Episode Spotlight: Blood Brothers


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

“Blood Brothers” (#212, 9×18)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, April 6th, 1981
Written by David Pollock & Elias Davis
Directed by Harry Morgan

Capsule Summary: While Father Mulcahy prepares for a visit from an Army cardinal, Hawkeye grapples with how to tell a wounded soldier he has leukemia.

This episode may be best remembered for guest starring the late Patrick Swayze a number of years before he became wildly famous for his roles in films like Dirty Dancing and Ghost. His character, Gary Sturgis, serves as a bridge between the A and B stories. The title clearly refers to the friendship between Sturgis and the severely wounded Dan, and the offer to donate blood that leads Hawkeye to discover Sturgis has leukemia. I suppose that makes it the A story.

I had forgotten that Sturgis had leukemia and for some reason thought he had hepatitis and was just upset he could not donate blood to his friend. That would have made for a very different episode and would have meant not seeing Hawkeye try to decide what to tell Sturgis, worrying that knowing his fate would alter how he spent his last months. B.J. asks Hawkeye whether he’d want to know. Hawkeye’s response is deep: “Would you want to tell me?” Ultimately he decides to tell Sturgis, which was probably the right thing to do.

Father Mulcahy’s B story had some laughs courtesy of Rizzo and Igor, but was like the A story primarily dramatic. This wasn’t the first episode to involve a visit to the 4077th by someone higher up the Army’s religious food chain (I’m thinking of Ned Beatty’s Colonel Hollister in Season 4’s “Dear Peggy”). There were moments while rewatching the episode when I felt William Christopher was perhaps overdoing it just a bit with his reactions, particularly his speech in the Officers’ Club when Roy and Dennis are fighting.

I’m also torn on how to take Father Mulcahy’s sermon. It worked well up until he “revealed” that he was the first man in his story and then it got a little too emotional. We know from other episodes that Mulcahy sometimes felt unappreciated at the 4077th and by the military (or at least wondered if he was doing any good) so it fits that he would worry that he was looking for recognition from Cardinal Reardon.

Perhaps he decided after sitting up all night talking with Sturgis that by trying to shut down the craps game for a few days or asking Igor to take down the portrait of Mona, he was only trying to impress Reardon. After all, he didn’t want to stop the craps game forever. Was his aim to make the 4077th look good for Reardon or himself look good? Maybe that realization led to his emotional sermon.

Father Mulcahy’s sermon

It’s a rare episode when Rizzo has more screen time than members of the main cast. David Ogden Stiers had so little to do in this episode that until I went back and checked I thought perhaps he had directed it. Imagine my surprise to discover it was in fact Harry Morgan directing. Margaret has a very limited role as well. Klinger’s is only slightly larger.

I think my favorite line in this episode is Rizzo’s response to Father Mulcahy in the supply tent:

“Father, please, try and see my side of it. What if peace is declared tomorrow and they ship us all home before I have time to shear these sheep?”

The best scene, however, has to be the introductions after Cardinal Reardon arrives:

Mulcahy: “May I introduce our company commander, Colonel Potter, and our company clerk, Corporal Klinger.”
Klinger: “Cardinal.”
Reardon: “Corporal.”
Mulcahy: “Captain.”
Bratton: “Chaplain, Corporal.”
Klinger: “Captain.”
Reardon: “Colonel.”
Potter: “Cardinal. Corporal, show the cardinal to his quarters.”

Has the pin-up of Mona always been behind the bar in the Officers’ Club? Also, I wonder if it is an actual Korean War era pin-up or something the art department cooked up?

I can’t be the only one who thought Cardinal Reardon really wanted a drink when he first arrived at the 4077th. Why else would he keep asking about the Officers’ Club?

8 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Blood Brothers”

  1. Not really a bad episode, but pretty heavy-handed. This is one of the few times I think William Christopher’s Fr. Mulcahy is completely overdone; his incredulous “Well, are you just going to sit there drinking your coffee?!” to Hawkeye in the mess tent I have always found particularly cringe worthy.

    And yes, I as well thought Cardinal Reardon was implying he’d like a drink.

