Episode Spotlight: Strange Bedfellows

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

“Strange Bedfellows” (#246, 11×11)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, January 10th, 1983
Written by Karen Hall
Directed by Mike Farrell

Capsule Summary: Colonel Potter learns some disturbing news about his son-in-law while Hawkeye and B.J. try to convince Charles that he snores.

Neither of the storylines in this episode are great and even superb acting by Harry Morgan and David Ogden Stiers can’t save them. M*A*S*H was pretty tired by this point and unfortunately this episode just doesn’t deliver. My recollection of Colonel Potter’s A story with his son-in-law turned out to be wrong twice. For some reason I was under the impression that Bob Wilson admitted to Potter that he had cheated on his wife rather than Potter finding out on his own. I also thought no explanation was given for how Bob ended up visiting the 4077th when in fact it was explained in detail how much red tape had to be cut through to get him there.

Still, it’s not entirely believable that a civilian would be able to travel to a war zone just to visit his father-in-law. It was one thing for Margaret’s father, a retired military man, to show up in Season 9’s “Father’s Day” but Bob? It would have made more sense for Potter to travel to Tokyo to meet up with him. There really wasn’t any need for him to come to the 4077th other than to allow the two to have their final man-to-man chat about infidelity.

Actually, there wasn’t any need for Bob to show up at all. Potter could have returned from meeting him in Tokyo, received the phone call revealing the affair, and struggled with what to do all without seeing or talking to Bob. He still could have talked it out with Father Mulcahy and ultimately decided not to tell his daughter. The story of his own infidelity he could have shared with Hawkeye and/or B.J.

Not featuring Bob in the flesh would have meant no Dennis Dugan and I’m okay with that. I never bought him as Potter’s son-in-law or as a husband troubled by a fall of the fidelity wagon. Constantly referring to Potter as “Pop” felt forced rather than familiar. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced the episode would have worked just as well, if not better, had Bob never shown up.

The highlight of the episode was Potter’s phone call to his daughter. I don’t know if someone was actually feeding lines to Harry Morgan or not but he did an incredible job in that scene. If he was reciting his side of the conversation without any cues, that’s even more impressive. You can hear the emotion in his voice and see it in his face and you know the turmoil he’s going through as he struggles with what to tell his daughter.

It’s too bad Potter later reveals that he, too, had an affair. Part of me wants to believe he made that up because it doesn’t fit with his character at all. That’s the point, I suppose, that even the best make mistakes, but I still don’t like it.

The B story with Charles and his unrealistic snoring is, well, a snore. It’s remarkable that David Ogden Stiers could do so much with so little. You actually believe that Charles is truly worried that snoring means he’s common and not a true Winchester. It’s ludicrous and bizarre but Stiers makes it seem real. I think William Christopher overdid it a tiny bit when Father Mulcahy reacts with such incredible offense. He should be used to such a snobby, holier-than-thou attitude from Charles and not let it get under his skin.

Colonel Potter talks to his daughter

The opening credits to this episode feature a truncated version of the theme song which in my opinion ends a little too abruptly.

This was the second episode Dennis Dugan appeared in. He previously played Private Danny McShane in “Love and Marriage” during Season 3.

Colonel Potter’s daughter Evvy would later appear in an episode of AfterMASH (“Thanksgiving of ’53) during its first season. Curiously, her husband in that episode was not named Bob Wilson (and not played by Dennis Dugan) but instead Bruce Ennis and their son was named Corey, not Stuart.

This was the last of five episodes directed by Mike Farrell.

11 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Strange Bedfellows”

  1. Potter’s grandson’s name was Corey, it’s mentioned in a number of episodes; where did “Stuart” come from?

    1. Potter refers to him as Stuart while on the phone with his daughter. Unless you’re asking why he was called Stuart in this episode and Corey in others, in which case I have no idea.

  2. I never cared for the performances of actor Dennis Dugan, so it is not hard for me to dislike this episode.

  3. The one and only “shrill Margret” line I like is when she says Charles’ snoring is giving away their location to the enemy, mostly because it is hidden under the crowd of people gathered outside the Swamp, talking at once.

  4. This episode just came on MeTV and I wasn’t doing anything else so I decided to do a little experiment. I have the entire M*A*S*H series burnt from the DVD’s onto a USB drive that plugs into my TV. I decided to put up picture in picture and play the episode side by side with the live broadcast, pausing the USB copy for commercials. The idea was just to see confirmation of scenes being cut for syndication. I thought maybe if it wasn’t too much of a hassle, the next time I went through the entire series, I’d do it this way and take note of every scene cut.

    I did find one scene that was completely cut, but I found something else that was even more shocking. The episode on MeTV is SPED UP! It’s not noticeable when watching by itself, but side by side, it’s most definitely noticeable. The tv episode kept getting ahead of the USB copy. At first I thought it was small extensions to scenes that I wasn’t noticing, so I started paying attention. The episode on TV is most definitely sped up to make room for more commercials, which is already sad as hell given that the episode plays in a 30 minute time slot and is only 22 minutes long, and had a 2 minute scene cut. I guess 10 minutes of commercials isn’t enough?

    Just thought I’d throw this out there as I found it interesting. Guess I won’t be dong my side by side viewing to find all cut scenes. That would be awful with the speeding up.

  5. I’ll have to keep in mind the next time “Souvenirs” is on to remember as Potter’s lecturing about the brass collecting kids that his Son In Law is in the end stop of the very same business.

  6. Timeline error: Potter said he was getting ready to start his first job after residency at the VA Hospital in Springfield. The VA was established in 1930. This is 1953. He’s always claiming to be 62 years old. So he didn’t become a doctor til he was in his 40s?

  7. The guy who played Potter’s son in law comes off very greasy. Maybe it’s good toothy grin or how way too long for the 50s hairdo but he comes off as an insincere used car salesman. No way is he from small towns Missouri. At this point in the show where they had started casting actual Koreans for villagers and actual English people when necessary, couldn’t they raid Central casting to find an actor with a bit more innocence? That way it would be more of a surprise that he’s cheating on her… For the first time .. on a business trip where he knows he will see his father in law…who he casually mentions his daughter’s extra weight to. Riiiiight. Yeah this is the guy you want to convince to stay with your daughter. Pass!

  8. Father Mulcahy’s reaction to Charles’ problem was so out of character for a priest. As a lapsed Catholic it bugs me sometimes when they portray a sitcom priest as uncaring or selfish (even though some certainly are). William Christopher says in many interviews how he thought Sidney Freedman should have been eliminated so Mulcahy could be the guy everyone goes to with their problems. However, his behavior here is probably part of the reason they didn’t do that. Can you imagine Sidney getting personally offended at someone who came to him with a problem regardless of how silly he thought it was? Would Sidney denigrate Hawkeye for sneezing or BJ for talking in his sleep? In later seasons, Mulcahy showed himself to be vain, without humility, jealous, prideful, rude, nosey, greedy, and overly angry. That’s close to all the deadly sins except lust but his “take it off Hawkeye, show me some skin” covers that one. Lol Joking of course but the writers seemed to sacrifice realistic priest behavior to get what they thought were a few laughs. Maybe they never anticipated that people would binge watch the show and notice these things.

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