*So, the episode starts with Herb Voland, making his first appearance as General Clayton, driving up to the camera and stopping. He then, rather surprisingly, turns to the camera and starts speaking directly to us.
*Yes, it’s a meta episode. Again, I ended up last time briefly mentioning The Interview, which is a very significant episode, not just of MASH, but of television history. And then right here in the sixth episode of the show, they start kind of dealing with the same thing that The Interview is going to be about. It seems that Lt. Bricker, played by the perfectly named Ed Flanders, is making a documentary about American heroism in the Korean conflict. General Clayton is helping him out. General Clayton is “helping him out” by steering him toward the 4077th.
*General Clayton avows that the 4077th is made up of “real soldiers.” Quick cut to Hawkeye and Trapper slow dancing. “You dance beautfully,” Hawkeye murmurs.
*Frank’s back. Thank God.
*Henry brings Lt. Bricker into the Swamp and Lt. Bricker says he wants to tell the story of the 4077th by featuring everyone, but focusing on one doctor, of course. He asks if anyone has done any acting. Hawk busts out the absolute worst Jimmy Cagney routine I have ever seen in my life. “I never saw Carmen Miranda done better,” Trapper says.
*Frank tries to get Bricker’s attention. “In college, I played Romeo.” “And Juliet.” “For a while it was a toss-up whether I’d become a doctor or an actor.” “What finally happened?” “Shut him up.”
*I must admit the “what finally happened?” line really got me. That’s darn funny. Alda delivers it well.
*Bricker wants Hawk to star, of course. He turns it down, until Trap points out that if Hawk doesn’t do it, Frank will. Hawk agrees. He instantly bristles as the camera starts getting in his space in the OR. At one point, while Hawk is performing triage, Bricker asks if he could have a longer conference with the other doctor. Great. This guy is great.
*Bricker films Henry and Radar doing a little presentation. Henry mentions, for the first time, I think, that Radar is from Ottumwa, Iowa.
*Bricker and Radar decide to make a pass at replacing the Three Stooges: “Keep your head down so we don’t get any reflection on the glasses.” “Yes, sir.” “Now, look up at the colonel, but keep your head down. Look up at the colonel, but keep your head down. But look up at the colonel.” Curly doesn’t have anything to worry about, frankly.
*Bricker has asked Frank to narrate the documentary. Good choice. Larry Linville has a great voice.
*Margaret walks right into this one: “He’s a fantastic performer.” “Really? Can he act too?”
*Loretta Swit does an inspired bit here as Frank reads the narration. She mouths it along with him.
*Of course, the narration alerts Hawkeye and Trapper that the “documentary” isn’t going to have a lot of proximity to fact, if you get my drift.
*Hawkeye reacts to a line that refers to the staff of the MASH as “all volunteer:” “When they came to get me, I was hiding under my front porch trying to puncture my eardrum with an icepick.”
*So, of course, it’s going to be sabotage.
*While Hawk and Trap break into the film canisters and destroy the film, Radar distracts Bricker in the mess tent by getting him to explain how he got into pictures. “Where was I?” “You just married your high school teacher.” “Wonderful woman. Helped me a lot with my career. I wonder if she’s still alive.”
*Henry Blake discusses the sabotage with General Clayton: “Oh, everything’s fine, sir. Well, not actually fine. Uh, actually terrible rather than fine.”
*Henry figures out, of course, that it was Hawk and Trap and they confront them. Bricker tells Hawk that he’s shooting the whole thing again. Hawk refuses to be the star. Henry storms out, with one last word for Hawkeye: “I’m not through here.” “We’ll disregard the rumor.” That’s a good one.
*So, Bricker goes back to talk to General Clayton to tell him he’s going to use a different MASH unit. Unfortunately, he leaves his camera and script there. Hawkeye tells Henry that they’ll do the movie themselves while he’s gone.
*So, Henry prepares to debut the completed film to the entire unit, complete with a special visit from General Clayton.
*We all know where this is going, right?
*Let’s just say this involves Hawkeye doing a pretty good Groucho Marx impression. Trap honks violently as Harpo. “Nurse, is that patient prepared for surgery?” “Yes, doctor.” “Well, I’m coitainly glad one of us is.” *HONK HONK*
* “Well, I think it’s time for some sewing.” “Sew what?” “That’s what I say.” *HONK*
*The film then ends with Hawkeye talking seriously to the camera about how they don’t have a happy ending and how the guns and bombs have more power to take life than they have as doctors to save it.
*General Clayton is suprisingly not angry. “Save that last bit. With Captain Pierce talking.”
*Nurse Cutler, by the way, appears in the film, Yankee Doodle Doctor. As the episode ends, Hawkeye is chatting Cutler up and Trap tries unsuccessfully to break in on the conversation. “After all, he is the Yankee Doodle Doctor.”
*Right and Trapper got his brains knocked out for you a few episodes ago, which you seem to have forgotten about. Yankee Doodle Doctor was brief. As woman’s love. Frailty, thy name is Cutler.
*I think the best thing about this episode is the fact that Clayton isn’t even slightly miffed about the disastrous film. It’s a surprisingly humanitarian take on his character, him being a General and all. He realizes, of course, that there’s no way the film can be shown to the public, as planned, but he doesn’t seem to mind the creative sabotage that much, which is surprising.
*Hawk’s Groucho is good. But Trap’s Harpo wins the prize, I think. He’s very good. But on the whole, only an average episode.
** out of **** stars.
Lee Phillips, Laurence Marks
MASH Episodes, by Quality:
1. Chief Surgeon Who?
2. The Moose
3. To Market, to Market
4. Yankee Doodle Doctor
5. Requiem for a Lightweight
The Abridged MASH
To Market, to Market
Chief Surgeon Who?