Episode Spotlight: Dear Peggy

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

“Dear Peggy” (#82, 4×10)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, November 11th, 1975
Written by: Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum
Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: Father Mulcahy gets anxious when the Divisional Chaplain arrives for an inspection; Frank gives up on a patient only for B.J. to save him; Klinger keeps trying to escape; Hawkeye tries to cram enough people into a jeep to break a world record. And it all gets jotted down in B.J.’s letter to his wife.

This was the second of three episodes during Season Four that featured the letter home plot device. It came only three episodes after “Dear Mildred” and was followed six episodes later by “Dear Ma.” As always, the timeline of the episode is a little problematic if you think about it too much as a lot of the action seems to take place the same day. That doesn’t detract any from the episode, though, which features one of the greatest subplots of any episode: Koreans being taught English so they can work in the wards.

A World Record?
A World Record?

Again, you can’t spend too much time thinking about how being taught to recite specific phrases in English is actually useful. Just laugh at Frank teaching the Koreans phrases like “Get us out of the U.N.” and Hawkeye’s “Frank Burns eats worms” line, plus the scene near the end of the episode when Hawkeye gets the whole group of Koreans to say “You tell ’em, Ferret Face.”

Hawkeye’s world record attempt at stuffing people into a jeep is another great subplot. Notice the little pat on the backside he gives Hot Lips after she asks to be photographed on her good side. Klinger’s attempts to physically escape the 4077th aren’t particularly notable although the scene in which he inflates a raft in Colonel Potter’s is a good one, if only because you have to wonder whether Harry Morgan was actually knocked over or if that was scripted.

The largest plot point, the visit of Colonel Hollister, Divisional Chaplain, is probably the least interesting. Ned Beatty certainly did a terrific job during the scene in which Hollister tries to show Mulcahy how to reach out and take his flock by the hand. It’s an impressive display of religious conviction/bravado and only a little over-the-top. I think it would have worked better if Beatty had toned this down just a bit.

12 Comments

  • Pinkpagoda says:

    I always enjoy the letter episodes – you see so much through the eyes of the letter holder – and I think Ned Beatty going “over the top” was not so much part of who the actual character was – he was showing Father Mulcahey how to go “over the top” to grab their attention. I always thought that Hollister did it that way on purpose – to show Father Mulcahey how he needed showmanship to get “their” attention. He kind of does the same thing when he writes the premature “your son is doing fine” letter.

    After so many of the televangilists I’ve seen, he seems pretty right on, and not so far fetched as it might seem.

  • FourOhSevenSeven says:

    I watched this episode some time ago and I don’t remember much of it, but what comes to my mind is the scene when they set the jeep record and the visiting chaplain asks BJ if Fr. Mulcahy supports/encourages (I didn’t watch the original version) things like that and BJ says he should ask him about that and Mulcahy is seen getting out of the jeep. Oh, what a long sentence, but that was a nice scene. Wish we had priests like Fr. Mulcahy in Poland!

  • chuckles says:

    A cute episode. A classic quote I always said to my wife when she was alive…..”I just noticed its been 2 pages since I told you I love you……It’s two pages later now and I love you even more…” A very romantic line I think…I would tell her….Instead of “pages”, I would substitute this……Its been 2 hours (or sometimes minutes)since I told you I love you…Its two etc…..etc…etc………..

  • I’m with Pinky, Hollister kind of comes off as these fanatic televangelists… or, in a sense, a (southern) Baptist minister type… he, to me, kind of comes off as the Bible-thumping type without necessarily living quite a Christ-like life himself.

    It does bring up an interesting point though, Mulcahy never really asserts himself, but then again, that goes against his character: he wants people to want to seek God, not having to prompt people into wanting to seek Him.

    I would say this is a pretty average episode… not one that I would watch over and over again, but it’s still enjoyable at times… I think my favorite thing fromt his episode is the trying to teach Koreans English: “YOU TERR ‘EM FERRET FACE” kills me every time.

  • Chuck says:

    I like the episode. It’s busy, but it works really well. I guess the only part I have a problem with is Hollister making Mulcahy send the premature letter. I really didn’t get anything out of Hollister’s show of force after the service where stupid Frank said it was a pleasure to be in the presence of a real spiritual leader or something like that. Mulcahy’s spiritual presence as a priest showed best in the episode with Cardinal Reardon (Blood Brothers). I love Hawkeye’s attempt to teach Frank taunts to the Koreans.

    • Pinkpagoda says:

      The one time Father Mulcahey does get a little “showy” is when he does the sermon over the radio about the stolen money – I don’t think it was payday, I think it was Change Day.

      • Doc Funnypants says:

        That’s the episode you’re thinking of.

        An enjoyable episode, especially Hawkeye and Frank teaching English to the Koreans.

        BJ: War is an organized bore.

      • Cruiseguitar says:

        Yes!! Thanks !!

  • Cruiseguitar says:

    Hey is this the episode that starts with Father Mulcahey playing some ragtime piano in officer’s club,Klinger sitting on the edge of the piano lighting a cigar,Radar’s dancing with Nurse Kelley, Hawkeye playing with his pretzels, all while BJ is writing home to Peg, telling her how boring it can be in camp when they’re not working etc?? Love that whole opening scene- one of my fave Officer’s Club scenes in the series ( of many)

  • Cruiseguitar says:

    My first post/ comment/ time on this site..what a goldmine for m*a*s*h fans- Doc Funnypants- love it!

  • Maggie Hoolihan says:

    I’m going to nitpick a bit but it’s out of love for the show because I wish everything could be done perfectly. It bothered me the way Mike Farrell pronounced Volkswagen with the hard v sound for the w. I know it’s the way the some Germans pronounce it, but considering he’s playing an American who doesn’t speak German or have any connections to Germany, in the 50s discussing a car that’s still pretty new in America at the time, it doesn’t fit the character. He’s not even pronouncing it that way for the character since he’s supposed to be reading a letter in his head. The actor wasn’t skilled enough to realize that the character would not pronounce it that way at that time.

    On a related note, Mike Farrell bothers me sometimes. His personality is such that he thinks he’s a better actor than he actually is. Talking too fast, the fake crying that’s very obviously fake, and the manufactured outrage at the way some people cope with war. (You can’t! She’s married!) He has said in interviews that he was a co-lead with Alan which is nonsense. Did he really believe if Trapper wasn’t considered a lead that he was? Alan Alda recently did an interview where he talked about how certain characters had way too many puns written for them. He says they weren’t particularly funny unless they were classic puns like Gelbart wrote. He specifically pointed out the years after Gelbart was gone that the puns got out of hand and some actors relied too much on them. Almost all BJ’s jokes are puns. It is rather annoying and it seems Alan may have thought so too. I love MASH but I’m Team Trapper all the way. The fact that he and Alan stayed friends the rest of his life indicates that he preferred Trapper too. The chemistry was certainly there.

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