Episode Spotlight: In Love and War

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

“In Love and War” (#127, 6×07)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, November 1st, 1977
Written by Alan Alda
Directed by Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye falls in love with a South Korean woman struggling to take care of her mother and a group of refugees. Meanwhile, after a new nurse arrives at the 4077th, Margaret worries her husband is cheating on her.

In previous reviews, I’ve touched upon the problem of episodes involving a brand new character introduced solely to further the plot. They’re hit or miss. Sometimes they work well, even if viewers don’t know or care about the new character. But sometimes they don’t work, because viewers don’t know or care about the new character. This episode is both a hit and a miss.

It’s hard not to care about Kyung Soon. She’s an interesting character, strong and independent while also sympathetic. Yet the relationship that develops between her and Hawkeye is problematic. We’re supposed to believe they’ve fallen madly in love over the course of two weeks. But we don’t see that. We see their first date and (potentially) the morning after, or maybe some later date.

We know as the episode unfolds that Kyung Soon will never been seen or mentioned again. That makes it difficult to connect to her. One of the drawbacks of episodic television is that very little carries over from one episode to the next. Hawkeye’s pain falls a little flat because we know he’ll probably be chasing some random nurse in the next episode rather than pining over a lost love. And not even his first lost love.

Hawkeye in love

Of course, one can’t blame M*A*S*H for being an episodic television series. But I also can’t help but wonder sometimes what could have been. What if Kyung Soon had been a recurring character for several episodes, allowing her relationship with Hawkeye to develop and grow? Imagine how much more of an impact her departure would have made.

Personally, I think Hawkeye asking Kyung Soon how she can leave comes off more selfish and pathetic than intended.

This episode also features one of the few running storylines in M*A*S*H, the continuing saga of Margaret’s love life. It was a minor part of the episode but an important one for the evolution of the character. Margaret suggesting that Colonel Potter should have just painted his wife’s car rather than sell his wife’s car was amusing.

Radar is not in this episode. Father Mulcahy, Klinger and Charles don’t have much to do. I think Father Mulcahy has one line.

This was the fifth episode to be both written and directed by Alan Alda.

22 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    The one jarring note in an otherwise perfect season. Didn’t like Kyung Soon and you, RJ, perfectly summed up what I feel about Hawkeye falling in “love” with her through the course of this one episode.

    Hardly watch this one. If I do, I usually skip over to the parts with Margaret investigating Donald’s fidelity and her conversation with Col. Potter is indeed lolworthy.

    Ok episode. I could have done without it.

    • Craig Berry says:

      I agree with both of you- Sue and RJ. It’s difficult to get invested in this affair knowing there will be no mention of this character ever again.

      The main problem I have with it, though, is that these types of episodes seem so self-indulgent. Every other character gets pushed out so that the Hawkeye character can show what a deep, sensitive dude he is and we can be in awe.

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    I just watched this episode last week for the first time in years. It has not grown better with age. It seems to fit the mold of many of the Alda written and directed episodes — i.e. preaching to the audience with the message being: Western culture=bad & oppressive, Eastern culture=wonderful and imitation worthy. I find strengths and weaknesses in both Eastern and Western cultures, but Alda’s view seem more suited to the ivory towers of academic leftist idealists than to the realities of the world around us.

    • Tam Tam says:

      Nonsense. The Koreans were the ones whose culture was being destroyed; acknowledging that fact was entirely appropriate of the episode.

  • I’m sorry, but this is among my top five most hated episodes, as it does absolutely nothing for me. I know Alan Alda actually wrote this episode based on what he had heard happen to an actual Korean woman, even without meeting her, but still…

  • DHLA says:

    The interesting thing about what RJ said in this review – spot on, by the way – is that it is very reflective of TV circa 1960-2005. Only in the past decade (or less) do shows tend to evolve – even series that do not tend to have a serialized format, such as situation comedy.

    So if M*A*S*H were shot today, character evolution would be the norm, episode-to-episode, and not at the, by today’s standard, glacial pace of M*A*S*H, which at the time was historic. (Thinking primarily about transition of both series and characters from more comedic to more dramatic as the series aged, and in particular Hawkeye and Hot Lips, individually and their relationship with each other).

    It is highly unlikely that a show such as M*A*S*H – the only hits big enough today to be in that league would be Big Bang and Modern Family – would have failed to evolve significantly over an 11 year run. Big Bang is closer to M*A*S*H than Modern Family because both are not family comedies and family comedies, by their nature, evolve because the actors age and that is very noticeable for obvious reasons.

    • Dude, how dare you compare one of the worst shows in television history (THE BIG BANG THEORY) to one of the greatest shows in television history (M*A*S*H).

      • Benjamin says:

        That is of course, your own opinion, and he’s entitled to his, now I do happen to agree with your point of view but it’s his right to have his opinion also.

    • Doc Funnypants says:

      I just finished watching this episode and I’d like to say it’s not as bad as I thought. Hawkeye’s farewell scene with Kyung Soon actually was more poignant than mopey especially when he realized he’d never see her again. Truthfully, it’s very moving and heart-wrenching. Everything else was window dressing compared to Hawkeye’s story.

