Episode Spotlight: Aid Station

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

“Aid Station” (#67, 3×19)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, February 11th, 1975
Written by: Larry Gelbart & Simon Muntner
Directed by: William Jurgensen

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye, Margaret and Klinger are sent on a dangerous assignment to an aid station at the front. Meanwhile, back at the 4077th, Henry, Trapper and Radar worry about their friends while Frank is just Frank.

For the most part, “Aid Station” is a good episode that allows several characters to leave the 4077th for a bit, something that rarely happens. It includes one of my absolute favorite quotes from M*A*S*H: Hawkeye’s “Never let it be said I didn’t do the least I could do” after Margaret asks him to get out of the jeep so she can change the tire. It’s a line that perfectly embodies everything that is Hawkeye Pierce.

The episode is a little too obvious in its juxtaposition of the experience of working at an aid station with a mobile army surgical hospital, with Frank providing the 4077th point of view and the constant shelling and literal lack of a building at the aid station. Every time a shell hit and dust and debris fell onto (and into) a patient, I wondered just much protection throwing a few sets of arms over a gaping, open wound on a soldier would provide. I am sure plenty of bits and pieces got past the arms and had to be picked out.

Henry worries
Henry worries

Radar did not come off well in this episode. Coming to the Swamp with his teddy bear because he was lonely was disturbing. And asking for a night light? Too much. When Henry came and sat down for a drink, that was fine. If Radar had just shown up wanting to talk and wound up asleep on Hawkeye’s bunk, it would have seemed fine. Sometimes, watching episodes in which Radar acts like a child is actually uncomfortable.

The drawing of the sausages to determine which surgeon would go to the aid station was a nice scene, as was Margaret’s speech in her tent to Frank about how much she loved the army and the shared moment between Hawkeye and Margaret at the aid station finishing dinner.

9 Comments

  • I liked this episode. It seems like by Season Three, they were able to make more and more gutsy moves in the direction of the show, and this episode showed us some of the horrors of war, which is something they really didn’t get to do a lot previously. If we think they had it bad at the 4077th (like Frank kept whining about throughout the episode), aid stations had it a lot worse… I think it was either Hawkeye or Margaret who remarked when they first got there, “You’d never know this was a hospital”.

    This was also one of Henry’s shining episodes: for a change, the usually funny and inept Colonel Blake actually showed a little bit of backbone by taking the situation with the aid station seriously, and actually exercizing command when he tried to get volunteers to go and assist them. Again, it was really be Season Three that Henry started to take a turn for the better as a character, and it really makes me think, if Mac Stevenson had stayed a little while longer, would Henry’s character continue to develop in such a direction, and actually become more and more of a competent commanding officer? I’d like to think so.

    I also kind of like the slighty arrogant attitude Klinger has with Radar when they return, acting like a big shot hero and everything when he sees all his dresses were given away, “You people in the rear have no respect for us guys up at the front lines!”

    • RJ says:

      Hawkeye is the one who says “You’d never know this was a building” when they first drive up to the remains of the aid station.

      • doc funnypants says:

        Actually, it was Margaret who said that particular line. I thought this was an interesting episode with Hawkeye, Margaret, and Klinger enduring primitive conditions and doing their absolute best.

      • Istvan says:

        The actual lines are:

        Margaret: “You’d never know this was a hospital.”
        Hawkeye: “I funally make a house call, and the house is gone.”

  • Chuck says:

    It’s an okay episode. I can appreciate the fact that the three had to go to the aid station to work. I think the drawing of sausages provided some comedy to an otherwise serious situation…and drawing out of a bed pan was a nice touch. Frank was true Frank in this episode, but his lack of courage I found disturbing. I never really understood why so much stuff falls from the ceilings (do they have that much dirt and gravel in the roof), so RJ, I also ask what good it does to put arms over a wound. My favorite part is when they get back and Klinger puts the lady’s hat back on and Margaret laughs it off, perhaps showing that the war has began to soften her stern military ways. I think had this been in Season One, she would have told him to “take that rediculous hat off and soldier up!”

  • Pinkpagoda says:

    The juxtaposition of the two scenarios might seem predictable to us now, but I think in the 70s it was not predictable. I think it was probably bright and shiny and a new idea for a television show.

    I also like when Klinger puts on the hat at the end – a tongue in cheek view of how Klinger knows it’s a scam, and he acknowledges that Margaret and Hawkeye also know it is a scam – and brings them all back to the “real world” of the 4077.

  • jgf says:

    “I never really understood why so much stuff falls from the ceilings (do they have that much dirt and gravel in the roof)”

    Have you ever seen a building get demolished?

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    I’ve also used Hawk’s line “Never let it be said I didn’t do the least I could do” in RealLife situations when people say that something is the least I could do.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    Noticed Henry didn’t offer to pick a sausage and take a chance on being picked like Potter does in “Hawkeye Get Your Gun”. Guess that explains his guilt trip in the Swamp.

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