Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Episode 17 - Sometimes You Hear The Bullet

Season 1, Episode 17: Sometimes You Hear The Bullet
Original Air Date: 1/28/73
Written by: Carl Kleinschmitt
Directed by: William Wiard

Frank and Hot Lips engage in a romantic evening, but its ruined when Frank's back goes out. As Hawkeye and Trapper tend to him, they learn Frank has applied for the Purple Heart, something neither they or Henry can believe.

But that's interrupted when a childhood friend of Hawkeye's, Tommy Gillis (James T. Callahan) arrives in camp. The three of them head back to The Swamp to get blasted.

Tommy tells them he's writing a book about the war (You Never Hear The Bullet)--not from a reporter's POV, but a soldier's--Tommy is there, on the front lines, with the rest of them.

Wounded arrive, and Tommy heads back. One of the wounded is a very young man, Private Wendell (Ron Howard!). After talking with him, Hawkeye learns Wendell is not even 16 years old, and went to war to impress his girlfriend back home, so he can "Earn a medal and be a hero."

Wendell begs Hawkeye not to turn him in, and Hawkeye agrees after failing to talk Wendell out of it.

More wounded arrive, and one of the most hurt is Tommy. Hawkeye works on him, but its no use. Tommy dies on the table, muttering in amazement that, unlike his book title, he actually heard the bullet that did him in.

Afterwards, Hawkeye stands in the doorway of the O.R., crying. Henry tries to console him, pointing out the two rules they taught him in command school: "Rule #1--Young men die. Rule #2--Doctors can't change Rule #1."

Hawkeye decides, then and there, to do something--he tells an M.P. that Pvt. Wendell is only 15 years old, and should be sent home immediately.

Wendell threatens to hate Hawkweye as long as he lives, and Hawkeye hopes that's a long, long time.

Later, to partially make it up to Wendell, Hawkeye gives him Frank's Purple Heart--so he's getting what he wanted, but will no longer be on the front lines.

Comments: This was the episode that creatively put M*A*S*H on the map--a perfect mix of comedy and drama. Hawkeye's scene with Henry is masterful, and one of the best moments of the series.

There's a famous anecdote about this episode: sometime after it aired, a nay-saying CBS executive told the producers, "Someday I'll tell you how you ruined M*A*S*H." Its that kind of clear-headed, creative thinking that I'm sure earned that exec many, many millions of dollars a year.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye is stunned that Henry might process Frank's request for a Purple Heart.

Hawkeye: "Henry, you're not going to endorse this idiot's application, are you?"

Hot Lips: "That's Major to you!"

Hawkeye, without missing a beat:
"Henry, you're not going to endorse this major idiot's application, are you?"


Anonymous said...

Ah, now you're talking. This is the one 1st Season episode I can still remember. I never liked Henry more than in his scene with Hawkeye.

However, as a huge Second Banana fan, I always wished this story had been written for Trapper instead of for Hawkeye.

Anonymous said...

Ironically Ron Howard was 18 years old-military Draft Age! Also in a epsiode of the Twilight Zone Howard plays a young soldier wounded in Vietnam "In Praise of Pip"

The Part where Wendell recives the Purple Heart is cut out of Syndicated versions of this epsiode

Dominic said...

I almost forgot, maybe you should also tell what Frank got instead.

Robert Gross said...

I'm ambivalent whether I like the episode ending as it does in syndication with Ron Howard's seething rage at Hawkeye, or as it originally aired, with Ron Howard's character finally "getting it" and making up with Hawkeye.

It depends on what mood I'm in, I think.

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