M*A*S*H (1978/1979) – An Eye for a Tooth, Dear Sis, and B.J. Papa San

Ronny Graham pens the first episode up this week, An Eye for a Tooth, which first aired on 11 December, 1978. While Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) ruminates on why he’s been passed over for promotion, again, Charles (David Ogden Stiers) pushes the prank war between Houlihan (Loretta Swit) and Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and B.J. (Mike Farrell) to new heights.

The devious major plays both sides against the middle, lending his wiles to aid each side in upping the ante, as things get more raucous and laugh-filled. But what happens when it goes too far, and Houlihan writes B.J.’s wife back home?

After asking and then demanding that Potter (Harry Morgan) pull some strings for him, Mulcahy refocuses, and applies himself to his work, and ends up going above and beyond as he helps a chopper pilot fly in some wounded.

The prank stuff is great, and I love seeing each side trying to one up each other, and it was also interesting to see Mulcahy pursuing something that he really wanted, and how it partially conflicted with who he was as a person, not to mention who he is in the camp.

A lot of fun, and it’s always great seeing the way Houlihan gets on with Hawk and B.J. in these episodes. She’s changed a lot since the beginning of the series.

Dear Sis, which puts Mulcahy front and center, was written and directed by Alan Alda, and first aired on 18 December, 1978. Christmas is coming, and we see that like everyone in the camp, the war eventually gets to Mulcahy as well. Through his narration of a letter to his sister, who is a Sister, he relates his frustrations about the war, the lack of attendance at his services, and the fact that he feels he’s not as effective as others in the camp.

But as it is pointed out through the course of the episode, the camp is aware of him, and his impact on their daily lives. They may not be religious, but they realize that the Father looks after the spirit and the spirituality of the camp.

He is also working to raise money to buy presents for local orphans, and helps organize a Christmas party for the 4077th, where everyone gets a gift, and Charles, who has little use for religion, or things of the spirit, is touched by a moment, and enjoys the true meaning of the season.

And Mulcahy gets some recognition…

B.J. Papa San was written by Larry Balmagia and debuted on 1 January, 1979.

B.J. is depressed and home sick, so when a Korean family comes into the camp looking for some help, he believes he’s found an outlet, a way to focus, to feel like he’s helping. But it never seems to be enough, whether it’s making sure the sick father gets the meds he needs for his pneumonia, that the family has enough blankets, or a roof that doesn’t leak, or find out where their son, who is serving in the Korean Army, is.

Meanwhile, back at the 4077th, an injured General (Dick O’Neill) is causing grief for almost every member of the camp, as he’s set in his ways, wants things how he wants them, and won’t take any guff from anyone in his determination to get back to the front.

I like this episode for its depiction of B.J.; he’s missing his family so much, that he’s trying to fill that hole by helping out other families, working to make their lives better, and things just won’t seem to go right, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop trying, and that’s a good message.

More M*A*S*H next week!

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