M*A*S*H (1981) – Identity Crisis, Rumor at the Top, and Give ‘Em Hell, Hawkeye

David Ogden Stiers slips into the director’s chair for Identity Crisis which was written by Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford and had an original airdate of 2 November, 1981.

Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) gets some of the spotlight in this episode when he encounters a wounded soldier played by a young Joe Pantoliano. He claims his name is Levin but it is soon revealed that Levin was KIA and this soldier, Gerald, stole his orders which were to go home.

Mulcahy empathizes but reminds Gerald that this is a crime that would countless people, specifically Levin’s family.

Charles (Stiers) is having issues of his own dealing with a soldier, Alvin Rice (Squire Fridell), who won’t stop talking. It seems Rice sells mutual funds on the side and the MASH unit and post-op seem to be just the place to make a killing, so to speak.

B.J. (Mike Farrell), Hawkeye (Alan Alda), and Houlihan (Loretta Swit) help another injured soldier, Mathes (Dirk Blocker), who, in addition to being injured has just received a heartbreaking ‘dear john’ letter. So the trio enlists the camp to help out with getting some revenge.

Stiers does a nice job letting characters have their moments and it’s nice to see the padre front and center for a change.

Rumor at the Top was written by David Pollock and Elias Davis. It was first broadcast on 9 November, 1981.

When Klinger (Jamie Farr) puts one and one together and comes up with three he is struck by the belief that a visiting major (Nicholas Pryor) is coming to break up the 4077th to man a new M*A*S*H unit closer to the front.

Soon everyone is worried about the possibility of transfers and go out of their way to make themselves look like the worst possible subjects. B.J. and Hawk pretend to be less than caring about a patient and indulge in some unique dietary restrictions. Klinger slips back into the old crazy, and Houlihan worries.

It’s a goofy episode, all in the effort to make sure that no one gets transferred out. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that no one leaves and that the major’s mission wasn’t what Klinger thought it was.

Potter (Harry Morgan) watches how things play out through the entirety and doesn’t mention anything to anyone. He just smiles and carries on.

This episode is very run-of-the-mill, there’s nothing new in it, it’s just a weekly check-up with friends. You share some laughs and come back next week for the following episode.

Give ‘Em Hell, Hawkeye was written by Dennis Koenig and first hit the airwaves on 16 November, 1981.

Intercut with newsreel footage we join Hawkeye who is penning a letter to President Truman to complain about the state of the war, the lack of peace talks, and the ridiculous things the camp is being forced to do to show that they deserve the equipment they need.

It comes down from on high that to get a much-needed new water heater the camp must undergo some beautification which seems completely absurd to everyone but Houlihan and Klinger pull it off marvelously.

It’s one of the smaller story threads in this episode that proves more poignant. A young boy, Kim Han (Lance Toyoshima) is helping out on the beautification project and loves all things American. He wants to be American and talks to B.J. about fixing his eyes so that he can look more American.

He and Houlihan both tackle the subject in their own way and it ends up being a nice message about embracing yourself that gets overshadowed by the rest of the episode. Oh! And watch for a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by Xander Berkley!

It’s hard to believe that we’re well on our way through season ten of M*A*S*H with only one more season after this. Let’s see what we get up to next week!

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