M*A*S*H (1977/1978) – The Merchant of Korea, The Smell of Music, and Patent 4077

B.J. (Mike Farrell) runs afoul of Charles (David Ogden Stiers) in The Merchant of Korea. Written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs, this episode was first broadcast on 20 December, 1977.

When B.J.’s wife Peg sends him a telegram about the availabilty of some land they’ve always wanted, he has to scrounge up some much needed cash in a hurry, but Charles is the only one who has any to spare. So they come to an accord, but Charles begins to ask for countless favours when the Army pay is delayed, and the loan can’t be paid right away.

Soon Hawkeye (Alan Alda) becomes involved, and the pair soon come up with a way to get back at Charles… fleece him in a poker game, until he owes them, and possibly the rest of the camp, who all want to be involved in it.

Then, Charles may owe them some favours instead. Turnabout is fair play, and Charles definitely got what he deserved for exploiting B.J.

It’s a fun episode, and when the gang realises what Charles’ tell is during the poker game, you can see that things are going to happen pretty quickly after that. In the end, B.J. and his family have the land they always wanted to, and begin planning for the home they are going to build when he gets home from the war.

The Smell of Music was written by James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, and debuted on 3 January, 1978.

When Charles attempts to find solace in his French horn, he annoys Hawkeye and B.J. with his horrible playing. The pair decide that they won’t shower until Charles stops playing. And soon, everyone wants the pair to shower, but they stick to their guns, demanding that Charles give up the horn once and for all.

Meanwhile, Potter (Harry Morgan) deals with a patient who wants to take his own life because he’s been disfigured.

Soon the entire camp is involved in the tribulations of the Swamp trio as the pair begin to reek, and Charles’ musical inclinations annoy everyone. Leading to a laugh out loud climax which plays out as a nice counterpoint to the confrontation Potter has with his patient, Saunders (Jordan Clarke), which shows that the young man doesn’t really want to die.

It’s your usual Fritzell and Greenbaum episode, heavy on the laughs and antics, with just a touch of real world dilemma going on. Just an enjoyable entry.

Patent 4077 was written by Levine and Isaacs, and directed by Harry Morgan. It had an original airdate of 10 January, 1978.

Klinger (Jamie Farr) sacks the camp in an attempt to help Houlihan (Loretta Swit) find her wedding ring, while Hawkeye laments the fact that the medical equipment for the camp is inadequate, and heads to the Army Corps of Engineers to help design a specific clamp for him.

The story moves pretty quickly and Morgan makes the best of this light hearted script, and even gets a poignant message in when the gang chips in to buy a replacement ring for Margaret, not to embarass her but to make her feel better.

And in the end, the guys get their vascular clamp, going outside the Army for some assistance, and it pays off wonderfully for the doctors and their patients.

I love the fact that the series has let a number of its actors pen scripts and step behind the camera, Alda has proven to be the most proficient at it, but it’s great to see how the performers interpret their own and other characters.

There’s more to come next week as I spend more time with the gang of the 4077th!


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