Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Episode 4 - Chief Surgeon Who?

Season 1, Episode 4: Chief Surgeon Who?
Original Air Date: 10/8/72
Written by: Larry Gelbart
Directed by: E.W. Swackhamer

This episode opens with the viewer getting a chance to see what daily life is like inside the O.R.--even though Frank Burns is ranking surgeon, he's clearly out of his depth. He's snappish and rude to the others, and, even worse, he's behind in his medical information. Everyone on the medical staff seems to turn to Hawkeye for help and advice.

After a particularly nasty blow-up between Hawkeye and Frank, Henry realizes the 4077th can't keep going like this, so he has to appoint a chief surgeon.

Henry calls Frank and Hawkeye to his office. Contrary to army protocol, he skips over Frank and names Pierce as Chief Surgeon. Frank is enraged and forces Henry to admit that, "when the heat's on", Hawkeye is the best surgeon in camp.

Frank and Hot Lips decide to go to General Barker, and complain about this breach of the rules.

When Barker arrives at the 4077th, Frank and Hot Lips tell him that there's a wounded man waiting to be operated on. He storms off to go find "Chief Surgeon Pierce."

He finds Hawkweye, Trapper, Capt. Kaplan (Jack Riley), and Ugly John playing cards! He demands Hawkeye operate--now.

Hawkeye refuses the order, saying medically its not the best idea while the patient is still in shock. He's having a nurse give the patient some blood and get him better ready for surgery, and expects to operate around 3am.

Barker doesn't like that answer, so he storms off to find Henry, only to find that the whole camp seems to be jumping, even this late at night--Radar is reading comics while drinking Henry's brandy, Spearchucker (Timothy Brown) and Nurse Ginger Baliss (Odessa Cleveland) are playing Strip Dominoes, and the camp's night sentry, Cpl. Klinger (Jamie Farr) is wandering around the camp in a WAC uniform!

Once Barker finds Henry, they meet Hawkeye and Trapper in the O.R., now that the patient is ready for surgery. Barker is impressed by Hawkeye's surgical skill, and grudgingly admits he was wrong, and Hawkeye was right.

Barker tells Henry to ignore Frank from here on in, and marvels at how anything gets done in this madhouse. He is not reassured when Klinger reappears, naked, still on duty. Hawkeye, Trapper, and Henry take it all in stride.
Fun Facts: This episode has two big moments--Hawkeye is appointed Chief Surgeon, and the debut of Klinger.

In the previous two episodes, McLean Stevenson's Henry Blake was a lovable doofus, but didn't seem that great a commander. But he has a great moment with Frank, when he ignores tradition and appoints Hawkeye Chief Surgeon. It showed that, when medicine was concerned, Henry had a steel spine--at one point Henry and Frank are eye to eye, yelling at each other, and its a genuine moment of tension. Frank is about as threatening as he ever was on the show.
Favorite Line: As Barker storms out of the card game in The Swamp, he threatens Hawkeye:

Gen. Barker: "You haven't heard the last of this."

Hawkeye, in a perfect, deadpan Groucho tone: "I wasn't listening to the first of it."


Luke said...

Henry Blake is a character that I really disliked when I first started seeing episodes with him in them. I have always seen Col. Potter, and really liked him. But Blake has his strengths as well, and this episode is a good example of them.

I must admit I did always like his fishing hat.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I kind of preferred Col Potter to Col Blake, too, but Henry definitely has his moments.

And Klinger! One of the greatest TV characters ever created. Any episode (before Radar left) that featured Klinger was sure to be a gem.

Mark said...

Gen. Barker's specific suggestion about Burns was: "Give him a high colonic and send him on a 10-mile hike!" Trapper chimed in: "With loaded pack!", to which Barker grunted: "Nice touch!"

Henry told Hawkeye: "I'm sticking my neck out, don't let me down!" Hawkeye fingered his bathrobe, and asked: "Henry, would I dishonor this uniform?"

noncanadianguy said...

Watching this one again, I'm struck by the final "stinger" scene, which routinely gets cut for syndication.

In the O.R., Frank asks Hawkeye for help with a resection. Joining him, Pierce says, "I'm ready, Doctor," then quips, "We'll split the fee, right?" A moment's pause, and Burns answers, "Right," before they begin operating. It's probably the closest these two men ever get on the show to working together with anything approaching collegiality...and (for this viewer, anyway) offers a fascinating glimpse of what might have been had the writers developed Burns in a different way.

Anonymous said...

my personal fav part of the show....One of Frank's charges is how Hawkeye NEVER salutes him though he is higher ranking...well after all the commotion Frank goes to storm off...Henry so VERY boldly calls out Frank's hypocrisy i.e.,"Frank, failure to salute a superior officer." (Frank NEVER saluted Henry. Yet complained about not getting saluted,,set an example Major Burns ;)

Anonymous said...

Actually regulations say anyone can be chief surgeon regardless of rank as long as they are a good doctor

Robert Gross said...

On the heels of what Anonymous said....

One of my favorite lines in the show slides by so quickly one barely catches it.

Henry (quoting Frank's list of charges): Capt. Pierce constantly calls me by my first name.

Frank: Not allowed, Henry. Regulations.... blah blah.

Here, Frank violates the *very rule* he's complaining about by calling Henry by his first name. But its done so subtly, it just flies right by.

Blake2903 said...

It's probably me but I think Trapper should've been made chief surgeon instead of Hawkeye.

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