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Celebrating 16 Years Online (1999-2015)

Episode Spotlight: A Holy Mess

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“A Holy Mess” (#227, 10×13)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 1st, 1982
Written by David Pollock and Elias Davis
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: The 4077th goes crazy for fresh eggs and Father Mulcahy fights to provide sanctuary to a G.I. gone AWOL.

There are only two storylines in this episode and both get about the same amount of screen time, which might explain why they both work pretty well. I’m calling the sanctuary storyline the A story, because it’s more dramatic and because the episode title probably refers more to it. That makes the eggs the B story.

With some memorable exceptions, Father Mulcahy wasn’t usually given much to do on M*A*S*H other than offer advice and perform the last rites, so it’s always nice to see him given a more substantial role in an episode. If we had only seen him take a stand in support of Private Gillis using the 4077th mess tent as a sanctuary, that would have been a decent storyline. Having him grapple with Gillis for his rifle and then yanking it out of his hands was even more impressive.

Making the A story even more enjoyable was the fact that it was Colonel Potter who took charge rather than Hawkeye and B.J. Their role was limited to offering Gillis a drink and not ratting him out. It was Colonel Potter who then went to bat for Father Mulcahy. I especially love his reaction to Lt. Spears calling Father Mulcahy a “mess tent monk:”

“Watch your mouth, Lieutenant! I’ve known this man long enough to give him the benefit of a couple hundred doubts. He’s not about to take a stand unless he feels it’s pretty deep.”

The only thing I don’t like about the A story is Lt. Spears being such a jerk. There was no reason he needed to have such nasty attitude towards Gillis and, in fact, it might have worked better had Spears been supportive but felt duty bound to bring him back to their unit. That way, there wouldn’t have been a bad guy.

The B story could have been corny and silly, with over-the-top reactions from everyone to the news of fresh eggs, but somehow it worked for the most part. The crowd scene was a bit much. I did really like this exchange between Hawkeye and B.J.:

B.J.: “Hawk, I think you ought to know, we’re going to die.”
Hawkeye: “Never say ‘die’ and certainly never say ‘we’.”

There were so many questions left unanswered about the eggs. I wonder how many people got theirs before they were knocked over after Gillis fired his rifle. Was Charles able to salvage his kippers? Did Margaret gets hers boiled for exactly three minutes and 15 seconds? What happened to Klinger’s goat cheese? How did Colonel Potter’s omelet turn out?

Father Mulcahy confronts Pvt. Gillis

I wonder if Charles dropping a piece of food while fantasizing about eggs was planned or a mistake that director Burt Metcalfe liked and decided to include in the episode.

Do you catch Sgt. Pernelli’s mention of a hypothetical “V-K Day” or Victory in Korea Day? This is a reference to the famous V-E and V-J Days from World War II.

This episode marked the third and last appearance by Val Bisoglio as Sgt. Pernelli the cook.

David Graf, who played Lt. Spears in this episode, later guest starred in an October 1983 episode of AfterMASH.

Name That Episode III #58

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: TWoods, who correctly “Death Takes a Holiday” from Season 9.

Name That Episode

Name That Episode III #57

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: Tuttle4077, who correctly “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan” from Season 5.

Name That Episode

Episode Spotlight: Father’s Day

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“Father’s Day” (#198, 9×04)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 8th, 1980
Written by Karen L. Hall
Directed by Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: Margaret’s father visits the 4077th and she goes to great lengths to try to impress him. Meanwhile, Hawkeye and B.J. try to hide a side of beef given to them by a grateful patient.

I was excited when this episode was randomly selected for this week’s review because I momentarily confused it with “Sons and Bowlers” from Season 10 and was looking forward to rewatching Charles and Hawkeye bonding. I soon realized my mistake. Unfortunately, “Father’s Day” is nowhere near as good an episode as “Sons and Bowlers.” The beef B-story is practically nonexistent which means there is far too much emphasis on the weak A-story involving Margaret and her father.

It’s one thing for Margaret to be excited to see her father and want to impress him, especially considering his own military background, but her behavior in this episode is just too much. Margaret often got carried away and yelled a lot, particularly in the latter years of the series. Sadly, it became more or less her only character trait as time went by and being the focus of the A-story only made things worse.

