Monday, November 30, 2009

Episode 220 - Communication Breakdown

Season 10, Episode 220: Communication Breakdown
Original Air Date: 11/30/81
Written by: Karen Hall

Directed by: Alan Alda

The 4077th is suffering from a breakdown in the mail system involving second class mail, so there hasn't been any reading material--newspapers, magazines, etc.--for weeks.

The only person getting a newspaper is Winchester, whose family sent him a package containing a week's worth of The Boston Globe. He opens the package carefully and with great ceremony, treating the papers as if they were sacred parchments.

Hawkeye and B.J. of course want dibs, but Winchester refuses, only allowing them to read each day's paper after he's done with it. Hawkeye and B.J. reluctantly agree to the deal.

After a session in OR, Winchester sees Father Mulcahy sitting outside the Swamp, reading one of his papers. He tries to shoo Mulcahy inside (after lying about how he got them, claiming they were used to wrap fish), but he's too late: people walking the compound see it, and a crowd develops, each of them wanting to get their hands on it.

Finally, Winchester gets so fed up he offers the camp the same deal he offered Hawkeye and B.J, with the same grumbling response.

After a couple of days, Winchester sees one of the papers is missing, and he immediately assumes "some lowlife" in the camp stole it. So he goes on the P.A., accusing anyone and everyone of the crime, and rescinds the offer.

This leads to an ever-escalating series of vengeful acts--first, someone steals his bathrobe, followed by all of his possessions (except the papers). That leads Winchester to keep everyone up all night playing music over the P.A.

When his possessions are not returned, Winchester decides to do something big--collapse the Mess Tent as everyone is inside eating. Just as he boards a jeep he's using for the task, he's stopped by Col. Potter, who is enraged and points out Winchester's fatal mistake, revealed in the very newspapers that started all this.

Winchester is forced to apologize via the P.A. and admit that there was a "wildcat truckers strike" on May 5th, stopping the delivery of the paper to some areas--meaning the paper wasn't stolen, it never arrived in the first place!

That settled, Col. Potter takes that day's paper and acts like Mayor LaGuardia, reading aloud Li'l Abner to everyone in camp. Everyone enjoys Potter's effort, but they burst into hysterics when Winchester is forced to beg for his clothes back!

Fun Facts: There's a scene between Winchester and Nurse Kellye involving sub-titles, the only time the show would use them.

There's a solid B-plot about a patient of Hawkeye's, a North Korean soldier, who ends up being guarded by his brother, who is part of the South Korean army. Hawkeye contrives a way to allow them to talk to one another, since they can't do it out in the open without risking their lives.

This episode aired 28 years ago today!

Favorite Line: Instead of a line, its a camera move: Winchester climbs aboard a jeep he's using to get revenge. As he does, the camera pans over slightly, and in the shot suddenly is Col. Potter, looking as angry as we've seen him, blocking the jeep's path.

I'm not describing it well, but it stands out because M*A*S*H generally didn't do jokes based on the staging of any given scene.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Episode 219 - Wheelers and Dealers

Season 10, Episode 219: Wheelers and Dealers
Original Air Date: 11/23/81
Written by: Thad Mumford & Dan Wilcox

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

B.J. gets a letter from Peg in the mail, and it hits him hard--she mentions she's had to take a waitress job at a local coffee shop to help make ends meet. B.J. feels enormously guilty, since he and Peg had hoped, by this point, that he would be in private practice and "our mortgage would be a memory."

B.J. becomes completely humorless, and grows obsessed with making every dollar he can. In a poker game with a visiting Sergeant (Anthony Charnota) he's terse, and bluffs his way to a winning a huge pot, even throwing in his wedding ring to raise the stakes.

Hawkeye tries to be understanding, but he starts loses his patience when B.J. takes up residence
in the O Club, where he starts playing pinball against people for nickels and dimes, refusing to let anyone call it a night.

Margaret can't fathom what the big deal is about Peg having to take a job. B.J. then loses it, insulting Margaret, claiming that since she's not married, or has any kids, that his particular brand of suffering is worse than anyone else's. Margaret tells him off and storms out.

Humbled, B.J. eventually calms down and learns to deal with Peg's new job. He even ends up using mints Peg takes from the coffee shop as poker chips.

Fun Facts: One of the young G.I.s B.J. plays pinball with is actor Tony Becker, who would later have a recurring role on the excellent, short-lived Vietnam series Tour of Duty.

Tour of Duty, IMO, was a great show, and even though it was an hour long drama, it had some definite similarities to M*A*S*H, so I think its kind of neat to see the show's "cross over" like this.

This episode has a B-plot involving Col. Potter taking a remedial driving course under the tutelage of Sgt. Rizzo, who gets drunk with power. I've always found the Rizzo character to be on the far end of cartoony, but G.W. Bailey as Rizzo is pretty funny here.

Favorite Line: B.J.'s rant about how unfair "the system" is carries real rage. He mentions how a friend of his got a medical deferment from his doctor father, and how the man offered a similar deal to B.J. But B.J., thinking that was wrong, turned him down.

B.J.: "Whatever happened to the rules? 'Let the other guy go first, keep your elbows off the table, share your toys, and life will reward you.' Well, life is a crock."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Episode 218 - Give 'Em Hell, Hawkeye

Season 10, Episode 218: Give 'Em Hell, Hawkeye
Original Air Date: 11/16/81
Written by: Dennis Keonig

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Hawkeye gets enraged upon reading in the newspaper how poorly the peace talks are going, so mad that he sits down and writes a letter to President Truman, with a simple request: stop the war.

He tells the president about some of the stupid, troubling, and demoralizing events at the 4077th, like when a Col. Ditka (Stefan Gierasch) arrived and demanded the camp start a beautification effort since, in the eyes of visiting dignitaries, "This place just looks terrible."

In exchange for much needed equipment, the 4077th agrees to go along with Ditka's request, and Margaret and Klinger are put in charge. They hire a local boy, Kim Han (Lance Toyoshima) to round up bushes and plants from the nearby hills. Kim Han is a smooth talker, wiser than his years, and is obsessed with all thing American.

He's so obsessed that he asks B.J. to perform elective surgery on his eyes, to make them look "more American." B.J., horrified, turns Kim Han down, but that doesn't stop Kim Han. He wanders off, saying he'll just travel to the 8063rd where someone will do it for him.

Hawkeye relays this to Truman in his letter, worried that if the U.S. stays in Korea any longer, they'll "have all of Korea disoriented."

Later, Margaret sits down to a meal next to Kim Han, just before he heads off to the 8063rd. She butters him up, telling him what a dreamboat he is, and how, in just a few years, he's going to be a real lady killer, unlike the "clumsy young boys" many of the G.I.s were at his age.

Kim Han takes all this in, and then turns down his ride to the 8063rd. Margaret, smiling, leaves the Mess Tent, giving B.J., sitting nearby, the thumbs up.

The beautification project finally gets finished, complete with water fountain made from bedpans. Col. Ditka comes to inspect it, and, after a few moments of silent contemplation, says he likes it. The 4077th breaks into cheers, knowing they'll be getting the new, better water heater they need.

Hawkeye relates this crazy scheme to President Truman, ending the letter with a plea for help to bring them all home.

Fun Facts: Another episode where M*A*S*H's timeline is completely out of whack: Truman is still president in this episode, even though we learned officially that Eisenhower was in office as far back as Season Four's "The Late Captain Pierce."

Winchester inoculates all the local "bar girls" to prevent an STD outbreak. One of the young women is asked if her mother knows what she does for a living. She turns to the older woman next to her, points, and says proudly, in broken English: "Dees is my mada!" For whatever reason, Tracy and I laugh every time we hear that particular read.

