Episode Spotlight: Edwina


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

“Edwina” (#13, 1×13)
Originally Broadcast: Sunday, December 24th, 1972
Written by Hal Dresner
Directed by James Sheldon

Capsule Summary: Margie organizes a boycott of the nurses until one of the men agrees to romance clumsy Nurse Edwina.

Here’s one of the more polarizing episodes of M*A*S*H. A lot of people really hate “Edwina” but there are some who love it. I don’t outright hate it. There are some parts I actually like. Plus, how can I not like an episode in which Marcia Strassman has such a big role?

I’m definitely not impressed with the story. I think it makes just about everyone involved look bad–except for Eddie, perhaps. It’s a little unclear what she wanted when she became a nurse: to find a husband or just a fling. Nor do we know how exactly how far Margie expected Hawkeye to go with Eddie, although I think we have a pretty good idea.

My favorite part of the episode is how Trapper reacts when Margie and two other nurses walk into the Swamp:

Margie: “Knock-knock. Hope we’re not interrupting anything.”
Trapper: “Hey, what are they? They’re wearing our kind of uniforms but they’re not built like us. They’re all, uh, soft and bumpy. You don’t suppose they’re, uh–“
Hawkeye: “Girls?”
[Trapper claps his hands and points at Hawkeye.]
Trapper: “That’s it! I couldn’t think of the word. Now if I could only remember what they’re for.”

Margie smiles throughout the whole exchange. She gets the joke. It’s funny. Then there’s Hawkeye’s speech after Radar informs him that the 4077th is going to get “very cool” and “very lonely” unless someone gets “very friendly” with Eddie:

An attitude like that could destroy morale. Weaken the fiber of our brave men in white. These boys depend on their relaxation to renew and fresh their flagging spirits. They must be allowed a moment’s respite from the trials of war. The whole thing is inhuman, unfair, and un-American. Besides, it’s bad for the health.

Hawkeye chasing nurses is fine. Hawkeye believing nurses owe the men of the 4077th “a moment’s respite from the trials of war” is not fine.

Ignoring everything else in the episode, what are we to think about a nurse who is so clumsy that she’s dangerous to be around? The one time we see Eddie in the O.R. she seems incompetent, handing Hawkeye forceps instead of a clamp. Hawkeye thinks her clumsiness is just an act to hurt others before they could hurt her so maybe she’s a fine nurse.

“Hawkeye’s hurt but happy.”

Larry Gelbart was not a fan of this episode and posted about it several times at the alt.tv.mash newsgroup over the years. Here’s what he had to say about “Edwina”:

March 26th, 2001
Early days. We clearly didn’t have a clue yet about the tone of the series.

March 27th, 2001
As first conceived in the bad old, consciousless days of the early 70’s, Edwina was a very unattractive nurse in the First Draft.

Seeing the error of our ways, we turned her into an accident-prone klutz.

Didn’t help. We wound up with a turkey, albeit one with a different kind of stuffing.

May 24th, 2001
Golonka only appeared in the episode, Edwina. A waste, to be sure, of a fine actress. She never appeared as a extra.

June 30th, 2003
Alda loathed it.

June 30th, 2003
Not one of our shinier half-hours.

Arlene Golonka’s role in this episode is on par with Alan Alda’s. She may very well be in the episode more than any of the other regulars. Someone would have to count lines to be sure. It’s entirely possible that Marcia Strassman has more to say here than Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff, or McLean Stevenson. And I’m pretty sure Loretta Swit gets just one line.

Klinger and Father Mulcahy do not appear in this episode.

There are a lot of extras in this episode. Sheila Lauritsen can be seen a number of times. Marcia Gelman and Gwen Farrell are also in several scenes. Watch closely and you’ll see a soldier in a tan uniform, clearly not from the U.S. Army, a number of times. None of the extras who draw straws in the Swamp look familiar.

Does Radar draw a straw? I don’t think he does.

When Hawkeye asks if he can kiss Edwina, it sounds to me like Alan Alda says “Edwin” rather than “Edwina.”

18 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Edwina”

  1. Not a great episode, but not completely terrible either. There are at least some good laughs. The Swamp scene with Hawkeye getting ready for the date while the matador music plays along with his interaction with Trapper and Radar is humorous. Also the scene with Pierce and Edwina back in the swamp where he ends up stepping on the broken glass also makes me smile, even though it is just silly.

    I recently started watching ‘Mayberry RFD’ on ME TV. The show was on when I was a small child, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Watching it as a middle age adult it took me several episodes to realize that Millie (Sam’s [Keny Berry] girlfriend in the series) was played by Arlene Galonka. With her blonde hair I didn’t immediately make the connection that she was also Edwina.