We never learned much about Margaret’s personal life outside the Army. Earlier in the series her father was supposedly dead. In “Hot Lips and Empty Arms” (Season 2) she said to Colonel Blake “Do you know you look just like my father before he died?” And in “Bulletin Board” (Season 3) after she came to him looking for a loan, Frank asked if Margaret’s father left her any money, suggesting he was dead. Margaret also mentioned a younger sister in that episode but was otherwise almost always described as an only child. Of course, she also said her mother was a drunk and a kleptomaniac, so she was likely playing fast and loose with the truth.

In this episode we learn that her parents are divorced but don’t get any details. Alvin “Howitzer” Houlihan is a retired Army colonel who loathes discussing his feelings or opening up emotionally. It would probably be accurate to say that had something to do with his divorce. As Colonel Potter points out, he was apparently willing to let Margaret think he was disappointed in her rather than admit weakness.

There’s nothing wrong with Margaret’s father being a cold, distant man. There just isn’t enough to the storyline to fill the bulk of an episode. Margaret desperately wants to please her father and over analyzes his every word, every breathe, for some clue to whether she’s disappointing him. Colonel Potter’s rant is justified, if a little over the top, and fits with his character being something of father figure at the 4077th.

As I mentioned earlier, the B-story in which a grateful patient gives Hawkeye a frozen side of beef is little more than filler. It’s perfectly harmless and totally forgettable.

“Talk about ‘whetting’ your appetite.”

Father Mulcahy and Charles have miniscule roles in this episode, shoehorned into the B-story. Klinger has only marginally more to do.

Would the 4077th have the capacity to handle preparing and cooking an entire side of beef?

B.J. mentions Margaret’s father sending a “camouflage negligee to prevent sneak attacks.” She tells him to can it. If it’s a joke, it’s a bizarre one for B.J. to make. If it’s not a joke, it doesn’t seem like something “Howitzer” Houlihan would do.

Andrew Duggan was a very tall man. He towered over Loretta Swit (and everyone else).

Name That Episode III #56

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: Big Daddy O’Reilly, who correctly “Major Ego” from Season 7.

Name That Episode

40th Anniversary of Abyssinia, Henry

Time sure flies. It was forty years ago today that CBS first broadcast “Abyssinia, Henry” and wrapped up the third season of M*A*S*H. It originally aired on Tuesday, March 18th, 1975.It was a milestone episode for the series and for television history.

I imagine most everyone visiting MASH4077TV.com already knows what happened during the episode but if you don’t for some reason, this would be a good time to stop reading and go watch it.

I’ve written a lot about “Abyssinia, Henry” over the years. In December 2013 I reviewed the episode for my Episode Spotlight initiative, criticizing only the length of the party scene (too long) and Henry’s final review of the troops (too short).

In July 2011, I attempted to determine whether the shocking ending of the episode was a tightly kept secret or spoiled by the media. It was well known prior to the episode airing that Stevenson was leaving the series and there is evidence to suggest that if you were reading the right newspaper columns and/or entertainment magazines in late 1974 or early 1975, you may have known what was going to happen at the end of the episode.

In June 2011, I took a look at the urban legend that says McLean Stevenson appeared on a raft in an episode of The Carol Burnett Show shortly after “Abyssinia, Henry” was aired. So far, no conclusive proof has been found that the cameo appearance actually occurred, although a number of people recall seeing such a scene.

Finally, in October 2010 I ran through all of the music heard in “Abyssinia, Henry” including the solemn version of “Suicide is Painless” played over a montage of scenes featuring Henry right prior to the closing credits.

If you were watching “Abyssinia, Henry” four decades ago, hit the comments with your thoughts. Was it a huge shock? Was it all everyone talked about around the water cooler the next day?

Jamie Farr Talks About the Toledo Mud Hens

Paul Caputo has written a nice history of the Toledo Mud Hens for SportsLogos.Net. He calls the Mud Hens “perhaps the most iconic of all the teams in minor league baseball” and explores how Jamie Farr and M*A*S*H helped popularize the team. Farr explains that Klinger being a fan of the Mud Hens wasn’t just because he was a fan in real life.

Read the article to learn the full story of how Klinger came to wear Mud Hens shirts and hats. And to see pictures of not one, not two, but three different Jamie Farr bobbleheads the Mud Hens distributed to fans.