There seems to be some odd continuity in this episode, outside of the stuff with the presidents--in one sequence near the end, Hawkeye hands the letter for Truman to Nurse Kellye, asking her to drop it in the mail. But, in the following scene, Hawkeye is still writing it!

Favorite Line: Klinger talks up Kim Han's smarts: "Yesterday we played Name The Capitals. He skunked me--and I knew four!"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Episode 217 - Rumor At The Top

Season 10, Episode 217: Rumor At The Top
Original Air Date: 11/9/81
Written by: David Pollock
& Elias Davis
Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Col. Potter and Klinger get word that an old nemesis of Potter's, a General named Torgeson from Logistics and Support, is sending someone to visit the 4077th on a fact-finding tour.

Later, Klinger orders some supplies from HQ, but they won't send any for the moment. When Klinger asks why, he's told its classified, a strange and cryptic answer.

In the O Club, Klinger mentions this and Gen. Torgeson to Hawkeye, and Hawkeye happens to mention that Torgeson's signature is on the orders that sent Hawkeye to the 4077th--"He's a MASH-maker."

This sends Klinger into a panic, and he imagines that all the fact-finding and supply-hoarding is for creating a new MASH. Hawkeye at first dismisses Klinger's paranoia, but quickly buys into it.

He shares this info with B.J., and they realize that if there's a new MASH, they'll be separated. They quickly come up with a plan, by dropping "hints" to Winchester, suggesting that Torgeson's assistant is in fact looking for a personal doctor for Torgeson, a cushy assignment right up Winchester's alley.

Winchester turns to Margaret for advice about Gen. Torgeson, and she also begins to panic, assuming that the first person from the 4077th Torgeson would take for the new MASH is Col. Potter, something she couldn't live with.

Torgeson's aid, Major Burnum (Nicholas Pryor), arrives, and is beset on all sides--Margaret keeps dropping hints that Col. Potter is a doddering, senile old man, Winchester keeps trying to find out info about Torgeson, and Klinger goes the Section 8 route, dressing up as a religious zealot.

Hawkeye and B.J. get into the act too, pretending that they are lousy, careless doctors, and that overall the 4077th is a mess. Burnum can't believe what he's seeing, especially when Hawkeye and B.J. pretend to let a wounded patient suffer while they play cards and do laundry.

Finally, Burnum has had enough, and demands to know how the 4077th is as good as its reputation if this is how it operates. Back in the Swamp, he storms off, disgusted.

But before he can leave, wounded arrive, and he sees the 4077th snap into action. He hangs back, watching, and realizes he's been had.

Later, in the Mess Tent, everyone is worried about what's going to happen now that Burnum has seen how the 4077th really operates. Burnum and Potter join them, and Burnum reveals what he's here for: to gather information about creating a new MASH.

But he's not there to pull someone out of the 4077th--he's simply there to learn how they do it, so they could copy it in hopes to create another MASH as effective as the 4077th. Everyone is relieved when Burnum admits, "Breaking up the 4077th would be like splitting up the Yankees!"

Fun Facts: The sequence with Hawkeye, B.J., and Igor over a supposed patient reminds me of the hi-jinx that went on during the show's first few seasons. When Igor says he lost (literally) the patient between Pre-Op and OR, Hawkeye and B.J. demand to know how that could possibly be. Igor haplessly replies, "We took a shortcut!"

Favorite Line: Winchester, single-mindedly trying to get information about Gen. Torgeson from Margaret: "Now..tell me more about Montana--does it have a city?"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Episode 216 - Identity Crisis

Season 10, Episode 216: Identity Crisis
Original Air Date: 11/2/81
Written by: Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford

Directed by: David Ogden Stiers

Wounded arrive, including one solider named Levin (Joe Pantoliano) who is having a bad reaction to the transfusion he got at Battalion Aid. B.J. determines he received the wrong blood type, and that his dog tag is mistaken.

After Levin has had the chance to recover, B.J. tells Margaret that they need to tell I-Corps that Mullen's dog tag needs to be changed. He interjects, saying that's not necessary, since he is scheduled to go home in just a few days.

Father Mulcahy visits Mullen to offer religious services, but Levin seems nervous and disinterested. He says he's Jewish, but seems uncertain about it. Later, Klinger tells him that the 4077 laundry can't find his uniform, but Levin says the one left over--with another soldier's laundry mark on it--is his.

In the middle of the night, Nurse Kellye gets Mulcahy, saying that Levin wants to speak to him. Levin asks Mulcahy to hear his confession, which he agrees to. But Mulcahy is startled when Mullen begins the normal Catholic ritual of confession, as if he's done this before.

He tells Mulcahy about how he got wounded, and how he pretended he was dead while a group of North Koreans caught up with their victims. One of the dead was his buddy Josh Levin. The young man--actually named Gerald Mullen--took his friend's uniform and transfer orders, and plans to get out of Korea.

Mulcahy is shocked, and tries to talk Mullen out of it, saying that when he returns home, he won't be able to be either Mullen or Levin. But Mullen is determined, and says he's going through with the plan, regardless. He asks Mulcahy for forgiveness, but Mulcahy refuses, saying, "How can I, when you're virtually unrepentant?"

Later, Father Mulcahy visits Col. Potter for advice, and catches Potter in the middle of looking at a family photo album (after Hawkeye and Margaret started an effort to round up 4077th family photos, in an attempt to life the spirits of another wounded G.I. who received a Dear John letter). After Potter talks lovingly about his family, Mulcahy gets an idea, and leaves before he even discusses anything with Potter.

Mulcahy comes back to see Mullen, armed with mail for Josh Levin. Levin's family and girlfriend are overjoyed with the news of their son's impending return. Mulcahy stresses that Levin's family will be gravely hurt by Mullen's actions, since Levin will of course never return home, and they will never learn what happened to him. Mulcahy then gets up and leaves.

The next day, the wounded in Post Op are moved out--some are sent home, others back to the front. Just before the jeep heading back to the fighting leaves, Mullen hands the mail and the dog tags to Mulcahy, asking him to return them to Levin's family. He then asks to climb aboard the jeep, claiming a mix-up. Mulcahy smiles as the jeep takes off, with Mullen in it.

Fun Facts: This episode is directed by David Ogden Stiers, who I think did an excellent job--the scenes with Mulcahy and Levin are well-staged and taut, and are really quite effective.

Favorite Line: When Levin begins the ritual of confession, I love Father Mulcahy's shocked response. As Levin goes on without interruption, Mulcahy gasps, but still trying to keep it to a whisper: "You've done this before!"

Its not a particularly well-written line, nor is it meant to be funny, but there's something about the overlapping dialog, and William Christopher's delivery, that really makes the scene work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Episode 215 - That's Show Biz

Season 10, Episode 215: That's Show Biz
Original Air Date: 10/26/81
Written by: David Pollock
& Elias Davis
Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

A USO troop gets caught in the middle of an artillery barrage, and one of them, a young girl named Marina (Gail Edwards) has a ruptured appendix. She's taken by chopper to the 4077th, where Hawkeye literally sweeps her off her feet, carrying her to a jeep.

The rest of the troop arrives in camp to catch up with Marina--a comedian named Fast Freddie (Danny Dayton), two musicians named Sarah (Karen Miller) and Ellie (Amanda McBroom), and a stripper, Brandy Doyle (Gwen Verdon). They ask if they can stick around and do a show, but Freddie says they're on a tight schedule and have to move on. But, after some prodding, Freddie agrees. Freddie is an awful, hackneyed comedian, but for some reason Winchester finds him hysterical, much to Winchester's enduring embarrassment.

