Predictably, fisticuffs ensue and Nurse Duckett finds the men brawling on the floor. She kicks Yossarian out.
Back in the air on a bombing mission, but he’s having problems engaging.
Ding. Missions left: 6
Rome. Some time since deCoverley secured the new R&R building, we see the apartment building now has a US flag hanging outside. Aarfy is being extra pervy on the young waitress (her name is Michaela (Marilena Anniballi), in case this becomes important later on in the show). Yossarian cautions him to leave her alone. Major —deCoverley is asking the men how they’re enjoying the eternal city? Nately lost his mind to a woman of the night. He’s enamored. Kid Sampson is with a woman, for the first time it seems.
Marcello (Giancarlo Giannini), the proprietor of the brothel, is telling the soldiers that Italy will win the war. Clevinger is reciting US military lore about US superiority. Marcello replies, very seriously, that the Italian fighting man is probably second to everybody yet they’re doing well. Italy will survive long after the US is destroyed. All the great empires fall, he tells the assembled men. Clevinger looks stricken as Marcello continues to explain that there’s expertise in knowing which wars can be lost. Clevinger shoots back that Marcello sounds like a madman but Marcello makes clear that he’s just being pragmatic.
“I was a fascist when Mussolini was on top. And I am an anti-fascist now that he has been deposed.”
the love of his life the prostitute for 32 hours. That’s $640 ($10,373.49 today, adjusted for inflation. THAT is expensive sex). Nately is hitting Yossarian up for cash while Marcello offers him 2 free hours — 2 hours more, not 2 hours off the 32 he owes.
Yossarian leaves the brothel and comes upon a young girl selling household goods on the street. Her name is Ines (Viola Pizzetti) and there are no parents to be seen. Yossarian buys an overpriced something to help her out.
Milo is waiting on the airfield for Yossarian and his buddies. Yo-Yo is trying to hitch a ride back to Pianosa. Milo tells them that Cathcart raised the mission count to 40 while they were away. Yossarian is enraged.
Onscreen the mission count changes from 6 to 11.
Yossarian is super angry at this development, having a heated argument with Clevinger. He rails at Clevinger, asking why he has to get his ass shot at because Cathcart has his sights set on being a General?!? Clevinger plays Devil’s advocate to Yossarian, proposing that why should the ground troops get their asses shot because Yossarian doesn’t want to fly?
Yossarian points out that it doesn’t necessarily have to be him flying the mission. And here it is: Clevinger says it’s not for soldiers like them to decide how many missions they fly or what their targets are. Countering, Yossarian asks, who decides who gets killed? Clevinger thinks Yossarian is insane. Yossarian is fired up wondering why is it Cathcart’s business to decide how or why Yossarian dies? Clevinger is talking about the relationship between the Air Corps to the Infantry, while Yossarian Is trying to point out that this is about himself and Cathcart. Yossarian is talking about winning the war and staying alive.
“The enemy is anybody who’s gonna get you killed no matter which side he’s on and that includes Cathcart … I continually give you sound, lifesaving advice. I am helping you live. And you continue to recklessly operate on fucking principle.”
Clevinger vows to live on fucking principle, “to my dying day.”
Yossarian goes for a swim. Rosemary Clooney’s “No Love, No Nothing” plays as he walks along the beach. (Fun fact: Rosemary Clooney is George Clooney’s Aunt) He sits along an outcrop of rocks and thinks of Marion Scheisskopf. He jumps off the high rocks into the water. The only time this man’s brow is not furrowed is when he’s in the water.
Milo meets with Cathcart about buying shares in Milo’s syndicate. Milo is explaining that if Cathcart lends him a plane he can make the lamb chops he’s heard about, Polish sausage, peanuts, scotch, eggs. Its elaborate, sounds shady, and everyone benefits if they buy shares.
Another mission is underway. Clevinger is in the neighboring plane, complimenting Yossarian on his decision to support the ground troops. As Yossarian sets up his bombing run, Clevinger is heard on the intercom singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to Yossarian (it’s terribly eerie). Yossarian drops the bombs as Clevinger’s plane flies through a cloud. McWatt (Yossarian’s pilot) announces they’re headed home as Clevinger’s song abruptly ends mid-verse. Yossarian looks over to see the plane emerge from the cloud But … No plane. It’s Just Gone.
Yossarian and his mates land (their plane is the Yankee Doodle, by the way), and Yossarian is asking the ground crew if Clevinger’s plane arrived back? Cut to Yossarian in the tower with the airmen, calling the plane’s tag number for a response. No response.
Chaplain Tappman asks Yossarian about Clevinger’s status. He’s been MIA for 36 hours.
Mission Briefing Tent. Cathcart is prepping the squadron for their next mission in Bologna. He tells them that some of them may not be coming back because of basic statistics and he thanks those that may find themselves on the wrong side of the statistics. Their sacrifice will not be in vain, he assures them.
Yossarian is running full tilt away from that hot mess.
Christopher Abbott is amazing at conveying Yossarian’s base terror formed by how arbitrary his life is to his commanders. Abbott’s facial expressions and body language are anxiety-inducing, as Joseph Heller did in the book. He’s coming to terms that this is an insane world and he’s trying to be the sane one. Which is funny, because everyone who happens upon him thinks he’s insane.
Major Major’s abject horror at dealing with people and his opportunistic promotion, underscores the ineptitude and ridiculousness associated with large bureaucracies.
I’m actually kinda sad the Soldier in White talks. Part of his mystique from the novel was whether he was even alive in there, as the nurses would just swap out his feeding tube with his waste tube. Gross, I know.
Aarfy looking hungrily at the waitress gives me the heebee-jeebees. If you’ve read the book, Aarfy is not a good dude with the ladies. Another book moment: I wonder if Ines, the little girl Yossarian meets has a big sister?
Kyle Chandler is excelling as the supremely confident (masking massive insecurity) and blundering Cathcart. You start to feel like Cathcart, not the Nazis, is the real enemy here.
There are so many corollaries to today’s world in this series. I feel like the satirical nature of the story parallels the fake news phenomenon we are living in. Depending on what side your political beliefs fall, we’ve been taught to believe that we can’t trust our government or the press, because the other side has a nefarious agenda.
As Milo’s operation is gaining momentum and taking on some high ranking support, I can’t help but think of modern day war profiteers, like Halliburton. The more things change, the more they stay
shitty the same
Thank you for reading along. Visit popculturereview.com for all your pop culture needs. Follow @popcultureview on Twitter for your up-to-the-minute pop culture news. Follow me on Twitter, @SheilsMcGangsta, for more Catch-22 commentary. See you soon for episode 3!