Thursday, October 1, 2009

Episode 172 - Guerilla My Dreams

Season 8, Episode 172: Guerilla My Dreams
Original Air Date: 10/1/79
Written by: Bob Colleary

Directed by: Alan Alda

Wounded arrive, and one of them is a young North Korean woman (Haunani Minn), who is the prisoner of a South Korean official, Lt. Hung Lee Park (Mako). Hawkeye insists on treating her, despite Lt. Park wanting to take her away with him and his warning that she is an enemy guerilla.

One of the other wounded is Margaret's old flame Scully, and while Hawkeye, B.J., and Margaret tend to him, they catch Lt. Park trying to cart the young woman off! Hawkeye and B.J. stop him, demanding she is their patient now. Park agrees, but he doesn't give the doctors much space--he parks himself right outside the O.R., looking in on the surgery.

In Post Op, Hawkeye watches over the young woman, and tries to give her some space as Park demands to be able to ask her some questions. Park's mere presence causes the young woman to thrash angrily, cursing at him in Korean.

Scully tells Hawkeye and B.J. that he's heard of Park, and that he has a reputation for getting information from his prisoners, any way he can. That means torture, and, Scully adds, "To take your mind off the pain, he kills you."

Lt. Park tries to go through Col. Potter, who tries to buy them all some time by going through official channels and seeing if they can find a reason not to turn the prisoner over to Park.

Later that night, in Post Op, Scully distracts Margaret for a few moments. The young woman sees this, and sneaks out of bed. She yanks an IV Tube out of the arm of a nearby patient, but collapses onto the floor, shattering the glass IV bottle.

They discuss it in Potter's office, and Hawkeye and B.J. think she was out of bed trying to escape from Lt. Park. Potter informs them that the word from G2 is bad--she must be turned over to Lt. Park, no questions asked.

In the Officers Club, Winchester and Lt. Park play chess. While the game is taking place, Klinger distracts Lt. Park's sentries by giving them some booze (Winchester's high-priced cognac, of course), giving Hawkeye the chance to sneak the young woman into a nearby ambulance.

The guards notice as the ambulance drives off, and their yelling gets the attention of Lt. Park. Park storms out of the O Club (with B.J. "accidentally" getting in the way), stops the ambulance, and officially takes the young woman prisoner.

As Park grabs the young woman and drags her toward his jeep, Hawkeye tries to stop him, grabbing her by the arm. She angrily pulls away, and starts yelling at the doctors in Korean. With Park translating, she says that she would "gladly kill any of you" just like she tried to kill the young solider in Post Op.

Despite this, Hawkeye and B.J. still try and step in. This gets Park's armed guards to draw their weapons, and point them at the doctors. There's a few moments of silence, and then Park gets in the jeep, rifle in hand, and drives off.

Hawkeye, B.J., Potter, and Klinger are left standing there. In total silence, they all walk off.

Fun Facts: As a kid, watching this episode when it first aired, I remember thinking it was a huge deal hearing Hawkeye say "Son of a bitch" on TV!

This episode features another appearance by actor Mako, by far the nastiest part he ever played on the series.

For such a serious episode, it has a remarkably silly title.

This episode features another one of those awkward scenes where Klinger calls Radar, the only time we see him in the show.

For people so inclined, M*A*S*H frequently gets criticized for its liberal and/or pacifist point of view. And of course, while the series definitely had that perspective and wasn't afraid to express it, this episode features a subtle rebuke of that ideology, if only for a moment: Hawkeye and B.J. treat the young Korean woman like she's a child, refusing to believe she's dangerous.

But check out the look of surprise on their faces when Gen. tells them that, in fact, the woman they've been treating so gently did try to kill one of the other patients in Post Op. In that moment at least, Hawkeye and B.J.'s generally optimistic view of humanity is thrown back in their faces: they were, quite simply, wrong about this woman.

Favorite Line: B.J. is watching Winchester and Park play chess. When Park asks about the prisoner, B.J. tries to dismiss him. But then he can't help adding, "Besides, what's your hurry? You haven't finished torturing Winchester yet."

I love how the awkwardness of the comment just hangs in the air, with no one laughing.


What the Parrot Saw said...

First off- as usual, Mako is simply excellent here. He plays the stage heavy perfectly, although of course he ends up being correct in his assessment.

This is an important episode, in my opinion, in that it really serves as a counterweight to the generally apolitical (but staunchly Humanist) tone of the series. This was one of the series' most abiding principles and certainly one of its greatest strengths. As Hawkeye memorably puts it in another show, "When they come in here [the OR], the uniforms come off" (a paraphrase).

My own politics are very sympathetic to that of the series, so the claims of some that the show was "too liberal" don't carry much weight with me- it seems a flawed, reductive reading. I remember reading in one forum years ago the opinions of one Korean vet (or so claimed) that Hawkeye should have been court-martialed more than once for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Seriously? A draftee doctor?

This isn't Patton.

HOWEVER, this episode was perhaps overdue in illustrating that this was indeed a civil war between two competing ideologies. There were North Koreans perfectly willing act as the guerrilla fighter does here. Park is doubtless an unsavory character- does it excuse what will likely occur between him and the N. Korean after they leave the camp? Hard to say. But that's war- often ugly, and sometimes murky.

This remains one of the very best serious episodes in the entire canon.

What the Parrot Saw said...

I'll add the following:

This remains one of the very best serious episodes in the entire canon in that reminds the viewer that the scourge of war paradoxically brings out the best and worst out of those directly involved. This episode brings uncomfortable questions to the fore- and leaves those questions hanging as it ends.

Russell said...

I agree with What The Parrot Saw says...and with what Rob says about hearing "Son of a bitch" on TV....This is a great serious episode, definitely my favorite of this season, which in general I found old and lifeless.

I'd like to point out as an interpreter that we never really do know what the woman says! Everything is told (literally) through Park's pov, so for all we know she could very well be saying, "I hate all of you for allowing this son of a bitch to take me away!" We only have his word that she is what he says she is.

It's nice that they actually are speaking Korean, by the way.

What the Parrot Saw said...

That's a great point about Park's translating, Russell!

Robert Gross said...

I think the best aspect of the show is just showing that Hawkeye, like the Fantastic Four, doesn't always win.

mark said...

@Russell: I wonder why Margaret didn't try translating from Korean, as she knows the language. Scully tried to make Park sound like the North Korean answer to Col. Flagg.

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