M*A*S*H (1980) – Old Soldiers, Morale Victory, and Lend a Hand

Dennis Koenig pens Old Soldiers which first aired on 21 January, 1980. Everyone at the 4077th is concerned when Potter (Harry Morgan) heads to Tokyo General, leaving Hawkeye (Alan Alda) in charge.

While the camp deals with a bunch of youngsters who are having an allergic reaction, they fret and worry over their CO, and that concern doesn’t change when he gets back to camp. He’s upset, and troubled by something, and when folks receive an invite to his tent, they are worried that this portends something heartbreaking.

But Potter, through his dialogue, reminds us that he’s been through three wars, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War, and that had me wondering how much of his life had been spent in combat. And that is heartbreaking.

It seems he and his pals from the Great War had saved some brandy, passing it on from member to member to share with their loved ones. And now it’s come to Potter, the last surviving member. And he’s upset by their loss, but wants to share this moment with his new friends and family, and show how important they are to him.

A really powerful episode when you sit and think about the context of the characters, and their lives.

Morale Victory was written by John Rappaport and first debuted on 28 January, 1980.

Potter is a little tired of Hawkeye’s and B.J.’s (Mike Farrell) comments about the food, movies, and more, and decides to make them morale officers for the camp. And things get complicated very quickly. They promise changes, a big party, new movies, and Houlihan (Loretta Swit) wants cosmetics for her nurses.

The boys may have bitten off more than they can chew.

Meanwhile, Charles (David Ogden Stiers) is dealing with the repercussions of a surgery. He was able to save the patient, Sheridan’s (James Stephens) leg, but there may be some permanent damage to his right hand. Charles tries to point out that the man will walk again, and Sheridan reveals he was a concert pianist, and his hands were his livelihood.

Charles has to undertake his own morale boosting as Hawk and B.J. rely on Klinger (Jamie Farr), who may have absconded with an open three day pass, to come back in time to save their proposed beach party!

It’s a really solid episode, and shows what we all know, morale is so very important in life and work.

Lend a Hand, which aired on 4 February, 1980, was written and directed by Alan Alda, and there’s a lot going on in the subtext in terms of reconciliation once you learn how the guest casting works out.

While the 4077th is suffering in the cold again, Hawkeye and a visiting surgeon Borelli (Robert Alda) head out to help out at an aid station. If they can stop arguing and fighting over procedure and any other thing that crosses their head. Even the medic, Jarvis (Anthony Alda) at the station has to call them on it, and sure they end up working together by the end of the episode, but it’s going to take a lot.

And if you’re wondering about the subtext, have a look at that guest cast list again, Robert is Alan’s father, and this episode helped the pair patch up their differences, while Anthony is Alan’s brother, who no doubt had witnessed and commented on many similar discussions in their homelife growing up.

The b story in the camp has a shifting birthday-anniversary-birthday going on as an excuse for a party. I guess the gang needed to have something to follow up that beach party last episode.

We’re closing in on the end of season eight, but the journey isn’t over yet, as the tour at M*A*S*H continues!

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