Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“Sons and Bowlers” (#233, 10×19)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, March 22nd, 1982
Written by Elias Davis & David Pollock
Directed by Hy Averback
Capsule Summary: Colonel Potter tries to put together a winning bowling team so he can finally beat the Marines. Meanwhile, Hawkeye waits anxiously for news about his father’s surgery.
I absolutely love half of this episode. It’s M*A*S*H at its emotional best and gave David Ogden Stiers the opportunity to do some of his finest acting on the series. Alan Alda does a terrific job as well. Charles opening up to Hawkeye about the distant relationship he has with his father gives me chills every time I watch it.
The way Stiers and Alda are able to convey so much emotion with just the tiniest of facial expressions is impressive. When Charles says “Even now, the sight of lettuce makes me talk faster” he smiles almost imperceptibly at the memory of those family dinners.
The scene ends with a powerful exchange:
Charles: “I always assumed that that’s how it was in every family. But when I see the warmth, closeness, the fun of your relationship… My father’s a good man. He always wanted what was best for me. But where I have a father, you have a dad.”
Hawkeye: “Charles, you never told me anything like this before.” Winchester: “Actually, Hawkeye… I’ve never told you anything before.”
When Charles calls Hawkeye by his nickname rather than Pierce, Hawkeye’s reaction is subtle–just a small turn of the head–but effective.
Unfortunately, the bowling A Story is nowhere near as good as the Hawkeye/Charles B Story. It’s not an awful idea but it’s filled with far too much screeching from both Colonel Potter and Margaret. I do love Potter’s yelling “Not now, Margaret, I’m recruiting!” And I appreciate how the two storylines intertwined, with Hawkeye bowling a few frames to keep his mind occupied.
Charles scheming with B.J. seems somewhat out of character but perhaps he was feeling friendly and sociable after bonding with Hawkeye. The two sharing a drink in the Officers’ Club and toasting to fathers and sons is the perfect ending to the episode.
I think we can all be grateful the episode didn’t end with a freeze frame of Margaret jumping in the air while celebrating the 4077th’s win over the Marines. The slow motion bowling was bad enough.
The opening credits of this episode feature the closing theme song and are thus shortened considerably.
Pay close attention to the background while Colonel Potter is trying to convince Margaret to keep Marty Urbancic occupied. You can see tables set up outside where people are eating. It’s actually a little surprising that M*A*S*H went to such lengths during Season 10. It’s the sort of attention to detail and use of extras that was more common during the early years of the series.
Roy Goldman has a rare speaking part in this episode yet isn’t credited.
Roger Hampton receives a credit as The Second Marine.
Dick O’Neill made his third and final guest appearance on M*A*S*H in this episode. He previously played Admiral Cox in “38 Across” during Season 5 and General Prescott in “B.J. Papa San” during Season 7.