Episode Spotlight: Images

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

“Images” (#129, 6×09)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, November 15th, 1977
Written by Burt Prelutsky
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: Margaret has her hands full dealing with an emotional nurse. Meanwhile, Radar decides to get a tattoo.

Although Margaret’s A story and Radar’s B story make up the bulk of this episode, the scenes that stick out for me are those involving Charles. This was the fourth episode produced for Season 6 (although it aired ninth) and it’s clear that the writers were still working on the character of Charles Emerson Winchester, III. He has multiple scenes in this episode but no real story line: in the O.R. he’s snobbish, with Margaret in the Mess Tent he’s a bit of a flirt, and in the Swamp he’s patriotic.

His snobbery during surgery feels too exaggerated. The writers knew they wanted Charles to be aristocratic but they hadn’t yet worked out exactly how to portray that. A few of his lines–“Only the common people truly believe that the world turns on a dime” and “Some people are born with a taste for money and the rest are born with a craving”–don’t entirely fit with how Charles was fleshed out over the years.

Charles and Margaret in the Mess Tent is uncomfortable to watch. There’s been a lot of speculation among M*A*S*H fans that the writers toyed with putting Charles and Margaret together–or at least laying groundwork for a potential romance–and it’s hard not to see that play out in this scene. There’s more than a hint of flirting from Charles, so it can’t be that he just didn’t understand the gossipy nature of the 4077th.

As for Charles waxing patriotic about General MacArthur, here’s another example of an attitude that really doesn’t fit the more established Charles. It’s something Frank probably would have done. Personally, I’m glad the writers decided not to make Charles as jingoistic as Frank. Charles was political but not a rapid flag-waver.

Margaret’s A story is solid but not perfect. Her breakdown over the death of the dog was meant to highlight how compartmentalized Margaret was emotionally. She was able to handle dying patients, horrible wounds, and young soldiers torn apart by war. That was normal. That was war. A dog being hit by a car wasn’t an everyday occurrence. She let her guard down, got attached to the dog, and it dying tore her apart.

The whole thing is just a little too neat and tidy. Margaret doesn’t think Nurse Cooper is cut out for MASH duty, Colonel Potter overrules her, the dog arrives and is killed, and suddenly Margaret realizes she has to cut Cooper some slack. I wish there had been more of a reaction from Margaret to Cooper calling her “tough and unfeeling” during the following exchange:

Margaret: “Oh, but don’t worry, Colonel Potter’ll change his mind. One day he’ll be resecting a bowel and he’ll yell for suction and retraction and there won’t be anyone there to give it to him because you’ll be God knows where crying your eyes out.”
Cooper: “That won’t happen, Major.”
Margaret: “Oh?”
Cooper: “I won’t give you the satisfaction. From now on, I’m going to be just as tough and unfeeling as you are.”

It has to be a brutal thing for Margaret to hear, even if she knows that she’s not unfeeling at all. I think Margaret’s story line would have been stronger if somehow the dog’s death and her breakdown tied into what Cooper said about her.

Radar’s B story is harmless enough but also a perfect example of just how drastically Radar changed after the first three seasons. “Images” conveniently ignores the fact that Radar had a tattoo in “Check-Up” during Season 3, back when he wasn’t so innocent. Here he wants to get a tattoo because he’s “tired of being a nobody” and wants to be “the object of respect, fear, and sex.” The only thing sillier than that explanation is Radar’s hat popping off when he tries to pick up the weights.”

“Margaret breaks down.”

There are eight credited guest stars in this episode. Most are easy to place but I’m not sure where Carmine Scelza (credited as “G.I.”) and Joseph Hardin (credited as “Patient”) show up. Scelza might be the tattoo artist at Rosie’s who calls for Radar. Unless I missed it, the only patient with any lines is Hendrix (played by Larry Block), the soldier with all the tattoos who has a long chat with Radar. So where is Hardin? Could he be the patient Cooper is tending to before Margaret asks Nurse Campbell to relieve her?

If you look very closely as Margaret walks away after telling Klinger to only feed the dog scraps, I swear it looks like the dog’s back legs both lift off the ground. That dog must have really loved eating whatever was on the tray.

What’s with the brief, seemingly random interaction between Hawkeye and a nurse in the Mess Tent doorway? He opens the door, Goldman walks out, and then Hawkeye lets a nurse go in front of him: “Right this way, we have a lovely table for one with a view of the mosquito netting.” Was the script short, so some filler was added? Was it meant to remind viewers that Hawkeye is constantly joking around?