Meanwhile, Marina falls hard for Hawkeye. She is not subtle about showing Hawkeye how she feels, but he continually tries to keep her at arm's length.

Each member of the troop makes their own personal connection with someone from the 4077th--Fast Freddie and Klinger bond over their mutual love of horrible jokes, Brandy Doyle takes quite a shine to Col. Potter, who is flattered and then flustered at the level of attention.

Sarah is searching for a pair of ballet shoes carried by her brother, killed in combat. They were from his wife, a ballerina, and Sarah hopes to recover them for her.

Ellie makes friends with Winchester, who is impressed when she shows an ability at and appreciation for classical music. She explains that she plays the accordion ("An overgrown concertina" as Winchester calls it) because that's how she can make a living playing music.

After putting on a show, the troop packs up to leave, but heavy artillery in the nearby area closes off all the roads, forcing them to stay at the 4077th a little longer. Everyone is happy at the news, except for Hawkeye and B.J., who are driven out of the Swamp in the middle of the night, unable to sleep due to the hysterical cackling of Winchester and Klinger over Fast Freddie's jokes.

Over the next day or two, Father Mulcahy helps Sarah track down the ballet shoes, Winchester loosens up when Ellie plays some folk songs in the O Club (leading him to dance with Nurse Kellye), and Brandy makes friends with Margaret, bonding over their hard times with men.

The travel restrictions are finally lifted, and Hawkeye tells Marina that she's well enough to leave with them. She doesn't want to go, insisting she can stay behind so she can get closer to Hawkeye. Even after he runs himself down repeatedly, Marina still wants to stay.

But Hawkeye gently insists, saying they're simply too different to have a relationship. Marina unhappily accepts this, and tearfully promises to send him a postcard on New Year's Eve.

The next day, the troop packs up and departs, singing a song and waving goodbyes as their truck makes it way down the road.

Later that night, everyone is a little down, now that all the excitement is over. Klinger finds himself barred from the Swamp, on account of his bad Fast Freddie-inspired jokes. He promises to cut it out, and Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester skeptically let him in.

Klinger bursts in, showing off his new passion: the accordion!

Fun Facts: This is the series' first hour-long season premiere since the sixth season.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye, gently breaking off any chance at a relationship with Marina: "...I've seen too much ever to be wide-eyed again."

The quiet sadness with which Alda delivers the line always gets me--even if Hawkeye went home the next day, he's seen so much ugliness that it will never truly leave him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

M*A*S*H Board Game by Milton Bradley - 1981

Board games based on long-running (or even not-so long-running) TV series were hardly unusual, but I'd still say a M*A*S*H board game ranks up there with one of the more odd choices for Milton Bradley to convert into a game.

The goal of the game is to make it around the board (in little plastic jeeps), picking up patients and bringing them to the chopper pad. The first player to get six patients and a full chopper wins!
Unusual is that there are no pictures of Col. Potter, Winchester, and Father Mulcahy. I guess MB figured you could only have four players playing at any given time, so they could only represent some of the cast. But it seems odd that they aren't mentioned or pictured anywhere, even on the game cards!

Even more strange: check out the picture of Loretta Swit used on the box and the board:
...that's clearly a 1981 (or so)-era shot of Ms. Swit, probably taken for PR purposes, not her as Margaret Houlihan! What the heck?

I wonder why, when MB had access to stills of Alda, Farrell, and Farr as their characters, they couldn't/didn't so the same for Swit. Weird...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Episode 214 - The Life You Save

Season 9, Episode 214: The Life You Save
Original Air Date: 5/4/81
Written by: John Rappaport & Alan Alda

Directed by: Alan Alda

A batch of wounded arrive late at night, and everyone is out on the compound doing triage. But there's more trouble when bullets start flying, courtesy a sniper!

As he fires away, B.J. and Winchester work on a patient underneath the Evac Bus. The patient technically dies for a few moments, but B.J. and Winchester manage to bring him back.

After the sniper is shot by a nearby control, Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester are in Post Op. B.J. tells Hawkeye what happened, and Winchester notices a bullethole in his cap--he came within centimeters of taking a bullet in the head, and never realized it. As Hawkeye and B.J. talk, Winchester sits there, stunned.

Col. Potter comes in and assigns everyone a set of rotating, mundane camp duties--Hawkeye is now in charge of the food, B.J. the laundry, Winchester the motor pool, etc.

Later, Winchester starts spending an inordinate amount of time with the patient that came back from the dead, sitting with him in Post Op for long periods of time. When the young man wakes up, Winchester peppers him with questions about what it was like for him to be actually "dead."

The young man really can't answer, despite Winchester's pleadings. He reveals that he had a younger brother who passed away, and for a long time afterwards he couldn't pass by the young boy's room without feeling a deep sense of unease.

B.J. finds Winchester hovering over the young man, and takes him outside, demanding he leave the young man alone. Winchester accuses B.J. of not wanting to deal with "The harshest reality of all."

Winchester, still haunted by what happened, has Rizzo take apart a jeep, and lay each and every part of it on a sheet. Winchester marvels at the power Rizzo has to reduce a jeep to a pile of inert junk, and then put it all together again and have it "Roar back to life."

Later that night, Winchester (via an off-hand suggestion by Margaret) decides to head off to Battalion Aid, to better see death up close.

He ends up taking care of a young soldier(Andrew Parks) who is gravely wounded. While laying there, the young man, not able to feel Winchester holding his hand, realizes he's going to die.

Winchester asks the young man, in his last moments, what he's feeling. He answers, not to anyone in particular, "I smell bread." Winchester doesn't understand, and tries to get him to talk more. But the young soldier passes away.

Winchester, wiping tears from his eyes, leaves to go back to the 4077th, leaving his bullet-ridden cap behind.

Fun Facts: There's a scene with Father Mulcahy, Hawkeye, and a giant wall of garbage, and its very funny--the massive pile of food, bandages, cardboard, and other detritus being one of the show's best props.

Winchester's speech at the motor pool is presented via one of the show's more ambitious shots--the camera starts at eye level, but then slowly pans up, and up, until its about twenty feet in the air, hovering over the set as David Ogden Stiers finishes his speech.

Speaking of Winchester, the scene with him and the young soldier is brutal in a number of ways. Winchester, in a very real way, is using this young man's final moments for his own satisfaction, an indescribably selfish act--of all the moments of one's life, its this time, above all others, that should be yours, and yours alone.

Also, props to actor Andrew Young for pulling off a really tough part--playing someone in full realization they have but a few moments left to live.

This is the last episode of the ninth season.

Favorite Line: Potter complains to B.J. that, under his authority, the laundry has gone kerflooey. He holds up a pair of leopard print, super-tight underpants, suggesting they be returned to the "passion flower" who owns them.

Margaret, silently, grabs them out of his hand and stuffs them in her pocket. Potter, slightly stunned, mutters in disbelief, " kidding."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Episode 213 - The Foresight Saga

Season 9, Episode 213: The Foresight Saga
Original Air Date: 4/13/81
Written by: Dennis Keonig

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Col. Potter convenes a meeting of the staff in his office to deliver some nice news: in his hands is a letter from...Radar!

Radar says he's become quite a success as a farmer, how much he misses everyone, and how he all hopes they'll get to come home soon, too.

While handing the letter to Father Mulcahy, Klinger accidentally breaks Col. Potter's glasses. Potter, now sans both pairs (Klinger broke those, too), tells Klinger to get the I-Corps optometrist to the 4077th, pronto.

Afterwards, Hawkeye, B.J., and Col. Potter have lunch, and for once there's actually decent food to eat: fresh cole slaw, made by a young Korean boy named Park Sung (Rummel Mor), as a way to pay the doctors back for taking care of his grandmother.

