Episode Spotlight: U.N., the Night and the Music


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

“U.N., the Night and the Music” (#245, 11×10)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, November 9th, 1981
Written by Elias Davis & David Pollock
Directed by Harry Morgan

Capsule Summary: A visit from three U.N. delegates brings with a variety of emotions for Margaret, Charles, Colonel Potter and Klinger. Meanwhile, B.J. attempts to save a wounded soldier’s leg.

This is an odd episode in that the A-story was really three separate strands of one story that impacted various characters differently. They could be considered separate storylines, in which case the episode had an A, B, C and D-story. But since they are all connected, I think it makes more sense to consider them part of the same story.

That didn’t leave much room for the B-story involving B.J.’s patient who develops gangrene. It didn’t have a lot of time to develop and I think that hurt it in the end. I wasn’t sold on B.J. getting so emotionally attached to Private Lumley just because the private had a picture of his wife and daughter. At least not emotionally attached enough that he’d basically lie to the man and then shed a few tears after informing Lumley that his leg had been amputated.

Om Mani Padme Hum

Om Mani Padme Hum

Of the three strands making up the A-story, each having to do with one of three U.N. delegates, I enjoyed the Randolph Kent/Charles storyline the best. Charles finally thinks he’s come across someone as refined and classy as himself only to be continually one-upped by the man. And then to learn that Kent isn’t the high society, old money man Charles thought? It was hilarious.

That being said, I’m not really sure why Kent went to such lengths to denigrate Charles. When the two met, Charles was nice and excited to have someone to talk about music with. He wasn’t acting particularly snobbish or anything. But for whatever reason, Kent decided to spend his visit insulting Charles at every turn. I think that probably says more about the character of Kent than it does about Charles.

The Rammurti Lal/Potter/Klinger storyline was the shortest of the three strands and was pretty harmless. It was impressive to see so many of the actors standing on their heads for extended periods of time. I’ve never been able to do that for more than a few seconds before the blood rushes to my head and I fall over. I wonder if in certain scenes there was someone holding their legs up out of sight of the camera.

That brings us to the Per Johannsen/Margaret storyline. It was somewhat painful to watch Margaret throw herself at Per, from the first moment she saw him in Post Op, again in the Officers’ Club and finally in his tent. We don’t know exactly when Per’s injury took place or how long he’d been living with impotence. Maybe that explains why he wasn’t turned off by her desperation.

I don’t understand why Per bothered talking to Hawkeye about his problem. Why not just be firm with Margaret and tell her to leave him alone? As warm and fuzzy as it was for Margaret to stay and talk with Per, the fact that she kept pushing when he made it obvious he wasn’t interested diminished her kindness..

Finally, does anyone know what the title means? The only connection I can find is to a jazz song called “You and the Night and the Music” from a 1934 Broadway play called Revenge with Music.

20 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: U.N., the Night and the Music”

  1. I think Per misunderstood the relationship between Margaret and Hawkeye based on their interactions in the O club not knowing Hawkeye stuck his nose into everybody’s business. He probably wanted to let Hawkeye know he wasn’t interested in Margaret in that way.

    This was an OK episode and one I skip over when going through Season Eleven. Nothing outstanding about it even though Harry Morgan admitted that this was one of his two favorite episodes.

  2. I think Per was interested in Margaret but felt awkward because of impotence and that otherwise he would look so forward to spending the night with her and that he enjoyed her company. Once he told her she understood thoroughly. Margaret and Per subsequently married in real life.

  3. Yup, that song is what the ep title is referring to (in its punny way). I always thought it was a fairly well-known standard.

    1. “You and the Night and the Music” is a popular song composed by Arthur Schwartz with lyrics by Howard Dietz.

      The song was debuted in the Broadway show Revenge with Music. The show originally opened on November 28, 1934, ran for 22 performances, after which it closed. It then reopened on December 24, 1934, and ran for an additional 135 performances.[1] Authors Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin, in their book Song by Song: 14 Great Lyric Writers, say that “…the musical yielded two enduring hits and a profit although it was an artistic failure.” The song has since become an enduring jazz standard.

