Season two of M*A*S*H launched on 15 September, 1973 with Divided We Stand. Written by Larry Gelbart, who developed the series for television, the episode serves as a bit of a second pilot to introduce new viewers to the characters and bring every one up to speed.
In Seoul, General Clayton (Herb Voland) is worried about the reports he’s getting from the 4077th about behavioural issues, and we are given a glance of some of the madcap antics that take place in the camp when he sends Capt. Hildebrand (Anthony Holland), a psychologist, down to the unit to decide if they need to be spilt up.
Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) speaks to all the members of his staff, but especially Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper (Wayne Rogers) about being on their best behaviour while Hildebrand is around, or it may be the end of the unit, and every one will be reassigned. And while everyone acts all chummy, even with Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit) Hawk and Trap can’t resist a couple of antics.
And once Klinger (Jamie Farr) stumbles across Hildebran’s path…
But that all changes when Hildebrand sees them working under pressure (until he loses his lunch) and realises that the team works incredibly well together, and it would be a foolish to split them up.
The end of the episode features an almost word for word lift of the announcement that closes out the original film, and this story also features the first appearance of Nurse Kelleye Yakamoto (Kelleye Nakahara) – though she would go uncredited for almost all of her appearances in the series.
5 O’Clock Charlie has a teleplay by Gelbart, Laurence Marks, and Keith Walker, from a story developed by Walker. It first aired on 22 September, 1973. Every day for the past few weeks, an enemy pilot, who apparently washed out of kamikaze school, has been buzzing the camp at 1700 and dropping a bomb, hoping to hit a nearby ammo dump.
He’s missed every time and it’s become quite the event for the camp, as they have a daily betting pool, and make a big affair of the whole thing. Well, everyone except Burns and Houlihan who think the camp needs an anti-aircraft gun to defend the camp and the dump. They reach out to General Clayton who comes for a visit (and who also has a daily bet in the pool) and when one of Charlie’s bombs hits a little too close to home, he authorises the gun.
And speaking of guns… Frank in all his glory, gets all kitted out, but there’s a running gag that sees Hawkeye and Trapper constantly replacing his service pistol with other items, and it becomes hilarious wondering what the major will draw from his holster next.
With the anti-aircraft gun, affectionately referred to as a Nug, on site Frank works to train and practice with the weapon, but Hawk and Trapper don’t want it there, and will come up with a plan to get rid of both the dump and the gun, and by extension Charlie, once and for all.
Lots of laughs in this one, as well as a commentary on procedures of the military…
Radar’s Report was written by Laurence Marks from a story by Sheldon Keller, and it was first broadcast on 29 September, 1973. Radar (Gary Burghoff) is working on his weekly camp report, and consequently we get a trio of stories that interweave nicely balancing the comedy and the drama of the series.
Hawkeye meets a new nurse, Erika Johnson (Joan Van Ark) and falls pretty hard for her, setting himself up for some grief… putting the shoe on the other foot for a change. Klinger keeps pushing for his Section 8 as he travels around the camp in his ladies’ wear, which sees the arrival, and the first appearance of Major Freedman (Allan Arbus).
Freedman, who will pop up through the course of the series, chats with Klinger, and is quite willing to provide him with a Section 8 if the Corporal will sign off on being a transvestite and a homosexual, which offends Klinger (it was a different time) and so remains in the service.
And the dramatic weight of the story falls on Trapper who is struggling to help a patient to survive his wounds, but something seems to be wrong, and he works to figure out what it is. But that may not be meant to be.
The episode, we learn, is set during the week of 17 to 22 October, 1951, and that Hawkeye has some morals. He wasn’t going to pursue a relationship with Erika when he thought she was married, and despite all his fliting and carousing, when he does find someone he really wants to settle down with, he plans to be devoted.
Of course, Korea, and the war, are a long way away from the States, and a number of folks do what they can to survive, or feel something. Unfortunately, Hawkeye won’t be doing that with Erika – she’s a one shot guest star and gets her transfer orders by the end of the episode.
But I will re-up again, and explore more of season two of M*A*S*H next week!