Episode Spotlight: No Sweat

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

“No Sweat” (#205, 9×11)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 2nd, 1981
Written by John Rappaport
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: The 4077th is in the middle of a heat wave and nobody can sleep except Colonel Potter, whose blissful slumber keeps being interrupted.

I really do not like hot weather and feeling hot, especially after becoming accustomed to air conditioning, so I can totally sympathize with everyone in this episode. Several years ago I spent a hot summer without air conditioning and it was unpleasant to say the least. Maybe that allows me to appreciate the episode more. At the very least, I think it makes it easier for me to give all the characters a pass for being so grumpy.

Take B.J.’s plotline, for example. Sometimes his frustration, anger, and worry about being so far away from his family feels a little repetitive. It’s understandable but the writers may have gone to that well a few times too many over the years. Not in this episode. He’s hot and sweaty and hasn’t slept for who knows how many days. B.J. can be forgiven for overreacting to the news that the gutters back home are clogged.

Hawkeye’s reaction to B.J.’s overreaction is likewise understandable. He also is hot and sweat, hasn’t been sleeping, and has watched B.J. read and re-read the same letter countless times without being told what it contains. When he finally finds out what’s going on, it seems so inconsequential that he just can’t believe it. Things only get worse when they’re in surgery and B.J. has somehow decided that Peg doesn’t need him anymore. Hawkeye’s response is perfect: “You are a complete idiot! No wonder Peg is leaving you!”

With the exception of Father Mulcahy, all of the other characters also have relatively decent plot points tied to the heat. Klinger is taking apart the P.A. system to learn how to repair TVs, Margaret is dealing with a case of prickly heat, and Charles is sorting through three years of tax and financial documents in the mess tent. Father Mulcahy, however, just seems bored and rather than work on a sermon or read a book he decides to bother Charles.

I often suggest that dropping a particular plotline from an episode may have improved it overall but in this case I’m not so sure. Even though I don’t think Father Mulcahy added much to the episode, cutting him out would have meant lengthening one of the other plotlines and I don’t think any of them would have benefited from being longer.

B.J. worries about the handyman

Colonel Potter says Klinger is “totin’ around a permanent vicuna coat” that makes him even more susceptible to heat. I had to look that up. The vicuna is a South American animal related to the llama, known for its fine and expensive wool.

I’ve never taken a sleeping pill so I don’t know how realistic it is that Colonel Potter would be so confused and out of it after being woken up time and time again.

I feel like I’ve said this before but Igor’s conversation with Charles may be the most he had to say in a single episode.

Given how little Hawkeye has to do in this episode, until I went back and checked I thought perhaps Alan Alda directed this episode.

14 Comments

  • Big Daddy O'Reilly says:

    I’m from the south, our summers can range anywhere from 90 to 110 any given day, and I don’t like hot weather either, so the heat wave episodes are always enjoyable for me because I can relate to them, and it makes me feel I’m not alone in my misery (though interestingly, I read on Facebook yesterday that scientists are predicting a “mini” ice age for the 2030s).

    I occasionally deal with prickley heat as well, though ironically, I’ve never gotten it in summer (that I can recall), it’s always been in winter, so go figure.

    And yes, if the sleeping pill is strong enough, it can put you out of it, much like alcohol.

    • Big Daddy O'Reilly says:

      I also forgot to mention that screencap of B.J. is actually very scary to look out – he looks like a madman about to attack!

  • hrflyer says:

    This is my favorite post-Radar episode. Potter’s sleep-walking
    non-sequiturs, WInchester’s tax woes (he remains surprisingly calm after Igor’s attempt to cool things down in the mess tent) with Mulchahy’s sly chastising, and Margaret’s prickly heat dance in O.R. make for an interesting evening.

    The highlight (sarcasm) is yet another angst-ridden foray into the “how can Peg survive without me” whine fest displayed by BJ. I’m just glad the writers never decided to have Peg write a “Dear John” letter – that would have driven BJ over the cliff (which would have actually been fun to watch – even more fun than his drunken rampage after his daughter called Radar “daddy”).

    • Maggie Hoolihan says:

      I loved Potter in a daze. He was absolutely hilarious and it reminded me of the old MASH that had very funny gags all the time. Potter’s scenes saved this episode from being a bomb.

