Episode Spotlight: Cementing Relationships


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

“Cementing Relationships” (#197, 9×03)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, December 1st, 1980
Written by: David Pollock & Elias Davis
Directed by: Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: The doctors decide to install a cement floor in the O.R. to prevent staph infections. Meanwhile, Margaret is pursued by a lovesick Italian.

This is one of those episodes where I like one of the storylines but not the other. It’s not clear which story is actually the A story. Putting in the cement floor (should it more properly be referred to as a concrete floor?) seems to be the larger story here but Margaret and Ignazio certainly get their fair share of screen time as well. For the sake of clarity, I will refer to the cement plot as the A story and our lovesick Italian as the B story.

With that in mind, it was the A story that I liked. I must admit to not actually noticing in any earlier episodes that the floor was wood. It isn’t something that really came up in earlier episodes. Although, people occasionally dropped instruments in the O.R. and the noise of them hitting the floor would suggest that it was always cement rather than wood. Furthermore, in real life I very much doubt filming could take place on a wooden floor, so the operating room set was no doubt cement or some other hard surface.

The first floor

The first floor

It isn’t really important whether the floor was always cement or wood. Within the context of the episode, it started as wood and ended up as cement. The fact that these pesky staph infections due to bacteria in the wood were never mentioned before can be ignored easily enough.

Klinger and Charles were in top form in “Cementing Relationships” and it was nice to see Charles get his comeuppance in the end. The expression on his face when he realized he had walked out onto the wet cement floor was priceless.

The B story involving Ignazio and Margaret was the weaker of the two. Ignazio was far too over-the-top as a character. Maybe if the soldier in love with Margaret had been much younger, it would not have seemed so creepy. We also never learn what happens to Ignazio. Does he get back to his unit in time to avoid being charged with going AWOL? The plot point is just dropped.

23 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Cementing Relationships”

  1. I agree totally about Ingazio – he is like a charicature of a stereotype – sort of like Jose Jimanez (if you remember him from the Ed Sullivan show – he was an over the top hispanic astronaut – who would NOT be allowed on television now due to his Political Incorrectness) – and then Margaret acting like she had to have a lover in order to dissuade him – you can’t tell me that in all this time patients (who have been at war and not around Margaret) haven’t hit on her – AND she was an officer, which gives her some clout. She would have put him in his place toot sweet!! (tut suite?) – Never liked that part – AND I never liked the part where Klinger (of course) gives the wrong part sand to water to gravel – so – not one of my favorites, EXCEPT at the end when their teamwork has actually given them a concrete floor – however, don’t know how mobile it was – so I guess they took it for granted that they would never Bug Out.

    1. Tout suite (right now in Francais) 😉

      Totally agree about the Italian. I kept covering my eyes when he was on screen because he was so ridiculously bad. He was meant to be funny but wound up being too much a stereotype. Margaret’s initial simpering even he talked of their possible future was embarrassing. They couldn’t find a real Italian who might be an aspiring actor in LA? Instead of the Jewish guy with the bad multi-regional Italian accent?

      1. I just realized who the fake Italian resembles. He’s Borat! Not really but he looks like him. Not only in his behavior toward women but in his bad euphemisms (you are toying with me like a cat with a dead moose) and his silly accent
        It’s totally him! Even down to the overemphasized bushy mustache and curly hair.

      2. That Borat doppleganger happens to be the underappreciated but ubiquitous character actor Joel Brooks. I agree he was over the top in his pursuit of the lovely Margarita. His confrontation with the bocce-ball headed Charles was equal parts amusing and embarrassing.

        Charles: My good man, I have better things to do than listen to someone make no sense in two languages.

  2. This is one of my favorite episodes, even though the side story with Ignazio is boring. I’ve thought about the “wood” floor as well. I’m pretty sure there is an episode prior to this one (maybe two) where the OR floor is being mopped. It is clearly not wood. I don’t think it really matters anyway because when they bugged out, they never took the OR building with them. I’ve always thought about the fact that they have semi-permanent structures, but yet, are mobile.

    1. I always had the impression the OR and maybe the post op buildings are supposed to be semi-permanent structures that can be heated to protect the patients. I only say that because the first time they bugged out with Potter, he went looking for a new site and he said the building he saw from the air would make a perfect OR. It turned out to be a whorehouse. If they didn’t need any permanent structures, then why was he looking for buildings to set up beside?

  3. I’ve always wanted to know why Klinger says “I’ve never said that before in my life, in my life” when Hawkeye questions him about the gravel to water ratio. I never understood why he repeated the “in my life” line. Anybody know?

