Sunday, August 30, 2009

Episode 146 - Peace On Us

Season 7, Episode 146: Peace on Us
Original Air Date: 9/25/78
Written by: Ken Levine & David Isaacs

Directed by: George Tyne

In the wake of a lull-inspired, three-day party, Col. Potter has to deliver the bad news: the current round of peace talks have collapsed, leaving everyone "back at square one."

To make matters worse, the Army has decided to up the number of service points surgeons need to get shipped home, trapping Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester in Korea for even longer than they expected. B.J. is despondent, Winchester barks "We've been had--again!", while Hawkeye simply storms out of the Swamp.

Outside, Hawkeye's rage explodes, and he screams to the heavens while trying to rip apart a nearby jeep. He crosses the path of Margaret, who is also furious--she just found out that her husband Donald Penobscott has purposely had him himself transferred, effectively ending any further attempts at repairing their marriage. Crying, she realizes she's going get a divorce.

Hawkeye has had enough. He climbs into a jeep, and drives off. Margaret asks him where he's going, and he says, "The Peace Talks!"

Unbelievably, Hawkeye actually manages to bluff his way into the talks, pretending to be there to check up on one of the Generals, who's been complaining of Gastritis.

After drawing stares from all the diplomats, he makes his point: "There are people dying out there, you have to stop it! You can't wait anymore--you can't!" He's then escorted out of the tent by some MPs.

Back at the 4077th, word of Hawkeye's trip is breathlessly followed. Hawkeye is regarded as a hero, so they decide to plan a party in his honor.

When Hawkeye gets back, the camp seems to be empty, except for B.J., who is dressed entirely in red-dyed clothes. He explains to Hawkeye that, in honor of his trip and his desire to see some other color than Army green, they decided to paint the camp red--literally.

Inside the Mess Tent, everyone is wearing red clothes, with red-dyed hair to match. Everyone is giddy and drunk, and are proud of one of their own getting a chance to tell the diplomats they're, as Col. Potter puts it to a visiting Major looking for Hawkeye, "They're tired...and they want to go home."

The visiting Major--named Goss--comes bearing a message from the General whom Hawkeye treated: if he finds Hawkeye anywhere near the Peace Talks again, he's going to throw him in the jail and throw away the key. But, also--he wishes he was a crazy draftee doctor too so he could get away with what Hawkeye did.

That bit of business concluded, Major Goss decides to join the party. He figures he fits right in, taking off his helmet to reveal his red hair.

Fun Facts: Having grown up with M*A*S*H's laugh track, I don't find it intrusive to still hear it on the DVDs or reruns.

But this episode features one moment where the laugh track just dumps on a scene: right after Hawkeye is told the Army upped the rotation points, he storms out in rage and starts tearing apart a nearby jeep, yelling "Why not 60? Why not a million?!?"

His rage is palpable, and you really feel his torment at being stuck in Korea even longer. But that stupid laugh track is playing the whole time, really draining some of the scene's power. This is definitely one episode you should watch on DVD with the laugh track off.

This episode features a recurring factual mistake the series made--the subject of "rotation points." By the Korean War, the Army had given up that system, and in any case, it never used it for doctors.

Major Goss is played by Kevin Hagen, who previously appeared as Col. Coner in Season Four's "Some 38th Parallels."

Favorite Line: Col. Potter's scene with Margaret as she asks for help about whether to get a divorce is a nice, warm moment between the two. After she vacillates, he makes it easy for her: "C'mon, Margaret--from your gut: what do you wanna do?"

She answers, "Divorce him!"

Potter: "Then do it!"


What the Parrot Saw said...

This may be one that M*A*S*H* detractors love to hate--and Hawkeye steps out of the tent (tent???) where the peace talks are being held not only one step ahead of the MPs but also one step ahead of seriously getting self-righteous in his spiel to the brass--but I love this episode.

Margaret's sadness and rage over her now dead marriage ("look at the place I picked to have a marriage!") remains touching, while Hawkeye's cheek and quick-witedness in taking on the peace talk single-handedly works for me.
Again, however, his scene is just long enough to both amuse, but not annoy... even if it strains credulity somewhat that Hawk is allow to remain long enough to even say "Hi, General."

Russell said...

No, this is another one of my least favorite episodes, partly because it is SO much Hawkeye, and partly because it is so odd. The scene with all of the MASHers wearing red is just weird, and it's even weirder when you stop and realize you never ever saw any of those red clothes worn in the series again, ever. (and Margaret's pants are obviously red slacks that Wardrobe picked up!) The whole ending just seemd too much like Gilligan's Island or Lost in Space--- you know, it's a little bit too convenient that the characters just happened to have enough red dye to make all these beautiful changes in the time it took Hawkeye to drive to Oujanbou. Bah!!!

(oddly enough, I read that this episode was based on a true story...!)

Russell said...

Margaret's marriage is a topic I've been thinking about all day. How many women got divorced in the 50s? Not too many. I think this was another characteristic that the producers were using to relate to their audience. I know I read Gene Reynolds' comment somewhere that he didn't want Margaret to get a divorce, and in hindsight i think it was a mistake. Some of her fighting with Donald was funny last season, and at the very least I think it was a cop-out on the producers' part to not keep her married atleast a little longer. In real time, they would have been married, what, less than a year!?

What the Parrot Saw said...

I tend to read Margaret's marriage as ill-fated to begin with; the extended periods away from each other could not have helped matters at all. Just how well did they know each other? Not that well, as it turns out.

The creators could have pulled off getting Penobscott transferred to the 4077th (the reason would be a little tricky), and I think that "Mr. and Mrs. Penobscott on the front lines" could have been woven to good effect into the dynamics of the cast ensemble. Imagine both using Charles as go-between to air their marital troubles!

While divorces in the Fifties were rare, two factors, I think, mitigate that here.

1) Margaret is by now very much a proto-feminist (in the 60s sense), and her decision rings true to the evolution of her character.

2) Wars placed pressures on marriages (both in the theater and Stateside)not found in peacetime. I think that WW2 made divorce marginally acceptable, where prior it was a genuine taboo.

3) Somewhat less seriously... what about the hair-dos some of the cast will sport between this point and the final season? A divorce does not seem out of place at all in California, 197.. er, I mean Korea, 1952-3. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I agree on the laugh track ruining the weight of Hawkeye's anger in the "why not a million?" scene. The laugh track has always been a distraction to me - when the series originally aired, as well as in reruns. For that reason, I've never watched any of my DVDs with the laugh track on.


Mike said...

At the beginning of the episode, Potter tries to console the group after breaking the news about the failed peace talks by pointing out that "nobody's here for the duration". Ironic, no?

Bob Gassel said...

While there were plenty of good eps to come, this is the "Jump The Shark" episode to premise, it should be an all-time classic (imagine Gelbart writing this), and it certainly seems to have been intended as the season premiere, as BJ is first growing his mustache.

Perhaps the producers saw how this one didn't pan out, and quickly substituted the slightly better "Commander Pierce" to open the season.

Bob Gassel said...

By the way Russell , we DID see BJ's red shirt for the rest of the series...including "Commander Pierce"!

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