68 Whiskey season one episode one confirms within the first minute this new Paramount Network series about Army medics is strictly for adults. After a quickie complete with lots of moaning, we learn the female half (“Grace Durkin,” played by Gage Golightly) of the sex in the supply hut moment that opens the series is obsessed with her presence on social media. We also learn about her uterus, a little tidbit dropped that’s definitely in the too much information zone.
After the couple’s sexcapade, a title bar informs us the show’s set at the NATO Coalition Base Guardian, Laghman Province, Afghanistan. (The official synopsis note the site’s nickname is “The Orphanage.”)
Grace’s sex partner is Cooper Roback (Sam Keeley) who goes from his wham bam thank you ma’am moment in the shed to a beating in the ring, courtesy of Sasquatch (Derek Theler). Sasquatch is a beast but Roback attempts to give it his best, aware he has to stay on his feet for three rounds to earn himself and his friends some serious cash. But, no, that’s asking too much. The fight’s called in the second round. Sasquatch appears not to have suffered even a scratch while Roback’s blood flows from multiple orifices.
Minutes later, Roback and his squad are in the air preparing to evacuate an injured soldier. They land in what’s normally considered a friendly neighborhood and pick up a soldier who’s been running a side hustle involving rugs – something he’s obviously not supposed to be doing.
An injured man from the village is nearby (he happens to speak English, German, and French) and while they’re preparing to evac him, people from the village arrive to ask for medical supplies. The leader’s upset American forces destroyed his village and now refuse to provide supplies to care for his people.
Nothing’s resolved by the time they get into the air.
Their first patient’s condition deteriorates in transit. They fight to save him, but he passes away because one member of the team, Sgt. Rosa Alvarez (Cristina Rodlo), didn’t notice an exit wound in his back.
The second patient’s still alive and Roback’s immediately in trouble with Major Sonia Holloway (Beth Riesgraf) for landing the bird at The Orphanage when there was a closer hospital to the evacuation available. Roback begs to differ, reminding her the other hospital’s in an area “that’s a god-damn shooting gallery.”
The problem appears to be that Holloway, the lead doctor at the hospital, is mostly upset it’s an Afghanistan man and not an American soldier taking up one of her beds. Roback explains the guy speaks a million languages, but that doesn’t soothe the doctor’s ruffled feathers.
Those feathers are further ruffled when the men mistakenly roll in with a body bag full of rugs. Major Holloway’s a by-the-book leader and doesn’t like that Roback’s smuggling rugs, even if he’s doing so to send them to the family of the dead soldier. She’s done with Roback’s shenanigans and wants him to face an Article 15 hearing, meaning he’ll be stripped of his rank as well as other disciplinary actions. Also, he’ll be confined to base.
The deceased soldier, Corporal John Buckley, is given a sendoff complete with the playing of “Taps” as the men salute their fallen friend.
Alvarez is taking Buckley’s death hard. Buckley had a crush on her, and she admits she was always mean to the poor guy. Now, because she missed an exit wound, he’s dead and his blood can’t be washed from under her fingernails. Roback and Mekhi Davis (Jeremy Tardy) attempt to cheer her up and refuse to leave her alone to dwell on the mistake. Alvarez appreciates the gesture but quickly has had enough of their pep talk and leaves.
The injured Afghan is on the road to recovery, despite the fact Major Holloway has absolutely no patience with him…or any bedside manner.
Outside on the base, Roback plays ref to a youth soccer game while Davis inoculates the kids against the measles. It’s against orders to do so, but Roback kept a stash of expired vaccines to help the kids because there’s an epidemic sweeping the country. What more trouble can he get into anyway at this point?
When the game wraps up, Roback suggests a scheme he’s just come up with to earn back their money lost during the boxing match. His scheme involves getting the key to the supply hut from Durkin…something he’s convinced he can do, no problem.
No one on the base knows what’s going on between Roback and Durkin and when he takes a seat at her lunch table, she immediately gets up to walk away. Durkin thinks Sasquatch is already suspicious, and Roback admits there’s a rumor going around the base about them.
Durkin’s more concerned about pissing off her current boyfriend, Sasquatch, than any rumor. He’s her connection to the weapons manufacturer who pays her to pose with their weapons on Instagram. (That’s why she was upset her latest photo only had 2,000 likes at the top of the episode.) She absolutely does not want to lose that source of extra income. She’s saving up to move to LA when her tour’s complete so that she can be her cousin’s stunt double.
Roback hints he has a plan that will make them even more money than her Instagram deal. She agrees to get him into the supply hut but calls him out about his interest in her. She realizes Roback just likes to move on other guys’ girlfriends and isn’t about to take this relationship seriously.
An hour later, they’re back to having sex in the supply hut. Multiple times. She compares her current conquests, describing Sasquatch as having a larger penis yet it’s Roback who actually comes close to giving her an orgasm. (Their sex talk leaves a lot to be desired.)
Davis arrives in the supply hut as Durkin’s leaving and of course he figures out what’s going on. Chuckling, Davis admits he’s surprised Roback and Durkin actually have something going on. As they’re looking through supplies, Private Anthony Petrocelli (Nicholas Coombe) enters the hut and catches them in the act. Even though he likes them as people, he has to report what he found.
Roback offers him a part of their business venture instead and Petrocelli leaps at the opportunity.
A short while later, Roback and Davis go over their inventory of smallpox vaccines and other supplies that were just going to be tossed out because they expired. Interpreter E. Khalil (Artur), who’s also been cut in on the deal, drags them outside where Alvarez is drunk and up on the roof. She’s ranting about Making America Great Again while asking about a travel agent.
