Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“War Co-Respondent” (#192, 8×23)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, March 3rd, 1980
Written by Mike Farrell
Directed by Mike Farrell
Capsule Summary: B.J. fights his feelings when he falls for a famous (and beautiful) war co-respondent.
When I reviewed Season 5’s “Hanky Panky” back in September, there was some discussion in the comments about whether B.J. had actually cheated on his wife. It was somewhat ambiguous. Not so in this episode, where we know B.J. never acted on his feelings for the delightfully named Aggie O’Shea. B.J. even referred to the events in “Hanky Panky” during this episode while explaining how he felt about Aggie.
I’m not sure what to make of those feelings. In “Hanky Panky,” although we don’t see it, it’s implied that B.J. had been a shoulder for Nurse Carrie Donovan to cry on for some time before they may or may not have succumbed to loneliness one night. Aggie was only at the 4077th for two or three days and that was enough time for B.J. to think about being with her (and not just in bed)? To consider for the first time that Peg wasn’t the only woman in the world for him?
As for Aggie, at first she just seemed to have the hots for B.J., even mentioning that she was giving him plenty of openings to take a pass at her. Later, thought, she becomes just as infatuated with him as he is with her. Maybe love means something different in wartime. Maybe neither of them mean love but don’t know how else to describe how they feel for one another, how they’re drawn to one another.
Hawkeye’s role in the episode, once he stops obsessing about Aggie and making a fool of himself, is to help B.J. recognize that whatever it is he feels for Aggie, it’s only because they’re both in Korea. Under any other circumstances, B.J. wouldn’t have given her a second thought.
Klinger’s first scene in this episode, when he comes upon B.J. and Aggie outside the Swamp, is so out of place and so forced it’s actually painful to watch. His later involvement in the gossip circle in the Mess Tent is only slightly less awkward to watch.
With this episode, Mike Farrell became the second cast member to both write and direct an episode of M*A*S*H. Alan Alda wrote and directed ten episodes. not counting episodes he co-wrote and directed. Farrell would later write and direct “Death Takes a Holiday” in Season 9.
At the start of the episode, the P.A. announcer uses lyrics from Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” to announce the arrival of an evac bus:
“Attention all personnel. Through the roaring traffic’s boom and the silence of your lonely room night and day you are the ones. Evac bus in the compound.”
It’s an odd, almost absurd way to start the episode, and I can’t think of any way to connect it to the plot.
More than in most episodes, it’s obvious that all of the outdoor scenes were not filmed outside but instead on the Stage 9 sound stage. The shrubbery behind Aggie when she’s sketching B.J. looks very fake and the mountains behind B.J. are clearly the painted backdrop.