  4. Loretta wound up marrying Dennis Holahan, who played Per, so the connection definitely went beyond the screen. They were married for about a decade as I recall.

  5. Kent: I summered in San Remo and wintered in Sussex. You assumed the rest.
    This episode was OK except for the fact that BJ got too emotionally involved with his patient. Also, I thought Dr. Kent took a excessive amount of pride in ridiculing Charles.

    1. Perhaps, Kent, being a common servant to the uppercrust types, found a target on which to vent his frustrations, without the fear of blowback. i.e. “You have been outclaussed by the son of a bloody butler.” Good for him.

  6. Kent’s attitude is perfectly understandable. He was raised as a servant to an aristocratic family for whom his father also worked. The British social caste system was very rigid, you knew you would never rise above your “station” in life. So naturally Kent would find pleasure in taking aristocrats down a few pegs at every opportunity.

    What I found interesting is how quickly Charles concurs to Kent’s opinions on every topic.

    1. Totally agree. I was wondering why Charles didn’t stand up to him and just say, “what you call a third rate cafe is what I know is a very fine restaurant. Agree to disagree.” But I think the accent is what intimidated him. His ear was telling him that an Englishman is synonymous with class. Maybe Charles just really wanted him to like him and was so overjoyed to have a friend with something in common with him. The Brit was a total jerk though unnecessarily.

  7. A few points:

    1) Interesting in how much TV mores and standards had loosened in just six years. In “38th Parallels” Hawkeyes issue is only vaguely hinted at and never mentioned by name. Here the word impotence is said out loud. To be honest I was ten years old when watching 38th and had no idea what they were talking about. 😉

    2) I couldn’t help but think that had Per not had his “injury” and he was able to function Margaret may have missed out if she was had arrived at he Officers Club any later. He would have already left to have a threesome with Kelleye and that dark haired nurse. 😉 Their utter enchantment with the good looking foreigner and their dreamy eyes and expressions was pretty funny.

    3) I always thought Margaret’s utter infatuation at first sight with Per in Post Op was way out of character for her at this point in the show. She may as well have had cartoon hearts and cupid floating around her head like an old Warner Brothers cartoon

    1. Addendum to the above: I just realized that the nurse with Kelleye is Shari Saba as Lt. Shari, who appeared in eighteen later episodes. She is also one of the few attendees of Father Mulchahy’s service in “A Holy Mess.”

    2. I think she was just smitten with him but I’m not sure why she would keep throwing herself at someone when he keeps throwing up brick walls. He may have been interested until he heard her screeching through the door at the O Club at Hawkeye. He had just left and she’s screaming in a crazy voice right where he can hear. Either way it was very embarrassing though she did still quietly date at this point. Remember her birthday assignation with the general that she missed?

  8. At the risk of starting a new “Klinger’s Not Naked” trail, I need to ask — any idea if Potter and Klinger were really upside down in this episode? I could see Jamie Farr doing the actual yoga, but given his age I don’t think Harry Morgan would agree to it.

    1. I think they both were standing on their heads or at least being held up on their heads. You can hear the nasal quality of their voices when they speak because of the pressure on the top of their heads. Can’t really fake that. I’m guessing someone was behind them holding them up for the scenes where we see their faces.

  9. Per Johannsen’s accent was so completely German that I’m not sure what part of Sweden he was supposed to be from. As a German speaker, I figured it was just the easier accent to do for someone who was never trained as an actor. Why not just make him German instead of Swedish? I’m guessing then he would have had to be all about order and unwilling to bend on anything right? They do love to dumb things down on the show sometimes.

  10. Another marker in the MASH timeline. Hawkeye said Stalin just died which happened in March 1953. So this was probably about four months before the end of the war.

  11. Per told Hawkeye that he’d be wounded a year and a half earlier when he first came to Korea.
    Notice that Potter’s curiousity toward yoga creates a domino effect which swallows up Klinger and then Hawkeye. Just wondering if any member of the 4077th kept up with doing yoga after Capt. Lal, Dr. Kent, and Per left.

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