Park Sung is a whiz at farming, and he even has a guide to growing crops given to him by a G.I. But Park Sung's glasses are so beaten up that its hard for him to read it, or anything. Hawkeye wonders if the optometrist can make Park Sung new glasses as long as he'll be at the camp.

The optometrist, Dr. Herzog (Phillip Sterling) arrives, and arranges for new pairs of glasses for both Potter and Park Sung. He's a bit flummoxed when Margaret bluntly flirts with him, but it turns out its all a ruse: Margaret has been having some trouble with her eyes, and she's sensitive about it, so she pretends she's there on romantic grounds.

Herzog comforts her that she's suffering from a mild allergy, nothing serious. Margaret is still concerned that her eyes aren't getting any better, that she's noticeably aging, but Herzog comforts her, and they become friends. They decide to twist the knife on Hawkeye and B.J., and spend an evening at the O Club together, only to leave early. When Margaret picks up a basket of pretzels, Hawkeye asks why she's taking them. "Because", she says, lustfully, "I don't smoke."

Meanwhile, Park Sung is wounded by artillery staying behind to defend his land, even after his family have left to go further south. Luckily, his wounds are minor, but now he has no family, no "home" to go home to. Hawkeye and B.J. put him up in the Swamp until he decides what to do next.

That night, everyone starts reminiscing about Radar, and they decide to give him a call. Col. Potter ends up speaking to Radar's mother, who admits that things, in fact, are not going all that well on the farm: crops are bad, and they don't have enough money to hire help, leaving Radar to do all the work himself, followed by a night job at the county store.

They all try to decide what they can do to help Radar, and then Park Sung walks in, asking about his pet rabbit, who appears sick. One by one, they all get the idea to send Park Sung to Iowa to go live with the O'Reillys. Park Sung loves the idea, and soon after they throw him a goodbye party, complete with gifts.

One of the gifts is a Korean-English dictionary, and Park Sung uses it to say all this is..."terrific."

Fun Facts: One of M*A*S*H's greatest writers, Everett Greenbaum, once said something to the effect of that it was a great show, "Until everyone became so damn nice to one another." Arguments can be made about the truth of that, but when I read that quote, I think of this episode. Its a fine show, but everyone is so unbelievably nice to one another that there's virtually no conflict in the entire 23+ minutes.

On the other hand, considering how debased and mean-spirited TV would become in just a few short years, complaining about a show that's too nice does seem a bit churlish.

Favorite Line: After Klinger breaks Potter's glasses, Father Mulcahy says surely he has another pair. Potter, through gritted teeth, asks Klinger if he wants to tell Father Mulcahy what happened to those.

Klinger: "I broke those last week...but you gotta admit, Colonel, I really nailed that fly good!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Episode 212 - Blood Brothers

Season 9, Episode 212: Blood Brothers
Original Air Date: 4/6/81
Written by: David Pollock
& Elias Davis
Directed by: Harry Morgan

In Post Op, there are only a few patients. One of them, B.J.'s patient, is named Lowry and neither B.J. or Hawkeye are sure whether he'll pull through.

The one person certain he'll be okay is his best friend, Sturgis (Patrick Swayze), who is confident that his friend will live, despite Hawkeye and B.J.'s uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Col. Potter delivers what he thinks is good news to Father Mulcahy: Cardinal James Reardon is coming to visit the 4077th. Mulcahy is happy but sent into a panic when he learns that Reardon will be arriving in just two days! Mulcahy is terrified, and figures there's no way he can get everything ready in time.

Back in Post Op, B.J. prepares to give Lowry a pint of blood. Sturgis offers to donate it, since they have the same blood type. Hawkeye and B.J. agree.

Saturday night, things are swinging in the O Club, and Father Mulcahy is furious with everyone for their inability to stop drinking, fighting, and gambling for the two days leading up to Reardon's visit.

B.J. finds Hawkeye in the lab, telling him Lowry is stable enough for the transfusion. But Hawkeye has some terrible news: Sturgis has Leukemia.

They debate what to do: B.J. thinks Sturgis should know, so he can "make the most out of the time he has left", but Hawkeye is concerned that it might "take the life right out of him."

After several blood tests, Sturgis starts to get suspicious--what's going on, he demands of Hawkeye. When Hawkeye calls him Gary, he begins to worry, and asks, "Is there something wrong with me?"

Hawkeye does his best to gently deliver the news. At the same time, he tells him directly that, if he does have the disease, "Your chances aren't too good."

Hawkeye recommends that Sturgis be sent to Tokyo, where he can be examined more fully, and, since his disease is in the early stages, treatments can start immediately.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Reardon arrives, ahead of schedule. Father Mulcahy is of course nervous, but Reardon (Ray Middleton) is warm and friendly. He even asks if they can all get a drink in the Officers Club. Which they can't, after Igor stumbles out onto the compound and drunkenly passes out.

Father Mulcahy is incensed, and he wanders into the Mess Tent, where he finds Hawkeye sitting alone. He complains about how everyone is making his life miserable. After ranting for a few moments, he asks whether Hawkeye is just going to sit there and say nothing?

Hawkeye tells him what he just had to do in Post Op, which brings Mulcahy back from his own problems. He heads off to Post Op to talk to Sturgis.

The next morning, Hawkeye finds Father Mulcahy and Sturgis, who obviously stayed up all night talking. Sturgis seems much happier, even laughing out loud.

He asks to stick around for when his friend wakes up, but Hawkeye wants Sturgis to go to Tokyo so he can start treatment. Sturgis argues that its his life, he should be able to do with it what he wants. Hawkeye begins to argue, but Father Mulcahy interrupts him.

He shows Hawkeye that Sturgis going off to Tokyo will make Hawkeye feel better, more than it will do for Sturgis. Hawkeye, seeing the light, agrees, and tells Sturgis he can stay as long as he likes.

Klinger finds Father Mulcahy, who is supposed to be in the Mess Tent to start the Sunday services, which Mulcahy completely forgot about.

In his bathrobe, Mulcahy delivers a sermon about two men: one selfish, concerned only with himself; the other a man who makes a courageous gesture of friendship. Mulcahy breaks down, admitting the first man is himself.

Cardinal Reardon gets up, hugs Mulcahy, and says, "You're a hard act to follow."

Fun Facts: The moment when Cardinal Reardon arrives is one of the very few (maybe only) moments in M*A*S*H when the humor derives from a sort of ironic distance: There's a flurry of intros between Potter, Klinger, Father Mulcahy, and Reardon, all involving their respective ranks: "Corporal, Cardinal, Captain, Father...", etc.

Its like an Abbott & Costello routine, and one of the rare times the series derived humor from the viewer sitting back and watching the scene--the characters themselves aren't trying to be funny.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye and B.J.'s discussion whether to tell Sturgis the news spills over to their own feelings on the subject. B.J. asks wouldn't Hawkeye want to know, and he counters with, "Would you want to tell me?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Episode 211 - Bless You, Hawkeye

Season 9, Episode 211: Bless You, Hawkeye
Original Air Date: 3/16/81
Written by: Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford

Directed by: Nell Cox

The doctors get some patients in the middle of the night, luckily its just a few and the cases are relatively simple. One of the soldiers is drenched, from having fallen in a watery ditch.

Later that night, Hawkeye wakes up sneezing uncontrollably. He insists he's fine, but the sneezes are getting louder and more frequent.

Hawkeye takes a long, steamy shower, positive that's all he needs. B.J. has his own cure, as does Margaret, but Hawkeye refuses to take any of it.

He seems to be over it, but when he lets a giant sneeze go in Post Op, Potter has had enough--he pulls Hawkeye away from the patients and subjects him to tests to figure out what's going on.

