M*A*S*H (1973) – The Sniper, Carry On, Hawkeye, and The Incubator

Teri Garr makes an appearance as a nurse in the first episode up this week, The Sniper. Written by Richard Powell this story first aired on 17 November, 1973, and was the first American show to feature a bit of male nudity, as Radar’s (Gary Burghoff) butt can be glimpsed as he makes a dash for the shower while under fire and loses his towel.

Out of nowhere, a sniper has chosen the 4077th for his target, and everyone is taking cover, even as they struggle to deal with the still incoming wounded, and the mounting stress. Hawkeye (Alan Alda), who is in the middle of romancing Suzanne Marquette (Garr), has to play father confessor to Frank Burns (Larry Linville) when the major finds himself going out to try to hunt the sniper down after Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit) admits her disappointment in him and the need for a ‘real man’ in the outfit.

There are a lot of humorous moments throughout the episode while we see how the staff deal with the sniper, and then, there’s the reminder that they are doctors, because after the sniper is wounded, Hawkeye goes to tend to him.

I like this one a lot, but Garr’s casting seems odd, she’s not essential to the plot, she’s just a guest star who shows up – was she a fan of the show? I dunno. Still, the episodes continue to be smart, well-crafted, and able to balance humour and pathos. Not to mention the Army mentality that permeates the upper echelons that the unit has to deal with.

Carry On, Hawkeye sees the surgeon in some serious trouble in this episode written by Bernard Dilbert, Laurence Marks, and series developer Larry Gelbart, from a story by Delbert. It first debuted on 24 November, 1973.

A flu has swept the camp, and Hawkeye, and some of the support staff are the only ones who haven’t been infected. As doctors fall ill, Hawkeye not only has to coordinate all the surgeries with help from Radar, Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) and the nurses, while Houlihan sees over the administrative functions of the camp as the highest ranking officer.

Pleading for help from anywhere, no resources could be found, and Hawkeye is racing the clock as he too begins to succumb to the bug thanks to a vaccination.

It’s funny, and shows that despite the way Hawkeye seems to treat Houlihan, and she him, they both respect and care for each other, recognising one another’s talents, and abilities.

It’s a fun episode, and shines the light directly on Alda and Swit, and while it’s interesting to watch the continued development of the supporting characters, I’m starting to feel sorry for Wayne Rogers, who was originally supposed to be Hawkey’s partner in crime, but more and more he finds himself being pushed to the side, while getting the occasional moment to step to the fore.

The Incubator shows more problems in the Army in this episode written by Marks and Gelbart. First airing on 1 December, 1973, Hawkeye and Trapper (Rogers) are upset that their unit isn’t properly equipped. They are in need of an incubator, and while Colonel Blake (McLean Stevenson) can get a barbecue, they can’t get, and aren’t entitled to, equipment that would allow them to function better as a hospital unit.

They confront a captain (Eldon Quick) from requisitions, a major (Ted Gehring) that has three and won’t part with them, a colonel (Logan Ramsey) intent on thievery, and a general (Robert F. Simon) that won’t give them a straight answer.

Confronting the bureaucracy head on does them no good, and while they’re trying to play by the rules, and deal with the chain of command, all while deciding to stay off the booze after a huge party that can’t remember, one corporal is wheeling and dealing and may be able to save the day and the camp.

This one’s amusing, and looks at the very real situation of the catch-22 that seems to exist in bureaucracies.

The series, even this many years later, continues to entertain, and make me laugh and think. So I’ve course I’ll be back next week for more medicine and martinis as I join the 4077th for more M*A*S*H!

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