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."


What the Parrot Saw said...

The A-plot here is really good and of of my favorites in the series. Kudos to Koenig and and Alda (never realized he directed this) for a well-written, non-maudlin look at alcoholism. Gail Strickland is also very, very effective here and her scene with Margaret when she takes the pledge is moving.

The b-plot.... again, we see Hawkeye play the fall guy and in itself is a refreshing change of pace, but it seems that this lever was hit too many times already this season.

BJ's shenanigans illustrates his by now established role as a practical joker of the first order. Again, though, we have an event somewhat recycled from the film, when he leaves the nurses' tent in the buff- in full view of an assembled throng.

Anonymous said...

This should have been MArgaret LAst epsiode-after all in a early MASH story she has been drinking a quart of Brandy a day-of course they couldn't let Margaret suddednly get the DT from having to go sobber....and be written off the show....

Anonymous said...

The scene in the mess tent when she breaks down is amazing. There's genuine tension at one point with Potter shouting "STOP IT!" trying to contain this girl. It's such a well done scene.

Dominic said...

The first time I saw the episode, the scene where Helen broke down from the DTs really scared me.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

Coming late in the series, this episode deals-mostly successfully-with wartime alcoholism, although I think Margaret had a point when pointing out how much Potter and practically everyone else drank.

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