Episode Spotlight: Stars and Stripes

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

“Stars and Stripes” (#183, 08×14)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 17th, 1979
Written by Dennis Koenig
Directed by Harry Morgan

Capsule Summary: Charles and B.J. clash while writing a paper for a prestigious medical journal. Meanwhile, Margaret reunites with Scully and discovers he might not be the man for her.

This is the 156th episode I’ve reviewed as part of my Episode Spotlight series. I meant to make note of the 151st episode but my spreadsheet was out-of-date so I’m mentioning it now. There are 95 episodes left to go.

It’s too bad neither of the storylines in this episode heavily involve Hawkeye. Not that I think he needs to be featured in every episode. I liked his involvement in Margaret’s storyline but he didn’t add much to the Charles/B.J. storyline. Unfortunately, because he wasn’t a featured player in either the A Story or the B Story, Hawkeye was given his own minor C Story that felt forced.

Because it came up first, I’m calling Charles and B.J. writing their journal article the A Story. It works pretty well even though it’s obvious from start to finish. Of course the two were going to argue about who deserved more and of course they were going to eventually apologize and agree to work together. It’s not surprising that Charles would act like such a pompous ass nor is it surprising that B.J. would react the way he did when he felt his contributions were being overlooked.

Margaret’s B Story was full of callbacks to earlier episodes. She mentions both Frank and Donald while Hawkeye referred to Carlye Breslin, the woman he loved in med school who visited the 4077th in “The More I See You” during Season 5. When Margaret is discussing the men in her life, she includes Hawkeye but it’s not clear whether she’s referring to the events in “Comrades in Arms” (Parts 1 and 2) or more generally their initially antagonistic relationship.

The deep disconnect between Margaret and Scully wasn’t a problem in either of his previous appearances (in “A Night at Rosie’s” and “Guerrilla My Dreams”) so I’m not sure why it immediately erupted here. I can’t recall offhand whether Scully was disrespectful of Margaret’s rank and accomplishments in those earlier episodes but it felt like it came out of nowhere here.

Hawkeye’s battle against boredom was strung throughout the episode. It was mentioned during the staff meeting at the start of the episode and he certainly seemed desperate to get involved with Charles and B.J.’s paper and later begged Scully to have a drink with him. These were fine. Trying to engage Father Mulcahy in a conversation about jeeps was pointless and served only to give William Christopher something to do. Klinger’s role in the episode was minor but fit a little better.

Charles and B.J. nearly come to blows.

The Officers’ Club was pretty dead in this episode. Actually, the entire camp seemed really empty. No wonder Hawkeye was bored out of his mind.

The American College of Surgeons is a real group. It publishes the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, which is presumably the publication Charles and B.J. submitted their article to.

Klinger’s dress collection is seen in this episode although he himself doesn’t wear any dresses.

This was the fifth of nine episodes directed by Harry Morgan.

The producing, writing, and directing credits after the opening credits are at the bottom of the screen rather than the center and appear to be in a slightly lighter shade of yellow.

3 Comments

  • doc funnypants says:

    This was a rather odd episode, in that Charles and BJ were front and center. Not that I have anything against either one of them, but they were bound to clash with each other. What I can’t understand is why their storyline was resolved before Margaret’s was.

    Charles: By all rights, that should read “Written by Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III, et al”.

  • jgf says:

    I like this episode, though I find Hawkeye quite annoying throughout; it would have played out better had they found some reason for him to be away from camp for the duration.

  • 007 says:

    I like this episode BECAUSE Hawkeye is not the front and center character. As much as I love M*A*S*H, it was a bit too much of “The Hawkeye & Friends” show for pretty much the entire run, but especially in the later episodes. It was nice having a reprieve from him, even if just for an episode.

    Also, Hawkeye’s boredom and the way he acts when BJ/Charles have to write the letter but he’s not involved highlights one of the flaws with his character. If it’s not all about him, or he’s not involved in it, he goes crazy. This episode highlights that well.

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