Episode Spotlight: Yessir, That’s Our Baby

23 Comments

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

“Yessir, That’s Our Baby” (#184, 8×15)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 31st, 1979
Written by Jim Mulligan
Directed by Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: When an Amerasian baby is left anonymously in front of the Swamp, the 4077th goes to great lengths to try to secure a good home for her.

This is a rare episode that only features one storyline. Unfortunately, spending so much time on a single storyline didn’t work in the episode’s favor. This probably would have gone over much better had it only been one of multiple storylines rather than the focus of an entire episode. It’s not a terrible episode, although I think everyone can agree that it is too heavy-handed at times.

Story editor Dennis Koenig had this to say about “Yessir, That’s Our Baby” in Suzy Kalter’s The Complete Book of M*A*S*H:

There was a show that didn’t turn out great but dealt with a very important story, That’s My Baby [sic], about Amerasian babies. It was a tough story to do because it dealt with an issue we had a tendency to overlook–what we did to the Korean people by being there. These kids were never accepted in Korean culture; they were shunned by society and had no future.

That M*A*S*H overlooked the plight of Amerasian babies until Season 8 is part of the problem with this episode, in my opinion. Watching the episode you get the feeling that the producers decided to tackle the topic because they realized M*A*S*H had been on the air for eight years and they hadn’t covered Amerasian babies yet, rather than doing so because it fit naturally into an episode.

(The issue of Amerasian babies was glossed over for the most part in Season 2’s “The Choson People” which saw a South Korean woman lie about Radar being the father of her baby. Although she later admitted that her own family had ostracized her, at the end of the episode she and her baby were readily accepted by a group of South Korean refugees (although one could argue they might not have known her baby was Amerasian).

Having only one storyline meant every single character had to be shoehorned in somehow. That actually worked quite well for nearly everyone. Margaret and Klinger didn’t really have much to do but their roles were believable. At least with everyone reacting to the baby in what could be described as an extreme fashion, nobody really felt all that out of character.

Except for Charles, that is. While it’s certainly reasonable that Charles would care and worry about the baby, his outburst at Roger Prescott was painful to watch, mostly because it was so bluntly telegraphed that the normally calm and refined Charles would eventually snap.

To sum up, there’s nothing wrong with the topic of the episode but the execution feels forced and, yes, perhaps too preachy.

“Run for your life, Prescott! It’s a wild boar!”

The closing credits contain the following:

Special Acknowledgement
to
THE PEARL S. BUCK
FOUNDATION, INC.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) was a strong advocate for Asian and mixed-race adoption. Her foundation is known called Pearl S. Buck International.

It’s never mentioned in the episode but how did everyone at the 4077th know that the father of the baby was actually an American?

After Hawkeye and Colonel Potter were told by Chung Ho Kim that other countries like France and The Netherlands were far more accepting of babies of their military, I’m a little surprised nobody thought about trying to trick one of those countries into accepting the baby.

Howard Platt, who played Major Ted Spector, revealed in TV’s M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book by Ed Solomonson and Mark O’Neill, that he got the role at 10PM the night before his scenes was filmed and didn’t receive the script until 1AM that morning. I wonder who was originally supposed to play that character.

Colonel Potter compares the milk-filled surgical glove to “the business end of a Guernsey” which the Internet tells me is a breed of cattle.

23 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Yessir, That’s Our Baby”

  1. Im surprised at the criticism of this episode. You may be right about it all but I never realized it was a one arc story til now. I suppose youre right about what you say but I disagree about Charles’ fury at Prescott. I felt it was appropo.

  2. I’m sorry, but I just had this question. In the episode “Dr, Pierce and Mr. Hyde”, there is a scene which is very brief shown with the words

    B. O. Q.
    Number 6

    on the door of the Swamp when Radar is leading Hawk into the Swamp. It is seen when the door closes and swings behind him. Any ideas? I saw it on the DVD. The words are on a sign stuck on the door over the painted words “Swamp”.

    1. Bachelor Officers Quarters.

      Why Trapper, Frank, and B.J. (all married men) were assigned to a Bachelor Officers Quarters tent is beyond me.

