Saturday, March 20, 2010

AfterM*A*S*H Episode 21 - Less Miserables

Season 2, Episode 21: Less Miserables
Original Air Date: 9/23/84
Written by: David Isaacs & Ken Levine
and Dennis Keonig
Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

Picking up right where last season's "Up and Down Payments" left off, Potter and Mulcahy are wheeling Soon-Lee into General General, about to deliver her baby.

Klinger is determined to get out of jail, and Father Mulcahy comes back to tell him that the baby hasn't arrived yet. Klinger is sure that the baby's going to be born while he's still in jail, since the judge that could free him won't be back in his office until morning.

A man in a sharp suit arrives, asking a nurse questions about General General. He seems interested to learn that there's a pregnant woman as a patient, and asks to be pointed to the X-Ray room. He follows Dr. Boyer around, quietly taking notes. Without context, it seems like General General is a total madhouse.

Klinger gets so desperate to get out that he changes clothes with a fellow in-mate, a drunkard who likes where he is. When "Klinger" is put before a judge, its the other guy, who pleads guilty.

The man in the suit happens to be in the elevator when Dr. Boyer makes another movie on Alma Cox, partially to distract her from his going against the regular surgery schedule. After they depart, Klinger drops through the roof of the elevator!

Unfortunately, the cops are already in the building, looking for Klinger. Mulcahy sees him, and tells Col. Potter--but right at that moment, Soon-Lee goes into labor, so they send Bob Scanell to delay the police's search.

Klinger finds his way to the supply closet, and he decides to hide in plain sight...dressed as a nurse. The man in the suit sees this, and jots down all of it in his little notebook.

Klinger arrives just in the nick of time, as they're baby--a son--is born. Unfortunately, the celebration ends there because Klinger announces he's officially on the run. Feeling he can't go back to the judge without being thrown in jail for years, he has decided to stay in hiding.

Col. Potter, Father Mulcahy, and Soon-Lee protest, but Klinger is adamant. Before he leaves, he says, "I had it better in Korea."

Col. Potter is then called to Mike D'Angelo's office, where he finds Alma Cox, crying. She can't even say why--all she does is point to D'Angelo's office. Potter enters, and inside is the man in the suit. His name is Burt Philbrick (Max Wright) and he tells Potter that D'Angelo has been transferred to Montana.

Philbrick says the place is a disaster area, but Potter actually tries to defend Mike D'Angelo, saying the whole V.A. system is a disaster, and D'Angelo shouldn't be taking the fall. Nevertheless, Philbrick explains, a new boss will arrive by the end of the week, and get General General in shape.

Fun Facts: This is the first episode of the second season, and a lot of tinkering went on between seasons: the show's original theme song has been changed (from a nice tune reminiscent of "Suicide is Painless" to a bland, almost Muzak-sounding theme), and the vintage, color-tinted photos from the 50s that were run under the credits have been changed to drawings. Before we even see the episode, Jamie Farr is a female nurse's outfit. Uh-oh.

David Ackroyd has been added to the credits, and Barbara Townsend (Mildred Potter) has been replaced by Anne Pitoniak. A new character, played by Peter Michael Goetz, has been added, and John Chappell (Mike D'Angelo) is also gone.

The original credit sequence ended with a nice shot of Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy; this one ends with Klinger, again dressed as a nurse. Double uh-oh!

Neither Anne Pitoniak or Peter Michael Goetz's characters appear in this episode.

Favorite Line: Its not a funny line, nor is it meant to be: I loved Jamie Farr's low-key delivery of "I had it better in Korea".

Considering the extensive (and, IMO, entirely detrimental) changes AfterM*A*S*H underwent as of the second season--none of which saved the show, in the end--the line feels a little meta, too: indeed, Jamie Farr and Klinger had it better in Korea.

1 comment:

What the Parrot Saw said...

Great synopsis and commentary here, Rob! What's a little weird to me is that some of the changes are good (see next episode) while some of the changes are horrible (that tacky opening credit sequence! Horrible!).

It's a a treat to watch Klinger see his son, but the longer-term Klinger on the run/Klinger in a nurse's outfit reveals a floundering show. I think that the creative term must have had a lot of pressure to make some the show more referential to its parent (of course, these days it would have lasted three episodes and bumped for a(nother) reality show.

I'm surprised you didn't note another nod to the original series: M*A*S*H's second series opener also featured an undercover official taking notes. In fact, I thought it was the same actor playing both Philbrick (here) and Hildebrand until I double-checked.

This is actually a funny episode and not at all a bad start. It goes downhill fairly fast, although I still think the series was retired a little too quickly.

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