Episode Spotlight: Mail Call Three

16 Comments

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

“Mail Call Three” (#140, 6×20)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 6th, 1978
Written by Everett Greenbaum & Jim Fritzell
Directed by Charles Dubin

Capsule Summary: Mail call brings bad news to Klinger and worries to B.J. while Hawkeye gets another man’s love letters.

This was the third and final episode to have mail call in the title (after “Mail Call” from Season 2 and “Mail Call Again” from Season 4) but by no means was it the last episode to involve character’s receiving letters from home. There’s no real storyline to this episode, just plot points involving every single character, some tied together and most involving mail. For all intents and purposes this was an episode about Klinger and B.J. with a little bit of Hawkeye and Radar thrown in for good measure.

It’s unclear how long Klinger was married to Laverne. The wedding took place over the phone during “Springtime” in Season 3. Given the impossible timeline of the series, it’s possible the two were only married for a few months. I wish more attention had been given to the fact that nobody believed Klinger when he said Laverne wanted a divorce, although to be fair apparently Klinger had made the claim in the past. His plea in front of the entire camp (“I want somebody to listen to me.”) revealed the depth of his pain, both at the divorce and the fact that he had become the boy who cried wolf.

Likewise, we don’t know just how long B.J. has been away from Peg by this point in the series. Has it been a few months? Half a year? More? He always missed her but this time there was something more. He wasn’t so much worried about her having to deal with plumbing or the car and his anger wasn’t just that a good neighbor made a pass at her. No, he was terrified that Peg would realize she didn’t need him, that she could fend for herself just fine. While that may seem somewhat sexist, I’m sure it was a very real fear for soldiers in the 1950s.

Together, Klinger and B.J.’s plot points felt a little reminiscent of Trapper nearly going AWOL in “Mail Call” during Season 2.

Part of me wishes that Hawkeye getting another Benjamin Pierce’s mail had been a larger plotline in another episode. There was a lot of potential and I don’t think it was fully reached here. Sure, the other Benjamin Pierce was interesting, what with his monotone, humorless demeanor at odds with the way he made all the ladies laugh. It just wasn’t as developed as I would have liked.

The best part of Radar’s plot point was Hawkeye’s story about how as a 12-year-old he kept his father from marrying and being happy because he was jealous of his father’s interest in a bookkeeper. I’m sure there are some fan written stories out there in which Hawkeye’s father romanced Radar’s mother.

Colonel Potter and Father Mulcahy both received mail but it was only incidental. They were heavily involved in Klinger’s plotline. Charles and his joy at the loss of 40% of the Missouri sorghum crop due to hail was funny. He popped up in several other plotlines, including Margaret’s which felt totally out of place and had no resolution.

The other Benjamin Pierce is a very funny guy

Did anyone else find Charles checking out Margaret’s rear end in the supply tent disturbing?

Speaking of Margaret, why wasn’t she in the final scene at the Officers’ Club? Everyone else was.

Was this the only episode in which Radar’s teddy bear squeaked?

Jack Grapes played mail delivery man Kelsey in this episode. It seems odd that such a small character would be given a name.

This was the second episode to guest star Oliver Clark. He earlier played Hawkeye’s friend Lt. Tippy Brooks in Season 5’s “37 Across.”

16 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Mail Call Three”

  1. One of my favorites. The highlight for me, strangely enough, was B.J. waking Radar up in the middle of the night to call Peg, if only because I saw that scene while channel surfing a while before I had become a MASHer and actually sat down and watched the show, so this has always been one of my favorites of the “Mail Call” episodes.

    Here’s what I don’t understand, though: B.J. gets drunk in the Officer’s Club to the point that Hawkeye has to drag him back to the Swamp and put him to bed (where he’s pretty much blotto by that point); then when he wakes Radar to make the call to Peg, he’s stone-cold sober. According to Mulcahy, it was around 11:00 when that took place in the Officer’s Club, and around 3:00 when B.J. was making his call, so how did he sober up completely in about four hours?

    From what I understand, Kelsey was intended to be a recurring character much like Goldman or Igor or many of the nurses, etc. The only other time I can remember Kelsey was in “Bug Out, Part 1”, where he was ordered by Potter to save the tent stakes as they were tearing down the tents, but then Frank ordered him to forget about them that they’d make new ones.

    1. The reason BJ was stone sober is because Farrell is not a very good actor. They often filmed scenes that took place back to back on separate days so chances are he had forgotten to read over the part that came before that scene. It makes it hard for any actor but doubly hard if your acting skills are not up to snuff. Farrell has his moments but truly, every other actor including Jamie Farr blow him away. I’m guessing that’s why he didn’t do much acting after MASah beyond a TV movie or two. He got very lucky getting this gig. I’ve been a MASH fan since the early 80s and even as a kid I sensed something was off with him but didn’t know what it was. When he would cry on screen, it made me laugh as when I was little because I thought he was faking it to get what he wanted the same way I did as a kid. It bugs the heck out of me because I love the show so much and I saw it go from perfect to slightly off when Farrell joined.

