Friday, July 31, 2009

Episode 122 - Fallen Idol

Season 6, Episode 122: Fallen Idol
Original Air Date: 9/27/77
Written by: Alan Alda

Directed by: Alan Alda

Radar, feeling insecure about his relative lack of "experience" as a lothario, expresses himself to Hawkeye and B.J. in the Swamp. Hawkeye says if its bothering him so much, he should just go to Seoul and "meet a nice girl and let nature take its course."

B.J. is dubious, but Hawkeye badgers Radar until he decides Hawkeye is right, and he grabs a Jeep and heads out.

Later, wounded arrive, and we see one of the wounded is...Radar! Hawkeye is horrified, feeling guilty about sending Radar "out into the middle of a war on a date."

He insists on performing the surgery on Radar, and it goes perfectly. But its Hawkeye himself who is having problems--he and B.J. go to Rosie's Bar and get drunk, and all Hawkeye can talk about is how guilty he feels about getting Radar hurt.

The next day, wounded arrive again, early, and Hawkeye is hung over. He staggers his way into O.R., but in the middle of a patient he has to run outside and throw up. B.J. is apologetic, Col. Potter is furious, Winchester is amused and snide.

Potter and Hawkeye have a talk, and Hawkeye apologizes and explains what's going on. Potter tells Hawkeye to go visit Radar in Post Op, but Hawkeye feels like he can't quite find the courage to do it.

But later, he finds the nerve to do it, and visits. Radar calls him "sir", which puts Hawkeye off. Then their talk quickly devolves into an argument--Radar is harsh and judgmental, saying that Hawkeye let people down by walking out on a patient that morning.

This enrages Hawkeye, telling Radar off and finally standing over him, yelling "I'm not here you to admire, I'm here to pull bodies out of a sausage grinder, if possible without going crazy. Period." He then calls Radar "a ninny", and storms out.

Back in the Swamp, Hawkeye can't believe he blew up like that. Father Mulcahy stops by to chastise Hawkeye, followed by Col. Potter, then Margaret, who never gets her shot because Hawkeye storms out of the tent to correct his mistake.

He returns to Post Op to apologize, but Radar is having none of it--he dismisses Hawkeye, telling him to shove off. Hawkeye leaves, feeling ashamed.

Later, Col. Potter comes to visit Radar, and they talk, and Potter tries to get Radar to see that he and Hawkeye may get along even better now that they're a little more "eye to eye." Radar is non-committal.

A few days later, they both find themselves in Rosie's Bar, and its like two strangers talking. They talk about the weather, the bad breakfast, everything but what they need to discuss.

Finally, Hawkeye levels with Radar, and apologizes. Radar responds, trying to relieve Hawkeye of the guilt of getting him wounded. He also mentions that, from here on in, that he "just as soon not" worship Hawkeye like he did before.

Their friendship restored, they trade their drink orders. Radar takes Hawkeye's beer, and Hawkeye takes Radar's Grape Nehi.

Later, Hawkeye has something for Radar--a Purple Heart. He then does something he has rarely done--he gives Radar an official military salute.

Fun Facts: I've always had a couple of problems with this episode--first, it doesn't make a lot of sense that Hawkeye so casually insists Radar to go into town and lose his virginity, especially after their heartfelt conversation in Season 5's "Hepatitis", where Hawkeye comforts Radar about this very subject.

Also--after Hawkeye tells off Radar, everyone in the camp sides with Radar and rips into Hawkeye, but...I dunno, I sort of see Hawkeye's side in this. Hawkeye is doing an impossible, high-pressure job, and I think its sort of ridiculous that he also has to behave because other people are looking up to him. That's a little much to ask.

Favorite Line: During the parade of people coming into the Swamp and yelling at Hawkeye, Margaret storms in. B.J. says, to no one in particular, "This oughta be good."


What The Parrot Saw said...

This episode has always struck me wrong, on several counts...indeed, Hawkeye's counsel to Radar the previous season that he save his virginity seemed sage advice for the younger man, and deftly handled.

Nonetheless, we can imagine that Hawkeye--on a different day, in a different mood-- could now tell Radar to "get it over with." What strains credibility is the confrontation between Hawk and Radar after surgery. It reeks of stagy, faux pathos, something this series heretofore managed to avoid.Radar is unagreeably twerpy while Hawkeye is unagreeably sanctimonious, if not downright mean; "to hell with your Iowa naivete and your hero worship [...] and to hell with you!" It's been said that we sometimes say harsh things to people close to us that we wouldn't say to strangers (and which we don't really mean), but Hawkeye's rant remains uncomfortably on the other side of tasteless. Radar is on a hospital bed, for crying out loud!

