Sunday, March 22, 2009

Episode 22 - Major Fred C. Dobbs

Season 1, Episode 22: Major Fred C. Dobbs
Original Air Date: 3/11/73
Written by: Sid Dorfman
Directed by: Don Weis

During surgery, Frank yells at Nurse Ginger Bayliss, so badly she sheds a tear. After trying to console her afterwards, Hawkeye and Trapper decided to extract some revenge on him.

Thus begins a week of them torturing Frank, pulling one prank after the next. One morning, Frank wakes up with his hand wrapped in a cast, with a hook sticking out of it. This is the last straw for him, and he demands that Henry transfer him out.

Even though Frank tells them he's being transferred, Hawkeye and Trapper don't know when to quit--they stick a microphone inside Hot Lips' tent as Frank tells her he's leaving. Their "farewell scene" is subsequently broadcast over the camp's P.A., embarrassing Hot Lips so much she demands a transfer, too.

This enrages Henry, who holds Hawkeye and Trapper responsible for the 4077's loss of a "Fair but competent general surgeon" and a head nurse. Oops.

Once Hawkeye and Trapper are told they have to pull double duty until Frank and Hot Lips are replaced, they realize they went too far and contrive a way to keep Frank at the 4077th.

They get the idea indirectly from Radar, who has been out in the Korean hills panning for gold (Korea is one of the world's largest gold producers). Even though they think Radar's foolish, they drop hints about the gold to Frank while they pretend they think he's asleep. They supposedly come back with bags full of it (actually the worthless mineral Pyrite), and leave some of it out for Frank to find.

He does, and when he goes wandering into the hills, he finds some more. He is so overwhelmed at the idea of being fabulously rich that he runs back to Henry, asking for his transfer to be cancelled. Henry is mad at this, and says if he does that, then it will be the last time. Frank agrees.

He then tells Hot Lips, and takes out into the woods to show her the gold--and there's a lot of it: a lot--the ground, the rocks, the trees, the PA speaker, even the jeep Hawkeye and Trapper drive by in--are gold.

Margaret sits down a nearby rock, frustrated Frank fell for yet another trick.

Fun Facts: This episode is infamous as being considered the worst M*A*S*H ever. In The Complete Book of M*A*S*H, Larry Gelbart said this: "When I look back at some of those first-year shows, I'm embarrassed. The one about Major Fred C. Dobbs? The worst."

True, the episode is based on a fairly flimsy, not-war-related bit of research (namely, the amount of gold Korea produces), but its not that bad a show--its pretty funny in places, and the microphone prank is of course taken from the movie.

Its really the final scene--where everything's painted gold--that this episode breaks the Goofy Meter. Its so unreal, so sitcom-y, so absurd that it doesn't seem like the same show as all the others.

Favorite Line: When Hot Lips is telling Frank about the special dinner she has planned, she tells Frank she got the cook to make porkchops: "You know, just the way you like them--with extra fat." Bleah!


Anonymous said...

Who is Major Fred C. Dobbs, anyway?

rob! said...

Dobbs is the character from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, played by Humphrey Bogart, who went mad searching for gold.

An absolute classic film, if you've never seen it!

Anonymous said...

If I'm remembering correctly (it's been about 20 years) the book also mentioned that they had a deal with the network at this point that 1 out of every 4 episodes would be a typical screwball/wacky/pure comedy episode, and the others could be more dramatic - and this was an example of that 1.

Rob As Well said...

I always wondered who the heck was Fred C. Dobbs was. Thank you russell for asking and rob! for answering. I'd love to sit and watch some episodes with you lot over some dry martinis.

Robert Gross said...

This episode only has one moment--- the gold jeep--- where it's off the goofy meter. As opposed to, say, Edwina, where the entire premise of the episode is off the goofy meter.

Because of how bleached out these episodes were in syndication, I honestly never got the jeep was a different color particularly until I saw it in its original form, and then got the joke. That's how bad syndicated M*A*S*H is visually.

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