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.


What the Parrot Saw said...

This is one of the best serious episodes in the canon- I agree, Rob; great directing from Stiers, as well as top drawer performances from WC (who has truly come into his own by now- just wonderful!)and Joe Pantoliano.

Kudos too for an excellent script; Mullen is supposed to be an Orthodox Jew and his panic at trying to cover his ignorance when questioned by Mulcahy is effective, as are his reasons for impersonating Levin.

Mulcahy's reading him Levin's letters is an inspired method of proving to Mullen the gravity of his deception. Mulcahy is gentle, but determined, without playing the heavy.


Russell said...

I'm gonna have to agree with you here, Parrot!

If there is anything absolutely GOOD about the later seasons, it is the continued use and development of Father Mulcahy as portrayed by William Christopher. This episode is another excellent showcase of his talents.

Anonymous said...

Uh... Mullen's first name is GERALD, not Gerard. Fr. Mulcahy says it more clearly right before Mullen returns Levin's mail and gets in the Jeep for
Charlie Company.

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