Discuss: Your Favorite Charles Winchester Dialogue

Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.

Doc Funnypants suggested today’s topic: What is your favorite Charles Winchester line of dialogue?

So Many Options

The M*A*S*H fan community is still coming to terms with the loss of David Ogden Stiers so it’s only fitting that this week’s Monday M*A*S*H Discussion involves his character. In fact, don’t be surprised if every Monday M*A*S*H Discussion this month is about Charles. I’ve mentioned before how my appreciation for Charles and the brilliance of David Ogden Stiers grew and grew while rewatching all 251 episodes of M*A*S*H for my Episode Spotlight reviews. Charles had so many wonderful lines of dialogue that, like many fans, I’m not sure I can pick just one favorite.

There is, of course, the iconic speech Charles delivers during “Fade Out, Fade In” (Season 6):

“But know this. You can cut me off from the civilized world. You can incarcerate me with two moronic cellmates. You can torture me with your thrice daily swill, but you cannot break the spirit of a Winchester. My voice shall be heard from this wilderness and I shall be delivered from this fetid and festering sewer.”

But to me, the most memorable Charles lines display his compassionate side, like this emotional line from “Death Takes a Holiday” (Season 9):

“On the contrary. It is I who should be sorry. It is sadly inappropriate to give dessert to a child who’s had no meal.”

Or his admission to Hawkeye in “Sons and Bowlers” (Season 10):

“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.”

And, of course, this brutal line from “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” (Season 11):

“Well, I’m gonna be head of thoracic surgery at Boston Mercy Hospital. So my life will go on pretty much as I expected. With one exception. For me, music was always a refuge from this miserable experience. And now it will always be a reminder.

Then there are the witty lines, like “In the first place, I don’t sweat. I perspire. And in the second place, I don’t perspire,” from “Fade Out, Fade In” (Season 6); “Hunnicutt, I have met a lot of people in my life. You are not among them” from “Commander Pierce” (Season 7); or “Klinger, my constant reminder that Darwin was right” from “Bottle Fatigue” (Season 8).

If I have to pick a favorite, it’s probably the line from “Death Takes a Holiday” because it represents how Charles grew as a human being during his time at the 4077th.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.


  • BDOR says:

    For me, much like Potter and his “Potterisms,” I always loved Charles’s “Boston Bull,” and honestly, David Ogden Stiers had a way of delivering these lines in such a dry and sardonic manner that made them all the more unintentionally funny.

    “Humidity is disasterous, please send me some deodorant. I don’t care about the others, I just don’t want to offend myself.”

    “Oh, to be home tonight. A brisk walk across the Boston Common. The bell in the Old North Church ringing. Watching it gently snow across the frozen pond. And then later, sit with Mother, Father, and Honoria in the West Wing, sipping one hundred year old brandy. And the servant standing by, bathed in the light of the fire, and the glow of utter civility. Corporal, it is to weap.”

    “By the age of seven I was already dissecting frogs. And I could put them back together. No wonder I graduated first from my med class at Havard.”

    “In the first place, I do not sweat, I prespire, and in the second place, I don’t prespire.”

    And so many others I just can’t think of right now.

  • penguinphysics says:

    It might seem like a tiny thing, but Charles’ catchphrase of ‘gentlemen’ is one I’ve always loved and have never been able to properly emulate. Also, in the episode where they were enduring Roy Dupree (that’s me…it rhynes), there was an exchange between BJ and Charles:

    BJ: “After You.”
    Charles: “As it should be”

    Never fails to elicit a chuckle

  • Jon says:

    I’ve loved Maj. Winchester’s first speech of resignation so much that I memorized & repeated it myself. I’m glad you spelled it out here, as I used to think “fetid” was something liked “fettied”. I also love his line about the Christmas orphans. As for a lot of people, I think Winchester’s sceine in “Morale Victory” at the Officer’s club is my favorite Winchester scene of all time. This man, Winchester, was very human, but he didn’t want anyone around him to know that.

  • Istvan says:

    “You saved me, Father. You lowered a bucket into the well of my despair and you raised me up to the light of day. I thank you for that”

    I love this line!

  • buckeyebabe says:

    As a person who is terrible at multitasking I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of “ I do one thing at a time, I do it very well and then I move on” from “ Fade Out-Fade In”. My husband who is intensely competitive loves “The first syllable in Winchester is win” from “Snappier Judgement”. Charles is cause of one of my favorite Col. Potter quotes. In “ The Winchester Tapes” when Potter is painting Charles’ picture and he begins to complain about being stuck at the 4077th. I crack up every time Potter yells “ Don’t change the color of your face! I’m out of umber!” There were so many great Winchester moments. There were times you just wanted to smack him and others when you just wanted to hug him which is a testament to the wonderful talent David Ogden Stiers had.

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    My favorite and one I use often is from ‘Mail Call, Three’ – “If I yawn it’s only in anticipation.”

  • Larry P. says:

    For me, it’s his speaking of the relationship with his father in “Sons and Bowlers,” quoted above. Actually, that whole episode is my favorite “human” Winchester outing; it was always great seeing him be pompous, and David Ogden Stiers could certainly deliver a pompous line funnier than just about anyone, but when he allowed the caring side of the character to peak through the cracks every once in awhile, that, to me, showed just HOW great of an actor Stiers really was. He took Charles places that would have been hard to imagine when he debuted at the start of season six.

    His consoling of Hawkeye all throughout “Sons and Bowlers” is a wonderful example of this. “Actually, Hawkeye, I’ve never told you ANYTHING before.” On paper it sounds like typical arrogant Charles, but in actuality, following the recounting of his father-son relationship, the delivery of the line, coupled with the usage of “Hawkeye” instead of the usual “Pierce,” speaks volumes. It’s puts an understanding, a warmth, even a genuine friendship between the two, in about as clear a focus as we ever got. You see it all throughout the episode, from when he’s trying to calm Hawkeye down later in the OR, to that final toast between them at the end.

    Anyway, I got a bit off track here, but yes, my favorite Winchester dialogue is the above-quoted “Sons and Bowlers” bit.

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    My favorite Winchester line was from “Dear Sis”. It was “You saved me, Father. You lowered a bucket into the well of my despair and you raised me up to the light of day”. I think about that line when I volunteer at a church partnered with the one I attend which is the same denomination as Charles.

  • David G. says:

    “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”

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