    1. Actually,it’s the gravel to cement ratio in question.

      Klinger: I know cement and it’s not that hard.

  4. Does anyone know what Ignazio said to the jeep driver before he was sent back to his unit? I don’t speak fluent Italian.

  5. One glaring problem with this episode – why are the surgeons doing manual labor?

    A MASH has dozens of noncoms for a labor pool; they are the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, truck drivers, mechanics, janitors, etc. The surgeons are the heart of a MASH unit, their hands are their instruments; should they risk injuring them with construction work? (Not to mention working with cement dries out your hands horribly, even with plenty of lotion it will be a couple of days before the stiffness subsides.)

    1. Once again you said exactly what I was thinking. Why would they risk injuring a valuable medical person and allow all the grunts to sit around watching and commenting? It was silly and ridiculous. MASH didn’t always bother with plot devices. They didn’t always care about how we got from point A to point B

  6. Actually, there were multiple instances in which Klinger repeated lines of dialogue. I agree Ignazio was over-the-top in his pursuit of Margaret and,one other thing chafing my chaps about this episode is Potter’s off-hand remark before needling Charles.

  7. one thing about this episode that I always question is: where did they put all the gurneys etc. while they were installing the floor? Also what would they have done if they suddenly got some casualties since there was always very little or no advance warning when they came? (that was one of the realistic things about the show)

  8. This is another surprisingly great episode from the later seasons, although I agree with most that the Ignazio story line is annoying. The cement laying story line more than makes up for it. It’s great seeing all the main characters and most of the extras working together towards one goal, other than just patching up wounded.

    On a side note, the scene where Ignazio pops out of the bushes and startles Margaret is absolutely hilarious.

  9. This seems like an episode written just because the writers found themselves with an over abundance of cement related jokes and puns like “throw in the trowel” and “I know cement and its not that hard”.Like “Too Many Cooks” was written primarily to use up lines like “Our cook made food into a four letter word”

  10. I’m watching “Radar’s Report” from Season 2, and just noticed that, when the jar of blood smashes on the floor of the OR, the floor is definitely cement.

  11. BJ didn’t seem to have any problem supplying (admittedly a much smaller amount of)concrete to harden Hawkeye’s artillery in “Dear Comrade”

  12. So many embarassing moments in this episode. The over the top Italian character with the bad accent that traveled from Rome to Naples and back again. His terrible Borat impersonation with Margaret and the way he kept slobbering all over her arm. His bad euphemisms that were meant to be funny but didn’t make sense. I had to turn away from the screen more than once.

    Then we have Father Mulcahy singing his little cement mixing ditty. (Cement Mixing Pot-ty Pot-ty over and over). And the closeup on his face while he did the little scooby dooby doo scat part was very painful. He had about as much soul as Stephen Hawking. I’ve never heard him sing anything like that although he does play the piano sometimes. I was embarassed for William Christopher having to act that out. It’s all too precious as to be real. Good old Mulcahy is so happy to be mixing concrete that he’s made up his own song about it. Isn’t he great? It’s just ridiculous. Laying concrete is very difficult, very back breaking work. Nobody is cheerful after doing it all day and they’re certainly not singing songs! Not even a kindly priest. And what exactly is pot-ty pot-ty? If it’s a real song, that’s fair enough. It’s still not a very good one.

    That freeze frame of bloody sponges at the end was certainly pleasant. I’m glad I wasn’t eating while watching.

    BJ is looking scruffier and scruffier while Charles is looking more clean cut with shorter hair. I highly doubt the Army would allow BJ to run around unshaven with an untrimmed mustache wearing a pink shirt all the time. Even Army doctors have some guidelines they must follow.

    1. My take on Mulcahy’s cheerfulness is that he is so happy to be proactive in helping to save lives rather that being reactive by giving last rites, comforting the bereaved, etc. He delighted in being useful, like the time Klinger’s turkeys gave everyone the trots. Cement Mixer Put-ti Put-ti is a real song by Slim Gaillard (1946). Gaillard would insert nonsense words in his songs in a language he called Vout-o-Reenee.

  13. I like the concrete floor storyline a great deal, although obviously in reality, none of the medical staff would have been anywhere near manual labor, and thank god there were no casualties during the days when they were working on the room…

    But the storyline with Ignazio was appalling, I’m surprised Alphonzo D’Abruzzo didn’t walk out in disgust ;-).

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