M*A*S*H (1975) – Payday, White Gold, and Abyssinia, Henry

We’re closing in on the end of season three, and with Payday, Hawkeye (Alan Alda), serving as the payroll officer of the month has an unexpected windfall. Written by John W. Regier and Gary Markowitz, this episode first hit the airwaves on 4 March, 1975.

As everyone finds ways to spend their pay, card games, rummage sales, street vendors, bribes to get out of the Army (I’m looking at you Klinger (Jamie Farr) )Radar (Gary Burghoff) hands over an extra three thousand to Hawkeye after a number of requests are filled out. Instead of keeping it, he feels he didn’t really earn it, he hands it over to Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) in an act of charity. But what happens when an Army officer comes looking for the missing money, with the the threat of a court-martial for Hawkeye if he doesn’t get it back.

Trapper (Wayne Rogers), Blake (Mclean Stevenson) and some of the supporting regulars are getting hot and heavy in a card game, while Hawkeye and Lt. Baker (Bobbie Mitchell) are just getting hot and heavy.

It’s a fun episode, lots of laughs, and it’s fun to see how Hawkeye resolves everything and still lets the Father and the orphanage keep the money, despite the Army wanting it back.

This one is just a fun episode, and Frank (Larry Linville) and Margaret (Loretta Swit) have some great interactions about a string of pearls he’s bought for her.

White Gold is the penultimate episode of season three, written by series developer Larry Gelbart and Simon Munter, it first debuted on 11 March, 1975. That charming psycho, Colonel Flagg (Edward Winter), of the CIA is back, and causing problems in the camp after there’s a rash of thefts of penicillin.

Hawk and Trap aren’t taken in by Flagg, who lets the thief, Perkins (Hilly Hicks) after he messes up the tent to make it look like a fight. He’s keeping the theft a secret for some reason and is intent on causing problems for the 4077th.

As the pair really look into things, they learn that Perkins is a medic from a nearby company, which is in desperate need of meds, Blake offers any help they can, and Flagg works to keep everything quiet, as it can’t be revealed that their are shortages in the supply lines.

The camp could care less about the theft after they learn the real reason, but advise their allies that their patients come first, and then they’ll share what they have left.

Margaret still has a thing for Flagg, who could care less, but Frank gets jealous, and Hawkeye and Trapper always delight in taking the CIA colonel down a notch or two.

This one is an okay episode, doesn’t quite have the humour/theme balance that the previous episode did, but on the other hand, Flagg is always good for a laugh or two, especially when he gets shown up.

Abyssinia, Henry says goodbye to two cast members, McLean Stevenson’s Colonel Henry Blake bows out here as does Wayne Rogers’ Trapper (though we don’t learn that until the beginning of season four. Rogers felt he had become more Hawkeye’s sidekick than equal.). Written by James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, season three came to an end on 18 March, 1975.

This is a beautiful episode, humorous, nostalgic, bittersweet, and then that horrible gut punch of ending that stayed with me from the moment I saw it. It didn’t hit me as hard as the end of the series did, but it definitely had an effect.

The good word has come down, Colonel Blake has enough points to go home! The camp is delighted, and Hawkeye, Trapper, and Radar give him one last night at Rosie’s Bar to celebrate, while Frank prepares to assume command.

There’s a lot of laughs throughout this one, as the gang gets drunk and celebrates the joy of Blake going home (although it means Stevenson is leaving the show). The camp turns out to wish him well as his helicopter arrives, and we take some bittersweet joy in knowing he’s leaving, but he’ll get to see his wife and children soon.

Then that final scene. Gah. Some forty six years later, this episode still gets me. I was almost a wreck by the story’s end. I love when a story can do that to you.

But that won’t stop me from re-upping for season four, which gets underway here next week!

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