Thursday, April 30, 2009

Episode 49 - The General Flipped At Dawn

Season 3, Episode 49: The General Flipped At Dawn
Original Air Date: 9/10/74
Written by: Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum

Directed by: Larry Gelbart

Yet another new General, Bartford Hamilton Steele, assumes command in Korea, overseeing, among other things, the 4077th.

He issues a series of orders, involving stricter dress codes and daily calesthentics, with makes Hawkeye and Trapper roll in their eyes in contempt. Henry tries to get them to take this seriously, and his worry is only exacerbated when Steele announces he will visiting the 4077th and staying there for a week!

Steele (Harry Morgan) arrives, and he is a bellicose, by-the-book type of guy. He snaps at Henry for not following formation exactly, and then has Henry assemble the troops for inspection.

He inspects Frank, Hot Lips, Radar, and Father Mulcahy, each finding something at fault. Henry and Radar are panicked when they see Klinger--in his finest frock--make a beeline for Steele.

Klinger introduces himself to Steele, who surprisingly responds with, "Not now, Marjorie--I'm inspecting the troops!" Not the response Henry, Radar, and Klinger were expecting!

Later that night, during inspection of the Supply Shed, Henry and Steele stumble upon Hawkeye and Nurse Baker on a date, ending with Hawkeye pretending to be a member of the Press. Steele actually buys this, and after further comments its obvious Steele is nuts.

They then make it over to the Officers Club, where they meet Trapper and chopper pilot Marty Williams (Teddy Wilson). He asks Williams how much gas he uses retrieving wounded from the front, and when he doesn't like the answer he gets, he says the 4077th needs to be moved closer to the front!

After scouting a new location for the 4077th with Henry and Frank--a location covered in heavy enemy fire, to Steele's indifference--he and Hawkeye have another run-in on the chopper pad, where Hawkeye commandeers it away from Steele so he can ship a wounded patient to Tokyo for further care. Steele calls Hawkeye "Insubordinate" and "Insolent", to which Hawkeye responds, "Right...and you're nuts!"

Steele brings Hawkeye up on charges, and puts together a formal hearing. He barks at the MP brought along to skip through all the formalities and get to he charges. The first witness is Marty Williams, but before he can testify, Steele insists Williams perform "A number."

When Williams--and everyone else--look dumbfounded, Steele insists "A number...a musical number! You've got it in your blood, boy, just let it out!"

Steele then breaks into "Mississippi Mud", an old-timey song, dancing a jig around the Mess Tent. He gets so caught up in his performance, he dances right out of the tent!

The MP, sitting beside Steele, grimaces, picks up his paperwork, closes his satchel, and walks out without a word. Hawkeye and Henry surmise this means that the 4077th is not leaving, only Steele is, to which Hawkeye adds, "In a rubber truck."

Later, Stars & Stripes reports that Steele has been promoted to a 3-star, and sent to the Pentagon. When Frank insists that means Hawkeye and co. were wrong about Steele being crazy, Hawkeye, Trapper, and Henry sarcastically agree, breaking into their own version of "Mississippi Mud" and dancing out of The Swamp.

Fun Facts: For any obsessive M*A*S*H fan, obviously the big event of this episode is the chance to see the 4077th's two Colonels in the same frame (I feel the same way about The Cat From Outer Space).

Sure, Harry Morgan isn't actually playing Col. Potter, but its close, and growing up I just couldn't get enough of his scenes with McLean Stevenson, especially since the character of Henry Blake would haunt the show after his death. It just seemed so cool to me. Still does.

With this, the first episode of the third season, M*A*S*H was moved to a third time-slot, to Tuesdays. But by now, America had discovered the show, and its ratings dominance would continue apace.

Hawkeye once again mentions his sister, who in later seasons will not exist.

The opening lyrics to "Mississippi Mud" are fairly benign:

"When the sun goes down, the tide goes out,
The people gather 'round and they all begin to shout,
'Hey! Hey! Uncle Dud,
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud'"

...but to my ears, Steele sings some sort of racist alternate version, which goes like this:

"When the sun goes down, the tide goes out,
The dark gather 'round and they all begin to shout,
'Hey! Hey! Uncle Dud,
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud
It's a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud'"

When you think about it, the final scene of the third act is totally insane. Its so strange that you could imagine the whole third act of the show falling on its face, but Harry Morgan's performance is so perfectly daft that it works.

(By the way, when Hawkeye, Trapper, and Henry reprise the song, they sing the offending line as: "
We all gather 'round and we all begin to shout")

This is the first episode of M*A*S*H written by the team of Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell, who would write some of the show's most significant episodes.

Favorite Line: Frank complains that his part of The Swamp is neat and tidy, but the other parties "Who shall remain nameless", live like swine.

This leads Hawkeye and Trapper, who are cleaning up over the scrub sink after surgery, to turn to each other, shake hands and politely greet one another with:

Hawkeye: "Pierce."

Trapper: "McIntyre."

Hawkeye: "...The Swine Brothers."


Mo said...

Definitely a favorite of mine. Harry Morgan is hilarious!

Anonymous said...

The General's insistance of the Re-using of a tongue depressor...I'd hate to be the second owner of that..

Robert Gross said...

My favorite line is just because of the way Harry Morgan delivers it.

M is for MOBILE! Army Surgical Hospital. And Mobile. You. Shall. Be.

Steele's version of the song is indeed racist ("The darks gather round and they all begin to shout,") but any doubt of his racism is of course removed when he says, "It's in your blood, boy."

The message: racism is nuts. I can get behind that.

Anonymous said...

*FYI* A cleaner version of Mississippi mud was aired on the Muppet show substitution of "the people" for the darkies, otherwise it is exactly the same song.....

Anonymous said...

Actually the original lyric is "When the darkies beat their feet on the Mississippi mud", very racist indeed. Google the Bing Crosby version; it is on YouTube.

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