Saturday, May 30, 2009

Episode 73 - Welcome to Korea

Season 4, Episode 73: Welcome to Korea
Original Air Date: 9/12/75
Written by: Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum and Larry Gelbart

Directed by: Gene Reynolds

Radar is woken up by new 4077 commander Frank Burns, for the morning's formation. He's nasty to Radar, and proves to be a pathetic leader to the troops.

In the middle of a rant by Frank, Hawkeye, coming back from R&R, is wheeled into camp, partly hung over. He ignores Frank's commands, and heads for the showers.

Radar chases after him, trying to tell Hawkeye something: while Hawkeye was gone, Trapper got his orders and was shipped home. They tried calling Hawkeye for three days, but couldn't get a hold of him. Hawkeye is stunned, and crushed that it seems that Trapper didn't even leave a note of goodbye, save for a kiss to the cheek, administered by Radar.

When Hawkeye learns that Trapper is flying out of Kimpo that very morning, he jumps out of the shower, tells Frank and Hot Lips he's leaving. They deny him permission, but he sneaks aboard the jeep Radar is taking into town to pick up Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, Trapper's replacement.

Hawkeye, in a mad rush not to miss Trapper, blows past an MP checkpoint, only to be stopped at a second. He fakes his way through it by pretending Radar has an infectious disease.

They make it to Kimpo, and while Radar searches for Captain Hunnicutt, Hawkeye tries to find Trapper. He finds the office in charge of processing people on their way home, but can barely get the attention of the man behind the desk, who is more concerned with the absurdly specific needs of a General. Finally, he gets a hold of the flight manifests, and finds...Trapper left ten minutes ago.

Demoralized, he wanders back outside, where Radar introduces him to Captain Hunnicutt, who insists on being called B.J. They decide to go home, but find that their jeep has been stolen!

After calming a panicked Radar down, they go into the Officers Club to get a drink (faking Radar as an officer, giving him some of B.J.'s captains bars and designating him a "Corporal Captain"). Its here that Hawkeye clues B.J. in as to what to expect, and the kind of people that make up the 4077th.

He compliments them all, but points out that B.J. is just missing "Two of the greatest guys in the world, though", including Henry, who was "Our C.O.--Henry was okay, from the navel out in every direction."
He also clues B.J. in as to just how bad Burns--aka "Ferret Face"--is, as a commander and a doctor.

Upon leaving the club, they steal a General's jeep and head home. On the way, they run into a farming family searching a mine field, an incredibly dangerous proposition. They try to get them to stop, but not before one of the farmer's young daughters sets off a mine. In the confusion, Radar runs in to the mine field, grabs the injured girl, and brings her out.

While Hawkeye and Radar are missing, Frank is preparing the 4077th for the new arrival. He and Hot Lips dream of training Hunnicutt "our way."

Meanwhile, after dropping the girl off at a local hospital (the conditions of which disgusts and shocks B.J.), they get a flat tire. While fixing it, they run into some locals, who seem harmless enough--until they suddenly disappear into the woods. Moments later, bullets start to fly, and they scramble to get the new tire on and out of harm's way. B.J. notices there's a bullet hole in the seat right next to him.

As if that wasn't enough, Hawkeye, B.J., and Radar get caught in the middle of some mortar fire being shot at some U.S. soldiers. They jump out of the jeep and start tending to the wounded. B.J. receives one shock after the other--one dead solider looks to be barely thirteen years old, and another is wounded so bad that it causes B.J. to stagger off and vomit.

Radar points this out to Hawkeye. While Radar is calling the nearest MASH unit for help (the 8055th), Hawkeye stops and hold B.J.'s head as he continues to be sick. Finally, another wounded soldier needs attention, and Hawkeye turns, reaches his hand out to B.J. They join hands, and both of tend to the wounded G.I.

Back at the 4077th, Frank gets word that B.J. was picked up. Th attribute him being so late to Hawkeye, who must have had something to do with it.

Finally, Hawkeye, B.J., and Radar make it home. But just before they arrive, they stop at Rosie's Bar. They get loaded, so bad that Radar has to drive them the rest of the way.

Upon hearing the honks of the jeep's horn, Frank and Hot Lips run outside excitedly, ready to meet their new surgeon. Hawkeye, drunk and caked in sweat and mud, formally introduces B.J.: "Major Burns, Major Houilhan: may I present, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt."

B.J. manages a wobbly salute, only to collapse in laughter, clutching Hot Lips, and asking "What say you, Ferret Face?"

Hawkeye also dissolves into laughter, unable even to look Burns in the eye. Frank and Hot Lips stand there stunned, as they see all their plans to mold Captain Hunnicutt in their image have gone up in smoke.