      Funny too that they had Klinger use the words facetious and erroneous in this episode when just a few episodes ago, wasn’t it him asking if a horse was a mammal? Wow, he really must have learned a lot reading his Mickey Spillane books.

  • jgf says:

    Once again we see Margaret throw an infantile temper tantrum and trash something. This time the PA system, just after Klinger gets it working.

    While an enjoyable episode, I always thought it odd that with so many things needing the CO’s approval, and with Potter having taken a sleeping pill, no other officer was on duty to handle such things (by seniority it would be Margaret).

    • Maggie Hoolihan says:

      Speaking of seniority, is that the reason why Hawkeye asked Nurse Kellye to wake up Margaret and bring a friend when he had operate? Why couldn’t he have Kellye help? Or is Margaret on call at all times because she’s head nurse?

  • 007 says:

    This is also my favorite post-Radar episode, mainly for the scene with Margaret and Potter accidentally talking over the PA system about “fanny fungus” and “rump rot”. It may be the single funniest scene in the entire run of the series to me.

    As pointed out though, it is another example of latter series Margaret who does nothing but scream, throw fits, and break stuff.

    • Maggie Hoolihan says:

      It’s even more funny when you consider that in Britain fanny is the slang term for the female anatomy (the opposite of fanny in the US). Gives whole new meaning to fanny fungus. Lol

  • mspence says:

    Being in West Virginia, I can definitely relate to this episode, although it’s mainly filler and seems to have a lot of subplots that don’t really go together. Given Potter’s age, it’s believable that the sleeping pills might have had that effect.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    What is that hand gesture that Hawkeye gives BJ after telling Klinger to clean out BJ’s gutters?

    • Doc Funnypants says:

      He was making a fist at BJ for making a bigger deal out of cleaning the gutters than it really should be.

      It’s also revealed the origin of Charles’s middle name amidst his facing a numerical nightmare in an Oriental oven processing monetary memorabilia.

      • Maggie Hoolihan says:

        Emerson was never his middle name. It was always his mother’s family name. Think of him as though he’s got a hyphenated name. Some rich people will keep both their mother’s and father’s names when two powerful families are joined in marriage. Both names carry equal weight so both names are used.

  • Maggie Hoolihan says:

    When BJ finally told Hawkeye what the letter said, I actually woke my husband up with my frustrated “NOT AGAIN” yelled at the TV. We’ve seen this before several times as RJ mentioned. I know he misses his family but it’s getting to the point where Peg can’t tell him anything without worrying he’s going to think it means she’s leaving him. There’s nothing more unattractive than an insecure man. We women rely on men to exude confidence whether they feel it or not.
    I realize it’s an ongoing thing with BJ but his insecurity after only being gone only a few months (according to MASH timekeeping) is ridiculous. In some ways I blame Peg because she should know enough about her husband to pick and choose what she tells him. Last time this happened she had to reassure him over the phone. In any case, she’s got an infant child at home in the 1950s. It’s silly for BJ to think she’s got no use for him if for no other reason than she needs help with the kid. Between this episode and Operation Friendship, I am starting to see what some of the cast meant when they said the show starting burning out of ideas

    • Maggie Hoolihan says:

      Another couple things to the director should have realized. When Klinger is telling a half asleep Potter what to say to ICOR over the phone, he’s saying it almost directly into the mouthpiece. Wouldn’t they have heard Klinger telling him what to say and been suspicious?

      Also, when BJ is ranting in the OR about his wife cleaning the gutters, he doesn’t look down at all at the anesthesia machine, blood pressure, or pulse rate gauges. He looks at Hawkeye the entire time as he’s going on about his wife. Some actors have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. Whenever they’re eating in the mess tent and BJ will have a long monologue or a lot of dialogue, I’ve noticed sometimes Mike won’t even attempt to pick up his fork or even pretend to eat. He will usually just look at the person he’s speaking to and then wait for their reply. I realize the food isn’t good but for amount of time he didn’t eat, he should have died of starvation. If he doesn’t have much dialogue, he will usually fiddle with something (salt shaker, bread, etc). Can’t really blame him though. It’s very difficult to remember lines and try to pretend to be eating too. Especially when you have several takes in a scene so you can’t really eat every time or you’ll explode.

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