Episode Spotlight: Are You Now, Margaret?

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

“Are You Now, Margaret?” (#171, 08×02)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, September 24th, 1979
Written By: Thad Mumford & Dan Wilcox
Directed By: Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: While at first glance the Congressional aide who drops by the 4077th appears to be friendly, his true motives are soon uncovered. He’s there to root out a Communist sympathizer: Margaret!

Perhaps an episode involving the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) was inevitable. M*A*S*H is, after all, set during the Korean War, the front lines of the fight against Communism during the early-1950s. I can’t recall now if the episode actually named the committee, although I don’t believe so. Instead, Congressional aide Williamson referred to it only as the committee.Depicting Williamson as an ideologue, blatantly over-the-top in his stance against Communism, and yet such a degenerate was, I feel, a mistake. It was impossible to take him, or his threats against Margaret, seriously. So her fear and plan to resign her commission, and by extension the outrage of Hawkeye, B.J. and the others, fell flat. Their shenanigans intended to blackmail Williamson into leaving Margaret alone, while certainly in character, turned the entire episode into a farce. The morally superior Williamson turning out to be woefully immoral was not a particularly interesting or original twist.

Klinger Saves the Day
Klinger Saves the Day

I feel like the episode took the easy way out. What would have worked better, in my opinion, would be an ending in which the audience didn’t know whether Margaret named names or not. How exactly that would have played out, I don’t know. Maybe she made a mysterious phone call and Williamson was called off. Or maybe she was seen meeting with Williamson and the next day he left and she refused to say what happened.

Klinger’s B story didn’t really do anything for me, either. At this point in the series, Klinger’s stunts usually felt forced, although his participation in a photography contest was harmless enough. I did think there were a few good lines from Hawkeye and Charles and it was nice to see Charles working with the others to help Margaret.

15 Comments

  • FourOhSevenSeven says:

    I watched this episode recently and just didn’t like it. I don’t exactly know why, maybe because of its lack of funny situations or quotes and for some of the reasons posted in the main article.

  • Terrible episode. Just terrible.

    THIS is the episode where M*A*S*H‘s slow and painful death began… the previous episode, “Too Many Cooks” had Season Eight off to a decent start, it almost seemed like an episode that was carried over from Season Seven, but starting with this episode, on the other hand, is where they lost me.

  • chuckles says:

    The only part about this episode is the very last part when they catch the aide in Margaret’s tent with her. The dialogue is pretty funny here. Otherwise, this episode was pretty lame. I think the writers were trying to put some “McCarthy-Everyone’s a Communist” era into MASH.

    • Seoul City Sue says:

      I agree with chuckles….the only great part of this episode occurs when everyone enters the tent and begins to question the congressman…..I liked Charles asking him “Pray tell, what were you doing?” LOL

      Not a great episode…….too serious in tone and everyone jumped to conclusions about Margaret’s dismissal way to soon and without the congressman providing any proof of her supposed subversive activities. All he had was a bunch of hearsay.

      Not one I watch usually but if it does air on TVLand, I watch it.

  • Chuck says:

    I usually skip over this episode. I’ve got the disc in the player right now, but I won’t watch this one. I don’t like how Margaret is treated in this episode and it bothers me.

  • TWoods says:

    Wow – all you folks hit the nail on the head with this one from my perspective. I do not like this one either for all the reason you listed. The part at the end within her tent was funny, but that’s about it. One I usually skip over unless it’s on TV.

  • Pinkpagoda says:

    I don’t know… I think that the folks caught up in McCarthy-ism were pretty much immoral degenerates that liked to bully others, and lord their power over others – while McCarthy was CRAZY and paranoid, the toadies that surrounded him were power mad, and just loved to use their positions to ruin other’s lives.

    The definition of McCarthyism is – the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. (sounds a bit like the inquisition, doesn’t it?)

    So a truly honorable person would never be caught up in such a thing. I can totally see one of them so holier than thou because he had “the power” using it to enhance his sexual fantasies and then still ruin someone’s life. The people that were blackballed and blacklisted are numerous, and fear truly permeated that era. My favorite part of this is where he may have the congressman’s ear, his wife has the rest of him. Truly just desserts.

    • Pinkpagoda says:

      AND you have to remember that the guys set him up by acting like Margaret was the “old hotlips” who just loved to party with men. So he figured, why should I be any different?

  • DaPriz says:

    “The morally superior Williamson turning out to be woefully immoral was not a particularly interesting or original twist.”

    In my experience, those who try to present themselves as morally superior tend to be quite the opposite and in most cases, actually worse than the “immoral” people they claim to be against.

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    Another example of hypocrisy in Washington. Lawrence Pressman made a habit of playing unlikable characters in his career,including “Law & Order”, “Dawson’s Creek”, and “Doogie Howser, M.D”.

  • r1ckyr4y says:

    I liked the episode, thought it was great and still is. Not sure why it’s hated.

  • mspence says:

    Klinger’s presence wasn’t really needed save for his camera. I do wonder why Margaret didn’t see through him earlier and why they couldn’t have set him up a different way-Margaret was a long way from being “Hot Lips” by this point. Williamson being a sleaze fit, and I liked how he got exposed back home-getting caught with the Congressman’s wife.

    • Doc Funnypants says:

      Actually, it was the congressman Williamson worked for who got caught with Williamson’s wife.

      Williamson: I’m married to my country first and my wife second.

      Definitely, a perfect fit for Washington.

  • Cecilie says:

    I bit of a dull episode, but I have always liked the conversation between Hawkeye, BJ and the Congressman in the swamp:

    BJ: [Talking about Charles] Absolutely. He’s more than a man – he’s a prince.
    Congressman: Tell me a about him.
    BJ: He used to be a frog.

  • chauncy Upercrust says:

    I wonder if this episode could have been used to humanize Frank’s character a little by having him defend HotLips?

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