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Friday, February 10, 2023

F TROOP Fridays: "Captain Parmenter, One Man Army" (1966)


F TROOP Fridays: Number 36

F TROOP: "Captain Parmenter, One Man Army" (1966 ABC-TV/Warner Brothers) Season One, Episode 26: Original Air Date March 15, 1966.  Starring Forrest Tucker as Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke, Larry Storch as Corporal Randolph Agarn, Ken Berry as Captain Wilton Parmenter, Melody Patterson as Wrangler Jane, Frank deKova as Chief Wild Eagle, Don Diamond as Crazy Cat, James Hampton as Bugler Dobbs, Bob Steele as Duffy, Joe Brooks as Vanderbilt, John Mitchum as Hoffenmueller, Ivan Bell as Dudleson.  Guest Stars: Willard Waterman as Captain Bill "Cannonball" McCormack, Herman Rudin as the Shug Chief, William Phipps as the Scout.  Written by Howard Merrill and Stan Dreben.  Directed by Charles R. Rondeau.

"You mean...we're civilians?"

Fort Courage is visited by its inaugurating CO, Captain McCormack.  The old ramrod was bent up pretty good by his subordinates, becoming a civilian entirely after completing his tour of duty.  But the old Cannonball rolled one over on his tormentors before leaving, swearing them in for another hitch after his resignation.

This revelation makes every enlisted F Trooper sans Parmenter a free agent, and ever enterprising O'Rourke sees another golden opportunity: expanding O'Rourke Enterprises without the need to hide his activities from the army.  The men follow their non commissioned leader, with Duffy (gold prospecting), Dobbs (orchestra tryout), Vandy (the medical field) and Hoffenmueller (a brewery) seeing the chance to pursue long-held dreams.  They aren't the only ones--with Parmenter alone at Fort Courage, the Shugs see a chance to realize their dream--conquering the now very short-handed fort.

In Scourge of the West we learned that Captain Parmenter followed two Captains and a Major who had been dispatched previously by O'Rourke, and Captain Parmenter, One Man Army introduces us to F Troop's first Captain, "Cannonball" Bill McCormack.  Understandably, leading F Troop was enough to drive poor Cannonball completely out of the service, but given the pranks described it's pretty clear that blustery Bill just didn't win the hearts of his Privates the way Parmenter has.  At least McCormack (played by former GREAT GILDERSLEEVE Waterman) enjoys his last laugh heartily.

Even then, defeat is only temporary for O'Rourke.  The Sarge turns this inconvenience into an El Dorado but really doesn't appear to be doing anything as a civilian that he wouldn't be as a non-com.  Previously, O'Rourke Enterprises tried having the VP on the outside with disastrous results in Me Big Heap Injun.  This time there's lots of money made, with the big difference being O'Rourke's presence--clearly, Sarge is President for a reason.  I think quality control would have proven to be a real problem in expanding the 19th Century answer to Men's Wearhouse, however (more on that below).

Stan Dreben and Howard Merrill continue to showcase improved competence for the titular Old Man after his salvage of the pension fund in Go For Broke and his sharp revelation at the denouement of Spy Counterspy, Counter Counterspy.  This is Parmenter's finest moment as CO to date, as he holds off an attack by the code busting Shugs with only Wrangler Jane's assistance.  Wilton's idea to save Fort Courage is lifted from the MAVERICK episode The Ghost Soldiers, but it is never an insult to have your intellect compared to Bret's!  Objectively, Wilton's bluff is even the more convincing of the two (more on that below).  Parmenter wears several hats for the week, and there's also little dropoff at Bugler from Dobbs with the Captain assuming those duties--admittedly, that one is a low bar to clear. 

As for the Shugs, they get mentioned a few more times during the first season, but this attack is their last hurrah as formidable opposition.  New Chief Herman Rudin (replacing Henry Brandon) isn't any more successful than his predecessor at capturing Fort Courage, with little excuse given the troopers' reduction in manpower.  We later learn in The Day The Indians Won that Geronimo reduced the Shugs to a half dozen braves, explaining the reason we never saw nor heard from them during the color season.  The peaceful, mutually prosperous approach wins yet again!


When Wilton and Jane are left alone in town for the Dodge City trip, Jane tries again to get fresh, but the Captain pointedly chooses to polish the cannon.  Undeterred, Jane suggests he can kiss his girlfriend while polishing it.....kinky!


The escape of the Shug Chief in the coda is just the latest: Bald Eagle and El Diablo previously broke out of that cell, which appears to be even less effective than the Fort's cannon.


Quite a few.  The biggest: why would O'Rourke just come right out and state "this saloon is only the beginning" when announcing the formation of International Trading Corporation?  I thought Good Old Pete was his frontman?  Even if you're temporarily out of the Army, you've already stated you're coming back, so why risk potential snooping into the ownership later?  Why didn't Dobbs and Vanderbilt just change suits during the fitting?  And finally, who played the saloon girls celebrating the troopers' freedom?  Two have speaking parts--both attractive, yet also uncredited. 


Briefly booming, though the quality control indicates the Hekawis are far better at making blankets than suits.  Presumably the saloon lost all the troopers (including the owner) to Dodge City for a weekend, but sure seemed to benefit from the same regular customers celebrating their newfound freedom.


Since he and Agarn were legally out of uniform most of the episode, there weren't any chargeable offenses this time.  As was the case in Here Comes the Tribe, the non-coms prove remarkably effective behind enemy lines, but the lack of an official commission at the time of the heroics leaves them with no official recognition for it.  Considering their side hustle, it's probably best to keep flying under the radar anyway.


A Hell of a lot more PC than the aforementioned Ghost Soldiers.  The Shugs weren't able to get very close to Fort Courage thanks to the the number of bullets fired by Jane and Wilton, so falling for Wilton's ploy is far less insulting than Maverick's titular 1959 ruse.  Elsewhere the Shugs successfully break the telegraph code and their Chief escapes from his captors, so they are intelligent, resourceful foes--note it was Geronimo and not F Troop that eventually did them in (as we learned in The Day the Indians Won).  And as always, Wrangler Jane remains the best shot in the territory by a wide margin.  Thank God she didn't go to Dodge for the weekend!


About par for the season's course, with the civilian clothes alone providing a lot of laughs.  Dreben and Merrill go light on the usual pratfalls and generously distribute funny lines to the supporting cast along with a less roisterous helping of sight gags.  Parmenter's growing competence doesn't extend to sniffing out the secrets of O'Rourke Enterprises or ending his clumsiness, but he does a nice job literally holding the Fort while we get a glance at what the troopers would be doing if not enlisted.  It's too bad we couldn't peek at that weekend road trip.  (*** out of four)

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