Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Episode 250 - As Time Goes By

Season 11, Episode 250: As Time Goes By
Original Air Date: 2/21/83
Written by: Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

In the O Club, Winchester reads a newspaper article mentioning a time capsule being buried in Los Angeles. He thinks its a useless gesture, but Margaret likes the idea, and starts an effort to create one for the 4077th.

Hawkeye, also initially skeptical, changes his mind and wants to be included in the selection process, much to Margaret's distrust.

B.J. pulls a mild joke on Rizzo, passed out in the O Club. Even though its just a joke, Rizzo promises revenge.

The time capsule effort is interrupted when wounded arrive, including a sniper who is alleged to have shot a G.I. Klinger is put in charge of incarcerating the prisoner, and its a beautiful young Korean woman named Soon-Lee (Rosalind Chao). She protests her innocence, but Klinger won't listen.

Later, Margaret and Hawkeye resume their search, and Margaret wants something military. Potter demurs, but thinks Hawkeye's suggestion of a bunyon pad (of great use to Potter after so many long sessions in OR) is a great idea. Margaret is aghast.

The G.I. shot by the sniper is missing--he and the chopper flying to the 4077th never having arrived. Soon-Lee protests her innocence, saying that she got separated from her family and if she doesn't find them soon, she may never see them again. Klinger, at least partly sympathetic, says he can't let Soon-Lee go until I-Corps tells him to. He tries to make Soon-Lee understand, but she hurls her tray of food at him in fury.

The missing chopper arrives the next morning, with the pilot explaining that the chopper's fan belt busted, forcing them to land. A sniper's bullet hit their radio, leaving him unable to call anyone. The chopper pilot (Michael Swan) quietly picks up a new fan belt, and leaves.

Rizzo gets revenge on B.J. by using a dud grenade to force him out of the showers onto the compound, sans clothes. B.J. now also swears revenge, which he gets with the help of Winchester.

B.J. then operates on the wounded man, and Klinger takes possession of the bullet. He determines that it doesn't fit the gun Soon-Lee was holding when she was picked up, proving she's innocent. Klinger frees her, and he and Father Mulcahy driver her to a refugee camp where Mulcahy thinks her parents might be.

Meanwhile, the time capsule effort continues on its parallel tracks--Margaret collects the usual items, with Hawkeye's being a little more informal: a bottle of cognac from Winchester, a stale piece of toast from Igor, and Klinger's Scarlett O'Hara dress. Margaret is sure Hawkeye is doing this to mock the time capsule.

In Post Op, they talk to the wounded solider, and he tells an amazing story: the chopper pilot, with a shot-up chopper, could only fly fifty feet at a time, so he would walk that far ahead, all alone, finding a place to land. He'd then walk back, fly to the new location with his wounded cargo, and then start all over again. This went on all night, and the young man is sorry that the pilot left so unceremoniously before he could thank him.

Klinger, Father Mulcahy, and Soon-Lee make it to the refugee camp, only to be cruelly disappointed, when its obvious that these are not Soon-Lee's parents.

Later that night, Margaret and a bunch of the others break ground and prepare to bury the time capsule. Rizzo donates some spark plugs, Kellye donates some combat boots, and Col. Potter donates one of his favorite Zane Grey novels.

At last minute, Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester show up with a trunk full of their own items, planning to bury an alternate time capsule. Margaret protests, but then Hawkeye shows what's inside: the broken fan belt from the chopper, Father Mulcahy's boxing gloves, Winchester's bottle of cognac--as well Radar's teddy bear, representing "All the soldiers who came over here as boys and went home as men."

B.J. offers up a favorite fishing lure, one that Hawkeye told him belonged to Henry Blake--it stands for "All the men that never made it home."

Margaret accepts these items gracefully, but draws the line at Klinger's Scarlett O'Hara dress. After everyone protests, she relents, but insists it be his basic black dress, not "that awful get-up." Klinger, happy to be contributing, runs off to get it.

