Episode Spotlight: Bombshells

6 Comments

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

“Bombshells” (#241, 11×06)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, November 29th, 1982
Written by Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and Charles start a rumor that Marilyn Monroe will be visiting the 4077th; B.J. has the day off and plans to spend it fishing.

The A story in this episode, in which a rumor spreads throughout camp like a wildfire, is broadly reminiscent of “Rumor at the Top” from Season 10. The big difference is that the rumor in that episode came from outside the 4077th while “Bombshells” saw the rumor intentionally started by Hawkeye and Charles. It probably was fairly common for rumors to spread around MASH units and other military posts during the Korean War.

The story about Ted Williams leaving Korea that kicked off Margaret’s rumor and led to the Marilyn Monroe rumor was true. The baseball great served in World War II and during the Korean War, leaving Korea in June 1953. As for Monroe, although she didn’t make it to the 4077th in this episode, she did actually go to South Korea to entertain troopers but not until February 1954, more than six months after the armistice had been signed. You can see pictures from her visit at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

It’s only fitting that Hawkeye started the Marilyn Monroe rumor with Klinger, the person most likely to believe it and, more importantly, the person who could spread the rumor far and wide and fast. The rumor spread so fast, in fact, that somehow Colonel Potter knew when Monroe would be visiting the 4077th before anyone told him.

Welcome Marylin

The B story in this episode is pretty grim. It’s yet another example of an episode mixing a serious storyline with a silly one. With this episode I’m not sure it works all that well simply because B.J.’s storyline is so dark and upsetting that the contrast between it and the absurd Marilyn Monroe storyline is almost too much to handle. As a viewer, I felt like I had whiplash going from one extreme to the other.

B.J. calling himself a soldier for cutting the rope is a great bit of dialogue:

We sit around here in our Hawaiian shirts and red suspenders thumbing our noses at the Army, drinking home-brewed gin and flouting authority at every turn, and feeling oh-so-superior to those military fools who kill each other, and oh-so-self-righteous when we clean up after them. Well, good luck to you, pal. I hope you can keep it up. The minute I cut that rope, that made me a soldier.

I had not watched this episode in a while so I couldn’t remember if B.J. found the soldier he left behind or not. I kept hoping he would but he didn’t. I’m not sure the tag scene in which B.J. gives his Bronze Star to Corporal Sonneborn works. It almost feels like a cop-out, like B.J. was able to feel better about himself just by giving away his medal.

did you notice that when B.J. is at the 8063rd and stops the ambulance, the driver is played by regular background Dennis Troy? He actually gets a line of dialogue in the episode (“Hey, what gives?”) despite being uncredited.

6 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Bombshells”

  1. I really like both storylines but I think you’re right when you say the contrast is extremely different between them.

  2. The actors and the creators of the show mentioned that they often took inspiration of stories from real life incidents that happened during the war. I wonder if BJ’s storyline was one such thing which is a pretty disturbing thought.

    Also, were medals awarded so fast?? It seemed like barely a day went by when the pilot told BJ that he had recommended him for a medal before BJ received it. Surely, the request had to go through some channels before approval!!

    It’s also good to know that atrocious spelling errors are not a recent phenomenon of the texting age as evidenced by the incorrect spelling of MM’s name. Hawkeye and Charles’ phone call to the MGM studios is pretty funny as is the perv general wanting to come to the 4077th just to ‘shake the hands that belong to those legs.’

    1. Was the general really a perv or was he just being a man appreciating beauty? As women we can also recognize just how gorgeous she was and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with what the general said. In fact from the pictures of Marilyn in Korea, she seemed to really thrive on men’s attention.

  3. Not an episode I revisit too often, but I always enjoy it when I do. BJ’s piece of dialogue you quoted is terrific, and easily the most memorable part of the episode for me. Good late-series entry.

  4. That helicopter could have easily flown away with the weight of three persons, and it would have been better than having a discussion about cutting the rope, all the while hanging still in the air as sn easy target.

    1. I think at that point, they had already picked up one soldier, I am assuming he was in one of the pods. Having to tow a weight is much different than just a weight in the chopper. It was disturbing and BJ’s speech was memorable.

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