      1. I think it meant in the sense that their wives weren’t there with them. I don’t really think the army would see any difference between housing bachelor and married officers together. Since some bases do allow wives and families to live on base they make the distinction in name. I think they just mean bachelor in the sense that is all men in there without any women present.

    1. I suppose nobody thought about adoption because they wanted to make a point about all those abandoned babies. Just as it was with Henry and not every soldier making it back home, not every relinquished child gets adopted.

    2. I thought the same thing although I was wondering why they didn’t try to find someone in the States to adopt her like an agency of some kind. Who did they expect to take care of the baby once she got to the States? They can’t just send an unattended baby on a military transport. That’s basically what the guy the consulate saying. Federal law prohibits “unaccompanied” minors from coming to US. That seemed key. They would have needed someone to go with her and take care of her once she arrived. They could have tried to arrange all that through BJ’s wife or Mulcahy’s sister but they chose not to for whatever reason. I think they wanted to keep it as dramatic as possible and certainly as sad.

  3. This was another thought-provoking episode. It seemed fitting that Charles would eventually snap at Prescott because,deep down,he cared about the baby enough to help give it a better life. By the way, what’s worse than being a virtual slave?

  4. Klinger: It’s enough to send a man to Officers Candidate School.

    One other thing about this episode that raises a few eyebrows for me was in the closing credits identifying the characters Pierce, Hunnicut, Potter, and Winchester see about the baby. What I want to know is how did they identify them at the end when there was no mention of their names during the episode.
    I especially loved it when they went to the monastery to leave the baby in the revolving cradle.

    1. It was left at a monastery by Hawkeye, BJ, Charles, and Father Mulcahy. Mulcahy knew this was the only real option for an Amerasian child to have a future.

  5. This was a good episode for Father Mulcahy to be the one to see the reality of the baby’s situation and to know what to do. I always thought there were many episodes where he could have been of more use as a character.

  6. One thing that would have been a nice change would be if someone (maybe BJ or Charles) wanted nothing to do with the baby. It’s a bit boring to always see everyone fawning over babies and kids. I would have enjoyed seeing someone not wanting to be around the baby and maybe at the end breaking down and holding her. If it was BJ it could have been self preservation because he missed Erin and didn’t want make it worse. But eventually the person comes around. Almost like a love conquers all kind of thing. For everyone to react the exact same way is just unrealistic.

    Another small thing is the timeline of BJ’s baby’s birth and his leaving. He has said she was born after he left, was learning to walk when he left, and he was at the hospital when she was born. There are other inconsistencies I can’t think of right now. In this episode he sleepily asked Peg to get up when he heard the baby crying which suggests he was there for some of the late night crying jags. We will never know because probably all are true but this episode gave us yet another scenario for the age of the elusive Erin.

    1. Forgot to mention one other small thing. It seems like the writers were getting lazy when writing for Klinger. Every time he says something is always intensely maudlin or overly sentimental. His little aside about wanting a baby boy was a waste of time and could have been said by anyone BUT he said it with this faraway look in his eyes and lilt to his voice that was embarassingly emotional. When I think back to previous episodes of him in that same tone of voice saying lines like, “I hope I didn’t say anything wrong” or “I’m sorry but I’m not that kind of guy” “I’ll make you proud of me.” What happened to the fun Klinger we always knew? Why are these formerly entertaining characters now always on the verge of tears? It’s too much! Also it seems that since Radar left Klinger no longer shows respect to higher ranking officers. Now he snaps at Hawkeye or Margaret at will instead of catering to them as he did for 7 seasons. Is company clerk really making him feel so confident?

  7. I think one of the strengths of M*A*S*H is its variety of characters. I find it strange when an episode DOESN’T include every character. So I like this episode.

  8. I apologize in advance for what I’m about to write so if anyone objects to what I’m going to say, don’t blame me if you weren’t warned. When I heard Chung Ho Kim’s sympathetic yet pragmatic explanation of Korea’s attitude toward mixed-race children being the same as the United States, I felt like putting my head in a paper bag because I felt disgust toward the U.S. rejecting their own children. The fact that Amerasian boys were emasculated and girls killed reeks of genocide, something I thought went out with the Nazis. Again, I apologize for politicizing this forum unnecessarily but it had to be said.

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