M*A*S*H (1976) – Hawkeye, Some 38th Parallels, and The Novacaine Mutiny

Series developer Larry Gelbart and Simon Muntner pen this bottle show (one set, or existing set shoots to save money) that features Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and was first broadcast on 13 January, 1976.

After surviving an accident, Hawkeye delivers a seemingly unending and wandering monologue in a Korean home while waiting for a pickup from the 4077th. He’s walking and pacing in an effort to avoid falling asleep with a concussion, and his meandering conversation covers a number of topics as he talks to entertain the Korean family he has imposed on (despite the fact that they can’t understand him) and stay awake.

Alda takes it from humour to dramatic, and back again as Hawk struggles to stay aware, impatiently awaiting rescue from the camp, even as he puzzles the family that is watching him. Alda has always been great as the character, and while it’s fun to see him just ramble, Hawk, a lot of the time, works best when he has someone to play off,which doesn’t happen here. This is more like Hawkeye’s One Man Tour of Korea, and while Alda is great, it’s not as solid as some of the other episodes to feature dramatic moments for the character.

And while not laugh out loud funny like some episodes, there are some very enjoyable bits, and the fact that Hawkeye repays the family’s kindness at the end of the episode, instead of just disappearing and being unappreciative.

Some 38th Parallels was penned by John W. Regler and Gary Markowitz, with an original airdate of 20 January, 1976.

In a plot point that I never wold have got as a youngster, Hawkeye is having an impotency problem that is causing him some grief, Frank (Larry Linville) is upset that the locals are stealing their garbage, so lobbies to sell it to them, a gung-ho colonel (Kevin Hagen) causes grief for Hawk and B.J. (Mike Farrell), and Radar (Gary Burghoff) has a problem dealing with the loss of a patient, after he helps B.J. save his life.

I quite like this episode, there’s a commentary on the war, it deals with a real male issue, and puts a human face on the care of those working at the camp. Sure we’ve seen the doctors handle the loss of life before, but Radar hasn’t had to really deal with that, and it reminds us of the work that they are doing and the emotional investment that develops.

I quite like this episode, as, following on the heels of the previous episode, it’s fun to see the way the cast works so well as an ensemble; each of them get a moment to shine, and there’s some wonderful character work.

And I love that Hagen’s colonel gets his just desserts from Frank’s garbage, courtesy of Hawkeye and some finagling by Klinger (Jamie Farr).

The Novacaine Mutiny was penned by Burt Prelutsky, directed by Harry Morgan and first debuted on 27 January, 1976. Frank is given temporary command of the 4077th again, and has an image of himself (as we see in his version of the story told) as a fearless leader and exemplary doctor. When Hawkeye is accused of theft (he won $300 in a poker game and since poker is illegal, he by definition stole the money) Frank brings him up on charges and demands a court martial.

Hawkeye, B.J., Potter (Morgan), Radar and Frank all end up in court, with Hawkeye’s life in the balance. Everyone gives testimony telling their version of events, and while it becomes obvious that Hawk is a prankster (something everyone knows and takes in stride, except for Frank), he’s also a brilliant doctor, and while he may have problems with authority, he has a real problem with incompetence, which Frank seems to be a prime example of.

Obviously Hawkeye is found innocent, but I do like that we see that there are repercussions to some of his actions, even if it also proves Frank is a real horse’s behind to paraphrase Potter.

Lots of fun, and this brings us really close to the end of the fourth season! But there is still so much more to come, so re-up for another tour at the 4077th, and I’ll see you next week.

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