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.
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.