Episode Spotlight: Blood and Guts


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

“Blood and Guts” (#226, 10×12)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, January 18th, 1982
Written by Lee. H Grant
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye is dismayed to learn that charismatic war correspondent Clayton Kibbee intends to make war seem grand and exciting–even if he has to embellish the truth for his readers.

The great Clayton “Clay” Kibbee comes to the 4077th and everyone, from Colonel Potter to Charles, is impressed. Clay is a legend. He’s “the ultimate sportsman” and “confidant of kings,” according to Charles. Margaret thinks he’s “manly and rugged and virile.” Charles is even grudgingly willing to let Clay call him Chuck, that’s how dazzled he is.

But Clay the man doesn’t quite live up to Clay the legend. When the story of the first soldier to receive a donated pint of blood turns out to be less than impressive, Clay makes up his own story. Hawkeye overhears and confronts Clay:

Hawkeye: “You make this sound like some glorious escapade. Something every American boy should aspire to. In case you haven’t noticed, this is ugly. It is not exciting. Underline not.”
Clay: “Well, you got that wrong, son. Back home is not exciting. It’s the war they want to read about. The romance, the heroics, the glory.”
Hawkeye: “That doesn’t exist.”
Clay: “That’s why I’m here. I make it exist.”

Hawkeye’s righteous indignation isn’t shared by Margaret and B.J. Margaret is too charmed by Clay and B.J. only cares about his motorcycle. By the time he realizes the truth about Clay, it’s too late. Clay has stolen the bike. Hawkeye and B.J. find him lying on the side of the road, wounded by his own tequila bottle. Clay lives, but the bike is a goner.

Interestingly, although Clay appears to get his comeuppance, Colonel Potter and Father Mulcahy still seem to worship the man in the tag scene. And despite Hawkeye’s hope that he got through to Clay, the reporter’s next column was filed from the jungles of Indochina. Clay hasn’t changed at all.

I wish Clay’s thoughts about war could’ve been explored more. He’s used to a different kind of war and doesn’t understand the “policeman’s tea party” that is the Korean War or his role in it. Why don’t we get a scene between Clay and Potter, talking about their adventures in World War 2? Having Clay get drunk and steal B.J.’s motorcycle feels like the easy way out, in my opinion.

The minor storyline involving Lieutenant Lacey breaking a date with Hawkeye so she can have a drink with Clay adds nothing to the episode. Hawkeye later sends Potter and Father Mulcahy to intrude on Lacey and Clay at the Officers’ Club. Cut both these scenes out and there’s plenty of time for a deeper examination of Clay’s motivation.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Blood and Guts showing Clayton Kibbee

Clay isn’t happy Private McKegney hit a rock.

Rita Wilson makes the first of two appearances as Lieutenant Lacey in this episode. She returns in “Hey, Look Me Over” during Season 11, although the episode was actually filmed for Season 10.

The actor who plays Private Belson, who received the second donated pint of blood, isn’t credited. According to the Internet Movie Database, Belson is played by Stoney Jackson.

B.J. acquires a motorcycle in this episode. He repairs it, only for Kibbee to steal it and wreck it again. B.J. memorably uses a different motorcycle to depart the 4077th in “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” at the end of Season 11.

I believe the brief mention of Clay’s visit to Indochina is one of only two references on M*A*S*H to the Vietnam War, although it’s an indirect reference at best. During the Korean War, France was fighting Viet Minh forces in Southern Vietnam in what’s known as the First Indochina War. It ended in 1954 with the partition of the country into North and South Vietnam. The Vietnam War (also known as the Second Indochina War) began the following year.

7 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Blood and Guts”

  1. Just another episode where Hawkeye gets mad when someone talks about the war without throwing a martini glass across the room. You would think that concept would have been played out by that point.

    1. Agreed, not a huge fan of this episode. A good example of the shows decline in quality towards the end of its run.

      Oddly enough though this is one of the rare instances where I agree with Hawkeye. It was nice to see Clay get knocked on his ass, literally, at the end of this episode.

  2. I don’t really have anything positive or negative to say about Clay. He was OK but he seemed intent on embellishing war’s romantic elements, which there really isn’t anything to glamorize.

  3. Clay seemed to be inspired by Ernest Hemingway. Also I believe there were at least three references to Vietnam in the series-in “Deluge,” where newsreel footage shows French troops in what was then French Indochina, this episode, and the series finale, where Igor reads a news announcement of the US sending more aid to South Vietnam and Klinger asks, “Where’s that?” Potter answers “Southeast Asia, he said.”

  4. I was just fascinated to hear Hawkeye use the word “ass.” A first for the show and a sign of things changing on television.

  5. I seem to be in the minority, but I’ve always liked this episode. After all, where else could you hear the word “ass” on TV in the early 80’s? Kidding aside, I think the basic story is really solid and I like how the main storylines (the donated blood, the Clay/Hawkeye interactions, and BJ’s motorcycle) tie together. Naturally Hawkeye has to be the only person in camp who figures out what a phony Clay really is; that’s par for the course by this point in the series. The twist is that, despite all of Hawkeye’s moralizing, we find out that Clay doesn’t really change at all.

    Speaking of Clay, he is of course an over-the-top thinly veiled Hemingway parody. The entire camp is star-struck (even Hawkeye seems to like him at first). Margaret’s lustful comment that Clay is “so manly and rugged and virile” always makes me laugh. Perhaps they should have cast someone who was more Kirk Douglas and less Burl Ives for the part. That said, I think Gene Evans did a fine job. His thumbs-up accompanied by the clicking noise is appropriately cool but annoying.

    The scenes near the end, starting with Clay drunkenly disturbing BJ’s sleep to Hawkeye and BJ tracking down Clay is my favorite part of the episode. Gene Evans plays drunk very well. And I always feel sorry for BJ as he surveys the wreckage of the motorcycle.

    Speaking of the motorcycle, someone posted a blatantly wrong Trivia entry in the IMDb section for this episode. It basically states that BJ keeps this motorcycle until the end of the series, and rides of on it at the end of GFA. I guess the writer missed the last 10 minutes of “Blood and Guts” and skipped many parts of GFA.

  6. Did Jamie Farr have something to do with the character Clayton Kibbee’s name. Kibbee is a food from the Middle East.

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