Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Episode 228 - The Tooth Shall Set You Free

Season 10, Episode 228: The Tooth Shall Set You Free
Original Air Date: 2/8/82
Written by: David Pollock & Elias Davis

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Wounded arrive, late into the night, mostly made up from a unit of combat engineers. Winchester is surlier than usual, due to a toothache he's trying desperately to cover up.

After the session in OR, the doctors are met by Major Weems (Tom Atkins), who is here to see his men. Everyone is impressed that Weems made a trip this late at night, but he says its the least he could do.

Hawkeye and B.J. offer to let Weems sleep in the Swamp, and he mentions how guilty he feels sleeping in a bed when it takes getting shot for his men to get the same opportunity. Hawkeye and B.J. are further impressed at Weems' care for his men.

In Post Op, Weems suggests one of his men--Cpl. Dorsey--should go home, but Hawkeye tells him the young man's wounds aren't that serious. Weems is insistent, telling Hawkeye in private that Dorsey comes from a poor farm family, and they really need him back home. Hawkeye promises to see what he can do.

Later, Father Mulcahy happens to mention that Dorsey is from Brooklyn, which doesn't jibe with what Weems told Hawkeye. Hawkeye then asks Dorsey (Lawrence Fishburne) about living in Brooklyn, and his story checks out. He asks Dorsey about about Weems, which elicits a surly, tight-lipped response.

Hawkeye talks it over with B.J., and they notice that Weems is desperate to send Dorsey--a black man--home, but wants to keep the more seriously wounded Sturdevant, who is white. That doesn't seem to make sense to either of them.

More wounded combat engineers arrive, and the ambulance is filled with young men--all of them black. This leads Hawkeye and B.J. to do some research, and they learn that even though black soldiers only make up a small part of Weems' unit, they suffer an overwhelming proportion of the casualties. They then turn to Col. Potter to tell them they're findings.

That night, Hawkeye and B.J. are having drinks outside the Swamp when they are joined by Col. Potter and Major Weems. Weems starts suggesting again some of his men should be sent home, and Col. Potter starts playacting--pretending that he's angry at Weems for sending so many of "them" home.

Hawkeye and B.J. play along, and Weems feels comfortable enough to say how he really feels--he admits he simply doesn't want to associate with black soldiers, so he assigns them risky duty so they earn more rotation points and get sent home faster. Or they get wounded--its all the same to Weems.

They go inside for more drinks, where they are met by Major Rockingham (Jason Bernard), Deputy Chief of Staff of Personnel at I-Corps, waiting inside. Weems tries to cover, but Rockingham says he plans to bring Weems up for a court martial.

Weems argues, but when Hawkeye, B.J., Potter, and Winchester say they plan to testify against him, he tries to bargain his way out of it. Rockingham offers him a an alternate deal: instead of a court martial, Weems resigns his commission, then and there.

Weems refuses, but Rockingham says he plays to call the JAG immediately--its one or the other. Weems crumbles, signs the paperwork, and storms out.

Everyone celebrates their victory, but there's one more part to the plan--Major Rockingham is actually Captain Rockingham, DDS. Winchester cowers in terror, but finally gives in and allows his tooth to get worked on.

Fun Facts: Tom Atkins is a great character actor, known mostly for his horror films: he appeared in The Fog, Escape From New York, Halloween III, and Creepshow, among others. Too bad he's such a creep here!

Favorite Line: After Winchester lets loose a loud moan in the middle of the night from his toothache, Hawkeye says: "Beej, remember--in the morning, its your turn to milk Charles."


What the Parrot Saw said...

Weems is an interesting character. His hidden racism is ugly, but historically accurate- Truman took some heat domestically for desegregating US forces stationed in Korea. Atkins does a fine job here; his character is believable, and not a caricature.

I've read comments on previous boards devoted to the series which pointed out that Missourian Potter would have likely agreed with Weems.

Two words: Mark Twain. Probably as half-assed a response as the original reductive reading... this episode references well the attitudes of the time in regards to race but --arguably-- stays true to its characters.

Potter's dialogue, in short, works.

Russell said...

Potter, Truman, Clemens, and I are all from Missouri....and I consider it an honor to stand with such distinguished gentlemen.

There are racists everywhere, and I always liked how Potter plotted to get rid of this one. Kudos also to character actor Jason Bernard. I always liked him, especially as Deadly Nightshade on THE FLASH in the 90s. He left us too soon.

Mark said...

Try as Charles might to hide his toothache, Potter saw through it. In the mess tent, he told Charles "You're lying through what's left of your teeth!" and to have some ice cream, finally barking at him: "Present...SPOON!" Outside, Charles let out a scream he'd been holding in, prompting Potter to call a dentist.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I wonder if Weem's CO approved the resignation.

Anonymous said...

When Major Weems comes into the swamp the first time...Hawkeye referring to Charles "Don't mind him, he's not having a toothache." Zing..

Anonymous said...

Charles has odontophobia, a fear of dentists.

TheHolderOfTales said...

The scene where toothache-denying Charles has to eat ice cream and then screams in pain when he goes offscreen...I remember seeing that exact same gag in both Sanford and Son (with ice water) and Married...With Children (with just ice).

I wonder if it originates from M*A*SH or if it goes back further?

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