M*A*S*H (1981) – No Sweat, Depressing News, and No Laughing Matter

The heat is getting to everybody in No Sweat. Written by John Rappaport, we join the 4077th for a sweltering night. First airing on 2 February, 1981, we find various members of the camp unable to sleep because of the heat, and the things they are doing to occupy their time instead.

B.J. (Mike Farrell) is worrying over a letter from Peg, which actually leads to the revelation of a deeper matter, that she may become so self-sufficient without him around that she won’t need him at all.

Charles (David Ogden Stiers) is going through his family’s financial records to properly sort them, with Mulcahy (William Christopher) ‘lending a helping hand.’ Klinger (Jamie Farr) is toying with the camp’s PA system, Houlihan (Loretta Swit) has a heat induced rash that is making things very uncomfortable, and every time Potter (Harry Morgan) gets to sleep, he’s roused with another thing he has to do.

Hawkeye (Alan Alda), B.J. and Houlihan also have to deal with a wounded soldier who needs a chopper out first thing in the morning.

Stress is high between Hawk and B.J. over the letter, Houlihan can’t sit down, Potter is in a dazed state having not sleep for three nights straight, and it all culminates in an inadvertent broadcast when Klinger gets the PA working.

Sure there’s a bit of personal embarrassment there, but it does remind us that laughter can be the best medicine. And perhaps they all just needed a good release, and a good night’s sleep.

9 February, 1981, brought us Depressing News from writer Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, which also found Alda behind the camera as director again.

Klinger decides to try his hand at being a reporter, and creates a paper for the 4077th, and scouts for stories, contributors, and most importantly, subscribers throughout the camp. He’s got some kinks to work out, but it’s not a bad idea, and Potter is quite happy to let him run with it.

Hawkeye finds a way to express himself after the camp is shipped an excess of tongue depressors. He goes about creating a monument from them. Each one is inscribed with a name of a wounded soldier that has passed through the camp, and it grows, and grows. catching the eye of Stars & Stripes who show up to document it, believing it could be used as a great recruitment tool.

But that is completely the opposite of what Hawkeye meant for his artistic expression, but with one final touch, he’s able to drive his point home; explosively.

The Klinger side of the episode plays as a lot of fun, and Alda balances it perfectly against Hawkeye’s story, and reminds us of the senseless nature and pointless destruction in war, leaving us something to think about as the credits roll.

I do like that Potter commemorates Hawk’s creation in another way.

No Laughing Matter was written by Elias Davis and David Pollock, and first debuted on 16 February, 1981.

Potter thinks there is going to be some trouble when Colonel Horace Baldwin (Robert Symonds) arrives in camp on a fact-finding mission. It seems Baldwin was the officer responsible for transferring Charles to the 4077th from his cushy position in Tokyo, and he’s worried Charles may try to exact some form of violent revenge.

But Charles is polite, charming, to the point of groveling before Baldwin if it has any possibility of seeing him returned to Tokyo. Baldwin drinks with him, plays cards with him, and then asks Charles to find him some female company for the night.

Unfortunately, Houlihan gets caught up in things and Charles either has to back Baldwin’s story, or the truth of his fellow officer.

Hawkeye, meanwhile, has taken a wager from B.J. that he can’t go a whole day without making any jokes, as he seems to use humor to keep people at a distance, and use it to cover his own fears and insecurities.

Both arcs actually deal with some important things, and are handled well. Solid work in a solid episode.

And there is still more to come from M*A*S*H!

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