Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Love Doctor

Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit): She's darling, Henry. Looks a little like your oldest daughter, doesn't she, Frank? He has three.

In the episode of M*A*S*H that aired on this night 40 years ago, Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) was returning to the camp after spending a week in Tokyo.

While he was in Tokyo, Henry made the acquaintance of Nancy Sue Parker (Kathrine Baumann), a 20–year–old former cheerleader, and thought he had fallen in love — even though the 40–something C.O. had a wife and family back home.

It's the kind of scenario of which many a middle–aged man has fantasized. There was a lesson about fidelity to be found in the episode, but mostly, I think, it was just good for a lot of great dialogue.

Not long after Henry's return, Nancy Sue visited the 4077th, giving Henry a chance to show her off and inspiring many jokes, not the least of which were the reactions of the male staffers to the attractive young lady.

When she pulled up in a Jeep, her physical attributes were immediately obvious, and she hadn't said a word.

"I'm a doctor; you can believe me," Hawkeye (Alan Alda) said to Trapper John (Wayne Rogers) as they watched Henry run to greet her. "That is a nice leg."

"That sweater's not stuffed with chopped liver, either," Trapper replied.

The gags continued when Henry introduced Nancy Sue to the staff.

"It's a very genuine pleasure to have you at the 4077th, Nancy dear," Hot Lips said to her.

"Oh, it's mine, too," the bubbly Nancy Sue replied. "Everyone's been so terrific about being nice to me!"

"It's nice to be nice ... to the nice!" Frank Burns (Larry Linville) contributed. (Frank, it is worth noting, was never known for his eloquence.)

Later, Nancy Sue gave a demonstration of the cheers her character had given at Ohio State. In fact, Baumann was a cheerleader in high school, and she was Miss Ohio five years before her appearance on "M*A*S*H" so her leaps and cheers were authentic.

Hawkeye and Trapper watched Nancy Sue, then glanced at Henry, who was beaming from ear to ear.

"The proud father," Hawkeye remarked.

Nancy Sue left a lot of people tongue–tied — but she did know how to untie some tongues, in a manner of speaking. While Henry was busy in surgery, she came on to Hawkeye when he escorted her to her tent. Hawkeye had a reputation for being a ladies' man, but the situation clearly made him uncomfortable.

After Nancy Sue kissed him, Hawkeye said, "In the first place, I want to thank you from the bottom of my mouth. Secondly, we're not in the parking lot at the prom. And lastly, one of us loves Henry Blake, and I think it's me."

(He later described the kiss to Trapper as a "good–night tonsillectomy you wouldn't believe.")

Henry, as it turned out, had already figured out that his place was with his wife back home, not young Nancy Sue.

And, inevitably, Henry's red–hot romance fizzled out.