Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Episode 127 - In Love And War

Season 6, Episode 127: In Love And War
Original Air Date: 11/1/77
Written by: Alan Alda

Directed by: Alan Alda

During triage, Hawkeye sees an unusual sight--an actual car--not a jeep, a car--drive onto the compound.

Inside it is a woman named Kyung Soon (Kieu Chinh), who talks with Col. Potter. Potter then asks Hawkeye to take care of the woman's passenger, a young child with a broken clavicle.

At first, Hawkeye is angry about being told who to treat, and in what order. He assumes this woman is a local countess and is using her influence to but ahead in line of wounded soldiers, which angers him.

Potter, irritated at Hawkeye's insolence, tells him basically to clam up. After consulting with her again, he says that since the load is light, Hawkeye should go with Kyung Soon to look after her mother, who is sick.

Hawkeye climbs in the car with her, and is nasty and rude. But his attitude changes when he gets to the "estate", and sees its nothing more than a bombed, burnt-out husk of a building, where Kyung Soon is taking care of several people, older people and young children, all of whom are displaced because of the war.

Hawkeye, impressed at Kyung's grit and dignity, quickly goes from skepticism to admiration, and then quickly develops a bit of a crush on her.

Despite a warning by Col. Potter that "war and romance don't mix", Hawkeye asks Kyung out on a date, which he manages to patch together.

Hawkeye falls hard for Kyung, and he spends every waking moment not on duty with her. While in O.R., he gets word Kyung's elderly mother has taken a turn for the worse, and he rushes to her side.

But its too late--Kyung's mother has died, leaving Hawkeye only able to comfort her in her grief.

During the funeral ceremony, Kyung reveals to Hawkeye that she plans to leave, and head further south. Without her elderly mother, they can travel, and try and get away from the brutality of war. With a number of young girls to look after, Kyung has to be coldly practical--she has sold her car, her phonograph, almost everything she has of value so they can travel as far away as possible. Hawkeye is hurt and angry, but Kyung says she has no choice.

Later, as she prepares to leave in an ox-cart, they say goodbye. They promise to write letter after letter, staying touch, but deep down they know they'll never see each other again. They embrace one last time, and with tears in his eyes, Hawkeye watches Kyung leave.

Hawkeye and Margaret (who has been dealing the news that a newly-transferred nurse had a fling with Donald Penobscott while she was stationed in Tokyo) drown their sorrows with booze in the Swamp, commiserating with each other over "how much this place stinks."

Fun Facts: An interesting episode that (to me) doesn't quite work, simply because its too short--I have a hard time believing Hawkeye would fall so hard so fast. Maybe they figured there wasn't enough story for a two-parter, but I think Hawkeye and Kyung's romance would have had more impact if it had had more time to breathe.

There's a B story about Margaret who thinks her husband has been fooling around back in Tokyo, maybe if they ditched that and gave the main story the whole episode?

(Although I admit, the syndicated version--which was the only version I saw until I bought the DVDs--makes the situation even worse, since all the scenes that were cut were the ones between Hawkeye and Kyung, making their courtship even briefer!)

Favorite Line: When Hawkeye realizes who this woman is, and why Potter insisted on Hawkeye go with her, he asks Potter, "Why didn't you tell me?"

Potter: "Because when you become a Colonel they remove the bone in your head that makes you explain orders."


What the Parrot Saw said...

This has all the hallmarks of an “Alda episode,” for better and worse. Alda was clearly trying to move Hawkeye past the “love em and leave em” lothario (although his reuniting with Carlye in Season Four remains the best take on this theme), culminating in S7’s “Inga” which seems--by comparison--rather over-worked.

Kieu Chinh’s Soon is wonderfully played; Chinh gives her character such dignity that it is easy to see what Hawk would be so smitten. Yet, Alda plays Hawkeye a little too much for the fool- not so much in falling in love with a Korean national, as in his intentionally playing up Hawkeye’s more shallow tendency towards a glib, cute charm with the ladies when initially courting Soon.

When Soon leaves, he becomes mawkish. All of this is in keeping with the situation, but it recalls Futurama’s parodic depiction of Hawk as a robot with one switch: serious/maudlin.

Potter’s counsel to Hawkeye is, as usual, wise (“Don’t fall in love in a war […] for every hello, there are two goodbyes”) advice which ironically Margaret may be finally realizing. Potter comes close to stealing the show here (“I should have shot the horse”).
The episode is well-written and directed; indeed, it is hard not to feel for both Margaret and Hawk in the episode’s final scene as they come to terms with their respective disappointments.

Neal said...

This is another example of how different sitcoms are now from back then. If the show were made today, the romance would develop over a period of five or six episodes, functioning as a back-up storyline until the final episode when the romance finally ends. That's a much more realistic time frame. Back then, every story had to be tied up in 24 minutes, unless it was the rare two-parter.

Russell said...

I absolutely loathe this episode. To me, neither story line works: Margaret's for lack of time and/or scenes to develop properly (ie, does she ever talk to Donald? It appears she does, but it's never shown) and for lack of interest re: Hawkeye. With Hawkeye we've seen this all before and better. It should have been Charles, IMHO.

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