M*A*S*H (1980) – Back Pay, April Fools, and The Best of Enemies

Hawkeye (Alan Alda) is out for justice in the penultimate episode of season eight. Back Pay was written by Thad Mumford, Dan Wilcox and Dennis Koenig and first debuted on 10 March, 1980.

When Hawk receives a letter from home, he’s shocked to learn that there are doctors back State-side that are making a mint every day in their practices, and charging outrageous amounts for the simplest procedures. Consequently, he feels he’s owed some back pay, and submits a bill to the Army for services rendered.

This causes Captain Snyder (Richard Herd) to show up and do some investigating, and threatening of Hawkeye, who has decided to take a partial payment in the form of a jeep.

Meanwhile, Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) is being rather snide to some visiting Korean doctors (including one played by the wonderful Sab Shimono) as he demonstrates medical procedures for them. The shoe ends up being on the other foot, however, when the major wrenches his back, and the visiting doctors perform acupuncture on him against his will.

It’s an entertaining episode and also makes some valid points about judging others, and the way that the American health system, and the Army works.

I loved the ending with Hawk and B.J. (Mike Farrell) in the Officers’ Club, and we learn how it’s not so much the money as the idea that had Hawk fuming.

April Fools is the final episode of the season. It was penned by Koenig and first aired on 24 March, 1980. Pat Hingle guest stars as Colonel Tucker, a tough as nails, by the book soldier who is coming to inspect the camp.

Unfortunately, the camp seems to be going through a rash of practical jokes, as April 1st draws nearer. Hawkeye, B.J., Winchester and Margaret (Loretta Swit) keep upping the ante on one another, and the gags get funnier and funnier.

Tucker, upon arriving, is less than impressed and as things continue to escalate, he pushes them to the point of breaking, and threatens to bust them all and send them to Leavensworth.

Potter (Harry Morgan) tried to warn them, but they wouldn’t listen, and one last gag may be one step too far? Or is there, maybe, something else going on here?

This is just a fun, riotous episode that has lots of laughs, great pranks, and shows how the characters have grown together over the course of the series, particularly Margaret. A couple of seasons ago, she wouldn’t have deigned to be involved in any of this, and now, she’s right in the middle of it with her friends Hawkeye and B.J.

Season Nine got started on 17 November, 1980, with The Best of Enemies, written by Sheldon Bull,

Hawkeye has himself a 24 hour pass, and is going to make the best of it, taking off out of the camp before he can be lassoed into a battle of wits, or bridge rather between Potter and Winchester.

The two titans square off against one another taking Margaret and B.J. as their respective partners, and the whole camp turns out to see how things will play out. But will their egos get in the way of either side winning? And what will happen when Margaret and B.J. team up to take the colonel and major down a peg or two?

Meanwhile, Hawkeye runs into trouble when a sniper takes shots at him, and he finds himself captured by a Korean soldier, Li Han (Mako making another welcome appearance). Recognizing that Hawkeye is a doctor, Li Han forces Hawk by gunpoint to a wounded comrade, where the doctor must work to save the man’s life, with his own possibly hanging in the balance.

It’s a fun episode, welcoming everyone back for another season of fun, and drama, and the episode shows that it can still do both easily.

Next week, we dig even deeper into Season Nine as I continue my tour with the 4077th!

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