This might have worked better as a two-parter, in which the nuances could have been explored more fully. An awful lot seems to happen in 25+ minutes here.

What is interesting here is the attention given to Hawkeye's hangover in the OR. "Bottle Fatigue" would expand on this; the drinking was toned down by the end, and there was even a fine episode ("Bottoms Up") on alcoholism in the army. At times, the actors played genuinely funny drunks (I mentioned Loretta earlier), but for a unit (theoretically) conditioned to expect wounded at any time, the heavy drinking (sometimes with all the medical staff in tow!) seems inexplicable.
(In "Alcoholics Unanimous," no wounded are expected for the foreseeable future, but even then...)

In the film and novel, it appears that the 4077th had plenty of staff who could cover for those indisposed- not so in the series!

This is that rare exception.

What The Parrot Saw said...

^^This is that rare exception."

That is, an episode in which the genuine after-effects of such drinking was truly explored. Not just sunglasses and an icepack in the OR, this.

Russell said...

I agree with Rob and the Parrot Witness. I always hated this episode, for all the points already made. By this time I think Alan Alda was being allowed to do whatever he wanted, and it wasn't always good.

I kind of understood Gary Burghoff's frustration with having to play Radar after this, though, because, really, do we notice any particular change in the relationship between him and Hawkeye after this episode? You would think we would, but I don't think we did...

Neal said...

Coming off the season premiere, this was yet another strong illustration of the new direction the series was taking, and I wasn't very happy about it. Hawkeye's rant is way over the top, and it was the first time where two of the main characters got into a serious fight. Even Frank didn't get this kind of tongue lashing. For the rest of the series, it seemed to lose its balance, swinging wildly from heavy drama to slapstick with no believable middle ground.

What The Parrot Saw said...

Indeed, Russell- we don't see any lasting change between Hawk and Radar after this (which would have least given the episode greater weight as a transformative one).

Weirder still is Burghoff's portrayal of Radar in and around his final episodes; Radar is suddenly a cranky middle-aged guy!

Alda did some excellent episodes, even later this season- this doesn't quite work.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

um ... I kinda liked it ...

Okay, I suppose the set-up does feel a bit contrived. But I thought it was refreshing to see Hawkeye, the jerk. Usually Pierce's wrath was reserved for those people and institutions that deserved it.

To see Pierce get so nasty with Radar made him all the more real to me. Hawkeye had a bad day and his righteous indignation wasn't so righteoes this time.

Robert Gross said...

Another vote for siding with Hawkeye on this one. He's exactly right. He's not there for Radar to admire. For that matter, he's not there to counsel Radar on his adolescence either. Radar could have just as easily listened to BJ; he made his own choice and it turned out badly.

Allison said...

The way I see it, Hawkeye easily could have been fed up about Radar always feeling down on himself because he's the only virgin in the 4077th and so unlike the other guys. Hawkeye could have been in a different mood and/or a bit soused when he told Radar to go to Seoul and "let nature take its course." Maybe he'd just come back from a particularly enjoyable trip to Tokyo. What I don't quite get is why Radar didn't seem to get a pass and just hopped on a jeep and left, but in the grand scheme of the episode, that's minor (although how hard could it have been to slip in a tiny scene where Radar gets a pass from Col Potter?).
Later, though, I don't think Radar had much of a right to be so upset about Hawkeye getting sick in the middle of operating. He's only human and he's allowed to have bad days. However, I see where he's coming from. Hawkeye is Radar's idol (as the title says). In his eyes, Hawkeye is almost God, and God doesn't have bad days.
However. Hawkeye had absolutely NO RIGHT to go off on Radar like that. Hawkeye was feeling incredibly guilty over Radar being wounded and for being sick in the middle of an operation. Maybe it would have been more in character for Hawkeye to get all serious and talk to Radar about how he's only human and all that. I don't know.
I agree with whoever said that this should have been an hour-long episode. Everything moved much to fast and I though the editing was kind of weird. First you have Radar delivering mail and being told to go to Seoul, then it cuts and suddenly he's on his way to Seoul, then it cuts again and the 4077th is full of wounded, one of whom is Radar. Later on in the episode the cuts aren't has disorienting, but this would have done much better as an hour-long episode. I wonder if the decision not to show Radar getting hurt was made for effect or because of time restraints...?

Anonymous said...

I personally agree with the writer of this blog (I apologize, I am new). I do not see why everyone had to chew out on Hawkeye for what he said to Radar. He was incredibly right when he said that he was not there to be admired, but rather to patch guys up and hopefully come out of it alive. So what if Hawkeye slips? He's a human being, and don't all human beings make mistakes? And I agree with some of you on how this was Radar's own decision. This could easily have been B.J. or Winchester that he listened to.

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