But despite the tests showing nothing, Hawkeye keeps getting worse. During a meeting in Potter's office, Hawkeye bursts in, sneezing, eyes puffy, itching uncontrollably--and convinced he's about to die.

Potter concludes that they've gone as far as they can with his body, now they have to see "what's on his mind"--to that end, he puts in a call to Sidney Freedman.

Sidney arrives, and sits down with Hawkeye in the VIP Tent. Hawkeye, looking awful, admits he's scared that he's going to die. Sidney, while being his normal, gentle self, says, "I don't think we need to call the hearse just yet."

After talking a bit, they call it a night. Sidney investigates the personal effects of the soldiers who came in the night Hawkeye started getting sick. He doesn't find much of interest, and Father Mulcahy tells him that Hawkeye's patient's uniform was so moldy it has to be thrown out. Despite this, Sidney can still smell the mold on the young man's personal effects.

They resume their talk the next night, and he notices Hawkeye makes repeated references to water--"swimming in cold sweat", etc. Sidney is convinced that there's some long dormant "time bomb" in Hawkeye's mind, and something has set it off.

Hawkeye mentions an older cousin named Billy, whom Hawkeye calls "The older brother I never had."

Sidney also notices that when Hawkeye mentions Billy, he makes a fist and begins banging it on the IV stand. But, soon enough, Hawkeye remembers a time when Billy pushed Hawkeye into a pond, as a joke, then pulled him out. The young Hawkeye was so hurt that the cousin he loved so much would do something like that that he altered the memory, telling himself that he fell into the pond accidentally.

This realization breaks Hawkeye down, reducing him to tears. He admits loving Billy, but also deeply, deeply hating him for doing that. His feelings of betrayal were so strong that he simply couldn't deal with the reality, so all the young Hawkeye could do was meekly thank Billy for saving his life.

Sidney concludes it was the smell of moldy water that set Hawkeye off. Soon after, they both notice Hawkeye isn't sneezing anymore.

Later, Hawkeye, Sidney, and the rest play cards. Sidney sneezes, causing Hawkeye to place a big bet. When Sidney wins the hand, he warns Hawkeye not to fall for "That old fake sneezing trick."

Fun Facts: I like every episode that features Sidney Freedman, but this one seems a little less effective in retrospect, when you know that the storyline--Hawkeye repressing a memory that causes him mental and physical harm--will essentially be repeated in the final episode.

Favorite Line: Margaret sends Father Mulcahy into the men's showers with a sure-fire cure for Hawkeye's sneezing. B.J. is there, with his own cure, and he and Hawkeye argue over what will work. Margaret opens the door to the shower a crack and yells: "Make sure he uses all of it!"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Episode 210 - The Red/White Blues

Season 9, Episode 210: The Red/White Blues
Original Air Date: 3/9/81
Written by: Elias Davis & David Pollock

Directed by: Gabrielle Beaumont

Col. Potter undergoes a routine physical--the last one he'll have to undergo while on active duty--and the results aren't good. His blood pressure is way above the norm, and he runs the risk of being pulled from command and stuck behind a desk.

Potter begs Hawkeye to fudge the numbers, but he refuses. Potter is adamant, and asks Hawkeye for two weeks to get his numbers down before the report has to be sent in to HQ. Hawkeye agrees, but reminds him he's going to have to cut down on his drinking, his salt, his cigars, and his penchant for getting angry due to the pressures of being in command.

Hawkeye promises to keep Potter's condition a secret, but almost immediately he spills the news to everyone, who start treating Potter with kid gloves, which of course drives him nuts.

Back in his office, Potter flies off the handle when he thinks Klinger ordered the wrong medicine needed to preemptively deal with the Malaria problem--they're stuck with Chloroquine instead of Primaquine. After blowing his stack, Hawkeye finds a letter enclosed that HQ was out of Primaquine, so they sent the other, less effective drug, instead.

Chloroquine is just a supressant, not the cure that Primaquine, it also has negative side effects for negroes. But it will have to do. Potter, chastened, apologizes to Klinger.

Later, Hawkeye is back in Klinger's office, and he's shocked to see the mountain of paperwork that covers the office. He can't understand why Klinger isn't getting the work done, but Klinger insists its not out of laziness, its because he feels so worn out and tired. Hawkeye isn't hearing any of it, and issues a direct order to Klinger to get all the work done before Potter comes back and sees the mess.

While the doctors try and stall Potter in the O Club (all of them drinking lemonade), Margaret checks up on Klinger. The office is in even worse shape, and Klinger complains about feeling awful. Margaret is furious, and when choppers arrive, she orders him to get up and help out, and stop goldbricking.

While in Pre-Op, Margaret sees that Pvt. Goldman (Roy Goldman) is resting on a bench. He complains of feeling tired with a bad back, and Margaret promises to have one of the doctors check him out.

Klinger, seeing this, gets mad, accusing Margaret of believing Goldman but not him, even though they have the same symptoms. Margaret apologizes and tells him to rest, too.

After OR, Hawkeye and B.J. run blood tests, and whatever's dogging Klinger and Goldman, they know its the same thing--they just don't know what it is.

While finishing up Klinger's paperwork, they come up with a plan to take Klinger and Goldman off the pills entirely. Potter, tired of being prevented from going to his office, sees the damage and explodes--but, after the outburst, he feels better.

A few days later, the gets another examination, and this time he passes with a few points to spare. Overjoyed, he takes a drink and lights a cigar in celebration.

Fun Facts: Another installment of The Young Sherman Potter Chronicles: he mentions getting a physical from a "young mademoiselle" in a farmhouse. Hotcha!

This episode ends with a text coda, the only time the show would do this, explaining that later research revealed that Chloroquine had negative side effects not only with blacks, but also Caucasians of Mediterranean descent.

Favorite Line: Hawkeye and Potter discuss the Chloroquine pills, and they're relative effectiveness. Potter asks: "And what about the negroes?"

Klinger, utterly confused: "What did I do to them?!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Episode 209 - Bottoms Up

Season 9, Episode 209: Bottoms Up
Original Air Date: 3/2/81
Written by: Dennis Koenig

Directed by: Alan Alda

An old friend of Margaret's, Capt. Helen Whitfield (Gail Strickland), is serving out her final weeks in the Army at the 4077th. Margaret and her are spending time playing cards, and Helen keeps winning. Margaret wants to keep playing, but Helen begs off and says she has to write a letter home.

The next morning, wounded arrive, and Helen seems a little under the weather. Nurse Kellye offers to cover for her, but Helen insists she's fine.

During the session, Margaret asks Helen for a bottle of AB+, but she grabs the wrong kind. Klinger notices, and points out her mistake.

Near the end of the session, Hawkeye and B.J. pull a prank on Winchester, faking a wounded patient. It goes over like a lead balloon, and when it comes time to fess up, B.J. leaves Hawkeye holding the bag. Later, in the Mess Tent, Hawkeye is greeted with jeers and Winchester is treated like a hero. Hawkeye can't stand it.

Later that night, Margaret and Helen have drinks in the O Club, and once again before the evening is over, Helen takes off, claiming she has to write another letter home.

Also in the O Club, Hawkeye and B.J. plan a prank where Hawkeye will purposely be the victim, to get the camp back on his side. Except doesn't work, and Winchester gets it again. B.J., acting like he doesn't know what's going on, tells Hawkeye "Enough is enough!"

In the middle of the night, Klinger goes to the Supply Shed, and he stumbles on Helen, alone and drunk.

The next morning, Klinger tells Col. Potter about it, and he then goes to Margaret to ask her about it. Margaret is vehement in her defense of her friend, accusing Col. Potter of a double standard--its okay for the men to drink, but when a woman does it...

