‘SEAL Team’ Puts Clay on an Important Mission Away From Bravo Team
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2, Episode 20 of SEAL Team, “Rock Bottom.”]
Clay’s (Max Thieriot) goal may be to operate again and make it back to Bravo Team, but he has another purpose that is just as important after seeing firsthand what happened to Brett Swan (Tony Curran).
For the most part, SEAL Team focuses on the missions of Bravo Team, led by Jason (David Boreanaz), but with the introduction of Swan and through Clay’s injuries, the series is also exploring what life is like after the Teams.
Swan was suffering, but initially, those at the VA thought his issues were psychological. He argued they were physiological, the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after blast-induced neurotrauma. “I have the physical manifestations: headaches, dizziness, ringing in my ears, insomnia, shaking hands,” he explained in Episode 19.
The doctor needed to run tests, but he agreed with that assessment due to Swan’s “mental health issues and cognitive impairments, physical ailments, and record of heavy combat.” Swan immediately began thinking ahead to an aggressive treatment plan.
However, because his wound wasn’t documented while he was serving, the doctor couldn’t treat him. He couldn’t even order an MRI.
“It’s not a visible injury,” Swan argued. “How could I have known to report it when I didn’t even understand it?” There went his break, and at the end of the episode, Clay found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest.
In Episode 20, Clay confronts the doctor and argues that the VA doesn’t “serve” its veterans like it should. But the doctor already knows that. “I try my best. I do my best,” he says. “You’re right. Your friend deserved better. Every vet deserves better, but no one seems to care.”
He suggests that Clay try to change things, beginning with the fact that TBIs go unreported, from inside the military. That should be his new mission.
That’s exactly what Clay does, bringing up his friend’s undocumented TBI with his own doctor. This doctor isn’t surprised. “Head injuries often go unnoticed when the victim doesn’t lose consciousness,” he explains. “The lack of self-reporting is understandable, given a TBI can interrupt or end your military career.”
But that’s exactly why veterans are suffering like Swan did.
Clay then tries to put in a request to get Swan the Purple Heart, but as Harrington (Michael McGrady) explains, it will be denied because Swan didn’t ask for treatment. It doesn’t matter that they would all do the same.
“He didn’t feel like he could,” Clay argues. “That’s what needs to change. This medal isn’t just for Swanny. This is for all of us who could wind up just like him.” The problem is that the military needs to know more about TBIs, but they need soldiers to report them so they can study and treat them — and no one will.
Clay threatens to turn to the press if the military won’t help, but Harrington warns him he could be court-martialed if he does.
Whatever Clay decides to do, he’s on the right path. Calling attention to TBIs and how veterans suffer because of unspoken regulations while they’re in uniform is important. Something needs to change, and right now, figuring out a way to try to make that happen needs to be one of Clay’s main goals. As much as we can’t wait to see him back on Bravo Team where he belongs, he can do some good back home
Sound off with your thoughts on what Clay’s doing in the comments below.
SEAL Team, Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS