M*A*S*H (1978) – Mail Call Three, Temporary Duty, and Potter’s Retirement

Everett Greenbaum and James Fritzell delivered Mail Call Three, which aired on 6 February, 1978. After a long delayed delivery of mail, a number of problems arrive with the envelopes.

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) has been receiving love letters meant for another Benjamin Pierce, which he reads with lustful joy. B.J. (Mike Farrell) learns that a friend made a pass at his wife, Klinger (Jamie Farr) learns that his wife wants a divorce (or is it yet another scheme – though a breakdown at the movie screening suggests its the real thing), and Radar (Gary Burghoff) discovers that his mother has a new man in her life.

In fact, it seems that almost everyone gets some form of bad news from home, and they all find ways to ruminate it and discuss it. Through it all, Charles (David Ogden Stiers) continues to prove he’s a complete tool.

Klinger contemplates going AWOL to get home, and Hawkeye is able to talk things through with Radar, while trying to help B.J. deal with his grief and anger about not being there for his wife.

It gives a look at a number of characters and the stress they are under from the personal aspects of their life, not just the stress of the war. And happily most of the arcs are resolved, some a little more bittersweet than others.

Temporary Duty was written by Larry Balmagia and first debuted on 13 February, 1978. Hawkeye and Nurse Bigelow (Enid Kent) from the 4077th, are temporarily reassigned to the 8063rd, while they send Roy Dupree (George Lindsey) and Lorraine Anderson (Marcia Rodd) to learn some procedures at the unit.

Lorraine is a friend of Houlihan’s (Loretta Swit), and Dupree is little more than a crude, cowboy hat wearing surgeon. Charles is put out by Dupree, though he may not be the only one though he may make a few welcome improvements to the Swamp’s still, and prove he’s a very handy surgeon.

Houlihan has a bit of a chance to unwind thanks to Lorraine’s arrival, though she and Charles have a bit of a flirt, which causes some issues regarding her performance in Houlihan’s eyes. This leads to a real heart to heart discussion between the two about how they’ve grown, the importance of friends and connections, and why she keeps everyone at a distance.

Dupree is comic relief throughout, but this actually ends up being a real important episode for Houlihan as the series continues to layer out her character nicely.

Potter’s Retirement was written by Laurence Marks, and was first broadcast on 20 February, 1978. When someone in the camp makes a number of reports to his higher-ups it prompts a command inspection. And Potter (Harry Morgan) is less than impressed with the reveal, and the inspection, that he decides to retire.

He snaps at everyone, and it causes some serious issues around the camp. But Hawk and B.J. are quite so ready to let Potter go, and are determined to find out where these negative reports are coming from.

Obviously the series isn’t going to get rid of one of the main cast, so it has to be someone who has only popped up in this episode, and we discover him soon enough. George Wyner guests as Benson, an undercover operative sent in to bring Potter down after his CO wasn’t treated as quickly as the officer would have liked, while the unit prioritized patients above him.

With the truth out, Potter has to decide whether he should really stay or not, but throws in with the group, and celebrates with them before they all get pulled back into the O.R.

I liked this one, because it shows how loyal they all are to one another. And that is what keeps me coming back. I’ll see you next week for another tour of the 4077th!

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