Catch-22 season 1, episode 3 recap: The Bologna Mission


In the third episode of Catch-22, Yossarian’s desperation continues to rise as the deaths continue to close in around him.

At the end of episode two of Catch-22, we saw Yossarian running away after a disturbing mission briefing informed him that their next mission would be one of the deadliest yet. This episode shows just why this mission was so terrifying.

The mission was to bomb Bologna. In the 10 days prior to their mission, 36 planes had gone down over the city. The chances of surviving this bombing run were even slimmer than past missions.

So, Yossarian becomes desperate, willing to do anything to keep that mission from happening.

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Don’t eat the soup

His first attempt to stop the mission was to go to his good friend Milo, whose grip on the mess officer position was crucial to Yossarian’s plan.

A couple days before the mission, Yossarian asks Milo to take some laundry flakes and put them in the tomato soup that was being served. Milo, saying he has too much pride in his work, is reluctant at first, but eventually relents. Yossarian warns the rest of his friends not to eat the soup that night.

The idea is, if everyone gets sick, they’ll have to cancel the mission. Then, in order to maintain their overall military strategy, the 10th Infantry will be sent to Bologna. By the time everyone is well enough to fly again, Bologna will have fallen.

When explaining his plan to his friends, McWatt (a pilot) says this is a short term plan at best. There’s no way they’re getting out of flying Bologna.

In a later conversation, Milo confirms that McWatt was right. The 10th Infantry had been rerouted to somewhere else and Yossarian and crew were still going to have to fly Bologna.

As a last ditch effort, Yossarian goes to Maj. Major to check on the progress of him finding a rule to get Yossarian out of flying. Maj. Major has, of course, not even started looking. Yossarian begs him to find some power or some form to force him out of the mission. He says that it’s to the point that he’s not even afraid of the Germans, he’s afraid of a piece of string on a map in the briefing room that tells them where they’ll have to bomb. That is what terrifies him now.

Bologna has fallen

Desperation can make men do really stupid things.

For Yossarian, that stupid thing was going into the briefing room at night and moving the bomb line on the map North of Bologna. It wasn’t malicious, it was impulsive. An attempt to fly anywhere but Bologna.

The fallout of this move is massive. Col. Cathcart and all of the other officers think the change means Bologna has fallen and the 10th Infantry actually wound up taking it. No, they never check to see who gave word to move the line, they just assume it was an official move.

It’s not until Maj. de Coverley flies to Bologna to look for places to commandeer for the Americans that the mistake becomes obvious.

Maj. de Coverley manages to walk right into a Nazi briefing. At a briefing back at the base, Col. Cathcart confirms: Bologna is still controlled by the Nazis, Maj. de Coverley is MIA and whoever moved that line is going to jail (if Cathcart doesn’t kill them first).

To emphasize how serious this is, Col. Cathcart raises the mission counts again. What was 40 is now 50 missions!

Yossarian just sits there, saying nothing, as Col. Cathcart offers to lower the count down to 45 if the guilty party comes forward. With that silence, the men are sent on to Bologna.

The Bologna mission and Baked Alaska

Moving the bomb line isn’t the only awful decision Yossarian made in this episode of Catch-22.

During the Bologna mission, Yossarian has a complete breakdown while his plane is under fire. He fakes intercom problems (and pulls the wires out from the intercom to fully break it) and uses it as an excuse to have their plane turn around before completing the mission.

McWatt, who is the pilot of their plane, argues that Yossarian can still complete the mission without it, but Yossarian refuses. Eventually, a reluctant McWatt is forced to turn the plane around.

One the ground, McWatt calls Yossarian out for being afraid during the mission and breaking the intercom. He says Yossarian should be more like him—he knows they’ll probably die, so he tries to have as much fun as he can in the mean time. This results in McWatt being a little reckless at times. (We’ll get back to that.)

At dinner that night, Col. Cathcart gets in front of the men and congratulates them on a good mission (despite the fact that they lost 12 men during the run). To celebrate, Cathcart utilized Milo’s new business venture, M&M Enterprises (which is working, with Cathcart’s permission, with German planes and pilots), to give the men a treat: Baked Alaska.

When the desert is brought out, it’s served to everyone except the men who flew on Yossarian’s plane.

Col. Cathcart calls them out, specifically calling out McWatt because he was the pilot and it was his responsibility not to leave the mission. McWatt, forced to give a reason why he turned back, gives Yossarian’s excuse of the intercom going down.

That’s not an acceptable excuse. Col. Cathcart proceeds to yell at McWatt as Yossarian meekly stands by watching.

A brutal end

This episode of Catch-22 comes to an unexpectedly brutal end when Yossarian and friends are spending time swimming. As they swim they hear a plane. It’s McWatt, laughing and joking around flying low enough to give his friends a bit of a scare, but that’s about it.

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Kid Sampson grabs a flag to pretend to joust with McWatt’s plane as McWatt turns to make a second run.

Upsettingly, McWatt misjudges how low he’s flying and runs right through Kid Sampson.  It’s a stomach churning moment that only gets worse as a devastated McWatt flies his plane straight into the air, cuts the engine and then plows right into a cliff where the plane explodes on impact.

Yossarian made it out of the Bologna mission, but still lost two friends in this episode.

Will things get better for Yossarian? Will he find a way to get home? Let us know your thoughts on Catch-22 in the comments.