The Code: S01.E02 “P.O.G.”

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The second episode of the newly premiered Craig Turk and Craig Sweeny co-created military courtroom drama “The Code” was televised Monday, 15 April 2019.

A refreshing aspect of this series, unlike a lot of courtroom dramas, is it does to rely on certain unrealistic television tropes. In real life, the defence does not always win. There are times when the defence losses. Like Rawson Keifer intimates about an entirely different issue, “s*** happens.”

“The Code” Promotional Poster. Image Credit: IMDb.

What is the episode about?

With a teleplay co-written by Kaycee Felton-Lui, Hope T. Mastras and Jovan Robinson, the Guy Ferland-directed “P.O.G.” revolves around Marine Sgt. Grsezak. He is charged with abandoning his post during combat. Consequently, three soldiers died as a direct result.

Meanwhile, there is a diplomatic spat brewing between Spain and these United States. Maj. Trey Ferry has the unenviable task of ironing out that spat before the issue escalates any further.

On a personal note, Lt. Harper Li is having a little difficulty balancing her duties as a USMC lawyer with planning her wedding. Capt. John ‘Abe’ Abraham arranges for the lieutenant a four-day leave so that she can to work on wedding logistics.

Article 99 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

The Uniform Code of Military Justice clearly stipulates “Should any service member of the United States armed forces misbehave in the presence of the enemy in a time of warfare, he or she will be subject to Article 99 of the UCMJ.”

While Captain John ‘Abe’ Abraham said, “The military has not charged anyone for cowardice in 15 years,” Colonel Glenn Turnbull observes that the correct legal term is “misbehaviour in the face of the enemy.”

Even though Article 99 covers nine unique charges, five of the charges are also covered by other articles within the UCMJ and therefore a lesser offense may be considered.

Marine Sgt. Grsezak

Is every defendant innocent? In real-life, as it is with fictional lawyers, attorneys must do their jobs to the best of their ability. They cannot allow personal sentiment to sway they views. Nor can they allow big guilty to get in the way of a good defence strategy.

The defence counsel’s job is to present a case to the court that benefits the defendant. In contrast to prosecution attorneys having to prove defendants guilty, defence attorneys are held to an entirely different standard. They do not have to prove their clients are innocent. Reasonable doubt is the bench mark which defence attorneys work towards. If there is any possibility of reasonable doubt, a defendant must be acquitted of charges.

It was 9/11 that was the driving force behind Grsezak wanting to become a Marine. Despite having a psychological condition that would have prevented him from joining the USMC, with a work around of anti-panic medications from a drug dealer, he was able to keep his medical issue under wraps.

A panic attack struck at the worst possible moment. Consequently, during the midst of a firefight, three Marines are killed.

During the trial, Grsezak falls apart the same way he did in combat. Quick to realise what was happening, Captain Maya Dobbins diagnoses the Marine’s problem. Without betraying her duty to the defendant, Dobbins is smart enough to find a way to tip off the prosecuting attorneys without directly telling them anything about her client or his condition.

Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)

If you thought “The Code” would only be addressing trials such as the one seen in the Rob Reiner-directed military courtroom drama “A Few Good Men,” boy were you mistaken.

The series, as seen with the SOFA storyline, will be addressing mundane aspects of military lawyering a well as the exciting parts. In real life, all lawyers must dot their I’s and cross their T’s. Paperwork is tedious but critical to the orderly well-being of any operation.

“The conduct of Marines stationed abroad is governed by a status of forces agreement that our lawyers negotiate with the host country,” Warrant Officer Rami Ahmadi said to Abraham.

Abraham correctly cites that these United States has a blanket agreement with every country in NATO. When Abraham enters the board room, Ferry is heard using the Latin phrase “ipso facto” in connection with the exact same thing Abraham said to the warrant officer moments earlier. The phrase “ipso facto” translates directly to the English “by the fact itself.”

The Spaniards argue court-martialling imprisoning the Marine is not enough. In their eyes, the victim’s family must be able to sue the Marine for compensation for their loss in Spain. If it were not for Trey’s efforts, the likelihood of the Spanish delegation having returned to the table would have been remote. The major approached the junior delegation member with a proposal.