11 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    This episode has one of my favorite Hawkeye lines.

    Radar: Which do you like better?? A tiger or a snake??
    Hawkeye: Depends on the sauce.

    LOL. It’s such a silly throwaway line, but it just cracks me up the way he says it.

    • Lady, You ARE A piece of Cornbread says:

      I feel the same way about Hawkeye’s delivery of the line “Here, Charles, read a shoe” in the “The Light That Failed” episode.

  • BDOR says:

    This episode is, like you say, Arj, harmless enough. I think the point I agree with the most is the seemingly unsure nature of how Charles is portrayed, and I think it has been discussed before that the writers initially were trying to throw in little hints of Frank in the character since he’s filling in the void left behind; yes, Charles patriotically defending MacArthur sounds more like something Frank would have done, and likewise, yes, I think it’s actually been confirmed somewhere that the writers were initially trying to establish Charles as Margaret’s new love interest in his early episodes. After Gene Reynolds left, the writers were no longer under his guidance, and I understand a lot of the changes made to the show did not sit well with Gene: he didn’t like Frank leaving, he didn’t like Donald being unfaithful to Margaret and her ending up divorcing him, and he also didn’t like how Charles was initially being set up as Margaret’s new interest. Of course, Charles is the one who says Margaret is the one always coming onto him when describing her in his tape to his parents: “our head nurse is . . . part seductress, and part . . . Atilla the Hun.” Matter of fact, notice whenever the others describe Margaret to outsiders, invariably, the word “passionate” always comes up.

  • Father Angus says:

    I only really like this episode because of them toying with Charles. I find it funny watching Charles doing things that are so out of character.
    I don’t know why, but I find Radar’s B story rather boring.

  • Jon says:

    I don’t care much for this episode, either plot of it. I do think the writers were trying to make Charles a bit of a potential love interest for Margaret. This was even more apparent in “The Grim Reaper”, where Charles shared a canned pheasant with Margaret. I thought this was wrong to promote while Margaret was married. Maybe this could’ve worked in Season 7, after she was divorced.
    I also dislike Hawkeye’s occasional jokes about Radar’s supposed lack of personal hygiene, “My G-d! It is permanent!”. I don’t think Radar showered any less than anyone else there. Maybe it was in keeping with his character’s supposed immaturity.

    • Sophie says:

      Honestly I never took it that Hawkeye was making fun of Radar’s lack of hygiene, rather the fact that the camp as a whole lacked hygiene.

  • A Piece of Cornbread says:

    Imagine if Radar had been female and Potter pulled that ‘as commander it is my duty to inspect any part of this camp’ card. Also I don’t know where one would look up animal actors, but I wonder if that dog was the same one that played Jack on “Tales of the Gold Monkey”

  • mspence says:

    Hawkeye reacting to Radar’s tattoo: “My God it’s permanent!”

    I think they had some leftover dialogue for Frank that they gave to Charles in many of his early episodes.

  • John Farson says:

    Douglas MacArthur was very very conservative politically. That would have appealed the the wealthy Boston brahmins like the Winchesters.
    And I cannon envision the weak kneed Radar ever contemplating at tattoo once he learned hope it was done.

  • Maggie Hoolihan says:

    This episode is a fun one and enjoyable to watch. Reminded me of some of the silliness of earlier seasons. Only small issue I saw was Mike Farrell’s acting in a few of the scenes. There were several times where it was obvious he was waiting for his next line. The scene in the mess tent when they’re asking Margaret to lay off Nurse Cooper, Hawk is doing most of the talking and BJ is just sitting there not eating with his head turned to the side waiting for his next line. As soon as Hawkeye stops speaking he immediately jumps in. Farrell didn’t even bother to mess with the food on his tray or even attempt to see if he could find something edible. It was a poor use of props in my opinion. He often will try to chew up the scenery and isn’t an actor that tries to act off his scene partner. It’s all about him and what he’s doing next. Part of that could have something to do with the way the show was filmed (single camera) but Wayne Rogers did a fine job responding to others’ emotions and actions.

  • Sophie says:

    MARGARET: You know how these people talk.
    CHARLES: Yes I do, they talk very poorly.

    Personally I think Charles is just toying with Margaret when he realizes she’s embarrassed to be seen sitting alone with him. I think it’s funny actually! I guess their awkward “intimate” moments don’t bother me because I know it doesn’t pan out.

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