Margaret thanks Hawkeye for his contributions, and he says that as long as they're burying things, "Why not the hatchet?"

Later, Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester head to the O Club, where on the way they discuss the long-gone Frank Burns. They meet up with Klinger, who is taking Soon-Lee to the O Club as well. The place is packed, and Klinger is sure they'll nevr get a table.

Winchester is confident a few tables will open up shortly, producing the dud grenade he took from Rizzo.

Fun Facts: This was the series' final episode, in terms of filming (the final episode, confusingly, was shot at the beginning of the season).

The scene pictured above was the last scene shot for the show and the series. There's video of a massive phalanx of press swooping in, cameras flashing, as soon as director Burt Metcalfe yelled something to the effect of "That's a wrap!"

This episode features the first appearance of Rosalind Chao as Soon-Lee, who would of course play a major role in the final show. Outside of specific two-part episodes, this is the only time a sub-plot of any kind was continued over multiple episodes.

This episode manages to get in mentions of Henry, Frank, and Radar, but not Trapper. Also, most of the supporting actors--Jeff Maxwell as Igor, G.W. Bailey as Rizzo, and Kellye Nakahara as Nurse Kellye--all get a couple of lines each in this (almost) final show.

This episode has an on-screen dedication, the only time any M*A*S*H episode featured this. Its dedicated to the memory of Connie Izay, R.N., the show's Technical Advisor from 1977-1982. Ms. Izay died in 1982.

One question I have regarding the time capsule--it seems like Margaret and the rest plan to bury it immediately, but Hawkeye and the others manage to get some stuff in at the last minute. Regarding the fan belt in particular, Hawkeye remarks "It would be nice if people remembered him a hundred years from now."

That sounds nice, but...how would anyone a hundred years from now know what any of those items mean? Maybe Margaret included a letter explaining everything, but there's clearly no explanation for the last-minute additions like the teddy bear, the fishing lure, etc.

Take a look at Loretta Swit's face in the wide-shot after B.J. hands her the fishing lure that belonged to Henry Blake. Even though the focus of the scene isn't on her (at the same moment, Winchester is pulling out his cognac), look how sad Margaret looks, once again thinking about her departed comrade. Its a very sweet moment, easy to miss if you happen to be looking somewhere else during the shot.

In the book The Last Days of M*A*S*H (by Alan and Arlene Alda) its revealed that the cast actually did bury a time capsule, filled with props and other mementos of their time on the show. There's even a photo of them lowering it into the ground!

Favorite Line: Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester walking towards the O Club:

Winchester: "Oh, by the way, you realize you didn't include anything in the time capsule from the infamous Major Burns."

Hawkeye: "I was thinking about putting in his scalpel but I didn't want to include any deadly weapons."

Not only is this just a good, funny line, but it feels a little meta, too--like the show wanted to get in one last swipe in at Frank Burns before it all ended.


Radar Hat said...

A few thoughts.
This a great episode and it's place as the last filmed seems fitting. It has a closure that the last episode feels almost too big to provide.
The behind the scenes footage for this episode is very interesting. The time capsule scene was particularly hard for Loretta Swit to get through. Her melancholy is genuine.

Rob, before the episode discussions are complete - and because I expect your Goodbye, Farewell and Amen piece to be extensive - I just want to take a moment and thank you for the incredible hard work and dedication this blog has been. I found out about it when you were around season three or four. It's been a blast following along this past year.
As I've mentioned before, it's now my go-to for all things M*A*S*H. Fans finally have a definite site that's as rich as the show itself.

Hats off, sir.

rob! said...

Thanks for the kind words, RH.

Yes, tomorrow's recap will be quite long. It just kept going and going and going, and it felt weird leaving anything out.

After that, there'll be about two weeks worth of posts, so its not over quite yet!

What the Parrot Saw said...

