I had hopes for CBS's SEAL Team being one of the rare pro-America shows on the air. The October 4 episode "Other Lives," however, portrayed many of our Navy SEALs, one of our country's most elite fighting forces, as immoral and anti-American. Only team leader Jason (David Boreanaz) is consistently shown to be the voice of truth, justice and the American way throughout the episode.
In "Other Lives," the team is sent to Syria to collect evidence that the Syrian Army is secretly making chemical weapons in a hospital. While there, they end up realizing that innocent civilians have been exposed to the nerve agent VX on the site and are sick and dying.
In this scene, Ray (Neil Brown, Jr.) questions if America is on the right side of history and if we're the ones to blame. Considering that they're standing in Syria, where the government is poisoning its own people, it's a really bizarre question.
Ray: You know we invented VX, right?
Jason: Sorry, what?
Ray: Yeah. Well, actually, to be fair, the Brits did first. But they did it by mistake, and as soon as they realized how toxic it was, they stopped making it. A few years later, the U.S. Army goes into mass production. We're the good guys, right?
Jason: You know what? We are the good guys, Ray, because we're not actually using this stuff.
Nobody is claiming America is perfect, but to stand in a building full of dying Syrians and question if the United States are "the good guys" is really beyond the pale. Fortunately, the screenwriters didn't let this dumb comment go unanswered.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the worst portrayal of our military in the episode. Instead of abandoning the sick, Jason decides that the team is going to stay at the facility to help get the poisoned people out even though there is a risk that enemy forces would be coming soon. But one of his men (with a Southern drawl, of course) just wants to cut and run and let the innocent women and children die.
Sonny: We're gonna be here till sun comes up? We're, uh, waiting on a ride for those people downstairs, huh? I'd put the shooters we have here with us against any other shooters in the world, Jason. But that don't mean we can hold off an army.
Jason: Look, you do know what happens if we leave those people downstairs, right?
Sonny: I know whatever happens has been decided a long time ago.
Jason: Not their fault they were born.
Sonny: It's not ours, either. You know you got to be real careful deciding what's best for somebody else's life. Now, say we do pull them out. Hand them off to Civil Affairs, and then what? Ain't nobody repatriating them in a war zone. If they're lucky, they end up in Europe. Let's assume that the borders aren't shut down by then. And if not, they will spend the rest of their lives in a refugee camp.
Jason: Right. You gonna say that to those kids' faces downstairs?
Sonny: I ain't gonna look at their faces. You know, we got a lot of wolves in this world. A sheepdog's got his hands full trying to keep his own flock safe. Got no vigilance left for anyone else.
Jason: Not a whole lot of honor in that.
Sonny: It is what it is.
In true television fashion, the team ends up figuring out a way to get the civilians out by falsely claiming they needed to be brought back as the only source of evidence of chemical weapons, but showing the American government as unwilling to save them without being tricked into it is hardly helpful.
Are we supposed to believe that the character of Jason represents the only moral person in the military, the only person who is doing the right thing? The only person who believes that America is "the good guy?"
Viewers understand that complex issues are at stake when it comes to real military action, but is it too much to ask for a pro-America, pro-military television show to be just that and show honorable SEALs as the rule instead of the rare exception?