M*A*S*H (1977) – The General’s Practitioner, Movie Tonight, and Souvenirs

Everything seems to happen just a bit too quick in this episode, The General’s Practitioner. Written by Burt Prelotsky, this one first hit the airwaves on 15 February, 1977.

A Colonel Bidwell (Leonard Stone) shows up in camp on behalf of his general, Korshak (Edward Binns) in order to recruit the best doctor the 4077th has to serve as the general’s personal doctor. The best doctor in the camp is, of course, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) who Potter (Harry Morgan) warns is a great surgeon, but not Army.

That doesn’t stop the General from showing up in camp to demand Hawkeye take the assignment.

Meanwhile, Radar (Gary Burghoff) says goodbye to a departing corporal, Mulligan (Larry Wilcox, half a year before the show that would launch him to TV stardom, CHiPs), and learns that he is being asked to look after Mulligan’s love interest, Mai Ping (Susie Elene) and newborn son now that he’s going home.

Radar becomes very quickly attached to the baby, all while Mulligan is travelling to Seoul. And the problem with the timing of the episode is that shortly after Mulligan leaves camp, Korshak and Bidwell are seen driving towards camp at the end of the first act break.

When the episode resumes, Korshak has arrived in the camp, and after B.J. (Mike Farrell) gives the baby a quick check-up, Mulligan returns, realising he can’t leave without his new family. And Radar, of course, is sad, because he’s grown to really care for the baby while Mulligan was away.

It just needed to be drawn out over a longer time period, it feels like the episode’s timeline is too rushed, though it’s an enjoyable episode.

Movie Tonight boasts four writers, Gene Reynolds, Don Reo, Allan Katz, and Jay Folb. This episode debuted on 22 February, 1977.

After a long run of wounded, and double shifts in the O.R., everyone is tired, on edge, and snapping at one another. They need a release, and Potter thinks he’s got it. He’s scored a movie for the night, the John Ford film, My Darling Clementine.

As the camp settles in for the evening to enjoy the communal experience, constant projector breakdowns, which Klinger (Jamie Farr) tries to fix, interrupt the screening. Potter is determined to keep everyone involved, however, and starts a sing-a-long, as well as opportunities for camp members to do impressions, and just let loose.

It’s a fun episode, and one that shows that the camp really is a family. What started out as pointed jibes in the episode’s beginning becomes friendly joshing, as the tension eases away, and they all come together, perfectly highlighted by the episode’s tag, which sees them all in the O.R. again, quitely singing together as they operate.

Souvenirs boasts guest star Brian Dennehy in one of his earliest performances. Prelutsky pens the teleplay for this episode that came from a story by Reinhold Weege and first aired on 1 March, 1977.

There’s a lot going on in this episode, there’s four storylines as opposed to the usual two. Klinger has taken up pole sitting as a way to get his Section 8, Margaret (Loretta Swit) comes to Frank (Larry Linville) to ask for her engagement ring back, a priceless Korean vase – which also ties into Frank, as he bought it cheap, and now the Military Police (enter Dennehy) are running down leads, and finally there’s a chopper pilot, Stratton (Micheal Bell), who is (cheaply) paying Korean kids to gather scrap metal from ordnance, and is crafting it into souvenirs.

Of course, Hawk and B.J. are less than impressed by Stratton’s behavior, and they ask Potter to address the camp on the issue, while they slowly work on a way to oust Stratton from his side business.

It’s a good episode, but I think there is just too much going on in this episode, especially for a twenty-five minute one, to do any of the stories real justice.

Next week, we finish off Season Five, which will see Margaret tying the know with her oft-mentioned fiance, Donald Penobscott, and then I’ll re-up for Season Six with the doctors, nurses, and staff of M*A*S*H 4077th.

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