Episode Spotlight: Dear Comrade

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

“Dear Comrade” (#155, 7×11)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, November 27th, 1978
Written by Tom Reeder
Directed by Charles Dubin/p>

Capsule Summary: A North Korean spy goes undercover at the 4077th to observe and report back on the hospital’s methods.

This was an interesting take on the letter home format, seeing a complete outsider comment on the 4077th’s antics. I think there were definitely some missed opportunities for Kwang to display some confusion or disgust at what he observed, as would be expected from someone presumably indoctrinated to fear and hate the enemy.

There were a few comments in that vein, like Kwang calling Charles a “capitalist fool” or referring to those in line at the mess tent as “soft and weak-willed” for having plenty to eat but whining about the quality of food. And Kwang had quite the grasp on American idioms and cultural references. So there’s need for a little suspension of disbelief.

Charles the opera singer
Charles the opera singer

We never saw Kwang writing his reports but presumably he was having them smuggled out of the 4077th and across enemy lines somehow. The final voiceover at the end of the episode when Kwang decides to go have a drink with Potter and the others, doesn’t make sense. The voiceover suggests he’s writing the report before heading off to the Officer’s Club but he obviously wasn’t writing anything at that moment so he had to have written it after the fact. Maybe he just phrased it poorly. Or maybe something was lost in the translation.

I’m not sure quite how I feel about the end of the episode. Are we supposed to believe Kwang had so fallen in love with the 4077th that he may have defected? Earlier in the episode he provided a Korean folk remedy to the rash affecting a number of soldiers, which wasn’t necessary for to maintain his cover. I can’t decide if a better ending would have been for the 4077th to discover after he left that he was a spy.As for the various plot lines woven throughout the episode, Hawkeye’s gun was far and away the worst. There’s no way any supply sergeant would be able to get his hands on a stray Howitzer and give it to a doctor. And even if somehow the 4077th ended up with a Howitzer, I’m sure Potter could have easily gotten on the horn and had someone come pick it up.

The rash story took up most of the episode and although it didn’t have much substance, it did include the 4077th’s rarely seen lab.

Final thought: the opening scene with Charles lip synching to an unidentified aria was great. I watched it first without the laugh track and then a second time with the laugh track. The canned laughs really ruin the scene.

8 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    Good episode although the beginning makes up for the rest of it…..Charles lip syncing his aria, Hawkeye and BJ staggering drunkenly into The Swamp and Hawkeye putting the sumo wrestler’s hair on Charles’ head are probably the funniest parts of this episode.

  • The was a mostly meh episode at best. I really don’t have much to say about it, though I do find the dynamics between Charles and Kwang amusing to say the least: “I go looking for better job. More pay, less you.”

  • pinkpagoda says:

    First – this was still a comedy – and Kwang was very amusing to say the least. I actually like the “rash” story, as it shows how not knowing the local area might affect soldiers – like jungle rot got their feet in Viet Nam before they figured it out, this rash could have been an actual thing for Korea – kwang knows it is a simple rash, and knows the local remedy – though he is not a “smart American doctor” like the others.

    Second, I enjoy the “dear comerad” letter coverage, and though it might just be in his mind, his writing an excuse for staying behind is great. He justifies is by “further research” when actually he finds he likes them very much.

  • MrD says:

    I really like this episode, mainly because of Sab Shimono. And it has one of my favorite Charles line readings:
    “Try, try not to be absurd.”

  • J.P. Pelzman says:

    Great website, by the way. I’m enjoying it immensely, as I do TV Obscurities, too.
    To use a favorite Winchester-ism that’s already been mentioned, the entire plot is ab-zurd, but Sab Shimono’s performance is so good and so funny at the right times that he steals the proceedings and makes it very enjoyable. Besides the lines already cited, it’s hysterical when he says, ‘this is large country. Must be better boss somewhere.’

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    An OK episode, one I’d watch from time to time.
    The screenshot of Charles looks more like he’s yawning as opposed to singing
    Kwang’s letter to his superiors was amusing and quite accurate describing the Western mind-set concerning medicine.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    What was Hawkeye referencing when he said to the howitzer “Well, Dobbin, looks like nobody loves you–including me”? I assume its a story/book/movie about a horse named Dobbin that has to be put down. Any ideas?

  • mspence says:

    Kwang made for an interesting observer. It’s a shame he didn’t become a recurring character; I like to think he might have defected afterwards.

    The wig fit Charles perfectly lol.

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