Episode Spotlight: Oh, How We Danced


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

“Oh, How We Danced” (#208, 9×14)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 23rd, 1981
Written by John Rappaport
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: B.J. is depressed because his wedding anniversary is right around the corner; Klinger is charged with finding a harmonica for a wounded South Korean boy; Charles learns to defend himself after being punched by a drunk soldier.

There are parts of this episode that I like. In fact, each of the storylines could work but when taken together there’s just something off. Like so many episodes of the series, the storylines are at odds with one another: B.J.’s storyline is deeply emotional while Charles and his karate is somewhat bizarre and over-the-top. Throw in the minor harmonica storyline, which is really just a subplot, and you’ve got an episode that doesn’t fit together all that well.

This episode supposedly features B.J.’s first wedding anniversary since he has been in Korea and the first anniversary since Erin was born. But there was a wedding anniversary mentioned in “Lend a Hand” from Season 8. And Erin was old enough to call Radar “Daddy” in “Period of Adjustment” but wasn’t even a year old in the home movies seen in this episode. We can chalk these up to M*A*S*H‘s ever-shifting timeline.

Hawkeye certainly went to great lengths to cheer up B.J. It must have been a tremendous amount of work to coordinate with Peg to prepare the film for B.J. The episode took place over the course of at least a week, based on Klinger’s comment about Charles and his “snazzy new pajamas.” Yet B.J. told Key Yong Lu that Soon Chi’s would only need to stay at the 4077th a couple of days. So are we to believe that Hawkeye recorded B.J.’s thoughts, shipped the tape to Peg, the film was made and shipped back to Korea in a week Just shipping the tape and film to and from the States probably took a few weeks each way.

Charles recording a farewell tape for his family was amusing. I’m particularly fond of his message to Honoria about the butterfly collection. I wonder what Cousin Alfred did to get on his bad side. The ending rhyme seems a little beneath Charles, though. Anxious as he may have been, I’m sure he could have come up with a better way to end the message.

I hope David Ogden Stiers at least had some fun with the outrageous karate moves in this episode because they are painful to watch. His conversation with Hawkeye after being punched by Finch is yet another in a long line of very nice Charles moments, perfectly acted by Stiers and offering a brief glimpse at the depth of the character. There must have been a better way to explore his feelings of physical inadequacy.

Margaret stands in for Peg

Why is Colonel Potter the one kicking the truck door to get it open in the tag? It should have been Charles demonstrating more of his skill at karate.

Some might think Hawkeye’s impersonation of Charles was a bit much but personally I find “an harmonica” hilarious. Maybe it’s just me.

Catherine Bergstrom makes her second and final appearance as Peg in this episode. The first was in “Dreams” in Season 8.

20 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Oh, How We Danced”

  1. BJ celebrates his first anniversary, but by this time in the series, they celebrated at least 2 (maybe 3) Christmases. Yeah, I think that by this point the writers just threw the timeline out the window.

    I also wondered why Charles didn’t pop open that truck door.

    Of all the major characters, I think BJ had the most ‘back home’ storylines – thanks in part to Peg’s numerous letters. Potter was probably second. Margaret had practically none since she was an Army brat and rarely talked about home.

  2. A few years back I asked Ken Levine about the show’s very haphazard timeline. He said that he and David Isaacs tried as much as possible to avoid putting dates on anything, since they were well aware of the timeline issues. He also said that the show didn’t have a “bible”, which to some degree explains the inconsistencies in people’s backgrounds(for example, Potter has a son who miraculously becomes a daughter).

    Had the show been made today, I suspect those details would be attended to more carefully. MASH is from an era where continuity was not always an overriding concern. No one expected these shows to be seen on DVD, where they can be screened nonstop and a lot of the inconsistencies become apparent.

    1. “Had the show been made today, I suspect those details would be attended to more carefully”

      Don’t bet on it. Watch any show, any era, enough and you’ll find glaring continuity errors.