  2. My very first episode of M*A*S*H. I like it, and it makes me laugh at how silly it is.

    In the mess tent,
    Edwina: You want to sit together??
    Hawkeye: I tried sitting apart, it was very painful. *LOL*

    Also, the matador music with Hawkeye getting ready for his date, him giving Radar the death stare outside Edwina’s tent, Henry saluting him….they are all funny scenes.

    Inside the Swamp after Edwina has wreaked havoc on Hawkeye,
    Hawkeye: Why don’t we pretend we are two people waiting for the bus, or in my case, an ambulance?

    It’s a funny episode, not very PC for these days, but there’s something very appealing about it for me. Plus, you always remember the moment you fell in love with a TV show, and this episode was it for me.

    1. Holy crap! They had a character named “Spearchucker Jones”!!!!
      Need I go on? Hilarious how mainstream and acceptable this show was and now every episode has something politically incorrect at the very least. The assumption that if a woman was alone with you, no matter what the reason or circumstances, you should try to initiate sex with her immediately.

  3. This is an episode that’s as clumsy as its title character. It almost doesn’t even seem like a regular M*A*S*H episode, it feels like it could be a stand-alone story from an anthology series. While I’ll agree there are some humorous moments (I too like the whole date prep with the matador music, it’s in the same vein as the silly music scoring from “To Market, To Market”), the episode as a whole, to me, just falls flat, and is a good example of how M*A*S*H struggled in its first season.

  4. I also think it is not the best episode ever. It doesn’t have that feel that makes it a good M*A*S*H episode, and it relies to heavily on guest stars, not actual stars. I think it was perfectly summed up in this passage, ‘It’s entirely possible that Marcia Strassman has more to say here than Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff, or McLean Stevenson. And I’m pretty sure Loretta Swit gets just one line.
    Klinger and Father Mulcahy do not appear in this episode.’
    I find that ridiculous, and I feel that is the general consensus around here.

  5. Interesting that you randomly had this episode this week. James Sheldon, who directed this episode of M*A*S*H, as well as BJ Papa San (and those were his only two credits), passed away last week at age 95. He was a much more significant director than his M*A*S*H credits would have one think.

    Additionally, he had been hired to direct an episode of Anna and the King and was reassigned to M*A*S*H for Edwina – probably because Anna was being canceled and M*A*S*H was being picked up.

    One other note – he basically intimated that he found Alan and Wayne were arguing quite a bit and that was a reason why he didn’t want to direct any more episodes of M*A*S*H, but then he admitted that was a big mistake.

    You can find his short commentary on the Archive of American Television, http://www.emmytvlegends.com – if you look up his interview, you will see the short snippet on M*A*S*H.

  6. I recognise the faults of the episode but I have soft spot for it as it’s the first episode I remember watching in its entirety. I was about 8 at the time and I think the slapstick appeals to a kid.
    Obviously that the women were withholding sex went way over my head. I just thought that they weren’t going to let the men sit next to them at dinner anymore.

  7. Does anyone know the bit of trumpet music that’s played when Hawkeye leaves his tent to go pick up Edwina for their date? I love the music, but don’t know what it is, or if it was composed specifically for the episode. Help, please. Thanks!

    1. I think I just found it on ITunes! It’s an excerpt from “El Gato Montes” from “20 Bullfight Favorites”(Ramon Cortez Pasodoble Orchestra)

  8. A rather polarizing episode and one I may watch from time to time.

    Arlene Golonka also starred on the “Andy Griffith” spin-off, ” Mayberry, RFD”, in case anyone is interested in seeing it. I thought she was pretty good in this episode.

    1. Although Andy Griffith is an icon in my neck of the woods (southern D.S.), I don’t know of much people who care for MAYBERRY, R.F.D.

  9. When Edwin episode starts, it shows strassman and Edwina sitting at the mess table. There is a blond girl on the right of edwina. The same blond is sitting on the other side of strassman

  10. My problem with this episode is that Edwina looks very old to me. I’m not sure if it’s her behavior or just her looks, but she seems like she could be someone’s grandmother. The show often will cast women as nurses that are too old to be there. There are several episodes in which Radar dates a nurse and she looks about 45 on a good day. He’s supposed to be 18 so it just seems wrong. Why would an 18 year old virgin be attracted to his mother? Edwina seems too old even for Hawkeye. Granted, the 70s weren’t as youth-obsessed as we are today where 50 year olds have surgery to look 25. At the same time it seems like some of these women are looking very old to be in a war zone.

  11. I’ve never understood why people get outraged over a tv programme until I saw this episode – I can’t believe this show is still on the air. Watching the men demand (apparently in all seriousness) that the commanding officer order the women to have sex with them was so beyond offensive that I don’t have the words.

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