M*A*S*H (1976) – The Colonel’s Horse, Exorcism, and Hawk’s Nightmare

James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum pen The Colonel’s Horse which was first broadcast on 7 December, 1976. When Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) gets a week’s leave in Tokyo, where he will be joined by his wife, who caught a flight from State-side, Frank (Larry Linville) is left in charge, much to everyone’s dismay.

Radar’s (Gary Burghoff) life gets complicated when he’s left in charge of the Colonel’s horse, Sophie, and the unit has to figure out how to cure her before the colonel gets back. Radar takes it very personally, because of his love for animals, but the Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and B.J. (Mike Farrell) are unsure of what to do, so they call B.J.’s dad.

Meanwhile Margaret’s (Loretta Swit) appendix is flaring up, and with her engagement and her history with Frank she asks Hawkeye to tend to it.

There is a lot of banter in this episode between Hawkeye and B.J. this episode, it has a Preston Sturgess feel to it, and the pair seem to be enjoying themselves even as they work to save the mare.

Klinger (Jamie Farr) is still trying for his Section 8. He eschews the dresses, and pretends to have a bout of depression, which wold apparently enable a discharge, which he messes up at the wrong moment.

It’s a light episode, but it also shows the way the unit works together as a family.

Exorcism was written by story consultant Jay Folb from a story developed by Gene Reynolds. It first hit the airwaves on 14 December, 1976.

Alan Alda serves as the episode’s director that sees a number of strange events happening after Radar moves a spirit post, that is supposed to keep away the bad spirits. Unfortunately, as soon as it moves, things get a little weird, and those in the camp who are a little superstitious think there’s something supernatural going on.

Tempers flare, as things continue to go sideways for everyone. Until Potter okays an exoricsm of the camp.

It’s funny, and entertaining as one cliched supersition is piled atop another, and everyone has an opnion on it, and how to deal with it.

There’s an examination, no matter how briefly, of a variety of religions and beliefs and how they deal with ‘curses’, ‘spirits’ and the like. It’s also interesting how accepting of the exploration of these things Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) is.

It’s a curte little episode, and shows once again, Alda has a firm understanding of the characters, and the series.

Hawk’s Nightmare has a script by Burt Prelutsky that puts Hawkeye through his paces in this episode that debuted on 21 December, 1976.

Hawkey is sleepwalking, having nightmares, and feels he is losing his war against the war. As the camp begins to worry about him, Hawk has nightly walks, and ends up screaming most of the 4077th awake. He calls home constantly to check on the people he’s dreaming about, all childhood friends, which ties in with his feelings that all the people on his operating table are too young to be there.

The war is starting to get to him, and Potter calls in Sidney (Allan Arbus) to come in and talk to him.

Radar, quite rightly, points out, that Hawkeye’s sense of humour, pranks and attitude are what keeps him sane, just like Potter paints, and he has his animals, every one has a way of keeping the war at a distance, a way to deal. But sometimes it just breaks through, like it did for Hawkeye in this episode.

This is one of the ‘message’ episodes, and it works because we care about the characters, and we wonder what we would do in the same situation. I identified with Hawkeye, and still do to some degree, so seeing a character you like and relate to in pain, drives the point home.

More from the 4077th next week!

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