M*A*S*H (1975) – It Happened One Night, The Late Captain Pierce, and Hey, Doc

The camp has their hands full in It Happened One Night. Written by series developer Larry Gelbart and Simon Munter from a story by Gene Reynolds, this episode first aired on 26 September, 1975. It’s incredibly cold at the 4077th, and on top of that, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Margaret (Loretta Swit) are working the night shift, taking over from Frank (Larry Linville) and B.J. (Mike Farrell).

Things get worse, as they attempt to deal with their patients, when the camp starts to receive a shelling, from their side! While Radar (Gary Burghoff) and Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) climb the chain of command to get the shooting to stop, Frank learns that Margaret has kept all his letters to her, and begins to ransack her quarters, making sure he can find them and destroy any trace of them.

Through it all, Klinger (Jamie Farr) keeps trying to find a way out of the army; he gets knicked by a bullet, tries to catch pneumonia, and in the end, helps B.J. with a patient that is about to go back under the knife, because the doctor is worried he didn’t completely patch up the internal bleeding.

A quick and entertaining episode, that just gives us a look at one night in the 4077th.

The Late Captain Pierce was penned by Glen and Les Charles, and had an original airdate of 3 October, 1975. An army slip-up lists Hawkeye as dead, and his father, who has been informed of his son’s death, can’t be reached as all the lines are down for security reasons, nothing in or out.

While Hawk worries about what the news must be doing to his father, B.J. throws him a wake, and Potter fights with Army redtape to get his chief surgeon resurrected. But everything that is done seems to come up against a wall, until Hawk decides not to fight it anymore, and just resign himself to being dead, it’ll be his ticket home.

This one walks the balance between humour and drama very well, you get a hint of the ridiculousness of bureaucracy, while also knowing what Hawkeye’s dad must be going through, all of it builds until Hawk can’t take it anymore, and shows for that even he can only take so much before cracking.

B.J. attempts to reach out to him, but it’s Hawkeye’s dedication to duty that draws him back, as the wounded keep coming.

Happily, his dad finally gets word, and Hawkeye has a joyous phonecall with him, and it comes as a relief to all involved.

The episode also has Richard Masur in a guest shot as the morgue officer, nicknamed Digger. It also boasts Alda as a director, showing, once again, that he can balance acting and directing easily, and puts it all out there for the story. He knows his character, and he knows how to tell a story.

This is a great one.

Hey, Doc was penned by Rick Mittleman and was first broadcast on 10 October, 1975. Following on the heels of the previous episode, this one doesn’t feel as strong as it could be, though it is a pretty funny episode as things get a little wacky at the 4077th.

A number of higher ranking officials are in the area, checking on their wounded, or on patrol, and all of them have a favor to ask of the surgeons on hand, one that they’d prefer be kept off the record. Meanwhile, a sergeant, Kimble (Bruce Kirby) is hoping to get Hawk and B.J.’s help in having him shipped home via boat, because he’s got a ton of equipment he’s sending out of the country back home to open an authentic Korean restaurant.

Kimble needs one more signature on his papers, and Hawk and B.J. tap Frank, of only they could find a way to make him sign.

At the same time, the camp is having problems with snipers in the area, a tank that Frank is determined to show Margaret he can drive, and card games a plenty.

In the crossfire is a jeep, a couple of bottles of eight year old scotch, and a stolen microscope.

This is just a light, fun episode, and that balance between dramatic and humorous stories is what keeps me coming back to the 4077th. I’ll see you next week!

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