Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Episode 184 - Yessir, That's Our Baby

Season 8, Episode 184: Yessir, That's Our Baby
Original Air Date: 12/31/79
Written by: Jim Mulligan

Directed by: Alan Alda

Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester are surprised to see someone has left a baby on the doorstep of the Swamp, with a note attached saying the baby's father is an American G.I. The mother cannot care for the baby, so she is leaving it in the care of the doctors at the 4077th.

The baby quickly becomes the darling of everyone in camp, with everyone fighting to care for her. The only dark cloud is, ironically, when Father Mulcahy arrives from a day at the orphanage--he takes one look at the baby and realizes that she, being of mixed parentage, will be a virtual outcast among the other Korean children and could end up "a virtual slave" when she grows up.

The only alternative he says is to deliver her to a monastery buried deep in the Korean hills, where the monks there will take her, no questions asked, and in maybe 15 or 20 years will try and get her out of Korea.

Col. Potter offers, "With all due respect, padre, that's not much of a life." Mulcahy agrees, but says that's the only chance she has.

Hawkeye and the rest can't accept this, and they decide that since the baby is half-American, they're going to go through Army channels. Unfortunately, Hawkeye and B.J. are met with nothing but smug indifference from bureaucrat after bureaucrat, from the Red Cross to the Attorney General's office.

Hawkeye and Col. Potter then turn to the South Korean government, but the official they meet offers no help--he even admits that, in some cases, a mixed-race child is put into slavery, and in some cases, killed outright.

As nightmarish as this is, the man does point out that, out of all the countries fighting in the Korean War, its only the United States does not accept the children of their soldiers and offer them a road to citizenship.

Hawkeye, along with Winchester, make one last try, this time with a U.S. diplomat. After endless interruptions, showing the lack of attention he is giving their case, the diplomat (William Bogert) blithely dismisses them, refusing to lift a finger to help this little girl. It drives Winchester mad, so mad that he offers to punch the man's lights out.

With no other options, Hawkeye, B.J., Winchester, and Father Mulcahy drive to the monastery with the baby, leaving her inside a small alcove. They ring a bell, swinging the platform inside the building, where the monks will greet it. They drive off.

Later, during a session in O.R., Hawkeye muses how much the child meant to them all, and how each of them will carry that memory the rest of their lives.

Fun Facts: A very dark episode, with a grim ending. By the show's own writers and producers, this episode wasn't completely successful, but its really amazing how grimly realistic this particular show is--no fake cheery happy ending, as many series would've done. The scenes set among all the bureaucrats is so maddening it could've come right out of Catch-22.

There's a great little character bit when Hawkeye and the rest get to the monastery. Father Mulcahy starts telling a story about the history of the place, going on and on, and B.J. interrupts, snapping, "Let's just do it, all right?"

You get the sense that, on some level, B.J. is so furious at what they're about to do that he doesn't have the time or interest in hearing Mulcahy tell some boring story. A rare moment of incivility among the characters.

Favorite Line: Winchester's been trying to gather information, seeing if anyone saw the mother in camp: "I talked to everyone in camp--which, by the way, is a first for me."


What the Parrot Saw said...

A fine synopsis and commentary, Rob. I recall this being another episode that the series' detractors referenced as being too political/too serious/too Vietnam, etc.

A dark episode, certainly, but it seems sure-footed in its history, although I haven't researched the post-war South Korean attitude towards mixed-race offspring, yet.

(If may be indulged here:

There is a sad and rather strange account of US private Joe Dresnok's emigration to North Korea while assigned to the DMZ in the early 60s, entitled Crossing the Line (2006)

In a change of policy under Ford, US took in Vietnamese refugees towards the end of that war, so mixed-race children by now at least had an official avenue for emigration - I'd thus recommend the docu Daughter from Da Nang (2002).

Both documentaries are well done in that neither panders, inviting you to draw your own conclusions.

Disclaimer: I have used both in classes I teach, but I have no other affiliations with the creators, participants, PBS, etc. )

Anonymous said...

One of the worst episodes of the series ever. Obnoxiously heavy handed and preachy and mushy to the point of cringe-inducing. the negative for this episode should be burned forever. Phew, it felt good to get that off my chest, thanks.


Anonymous said...

Who played the baby?

RobAsWell said...

Rob, you nailed the best line in the episode! I laugh every time I watch it. Being from a snooty part of Boston myself, Charles is my favorite character. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Ken, you have to realize that the doctors tried everything. That episode is certainly not any of what you said. This episode ranks in the middle in my opinion because the ending leaves a bad taste in my throat. My last thing is that it's probably one of grimest episodes I've watched.

Robert Gross said...

On the other hand, the baby will grow up clothed, fed and educated... a bit of a better fortune than many babies born into war.

mark said...

The pompous Charles must really care about the child if even he is moved to physical violence against an equally (if not more) pompous twerp like Prescott! One of the most poignant episodes of any show, not just M*A*S*H, telling what must have been some very unpleasant truths - such as the Korean official's statement.

Anonymous said...

Wow, how a lot has changed in how many decades of this world... Reason I say that is there are a lot of mixed race people out there who are equal and accepted as any other person on this earth... I guess though, for the time M.A.S.H is set, things would've been very different... I found this episode to be very significant & poignant & thank the creators for making it �� Diana (Australia, 30y.o.a)

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