Episode Spotlight: Temporary Duty

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

“Temporary Duty” (#141, 06×21)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 13th, 1978
Written by Larry Balmagia
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and Lt. Bigelow are sent to the 8063rd for a week. Back at the 4077th, B.J. and Charles must contend with an annoying doctor from the 8063rd while Margaret is reunited with an old friend.

Unless I’m mistaken, “Temporary Duty” was as close as M*A*S*H came to an episode without Hawkeye. He appears only briefly at the beginning of the episode then disappears until the tag scene at the end. There’s so much going on that Hawkeye really isn’t missed. That’s the problem with this episode: there’s just too much going on. Both visitors from the 8063rd get their own story line and unfortunately that means neither are able to develop fully. An entire episode about Captain Roy Dupree or an entire episode about Captain Lorraine Anderson would have worked.

I’ll tackle Roy Dupree first because the A Story really is more about him than B.J. and Charles. Does Roy drink too much? Probably. Is he too loud? Definitely. But he’s also a sad character. Lorraine doesn’t seem to like him much. Charles and to a lesser degree B.J. are incredibly rude to his face. Although he jokes about their hurtful comments, is anybody surprised the man drank a lot? He wants to transfer permanently to the 4077th because he feels like it could be his home, which means he most not feel that way about the 8063rd.

Yet when Hawkeye returns, he tells B.J. and Charles that everyone at the 8063rd hated him. They thought he was dull and that the 4077th got the better deal in the temporary transfer. If the 8063rd loved Roy so much, why did he want to transfer to the 4077th? He’s clearly a gifted surgeon, although sadly that aspect of his character was barely touched upon. I think the episode missed an opportunity to reflect on Frank Burns, whose surgical skills were as lacking as his personality. Roy was a good doctor but nobody at the 4077th seemed to care.

The B Story is all about Margaret and not at all about Lorraine, who we learn almost nothing about over the course of the episode. Aside, of course, from the fact that she is the polar opposite of Margaret: happy, fun-loving, flirtatious. Margaret opens up to Lorraine about why she’s so cold and distant. She’s afraid. She’s always been afraid. So she put up walls and kept herself apart from everyone, which means now that her marriage to Donald isn’t going well (“You know what I was thinking the other night? That he’s more like a toy soldier I play with sometime.”) she doesn’t feel like she has any friends at the 4077th or anyone to talk to about her problems. It’s depressing.

Margaret and Roy Dupree are two very different characters with a similiar problem: they can’t connect to anyone. Roy is as outgoing as Margaret is closed-off and yet he apparently feels just as isolated and alone as she does. Why else would he want to leave the 8063rd–where apparently everyone liked him? He can’t stop being friendly and drinking and partying and laughing. Margaret can’t start, although she takes a tentative step forward at the end of the episode.

When Margaret asks if B.J. and Charles want to get a cup of coffee and talk, the two are noticeably surprised and confused. That’s a little unbelievable because Charles made attempts to befriend Margaret earlier in the season and the two must have some sort of relationship outside of the operating room. And B.J. is such a nice guy. Hopefully when Roy gets back to the 8063rd he’ll realize that he has friends there and can make it the home he hoped the 4077th would be.

Radar, Klinger, Father Mulcahy, and Colonel Potter contribute very little to the episode. Potter’s reaction to Roy riding around the camp on Sophie is amusing: “Come on, Soph. You can step on his hat if you want to.”

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Temporary Duty showing Charles and B.J. hugging Hawkeye

Charles actually missed Hawkeye.

The timeline in this episode doesn’t make much sense. Colonel Potter tells Hawkeye and Bigelow they’ll be at the 8063rd for a week. The two leave and an hour later Roy and Lorraine arrive at the 4077th. Everyone is introduced. Then casualties arrive. Margaret and Lorraine have an argument after surgery. That’s all the same day.

The next scene takes place in the mess tent and it’s implied Roy is tasting 4077th food for the first time. Roy asks Colonel Potter for a permanent transfer and later drunkenly returns to the Swamp after discovering Rosie’s bar, presumably that night. Charles and B.J. hatch a plan to turn Potter against Roy, which works. The next morning, Roy is severely hungover and leaves alongside Lorraine. Either Potter sent the two back to the 8063rd early or somehow a week passed without anyone noticing.

How many different ways to Roy mess up B.J.’s name? I counted five: J.B., J.J., B.G., J.G., and B.B.

Charles finally adds Boston to the signpost in this episode.

Margaret tells Lorraine she supervises 10 nurses at the 4077th. In some episodes, we only see one or two. In others, it seems like they are dozens.

Although Charles is clearly interested in Lorraine, apparently she was just flirting with him to pass the time. When she calls him “one of a kind” he’s taken aback, unsure whether it’s a complim ent or an insult. It feels like he eventually decides it’s somewhat insulting.

Speaking of Charles, why is he carrying a big sharpened stick while watching Roy riding Sophie? If he removed it while helping Roy “steal” Sophie, why didn’t Colonel Potter notice?

