M*A*S*H (1978) – Point of View, Dear Comrade, and Out of Gas

Ken Levine and David Isaacs delivered Point of View, which was first broadcast on 20 November, 1978. The episode gives us a unique perspective on the show, it’s all told from the narrative point of a patient who arrives in the 4077th.

Private Rich (David Hunt Stafford) takes some shrapnel to his throat during an attack and is evac’d to MASH, where the entire camp at one point or another checks in on him. Radar (Gary Burghoff) lets him know he’s in the best hands, and Hawkeye (Alan Alda) oversees him in the O.R. and Post-Op.

From his bed he sees how the camp operates and sees that something is really getting to Potter (Harry Morgan) and he’s taking it out on the entire camp, except the patients.

When there are complications Hawk and Charles (David Ogden Stiers) have to operate on Rich again, after he learns what is causing Potter to snap at everyone. The reveal is poignant, and a little heartbreaking, but something that Radar helps to fix, which is nice.

We get a last look at the camp as Rich, now patched up, and going to be ok, is being sent to Seoul, on his way home.

There’s a bit of a continuity question in this episode, we see a date on a letter that Rich is writing, and it’s just only a year into the war. That conflicts a bit with when Trapper (Wayne Rogers) left and when B.J. (Mike Farrell) arrived, not to mention Potter, Charles and Frank (Larry Linville). A minor nitpick for an otherwise great, and unique episode.

Dear Comrade was written by Tom Reeder, and first aired on 27 November, 1978. A riff on the Mail Call episodes, we get to see things from the other side this time out. Hawkeye and B.J. get back from a quick vacation to find that Charles has hired a house boy, Kwang (Sab Shimono) to attend to him, to clean, and fetch.

What no one knows is that Kwang is actually an undercover agent, studying the 4077th, to learn if reports of their success are true, and if the North Koreans can replicate the conditions in their own mobile hospitals. While looking after Charles, Kwang is passing on information to his people, through a letter he narrates, and we get a different look at the camp, all augmented by some unusual events – Hawkeye ordered a jeep, and gets a howitzer, a strange rash is plaguing the patients in post-op, and none of the doctors have been able to figure out.

Kwang helps out with that, and learns that the two sides of the conflict aren’t so different, and maybe the doctors at the 4077th aren’t quite so bad. And he gets away with!

Out of Gas, the final episode this week, was penned by Reeder, and debuted on 4 December, 1978.

The camp is being overrun with wounded, but the 4077th is practically out of anesthetic, there is none to be had. Their making do with ether (meaning they can’t turn the heat on, for fear of explosions) and locals instead of completely sedating the patients.

Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) thinks he may be able to track down some pentathol through his black market contacts, after regular army methods fail. Potter has trouble believing that initially, but lets the Father give it his best shot. Seeking things to trade, Charles is convinced (somewhat) to offer up some of his wine for the deal… but only if he can go along.

Pairing Charles and the Father is good fun, and shows that the Father really knows his stuff, and Charles (who says goodbye to his polar suit in this episode) is no where nears as street savvy as he thinks he is.

It’s a fun little episode, and shows the struggles that had to be put up with during the war, and the creative ways people worked around them.

More madcap and melancholy next week in the 4077th!

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