Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Episode 244 - Run For The Money

Season 11, Episode 244: Run For The Money
Original Air Date: 12/20/82
Written by: Elias Davis & David Pollock and Mike Farrell

Directed by: Nell Cox

Klinger is excited over the prospect of yet another can't-fail, fool-proof scam: long-distance runner Jessie McFarland has been assigned to the 4077th, and will be arriving shortly.

His plan is to schedule a race against the 8063rd, who has a top-flight runner on camp. Klinger guesses that the 8063rd will think the 4077th is sure to lose, not knowing they've got McFarland on their staff.

Hawkeye and B.J. are initially not at all interested, tired of being caught up in another of Klinger's scams. But after Margaret goes along with the plan (to get revenge on the 8063rd's Head Nurse), they badger the doctors into going along with it.

After tending to some wounded engineers (including one who stutters, and is mocked by his comrades for it), McFarland arrives--except its Jessie McFarland Sr., an older, vastly overweight "tired old soldier." The runner in question is Jessie McFarland Jr.--a little detail Klinger missed.

During a mail delivery, Klinger tries to butter everyone up, but they remain furious at Klinger for roping them into this. The one person he doesn't have to schmooze is Winchester (who receives a tape-recorded letter from his sister Honoria in the mail), who tells Klinger not to worry because he didn't bet, and "I don't like you anyway."

Then Margaret hits on the idea to put up the one genuine runner they have in camp--Father Mulcahy. He turns them down at first, but after continued pressure he relents, and begins training.

While everyone is wrapped up with the race, Winchester is tending to the wounded engineers in Post Op. He catches wind of their commander, Captain Sweeney (Thomas Callaway), mocking the stuttering young man, Pvt. Palmer (Phil Brock) in front of everyone.

Winchester takes Capt. Sweeney outside, promising that if he hears one more unkind word towards Pvt. Palmer come from Sweeney's lips, he will personally writer a letter detailing Sweeney's inhumanity and have it placed in his personal file. Sweeney tries to protest, but Winchester cuts him off.

Later, the race between Mulcahy and the 8063rd's runner, Pvt. LeMasters (Mark Anderson) begins, and almost immediately Mulcahy falls behind.

In Post Op, Winchester takes Palmer to get some x-rays, but Palmer sees quickly that's a ruse. Winchester has a heart-to-heart talk with Palmer, trying to reassure him that just because he stutters, it doesn't mean Palmer isn't smart, something Palmer seems convinced of.

Winchester confides to the young man that he reads comics books like Palmer does, but says that Palmer is smart enough to tackle more complex literature--like Moby Dick, a leather-bound copy of which he gives to Palmer as a gift.

Palmer asks why Winchester is being so nice to him, but Winchester deflects the question and takes him back to Post Op. Later, we see Winchester sitting down in the Swamp, preparing to listen to the audio tape his sister sent him. We learn that Honoria stutters as well. As she goes on, we see a look of utter contentment on
Winchester's face.

Meanwhile, the race between Mulcahy and LeMasters heads into the final stretch. Somehow, Mulcahy has managed to almost catch up, and then he passes LeMasters!

But just before he crosses the finish line, Mulcahy issues a demand: all the winnings go to the orphanage, or he'll let LeMasters win. Everyone agrees, and Mulcahy wins the race.

Later, Mulcahy reveals that LeMasters threw the race--during moments when he let Mulcahy catch up, he would make "chit-chat" about the poor starving orphans, which browbeat LeMasters so much he agreed to let Mulcahy win.

Fun Facts: I wrote a piece for my Hey Kids, Comics! blog centered around this episode, which you can read here.

The scene with Winchester listening to Honoria's audio tape is so sweet, so perfect, that its one of my all-time favorite moments of the series.

Favorite Line: Klinger, trying to convince Hawkeye and B.J. to go along with his scam: "Guys, I've been adding up some numbers."

B.J.: "Well, you'd better sit down, your fingers must be exhausted."


Russell said...

I remember this episode, specifically the Winchester story, very fondly. I could not understand Winchester being this concerned about any soldier, so at the end when he listens to the tape of his sister and we understand his reasons you could have bowled me over with a feather. Excellent, excellent episode. This is the type of characterization that finally made Winchester a well-rounded character. Can anyone imagine Frank Burns doing something like this? (Although if Frank did it, it would have been funny instead of emotional....!)

Radar Hat said...

Good point, Russell. Frank was a one-dimensional character from the very beginning. As much as I loved the early years (and still do), I was glad it became a deeper show as the years went on.

This episode is a great example of how some things wouldn't have worked as well early on.

What the Parrot Saw said...

Agree with comments here regarding Charles' final scene listening to Honoria's recording. Stiers is fantastic- the obvious would be to act with discomfort. Trite.

Less obvious in this context might be world-weary concentration; instead, Stiers listens like he would to any treasured tape from home, yet with a certain gravitas that gestures solely towards the character's (already noted) love of his sister.

If the comedy by now seemed rote, many fine dramatic subtleties are present in these last two seasons.

mark said...

@russell; There is precedent for Charles's compassion for patients: in "Morale Victory" (Season 8): he convinces a wounded soldier who is also a concert pianist and has lost the use of his right hand that he can still play with his left hand, compose, conduct, or teach.

mark said...

Who voiced Honoria? That name is not on the closing credits.

Captain Sweeney was a Class A jerk who got what was coming to him. The other 2 engineers who were mocking Palmer got the cold shoulder they deserved from Charles, though BJ told them early on to knock it off.

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