Friday, May 22, 2009

Episode 71 - White Gold

Season 3, Episode 71: White Gold
Original Air Date: 3/11/75
Written by: Larry Gelbart & Simon Muntner

Directed by: Hy Averback

Its the middle of the night at the 4077th, and everyone is involved in their own activities--Father Mulcahy is praying, Hawkeye and Trapper are with nurses, and Frank and Hot Lips are spending the night together.

Outside, some thieves dressed all in black are sneaking into the Supply Shed.

Klinger, on guard duty, overhears them, and the group splits up. The only one captured is Perkins (Hilly Hicks), who won't say much of anything as to why he and his friends were stealing medical supplies.

The next day, Col. Flagg arrives in camp, on the case of a string of similar robberies. He demands Hawkeye and Trapper turn the patient over to him, but they flatly refuse. He then offers to try and get information from Perkins, but Hawkeye and Trapper try and stop him, saying they prefer to get the info without the use of torture.

Flagg goes ahead anyway, and visits Perkins. But instead of torturing Perkins, he orders him to "take a powder", which he does. Flagg then fakes a fight, smashing up the tent, using his feet, fists...and head.

Hawkeye and Trapper patch Flagg up, but they don't believe his story that Perkins caused all that damage. Later that night, they discover another attempt at someone stealing penicillin--this time it's Col. Flagg!

Flagg says he can use the penicillin to barter with his contacts, to get information about the enemy's movements. That same night, an MP arrests Perkins, and he tells them that he's actually named Johnson, and he works at an aid station, where the penicillin is scarce, if not impossible to find. He's sorry for stealing, and Henry says he could just ask next time.

To keep Johnson safe from Flagg hunting him down, Hawkeye and Trapper come up with a way of sidelining Flagg for a few days. They put some pills in his coffee, which makes Flagg get appendicitis, requiring surgery.

It ends with Flagg recuperating in Post Op, who is sure that Hawkeye and Trapper pulled one over on him.

Fun Facts: This episode's third act storyline--slipping Col. Flagg a mickey so that he'll require surgery--becomes the basis of an entire episode in the seventh season, with very different results.

One of the MPs is played by Stafford Repp, who played Chief O'Hara on Batman. As a kid, I loved seeing two of my favorite shows "cross over" like that.

There's an interesting little aside, which almost sounds like an ad-lib, when Hawkeye and Trapper are putting bandages on Perkins. Hawkeye is cutting the gauze, and Trapper is putting it on the patient. Trapper holds one of the pieces up and says "Hey, cut these longer."

Hawkeye replies, "There supposed to be this short", to which Trapper mutters "No, they're not." Its such an extraneous piece of dialog, I wonder if it was in the original teleplay.

There's a tense scene between Henry and Frank about whether it was justified, allowing Flagg to torture Perkins. Frank is pro, Henry is most definitely not. Wow, an episode featuring a discussion about whether torture is morally justifiable or not. Thank goodness that issue's been settled.

Favorite Line: Col. Flagg proudly states he has official authority to do anything necessary to crack the case--and to die in the line of duty if necessary.

Hawkeye and Trapper find that all very funny. Trapper says, "Hey, that's the spirit." Hawkeye adds, "
Yeah, if we had more men like you we'd have less men like you."

3 comments: said...

Col. Flagg is one of the best characters to ever be on M*A*S*H. Every line, every squint is masterfully delivered by the actor (Winter, right?)
I think he is a great example of a character that you LOVE to hate.

Dominic said...

Rob!, that same third act was in the seventh season not eighth.

Robert Gross said...

The difference between this and "Preventative Medicine" is that it's not quite clear that Hawkeye and Trapper actually went through with an operation, or merely rendered Flagg unconscious for awhile.

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