Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Episode 76 - The Late Captain Pierce

Season 4, Episode 76: The Late Captain Pierce
Original Air Date: 10/3/75
Written by: Glen Charles and Les Charles

Directed by: Alan Alda

There's a middle of the night phone call from the states--Hawkeye's father...calling for B.J. Huh?

B.J. gets on the phone with Dr. Pierce, but the connection is so poor all B.J. can make out is "How" and "Why". After that, the line goes dead. Hawkeye, now officially worried, stays up all night waiting to see if his Dad calls back.

The next day, Lt. "Digger" Detwieler (Richard Masur), from Graves Registration, arrives in camp, looking to pick up the deceased. He's looking for "Pierce, Benjamin Franklin, Captain." Huh?

Turns out that, somewhere down the line, there was a clerical error listing Hawkeye as dead. Potter orders Klinger to start getting this straightened out.

With the phone lines now officially out (due to a security restriction tied to an upcoming visit by Gen. Eisenhower), Klinger has Hawkeye compose a telegram to his Father, telling him he's not really dead. The telegram is a marvel of comedic timing, but it ends with true sadness in Hawkeye's voice, as he contemplates what his Dad must be going through.

The 4077th, trying to cheer Hawkeye up, throws him a wake. But the mood is spoiled a bit when Klinger reveals the telegram didn't get through, either. Its gets even worse when he finds out his mail is being stopped, and it spills over into rage when Frank smugly refuses to pay Hawkeye on pay day, leading Hawkeye to physically attack Frank.

Later, HQ's Captain Pratt (Eldon Quick), arrives to straighten all this out. On top of the mountain of paperwork needed, Pratt's lackadaisical attitude about this ghoulish mix-up makes Hawkeye seethe with contempt. Hawkeye finally grows so disgusted he grabs his things, shoves them in a duffel bag, and boards Digger's bus, insisting he's dead, that means he gets to go home.

B.J., upon being told wounded are coming, follows Hawkeye onto the bus to talk with him. He tries to get Hawkeye to change his mind, but Hawkeye refuses, even at the sound of incoming choppers.

The bus takes off, but, just outside the camp limits, we see the bus stop, and Hawkeye get off. He trots back to the 4077th.

Later, we see Hawkeye has had the chance to call his father, and they have a warm conversation about life back in Maine. The call ends abruptly when the line goes dead, again.

Fun Facts: Hawkeye tells Klinger that he and his family have a summer cottage in Crabapple Cove, inferring they live somewhere else the rest of the time. Eventually Hawkeye would be listed as simply being from Crabapple Cove, period.

This is actor Eldon Quick's third and last appearance on the series, though this time he plays a different character.

Neither Hot Lips or Radar make an appearance in this episode.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye's speech in Digger's bus with B.J. is a masterful piece of melancholy, addressing directly the ghosts of M*A*S*H's past.

When he hears choppers coming, he insists to B.J.: "I don't care. I really don't--they'll keep coming whether I'm here or not. Trapper went home, they're still coming. Henry got killed and they're still coming. Wherever they come from, they'll never run out."


Russell said...

This is another episode that really doesn't make sense in the order they broadcast it. Hawkeye's father calls BJ??? They aren't even friends yet, really. It just seems wrong. I never liked how this episode. It seemed very definitely a Trapper episode with BJ switched in.

rob! said...

I wouldn't give up Hawkeye's speech at the end for anything, but yeah, this episode seems a bit out of order--had it been switched with "Dear Mildred", it might have made more sense for both shows.

What the Parrot Saw said...

The last scene with Hawkeye making his way back to the camp remains memorable. His dedication is illustrated when he realizes he has to do a quick jog in order to get to triage- of course, he does so.

He gets off some great lines throughout the episode as well; "The Red Cross won't help me? What do they want? Blood?!"

Steve said...

I always remember that final speech - it's a classic Hawkeye moment.

Do you think maybe when he says "Summer Cottage", he just means it's a cottage, and maybe it was once used as a summer place (by others) but he and his dad now live there year-round?

Ah, that seems likely. Probably just another clerical error.

Luke said...

"Home Digger!"

Easily one of my favorite episodes.

Anonymous said...

This should have been the last episode for MASH-it would have been fitting with Hawkeye is just as dedicated to saying lives-although he is getting a little tired-of this monontus war-have been in it since June 1950 {Pilot Epsiode} and it now being after September 1952 {When Potter becomes commander!}

Bill said...

Crapapple Cove, Maine is established as Hawkeye's home in the novel, and his Maine roots come up several times in the movie as well (example: "Why don't you save your rapier wit for the clamdiggers back home?") I don't know why C.C. would be mentioned as a mere summer-cottage locale here, when there were plenty of references to the place as Hawkeye's home in Seasons 1-3.

A clear mistake, then, unless Hawkeye was referring to his established home as being a former summer cottage converted for year-round residence.

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