Thursday, July 2, 2009

Episode 99 - Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Season 5, Episode 99: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Original Air Date: 10/5/76
Written by: Ken Levine & Davis Isaacs

Directed by: Gene Reynolds

In the middle of night, some of the nurses come to ask Hawkeye for help re-lighting their gas stove: its gone out, leaving the nurses tent without any heat.

Hawkeye lights a match, causing a small explosion, blinding him immediately. He staggers out onto the compound just as Col. Potter, B.J., and come to see what's happened. Potter recognizes what's happened, and orders Radar to get a nearby Opthamologist to the 4077th immediately.

The doctor examines Hawkeye, and bandages him up. Hawkeye only has one question: is the blindness permanent? The doctor can't give him an answer, and says he'll be back in a week.

In the meantime, Hawkeye tries to adjust to his new condition. He bonds with a wounded solider who has been blinded in battle, gets Radar to read him his mail, short-sheets Frank's bed, has Klinger walk him to the Latrine, Hot Lips walk him to the Mess Tent, all the while singing "I'll Hear You In My Dreams."

He notices that Frank is scamming some of the enlisted men, including Radar, betting on the outcome of a baseball game (Frank already knows the results of the game, having caught an early broadcast) and then cleaning up when they lose.

Later, he visits the blinded soldier before he ships out, offering moral support. He and B.J. have a conversation about what Hawkeye is going through, and Hawkeye reveals that he's "going through something" he didn't expect. Not being able to rely on his eyes, he feels like his other senses are heightened, and admits he's "Never spent a more conscious day in my life."

He visits the Nurses tent, and even though he can't see anything, Lt. Gage refuses to do what she'd normally do--get undressed--mostly because Hawkeye keeps goofing around, humming a slutty stripper-type tune.

The fun is interrupted when wounded arrive, and even though he can't operate, Hawkeye tries to help out. He helps B.J. when he smells something distinctive emanating from B.J.'s patient, leading to the discovery of a small wound.

Later, Hawkeye offers to help Radar get his money back. In the middle of the night he, B.J., Radar, and Klinger fake another game, and have it broadcast in the middle of the night so Frank, picking it up on his short-wave radio, thinks its the real game.

The opthamologist returns, and takes off Hawkeye's bandages. The verdict? Hawkeye's sight has returned!

He's relieved, of course, but also grateful for the chance to experience what life was like without having to rely on them.

Fun Facts: During most of the episode, Alan Alda has a giant bandage over his eyes--an interesting visual "disruption" of what M*A*S*H viewers were used to. Its a constant, unspoken reminder that, for this episode at least, we're in very unfamiliar territory.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye is telling B.J. about some of the new realizations he's had without being able to rely on his eyes. He then adds: "And you have no idea how funny it is to hear someone slip and fall in the hadda be Burns."

A very funny line, delivered with perfect timing and pitch by Alda.


What the Parrot Saw said...

This is one of the episodes cited by some over at the original JTS site as an early example of Alda's megalomania; 'Alda goes blind and then proceeds to bore the audience with every little thing that's crossed his mind that day.'

(Then, inevitably, 'The Henry episodes were better, etc...')

Well, the idea is rather melodramatic, but the episode doesn't quite play out that way. Hawkeye's recollection of the sound of rain remains memorable (he compares it to the sizzle of a cooking pan- rather poetic!) and his exchanges with the blind patient could have been mawkish, but are quietly poignant, particularly when the patient asks Hawkeye, Do you feel lucky? after Hawk attempts to comfort him with the doctor's traditional bedside manner...

Plus, the faux-baseball game is genuinely funny- you get the sense that these are true children of 30s and 40s radio (an over-looked influence on the series).

Russell said...

I like this episode for the baseball scam (Frank as a cheat would have been a great characterization to play up, IMHO) as well as some of the comments. Somebody (BJ or Hawkeye, had to have been) makes a comment that even blindfolded, Hawkeye is a better surgeon than Frank is. Funny stuff. :-)

Eric said...

Parrot: The next time somebody lays that "meglomania" line on you about this story, make them sit through the Happy Days episode where the Fonz goes temporarily blind and then ask them which one they prefer. :)

Dr. Eric said...

Mentioning that the characters are children of '30s and '40s radio also reminds me of just how much a movie fan Hawkeye seemed to be (he'd even seen movies that hadn't been made yet :-)).

Anonymous said...

I just caught this in syndication last night - Frank is cheerfully whistling "Three Blind Mice" as he strolls through the camp! Whattajoik!


Robert Gross said...

My favorite line:

Hawkeye: I wonder what the patient would think if he woke up and saw me standing over him?

BJ: He'd know he was in the army.

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