Saturday, October 17, 2009

Episode 188 - Morale Victory

Season 8, Episode 188: Morale Victory
Original Air Date: 1/28/80
Written by: John Rappaport

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Tensions are running high at the 4077th, with most of the camp being bored to tears by the movie, which is the same movie that's been shown every night for weeks.

When Hawkeye and B.J. get up during the movie and flawlessly mimic the dialogue as it goes by, it enrages Potter, who bellows, "This the war, you know--be grateful we got a talkie!"

But this only seems to spark further unrest, and when Rizzo complains about the lousy food, everyone agrees--loudly. The mood gets so ugly everyone cheers when the P.A. announces wounded have arrived.

In OR, one of Winchester's patients has several wounds, including ones on his hand and leg. He spends all his time dealing with the leg, making sure the young man isn't paralyzed, with the work on the hand being a bit of an afterthought.

After surgery, Potter puts Hawkeye and B.J. in charge morale, and they draft Klinger to help out.

Meanwhile, Winchester is there when his young patient, a Private named David Sheridan (James Stephens) wakes up in Post Op. Winchester is chipper and friendly (even making Hawkeye and B.J.-esque jokes), and assures Stephens that, despite his serious wounds, he will walk again.

But Stephens doesn't seem to care about his leg wound, only asking about his hand. When Winchester informs him that he has suffered some "Nerve and tendon damage", Stephens asks for how long. When Winchester informs him it will be permanent, Stephens starts to break down in tears.

Winchester is confused, and Stephens tells him that his hands are his life--he's a concert pianist. As the young man cries, Winchester is stunned into silence.

While Hawkeye and B.J. try and assure everyone in camp that they have some amazing plans to boost morale (which is a complete lie), Winchester tries to get through to Stephens. Stephens is demoralized, and is convinced he has no future, which Winchester says "gnaws" at him. Stephens says he doesn't blame Winchester, but "It doesn't bring my hand back."

Winchester turns to Father Mulcahy for advice. Winchester admits that he's worried that, while he can perform miracles in the OR, he's somewhat lacking in his ability to "provide comfort" like some of the other doctors. Mulcahy reassures him that there's no one in camp who has a greater love and appreciation of music, and its through their common love that he can get through to Stephens.

Hawkeye and B.J., having gotten an idea to throw a beach party on the compound, are thrilled when Klinger comes back from a trip to Inchon with a tub of live crab and a footlocker full of beach sand.

While the party goes on, Winchester wheels Stephens into the O Club, where he introduces him to piano pieces written for one hand. At first, Stephens resists, saying he can't make a career "Playing a few freak pieces."

Winchester doesn't give up, admitting to Stephens that, more than anything else, he has always wanted to play classical music, but lacks the true gift. He can "Play the notes, but I cannot make the music", and that Stephens true gift is in his head and his heart, not his hand, and there are other ways he can share that gift with the world.

Stephens relents and tentatively begins playing the piano. He quickly gets into it, however, playing the piece with vigor, and Winchester follows along, enthralled. The camera pans out over the compound, as everyone is partying, to the sound of the piano.

Fun Facts: This episode features one of the best Winchester stories ever, and I love his admission that, in some ways, music is even more important to him than medicine.

Favorite Line: One of B.J.'s suggestions to improve morale is better movies. Hawkeye offers, "That should be easy considering the fact that the best one we've seen in months is 'The Field Pack: Your Canvas Buddy'!"


Russell said...

This is one of my favorites. David Ogden Stiers and James Stephens (late of The Paper Chase) do a great job. You really get the feeling that Charles cares, in his own non-Hawkeye "bleeding heart" way. His scene with Father Mulcahy is also well played.

What the Parrot Saw said...

Meh. The beach party plot is silly, although well built up in the plot. It must have been increasingly hard for the creative team to come up with novel, but light diversions. Rotation of heretofore unmentioned officer duty (beyond OD and strictly medical functions) start to make their way into plotlines with greater frequency here on, and some of the ideas just seem silly or already done (That Darn Kid)

David Ogden Stiers is usually solid when given some pathos to chew on (this seasons finale is terrific), but the idea here just seems hackneyed- Charles saves the arm... but the man was a concert pianist! James Stephens is good but he is constrained by a rather laborious subplot.

RobAsWell said...

Being a musician myself, I always wished Charles would've mentioned the likes of Django Reinhardt, an amazing jazz guitarist with a severely deformed left hand. He was able to overcome it, and the touch required of the fret hand when playing guitar is arguably more delicate than that of a pianist.

Also, I always think of Gary Burghoff and his excellent jazz drumming skills. Imagine a scene with Radar playing drums for the patient and talking about how he overcame his challenge? Of course that wouldn't happen because his hand issue would've kept him out of the service to begin with and they never mentioned it in any episodes. Not to mention Burghoff had left the series at this point.

A fella can still dream though!

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