Episode Spotlight: Dreams


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

“Dreams” (#191, 8×22)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, February 11th, 1975
Written by: Alan Alda & James Rubinfier
Directed by: Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: Exhausted after countless hours in the O.R. and with more wounded constantly arriving, members of the 4077th cope with disturbing dreams.

I have a feeling there aren’t going to be a lot of positive comments about this episode. Over the years, I’ve gotten the impression that “Dreams” is not particularly well-liked by fans of M*A*S*H. And yet, it received a Humanitas Prize and was nominated for both an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing and a Writers’ Guild of America Award in the Episodic Drama category.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of the episode. In fact, it was territory M*A*S*H had covered before to some degree in “Hawk’s Nightmare,” which focused on Hawkeye’s nightmare and his sleepwalking. “Dreams” took things a step further by actually depicting the dreams rather than just reacting to them. And that is where it went too far for some viewers.

Klinger returns to Toledo, but only in his dreams

Klinger returns to Toledo, but only in his dreams

Easily the most bizarre and surreal episode of the series, “Dreams” allowed the fears of the characters, as manifested in their dreams, to take center stage. With the exception of Colonel Potter’s, all of the characters were left upset and disturbed by their dreams, so much so that at the end of the episode they were unwilling to go to sleep despite being exhausted.

In some respects, the dreams are easy to understand. Margaret is afraid of never being able to settle down because the Army is all she knows. Klinger is afraid of never making it back to Toledo or, if he makes it back, not being able to escape the horrors he witnessed in Korea. B.J. is afraid of losing Peg because they have been apart for so long. Father Mulcahy is afraid he is not able to help the wounded the way the surgeons and nurses are. And Hawkeye and Charles are afraid of being helpless, that all their talents as doctors will not be enough.

The only dream that doesn’t really make any sense is Colonel Potter’s. Yes, playing polo with a grenade was weird but otherwise it was a nice dream in which he saw himself as a child. When woken, he’s actually upset he wasn’t able to finish the dream.

The actor playing the patient trying to confess to Father Mulcahy deserves recognition for being able to remember all that gibberish. At first I thought it might be Latin rather than pure gibberish but here’s what the captions have to say:

“The first time was a bar in Seoul in which I trove sobbert in farley quince to civilar falamaries with closive infliches and depationary farven.

So, of course, we started drinking and then I saw again staven in tusiflia thurgis. In frawl with sagullery purchel. But franges are gurvel, you know. Iskeep perobic tondo.

The scene in the supply tent when Klinger reveals he has been warming blood inside his fur coat was a nice one and I think one often cut in syndication. I don’t recall having seen it before. That’s the nice thing about rewatching episodes on DVD.

There’s no option on the DVD to watch this episode without a laugh track because it doesn’t have one.

32 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Dreams”

  1. If I had to write Radar’s nightmare, I think it would have gone like this:

    Radar falls asleep at his desk, and is woken by the phone. It’s his mom, and she’s telling him to come home right away, dad is there. Radar is overjoyed and tells his mom he’s on his way, and is just about out the door when Potter tells him that the daily reports are due. Then, a call from I-Corps looking for some other missing paperwork. Then, other people coming in to demand forms, all the while Radar’s mom phoning him to tell him to hurry up. And then of course, choppers, which wake him – probably the only time he was the last person to hear the choppers.

  2. Dear M*A*S*H compatriots,

    I don’t know why you stated this episode is probably least liked by serious M*A*S*H watchers. I really like this episode. Everyone dreams and parts of our day, week, recent and far back history find their way in. Important events and people, places, items, actions all can find a way in. Stress, elation, fear, and other emotions, wants, and needs wiggle in too. I saw that episode as a natural extension of the situation into which our beloved characters (representing real people) had been thrust. The dreams, to me, made those characters even more real…believable…human.
    I have always been curious about Potter’s dream. But who’s to say that, had Klinger not awakened him, a young Sherman walking onto the porch to have a taste of those muffins would not have seen his house blow up? Or a sniper kill his mother? Or maybe it was just bad enough that he dozed off for ten minutes and AL-MOST had a taste of his childhood but ‘NO!’ the war intervened as Klinger had no choice but to wake him. (The latter is what I settled on long ago.)
    Then there is Charles, in his learndedness, quoting Shakespeare – (his original quote in all caps) “…To die, to sleep – TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM. At, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death, what dreams my come…” . I think the whole quote could be relevant in a figurative way. During mere naps, just minutes, they’ve all had these horrible dreams. Now, there’s a break in the fighting and they can all finally, overly exhausted, feeling, as one might say – like death warmed over, finallyie down and have a full night of sleep. Imagine what dreams may come to them in a sleep like that? Just a thought I had.
    There’s also the B.J. & Aggy issue. Toward the end he says he ‘must live for tomorrow cause for me [him] there is no now’, (which makes Aggy “love you [him] all the more”) All in all, I think it’s a well written episode and one that might not be in my top three but I really, really, like it.

    1. Haha Haha What’s funny is I came on here to talk about the gibberish confession. The first time i heard it as an adult, I knew it wasn’t Latin but thought perhaps some old way of confessing, say using Hebrew words for the bad ones he didn’t want to say. Of course it could be what Fr. Mulcahy heard as he dozed off. One could almost make the story up with the words used. But I had a bit of fun on Google translate ..our gibberish into Hebrew then reverse translated back & this is what it spit out:

      “I vaporize Subbert’s fashions into Farley’s civic wonders with a slap and maneuver. I saw again the Tusipalian Interpreter in Proley with a fancy buyer. But Frenchmen are gravel, you know. Tondo Frobie.”

      So…………. on that note, I go back to watch Season 8 Episode 24. I began it months ago on hulu. When I have a minute, I watch some of my favourite show from growing up!

  3. I think Potter’s dream represented his desire for his younger days. He had more experience with war than the others and was ready to go home, as it were.

    I liked the visiting General-how did he get wounded, anyway? Why was he at the front? He was actually willing to help and seemed more like Potter’s type of officer than the usual antagonist.

    I wonder what Igor’s dream would have been like. Maybe with him serving the rest of the camp gourmet meals but having to eat the Army food himself…

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