Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Episode 141 - Temporary Duty

Season 6, Episode 141: Temporary Duty
Original Air Date: 2/13/78
Written by: Larry Balmagia

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

Hawkeye and Nurse Bigelow are assigned to spend a week at the 8063rd, trading places with a surgeon and a nurse who will come to the 4077th.

Arriving in camp are Captain Roy Dupree (George Lindsey), and Nurse Lorraine Anderson (Marcia Rodd), who Winchester takes an immediate shine to. And although she seems flattered by the attention, she's more interested in seeing her old friend, Margaret.

While Lorraine and Margaret catch up, Dupree bunks down in the Swamp upon B.J.'s invitation. He's friendly and jovial, but his southern charm doesn't do much for Winchester. B.J. is less put-off, until Dupree breaks the still in attempt to "improve" its output.

But even though he's difficult to get along with personally, he shows he's a whiz in the operating room, which impresses Col. Potter.

During O.R., Winchester flirts with Lorraine, who flirts right back. Margaret is offended, and loudly scolds her friend for behaving unprofessionally. Afterwards, the two friends have words over what just happened, and even though Margaret holds her ground, Lorraine refuses to apologize.

Later, in the Mess Tent, Lorraine entertains everyone with stories from her and Margaret wild younger days. B.J., Winchester, and Father Mulcahy want to hear more, but Margaret is so humorless she walks out.

Meanwhile, Dupree is having a great time at the 4077th--he even enjoys the food! He tells B.J. some of his ideas for decorating the Swamp (shrunken heads!), and how he's angling--via Col. Potter--to be transferred to the 4077th permanently. Potter, who likes Dupree's down-home charm, promises to see what he can do.

This terrifies B.J. and Winchester, so when Dupree comes back to the Swamp late at night totally drunk, they tell him about Sophie--"the camp mascot"--knowing an old cowboy like him wouldn't be able to resist taking a ride on a horse.

Meanwhile, Margaret and Lorraine have a heart-to-heart talk, where Margaret admits she's been so jealous of her friend for so long she's almost come to hate her. Because while Lorraine is a top-flight nurse, she's still the same fun, carefree person she was when she was younger. Margaret feels trapped by her identity as "Major Houlihan" and admits she has no friends at the 4077th. Lorraine urges her to let her guard down a little, and to try and let people in--she is sure they'd get to like Margaret if she would let people meet the real person inside.

In the middle of the night, Col. Potter is furious to find the drunken Dupree riding Sophie. He orders him off, which Dupree listens to by falling off Sophie. Potter says he never wants to see Dupree again, ending his chance at a transfer.

The next morning, Dupree--hung over--and Lorraine head out, and Margaret asks B.J. and Winchester to join her in a cup of coffee in the Mess Tent. At first surprised, they agree, looking at each other in slight amazement as to the change.

Later that day, Hawkeye returns, saying he wasn't a hit at the 8063rd, the people there complaining he was dull. At first, B.J. and Winchester pull his leg suggesting they're sorry Dupree is gone and he's back, but then the facade ends when Winchester, in a rare moment, gives Hawkeye a joyful hug, happy he's back.

Fun Facts: Winchester posts a sign pointing to Boston on the camp signpost, an indication he's beginning to accept being stuck at the 4077th.

There's a line of Margaret's where we get a glimpse of how she ended up at the 4077th: "One night I was at party drinking and dancing, the next morning I a war, in charge of ten nurses and the party was over." That may not be completely literal, but since we never saw the first days of the 4077th its an interesting window into how these people we've been following for so long ended up where they did.

Col. Potter mentions the C.O. of the 8063rd--a guy named Wheatley. To my knowledge, I think every time some staff member of the 8063rd is mentioned or showed, its never the same actor or even character. There must be a lot of turnover at the 8063rd!

This episode counts as a mild experiment, since Hawkeye is only in it for the first and last minute or so of the show. And, as much as Alan Alda's Hawkeye was the heart of the show, this episode proves the series could still be just as funny and involving without him, at least for an episode.

Favorite Line: Dupree, upon meeting Winchester, guesses he went to Yale.

Winchester, enraged, yells, "Harvard!" Then, catching himself, quietly reiterates, "...Harvard."


What the Parrot Saw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
What the Parrot Saw said...

^^Just edited, somewhat. ;-)

Great synopsis/commentary, Rob (as usual)

What strikes me funny here is Hawk's somewhat dejected admission upon his return that no one at the 8063rd found him amusing. For one, it illustrates that he is well aware of his 'persona' at the 4077th (duh, but the admission here is an interesting moment of self-consciousness). Secondly, I've wondered what a contemporaneous spin-off series based in the 8063rd might have been like... could have been good!

This episode hits all the right notes, while also suggesting some backstory (and side story?) to the general MASH milieu.

Russell said...

This is definitely in my Top Five Episodes, if not my all-time favorite. Everyone around the camp gets to shine while Hawkeye is away...and the BJ/Winchester relationship really jells here. The end, when Charles reluctantly admits that Hawkeye is NOT the worst person he could be stuck with, is charming.

Margaret becomes more and more "Margaret" and less and less "Hot Lips" here. I think this is one of Loretta Swit's best episodes.

One of the best parts of the episode: Dupree calling BJ everything EXCEPT BJ. JB, JJ, BB, JG even (I think) so eventually BJ has enough and mutters to himself, "BJ. B. J. Bee Jay." It makes me smile every time.

AND...Radar is at the very beginning, Rob, when Charles is posting the BOSTON sign. He greets the newcomers, and is then never seen again.

Speaking of the Boston sign, I could have sworn it was there (lower down) before this episode. Wasn't Trapper from Boston???

rob! said...

Oops, right you are about Radar, RB--duly corrected!

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