14 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Temporary Duty”

  1. Capt. Lo-rraine Anderson has THE worst haircut of all time in the history of worst haircuts of all time.

  2. I always thought this was one of the more interesting and unique episodes of the whole series. But, maybe I’m missing something . . . actually, I think I’m missing a lot here, because I don’t recall both B.J. and Charles being rude to Dupree to his face (well, not B.J. anyway; Charles definitely was, but I just got the impression B.J. was turned off by his boorish personality); likewise, I don’t recall Dupree being lonely and isolated at all, just a little abrasive and brash. Otherwise, it’s fun to see that Dupree was played by George Lindsey, otherwise known as Goober from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.

    Margaret’s strict personality and military attitude felt forced and didn’t feel organic in this episode, but I’m sure it was intentional to show the contrast between her and Lorraine. Still, with all the flirting and “sandbox talk” that goes on in O.R., Margaret never flew off the handle about it that much, which made it seem odd she singled out Lorraine for that very reason.

    It does sort fo make me wonder just what the 8063rd is really like: it sounds even wilder than the 4077th if Roy parties every night, and they thought Hawkeye was dull.

    Also, much of the Mess Tent scene is cut from syndication, which means Klinger doesn’t appear at all in reruns of this episode.

    1. B.J. wasn’t quite as upfront with his dislike of Roy but didn’t he say something like “Why don’t you give your mouth a rest?” straight to his face in the mess tent while Roy was talking to Father Mulcahy? I thought there was something else B.J. but can’t remember it now. True, it’s not nearly as bad as Charles telling Roy he had a “boorish” personality.

      As for Roy being lonely and depressed, that was my interpretation of his character. Admittedly, I’m reading a lot into a relatively one-dimensional, one-off character. If Roy really is beloved by the 8063rd but can’t see it and wants to transfer to the 4077th where he thinks he’ll be happy even though people clearly don’t like him there, that seems sad. Maybe he is just a guy who likes to drink and party and isn’t a depressed individual who turns to alcohol to alleviate his loneliness.

      1. Well, BJ turned on Roy, when he started somewhat mouthing off at Fr. Mulcahy.
        And I didn’t make much of his wish to transfer to the 4077, as other than a device to set up the Sophy incident as comic relief.

  3. I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, and I didn’t miss Hawkeye at all. It was funny, and I love how Charles finally opened up to Hawkeye at the end. George Lindsey was fun in this too.

  4. The only things that I like about this episode are that
    a) It is a mainly Hawkeye free episode,
    b) Charles adds Boston to the signpost,
    and c) Roy can’t get B.J.’s name right.
    That’s it. It doesn’t do much for me apart from them.

  5. I forgot to mention that in the days before I actually started watching M*A*S*H, i got a glimpse of this episode while channel surfing one evening: it was when Margaret was chewing out Lorraine for flirting with Charles in O.R., followed by this exchange:

    DUPREE: Hey, Spitfire! You shore kicked up a lot of dust in there!
    MARGARET: Oh yeah?
    DUPREE: Yeah, but I do love a woman with spunk!
    MARGARET: Why don’t you go sit on a steer’s horns?
    DUPREE: (Beat) Well, maybe not that much spunk.

  6. George Lindsey wrote about his experience on MASH in his bio, GOOBER IN A NUTSHELL. I recall just 2 things about what he wrote. First he said that Alan Alda didn’t appear in it, so that leads me to believe that Alda was busy doing the week of this episode’s shooting so his scenes were filmed some other week. Since this episode was the last one produced for Season 6, he probably filmed his scenes in an earlier week and then spent several weeks following on a different project. Lindsey also said that Mike Farrell & David Ogden Stiers were not kind to him that week, or maybe it was just BJ & Charles’ aversion to Roy Dupree that rubbed off on him.

    1. George Lindsey seemed to be a sensitive kind of guy. I’ve been reading ANDY & DON, about the friendship and collaboration between Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. It mentioned that George was originally intended to play Gomer, but the part went to Jim Nabors after Andy “discovered” him in a night club (though ironically, both Andy and Don soon felt Jim was upstaging them, hence why GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. was created, as a means to get rid of Jim). When George was later cast as Goober, he said he was never sure if Andy even liked him. He also mentions that he didn’t like pranks and practical jokes, which made him an even bigger target for Andy and some of the other cast and crew to prank him.

  7. The casting call brought the idea front and center, Stenger said, but he never actually went to it. He did some research and found that open casting calls tend to involve tons of people and tons of time – a resource he doesn’t have to spare.

  8. Margaret’s story is more interesting, I imagine she got a lot of her character from her father, and the fact that she was a female officer who outranked most of the men at the 4077th who sometimes treated her with disdain if not disrespect. She was in charge and took her attitude to an extreme as a way of self-protection, unlike Frank who was just a jerk.

    Dupree is just a boor and causes most of his own problems as a character, although maybe they just know him better at the 8063rd.

  9. I was a bit confused as to why they would send Lorraine, a nurse who had only been in Korea for a month, to share her expertise with another MASH. She just got to Korea. Even though the assignment was for them to learn what they could from 4077th, it was also to share the way they do things at the 8063rd which arguably Lorraine really wouldn’t know..

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