M*A*S*H (1974) – Iron Guts Kelly, O.R., and Springtime

Hawkeye (Alan Alda), Trapper (Wayne Rogers) and Houlihan (Loretta Swit) run into trouble when they encounter General ‘Iron Guts’ Kelly (James Gregory). Written by Sid Dorfman, and series developer Larry Gelbart, Iron Guts Kelly first debuted on 1 October, 1974.

It’s no secret to most of the 4077th (and viewers) that Margaret Houlihan has a bit of a thing for officers with stars on their uniform, so when General Kelly shows up, she’s more than willing to spend some time with him. Unfortunately, he suffers a heart attack in her arms, and dies.

Now, attempting to keep the romantic escapade out of Frank Burns’ (Larry Linville) awareness, she turns to Hawk and Trap to help take care of the body. The general’s aide, Colonel Wortman (Keene Curtis) insists that the doctors help him get the general to the front so that it appears that he died in battle (something the doctors don’t agree with, but they do help organise transportation).

Unfortunately, said transportation is an ambulance transferring some working girls back home…

A very funny episode, and one that is just a lot of fun to watch, as secrets are kept from Frank, and Radar (Gary Burghoff) is calling around trying to find some military action for the general to ‘die’ in.

I also love the fact that there is no comment made on Houlihan’s infatuations and indiscretions (and there never is) which is fantastic because the male characters are treated the same way – they happen, and they aren’t dwelt on. They find their romance and lust where they can, and no one comments on it – I love it!

O.R. written by Gelbart and Laurence Marks first aired on 8 October, 1974, and is set completely in the O.R. and adjacent rooms. Basically a bottle show, but the story is that the camp is swamped in a deluge of casualties, a flood that isn’t letting up, and it pushes a number of the characters to the brink.

Sidney (Allan Arbus) shows up for the weekly poker game, and gets lassoed into some operating, Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) may be suffering from the onset of early arthritis, Trapper reveals to Frank, after some questioning, that they don’t really hate him deep down, and Hawkeye, and the rest deal with choices on who lives, who dies, and the realisation that even though they are doctors, they hate to lose patients.

All while the war rages around them.

This is a great episode, and won the director Gene Reynolds an Emmy. It was also one of the only episodes aired in North America that didn’t include a laugh track (though I’ve been watching them without anyway – I don’t need a studio telling me when to laugh).

The episode makes all the characters human, shows the pain, grief and stress they go through on a daily basis, and why their humour and antics are so extreme; they’re an outlet.

Hawkeye, of course, takes it especially badly when he learns that a patient he worked so hard to save, died is post-op. Honestly, the nurse who told Radar to let Hawkeye know, should have known better, and saved it for afterward.

Henry and Hawk also get some great scenes together, one about practising their craft, and the other about making the decision about which wounded gets into the O.R. for surgery.

Springtime was written by Mary Kay Place (who guest stars in the episode as Radar’s romantic interest) and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. It was first broadcast on 15 October, 1974.

Good weather has finally rolled into the 4077th, and the thoughts of those in the camp turn to love and romance. While Burns and Houlihan continue their affair, Klinger (Jamie Farr) organises a wedding via radio to marry his fiancee, Laverne, and Radar tries to figure out how to ask out a nurse he’s fallen for.

While this is going on, Hawkeye is followed around by a marine (Alex Karras), whose life he saved in the O.R.

There’s other things going on, including a soldier suffering PTSD who is huddled on a post-op bed and won’t release a cat he has and takes comfort in, but the various romances overshadow everything, and Radar seems to have found someone he really clicks with, at least for an episode.

We’ll have to see what happens next week when I enjoy another trio of episodes from M*A*S*H!

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