Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Episode 177 - Private Finance

Season 8, Episode 177: Private Finance
Original Air Date: 11/5/79
Written by: Dennis Koenig

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Wounded arrive, and one of the patients--Cpl. Eddie Hastings (Mark Kologi)--has an odd request: he demands that, before he goes in for surgery, Hawkeye promise that the contents of his money belt go to his parents if he doesn't make it. Hawkeye, concerned about the young man's injuries, doesn't really take him seriously, but Hastings insists. Hawkeye agrees.

During O.R., Hastings' injuries are so severe it requires both Hawkeye and B.J. work on him, all to no avail. Hastings dies on the table.

Afterwards, Klinger follows up with the doctors about Hastings. Hawkeye and B.J. are depressed over losing him, but they're snapped out of that when Klinger reveals Eddie had just over eight grand in his belt--a veritable fortune, and all of it in American currency, not military scrip. Which probably means it was gotten illegally.

Hawkeye can't believe that, since Hastings looked like a clean-cut, all-american boy. They decide to look into it with some of Hastings' comrades in Post Op. They're shocked to hear them ask, when told Hastings has died, "Oh yeah, who got him? Their side...or ours?"

Turns out, according to them, that Hastings was a crook: cheating everyone he could right and left. And if you owed him money, he thought nothing of getting some local Korean leg-breakers to force you to cough up.

Now Hawkeye is stuck with what to do with the money: SRO is to return it to I-Corps, but Hawkeye wants to fulfill the promise he made and return the money to Hastings' parents. But since its such a huge wad of cash, he has to write a "carefully worded" letter to them, trying to explain it.

After a bunch of false starts, Hawkeye puts a letter together, and he runs it by Father Mulcahy, who's impressed with the results.

A few weeks later, everyone is having a drink at the Officers Club. Hawkeye comes in with a letter from Hastings parents, who write that they heard about their son's activities in Korea, and are not interested in keeping the money. They return it to Hawkeye to give to someone there.

Hawkeye is frustrated, still stuck with the money, and not knowing what to do with. Col. Potter, Margaret, and Klinger get the bright idea of giving some of it to a local mother and daughter (who turned to Klinger for help), so they have enough money to travel south to Pusan and get away from the war.

With some money left over, Hawkeye, B.J., Winchester, and Klinger all argue over to give the rest of the money to. Hawkeye decides he'll split it up, giving a little bit to everyone. That makes everyone happy, and they toast a drink in Eddie's honor.

Fun Facts: This episode also features credits that say "Also Starring Gary Burghoff as Radar."

Considering the episode's title, odd that the character that this show revolves around is Corporal Eddie Hastings, as opposed to Private Eddie Hastings.

In the syndicated edited version, the detailing of Hastings' crooked ways are edited out, so all you heard was "...then he started hanging around some of the crumbs of the outfit", which hardly seemed to justify his comrades' enmity. But the regular, unedited version of the episode gives you the whole story.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye's final line, a toast to Eddie: "Eddie, wherever you are, whether you know it or not, you did good."


What the Parrot Saw said...

There is a risk in reading too much into the 'feel' in one season of a series which changed so much from its beginning to end. M*A*S*H's early years had episodes that focused on serious issues ("The Moose") and in its final season dealt with silly sitcom stuff ("Bombshells").

Still- this episode hits the sweet spot for me. Few might rank it among their favorites, but given a fairly cliched premise--Hawkeye is not paymaster (hey- that was done twice!) but has to shepherd ill-gotten gains back stateside--earlier seasons might have played it for laughs or merely downplayed it. Later seasons might have not spent enough time on this one plot to let it resonate.

The writing here hits every note very well- in particular, the letter Hawk receives from Hastings's parents. Likewise, the disdain Hastings's death receives from his buddies. Everything advances Hawk's moral quandary in being entrusted with the money belt of a good man evidently gone bad.

Well acted and directed, the teleplay here truly shines. A genuinely well-written drama within 25 odd minutes. An overlooked episode.

mark said...

Another anachronism: Potter's reference to the Korean village being "redecorated by the War Department". The Department of War no longer existed by hate time of the Korean War, having become the Department of Defense on September 18, 1947. The Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force (which also became independent of the Army in 1947), each with its own Secretary, were, and still are, subordinate departments to DoD and the Secretary of Defense.

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