Monday, May 4, 2009

Episode 53 - O.R.

Season 3, Episode 53: O.R.
Original Air Date: 10/8/74
Written by: Larry Gelbart & Laurence Marks

Directed by: Gene Reynolds

A grueling session in O.R. leads to all kinds of tense and unusual situations

A patient asks to write a letter to his wife, confessing to numerous infidelities, before he goes under. Father Mulcahy takes dictation, but Trapper admonishes him not to send it--"He's gonna pull through."

Frank, feeling the pressure of all the wounded, almost removes the one remaining kidney of a patient before Trapper steps in. Hawkeye performs open-heart massage, pulling a patient back from the brink of death.

Henry has to deal with a patient so badly wounded that, if he starts work, will mean the loss of other, less mortally wounded patients. He grimly decides not to go ahead, basically allowing the solider to die.

Trapper and Frank have a surprisingly candid talk while taking a few minutes off, where Trapper gets a hint of what kind of boy Frank was growing up, turning him into the man he is today. Trapper displays some sympathy, but only goes so far..

There's so many wounded that when Sidney Freedman arrives for a the weekly poker game, he is put to work performing surgery.

Later, Hawkeye is told the patient he worked so hard to save has died in Post Op, leaving him temporarily demoralized, unable to continue working. Sidney gives him a bit of a pep talk, and Hawkeye dutifully goes back to work. To top things off, a fire breaks out on a piece of electrical wiring, but a quick-thinking Trapper puts it out.

After all the wounded are taken care of, we are left with Hawkeye and Trapper, almost completely passed out, as the P.A. announcer tells of a change-up in the command structure, one General succeeding another, ending with "No one's succeeding all."

Fun Facts: Except for an opening scene in the Scrub Room, this episode takes place entirely in the O.R. In addition, there is no laugh track anywhere in the show.

Sidney Freedman's little speech "Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice--pull down your pants, and slide on the ice", will be repeated in M*A*S*H's very last episode, as Freedman's final exit line.

This episode is not generally listed on any "Ten Best" list from the series, but its one of my all-time favorites: taking place entirely in the O.R., with no laugh track, it feels very different than all the other episodes. While there are some genuine laughs, overall its a very grim episode, with a downbeat ending--yet its that very grimness that, to me, makes this episode so compelling.

Favorite Line: During Hawkeye and Henry's heart-to-heart outside the O.R.: "Wars don't last forever, Henry. Only War does."

1 comment:

What the Parrot Saw said...

A superb early, serious episode (nicely balanced by "Springtime," I might add).

Frank's discussion of his youth has always struck me as being rather sad. His teenage years sound lonely- a reminder, perhaps, as of the Buddhist credo: "Mean people are suffering."

I wish that more had been done with Sidney; he could easily have been a regular (weekly) character.

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