Episode Spotlight: Mulcahy’s War


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

“Mulcahy’s War” (#104, 5×08)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, November 16th, 1976
Written by Richard Cogan
Directed by George Tyne

Capsule Summary: Father Mulcahy, worried he hasn’t experienced real war, travels to an aid station at the front lines to pick up a seriously wounded patient.

“Mulcahy’s War” is the first of several episodes of M*A*S*H that dealt with Father Mulcahy’s fear he doesn’t make an impact at the 4077th. Despite hearing from Colonel Potter that he has “the toughest job at camp,” Mulcahy decides to head to the front and see for himself what soldiers deal with. Is it fair of Private Fitzsimons to criticize Father Mulcahy for not having been in battle? I don’t think so but Mulcahy clearly does.

Of course, a brief visit to an aid station near the front lines isn’t the same as sitting in a foxhole for weeks while your buddies are picked off by snipers. Father Mulcahy still doesn’t know what front line soldiers go through and he knows it. But Fitzsimons is impressed enough that he’s willing to at least talk with Father Mulcahy. We don’t learn what will happen to Fitzsimons. Will Frank wise up and insist on a court-martial? If sent back to the front, will Fitzsimons shoot himself in the foot again?

The B story is silly but harmless. It’s no surprise Frank would get upset about operating on a dog. I do like Hawkeye’s reaction when he’s told the dog’s name is Cupcake. There were K-9 units in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Perhaps Cupcake was based on a real dog.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Mulcahy's War showing Radar and Father Mulcahy.
Father Mulcahy prepares to operate.

Why would Radar, the company clerk, go with Igor to the aid station to pick up a wounded soldier? Shouldn’t another corpsman like Goldman go with Igor?

Although unconfirmed, there are those who believe the aid station sergeant’s dialogue has been dubbed by Johnny Haymer (better known for portraying Sergeant Zale). I have to admit, the sergeant does sound an awful lot like Zale. Richard Foronjy is credited as playing the unnamed, mustachioed sergeant.

I vaguely recall reading about someone successfully performing a tracheotomy and crediting this episode for helping them pull off the procedure. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?

15 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Mulcahy’s War”

  1. This episode is an example of how Mulcahy seemed to go back and forth in his mentality about him being at the 4077th: episodes like this and “Dear Sis” show that he feels useless in camp and that nobody really needs him for his spiritual comfort; but then you’ve got episodes like “An Eye for a Tooth,” where he does feel he’s important – so important enough that he deserves a promotion. I feel episodes like this are in better character for Mulcahy: humble and insecure about him, yet wanting to contribute more.

    And I do really like the B-story with Frank and Corporal Cupcake. Perhaps one of the funniest moments is when Frank tries to say goodbye to Cupcake, only for Cupcake to snarl, growl, and bark at him in a vicious manner: even the dark is wise to Frank!

    1. I always felt super bad for Frank at that part. I know basically the whole world hates Frank, but I really sympathize with him as a character, despite him being such a turd, mainly because of the way he talks about his child hood, and because I can understand what it feels like to be the guy everyone dislikes.

      I get the joke that even the dog hates on Frank, and it’s funny sure, but Frank did work on the dog after all. It’s more depressing and sad for poor Burns than anything else to me.

  2. I had always heard that rumor too about Zale dubbing the voice. Checked it out one day and it most certainty does sound like him.

    Also @RJ, I too have heard the tracheotomy story as well, but for the life of me can’t recall where it was I heard/read about that. Might have been on this site honestly.

    Always liked this episode. The scene with Radar and Mulcahy doing the trach is very well done. Radar’s totally disgusted by it and Father Mulcahy is his usual come and collected self, and they’re both mesmerized when it works. Them looking for a tube and the pocket knife are great as well.

    Anyone know what kind of pocket knife he mentioned? Sounds like he said Tomex, similar to Timex?

    1. I’ve browsed the site off and on for years, and much more actively the past year or so, and I’ve never seen it.

      I don’t go to the forums very often though so might be someone on there with it, though.

  3. I agree with 007, this was a very good episode, and the surgery scene was handled really well, doing a good job of blending the humor of Radar’s reactions with the tension of the situation. And while I do think there were better Mulcahy episodes in later seasons, this was easily his best of the Burns years IMO.

  4. It should be noted that William Christopher has said this is one of his favorite episodes because it was the first time he really got to do more with Mulcahy rather than just being there as the random religious guy in camp. Understandable. Prior to this, the only other times Mulcahy was part of the focus of the episode was “Life with Father” and “Alcoholics Unanimous,” and even then, he wasn’t the main focus of either of those episodes.

  5. I don’t think it is Johnny Hayman dubbing the voice – his voice has more of a New York accent. Also, it is interesting that this episode is Richard Cogan’s only writing credit, ever. I couldn’t find anything about him online. Wonder how he got the opportunity.

  6. Great episode. The only thing that bugged me and made me laugh was when Klinger called for a doctor to help Radar over the phone, they all burst in immediately at the same time. It was comical how quick they responded. Obviously the actors were waiting outside the door for their cue but if you think of it in the context of the story it’s pretty funny. Klinger: “Dr Pierce, Hunnicutt, Colonel! Emergency!” One second later all three burst in like the Keystone Kops and say, “what’s the problem?” In a busy army hospital, it’s hard to believe all three would be nearby at the same time. Pretty funny.

  7. One minor slip up…Hawkeye asks Father Mulcahy where the man is wounded…since he took the call and sent Radar to the front to retrieve him, shouldn’t he have already known the nature of the man’s injuries?

    1. I think the swollen tongue that happens en route is a complication that is beyond what Hawkeye had been briefed on when he sent them to the front. He’s basically asking, the guy stopped breathing now? What has happened to cause this? So that he can walk them through some basic first aid to get the patient alive back to camp.

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