Thursday, August 13, 2009

Episode 135 - The Smell of Music

Season 6, Episode 135: The Smell of Music
Original Air Date: 1/3/78
Written by: Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum

Directed by: Stuart Millar

After a long, grueling session in O.R., tension is running high.

Back at the Swamp, Hawkeye and B.J. are driven nuts by Winchester's insistence on practicing on his French Horn, loudly. They ask him to stop, but he refuses. As revenge, they decide not to shower, hoping their stink will drive Winchester to capitulate.

But he refuses, and the whole thing escalates. Hakweye and B.J. start to offend everyone in camp (ruining what was a rare, tasty breakfast in the Mess Tent), and Margaret, Col. Potter, et al, begin to try and talk reason into the three of them.

But Col. Potter has other things to worry about--one of his patients, a young man named Saunders (Jordan Clarke), caught the blast of a defective rifle in the face, causing horrible scarring. Potter tries to comfort the young man in Post Op, but Saunders is convinced his life is worthless, now that he looks like a "freak." He's also sure his beautiful girlfriend back home will dump him once she gets a look at him.

Later, Saunder attempts suicide by taking a huge dose of sleeping pills, but they get to him in time. He wakes up unapologetic, promising he's going to kill himself, no matter what.

The battle between the three doctors goes overboard, leading to Hawkeye and B.J. playing a bunch of hand-crafted instruments in an attempt to drown out Winchester's horn-playing.

While the Post-Op staff is distracted by the commotion outside, Saunders takes that moment to sneak off. Potter finds him trying to overdose on ether. Potter has had enough, and tries a bit of reverse psychology. Instead of stopping him, he grabs the mask, turns the tank up to full blast, and shoves it onto Saunder's face.

After Saunders gets the sense Potter is serious, he pushes it off, stand up, and threatens to belt Potter if he continues. Potter observes that Saunders is now "fighting to live instead of fighting to die", which finally calms the young man down. Sobbing on Potter's shoulder, he carries him back into Post Op, saying "I'm too old for this kinda crap."

Margaret and the rest of the camp, having had enough of the loud and smelly war, take it upon themselves to end it--they drown Hawkeye and B.J. in soap and water, and then grab Winchester's horn and flatten it under a jeep.

Potter comes out, observes what has happened, and tells everyone they are "Confined to the Officer's Club, for the duration of the whiskey." Everyone cheers, and he then sweetens it, adding, "Pierce, Hunnicutt, and Winchester are buying."

A few days later, Winchester thinks he's getting his revenge--he's had a local Koren craftsman fix his horn! But the craftsman had to hobble together the new horn from different parts, creating a huge, awkward, Frankenstein-esque instrument...without a mouthpiece.

Fun Facts: This episode was one of the first examples of a formula M*A*S*H would employ heavily in later seasons--the "A" and "B" plotlines, one of them being very serious, the other being silly or light.

The scene where
Col. Potter confronts Saunders, shoving the ether mask on Saunder's face, barking "You want Death? We got plenty of it around here! Suck it up, punk, come on!"--is a genuinely dark, tough-as-nails moment, showing off how steely Col. Potter was beneath that avuncular exterior. One of Harry Morgan's best moments on the show.

Hawkeye actually propositions a nurse, long after he's stopped showering, and people have told him repeatedly how stinky he is. As a kid (heck, as an adult, too) this astounded me--I mean, how cocky can Hawkeye be? He thinks he's so irresistible that a nurse will hit the sack with him even though he's rancid? Back when I was still in the dating pool, I wish I had 1% of Hawkeye's self-confidence!

Favorite Line: Col. Potter, when told that Hawkeye and B.J. purposely haven't showered, tries to guess a reason: "Why, like its National Pig Week?"


Russell said...

Another great episode...and I, like you, Rob, think Harry Morgan nailed his portrayal of Col Potter with his scenes. His anger at the nurses, too, seems right on; definitely a great Col Potter episode. The parallel episode is good, clean (?) fun, and balances out Potter's dilemna nicely.

What the Parrot Saw said...

Potter's scene with the suicidal patient is indeed "dark," yet Morgan pulls it off with aplomb- it reminds the viewer that Potter is a seasoned veteran of combat and can draw upon his own version of "meatball psychiatry" (to borrow a phrase).

Still, within the specific context of this episode his "assisting" a suicide is a genuinely nervy and gutsy action. It is not the sort of action which those trained in working with suicidal people might recommend (years ago, I watched this episode with a psych grad student who volunteered at a suicide hotline- she was utterly aghast). The plotline succeeds here because we know (as Potter does) that the soldier is confused and disoriented...

RC said...

One thing always drove me nuts about this episode......Hawkeye & BJ are filthy, they stink big time and yet they are allowed in O.R. without being forced to shower first! The idea that they would go into O.R like that since they would know they were putting their patients at risk for infection, and on top of that, that Potter would allow them in just so WRONG.

Robert Gross said...

Best episode title ever.

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