Also, a challenge: Can anyone name the first episode in which Klinger wore a Mud Hens shirt or hat? I can’t, but hit the comments if you can.

(Thanks to Dan for passing this along.)

Name That Episode III #55

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

(Sorry for the delay in getting this posted.)

And the Winner Is: Seoul City Sue, who correctly “As You Were” from Season 2.

Name That Episode

Episode Spotlight: Foreign Affairs

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“Foreign Affairs” (#238, 11×03)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, November 8th, 1982
Written by David Pollock & Elias Davis
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Charles falls for a French Red Cross volunteer. Hawkeye and B.J. butt heads with an Army P.R. man trying to convince a North Korean pilot to defect.

Neither of the storylines in this episode are all that strong but both work well enough. In my opinion, the A-story is Major Reddish’s attempt to convince Lt. Chong-Wa Park to accept the $100,000 reward and travel to the United States. That means Charles falling in love with the sophisticated Martine LeClerc only to discover she’s actually very Bohemian is the B-story.

Initially, while rewatching the episode, I couldn’t take the A-story seriously. It just seemed too over-the-top to be in any way realistic. But it turns out there really was a United States Air Force plot during the Korean War to entice Communist pilots to defect with their MiG-15 aircraft. It was called Operation Moolah. You can read more about it at Wikipedia.

Major Reddish never refers to Operation Moolah by name but the details fit. It was on April 27th, 1953 by General Mark Clark and offered $50,000 to any Communist pilot landing a Soviet MiG-15 in South Korea, with an additional $50,000 would go to the first pilot to do so. None did. “Foreign Affairs” probably takes place in May 1953, at least a few weeks after Operation Moolah as announced, and only a few months before the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, ending the war.

I think the problem with the A-story is not the plot itself but the way Major Reddish was portrayed. He’s just too smug. And he smiles too much. It doesn’t help that I’m a huge Arrested Development fan and I can’t watch actor Jeffrey Tambor without seeing his character(s) from that series.

As for the B-story, once you recall that Boston hasn’t always been considered one of the most liberal cities in the United States, it is at least somewhat understandable that Charles would react the way he did after learning that Martine once posed nude for a painting and lived with a man who wasn’t her husband for several years. Family means everything to Charles and he believed that they would never accept Martine.

It’s debatable whether Charles felt the same way or just said he did to avoid having to interact with Martine. His final conversation with Martine in the Swamp strongly suggests he was at the very least conflicted about his feelings for her. Their relationship could have continued in South Korea or Japan but it could never have gone anywhere once the war ended.

Perhaps Charles wanted to avoid the pain of growing even closer to Martine, so he decided to end things and his family being “very conventional” was the perfect excuse. Or maybe I’m really over-thinking things.

“Hoisted by your own P.R.”

Like several other Season 11 episodes, “Foreign Affairs” was actually produced during Season 10 but held over until Season 11. The “freeze frame” music after the tag is likewise jazzier than usual.

The opening credits are shortened and feature a jazzy, almost bombastic version of the theme song. I’m not a big fan.

This episode marked the fifth and final guest appearance by Soon-Tek Oh on M*A*S*H, all as different characters. He previously appeared in “Love and Marriage” (Season 3), “The Bus” (Season 4), “The Korean Surgeon” (Season 5), and “The Yalu Brick Road” (Season 8).

The end credits include a credit for Patrick Romano as French Soldier. At the very beginning of the episode, during triage in the compound, Colonel Potter checks a wounded soldier who speaks French. A corpsman explains that a French unit got mortared. Unless I’m mistaken, we never see this soldier again. I’m curious if there was a larger role for this soldier that got cut.

Klinger and Father Mulcahy have very small roles in this episode. Margaret’s is only slightly larger.

Name That Episode III #54

The Name That Episode game is played Tuesdays and Thursdays, with images posted randomly between 12PM and 6PM Eastern. Players can participate as often as they like. An archive of past rounds can be found here. Today’s image can be found below. Can you name the episode it’s from? Feel free to post guesses in the comments section. As always, the winner gets bragging rights.

And the Winner Is: Seoul City Sue, who correctly “Alcoholics Unanimous” from Season 3.

Name That Episode