Friday, December 25, 2009

Episode 239 - The Joker Is Wild

Season 11, Episode 239: The Joker Is Wild
Original Air Date: 11/15/82
Written by: John Rappaport and Dennis Keonig

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

B.J. pulls a prank on Hawkeye in the Swamp, which Hawkeye thinks is utterly lame. He's not bothered by being the butt of a joke, just its tired premise. He brags about the classic jokes he and Trapper pulled, which seems to make B.J. a tad jealous.

B.J. pulls another tired gag on Margaret in the Mess Tent, and the discussion again turns to "the good old days", which inspires B.J. to surmise that Trapper was such a genius that he could pull a gag on everyone in the next 24 hours, with each victim having to do a striptease on top of a table while singing "You're The Tops."

Everyone wonders when B.J. is going to kick it off, but he demurs, saying he doesn't go in for that sort of thing--its only something the "legendary Trapper" could pull off.

The next day starts off with a prank being pulled on Winchester, followed quickly by one on Potter. This sets Hawkeye on edge, convinced that if he keeps his eye on B.J. he won't get gotten.

Soon after, Margaret, Father Mulcahy, and Klinger fall victim to B.J., too. The build-up of suspense drives Hawkeye nuts--he treats everyone he encounters like they are part of B.J.'s elaborate prank, even a visiting doctor from the 8063rd (Clyde Kusatsu), who thinks Hawkeye is completely insane.

Its gets so bad that Hawkeye can't even sleep, spending the night surrounded by a fence made of barbed wire, golf club in hand, twitching at every sound.

The next morning, everyone reconvenes in the Mess Tent, and a weathered, tired-looking Hawkeye is smug about not having been pranked by B.J.

Hawkeye lords it over B.J. so much that it inspires the rest of them to admit the real truth--none of them were actually pranked. It was all an elaborate ruse by B.J., designed to drive Hawkeye crazy--every single joke perpetuated on Winchester, Potter, et al, were all phony. As B.J. calls it, "The best joke was the joke that never came."

Hawkeye, admitting when he's been bested, climbs atop the Mess Tent table, drops his drawers, and sings "You're The Tops" at full blast. The doctor from the 8063rd happens by, and walks away shaking his head, utterly convinced Hawkeye is crazy.

The next morning, B.J. makes sure there are no hard feelings. Hawkeye says of course not, promising he'll "never tangle with the master again." The joke master, B.J., wakes up and we see Hawkeye has indeed gotten revenge--by shaving half of B.J.'s mustache off.

Fun Facts: This whole episode feels like a giant tribute to Wayne Rogers and/or Trapper John.

Since everyone at M*A*S*H knew this was the last season, I've always thought this episode was the series taking a moment to stop and pay homage (especially since Trapper is the only departed character not mentioned in the penultimate episode, "As Time Goes By").

Related to that, during the reminisces about Trapper in the Mess Tent, Hawkeye calls Trapper "A man of ahead of his time." He turns to Margaret, asking, "Right, Margaret?" to which she replies, "He was a ridiculous, juvenile child." Hawkeye, proud of the response, says, "See?"

Actor Clyde Kusatsu previously appeared in Season Eight's "Goodbye Cruel World", as well as Season Two's "Henry in Love" and "Officers Only."

Favorite Line: In an episode with many funny lines, nothing, but nothing, beats Hawkeye's prank on B.J. at the very end of the episode, pictured above. That one shot of B.J. with half a mustache (with Hawkeye silently losing it in the background, gleeful of pulling the joke off) remains one of my all-time favorite M*A*S*H moments. (And, in its own way, is yet another reference to days gone by)


Anonymous said...

To be honest, I've always liked the idea of this episode more than the way it actually plays out.

As was too often the case with late-period "M*A*S*H", the comical bits seem far too stilted and self-conscious to really work, even (or maybe especially) with the overbearing laugh track.

Russell said...

I didn't really appreciate this episode when I saw it back in the day. First of all, I never thought of Trapper John as all that much of a practical joker! Are there any episodes where he pulled practical jokes? I don't remember any of them. I did kind of see it as an homage to the character, but I think it could have been handled way better than it was.

I do love that last shot of BJ with only half a mustache, though.

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