M*A*S*H (1973) – Major Fred C. Dobbs, Ceasefire, and Showtime

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper (Wayne Rogers) push Frank Burns (Larry Linville) just a little too far after he rails out a nurse in Major Fred C. Dobbs. Written by Sid Dorfman, this episode, with a nod to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in the title, first aired on 11 March, 1973.

Burns goes to see Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) about a transfer, as we get a look at some of the things the pair have done to drive him mad. When Blake agrees, and Hawk and Trap broadcast the teary farewell Burns shares with Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit) even Henry gets mad (not to mention having his teeth done by a dentist through the entire episode) and assigns the pair double duty until replacements can be found for Burns and Houlihan who have both demanded to be transferred out.

Not quite taking responsibility for their actions, the pair have to figure out a way to convince Frank and therefore Margaret to stay, and get them off double duty. Radar (Gary Burghoff) provides them with the perfect plan… there’s gold in them thar hills!

Apparently despite how entertaining most viewers found it, the cast and crew didn’t really care for it, stating that they didn’t think it was true to their characters. I mean, even if they had to pull double duty, would Hawkeye and Trapper still figure out a way to keep Frank around?

Still, it’s got some fun moments, and Radar’s teddy bear makes another appearance. The camp announcements are pretty clever as well, so it’s not a bad episode, just not a favourite of those who made it.

Ceasefire is the penultimate episode of the first season. It features the return of the original theme recording, eschewing the jazzier version of the past few episodes. Written by Laurence Marks, and series developer Larry Gelbart, from a story by Robert Klane, this episode debuted on 17 March, 1973.

General Clayton (Herb Voland) delivers news to the 4077th, there is a rumour, unconfirmed, that there is going to be a ceasefire, the war could be over. No one but Trapper seems to take note of the rumour or unconfirmed part, they just hear the word ceasefire, and the partying begins (not to mention the donation of equipment and household items to the local villagers).

Everyone has their own way of enjoying the moments, but Hawkeye’s romances take a turn for the worse as he invents an imaginary wife, and marriage so as not to commit to any of the nurses he’s been seeing, including Marcia Strassman’s Cutler who makes her final appearance in this episode.

And on a darker note, as Frank and Margaret slowly get increasingly drunk, she says she won’t cause any trouble with him, and his wife, because she plans on killing herself. It may just be the drink talking, but it’s kind of dark.

The party continues, and celebrations escalate once Clayton arrives, and is subjected to an embarrassing slideshow from Hawkeye, but Trapper is proven right when Clayton receives a missive in the midst of the party… the 4077th is back in business, the war is back on.

Showtime is the final episode of M*A*S*H’s first season. It first aired on 25 March, 1973, and was written by Klane and Gelbart from a story developed by Gelbart.

The episode intercuts with performances by a USO show, and gives us another slice of life look at the 4077th. It was a bit of a last ditch effort by the series, as CBS was unimpressed with the show’s initial ratings, but during summer reruns the show found an audience and secured future seasons.

Frank is pranking Hawkeye throughout the episode, until Hawkeye gets him back in a bit of a nod to the original film, Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) wonders if he and his work is doing any good for the camp, Trapper is worrying over a patient, and Henry is waiting on word from the States on the birth of his first child… which ends up being a son, but, being in Korea, he can’t see or hold him.

And Gary Burghoff gets to show off his drum skills again.

The episode carves out the humour and drama that become a signature of the series, and is a nice way to leave the season. But I’ll re-up because there is more to come as I serve at M*A*S*H 4077th.

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