Sunday, December 24, 2017

Unlucky in Love

Hawkeye (Alan Alda): Edwina, may I kiss you?

Edwina (Arlene Golonka): Is your mouth insured?

Actress Arlene Golonka made something of a career playing bubbly girl–next–door types on TV and in the movies.

She appeared on the most popular TV shows of her day and might have been America's sweetheart if not for the fact that the competition for that designation was rather strong at the time. I always thought she was cute and that she should have no trouble attracting attention from the opposite sex, but she never seemed to rise above supporting roles.

In the episode of MASH that aired on Christmas Eve 1972, "Edwina," Golonka played what is best described as a female version of Joe Btfsplk from the Li'l Abner comic strip. If you're too young to remember Li'l Abner, Joe Btfsplk was such a jinx that an ominous dark cloud followed him wherever he went.

Edwina, Golonka's character, was a female Joe Btfsplk. She was, to put it kindly, a klutz — impossibly inept and thoroughly unable to get a date, let alone a relationship. Her woeful love life was the basis of a heart–to–heart she had with Margie (Marcia Strassman in one of her last appearances on MASH) on the occasion of Edwina's birthday, and the outcome was a kind of boycott. None of the females in camp would have anything to do with the males (outside the O.R., of course) until one of them went out with Edwina.

This prompted something of a crisis among the males at the 4077th, and it was decided that someone had to take a bullet for the team. It was determined that the fair way to make this decision would be to draw straws to designate Edwina's date. Not participating was not an option; the penalty for nonparticipation was, in Hawkeye's words, to be "stripped naked, painted purple and dropped by helicopter behind enemy lines."

(In today's environment, such a condescending, politically incorrect approach to male–female relationships most likely would be frowned upon.)

Perhaps inevitably Hawkeye (Alan Alda), the 4077th's legendary Lothario, drew the short straw.

And he did try — boy, did he try — but his date with Edwina was a disaster by anyone's standards.

It was just one thing after another.

At first Hawkeye tried to put the best spin possible on everything. When Edwina tossed her martini glass while trying to think of a toast and spilled her drink on Hawkeye, he insisted that he liked wearing a wet T–shirt because it saved him the trouble of sweating.

But after a series of mishaps — most notably including broken glass and Hawkeye stepping on it in bare feet — Edwina lamented that she had "killed" him. Hawkeye protested, "I don't have that kind of luck."

In the process, though, Hawkeye may have found the root of Edwina's problem. Hawkeye concluded that, in a subconscious attempt to avoid getting hurt, Edwina was physically hurting others — to summarize Hawkeye, she was beating others to the hurt. Edwina seemed to be liberated by this revelation — and in her exuberance, she dislodged the stovepipe in the tent, covering Hawkeye in soot.

Far from being upset, Hawkeye began laughing uncontrollably.

Well, nothing lasts forever. Edwina's time at the 4077th came to an end shortly thereafter, and she was never seen in the compound again.

Golonka went on to other TV and film roles.