Col. Potter gets Margaret to calm down, and she assures him its not a problem. But immediately after that, Margaret finds Helen in her tent, demanding to know if she's back on the booze. Helen defends herself, saying its not a problem. Margaret is adamant--she's transferring Helen to the lab.

Hawkeye figures out that the failed prank in the O Club was the work of B.J., who's been working against both of them. They then hatch a prank together, and the next morning B.J. wakes up, naked, in his cot--except its in the Nurses Tent, with a blanket stapled to the cot.

Days later, in the Mess Tent, Helen starts to freak out when she gets her tray of food. She starts screaming and convulsing, and Col. Potter and Margaret grab her, trying to calm her down. Potter says she's suffering from the DTs--which can happen when someone is trying to "dry out."

Weeks later, Margaret reads a letter from Helen, saying she's back home, getting help with her problem. She and Col. Potter toast her with two Scotch and Waters--holding the Scotch.

Fun Facts: The scene with Margaret and Col. Potter is excellent--there's some genuine anger and tension between them, and when she accuses Col. Potter of occasionally staggering back to his tent on all fours, Potter has had enough, and gets in her face, insisting "Okay--hold the insolence."

Favorite Line: Klinger tries to ask Col. Potter for advice on what to do, but he doesn't want to give any details, so he asks about a friend, "At another MASH unit...back home, in Toledo."

Potter: "Yeah, I hear the fighting's been real fierce back there lately."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Episode 208 - Oh, How We Danced

Season 9, Episode 208: Oh, How We Danced
Original Air Date: 2/23/81
Written by: John Rappaport

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

B.J. is especially depressed, since its his wedding anniversary. What he doesn't know is the others are trying to come up with some special way of celebrating it to help lift his spirits.

When Winchester gets assigned to inspect a frontline unit and make sure their following Army regulations regarding sanitary conditions, he turns it into a big deal, acting as though he's risking his life just making the trip.

He records a pseudo will on his tape recorder, bidding farewell to Cape Cod, Harcard Yard, and Baked Scrod. Hawkeye and B.J., overhearing this, mock his dramatics, causing Winchester to storm off. Hawkeye, holding Winchester's microphone, gets an idea.

He starts secretly recording his conversations with B.J., peppering him with questions about his life with Peg in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Winchester has a run in with the commander of the frontline unit he visited. Giving the unit a bad review, Finch (Arlen Dean Snyder) shows up drunk and tries to get Winchester to reconsider. When he won't, he gets angry and punches Winchester in the mouth, knocking one of his teeth out.

Winchester, ashamed of not being able to defend himself, decides to take up karate under the instructions of an older Korean man, there to visit his wounded grandson.

He later has the chance to show off his newfound skills when Finch returns to deliver a harmonica as a bribe arranged by Hawkeye, B.J,. and Klinger. Winchester, not knowing anything about the plan, freaks Finch out by being aggressive and looking for a second round.

Weeks later, on the day of his anniversary, they all trick B.J. into Col. Potter's office, where they have a surprise party waiting. B.J. art first isn't in the mood, but they all have a special gift waiting for him: a home made, made by and starring Peg (Catherine Bergstrom), partly narrated by her and the audio recordings Hawkeye made.

They watch shots of Peg doing the things B.J. mentions, like giving Erin a bath. B.J. is moved to tears, and Margaret offers to dance with him, as the young Korean boy, now out of Post Op, plays a sweet tune on a harmonica.

Fun Facts: Hawkeye fakes being Winchester when talking to Major Finch, so we have a chance to hear both Alan Alda and Mike Farrell's goofy impersonations of a Boston accent.

Yet another episode where we get to see home movies of one of the characters--in previous episodes we saw the home lives of Henry, Frank, and Radar.

Favorite Line: B.J.'s mocking of Winchester's accent and his beloved Boston: "What a touching tribute to cod, yahd, and scrod!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Episode 207 - No Laughing Matter

Season 9, Episode 207: No Laughing Matter
Original Air Date: 2/16/81
Written by: Elias Davis & David Pollock

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

During some drinks in the O Club, B.J. has Hawkeye take a Reader's Digest quiz about how "secure" he is. When B.J. asks him the third question about feeling a need to make jokes, Hawkeye answers no. B.J. finds that ridiculous, insisting that Hawkeye jokes constantly.

Hawkeye says that he likes to make jokes, but he doesn't need to. He makes a bet with B.J. that he can go 24 hours without making a single joke.

That bet becomes a lot harder when Klinger brings news that they are about to get a visit from Col. Horace Baldwin, the same man who banished Winchester to the 4077th. Col. Potter tries to break the news to Winchester gently, and orders him to stay away from Baldwin. Despite this, Winchester promises, "upon all that is holy", he will have his revenge.

Klinger tries to convince Winchester that the right tack to take is to kiss up to Baldwin, who still has the power to transfer Winchester back to Tokyo, instead of trying to murder him. Winchester storms off.

Later that night, Baldwin arrives, and Hawkeye, B.J., and Potter are shocked to see that Winchester is indeed buttering Baldwin up, treating him with the utmost deference. Baldwin can barely remember who Winchester is, but he's receptive to all the flattery. Potter is deeply suspicious.

Winchester offers to play cribbage with Baldwin, throwing game after game so Baldwin wins back all the money he lost to Winchester back in Tokyo. He plies him with fine cognac, which Baldwin refers to as "First-class hooch."

Winchester keeps trying to steer the conversation back to Tokyo, and how much he misses it. Baldwin at first seems oblivious, but then he hints that he's...lonely, and if Winchester can procure him some female companionship, he "won't forget it."

Winchester, disgusted, nevertheless heads to the O Club to find a call girl to send to Baldwin's tent. Unbeknownst to him, Margaret heads over to Baldwin's tent to drop off some medical reports.

When Margaret enters, Baldwin thinks she's there to spend the night, and appears in some sort of fetish outfit (which, thankfully, we never see). Margaret is disgusted and shocked, and, from what we hear, kicks Baldwin repeatedly before bolting out of the tent.

Winchester hires a call girl, who arrives at Baldwin's tent to find him laying on the ground in pain. She finds Winchester at the O Club, demanding her money despite what happened, causing a scene. At first he refuses, but when the call girl's enforcer (a hulking brute) threatens to break Winchester's legs, he coughs up the money.

Margaret also storms in, accusing Winchester of arranging such a disgusting display. She storms out to get Col. Potter.

Then Col. Baldwin comes in, and says that he's planning on accusing Margaret of coming on to him...and if Winchester will go along with his story, he'll arrange to transfer Winchester to Tokyo.

Col. Potter, with Margaret in tow, asks Winchester what's going on. Winchester, whimpering, admits that "Col. Baldwin is lying through this teeth." He then levels with Baldwin, admitting he's been sucking up to Baldwin all this time, but he won't destroy a friend's career.

Baldwin, with his tail between his legs, leaves immediately, just in time to hear Hawkeye broadcast a string of jokes about the day's events. Since its after midnight, he has won the bet, and now he's free to say what's been on his mind...

Fun Facts: Its a fun B-plot, but the whole idea doesn't quite work as a psychological test: if you're instinct is to make a joke at every situation but you don't just to win a bet, that's not really the same thing as not feeling compelled to make jokes. That said, its a very funny plot, and Hawkeye's joke round up at the end is great.

Favorite Line:
Hawkeye is mad over B.J.'s assertion that he feels compelled to make jokes, sarcastically suggesting he "Needs to be restrained with a 'Yock Strap.'"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Episode 206 - Depressing News

Season 9, Episode 206: Depressing News
Original Air Date: 2/9/81
Written by: Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford

Directed by: Alan Alda

The 4077th gets a shipment of tongue depressors, except the order for 5,000 has somehow been turned into an order of 500,000.

