Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Episode 126 - The Light That Failed

Season 6, Episode 126: The Light That Failed
Original Air Date: 10/25/77
Written by: Burt Prelutsky

Directed by: Charles Dubin

Supplies are running low at the 4077th--gel foam, sutures, winter clothing, even light bulbs are becoming scarce.

A supply truck arrives, carrying nothing but useless items--salt tablets, an ice cream churn, insect repellent, and the like, leaving the 4077th up a creek.

The one interesting item is a package for B.J.--a mystery novel! Since everyone is so bored, a "spine-tingling" paperback is like pure gold. B.J. crawls into his cot, savoring every page. When Hawkeye grows frustrated that B.J. is taking so long, he tears out the first chapter and throws it to Hawkeye just to shut him up.

The book then starts to make its way around the camp--first to Winchester, then to Col. Potter, then Klinger, Nurse Bigelow (Enid Kent), and so on. It becomes the topic of discussion in the Mess Tent.

The only problem is, the book is missing its last page, leaving the identity of the murder unknown. B.J. insists he knows who the killer is--the Reverend Butterfield!

In Post Op, Winchester, in the middle of complaining about the working conditions, gives a patient the wrong sedative--Curare instead of Morphine--causing the young man to go into shock.

Hawkeye and B.J. pull him through, but Winchester (whom Hawkeye refers to as "Major Disaster") isn't even thankful for the help, and is unwilling to even take the blame for giving the patient the wrong drug.

Meanwhile, an argument over the identity of the novel's murderer breaks out, after B.J. concludes his first guess was wrong. He makes a second guess, but Nurse Bigelow points out that's wrong, too.

After numerous wrong guesses, they get so frustrated they place a call to the novel's author, who is a 97-year old woman living in Australia. They call her, and she tells them the real murderer. After hanging up the phone, they realize...she's wrong, too!

Later, Hawkeye continued shunning of Winchester drives Winchester nuts, leading to an argument. While Hawkeye admits, technically, that Winchester is the best, his lack of actual feeling for his patients leaves a lot to be desired.

Another supply truck arrives, carrying all the stuff the 4077th needs. With the tension eased, Winchester finds it in him to apologize to Hawkeye for his behavior, promising to think more about his patients from now on.

Fun Facts: The encounter between Hawkeye and Winchester is genuinely tense--you really feel the disgust Hawkeye has for Winchester and his arrogant attitude.

Radar makes no appearance in this episode.

Margaret basically only has one scene in this episode--where Winchester reads a few pages of the book to her--instead, Nurse Bigelow gets an extraordinary amount of screen time.

The guy driving the supply truck is played by Phillip Baker Hall, an amazing actor who has been in films like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Insider, and The Truman Show.

Favorite Line: The guy driving the supply truck asks Potter sign for all the useless supplies, saying he has to get to the 8063rd.

Potter: "Let them get their inflatable pool and swim fins an hour later!"


What the Parrot Saw said...

Scarcity in the 'trenches' was another long-standing theme; it is revisited well here.

The truck driver’s hardened, off-hand response to Sherman’s incredulity is a classic: “Yeah, I used to stay up nights wondering about [army snafus], but I was getting worry lines” (and I can't believe I missed the fact that it is Phillip Baker Hall- great call, rob!)

We have seen crossword puzzles and Chicago spareribs receive rapturous attention, so no surprise that a mystery novel should be so devoured by the camp (a la the latest JK Rowling novel)

Hawkeye and Winchester's edgy exchanges here drive home the point that it would take awhile before either surgeon could or would be able to take full measure of each other. This was one of the best dramatic subplots this season.

Russell said...

I really like this episode, and I enjoy all the screen time Enid Kent is getting. I wonder why she wasn't made more of a regular...and why Margaret didn't appear very much this time. Also, is it just me, or is there a definite sub-plot of a pseudo-romance brewing between Margaret and Charles? This time when she tells him to "get dressed" because he has undone his scarf is just too funny.

paulyt said...


The producers were going to have a Charles/Margaret romance but eventually decided against it. There are a few episodes where you can see that a romance is starting to bloom.

qrter said...

That was Philip Baker Hall? I would never have recognised him, all non-jowely and un-gruff voiced.

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