  3. Charles and his karate were the best parts of this episode. BJ and Hawkeye pulling his leg about going to the front was a nice touch between roommates “Praying to the Yahd, Gahd and Scrahd.’

    Hawkeye on the phone requesting ‘an’ harmonica and Klinger’s and BJ’s reactions to that was fun to see.

    Other than that, an ok episode and as mentioned, the timing between taping the anniversary activities and getting a film made and shipped to the 4077th is totally unbelievable.

  4. What is the name of the tune the Korean boy blew on the harmonica for BJ and Hot Lips to dance by? Sounded like from a Western movie.


    1. Ricardo,

      The Twentieth Century-Fox music cue sheet for this episode has two listings for short compositions titled “Korean Boy” by composer Lionel Newman as well as a third piece titled “Anniversary Waltz” by composer Al Dubin. I assume that is the music the Korean boy played on his harmonica.

      1. The piece in question is the Anniversary Waltz by Johann Strauss. Al Dubin’s “Anniversary Waltz”, which is not heard in the episode, is a more modern tune, sung by Bing Crosby and others, which refers to the Strauss original. Apparently 20th Century Fox is lacking the degree of cultural literacy which the writers took for granted in their audience.

  5. An especially touching episode with BJ waxing poetic about how he’d spend the day with Peg and Erin.
    Hawkeye (as Charles): I want “an” harmonica.
    Seeing Charles learn karate from Key Yong Lu and then apply what he learned when confronting Major Finch was comical.

  6. I really like this episode, but I have always wondered why Hawkeye suddenly looks so worried after he’s done making fun of Charles on the recorder.

    1. My understanding is that his expression isn’t because he’s worried: it’s because after seeing the recorder, he had the idea of how they could surprise B.J. for his anniversary (since the recorder was a big part of that). This is one of my all-time favorite episodes, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. 🙂

      1. Oh, right, that makes sense 😀 Thanks, I thought it had something to do with Charles since the next scene is all about him being late, I hadn’t even considered it had something to do with the recorder itself.

  7. I guess we’re lucky the writers didn’t have BJ start to obsess over who handled the camerawork on Peg’s end.

  8. No, you’re not alone, I also enjoy Hawk’s “sadatious” imitation of CE3, as well as that moment when Charles has trouble with his laces in front of Finch.

  9. Pretty good episode. The look on BJs face when he saw his family for first time in months gave me the chills. I’m only surprised more families aren’t sending over video of what they’re doing at home. They send over every other thing. Why not some home movies?

    Hawkeye doing Charles over the phone was the funniest thing in several episodes. His overdone accent was hilarious. I’ll bet Stiers got a kick out if it. Would love to see the outtakes.

    Anyone notice how much makeup Margaret is wearing in this episode? Seems like she’s caking on the bronzer more and more in the tradition of 80s television women ala Dynasty and Dallas. I wish she would have worn a skirt when she danced with BJ so he could feel it swish around to remind him of his wife. I also wished he could have watched the video the first time on his own so he could be alone with his wife for a few minutes.

    Also, it made me laugh when BJ said ,”I don’t think anyone would object to a little mouth music.” Um yes I think they might. These are sick people who need their rest. They don’t want to hear some kid blowing into a harmonica. He had a routine broken leg. Couldn’t they have just given him some crutches and sent him on his way?

    I loved the Charles arc. The way he reacted to his failure to hit back was very realistic and showed yet another side of Charles. It’s something visceral in a man to defend himself and Charles’ taking this to heart was very interesting to watch. David Stiers is probably one of the best actors on the show alongside Alda and Morgan. Unbelievable he never received an Emmy.

    Was a bit strange that a Korean man would be teaching a Japanese martial art. Shouldn’t it have been taekwandoe? I’m guessing the Japanese actor was more familiar with karate.

    1. Sending video? It’s the 1950s! I was not common and most likely expensive to own a movie camera to shoot film.

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