Hawkeye and B.J. at first think its funny, but then they realize there's nothing funny over the idea they have enough tongue depressors "To last five years."

After a talk in the O Club where Hawkeye compares the tongue depressors to his long gone friends and fellow doctors Trapper, Henry, and Frank Burns, he decides to use them to build a memorial to every wounded solider who passed through the 4077th.

Hawkeye grows obsessed with the task, working all day and night, even skipping meals. Col. Potter brings him some dinner, asking him what this all supposed to mean. Hawkeye answers, "I don't know...maybe nothing."

Klinger, under the thrall of his new scheme of running a 4077th newspaper, tells Stars & Stripes about Hawkeye's tower. A Capt. Allen (William Bogert) arrives with a photographer, and he tells Hawkeye his sculpture should be taken on tour, thinking it will be "great for recruitment."

Hawkeye is horrified--recruitment? Turns out Capt. Allen is from the Army, not Stars & Stripes, and he's looking at Hawkeye's tower as a propaganda tool. He asks to take a picture of it with Hawkeye alongside, but he stalls them and asks them to come back in a few minutes.

Later in the afternoon, Hawkeye tells them the tower's ready. We see that the tower now has an explosive called Primacord (taken from a patient who was sent home) wrapped around it, and he has Klinger blow it up just as the picture is snapped!

Capt. Allen is flabbergasted as to why Hawkeye would blow up the thing he spent two days building. Hawkeye puts his arm around him: "Senseless destruction, that's what its all about. Get the picture?"

Fun Facts: Another installment of The Young Sherman Potter Adventures: He mentions a lost opportunity in 1928 to start a dude ranch: "Damn zoning laws!"

In the scene between Hawkeye and B.J. in the O Club, when he mentions Frank Burns and Winchester, he compares them by saying "Just a hair's difference." Is that line supposed to a weak Winchester Is Bald joke, or is he saying the main difference between the two is that one's a good doctor and the other is not?
Since there's no laugh track, its hard to tell where that was supposed to be a laugh line.

In the scene where Hawkeye and B.J. see all the boxes of tongue depressors, the camera is far enough back that you can see that Alan Alda is wearing bright blue Adidas sneakers.

Favorite Line: The entire scene between Hawkeye and B.J. in the O Club is one of my all-time favorite scenes from the series:

As Hawkeye slaps down the tongue depressors with a series of loud thwacks, he says: "Tongue depressors, doctors, soliders...we're all the same."

He holds up the first one: "Trapper John goes. No problem, there's plenty more where he came from." (Picking up another) "B.J. Hunnicutt--same size, same shape."

He holds up another: "Frank Burns out, Winchester in. Just a hair's difference."

Finally, a third: "Henry Blake." He snaps it in two. "Rest in peace, Henry." (Picking up another) "Incoming Sherman God, hasn't this elimination tournament gone on long enough?"

I've said before how much I love the scenes where one character or another mentions previous characters from the show's past. I feel like scenes like this hint at the idea that Hawkeye, along with Margaret the longest serving member of the 4077th, is particularly haunted by having seen so many close friends come and go.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Episode 205 - No Sweat

Season 9, Episode 205: No Sweat
Original Air Date: 2/2/81
Written by: John Rappaport

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

The 4077th is in the middle of a heat wave, keeping everyone from sleeping.

Col. Potter wanders into his office to get a sleeping pill, and is shocked to find Klinger having taken apart the P.A. system, in an attempt to learn a new trade: TV repair. Potter warns that the P.A.--now it dozens of parts all over the floor--had better be back together and ready by morning.

B.J. is keeping Hawkeye up by constantly reading and re-reading a letter from Peg, which he's clearly angry about. Winchester is also up, utilizing the large empty tables in the Mess Tent to figure out his family's taxes, thrown into chaos by their unscrupulous accountant.

Margaret, meanwhile, has a brutal case of prickly heat, causing a severe rash on her rear end. Normally she would just use medicinal lotion, but with all the cases the 4077th has had, they're fresh out.

A wounded solider arrives, and Hawkeye and B.J. tell Klinger to order a chopper to come pick the young man up in the morning and take him to an air-conditioned hospital. But since Col. Potter is the only one who can do that, Klinger has to wake him up from the first good night's sleep he's had in days.

Klinger is hesitant, and tries to gently wake Potter up. Turns out the sleeping pill has worked so well that Potter starts sleepwalking, and is actually able to order the chopper (upon Klinger's urging) while still being asleep.

B.J. reveals what's bugging him--their house's gutters are clogged, and Peg needs to handle it. Hawkeye can't believe that's what's causing B.J. such anguish ("That's grounds for a Hardship Discharge if I ever heard one"), but B.J. is humorless on the subject--he builds this minor problem up in his mind until he's imagining Peg having an affair with a neighborhood handyman!

As the night wears on, people have to keep waking up Col. Potter--Winchester needs the combination to the safe (to get some carbon paper to finish up his taxes), and then Margaret has him order some of the much-needed lotion, to be brought on the chopper on its way to pick up the wounded solider. Despite all these interruptions, Col. Potter never actually wakes up.

Igor wanders into the Mess Tent to start breakfast, and, in an attempt to cool Winchester off, stupidly turns on the giant fan, causing the reams of paper to fly all over the tent.

Margaret's rash on her rear end gets revealed to the whole unit when their conversation is accidentally broadcast over the P.A., finally fixed by Klinger. Its then broken again by an enraged Margaret when she hears laughter from all over the compound.

The next morning, Col. Potter is chipper from finally getting a good night's sleep, having no memory of all the interruptions. Margaret, unable to sit down during breakfast, is tired of all the butt jokes at her expense. When Potter mistakes this and says, "At ease, Margaret", she shoots him a look that could kill.

Fun Facts: This episode eschews the typical A-plot/B-plot structure in favor one of central idea (its way too hot), around which all the characters have their own storyline.

There's a lot of funny lines in this show--during a scene in the showers, Hawkeye convinces B.J. that Peg and the gutters will be fine. He agrees, but then goes off on another tangent, convincing himself that Peg is so self-sufficient she probably doesn't even need him at all. Hawkeye, following along this line of madness, finally yells: "You are a complete idiot! No wonder Peg is leaving you!"

There's another installment of The Young Sherman Potter Adventures when, still asleep, he tells Margaret about the time he was pinned down in a wet foxhole that gave him a brutal case of "fanny fungus" and, no matter what, "The fire on the back porch just keeps burning."

Favorite Line: When Klinger tells Winchester he keeps his carbon paper in the safe, Winchester can't help mock the idea: "Carbon paper, in the safe! What brilliant foresight--in only two million years, it will turn into diamonds!" I laugh at this line every single time I hear it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Episode 204 - Operation Friendship

Season 9, Episode 204: Operation Friendship
Original Air Date: 1/26/81
Written by: Dennis Koenig

Directed by: Rena Down

After a session in OR, Klinger forgets to put some of the supplies away. Winchester trips over it, causing him to bellow at Klinger for his forgetfulness.

While standing over Klinger telling him how to do his job, the camp's generator fizzles out for a moment. That causes the Autoclave to malfunction, and it begins to emit a loud whistle. Klinger gets up and pushes Winchester out of the way, just at the exact moment B.J. walks in to see what all the noise is.

The Autoclave then blows its hatch, shooting a geyser of steam, blowing B.J. across the room into the wall!

