Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“Private Charles Lamb” (#62, 3×14)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, December 31st, 1974
Written by Sid Dorfman
Directed by Hy Averback
Capsule Summary: Radar works to save the life of a lamb airlifted from Greece for an Easter celebration. Meanwhile, Frank learns that a soldier shot himself to try to get shipped back home.
I love this episode. It’s nutty and outlandish and involves Spam, which I have enjoyed on occasion (never in the form of a lamb, however). It doesn’t bother me that Radar was somehow able to ship a lamb back to the States, which I’m sure is slightly more difficult than mailing a jeep home piece by piece.
At this point in the series, Radar hadn’t fully developed into an innocent, naive character. In various early episodes he’s seen drinking and smoking. Here he claims to be a vegetarian, despite eating meat in episodes before and after this. That might have just been a lie he told Frank. At the party he gets very, very drunk and apparently stays up all night partying.
Yet we also see a glimpse of the naive Radar when he realizes that the cook plans on cooking the lamb. It’s almost too naive, actually. “He isn’t going to kill him, is he?” Perhaps Radar was too shocked to be rational.
Frank’s B story is classic Frank. He rants and raves and accuses and demands punishment for others only to slink off at the first sign that he himself might get in trouble. It’s unlikely the military would have actually charged Frank with impersonating a priest. He never claimed to be one. He could argue he had a perfectly legitimate reason to be in Father Mulcahy’s tent. And of course, after all his ranting and raving about the debauchery and degradation of the Greek Easter celebration, he proceeds to get drunk and enjoy it himself. What a fink.
The famous Spam lamb is a little disturbing to look at, especially the close-up shot that shows a little tongue. We never see the tongue again. People must have enjoyed it, though, because at least half of it seems to be missing the morning after the party.
There’s a famous photograph of Radar holding the lamb in front of the Swamp. We never see that in the episode, suggesting it was a staged promotional photo.
Is that Igor asleep atop a table near the coffee dispenser in the Mess Tent the morning after the party?
I never thought about it until rewatching this episode the other day, but are rabbits, skunks, and whatever other animals Radar has in his menagerie native to South Korea?
Margaret does not appear in this episode but is mentioned by name. Neither Klinger nor Father Mulcahy are in this episode either, although the good father is mentioned by name as well.