Episode Spotlight: Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde

11 Comments

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

“Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde” (#143, 06×23)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, February 27th, 1978
Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs and Dennis Koenig
Directed by Charles Dubin

Capsule Summary: Charles starts popping pills and Radar trains his mouse for an important race.

It’s hard not to think of “Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde” as a Very Special episode of M*A*S*H about the dangers of drugs and the perils of racing rodents. It’s too bad because Charles-on-amphetamines is actually an interesting story line, just not one that worked well within the confines of a weekly sitcom.

Is it believable that Charles would take amphetamines? I’m not sure. I can almost believe that he would feel the need to do something to maintain his supposed superiority over everyone else at the 4077th. And I can totally believe that he would assume he was intelligent enough to handle medicating himself. But would he actually go through with it? Especially after just having explained the dangers to Klinger?

Having never been under the influence of amphetamines I don’t know how realistic it is that Charles would get so worked up about the mouse race that he would feel the need to drug Daisy. Regular Charles probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in mouse racing unless he had some sort of guarantee that he would win a bundle, so maybe it makes sense.

I don’t like how this episode ends. Are we supposed to think that the entire camp knows that Charles took amphetamines? Only Hawkeye and B.J. knew for sure. Others probably noticed his behavior but it could have been explained away. Yes, Charles was ashamed of his behavior while dealing with the negative side effects of “bennies” but if nobody else knew would he really spend three days not talking to anyone? Maybe it took that long for him to recover.

Charles needs to throw up.

This was the second episode to reference Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The first was “Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde” in Season 2.

One of the Marines says “The D.I. would use you for chewing tobacco.” Does anybody know what D.I. means?

Later, when Sergeant Solita shows up, he says “Hey, you LODOs, how ya doin’?” One possible meaning of the acronym LODO is “Left-Out and Drop-Out” which apparently has some military application.

This episode includes not one but two additions to the convoluted M*A*S*H timeline. One of the Marines is reading Catcher in the Rye, which was published in July 1951, so this episode must take place after that. We also know that it is four months before Valentine’s Day because Colonel Potter is sending a birthday card to his younger sister Madge who will be turning 50 on Valentine’s Day.

Charles tells Potter and Father Mulcahy that his little sister Honoria ran off and married a farmer. She later left him–so the family ostracized her–and went to live with a shoe clerk. In Season 8’s “Bottle Fatigue,” however, Charles gets very upset when Honoria announces she is engaged, presumably for the first time, to an Italian.

11 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde”

  1. I’m not so sure how I feel about this episode; I don’t think it’s either a bad or a good one, but probably average. I think B.J. surmized the situation best when he mentions that Charles probably figured he could handle those pep-pills on his ego alone. Drugging the mouse seemed like an odd thing to do, even for Charles, but I love the line from Radar when he’s concerned about her, “She keeps running around and around in her cage, then she starts shadow boxing, then she tap-dances, then it’s like she’s trying to play the drums or something!” Makes me think of that Halloween song, “The Mice, the Demons, and the Piggies.”

  2. You know, I consider season 6 to be the last truly great season of M*A*S*H. But, I feel this is the weakest episode of the year, and one that would (unfortunately) pave the way for the preachier stuff that would pop up from time to time afterwards. Winchester was a lot of things, but him getting hooked on amphetamines just seems too contrived, and the whole “Yeah, but who handled who?” line when his secret is revealed is just cringeworthy.

    Not necessarily a foll-out bad episode, this isn’t “Bottoms Up,” but certainly a weak one, especially for this era of the show. I don’t revisit this one often.

    1. I somewhat agree: I think Season 7 was a good season as well, however, it has a feel all its own, which is why I often call it the “transition season”: it’s not exactly as laugh-out-loud funny as the first six seasons, but it certainly is nowhere near as dark and preachy as the next four; it’s somehow a season all unto its own.

  3. An average episode but the denouement is questionable.

    Hawkeye says they should give their winnings back to the marines. But should they? At this point only Charles, Hawkeye, BJ, and Radar know of Charles’ issue with speed and that he drugged the mouse. Leave well enough alone and say nothing and Charles’ reputation is saved, the marines leave after telling Radar he is OK, and the winnings from the race are kept (if the latter is an ethical dilemma, give the money to Mulcahey). Everyone is happy. Or …return the money and confess about the drugged mouse; Charles’ reputation is tarnished, the marines are mad and their opinion of Radar (and the MASH in general) is diminished, and the money is gone. No one is happy.

  4. Unless I’m mistaken, the drill instructor would have been stateside training the men in boot camp…Charles’ reaction to the speed was interesting IMO as it helped humanize him for later episodes, and touched on a subject not normally (if ever) dealt with in the series, which was rather surprising since many soldiers did get hooked on the morphine that they were given; it would have been interesting as well to see Hawkeye with a similar problem.

    It seems Hawkeye and BJ agreed to keep Charles’s problem between the three of them. Radar apparently didn’t report it to Colonel Potter, either, despite how mad he was.

  5. One joke that’s not a joke, after finding out what CE3 did, Radar says” I raised Daisy from a pup.(Laugh track). Apparently the person running the laugh track doesn’t know that Radar is correct, baby mice ARE called pups.

    1. Perhaps the laugh track runner thought it was an odd thing for Radar to say in light of what happened to Daisy. Charles came across as extremely invested in the mouse race. A decent episode with a foreboding preachiness of seasons to come.

  6. I actually enjoyed this episode more than most others of the season. I thought Charles’ reaction to getting too “pepped up” on speed was very realistic. I don’t have experience with speed either, but I do have some experience with addiction. I can say with some authority that when you’re striving to be perfect and most of the pressure comes from within, it’s very difficult to sustain both physically and mentally. Also, upper class types absolutely do fall prey to drugs and alcohol. Usually liquor and pills. Generally it’s to do with having everything you could ever want and still feeling unsatisfied.

    Doctors are also susceptible to addiction, though Charles’ reaction to the “overdose” was unusual for him. He would know how to counteract the effects of the drug and isn’t the type to turn to anyone else for help. In any case, when you’re in the throes of an addiction, you toggle between wanting everyone else to feel as good as you do and trying to hide what you’re doing from everyone. In my mind that’s a small part of the impetus for Charles drugging the mouse. The other larger part is he saw himself in the mouse and since he had bet money on him, he wanted to fix the outcome. What did he care about the health of a mouse?

    I thought David Stiers did a fine job of showing how easy it is to fall into something like that. Drug addiction happened lots during Vietnam and I’m sure every other war. I was happy to see them address the issue. I do think that something like this would be more than enough to get Charles sent home. No way would any medical doctor be allowed back seeing patients and dispensing drugs if he’s shown he can’t be trusted around meds. Not to mention he hadn’t really addressed the issue beyond his detoxing. On the other hand, AA wasn’t as mainstream in the early 50s as it is now so there probably wasn’t much treatment he could have gotten anyway.

    1. One thing that was ridiculous about the episode was the ham-handed way BJ and Hawk found Charles’ pills. Out of nowhere Hawk just says, “whatever it is it’s probably in that foot locker.” Where did that come from? They don’t know anything about Charles’ medical history and certainly his personality doesn’t suggest this type of thing. At least not at first. Even if they had gotten there by inductive reasoning, it was beyond silly the way Hawkeye pointed out where the drugs were instantly. He behaved as though someone had already told him where they were and he was trying to find a way to casually work it into the conversation. Was ridiculously comical.

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