Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Episode 185 - Bottle Fatigue

Season 8, Episode 185: Bottle Fatigue
Original Air Date: 1/7/80
Written by: Thad Mumford & Dan Wilcox

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

After a session in OR, all of the staff wander into the Officers Club, where Igor is waiting to hand out their bar tabs. Hawkeye's is almost forty bucks, a staggering sum, and far and away higher than everyone else's.

Hawkeye is so shocked he decides, then and there, to stop drinking. After earning a round of laughter from everyone, he insists its not forever--just for a week, to prove to himself that he can do it. Scared he's going to going home and "Set up a still in my living room", he says he's serious.

Meanwhile, Winchester gets a letter from his sister Honoria, who announces she's engaged to an Italian man. Winchester's bigoted snobbery kicks into high gear, furious over the idea that a woman of such breeding as his sister is engaged to someone so far below her social class. He tries placing a call home, but is rebuffed by Sparky. He then asks Col. Potter for an emergency trip home, but is again refused.

During the first few days of Hawkeye's sobriety, he is full-tilt annoying and sanctimonious, driving everyone crazy. Winchester is no better, deciding to get drunk every night to deal with the pain of over the mere idea of Honoria marrying an Italian, resorting to all sorts of derogatory stereotypes when referring to his future brother-in-law.

Hawkeye has a date with a new nurse, Lt. Mendenhall (Shelley Long), but he quickly ruins it by making snide comments about her drinking. Lt. Mendenhall storms off in disgust. Winchester is also making things worse for himself: when discussing his problem with Father Mulcahy, he admits that, at least,Honoria "Isn't marrying an Irishman", leading Mulcahy to also storm off in disgust.

Later, Winchester gets another letter from Honoria, saying the engagement is off--at the behest of the groom, whose family refused to let him marry out of their faith.

Wounded arrive, and one of Hawkeye's patient is a North Korean solider who smuggled in a live grenade. Before anyone can stop him, he pulls the pin!

Hawkeye grabs the soldier's hand, keeping him from letting go of the grenade. While trying to find the pin somewhere on the floor, everyone tries to soothe him by singing to him. It works long enough for Mulcahy to find the pin and put it back in the grenade.

Afterwards, Winchester dictates a telegram to Honoria. Reflecting on what just happened, he apologizes for the "boorish" letters she's about to receive. Asking for forgiveness, he pleads for her to attribute them to "Greatness of distance...and narrowness of mind."

Later that night, in the O Club, they all buy a drink for Mulcahy to thank him for finding the pin. They all order a drink for themselves, including Hawkeye, who says he needs it to calm himself after the near-death experience they all just had.

Holding the drink in his hand, he pauses, and then puts it down, saying, "I'll be back when I want it...not when I need it."

Fun Facts: There's a great bit of physical comedy in the scene when Klinger delivers the mail. When, after a few minutes of shooting the breeze with Hawkeye, Klinger announces that he has a letter for "Winchester, C.E.", Winchester pops into the frame, grabs the letter with a wild grab, and then disappears again, all in one move.

The scenes David Ogden Steirs has when talking to Winchester's sister are always some of my favorites. You can hear the affection he has for her in the softness of his voice and gentile tone. That these scenes are so effective is to me even more amazing when you realize that Steirs is the only one in them.

The scene where the doctors sing to the North Korean is too cutesy by half--but there's one great line where Winchester suggests sticking anything back in the grenade in place of the pin--a swab, a toothpick, anything.

Potter, nearly yelling, responds with, "This is no time for experiments--that's a Commie Pineapple!" Not only do I just find that phrase funny, but its also a nice character bit--no one else at the 4077th has combat experience, so its up to Potter to remind everyone just what it is they're dealing with--a live grenade.

Favorite Line: B.J. makes fun of Winchester's sister's name, Honoria, asking, "Isn't she the lady wrestler?"

Winchester blows him off, but then when he exclaims loudly at some shocking news in her letter, B.J. asks, "Honoria lose the big tag-team match?"


Russell said...

I remember the B plot with Winchester fondly. I think as a young teenager it was my first experience with the idea that "the others" may not like "you" as much as you don't like them. It hadn't occurred to me before, and DOS really pulls off a grand characterization here.

The less said about Alda's sanctimonious characterization the better. Blech.

What the Parrot Saw said...

Great synopsis and comments here. I agree with Rob's observation about the grenade being a "commie pineapple;" its another reminder of Sherm's vast experience. That all in the OR sing the lullaby "Mockingbird" has a surreal touch that works.

Actually, I think that Hawk plays a dry drunk well. His ceaseless reminders to the others of his sobriety is common to heavy drinkers (or for that matter, smokers, etc) habituated to a chemical are common in this situation. Around this time, the drinking had been toned down- another indication of the creeping seriousness in tone already manifest.

Favorite line: Klinger refuses to give Charles his letter until he says: Olive Skin Makes Good Kin Still cracks me up: you go, Klinger!

Fan of the Just King said...

I still love this episode, and I love the first scene with Klinger, Hawkeye, BJ and Winchester at the start of the episode.
Favourite Line: The 'Winchester C.E 3", moment. I love how Charles suddenly jumps up and snatches the letter yelling "Gimme that!" It's so funny.
Another one is also in this scene. Hawkeye goes to wake BJ, and rips the covers off him, and when BJ snatches them back, he gets a good look at Hawkeye. He says this, and it cracks me up every time:
"Hawk you shaved, cleaned, pressed." Then as he goes back to sleep, he says "That's revolting." Such a great line, and Farrell delivers it so well. A great episode.

RobAsWell said...

The lullaby scene it too odd for me. The thought that they would take so long to anesthetize him, and not just beat the hell out of the guy while Haweye maintains the grip, doesn't strike me as being real enough. Imagine that if you will. They have to beat the man, then perhaps they have to move him out of the OR, resulting in his death... I could enjoy that, and the subsequent moral dilemma that would follow.

Mike said...

My favorite line: Winchester dismissing bourbon as "the grape Nehi of alcoholic beverages".

mark said...

Charles must be very close to Honoria, and protective of her. His penance after nearly being blown up was sincere, if long-winded. He blackly resented Colonel Flagg mispronouncing her name to rhyme with a certain type of VD ("Rally Round The Flagg"). Not until "Run For The Money" does his motivation become clear: Like Private Walter Palmer, Honoria also stuttered (I don't know who voiced her in the tape). That explained Charles' strong empathy with Palmer, and his disgust with those who were tormenting him - especially his CO, Captain Sweeney, who failed miserably in his duty ti set a good example for his men.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I liked Hawkeye's line about coming back when he wanted it, not when he needed it-his attempt at sobriety, while temporarily turning him into a bit of a jerk, had a real effect. Better late than never!

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