  • 5 O'Clock Charlie says:

    I never liked this episode.

  • Larry P. says:

    Agreed with Seoul City Sue that this is the one ‘off’ spot in the otherwise terrific season six (I love the entire series, of course, but I consider season six to be M*A*S*H’s last truly great season). I don’t like this episode and never have. It’s just that the whole “Hawkeye falls made, deeply in love” thing just isn’t believable over the course of one single episode.

    If the Kyung Soon character had been stretched over a few episodes, not even necessarily sequential episodes, and ended with the same final result seen here, it may have worked better (and I don’t mean that it should have been in a strict, Hill Street Blues-styled arc, either; how often did M*A*S*H do things like THAT? I simply mean maybe have Kyung Soon showing up at the 4077th whilst going about her work a few times during season six could have resulted in a better end product).

    Obviously, not a favorite, and the one season six episode I tend to regularly skip.

    • jgf says:

      “…just isn’t believable over the course of one single episode”

      But we have no timeline. Do the events depicted transpire over a couple of days? a couple of weeks? six months?

      For example, one of my favorite episodes, A War For All Seasons, follows several plotlines over the course of a full year …in one single episode.

  • DHLA says:

    I’m not comparing M*A*S*H to BBT… I’m just comparing sitcom SOP from basically the first 50 years of TV to a sitcom from today – and it is easier to compare a big hit, non-family sitcom from today’s era to a big hit, non-family sitcom from another era. I’m not saying I like BBT better than M*A*S*H (I don’t), but it’s hard to argue that it is one of the top shows on TV in 2014, and it is a non-family sitcom. No offense intended. Hopefully no offense accepted.

  • B.C. says:

    As a U.S. military vet, I thought this episode was great!!! I totally get someone special coming into your life, and then one of you having to pull up stakes. I relate to the selfishness of wanting that person to stay, or yourself wanting to go AWOL to remain with that person – because your heart will ache due to being separated. I’m moved every time I see this episode.

    • BH1 says:

      One of my favorite episodes. It is very touching and shows Hawkeye in a warm sincerity-a big departure from his often smart alecky ways.

      I thought Kyung Soon was lovely and very sincere. She was played by Kiều Chinh and this episode was loosely based on her life.

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    This episode does very little to impress me. Margaret is over the top with fear that Donald cheated on her and her behavior rubs me the wrong way. Hawkeye’s farewell scene with Kyung Soon is mopey at best, maudlin at worst.

  • Phyllis K. says:

    I’ve never cared for this episode either but after reading Mr. C’s comment, the US military vet, I understand the episode more and next time I see it, I will keep his thoughts in mind. It just might change my perception.

  • emjay says:

    this has always been one of my favorite MASH episodes. the contrast between the quiet, intellectual, introverted Korean woman with the loud, intense, extroverted Margaret works well for me. Also the contrast been Margare’s life saving as a career and her commitment to the army vs the Korean woman’s life-saving as her life–giving up whatever she migh have wanted for herself personally.

    Also, the Korean woman’s knowledge and appreciation of French language and literature points much more clearly than usual at MASH’s Korea standing in for Vietnam.

    It’s been many years since I;ve seen any MASH, and this is one of the small handful of episodes that comes to mind occasionally.

  • Maggie Hoolihan says:

    I spent the first half of this episode averting my eyes from the screen at how self indulgent and maudlin this episode was, complete with the mushy violin music. But then I read somewhere that this was actually loosely based on the Vietnamese actress who played Kyung Soon’s story. That explains her speaking French. The actress had a similar experience before Saigon was overrun by the North Vietnamese. It made me feel a bit better about the sentimentality of the story. However, it did seem as though Hawkeye changed his tune about her rather quickly. I do understand that in war emotions are high and you just want some sense of normalcy, some sense of home to help you forget. But the little details seemed forced in some instances. The music, the contrast of the bombed out restaurant with their romantic dinner, the mixed emotions over whether to “dance” together. It all seemed taken from a 40s melodrama. Maybe that was the point. I didn’t expect to get invested in their relationship because MASH really can’t have a permanent character that’s a native Korean because there’s really no future in it. It would change the tenor of the show to have any real focus on the natives since the whole point is being uncomfortable and far from home. I’m on the fence about it also because as a woman I always found Hawkeye’s “making time” with the ladies very creepy. Maybe it’s the way he is constantly cracking jokes or the Groucho voice he does at times but he just comes off like a snake oil salesman when he’s trying to seduce a woman. I believe Hawkeye believed he was in love with her but it was really just a roundabout way of getting her into bed. He’s shown he has issues with commitment. Certainly if he didn’t marry a beauty like Blythe Danner when he had the chance, he’s not going to marry a random Korean woman. If she were a respectable girl back home, that may be what he would have to do to advance the relationship to the bedroom. Because she was so “civilized,” his mind went right to love because it reminded him of girls at home. Just a theory.

  • Joyce says:

    Hi, does anyone know the name of the violin music played during the episode, In Love and War? Thank you!

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