Later, some MPs arrive, on the trail of the stolen jeep. They find Frank sitting it, and put him in custody. Hawkeye and B.J. wander by
on their way to the showers, stopping long enough not to help Frank at all.

The P.A. announces the list of people now permanently assigned to the 4077th. "Mike Farrell as B.J. Hunnicutt" is inserted into the list, and at the end, we meet "Harry Morgan, as Col. Sherman Potter...Regular Army. God help us all."

Fun Facts: Seaons Four and Five of M*A*S*H--featuring the combo of Hawkeye, Frank, Hot Lips, Radar, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy with new characters B.J. and Col. Potter--remain my favorite seasons of not only the series, but of all of television.

There was something about these particular episodes that speak to me in a way no other television shows have ever done. (Really--much like how I am about Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, or Justice League of America #200, I am completely unwilling to even consider the notion there has been--or ever will be--anything better in this particular medium).

The credit sequence, for the first time, has been changed. Not only are Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson's names gone (replaced by Mike Farrell and Harry Morgan, respectively), but Jamie Farr has been added to the end, and the overall size of the letters has been increased in size. Also, the last shot of the credits, featuring the doctors walking along with the jeeps carrying wounded, has been re-framed so Trapper is no longer seen at the very top.

A curious mention comes at the end, when we see the out-of-sequence scene of Col. Potter arriving. The P.A. says that Potter is reporting for duty on "September 19, 1952." Which means all of M*A*S*H's remaining seasons--all seven of them--take place between Sept. 1952 and July 27, 1953, which of course is highly unlikely. M*A*S*H would play fast and loose with various calendar dates all throughout its run.

I love Hawkeye's talk with B.J. in the Officers Club, where he tells him about the two people he just missed, Henry and Trapper. For whatever reason, I was always--and still am--incredibly intrigued at the moments of the show where the former characters were mentioned or referenced.

I really can't tell you why--maybe its because the show seemed to have three very distinct eras--the Hawkeye/Trapper/Henry years, the Hawkeye/B.J/Frank years, and then finally the Hawkeye/B.J/Winchester years, and they all seemed so different that I find it captivating when someone mentions a previous time on the show.

Growing up on the show having a laugh track, I'm simply used to how it sounds, having these weird laughs coming from out of nowhere. On the DVDs, you can turn the laugh track off (a neat feature), but I've found, to me at least, it doesn't make a huge difference.

Except in this episode--in the scene where Hawkeye is trying to get the attention of the Sergeant in charge of the flight manifests. After Hawkeye learns he missed Trapper by just ten minutes, he mutters a small "Thanks" to the Sergeant, and walks out. The Sergeant, not paying Hawkeye any attention, continues to rattle off the silly list of items ("Pickles, pimentos, balls, and cuckoos") to whomever he's speaking to on the phone.

With the laugh track on, the laughs piped in at the reading of the list kind of ruin the scene. But with laugh track off, Hawkeye's sadness and hurt is allowed to hang there, even after he's left the scene. Now, instead of the Sergeant's list being a silly laugh, it feels like a bitter counterpoint to what just happened.

This was M*A*S*H's first hour-long episode.

Favorite Line: This is one of M*A*S*H's finest episodes, in every way (the action scenes are as well executed as a lot of war films), so it was hard picking a favorite line or scene.

But one line that makes me laugh, every time, is when B.J. is telling Hawkeye how and when he learned he was shipping out. While out at dinner with his wife Peg, he says their babysitter Norma Jean took a message for them.

Before B.J. can continue with his story, Hawkeye interrupts him:

Hawkeye: "Wait, wait...Norma Jean? Eighteen?"

B.J.: "Sixteen."

Hawkeye, pounding the bar in mock frustration: "Ooh!"


Russell said...

Wow, Rob, I TOTALLY agree with you about the Hawkeye/BJ/Frank years being the BEST. As a kid I just preferred BJ to Trapper and Frank to Charles, but now as an adult I can appreciate just how silly yet real Frank is, and just how painful it would be for BJ to be there without his wife and family. Charles definitely had his good episodes, but I'm definitely in your "camp" when it comes to favorite MASH seasons. Looking forward to the next 72 episodes!!

What the Parrot Saw said...

I agree with you, Rob; this is one of the very best episodes in MASH's entire oeuvre. The producers and writers were brilliant (as oft-stated) in bringing aboard new characters that added new dimensions to the show, overall.

We are able to now watch an agreeable friendly doctor fresh out of stateside residency adapt to the horrors of the war- and while BJ's character seems positioned to take Trapper's place, the chemistry already present between him and Hawkeye is not forced whatsoever.

Finally, I agree fully with your observation about the lack of the laugh track when Hawk realizes Trapper's just left. I tend to prefer the laugh track off when I watch nowadays because subtleties are easier to pick up on.

