Sunday, October 4, 2009

Episode 175 - Period of Adjustment

Season 8, Episode 175: Period of Adjustment
Original Air Date: 10/22/79
Written by: Jim Mulligan & John Rappaport

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

In the immediate aftermath of Radar leaing the 4077th, things are not going smoothly--Klinger hasn't quite gotten the hang of his new job as company clerk, so things are pretty chaotic. Potter's office is buried in paper, and he has to fend off calls from I-Corps about late or completely missing morning reports.

Potter tries to cover, but he's so mad at Klinger that he considers that perhaps the job is "too much" for him--"We can't all be Radars", he offers, which hurts Klinger's feelings.

He delivers mail to the Swamp, where B.J. gets a letter from Peg, where she describes what it was like meeting Radar on his way home from Korea. Wearing his uniform, little Erin Hunnicutt saw Radar and exclaimed, "Hi, Daddy!"

During a session in O.R., Hawkeye tries to get B.J. to tell everyone about the meeting between Peg, Erin, and Radar, but he doesn't seem to want to talk about it. Later, in the Mess Tent, he sides with Klinger in being sick of everyone talking about Radar.

Later that night, Winchester takes over for Hawkeye in Post Op, and he warns Hawkeye that, back in the Swamp, B.J. is drunk--very drunk.

Hawkeye goes back to the Swamp, and after a few moments he starts to get the idea that something's bothering B.J. He finally hits upon it being the letter from Peg, and it quickly devolves into an argument. B.J. gets furious, and suggests that his missing his daughter by being stuck in Korea is worse than what Hawkeye is going through.

Hawkeye doesn't buy that, reminding B.J. he's been stuck at the 4077th even longer than B.J. Hawkeye then tries to get B.J. to stop drinking, which sets B.J. off--he smashes the still with a chair, and punches Hawkeye in the eye! He immediately runs out of the tent.

Potter and Margaret are searching for a now-missing Klinger, and come to the Swamp, only to find Winchester tending to the black eye Hawkeye has. They decide to team up and try and find both of them, with Margaret and Winchester going one way, Potter the other (with Hawkeye having to tend to a patient).

During his search, Potter runs into Father Mulcahy, where Mulcahy explains to Potter that once, before he arrived, there was someone even worse than Klinger: "This lad was quite a bozo--couldn't do anything right. Drove everyone crazy with questions. You should've seen him put through a call was like hand-to-hand combat. Folks here were convinced the enemy had sent him here to sabotage the unit.

[O]ver time, he got a little better...your late predecessor, Col. Blake--rest his soul--took him under his wing and sort of helped him grow into the job."

Potter realizes Mulcahy was pulling one over on him--he's talking about Radar. Mulcahy asks, doesn't Klinger deserve the same time to get adjusted to the job? After all, he reminds Potter, when he arrived at the 4077th, he got "The broken-in model."

Potter and Margaret meet back up, and decide to call the MPs. But when they arrive, they find the totally smashed B.J. and Klinger in Potter's office, smashing into his liquor cabinet. Potter asks Margaret to go fetch Hawkeye, while Potter talks to Klinger alone.

He sits Klinger down, and "clears the air." He admits that, when he showed up at the 4077th, people weren't "jumping for joy" over him, since they all thought so much of Henry Blake. But everyone gave him time to make the job Sherman Potter's, since he "Was no Henry Blake...never tried to be."

He decides that, as of this moment, "Radar's office is closed...Klinger's is open." Klinger, relieved, passes out. Potter adds, "Okay, we'll open tomorrow."

Hawkeye arrives, and heads inside Potter's office to talk to B.J. B.J. apologizes for hitting him, and breaks down in tears when he thinks about the first time Erin ever called anyone Daddy..."and it wasn't me."

He admits that he's so jealous of Radar that he almost hates him. He also admits he's even jealous of Trapper--who he's never even met--because "He's home, too." He collapses into sobs, while Hawkeye promises: "You'll go home...some day we'll all go home."

A few days later, Hawkeye and B.J. rebuild the still, with the help of Klinger, who got the necessary parts. They allow Klinger the honor of "The first belt."

Fun Facts: I love Potter's speech with Klinger about what it was like for him to take over for Henry Blake. Potter is so stoic, and since they never covered any of this at the time, its interesting to hear that Potter did have his own period of adjustment after arriving at the 4077th.

Mulcahy's speech is also excellent, and I think its a great hook to build the episode around--namely, that it took someone who's been at the 4077th even longer than Potter to give him the proper perspective.

I also love Klinger's sweet, if drunken, response to Potter's question, "People around here were awfully fond of Henry Blake, weren't they?" Klinger responds, emphatically: "Well, sure...the Colonel was a top-notch kind of a guy."

Favorite Line: Potter suggests he and Klinger talk outside, alone. B.J. laughs, but Klinger is worried: "Oh God, B.J....he's gonna beat me up!"


Russell said...

