M*A*S*H (1973) – The Longjohn Flap, The Army-Navy Game, and Sticky Wicket

Alan Alda pens the first episode up this week, The Longjohn Flap, which first aired on 18 February, 1973. This one is just a hilarious romp as the ravages of a cold winter hint the 4077th. Everyone is freezing. Everyone that is except for Hawkeye (Alda) who is snug and comfy in his longjohns (seen earlier in the season hanging off the end of his bed) that his father sent him.

While everyone else is doing everything they can to stay warm, Hawkeye is snug as a bug, until he lends them to Trapper (Wayne Rogers) who loses them to Radar (Gary Burghoff) in a poker game. Radar in turn hands them off for a roasted leg of lamb, and they start to make their way around the camp while Hawkeye attempts to track them down and get them back.

Everyone wants them, Hawkeye owns them, but whose got them? They finally end up in Colonel Blake’s (McLean Stevenson) hands, but just as Hawkeye is about to reclaim them, Blake’s appendix needs removing… will they be able to save the longjohns?

Alda has penned a sharp, very funny script that works brilliantly within the setting, and lets the characters stay true to themselves while engaging in this madcap comedy.

This, I remember as a young kid, was one of my early favourites, before I started to grow into the more dramatic episodes.

The Army-Navy Game has its intro theme music played by a different orchestra, and had a story suggested by McLean Stevenson and written by Sid Dorfman, this episode debuted on 25 February, 1973. Now, while I probably did not see this one when it originally aired, I was born in 71, I do remember seeing this one, in syndication when I was a child (M*A*S*H* every night of the week, and new eps once a week, yes please – and my family always watched it together). and it stayed with me.

While the Army-Navy game is being played State-side, the gang at the 4077th are swept up in the fever, with a betting pool and people gathering around the radio to hear what is going on. Unfortunately, the camp comes under attack at that very moment, and there is shelling going on from both sides.

Blake is injured in one of the blasts, and Burns (Larry Linville) passes out when the honus of command is passed to him, leaving Hawkeye and Trapper with a dire situation… there’s an unexploded bomb in the middle of the camp.

While Blake attempts to figure out what side the bomb came from, and find the proper defusal procedure for it, the rest of the camp readies themselves for oblivion in any way they figure they want to go out. Upon learning the bomb belongs to the CIA, Hawkeye and Trapper must operate on it before it explodes…

… with Blake guiding them through it.

This was a great episode, and watching it afresh, it not only reminded me of my youth growing up and watching it, but also appreciating the storytelling and the moments that played out on the screen.

It also appears that Jamie Farr’s Klinger is becoming a more prominent member of the cast by appearing in both of the episodes so far this week.

Stickey Wicket ends out our trio of episodes this week. Written by series developer Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks from a story by Richard Baer, this episode first aired on 4 March, 1973, and puts the shoe on the other foot.

Hawkeye usually takes the mickey out of Frank Burns while they all operate in surgery, but he tends to know where the line generally is, but when Hawkeye is having problems solving a patient’s continued decline, Burns is quite happy to take shots at him, and crosses the line.

Hawkeye is furious, and focuses solely on his one patient, something Blake comes to see him about, asking whether his pride is at work or not, because they can’t win them all. Major Houlihan (Loretta Swit) despite her romantic involvement with Frank and her occasional disdain for Hawkeye delivers a possibility to the worried doctor.

But everything weighs heavily on Hawkeye, so much so that he even moves out of the Swamp (which he named) and into a supply tent, just so he can mope and figure out what he did wrong.

When he finally clues in, there’s a patching up between he and Frank, even as Hawkeye is able to save the patient. Thankfully he didn’t lose him, otherwise that may have been a real blow to the character, though he’s lost others before. Hawkeye, as a doctor, has a big ego, though it’s grounded in superior abilities, but also a great level of compassion, which doesn’t always survive in wartime.

Nexy week, we finish off the first season… only ten to go 🙂

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