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"Gray Brown Odyssey"


By Lee Russell

The female character in this episode was originally supposed to be a woman South Vietnamese Army deserter, disillusioned with the war. The problem was that, while the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam - our allies) had some women soldiers, they were used almost exclusively in nursing and clerical roles. The writer and I tried out several scenarios like that, but finally she ended up being a Viet Cong.

At one point in the episode, they encounter an old farmer who orders them off his land at gunpoint. This is the second episode, the first being "Dislocations," to show an individual who has taken himself out of the war and is defending his right to do with a weapon.Vietnamese normally lived in villages and hamlets amid extended families and an individual on his own was almost unknown. There were, of course, occasional hermits or outcasts.

I supplied his rifle. I had two suitable weapons in my own collection I offerred to the show and I got an urgent phone call from the prop master requesting them IMMEDIATELY. I had just gotten home from work, 8AM. Happily, it was trash day in my neighborhood and I ran around until I found a discarded cardboard applicance box in someone's trash. I took it home and cut it up into a shipping carton for the rifles. I then had to get them to Hawaii. It was too late for FEDEX. ToD's office manager (I wish I could remember her name, she was great handling stuff like this, which she did all the time) authorized me to take a cab to the airport and undertake an emergency shipping procedure. I found the first available flight leaving for Honolulu and asked the airline people if they could get it on the plane. (I believe it was United.) I explained what was in the box and who it was consigned to. The only way to get a weapon on a commercial aircraft is if the pilots agree to take it and keep it in the cockpit with them. They agreed! (A lot of airline pilots are ex-military and I like to think one may have been a Vietnam veteran and a fan of the show.) I called the show from the airport and passed the flight information to our people in Hawaii. They met the flight, collected the rifles, selected one and it was in front of the camera the following morning! I remember looking at my watch as I left the airport. It was 1 PM.
Quite a busy morning.

The rifle I supplied the show was a Russian Moisen-Nagant 1891. The show asked me to explain (for the record), why these would have been correct. The Russians supplied several hundred thousand such rifles to the Chinese in the 1920s, during their period of cooperation with Chiang Kai Shek. Afterwards, through desertion, barter, or capture, many fell into the hands of pirate gangs and bandits. In the late 1930s, the French disarmed many of these groups and passed the rifles to local militias. Our hermit evidently hung on to his. In reality, neither the Japanese, the Viet Minh or the Viet Cong would have permitted such a thing.

The woman Viet Cong would have had a serious problem if she had escaped from Goldman at the end. The Communist forces did not make much of a distinction between deserters and their own fighters who were captured. Both showed a willingness, on some level, to value their lives over The Cause. They could not longer be trusted.

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