Roback reluctantly joins her on the roof and saves her from further humiliation.
Meanwhile, Major Holloway’s crawled into bed with her handsome patient. (She really should thank Roback for bringing the Afghan to her hospital, rather than discipline him.) Just a few hours prior she had explained she took 40+ pieces of shrapnel from his body. Apparently the offer of sex with the pretty doctor miraculously healed him.
Never mind. It’s just a sex dream.
Holloway wakes from her sex with a hot patient dream when her husband and kids call to wish her happy birthday.
Can I just interject that we’ve now seen the main/only female characters either having sex, dreaming of sex, or showing off their bodies while drunk? Do better, please.
Alvarez has to face disciplinary action for her drunken rooftop monologue. Colonel Austin (Lamont Thompson) gives her a dressing down but then explains there’s nothing he can do to her because her status has changed. She’s been abruptly discharged.
Alvarez is a DACA recipient and her citizenship status is being revoked. She’s not shocked and explains why. “My father was recently deported while washing dishes in the worst Chinese restaurant in El Paso because someone didn’t like their Moo Goo Gai Pan,” says Alvarez. “But that should have no bearing on me, sir. I was granted permission to enlist under MAVNI because of my medical skills. And also promised citizenship.”
(DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. MAVNI is short for Military Accessions Vital to National Interest.)
There’s nothing Colonel Austin can do.
Elsewhere, Roback receives a note from home saying no one is asking questions yet. With the note is a death certificate for Clayton Darryl Roback. He burns both the note and death certificate while looking contemplative.
Roback then takes off in an ambulance with Petrocelli, Davis, and their stolen supplies. They drive to the Afghan village and Davis and Roback wander the streets trying to figure out where to deliver their black-market items. They finally figure out the right door to knock on, however they didn’t bring their translator who’s in on the deal so they really should have thought to include him. They just stand there unsure of what to do next. (They did not think this through at all.)
Roback hands over his guns and Davis reluctantly does the same before entering the building. They make small talk among themselves about how the guy in the room looks big enough to take down Sasquatch. Finally, the leader arrives and they show him their supplies and receive their payment of hashish. Roback samples it to make sure it’s grade A. It is.
The deal is struck but it’s for just one brick. Davis is furious but since they’ve given up their guns, they’re grossly outmanned when the Afghans draw their weapons. Roback quickly comes up with a plan and threatens to torch the medical supplies, whipping out his lighter and dousing the supplies in what everyone thinks is a flammable liquid. (Even high he knows it’s iodine and not flammable.)
Roback demands the entire box of hashish while holding the flame over the supplies. He and Davis grab the box and make for the ambulance – grabbing their guns on the way out.
Outside, Petrocelli makes friends with a goat that’s thought to be possessed or touched in the head. The village can’t slaughter it because if you eat it, you may become possessed by the spirit. The Afghan patient’s brother delivers this info while asking about his brother’s condition.
Petrocelli’s busy getting water for the goat when the guys rush out to leave. Petrocelli – not the goat – is then surrounded by well-armed soldiers from his base, led by Sasquatch. Roback and Davis join Petrocelli and Sasquatch is justifiably confused as to what’s going on.
Sasquatch doesn’t have control over the medics – his men are part of a different unit stationed at The Orphanage – so Roback and Davis don’t really care about his presence. Sasquatch doesn’t explain why but warns Roback and Davis they need to stay far away from this town.
Unfortunately, neither Roback nor Davis can remember where they parked the ambulance. By the time they figure it out, the ambulance is on fire. They’ll have to hike back with the hashish strapped to their backs.
68 Whiskey Episode 1 Review:
68 Whiskey comes from Oscar-winning executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Television Studios and CBS Television Studios, with Emmy Award-nominee Roberto Benabib (Weeds) guiding the series as showrunner. The production value’s first-rate (you can’t tell it’s the Santa Clarita mountains subbing in for Afghanistan), however episode one never settles into a groove. Described as a comedic drama or dark comedy along the lines of M.A.S.H., episode one nails the dramatic portion but comes up way short on the comedy.
There’s kind of a scattershot approach to storytelling that feels like it’s checking off items on a list of hot topics. At least that’s the impression left by the first episode. While watching the latest offering from Paramount Networks (the network behind the riveting Yellowstone), it was difficult to figure out the target audience.
The acting’s terrific, with Sam Keeley in particular standing out in episode one. Working in the show’s favor is also the lack of any real competition from other networks in this genre. There was a flurry of military offerings in 2017, but Valor, SIX, and The Brave quickly wilted. Only SEAL Team continues to hold down a primetime spot and garner high ratings.
Since 2017, most networks have kept their distance from military dramas. Given the current divided state of the U.S., it’s safer for networks to avoid any mention of wars or the military. But 68 Whiskey isn’t playing it safe. The first episode of 68 Whiskey dives into controversial topics and shows members of the military in a less-than-stellar light. Episode one leaves no doubt that the series is going to take risks.
68’s Whiskey‘s first episode had a few intriguing storylines, enough to make me want to check out a few more to see if it finds its footing. This first episode provided little clue as to the season one arc, but it did introduce a couple of characters interesting enough to want to get to know a little better. Plus, I have to stick around to see if there’s an explanation as to why this episode’s titled “Buckley’s Goat” when it’s Petrocelli who interacts with the poor thing. I really need that question answered.
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68 Whiskey premiered on January 15, 2020 and airs on Wednesdays at 10pm ET/PT on Paramount Network.