Anonymous said...

Definately in my top five of all time episodes..this is one of the ones that makes it so hard to choose between Trap and BJ/Potter and's funny, cause all my life, I'd felt the same way about "new" characters referencing "old" characters, dunno why. When Hawk holds out his hand to BJ, such an iconic much is BORN, right there in that simple gesture....CLASSIC!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob,

I love your blogs, thanks for all the hard work!

I have a question about this first episode of Season 4, and I bet you're the only man who can help!

Wayne Rogers doesn't appear in this episode, Trapper's send-off. But! Rogers' voice can be heard on the PA as Hawkeye and Radar arrive at Kimpo Air Base! "Sergenant Sterner to Maintenance."

How did this come about? It's a nice nod, but was Rogers a willing participant? Did they have his voice for this page from a previous episode? Or did he come in to record it?

Thanks in advance!

Your pal in Milwaukee,

rob! said...

Jim--Thanks for the kind words and the comment.

That PA is Wayne Rogers? That's news to me--it doesn't sound like him to me, and I can find no mention of it on IMDB or in any MASH books I have. Did you read this somewhere?

I can't imagine it would have been Wayne Rogers, since he left the show (at the time) not on the best of terms, and by the time they were filming this episode he was definitely off the lot. But I guess anything's possible...

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,

I forget how I heard about this, but now that I listen for it, the PA announcement does sound like Rogers to me!

It's noted as such on Wikipedia (I know, I know) and in a couple other places, but only a cursory mention, no details. It actually is on IMDB - !

Ain't that interesting? I can't wait to see what you can dig up, or if any of your other readers have any knowledge.

Your pal,

rob! said...


WOW, just when I thought there was nothing new for me to learn about M*A*S*H...I never noticed that IMDB credit before (I looked on the trivia page), that seems like pretty good evidence (although IMDB has been known to get things wrong).

I have no idea who I'd ask about such a thing, but it makes me want to do some research...

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, I knew you'd love this mystery as much as me!

Listen again to the PA page - I really do think it's Rogers "doing" a voice; you know, kinda disguising it.

But for all I know, the cast did this a lot for PAs outside the camp.

But either he came in and did the voice (which is awesome) or someone on the crew went to the trouble to dig up an old tape (which is a sweet homage), and both scenarios are pretty cool.


Anonymous said...

This is really incredible. I never even noticed that PA voice until reading this blog. Went back and checked it, and that is definitely Wayne Rogers' voice. Amazing.

I also find it amazing that this was included being that Rogers left under bad circumstances, with each side threatening legal action.

Anonymous said...

It would have been interesting if B.J. teamed up with Frank and Hot Lips for a while.

Bill said...

I have listened to the "Sgt. Sterner" announcement, and there is a rough similarity to Wayne Rogers' distinctive nasal drawl. But why would he go back on the show he just left (bailing on his contract as I understand it, ostensibly because the network insisted on a "morals clause" but really because of Trapper's second-banana status) to do just that odd bit of background business? Why not hang around long enough for a proper goodbye?

Dave said...

Wayne Rogers did not bail on his contract. He had not signed a contract that's why he was able to just leave. when he left lawsuits were filed on both sides. The producers lost. That episode is airing here soon i will listen but I really doubt it's wayne though. it would make no sense.

Mickie said...

I feel like the moment that Hawk finds out that Trapper has left for good without saying goodbye is the border between the 1-3 seasons' silly/sardonic Hawkeye and 4-11 seasons' serious (But still goofy at times) Hawkeye. All of a sudden the war became personal, even worse than personal for him. Before he could laugh (almost) everything off, but from this moment on he started taking things way more to heart than before. I think Henry's death plus Trapper leaving without saying goodbye was a one-two punch, and he really never got over it, as seen even over his anxieties in the very last episode. I actually enjoy the depth of character in the later episodes, I think that these events really shaped the character and were beneath many of the decisions he made. Perhaps that's why BJ became such a good friend to him, he was there when Hawk needed him the most, and Hawk was there when BJ needed him the most--I agree, the scene where Hawk holds out his hand to him is one of the best in the entire series.

Anyway I also wanted to say thanks for this awesome blog! I'm an aspiring author and screenwriter and have learned so much about character development from M*A*S*H. If I ever end up teaching at college someday, half the course will probably be on the show, lol!

mark said...

Margaret helping Hawkeye in the OR is probably a sign of her future, more professional relationship with him. The next episode was her engagement, during and after which she started distancing herself from Burns.

Tjp said...

Anyone else notice Radar calls B.J. colonel Hunnicut in the scene with the mortar fire ? I must have watched this dozens of times from the original airwar to now and just noticed it today.

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