M*A*S*H (1976) – Smilin’ Jack, The More I See You, and Deluge

B.J. (Mike Farrell), Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Potter (Harry Morgan) hane to ground a pilot, the titular Smililn’ Jack (Robert Hogan) in this episode penned by Simon Muntner and series developer Larry Gelbart, which first aired on 3 February, 1976.

Smilin’ Jack is a helluva pilot, going for chopper pilot of the year, all he needs to do is deliver a couple more wounded to the 4077th to claim the title. But complications ensue when Potter realises that Jack shouldn’t be flying, he’s diabetic. Jack isn’t going to take no for an answer, he’s going to get those last wounded, and the title, no matter the cost.

Meanwhile, Radar (Gary Burghoff) connects with a patient (Dennis Kort), who has been wounded twice, hates the war, is scared, and doesn’t want to go back to the front.

There’s some fun moments with the characters, and there’s some great banter with B.J., Hawk and Jack. We also get to see how the camp deals with supply shortages, and the compromises and deals made to keep things running as best they can.

Jack is a solid character, and he fits in nicely with the rest of the cast, playing with them easily, and the end of the episode ends up being bittersweet for him, and consequently for the Hawk and B.J. but they carry on, because that is what the war is doing, and they have to survive.

The More I See You gives us a really good Hawkeye episode that was penned by Gelbart and Gene Reynolds. First airing on 10 February, 1976, Hawkeye is front and center in an interesting tale that gives us a little insight into the character.

Hawk is stunned when a nurse arrives in the camp. Blythe Danner guest stars as Carlye Breslin Walton. She broke his heart when he was doing his residency, they were living together, and he was very in love with her. But, she’s married now. And Hawk doesn’t want to lose her again, he tries to romance her, and they even begin to fall in love again, but she doesn’t want that. She recognises he’s practice is who he is, and will always come first, and she wants to be first in someone’s life…

… her husband’s.

Hawk has to deal with his feelings, and his past, while B.J. attempts to be supportive, despite his disapproval of the infidelity, because it’s something he could never do himself.

Carlye resolves it herself, by asking for a rush transfer, and Hawk has to figure out how to deal with the loss… again.

We also get to see Potter starting his painting of portraits of the camp’s residents including Radar and Klinger (Jamie Farr).

Deluge was written by Muntner and Gelbart and first hit the airwaves on 17 February, 1976.

Using a combination of classic newsreel footage from the fifties, the episode is cut into little vignettes, set up for jokes and drama as things begin to change around the 4077th, as it becomes revealed that they won’t be going home anytime soon, as the Chinese have just joined the war.

It’s a fast moving tale, and the use of the footage serves as counterpoint, and underscores what is happening around the camp as the doctors, nurses and support staff work to keep their spirits up, their patients alive, and their sanity intact.

This is a great episode, and serves as the penultimate episode of the fourth season, that despite the changes in cast, continued to deliver everything we’d come to expect from M*A*S*H in its first three seasons. I love the moments in this one, and the character beats elicit laughs, or have a poignancy depending on the situation. It’s also an episode that only works because the series has almost four seasons under its belt.

Next week season four comes to its conclusion and we dive into the fifth, as I re-up for more laughs and pathos in the 4077th.

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