Sunday, July 12, 2009

Episode 109 - Hawk's Nightmare

Season 5, Episode 109: Hawk's Nightmare
Original Air Date: 12/21/76
Written by: Burt Prelutsky

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

Hawkeye seems particularly agitated during surgery, complaining about the shocking youth of his patients. He calls them "babies" and said they should all be home getting burped by their mothers, not fighting in a war.

At the end of a day-long session in O.R., Hawkeye and B.J. go to sleep, but a few minutes later, Hawkeye wanders out of bed, across the camp, sleepwalking--and acting like a small child, to boot.

The next morning, everyone asks him what he was doing the night before, and Hawkeye doesn't have the foggiest idea what they're talking about. At first he dismisses the idea, until Klinger mentions the name of a grade school principal Hawkeye talked about while miming playing basketball, which freezes Hawkeye in his place.

Another day goes by, and in the middle of the night Hawkeye wakes up again and goes sleepwalking. He reverts back to the same childlike identity he had the night before--miming playing basketball and shooting marbles. He wanders the compound until Radar and Klinger lead him back to his cot.

This all seems harmless enough, but then thinks take a darker turn--Hawkeye has a blood-curdling nightmare, about a childhood friend getting killed with sledding. B.J. wakes him up, and Hawkeye finds himself sweaty, with his heart-pounding...and a possibly soiled cot.

The next day, Hawkeye tries to convince himself that its just tension. He tries to make himself feel better by calling the childhood friend back home, just to see if he's all right. He is, but the phone call degenerates into a shouting match when the friend insists Hawkeye owes him $37.

That night, Hawkeye is afraid to go to sleep, and he tries to get other people to stay up with him. At first he tries Klinger, then Father Mulcahy, and then gets so desperate he even tries to talk to Frank.

When that peters out, he lays down and falls asleep. But, sure enough, a little while later, he has another nightmare about a childhood friend being hurt, leading to him make another phone call.

As Radar puts the call through, Col. Potter asks him afterward to call Sidney Freedman. Sidney agrees to come visit the next day.

Late at night the next day, Hawkeye, B.J., Col. Potter, Radar, Father Mulcahy and Sindey are playing cards. One hand ends, and Hawkeye and Sidney take a walk outside, ending with them sitting outside the Swamp.

Hawkeye is clearly worried--terrified, even--and he comes out and asks Sidney if he think he's going crazy. Sidney, who has been gentle with Hawkeye to this point, pointedly answers, "No."

He deduces that Hawkeye is trying to get back to a time in his life when there were no Life or Death decisions. And that, on the whole, the dreams are peaceful--its when the pain of being in war intrudes on them is when they turn dark. He reassures Hawkeye that this will pass, but reminds him that there's "a lot of pain" Hawkeye is dealing with, and it will take some time to pass.

Hawkeye, feeling better, thanks Sidney for his help. Sidney responds by challenging Hawkeye to a game of Mime Basketball, the same kind Hawkeye has been playing all week.

As they laugh and relax, Klinger and Radar watch from inside, amazed. Klinger now understands why his brand of crazy gets so little notice.

Fun Facts: The scene outside the Swamp with Hawkeye and Sidney is extraordinary--Sidney is so warm and understanding, yet clear-eyed and honest. Who wouldn't go to therapy, if this was your doctor?

Sidney uses the (presumably Yiddish) word ferschimmled at one point in the episode. Upon seeing this episode, I would use that word as a kid, always leading people to ask me what the heck that meant.

I love how unresolved this episode is--Sidney doesn't have any sort of magic cure for Hawkeye. He tells him the dreams will continue, at least for a little while, because of all the pain bubbling up in Hawkeye's subconscious, an astonishingly dark prognosis, when you think about it.

Alan Alda, for all his chemistry with the other cast members, always seemed the most engaged when he had dialog with Allan Arbus. For my money, I could watch Hawkeye and Sidney scenes all day.

Favorite Line: After Sidney makes an astute observation, Hawkeye applauds him and says, in mock surprise, "Hey, you're pretty good."

Sidney: "Thank you. For my next trick I'll invent Sibling Rivalry."


Russell said...

I never liked this episode. It just seemed too much The Hawkeye Show. Besides that, it is just another example of how Hawkeye deals with the war. (In this case, badly). For my money, I could watch BJ's practical jokes forever, but leave me the whining of Alan Alda. Bah!

I do love the ending with Radar and Klinger, though.

What the Parrot Saw said...

There were enough episodes that dealt with Hawkeye's mental health ("Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde," "C*A*V*E," "Bless You, Hawkeye," as well as the finale) so as to suggest that the creators felt the viewing audience somehow predisposed to this theme. These episodes are generally good, but arguably get more threadbare as seasons progress...

Hawkeye's sleepwalking and insomnia does dominate the plot here (perhaps at the expense of one Klinger's funnier scams) but there is some terrific dialogue- not just between Hawk and Sydney but even in Hawkeye's exchange with Frank, in particular (paraphrasing):

Frank: "there is nothing in the dark that is not there in the light" [turns over and sleeps]

Hawkeye (non-plussed, weary): "Why don't I find that comforting?

A pretty heady exchange!

Great writing here even if I do wish this idea wasn't eventually overdone (to the point that I've read/seen "It... it was a CHICKEN!!" become an touchstone for parody, as if Hawkeye was flipping out every other show).

One of the genuinely spooky episodes, alongside "Dreams" which in the end, it should be compared to.

Anonymous said...

When I first heard Frank say "there is nothing in the dark that isn't there in the light", I, too, didn't find that comforting. After thinking about it though, Frank's right, for the most part, and it is a little comforting. Thanks Frank!

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