Potter runs in, and sees that B.J. is shaken up. Claiming he's fine, he sends B.J. back to the Swamp to rest. He then tends to Klinger, who broke his nose on a stretcher while shoving Winchester out of the way.

Winchester is stunned and humbled at Klinger's act of bravery, and insists on taking care of Klinger with the utmost care. To that end, he offers to fill in for Klinger as Company Clerk while he's on the mend.

Back at the Swamp, Hawkeye is nervous about B.J., who still insists he's fine. They take an x-ray, and don't see anything wrong. But Hawkeye isn't reassured when B.J. drops a martini onto the floor of the Swamp, the glass smashing to bits.

Potter calls in a replacement surgeon, who arrives later that night--Captain Norman Traeger (Tim O'Connor). He asks to examine B.J., brusquely shoving Hawkeye out of the way, who is immediately offended.

Turns out Traeger is a specialist in this kind of injury, and he doesn't have any time for Hawkeye's opinions. Or B.J.'s, for that matter. After initially not finding anything, Hawkeye and Traeger break out into an argument, which Potter has to put the kibosh on.

The next morning, wounded arrives, and B.J.'s arm is causing him serious pain, but he won't let on. Hawkeye snipes at Traeger, who he is convinced won't be able to handle the pressure.

But Traeger is a superb surgeon, quick and able. When Hawkeye butts in on one of his patients, he's embarrassed when he sees that Traeger has handled everything perfectly.

Helping out in Pre-Op, B.J.'s bumps his wounded hand, and he doubles over in pain. He heads into OR, finally admitting he's got a real problem--his hand is white as a sheet, and he can barely move it.

They determine that B.J. has a Compartment Hemorrhage, and that if it isn't operated on immediately he'll lose the use of his hand. Hawkeye, swallowing his pride, orders Traeger to work on B.J., since he is the expert, taking Traeger's current patient. Traeger makes a crack at Hawkeye's expense, which B.J. doesn't take too well to.

Later, B.J. is recuperating, and both he and Hawkeye congratulate Traeger on his fine work. Traeger, instead of being magnanimous, says, "What did you expect? I'm not an intern, you know", and walks out of the Swamp.

Hawkeye and B.J. break into stunned laughter over Traeger's ego. B.J. says he should've "died, right there on the table", just to show Traeger up.

Fun Facts: As a kid, I absolutely loved B.J.'s line (see below) defending Hawkeye. I would've killed to have had a friend like that.

Actor Tim O'Connor played an angry Colonel in Season Four's "Of Moose and Men", who also had a real problem with Hawkeye.

The B-plot revolves around Klinger taking advantage of Winchester's attempts to make amends. He has Winchester read him Mickey Spillane's "I, The Jury" out loud, but the paperback they read from was not published until the late 1950s.

Favorite Line
: When Traeger, about to operate on B.J., mocks Hawkeye one too many times, B.J. says: "Better watch what you say, Traeger--I've still got one good hand."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Episode 203 - Taking The Fifth

Season 9, Episode 203: Taking The Fifth
Original Air Date: 1/19/81
Written by: Elias Davis & David Pollock

Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

The doctors in OR are frustrated by their lack of progress--ever since the Army banned the use of Curare, a powerful sedative, it takes much longer to perform any sort of surgical procedure.

Klinger gets a visit from a friend from a Canadian unit named Colin (Charles Hallahan) who loves the high-quality chow at the 4077th, much to Klinger's amazement. He particularly loves the fruit cocktail they served at lunch. Before Colin leaves, Klinger gives him a jar of it as a gift. Colin is so touched he gives Klinger a bottle of French wine in return.

Klinger gives it to Hawkeye in return for the $5 he owes him, but when Winchester sees what Hawkeye has, his eyes light up, recognizing it as a very fine, vintage bottle. He turns to Klinger to see if he can get any more, offering to pay $20 a bottle.

Coincidentally, Col. Potter finally gets so sick of not using Curare that he arranges a trade with the Canadian unit to get some, demanding Klinger come along for the ride ("If people start shooting, I want your nose to hide behind"). Klinger sees this as an opportunity to score more of the wine, and make himself a tidy profit in the process.

The drive to the Canadian unit goes off without a hitch, but on the way back the jeep's radiator boils over. With no water on hand, they're stuck--unless they use the wine. Klinger doesn't want to lose his investment, but when artillery starts to fall all around them, desperation sets in and, smashing the bottles open, they fill the jeep with the wine.

They eventually make it back with the Curare, where Klinger offers to drain all the wine out of the radiator and sell it to Winchester at a discounted rate. Unsurprisingly, he passes. Everyone else, though, is happy having Curare to work with again, making sessions in OR go much smoother.

Fun Facts: There's a B-plot in this episode about Hawkeye putting up an ad on the bulletin board, proposing a sort of contest to see what nurse will spend an evening with him. By this point, a lot of Hawkeye's rougher edges had been sanded down, so this sort old-school plot seems a little out of place.

Favorite Line: Colin marvels at how good the 4077th chow is, inspiring the cook to ask, incredulously: "Head wound?"

Klinger: "Canadian."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Episode 202 - Tell It To The Marines

Season 9, Episode 202: Tell It To The Marines
Original Air Date: 1/12/81
Written by: Hank Bradford

Directed by: Harry Morgan

With Col. Potter in Tokyo for a conference, Winchester is in charge of the 4077th, and he gets right to work putting Klinger to work, having him trade for all sorts of fineries--Wagner records, silk sheets, etc.

Meanwhile, Hawkeye is busy helping a Marine Pvt. named Van Liter (Stan Wells), whose mother is about to be deported back to Holland. Van Liter, a volunteer who has been wounded several times, is trying to see if he can get sent home a week early so he can see his mother before she goes. Neither his C.O. or the Red Cross will help him, so he turns to Margaret and Father Mulcahy, who turn to Hawkeye.

Hawkeye makes a call to Van Liter's commander, Col. Mulholland (Michael McGuire) but he has zero sympathy for Van Liter, calling him a "pantywaist". He refuses to listen to Hawkeye's plea, hanging up on him.

Hawkeye then decides to write a story about Van Liter's problem for Stars & Stripes, and with the help of Klinger writes a floridly written piece of propaganda, full of alliteration. But Mulholland gets wind of it and has the story killed, enraging Hawkeye.

He then turns to the regular press, meeting a sympathetic reporter who is willing to write the story properly and put it in the paper. They excitedly tell Van Liter, and promise that once people hear about his plight, they'll rally to help him. B.J. wonders if Hawkeye has promised too much.

Col. Potter returns home, and he's there with Hawkeye and B.J. in the Mess Tent when Col. Mulholland arrives, furious over the story. He's so mad he promises that once Van Liter returns, "He's in for the hardest three weeks of his life."

Hawkeye decides then and there that Van Liter is sick, and will need about three weeks to recover. Mulholland can't believe that, but gives up when Col. Potter backs Hawkeye up. He storms off, satisfied at least that Van Liter still won't get home in time "To kiss his Mommy goodbye!"

But a few days later, good news arrives--the Dutch Consul General in San Francisco read the story, and hired Van Liter's mother as a secretary, giving her diplomatic immunity, meaning she won't be deported. Van Liter is overjoyed, thanking everyone for their kindness, Hawkeye most of all.

Fun Facts: The actor playing gung-ho, "meat and potatoes" Col. Mulholland, Michael McGuire, also played the uber-snob Prof. Sumner Sloan on Cheers, about as different a role from this one as possible. Talented guy!

Favorite Line: Winchester asks Klinger how his efforts to get some Wagner recordings are going.

Klinger: "I've got two Homer & Jethro albums--but don't worry, I'm trading up."

Winchester: "You could hardly do otherwise."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...