Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“A Holy Mess” (#227, 10×13)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 1st, 1982
Written by David Pollock and Elias Davis
Directed by Burt Metcalfe
Capsule Summary: The 4077th goes crazy for fresh eggs and Father Mulcahy fights to provide sanctuary to a G.I. gone AWOL.
There are only two storylines in this episode and both get about the same amount of screen time, which might explain why they both work pretty well. I’m calling the sanctuary storyline the A story, because it’s more dramatic and because the episode title probably refers more to it. That makes the eggs the B story.
With some memorable exceptions, Father Mulcahy wasn’t usually given much to do on M*A*S*H other than offer advice and perform the last rites, so it’s always nice to see him given a more substantial role in an episode. If we had only seen him take a stand in support of Private Gillis using the 4077th mess tent as a sanctuary, that would have been a decent storyline. Having him grapple with Gillis for his rifle and then yanking it out of his hands was even more impressive.
Making the A story even more enjoyable was the fact that it was Colonel Potter who took charge rather than Hawkeye and B.J. Their role was limited to offering Gillis a drink and not ratting him out. It was Colonel Potter who then went to bat for Father Mulcahy. I especially love his reaction to Lt. Spears calling Father Mulcahy a “mess tent monk:”
“Watch your mouth, Lieutenant! I’ve known this man long enough to give him the benefit of a couple hundred doubts. He’s not about to take a stand unless he feels it’s pretty deep.”
The only thing I don’t like about the A story is Lt. Spears being such a jerk. There was no reason he needed to have such nasty attitude towards Gillis and, in fact, it might have worked better had Spears been supportive but felt duty bound to bring him back to their unit. That way, there wouldn’t have been a bad guy.
The B story could have been corny and silly, with over-the-top reactions from everyone to the news of fresh eggs, but somehow it worked for the most part. The crowd scene was a bit much. I did really like this exchange between Hawkeye and B.J.:
B.J.: “Hawk, I think you ought to know, we’re going to die.”
Hawkeye: “Never say ‘die’ and certainly never say ‘we’.”
There were so many questions left unanswered about the eggs. I wonder how many people got theirs before they were knocked over after Gillis fired his rifle. Was Charles able to salvage his kippers? Did Margaret gets hers boiled for exactly three minutes and 15 seconds? What happened to Klinger’s goat cheese? How did Colonel Potter’s omelet turn out?
I wonder if Charles dropping a piece of food while fantasizing about eggs was planned or a mistake that director Burt Metcalfe liked and decided to include in the episode.
Do you catch Sgt. Pernelli’s mention of a hypothetical “V-K Day” or Victory in Korea Day? This is a reference to the famous V-E and V-J Days from World War II.
This episode marked the third and last appearance by Val Bisoglio as Sgt. Pernelli the cook.
David Graf, who played Lt. Spears in this episode, later guest starred in an October 1983 episode of AfterMASH.