The P.O.Ws are released and Jim returns home. The Pentagon announces another man, a Navy pilot, as the longest-held prisoner. Excerpts from the Paris Peace Accords interrupt the pre-war memories of Jim and Alyce. Jim reads a letter of welcome from President Nixon, the text noting ominously that “Some things about America may appear to have changed since your departure.” Alyce meets Jim and confesses. She offers to disappear if that is what he wants, but only after he hears her out. Jim decides to attempt a reconciliation. He notes how the nation has become different during his ordeal, at first mentioning improvements in material items and civil rights, but inevitably concluding with disdain for the new permissiveness and for his wife’s infidelity. Soon, the couple begins to fight, and Jim complains, “You’re not the Alyce I left.” For her part, Alyce asserts her independence, refusing to be the docile obedient wife. She tells of what her life was like during his absence, of the callous behavior of neighbors and family, of late- night crank calls from malicious strangers, of her fear and loneliness.
Jim visits the church where he and Alyce were married and speaks to the congregation. He tells how he survived his ordeal, stressing his “faith in God, country, and the love of a good woman.” Alyce too, both young and old, speaks simply of how she survived. Afterwards, Jim tells Alyce that he has come to forgive her, that all his bitterness is gone. Alyce responds that she “doesn’t give a shit if he forgives her or not.” The scene nears its conclusion as Alyce asks, “What have I done that calls for forgiveness?”
Jim (Older) sits alone in his study. He has separated from Alyce for good. Illness has ended his military career. He asks himself over and over “What to do today?” He finds consolation in the phrase “One day at a time,” just as he did when he was a prisoner. Jim tries to stay positive and confident, but bitter feelings keep intruding. He struggles to forgive, but concludes “everyone else had a bracelet.”
Courtesy of Tom Cipullo