What's interesting about this penultimate episode is that it clearly sets up the finale with the introduction of Soon-Lee. Even though there is no mention of the war ending soon, the time capsule plot gestures towards closure. I've often wondered if this material was part of the finale spun off into a separate episode as a three hour show would have seemed too long (didn't the creators have to wrangle to get a 2 and 1/2 hr finale aired? I forget...)

I, too, love Hawk's sideways reference to Burns.

And having watched the local news footage of the final episode the night of the finale (perhaps it was syndicated but it received a primetime airing during the news programs in LA prior to the finale that same Feb evening), watching the final scene of this episode is indeed bittersweet, knowing it was the last to be shot. One can see the emotion of the actors' faces.

I recorded the newscast at the time, but it was one of the few tapes over the years to go missing- thankfully, its been excerpted in official releases and an original news spot can be found on YT, along with some fun blooper reels.

Anonymous said...

I assume Trapper wasn't mentioned since he'd be name-checked on the finale, but I've always wondered what they might have put in the time capsule to represent him if they'd been so inclined. A whoopee cushion? A martini glass?

As Alda relates in his book "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed", the real-life M*A*S*H time capsule was actually dug up by a construction crew not too long after the show ended. So much for posterity.

Radar Hat said...

"I assume Trapper wasn't mentioned since he'd..."

There have been more than a few posts about how little Trapper was referred to in the years after he was gone.

There may be a myriad of reasons I'm not aware of, but there is one that always seems to come to mind (and it's particularly true at this stage in the show). Rogers left the show in early 1975.

By the time these last couple of episodes were being written and filmed, it was 8 years later. The producers, writers, and several of the actors had long since left the show. Just how much thought were they expected to be giving the actor or the character?

I missed Trapper\Rogers as much as anyone (probably my favorite character), but it had been a long time since he was involved in the show, and his character had been very thoroughly replaced. First or not, it was three years vs eight years. B.J. was a very solid part of M*A*S*H, an iconic part of the show's identity.

My point is that it would have been nice to hear him mentioned occasionally, but I'm not surprised he wasn't.

Mikael said...

"It would be nice if people remembered him a hundred years from now."

Maybe this is a reference to the intro of the Pilote episode:

Korea, 1950
a hundred years ago

/Mikael Uhlin

Albert Giesbrecht said...

This is just a technical point, but notice that all the episodes in this season, including the final scene of this particular episode were filmed in the sound stage, as the ranch where the exterior scenes where shot had been burned down in FAG, earlier that year.

Dave said...

I think they mentioned Trapper quite often considering... 3 episodes in Season 4. Then The episode where Bj said he was jealous of him. The tongue depresser episode. The episode about practical joking which seemed like a tribute to trapper.and in Goodbye, Farewell. because of that i can forgive them for not mentioning him in the Time Capsule one.

J. CAREY, MAJOR, USA said...

Great writeup - Thanks. I'm sure you know that Ms. Swit repeatedly was overcome by tears & emotion during the time capsule scene, especially her lines. So glad she was such a trooper, and they eventually made that "wrap." Ms. Swit's emotions make that scene all the more memorable -- 30-plus years later!

Walt Brown said...

Not to take away from your excellent replay, but there are a couple of mistakes regarding the soldier and the helicopter. The Chopper didn't fly ahead 50 feet. Fifty feet is less than 20 yards. The soldier said the pilot walked ahead 200 yards, found a clearing, then came back and flew up to the clearing and repeated the process all afternoon. Also they didn't fly all night. It got too dark to fly so the pilot kept the wounded soldier warm all night with a blanket. Then they resumed the 200 yard hopping drill until they reached the 4077th.

I just watched the episode on TVLand, and was looking for more info on Connie Itay, who was memorialized at the end of the episode when I ran across your page. Otherwise, excellent article, excellent page, and excellent show. That is shown by the number of followers that still exist, and the fact that it is being rerun on TVLand and at least 2 other channels that I know of in 2017. Thanks for your efforts.

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