US Military Slang

There is reference to two distinct US military slang terms in the Ferland-directed episode. “P.O.G.,” most notably the title of the episode, means Person Other than Grunt. The word “grunt” is a reference to the Infantry, only.

With the Global War on Terror (GWOT) not being a traditional style of warfare, there are no discernible front lines. Both the First and Second World Wars had tangible front lines, for instance. This does not apply with GWOT. With soldiers of all jobs in the United States Army encountering the enemy, the grunt v. POG mentality becomes increasingly apparent.

Abraham refers to Lt. Harper Li as the “boot.” Li, played by “Hamilton: An American Musical” star Phillipa Soo, is new to the USMC. The term “boot” is a reference to a Marine fresh out of boot camp. Li’s backstory indicates she shunned the family business, a prestigious law firm, to become a Marine.

The “Boot”

Li is not someone that keeps her opinions to herself. When Li has something to say that she feels adds substance to the conversation, she says it. This will inevitably get the fresh out of boot camp Marine in all kinds of trouble.

If Abraham did not respect Li’s ability as a lawyer, there is no way the captain would have stepped aside to allow her to present to the judge the opening statement.

Literature Reference

Li’s name is reminiscent of author Harper Lee. Lee wrote the ground-breaking courtroom novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” There is a reference to this fact in the episode.

Who stars in this episode?

“The Code” stars Luke Mitchell, Anna Wood, Ato Essandoh, Phillipa Soo, Raffi Barsoumian and Dana Delany as Captain John ‘Abe’ Abraham, Captain Maya Dobbins, Major Trey Ferry, Lieutenant Harper Li, Warrant Officer Rami Ahmadi and Colonel Glenn Turnbull, respectively.

I would have liked to have seen more of Delany. She is one of the main reasons I watch “The Code.” The other reason is of course the fact I am writing about it. I cannot write about a series I do not watch.

During this episode, we discovered the commanding officer had a son in the USMC. Please let me reiterate that point. Turnbull had a son. Note the phrasing. I am referring to Turnbull’s son in the past tense. In the closing scene, there was an indication made that her son had gotten killed in action.

Who guest stars in this episode?

Joining the regular cast for this episode is Hampton Fluker, Alfredo Narciso, Kevin Kilner, Elliot Villar, Derek Klena, David Harrell, John Zdrojeski, Hiram Delgado and Elise Santora as Sgt. Grsezak, Ruben Corredor, Rawson Keifer, Judge Lamb, Capt. Tevez, Lt. Adam Turnbull, Master Sgt. O’Toole, Cpl. Hunter Koppel and Marta Huerta, respectively.

Was there an episode trailer?

Final Thoughts

Even though the way in which Abraham expresses his thoughts to both Turman and Trey might not be tolerable in real-life, when it comes to fictionalised drama, there is a modicum of acceptable leeway.

The reason Trey is not able to go to Africa with Abraham is that his wife is ovulating. They are trying to start a family. Interestingly, because of this personal matter, it gives the Marine an in with Ruben Corredor.

Corredor is a junior member of the Spanish delegation. Trey is doing his best to negotiate terms pertaining to a change in the status of force agreement. Because of Rawson Keifer’s abhorrent attitude towards the Spanish delegation, coming up with an acceptable compromise has been difficult for the major. Keifer is the quintessential personification of a Washington D.C. d***. There are hundreds of d***s in the United States capital.

Keifer, in keeping with the stereotypical ‘Ugly American’ trope commonly seen in films and television series produced outside these United States, points out “s*** happens.”

The Spaniards’ argument has validity.  If the shoe was on the other foot, Keifer and people like him would be arguing the exact same thing. Naturally, the Spanish delegation did not find Keifer’s attitude amusing. Consequently, as a result of his apparent distain for their views, the Spaniards promptly broke off talks.

The behaviour of some Americans when on foreign soil is atrocious. Everyone has seen first hand accounts of such behaviour. It is not excusable. But the same is sometimes true of persons visiting the US. Having diplomatic licence plates should not give an individual carte blanche to break American speed limit laws or park where the h*** they want. But because law enforcement cannot arrest them for such violations, various unscrupulous diplomats do whatever they please.

About the author

Shain E. Thomas
Shain E. Thomas

With a BSc focusing on geography, history and political science and an MSc revolving around communication studies, history and journalism, I’m a freelance Journalist and social historian.