By Ken Tucker
March 29, 2010 at 11:48 AM EDT

Talk about your change-of-pace episodes. As if to give us a chance to rest and rehabilitate as much as the Marines depicted in The Pacific, this week’s edition sent us to Melbourne, Australia, in 1943 with Robert Leckie, Basilone, and their comrades. The horrors and exhaustion of Guadalcanal just barely put aside yet always in the back of their minds, the men found an awful lot of appreciative Aussies awaiting them.

Leckie met a nice girl, Stella (the wonderfully-named Claire Van Der Boom), broke bread with her Greek family, wooed her, and then, because The Pacific didn’t want to deploy every war-movie staple, she broke it off with him rather than have him leave her with a broken heart.

Our Leckie got roaring drunk, told off a lieutenant, got thrown in jail, and reassigned. James Badge Dale is doing a fine job in this role, but isn’t this the narrative of pretty much every young-writer-at-war that we’ve seen or read. Very Hemingway-esque, with better — or at least equal — dialogue, courtesy of Michelle Ashford and (novelist and The Wire writer) George Pelecanos.

The more interesting Pacific sub-plot was Basilone getting his Medal of Honor. I think Jon Seda has been giving an excellent, surprisingly-for-him understated performance. He communicates Basilone’s ambivalence about receiving this honor — part-pride, part-embarrassment. Basilone is presented as a humble man beneath his gruffness — less through dialogue than by his silences, his averted gazes, his muted response (“I’d rather be with my men”).

Which sets up the next phase of Basilone’s military career, being shipped home to help sell war bonds on the strength of his new celebrity, very well indeed. Don’t you get the sense that this will be an experience nearly as trying as combat for this man who likes being part of a team?

Did you watch? What did you think?

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