M*A*S*H (1979) – The Party, Too Many Cooks, and Are You Now, Margaret?

Burt Metcalfe and Alan Alda pen the script that closes out the seventh season, The Party. It first aired on 12 March, 1979.

While the 4077th gets orders to move (and again) as the Chinese have broken through, B.J. (Mike Farrell) hits on the idea of organizing a reunion, but not for the members of the camp, their families at home. After some cajoling, everyone reaches out to the home front, and the troublesome task of finding a date that works for everyone begins.

There are some poignant moments, as Hawkeye (Alda) and the rest work to make sure the event can happen, a secret Klinger (Jamie Farr) has been keeping from his mother comes out, and they receive a slew of letters from home detailing the events of the party.

It’s actually really poignant, and a touch bittersweet, as they hear about their loved ones meeting, getting together, and supporting one another, when it is the members of the camp who wish they were at home with those they love.

It’s funny, touching, and great to imagine the characters that we only know second hand through stories, getting together to share their love for these characters, much like those who watched the show. A truly perfect ending to the season.

Too Many Cooks opened season eight on 17 September, 1979. Written by Dennis Koenig, the episode features Ed Begley Jr. as Private Paul Conway, who is a bit a clutz on the frontline, ending up at the 4077th with a wound, but proves himself to be a helluva cook.

While the gang tries to figure out a way to get Conway transferred permanently to the 4077th, Potter (Harry Morgan) is having a tough time being separated from his wife, Mildred, and her most recent letter sticks in his craw, causing him to miss her and desperate to get in touch with her. He even considers cashing out of the service.

When his friend General Haggerty (John Randolph) arrives, the camp sees a chance to resolve Potter’s issue, and get Conway reassigned from soldier to cook… but one of those things is going to backfire on them.

But before then, the mess tent is going to be standing room only, and really tough to get a reservation for.

It’s a fun little opener, the Potter storyline adds some poignancy to the episode, and shows that eight seasons in, they can still walk the line between drama and comedy with ease.

Are You Now, Margaret? brings McCarthyism to the 4077th in this episode written by Thad Mumford and Dan Wilcox. First airing on 24 September, 1979, we see the arrival of a congressman’s aide from Washington, Williamson (Lawrence Pressman), who is running down leads and part of the investigation into the ‘red threat’ invading America.

His eyes are set on Houlihan (Loretta Swit), who dated someone in college now deemed a subversive. Unless she names names of those she associated with during those years she will be ordered to appear in front of the committee, and no matter how that plays out, once you’re in front of the committee, it’s over, guilty or not.

Hawkeye, B.J. and Charles (David Ogden Stiers), along with the rest of the camp are infuriated with the treatment of Margaret Houlihan, and with some help from Klinger find a way to get Houlihan out of trouble, maintain her honor, and serve some poetic justice to Williamson, and by extension, the fearmongering that was the McCarthy era, the modern day witch trials.

There’s more to come next week as we dive deeper into season eight of M*A*S*H!

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