  2. Oliver Clark had a 13-week sitcom of his own in the fall of 1977 called WE”VE GOT EACH OTHER with Beverly Archer (MAMA’S FAMILY); he must have been cast in this as soon as that show went out of production:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P_w3TtmX4U

    Margaret’s plot is completely cut from the syndication edit (though not on ME-TV), rendering her “who needs the DAR” line senseless.

  3. Does anyone know what movie was shown in the mess tent when Klinger has his meltdown? I would greatly appreciate it if someone would know.

    1. Thank you very much for answering that question. It’s been gnawing at me for years wanting to know.

      Patient #1– I got you all beat. I got five of a kind.
      Patient #2– What do you mean, five of a kind
      Patient #1– Quintuplets.

      1. just a little research and in 5 mins i had your answer … any mash questions are easily found by googleing them ,, hope this helps and you get all your mash questions answered … enjoy … super mash fan here …

  4. I’m wondering who originally sang “Button Up your Overcoat”. It would mean a lot to me if someone knew the answer.

    1. from wiki: “The song was published in 1928, and was first performed later that same year by vocalist Ruth Etting.”

      You can find a 1929 version by her on youtube.

  5. As much as Hawkeye rails about his mail being opened/intercepted in several episodes, I found it odd that he not only opens one but all of the other Capt. Pierce’s letters. Once could be accidental.

    1. but as capt pierce explained its so boring even a letter,any letter is golden … i would have read them but i also would have either threw them out or passed them around to other guys to read but never admit it or return them … just a mail mix up , i never get them … whos to question that … plus how did the other pierce know , i forgot or just wasnt a plot for that … later

  6. It’s too bad we never got to see the other Pierce’s style of humor. I also liked Klinger’s attempt at writing Laverne a letter.

    Was it just me or did BJ seem really insecure about his marriage at times?

  7. ok … yes we did see his style by the way he represented himself and if you notice before he leaves his attitude changes as does his facial expressions and says im a funny guy …then he kicks the door open with his foot and makes a serious face then leaves … his style would be a bob newhart type , just a opinion … screw klinger , his fault for trusting lavern so much she ended up burning him for his allotment checks and going with another guy , no divorce vyet … bj , that was in mostly all episodes his insecuriyty of being away from home … that was part of his character … everyone had some probs but always somehow worked out , but bjs insecurity was major to his character … just my opinions , …hope this helps a little !

  8. Great episode. I really liked the little “twist” of the mail carrying bad news instead of good for a change. BJ’s wife wrote about having tried to fix the plumbing and flooding the house. Instead of laughing it off and seeing how badly she needs her man home, he took her attempt to do it herself as her not needing him. Silly but hard to argue with when you’re thousands of miles away from home and are extremely insecure about a lot of things the way BJ is. Struck me as strange that Peg would be out at “the club” when she’s still got a newborn at home (give or take a few months). But of course just the plumbing wouldn’t be enough to segue into BJ’s insecurity, so they had to throw in a random guy who knows her husband is away at war so hits on her. Either way, this marks the first in a long long line of Beej temper tantrums about missing his wife and being angry about being there. Unfortunately, he tends to get realy selfish when he’s in a mood and lashes out at others as though he’s the only one who misses his family. But that’s all part of his character development.

    Klinger made Laverne out to be a gold digger, but said he’d known her since childhood. I’m not sure what the deal is with her, but his wanting to go home this time for something legit was also a nice twist. I enjoyed his tantrum where he threw his clothes onto the ground. Good piece of acting from Jamie Farr I thought.

    Margaret’s reaction to the DAR blackball was a bit overblown, particularly when her and Donald have been having trouble and may not even make it back home as a couple. She reacts that way probably because it feels like another nail in the coffin of her marriage.

    Finally, Hawkeye once again came off rude and insensitive when the movie stopped unexpectedly. Last time during My Darling Clementine, he screamed like a maniac at Klinger to get it started again. This time when it stopped and Klinger told everyone about the divorce, Hawkeye told him to hold it till after the movie which seemed very harsh. The man certainly loves his movies. Phew! Also, when BJ is in the OC getting drunk, Hawkeye keeps trying to get him to sing with him and Mulcahy when he knows BJ is genuinely upset. He just came off very selfish in this episode and I’m not sure if that was intentional, like Hawkeye the commitment-phobe couldn’t possibly understand what they’re going through or was it just supposed to be him trying to distract everyone from their problems? It didn’t seem that way, but anything is possible.

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