  2. Patrick Swayze portraying a character afflicted with a disease which sadly foreshadowed an unfortunate event in his own life… 🙁

    1. the scene is available on youtube, i plan on writing it out as i cannot find it anywhere online. if and when i do i can email it to you or post it here. 🙂

    2. https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=mash&episode=s09e18

      Here’s the link to the script for that episode.. For future reference, all the scripts for every episode are posted online. Just search for the episode name, MASH script and you’ll find it

      And here’s the speech. A bit late I realize.

      Good morning.
      Well, uh, here we are.
      Uh, it’s, uh, Sunday again.
      I’m sure you’ve all come expecting to hear a sermon.
      Well, l I have to admit, I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be.
      In fact, I’m not even dressed as I’d like to be.
      Y-You see l I was working on my sermon which I hoped would be a particularly inspirational one in honor of Cardinal Reardon.
      But I was called away and Well, to be honest I never got back to it.
      So, uh if you’ll just bear with me I’d like to share with you the reason why.
      I want to tell you about two men each facing his own crisis.
      The first man you know rather well.
      The second is a patient here.
      Well, the first man thought he was facing a crisis.
      But what he was really doing was trying to impress someone.
      He was looking for recognition encouragement a pat on the back.
      And whenever that recognition seemed threatened he reacted rather childishly.
      Blamed everyone for his problems but himself because he was thinking only of himself.
      But the second man was confronted by the greatest crisis mortal man can face the loss of his life.
      I think you’ll agree that the second man had every right to be selfish.
      But instead he chose to think not of himself but of a brother a brother.
      And when the first man saw the the dignity and the selflessness of the second man he realized how petty and selfish he had [Gasps] l I had been.
      It made me see something more clearly than I’ve ever seen it before.
      God didn’t put us here for that pat on the back.
      He created us so he could be here himself so that he could exist in the lives of those he created in his image.
      Well, l I know you didn’t come here to listen to me.
      It gives me great great pleasure to introduce His Eminence Cardinal Reardon.

  3. One of my favorite Father Mulcahy episodes! My father, who used to be a preacher for the deaf, ALWAYS tears up at Mulcahy’s sermon and completely agrees with every word in it.
    In Mr. Christopher’s book, “Mixed Blessings” he write that his grandmother always wanted him to be a preacher, and in a way, she got her wish.
    Also in that book, his wife mentioned that he’d been up all night at one point, practicing his lines for a sermon that “Father Mulcahy” was going to preach. I have seen almost every episode, and other than the hilarious drunken sermon in “Alcoholics Unanimous”, the sermon in this episode is the only one he preachers in the series, and I may be wrong, but I think it was this scene he was practicing that night that his wife wrote about.
    P.S. I loved seeing William Christopher’s scene with Patrick Swayze in the show, so sad both Patrick and William are gone, now. Real gentlemen and two of the most wonderful actors in history! Rest in peace, Bill and Pat!

  4. This episode really hurt my heart it was so good. Especially knowing how Patrick Swayze died. Wow was he good in this episode! So often the actors playing patients in post op seem like Wally Clever rejects. He’s a natural. The way he says, “god almighty” as his eyes well up! Wow. He had an almost angelic glow about him that made him look almost ghostly (heh). So innocent in some ways but wise too. Like he knows something nobody else does.

    Mulcahy’s worry over the cardinal’s arrival was kinda fun to watch. However, once again his pride and vanity got in the way of his priestly duties. He didn’t care if people sinned as long as the cardinal didn’t see because that would make HIM look bad. I’m glad this time he was made to see how unimportant his vanity is alongside the needs of the patients. Did he really think the cardinal expected every person in a warzone to be a Bible thumper? After all, the nature of war breaks the first commandment anyway. The actor who played the cardinal might as well have been made of wood as he lacked any charisma or any feeling at all.

    Mulcahy’s breakdown at the end where he admits how selfish he’d been almost derailed the episode. It was embarrassing that he let the audience know he was talking about himself. The show couldn’t resist trying to wring a little more sentiment out of a genuinely emotional episode. Somehow Mulcahy making it about himself again removed any impact from his sermon.

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