Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hawkeye's House of Cards

Frank (Larry Linville): [after being handed a Section 8 form to sign] You're asking me to let a pervert out of the Army?

Hawkeye (Alan Alda): Oh, by all means, Frank. Let's leave the perverts in the Army.

Trapper John (Wayne Rogers): Anyway, Klinger's not a pervert.

Hot Lips (Loretta Swit): How do you know?

Trapper John: Because I'm one — and he's never at the meetings!

People will sometimes to go to remarkable lengths to accomplish apparently small things.

That was the point of the episode of M*A*S*H that first aired 40 years ago tonight.

Hawkeye needed a new pair of boots. As you can see from the photo above, his old ones simply weren't suitable for Korea (or anyplace else, for that matter) in winter.

So he did the logical thing and went to see the supply sergeant (Johnny Haymer). But the supply officer would only let him have them in exchange for dental work. So Hawkeye went to see the dentist, who wanted some R&R in Tokyo in exchange for his services.

Thus began an hilarious stretch of horse trading that finally reached its peak when it brought Hawkeye to Hot Lips, who wanted a birthday party for Frank Burns. Frank had been feeling low on his birthday, and Hot Lips thought a party — with lots of guests and presents — would perk him up.

Hawkeye really needed those new boots, but he resisted Hot Lips' request — at first. "You expect me to drag 20 screaming people to a party for Frank Burns and paint smiles on their faces? And presents?" an incredulous Hawkeye asked. "Half this camp spends its time sticking pins in little Frank Burns dolls."

He and Trapper found the suggestion ludicrous and laughed in Hot Lips' face. But they weren't laughing long. As they left the tent, Hawkeye stepped in a puddle of icy water and immediately started making plans for the party.

Hawkeye didn't exactly have to paint smiles on the guests' faces, but the room was full of people whose deals with Hawkeye were so tenuous that the whole thing was a house of cards that was vulnerable to even the slightest breeze.

It didn't take long for an ill wind to start blowing, either. Appropriately, it came from Frank himself.

When Frank appeared to be as happy as it was possible for him to be, Hawkeye and Trapper approached him about signing the Section 8 form to which Klinger had dedicated himself. It had been the condition for getting his assistance in the plan to get Hawkeye his boots.

Margaret: They love you, Frank!

Frank Burns: It was their hatred that fooled me.

But Frank was having none of it.

And one by one, the little deals that made up the one big deal fell apart.

"Look, we made a deal," Zale, the supply sergeant, said in explaining why he wouldn't provide the boots that Hawkeye wanted. "He didn't come through."

"Do you know what I did? How I degraded myself? How I groveled, how I humbled, how I cheapened myself?" Hawkeye asked. "All for a pair of miserable, lousy Army boots? I swear to you, as dedicated as I am to the sanctity and preservation of human life, if I had a gun at this moment, I would send my head across the tent!"

"A gun takes six weeks," Zale told him. "There's a terrific waiting list."