This has become my favorite episode of this season. It all just seems "right" somehow....anyone who is a father can feel BJ's pain, and I never can forget BJ's rant at Hawkeye when they're comparing troubles, "Did your father talk in complete sentences when you left?!" It always made me want to be a Dad who was *there* for my daughter, and, through the grace of God or good luck or whatever, she's 18 and still a good friend. :-) Anyway, I think BJ's crying fit was one of the first times we ever got to see real emotion from men on TV, and I applaud the producers and Mike Farrell for doing it this way.

My favorite line is some throw-off from Potter to Hawkeye after they find Klinger and BJ, (paraphrase) "I've got my lush; yours is inside."

What the Parrot Saw said...

When I was younger, I understood BJ's angst but I couldn't connect emotionally with it. There was nothing he could do about where he was, or about Erin's harmless mistake, so why be so upset? Hawkeye had been there longer....

Now, after watching several nieces and nephews grow up and having shared a few special moments with my siblings (first steps), I understand much better. There are other such moments on the series that I now see were aimed squarely at an older audience. This is why this series never seems to age for me. Perhaps the viewer can grow old gracefully with it!

Many solid moments in this episode, but my favorite is when Hawkeye walks into Potter's office to talk to BJ- with a football helmet! An understated bit of humor.

I enjoyed reading your comment above, Russell.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

There are a handfull of moments that say "M*A*S*H" to me - scenes that immediately come to my mind when I think of the show. There's Hawkeye telling off Radar, Charles and Klinger and the Christmas chocolates, Father Mulcahy talking 'bout the surgeons warming their hands over open incisions.

But no single moment says M*A*S*H more to me than that line that Russell quoted up there. The pain and anger in BJ's voice is heart-wrenching. This was M*A*S*H at its best. If Mike Farrell didn't win an Emmy for this, there is absolutely no justice in this world.

Lynette said...
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Lynette said...
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Lynette said...

Please excuse the deleted comment notifications above. I kept getting error messages that my comment was too large and was unsure it would appear properly. So I've now broken up my comments into smaller chunks.

I view this episode as the grand pay-off for sitting through Good-bye Radar (which was massively disappointing).

Mulcahy's conversation with Potter was letter-perfect, saying exactly what needed to be said to make Potter understand why he should empathize with Klinger and determine his next step. It is very likely Mulcahy's greatest moment in the series, the scene wherein he truly fills his role as a wise consultant to his flock without sacrificing the whimsical humor that is his trademark.

The pairing of BJ and Klinger for drunken silliness was a wonderful change of pace, and it worked well. We see this bonding pay off a little bit in later episodes (thinking of Good-bye Cruel World specifically), but not much. I would have liked to see more.

Lynette said...

Favorite moments:

1. When Potter is directing Klinger to sit in his own desk chair, Klinger mutters (in a way that seems almost ab-libbed) "It's not plugged in, is it?" Cracks me up every time.

2. The entire BJ and Hawkeye scene in Potter's office. BJ's strained mania with "You wore your solider hat" is funny, but still a bit painful to watch, and you can sense the emotional swing that's taking place as he laughs. And when the dam finally breaks with "But I'm not!" his rage and anguish reverberate through the camera. You can't help but feel it with him. Hawk's awkward-but-genuinely-caring comforting only lends realism to the scene. He doesn't know how to respond to this deluge of emotions, but he's doing his best for his friend. Alda definitely did his part well in this scene, but Farrell really knocked it out of the park.

Lynette said...

As a side note, the reason BJ destroyed the still and his jealousy in The Joker is Wild were somewhat delayed references to the fact that he was living in Trapper's shadow. Honestly, those points should have been brought up earlier, but I suppose the BJ characterization in his first couple of years was far to easy-going and affable for it to fit. So I understand why BJ had to evolve before those moments seemed genuine, but I still feel like it was too little, too late. It wasn't just Trapper's reputation that BJ was living under, it was his friendship with Hawkeye. BJ likely felt he had been playing understudy for the role of Hawk's best buddy quite a bit when he first came to the 4077th. We should have seen that THEN, rather than a couple of subtle glimpses years later.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Nobody has mentioned the game BJ and Klinger were playing at Rosie's "Vaccinate Radar". I would have loved seeing them play a round or two!

Anonymous said...

Great, great review, Rob. Thanks as always. You always get right to the heart of the episode - the emotions and the continuity.

There are plenty of books that spend too much time on the jeeps' serial numbers. You're the place I go to to share memories of how heartwrenching it was to hear Potter reference Henry Blake.

Your pal, Jim

Dominic said...

I'm not a dad, but since I saw a movie about fathers being leaders for their children before seeing the episode, it was easy to imagine. I was able to instantly connect with BJ, if I was in his shoes; I'd feel the very same.

Robert Gross said...

This episode is of course very poignant, as all have mentioned, but the game "Vaccinate Radar" with a little cartoon of Radar on the dartboard makes me laugh out loud every time.

Alastair said...

When Potter first arrived in camp, and was introduced to Father Mulcahy, he asks if he can do a Methodist service, but in this episode he accuses him of trying to pull a fast one on a Presbyterian.

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