Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A Midsummer Night at M*A*S*H 4077th

"As of last Tuesday, our C.P.A. is a certified public enemy — having been incarcerated on five counts of fraud, two counts of embezzlement and countless counts concerning accounts for which he cannot ... account."

Charles (David Ogden Stiers)

I don't think it is necessary to have seen very many episodes of M*A*S*H before it occurs to you that the South Korea of the M*A*S*H universe was always either bitterly cold or brutally hot.

That is probably a bit of an exaggeration — but only a bit. The Korean weather was frequently the subject of jokes on the series, occasionally running for entire episodes, like the one that first aired on this night in 1981, "No Sweat."

Now, I have never been to Asia, but I understand that winters can be quite cold and summers can be hot and humid so that part is accurate. I also gather that the spring and fall months can have their pleasant moments, just as they do in this part of the world.

In other words, South Korea has its extreme moments weatherwise — but, really, doesn't every place? South Korea may have more of those moments than many places, but, come on. I live in Texas. As Gen. Phil Sheridan reportedly said, "If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent Texas and live in hell." We know all about heat here.

And folks in Canada know all about the cold and snow. I guess there are a couple of thousand miles between Texas and Canada, but we do have our bitterly cold snaps here during the winter, and Canadians have their brutally hot snaps in the summer. No place is immune, but few places go careening from one extreme to the other all year long.

In this particular episode, the folks at M*A*S*H were experiencing a severe heat wave, the kind that keeps you awake at night. Now, I'm the kind of person who can't sleep when I am hot and sweaty, anyway, so I could sympathize with the M*A*S*H folks, who were perspiring a lot in this heat wave — especially Margaret (Loretta Swit), who had developed a bad case of prickly heat on her derriere. She needed a certain kind of lotion to ease her suffering, but there had been so many cases of prickly heat that the camp was out of the lotion.

Everyone was affected by the heat, though, and the whole camp was up in the wee hours of the morning, looking for ways to fill the time. I have had my issues with insomnia from time to time as well, and I know how it feels to be up because it is so hot. As I said, I find it difficult to sleep when I am hot and sweaty, and it wasn't hard for me to project myself into their situation. I sure have been there. Been there, done that, don't want to do it again — but, as I say, I live in Texas. It is inevitable that I will be overwhelmed by the heat at some point.

(I have been so desperate to find a way to fill the time when I have been up with insomnia that once I mopped the floors in the kitchen and bathroom at about 2 or 3 in the morning. I guess I was hoping it would make me tired enough to fall asleep. Didn't work. I worked up a good sweat, but never fell asleep.)

Corporal Klinger (Jamie Farr) was up tinkering with the camp's P.A. system. He aspired to be a TV repairman when he went home, and he was getting in some electronics repair practice. Col. Potter (Harry Morgan) came into the office to fetch a sleeping pill. He was sure it would work because it always put him under, but he didn't want to grow dependent on them, which is why he kept them in his office, not his quarters.

Across the camp Major Charles Emerson Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) was trying to sort through his family's financial affairs. The family accountant had been convicted of fraud, embezzlement and, as Winchester put it, "countless counts concerning accounts for which he cannot ... account." Thus, his family had sent all its financial paperwork to him to sort through. He was in the mess tent, using the tables to spread out all that paperwork. Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) found him there and offered to make some lemonade.

More than the weather had B.J. (Mike Farrell) stewing. He was stressing out over a letter from his wife. Their house's gutters were clogged, and she was going to have to resolve the issue. His imagination was running wild. He had himself believing that these clogged gutters inevitably would drive his wife into the arms of a muscular handyman in their neighborhood.

A wounded soldier was brought in, and that took precedence over everything else. A helicopter was needed to take the soldier to a hospital after the surgery was done, but only Col. Potter could authorize that so Klinger was dispatched to rouse the colonel and have him order the helicopter. The pill had, as Potter predicted, really put his lights out. When Klinger finally got him to the office, he prodded the colonel to place the order for the morning. The colonel began placing an order as if he were staying in a hotel and ordering room service — asking for poached eggs and prunes.

"Order a helicopter," Klinger whispered.

"No, thanks," the out–of–it colonel replied. "I'm not that hungry."

Well, Klinger got Potter to place the order and took him back to bed.

But that was just the beginning. It seemed everyone in camp suddenly needed Potter for some purpose, and every time he was summoned, he had managed to catch up to the previous interruption of his sleep. I guess it was one of those situations where real–world interruptions simply weave their way into a person's dreams.

Winchester was the first to call upon Potter after Klinger got him back to his quarters. Winchester needed carbon paper for his financial paperwork, and the carbon paper was kept in a safe. Only Potter knew the combination.

In Potter's condition, I always wondered how he managed to provide the right safe combination, but somehow he did, and Winchester got him back to his quarters.

Then Hot Lips, upon learning of the helicopter, decided to order it to bring the lotion that would ease her painful itching. Once again, that was a job for Colonel Potter, whose overburdened mind had to balance the two previous visits to his tent and Hot Lips' account of her need for the lotion.

"Medicine? Who's sick?" Potter inquired.

Hot Lips replied that no one was sick, but she had a severe inflammation on her buttocks. In his condition, Potter began reminiscing about a time when he got what he called "rump rots" during World War I when he was pinned down all night in a wet foxhole. Comparing his experience to Hot Lips, he observed, "That cute little caboose of yours must be red as a beet."

As it turned out Klinger had just finished putting the P.A. system together again, and the conversation had been broadcast all over camp.

Now everyone knew Hot Lips' little secret — except Potter, who would have no recall of that interruption — or any other interruption — of his pill–induced slumber the next day.