Saturday, December 12, 2009

Episode 232 - Heroes

Season 10, Episode 232: Heroes
Original Air Date: 3/15/82
Written by: Thad Mumford & Dan Wilcox

Directed by: Nell Cox

The 4077th prepares for a visit from "Gentlemen Joe" Cavanaugh, a famous championship boxer who is on a goodwill tour. The one most excited is Father Mulcahy, to whom Gentleman Joe was a childhood hero.

A day later, Gentleman Joe arrives, and he doesn't quite live up to his name--he's friendly to the members of the 4077th, but within their earshot he's surly and dismissive to the people helping him on the tour, complaining about the lousy conditions.

Gentleman Joe makes a beeline for Post Op, and he turns on the charm for the wounded soldiers, who seem genuinely appreciate to see him. Its clear that, in just a few minutes, he lifts everyone's spirits.

That night, they have a steak dinner in Gentleman Joe's honor. He stand up to make a toast, when he suddenly collapses, falling face-first onto the table. Hawkeye is first to him, and they wheel him into the hospital.

Turns out Gentleman Joe has suffered a massive stroke, so massive that it essentially means Gentleman Joe is dying, and he only has a few days left.

The Army PR man accompanying Gentleman Joe realizes this is huge news, and contacts the press train. Within a few hours, the 4077th is deluged with reporters, who throw the camp into chaos.

The reporters turn to Hawkeye for answers regarding the champ, and even though there's not much Hawkeye can do, the reporters treat him like a hero, and Hawkeye seems to take a shine to the attention, as well, much to the dismay of the others.

The reporters keep Klinger up all night, since they're all camped out in Klinger's office filing their news stories. Margaret makes an errant comment about how much attention Gentleman Joe is getting (compared to the wounded soldiers in Post Op), and the reporters pounce.

The only one not annoyed at all the press attention is Father Mulcahy, who is more concerned with Gentleman Joe. As the champ lay dying, Mulcahy sits with him and tells him the story about how, as a child, Mulcahy saw Joe fight and, even though the crowd wanted blood, Joe showed mercy towards his opponent. It was a profound moment for him, and helped shape the man he would become. Moments later, Gentleman Joe finally does pass away.

The press, no longer having a story, eventually clears out. The only real lasting evidence Gentleman Joe was ever at the 4077th is the giant mountain of food (complete with mini-fridge) Klinger ordered using the memo sent out to cater to Joe's every whim.

Fun Facts: Mulcahy's speech to Gentleman Joe, involving both boxing and Plato's "Ideal Plane" is wonderful--a great solo showcase for William Christopher.

The press, as a group, is presented here as a pack of ignorant and stupid guys, blinded by fame and missing all the really important news of the world. Thank god that's changed!

Favorite Line: The Army PR man asks Klinger to cart around some heavy equipment, one of a seemingly-endless list of tasks. Klinger manages to drag it all into the Mess Tent, and then he's asked to move it again.

Klinger: "No problem--I never planned on having kids anyway."


What the Parrot Saw said...

I've alluded to this in earlier comments, but William Christopher's soliloquy (in essence, that's what it represents) is in my view his single best performance.

Sometimes, its brought a lump to my throat- we know by now that Francis has been a boxer, but the backstory is plausible and nicely etched with small, but telling details.

Christopher sells it. His performance is initially halting as he tries to find the proper words (how like a priest!) but eventually he segues into his memory of watching Cavanaugh refuse to KO a man already down.

The series likely could not have indulged overly in hitting such notes- too far from the image it had already molded as a mix of humor first and drama second. The next generation of TV could mine dramedy more successfully as it began with that premise (see: St. Elsewhere, surely influenced by MASHs last seasons) and on into the present.

The entire episode is a proto-'dramedy' and it is a tribute to the collective spirit of the cast and creators that the heart of this episode lies with Mulcahy.

A classic.

Radar Hat said...

I've never been a big fan of this episode. About the only reason I can think of is because Cavanaugh is so dislikable a character, that I dislike seeing a story about him.

That said, I think the story really takes an interesting turn with him having a stroke & dying. They didn't take the easy way out with the episode, they gave us a twist and dug deeper.

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