I’m reviewing every episode of AfterMASH, in original broadcast order, and asking fans to add their memories and opinions.
“C.Y.A.” (#15, 1×15)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, January 9th, 1984 from 9-9:30PM ET
Written by Janis Hirsch
Directed by Burt Brinckerhoff
TV Guide Summary
Mulcahy becomes entangled in red tape trying to get the VA to pay for his ear operation; and a woman claims the hospital has lost her son.
The Hartford Courant Summary
Father Mulcahy battles the Veterans Administration bureaucracy when he’s informed that he’ll have to foot the bill for the operation that restored his hearing. Meanwhile, Klinger befriends a young paraplegic patient, and a woman accuses Gen. Pershing Hospital of misplacing her son.
The copy of “C.Y.A” I have access to, which is the same copy available on YouTube, appears to be missing roughly two minutes of the episode. Also, there are video and audio glitches throughout the episode when several seconds (or potentially more) of the episode go missing, including entire lines of dialogue.
The title of the episode refers to one of the three main storylines, in which a woman named Mrs. Bergstrom shows up at General General looking for her son. She insists her son, who was wounded in the Korean War, is at the hospital. After speaking first to an unnamed receptionist, Mrs. Bergstorm encounters Mike D’Angelo, who assures her he’ll look into the matter personally. But he wants nothing to do with a missing patient and asks Alma Cox to investigate.
Alma, in turn, tells Klinger he’ll be in big trouble if he can’t find the missing patient. Klinger proceeds to foist the responsibility on Dr. Pfeiffer, who then hands the problem off to Father Mulchay, who then brings it to Potter’s attention. The buck, as Potter says, stops with him.
Potter apologizes to Mrs. Bergstrom but can’t find any record of her son. Mrs. Bergstrom then shows him a notification from the military her son was killed in action. She doesn’t believe it. Sadly, one of the glitches I mentioned earlier happens during this emotional scene so I don’t know exactly what Potter says to Mrs. Bergstrom. It’s too bad because this is an impactful scene, the climax to a storyline that runs throughout the episode.
That said, I don’t like this storyline at all. It paints everyone in a bad light, more concerned with covering their behinds than helping a mother find her wounded son. It’s played almost for laughs as if Mrs. Bergstrom’s distress is meaningless. Each character embellishes her son’s military record when they pass the buck, until he’s supposedly a true war hero.
I understand the point of the storyline and how it builds to a crescendo to increase the emotional wallop when viewers learn Mrs. Bergstrom’s son is dead. I just don’t believe Father Mulcahy or Klinger (or Dr. Pfeiffer, for that matter) would be so cavalier about a missing patient. They wouldn’t care about blaming someone else. They’d want to find the patient. Instead, they’re no better than Mike D’Angelo or Alma Cox.
Father Mulchay also has his own separate storyline in the episode. He’s informed the doctor who performed his ear operation hasn’t been paid by the VA. When he tries to figure out why, he’s told the surgery took place at an unaffiliated hospital. Father Mulcahy goes on a crusade, slogging through dozens of books of regulations in an attempt to find a loophole. He meets a patient who is also fighting regulations. The payoff? Father Mulcahy is able to turn the tables on Mike D’Angelo and Alma Cox, using the very regulations they hide behind.
The highlight of the episode comes during Father Mulcahy’s storyline. When Alma Cox tries to stop him from entering Mike D’Angelo’s office, Father Mulcahy picks her up and moves her out of the way.
Finally, there’s a Klinger storyline. He’s been working in physical therapy with a patient named Prentiss who is paralyzed from the waist down. Prentiss is working hard to build up his strength so he can leave the hospital. Klinger, happy to help, invites Prentiss to dinner at his house with Soon-Lee. Dr. Pfeiffer, who has been looking after Soon-Lee during her pregnancy, is also invited. But then Prentiss talks to another paralyzed patient who convinces him there’s no use trying so hard. He’ll be dead in a few years due to an infection.
Prentiss decide to give up and Klinger blames himself for not learning more about physical therapy. Like Father Mulcahy, Klinger gets a happy ending when Prentiss changes his mind.
Despite my misgivings about the Bergstrom storyline, “C.Y.A.” is another solid installment of AfterMASH. It helps that two of the main characters have decent storylines.
Mildred does not appear in this episode.
References to the 4077th
There are no references to the 4077th in this episode. The Korean War is mentioned several times in connection to Mrs. Bergstrom’s son.
Lois Foraker shows up as Nurse Coleman in this episode.
Guest star Guy Boyd previously appeared in the M*A*S*H episode “Settling Debts” during Season 11.
Guest star Timothy Busfield later had a regular role on Trapper John, M.D. during its last two seasons (from 1984-1986), playing Trapper’s son.