M*A*S*H (1975) – The Bus, Dear Mildred, and The Kids

Hawkeye (Alan Alda), B.J. (Mike Farrell), Radar (Gary Bughoff), Frank (Larry Linville) and Potter (Harry Morgan) find themselves lost in The Bus. Written by John D. Hess, this episode first aired on 17 October, 1975.

The group is coming back from a medical gathering, but have somehow got lost on the way back to the 4077th. When the bus refuses to start, the group finds themselves marooned in the wild. While B.J. tries to play peacemaker, tempers start to flare, exacerbated by Frank.

Things get even more tense when Radar disappears after heading out to relieve himself, and a Korean soldier (played by the wonderful Soon-Tek Oh surrenders to the bus.Through it all Frank poses as a tough American soldier, waving a pistol around, attempting to hide his fear, and Hawkeye delivers increasingly biting remarks.

There’s some great stuff in this episode, some nice character beats, as well as shared stories (we’re reminded that Potter has now served in three wars, and shares a great anecdote about World War I), Morgan shows that his character can deliver great material just as well as Alda, and he shines in a number of moments throughout the script. There’s some wonderful stuff with a walkie-talkie, Frank being Frank, and Radar delivering some blackmail.

I like these smaller stories, as they work so well because the characters are so well-realised, and there’s such a great dynamic between all of the actors.

Dear Mildred was directed by Alda, written by Everett Greenbaum and James Fritzell and had an original airdate of 24 October, 1975. It’s Potter’s anniversary, and once again he’s away from his wife Mildred (the picture on his desk supposedly Mildred was actually Morgan’s wife, and stayed there for the actor’s run on the series).

So, he’s penning a letter home, and while he’s doing that he talks about his command, and those under it, and reveals that he’s still trying to get to know and understand them all, especially his clerk, Radar. Young Radar is having the same problems, not quite being able to get a solid read on his new CO.

Meanwhile, Frank and Margaret (Loretta Swit) are working on a gift for the Colonel’s anniversary, and Hawk, B.J. and Radar make an unusual house call to the field, which leads to a very touching moment at the episode’s climax…

The trio recover an injured horse, and Radar, loving the animal, and knowing Potter came up through the calvary, and loves them as well, gifts him the horse for his anniversary. Morgan plays it brilliantly, and it’s a beautifully emotional moment, showing that once again, not only is this a fantastic cast, but Alda is fantastic director as well.

It’s also really nice to see Margaret and Frank doing something so heartfelt. Perhaps all the characters realised that Potter was having a bit of trouble settling into his new command, and wanted to make him feel truly welcome.

Having just rewatched this episode, it made me recall the first time I saw it as a child, and I was so happy for Potter that Radar gave him the horse that I was a little weepy as well.

The Kids sees Alda directing again from another Greenbaum and Fritzell script. This episode first hit the airwaves on 31 October, 1975.

When a local orphanage is in an area being shelled, the camp evacuates the kids, including a young pregnant woman, to the 4077th, and we get to see how the characters are with children around, and the realisation, in case you missed it before, is that Frank is fairly racist, and that even Margaret is okay with him getting his just desserts.

As B.J. operates on the wounded pregnant woman, Frank is racing around the camp trying to recover his Purple Heart, earned under questionable circumstances as his first belief is that one of the children has stolen it. This gets on the nerves of everyone, even Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) who is a little rough with the major when he has to scrub up for surgery.

Hearts are won over, and no one is surprised when the newborn baby boy is awarded a Purple Heart for being injured on his birthday, an ending that Margaret is quite happy to see happen. In fact, there are times when she seems really ready to let loose and be one of fun-lovers. The only thing holding her back is her love of the service, which seems to be the only thing she really shares with Frank.

There’s more laughs and drama next week as I return to the 4077th for another trio of season four episodes!

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