M*A*S*H (1972) – Bananas, Crackers and Nuts, Cowboy, and Henry, Please Come Home

I’m a little divided on the first episode of M*A*S*H up for review this week. Bananas, Crackers and Nuts was written by Burt Styler, and first debuted on 5 November, 1972 (it was a different time, I have to keep reminding myself) and while a lot of it is funny, and a solid commentary on the effects of stress, some of the moments played for comedy aren’t really that funny at all.

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper (Wayne Rogers), not to mention the rest of the outfit, have been working non-stop in the operating room for days on end. They are asleep on their feet, worn out, and irritable with one another. Hawk and Trap decide that they need a 48 hour pass to Tokyo to rest and relax.

Unfortunately, Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) has beat them to it, and is heading out for some golf, leading Frank Burns (Larry Linville) in charge. The only way the duo are going to get a break now is if they prove that Hawkeye is losing his mind and is desperate need of a break.

But the plan backfires when Major Houlihan (Loretta Swit) calls in an army psychiatrist, Sherman (Stuart Margolin) to diagnose the Hawkeye – and he agrees, Tokyo may be the answer, but in the psych ward of the hospital there.

Now the camp has to come together to get Sherman in trouble (leading to a not very fun orchestrated sexual assault on Houlihan) to blackmail him into leaving Hawkeye and the 4077th alone.

The assault isn’t the only thing that is upsettting, Hawkeye also feigns being a gay man in love with Frank to bolster his case. Neither of these things is very funny. And yes it was the 70s portraying the 50s, but ouch.

Cowboy was written by Robert Klane and first debuted on 12 November, 1972. Billy Green Bush plays a chopper pilot nicknamed Cowboy who ends up in the 4077th after being injured yet again. He’s a great pilot, but he’s stressed by the war, and the fact that he’s worried about his wife back in the States, and is afraid he’ is waiting on a dear john letter.

He’s afraid she’ll be tempted and leave him, so he’s looking for a way back to the States. When Hawkeye argues his case with Blake, the colonel shuts him down, reminding Hawk and the viewer that they are in a war. Hawkeye and Trapper believe Blake is wound up and try to find ways to help him relax, and come to a better decision, but it seems Cowboy has a plan of his own… he’s setting lethal traps for the colonel.

And when Blake decides to leave the camp for a couple of days, Cowboy offers to fly him… and it may be the last time anyone sees the colonel… unless mail call has some good news for the Cowboy.

This one is good, often funny, and simple, it’s a straight forward tale that illustrates the cost on personal lives while war rages on.

And on a side note, I love that Hawkeye and Trapper made Henry a golf course near the camp, it’s a single hole, and a par 29. Love it.

Henry, Please Come Home was penned by Laurence Marks and first aired on 19 November, 1972. After it is revealed that the 4077th has reached a 90% rating as a field hospital, Blake is reassigned to Tokyo with a lush duty assignment.

Initially everyone is happy for him, until they learn that it means that Frank will be the new Commanding Officer. This makes life unbearable for everyone, but especially, Hawkeye, Trapper and Jones (Timothy Brown).

So the trio concoct a plan to get Henry back. They head off to Tokyo to see the colonel, and while they are there, they get a phone call from the 4077th, Radar (Gary Burghoff) has taken ill, and may not be long for this world.

Of course, this is all a con to get Henry back, and show him how badly Frank is ruining the unit, but how far will it go once Blake suggests exploratory surgery on the young coporal?

This one is just good fun, and one I would have delighted in as a kid, as I simply love seeing Frank getting his just desserts for trying to mess with those who call The Swamp home. Trapper and Hawk are a riot in this episode, and they’ll make me re-up for another trio of episodes next week.

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