Friday, October 16, 2009

Episode 187 - Old Soldiers

Season 8, Episode 187: Old Soldiers
Original Air Date: 1/21/80
Written by: Dennis Koenig

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

In the middle of a night, a call comes in for Col. Potter. He's furious about being woken up at 330am, but after he takes the call he calms down and accepts the news, mentioning something about "Test results don't lie."

While Potter is gone, a Red Cross worker named Betty Halpern (Jane Connell) arrives with a gang of Korean kids who need some basic medical care and some tetanus shots after being stuck in some thorny bushes.

Potter checks in at the 4077th, refusing to say why he's gone. All he seems concerned about is a package due to arrive for him. He tells Klinger to guard it with his life.

Without wounded to take care of, the Korean kids take over the 4077th, running around and causing general chaos. Their stay is extended when the doctors discover the kids have a mysterious rash that they can't quite figure out how to treat.

The next morning, Potter returns, but is still mum about who he calls his "sick friend." After telling him about the kids' rash, Potter figures out that its because of their diet--they eat horse meat, which is causing a reaction to the tetanus serum.

After a tossed off joke by Hawkeye, Potter goes on a rant about the atrocity of people eating horses, reminiscing about, back in WWI, "A man's horse was his best friend--where do people get off turning them into porkchops?" It leaves everyone stunned into silence, and Potter mumbles an apology and leaves.

Later, Potter asks Klinger to deliver a series of sealed envelopes, addressed to the others. They all open them, and inside is an invitation to Potter's tent the next night. Everyone wants to find out what's going on, but Potter insists he wants to be left alone until then.

We see that Potter is spending his time in his office, listening to old French records. When a little boy wanders in, Potter is sweet and gentle to him, putting him on his lap and showing him old photographs of himself in WWI.

The next night comes around, and everyone arrives at Potter's tent at the prescribed time. Everyone is assuming the worst, that Potter is facing a divorce, or, even worse, a bad report from his doctor.

But Potter explains that its not anything like that--the news is that the last of his friends from a WWI unit he was part of in France has died. They created a tontine--a pledge--involving a bottle of French wine, to be drunk by the last surviving member.

Everyone is relieved, and they all share the bottle with Potter, who makes the first toast to his dear departed friends.

Fun Facts: I wonder why the Betty Halpern character wasn't written as Meg Craddy, who performed a similar role in Season Two's "The Trial of Henry Blake" and Season Four's "The Kids."

Potter puts Hawkeye in charge again, but thankfully it goes more smoothly than it did in Season Seven's "Commander Pierce."

Potter's WWI friends are named Ryan, Gianelli, Stein, and Grusky, continuing the classic tradition of, when you have a bunch of soldiers in your movie or TV show, they all have to have ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Favorite Line: When Potter comes back, he finds a young Korean girl sitting at Klinger's typewriter, wearing his Toledo Mudhens hat.

After Klinger explains to Potter what's going on, the young girl stops typing and exclaims something like, "A-ha!"

Klinger pulls the paper out of the typewriter, and with delight, exclaims, "Sir--this girl is a prodigy! She just typed 'Gribnif'--and correctly, I might add."


What the Parrot Saw said...

The scene in which Sherm reveals his tontine hits a fine, measured note. Morgan plays an older man grappling with the passing years with real dignity- as well as kindness, in the scene in which he shares some chocolate with the Korean orphan. This scene is my favorite in this episode and one of the more memorable in the overall series.

Blake2903 said...

Couldn't agree more.
Truly one of Harry Morgan's best!

Dominic said...

Rob, you spelled one of the friends' names wrong. It's spelled Gresky.

Anonymous said...

The "wine" that Col. Potter asks Klinger to guard with his life, is not wine at all, but fine brandy, aged to perfection.

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