Your Favorite “Dear Dad” Episode


I’m not sure why but late last night I found myself thinking about the “Dear Dad” trilogy of episodes, broadcast during the first two seasons of M*A*S*H. Each of these episodes had Hawkeye writing a letter to his father describing the various goings-on at the 4077th. The letter home was used often by writers as a way to frame episodes, but these three episodes (and the three “Mail Call” episodes) are unique in that they share the same title and nothing else.

The first two of these episodes were part of Season One. In “Dear Dad” (originally broadcast December 17th, 1972) Hawkeye recounts the following events: Radar’s attempt to mail a jeep home; the camp’s Christmas celebrations; Henry and his struggle to get through a lecture on sex; Father Mulcahy dealing with a brawl between Frank and Klinger; Margaret’s tent being collapsed by Hawkeye and Trapper; and Hawkeye (dressed as Santa Claus) flying to the Hill 28 to operate on a wounded corporal. The episode ends up with a quick recap of the cast.

Dear Dad

“Dear Dad”

Then, in “Dear Dad, Again” (originally broadcast February 4th, 1973) Hawkeye tells his father about all manner of things: Klinger trying to get out of the Army; his bet with Trapper that he could walk naked to the Mess Tent without anyone noticing (he lost); Radar cheating on his final exam for a correspondence course from the Triple A High School Diploma Company; a round of bad jokes in the Swamp; a depressed Frank getting drunk; the shocking revelation that Captain Adam Casey, a talented doctor, isn’t really a doctor or a captain; and the camp’s No Talent night, complete with a four piece band (Trapper, Hawkeye, Radar and another man) conducted by Henry with Margaret singing lead vocals.

Dear Dad, Again

“Dear Dad, Again”

Finally, during Season Two came Dear Dad Three (originally broadcast November 17th, 1973) and its own mix of hilarity and horror: a soldier is brought in with a live grenade embedded in his body; the camp throws a Happy Hour party; Trapper and Hawkeye paint the skin of a patient, who is afraid he’ll get the wrong colored blood, with tincture of iodine; watching movies of Henry’s daughters (sad) and Henry himself (hilarious); Frank and Margaret get into an argument and then make up; the monthly staff meeting; and another Happy Hour party.

Dear Dad...Three

Dear Dad…Three

So which “Dear Dad” episode is your favorite? I’m torn between “Dear Dad Three” simply for the inclusion of the lovely Sivi Aberg as Anna Lindstrom and “Dear Dad, Again” because of No Talent night and the scene in which Hawkeye tells Trapper hilariously awful jokes:

Hawkeye: “Knock, knock.”
Trapper: “Who’s there?”
Hawkeye: “Abe Lincoln.”
Trapper: “Abe Lincoln who?”
Hawkeye: “Don’t you know me?”
Trapper: “That’s awful.”
Hawkeye: “Okay, can I do another one?”
Trapper: “No!”
Hawkeye: “Knock, knock.”
Trapper: “Who’s there?”
Hawkeye: “Thomas Jefferson.”
Trapper: “Thomas Jefferson who!”
Hawkeye: “Was Abe Lincoln just here?”
Trapper: “Hawkeye, I never liked you.”

Talk about your favorite “Dear Dad” episode in the comments.

13 Replies to “Your Favorite “Dear Dad” Episode”

  1. I think “Dear Dad” (1×13) is probably my favorite of the lot of them, mainly because I like when popular and successful TV series do Christmas episodes, and that was the first Christmas episode M*A*S*H ever did. I do like “Dear Dad… Three” (2×09) as a close second though, I really liked how Hawkeye and Trapper gave that bigoted patient in Post-Op a dose of reverse prejudice; the world needs more racial harmony, even to this day.

    “Dear Dad… Again” (1×18) was alright… the highlight for me for that episode was Frank drunk in the middle of the night and wanting Hawkeye and Trapper to play with him, it’s just a shame that entire scene was completely cut from syndication, but at least it lives on on DVD! And agreed, the No Talent Night was hilarious as well, love Henry’s face as he’s conducting the “orchestra”, and gets chased out of the Mess Tent when he yells “ONE MORE TIME!”

  2. I have to go with Dear Dad. The fight between Klinger and Frank is my favorite Klinger moment because it’s not rooted in silliness. It has depth and realism.

  3. Big Daddy O’Reilly is right, the world needs more stability when it comes to racial strain, and I really like how Dear Dad III shows that people can change. Like when that patient goes from worrying about getting the “wrong color blood”, and ends with him leaving the 4077th with an open mind, which was personified by him giving an apology and salute respectfully to Ginger, an African-American nurse. So I think Dear Dad III is my favorite.

  4. I like Dear Dad Again. The doctor who isn’t a doctor leaves after he becomes a priest who isn’t a priest. This story line alone was funny enough to carry the episode, but all of the other things that happened were great, without the heaviness of Dear Dad Three – sorry, it is still a good episode, but I like the second one better.

  5. Eye of the Hawk – indeed, that was a very respectful salute; I really wish they had kept Ginger Bayliss on the show, she was a great character on the show, I think she had potential to have as big a recurring role as Kellye.

    PinkPagoda – I thought Mulcahy helped him become a priest?

  6. BDOR – I don’t think so, unless something got knocked out of syndication. He tells Hawkeye that he has been (or pretended to be) an attorney, and a lot of other specialized occupations, but that he never had the patience to do the schooling (even though he was smart enough to know all that was needed.) At the end, Hawkeye tells him to never practice medicine again without a license, but to call him as soon as he GETS a license. Then as he tells Hawkeye that he won’t practice medicine, and shows him that he is now wearing cleric’s (I think a catholic priests) insignia. He leaves with a pious look on his face.

    Is that not correct?

  7. Pretty much, but I remembered Father Mulcahy bringing him over to Hawkeye to say goodbye, so I was under the impression that Mulcahy helped him become a priest (especially after he confessed to Mulcahy earlier in the episode that he wasn’t a doctor).

  8. The one problem with “Dear Dad…Three” is the inclusion of the urban legend about Dr. Charles Drew dying because a hospital would not give him a needed blood transfusion because of the color of his skin. You can read about how incorrect that is at The Straight Dope.

    I wonder if the writer(s) of the episode knew that it was an urban legend or if they, too, believed it was the truth. It could have been included even if they knew it wasn’t true because that is what doctors in the Korean War would have believed, thus making the episode more realistic, if not 100% accurate.

    1. Thanks for providing this link. I’d been told in school that Dr. Drew died because he wasn’t admitted to a hospital because of his race, and I didn’t know until now that it was an urban legend. This is like a couple of other disputed truths told at the beginning of ROOTS (Kunta Kinte was most likely sold into slavery by a rival tribe, not captured in his own land.) and about Muhammad Ali throwing his Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio River when he was refused service at a restaurant. (He told this story himself in his bio, but it turns out he’d just lost it.)

  9. I think this was one of the few instances where the show WASN’T accurate, but irregardless of that, at least they got that racist to see the light.

  10. Hmmm… I like all of them, but I just re-watched ‘Dear Dad Three’ and I have to say I really like this one due to Henry’s ‘home movies’. Since Henry tragically died on his way back to the States, he never got a ‘going away party’ so this home movie functions as a bit of feel for his family/home life.

    The insertion of Henry’s gynecologist neighbor Dr. Jaffe and his voluptous wife was a nice addition to seeing Henry’s wife and daughter. I have to agree with Col. Blake, Sylvia Jaffe was a finely built woman!

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