M*A*S*HCast #98 – Margaret’s Engagement

M*A*S*HCast -  Season 5, Episode 2: Margaret's Engagement

Special Guest Star: Tim Price

Air Date: September 28, 1976

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12 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #98 – Margaret’s Engagement

  1. The song Frank Burns is clucking is Gene Autry’s Back in the saddle again. Why he is clucking I besides being silly no clue however Autry does have a song called Stay Away From my chicken House

  2. Another fun episode! Listening to the clip at the end, I think he’s clucking out the tune of “Back in the Saddle Again.”

    Had a thought for a possible episode combining M*A*S*H and comics: An episode covering the various parodies from Mad Magazine, Cracked, and Crazy, if you can track down those issues. Even though I was a kid when I read some of them, I can still remember the ending of one of those spoofs (I think it was Cracked, because I’m pretty sure it was John Severin art) where Hawkeye said there was just one more thing he needed to do–“STRANGLE FRANC!” (yes, I still recall that the parody spelled it with a C).

    I also remember a parody in Crazy that was particularly mean-spirited, where they’d been running so long that they’d outlasted the Korean War and were now in Vietnam; the story had Hawkeye going mad and murdering Margaret and Klinger, among other out-of-character gags…

  3. I haven’t seen this episode in a while, but although Frank is practically sub-human, I do believe Margaret should have broken the news to him gently with some concern for his feelings. It takes two to tango, or whatever they were doing, after all. Yes, Frank was an adulterer, but so was Margaret in their relatonship. She knew he was married.

    I wonder if Larry Linville wondered “What are they going to do with my character now?”


  4. Love the episode! Both of the podcast and of the show 🙂 I just love that we are treated to this side of Margaret, all happy and giddy. I know many people just see her as annoying, but I find it so endearing and also a bit sad, we know what is going to become of this relationship of course, but also because of how much she wants this, wants to have something of her own, to have someone to truly commit to, and to have a real relationship. The fact that she acts like a schoolgirl about it, as inconsiderate as she may be, is another little piece of the Margaret-puzzle.

    I adore Margaret’s and Colonel Potter’s relationship, the way they come to love and respect each other, and the scene where she tells him about the shower curtain is pure gold! Her face of “Oh, what did my mouth just say”, and his little chuckle! So good! And her drunken phone call to him, also so good! I can imagine that her conversation with her actual father was very different…

    I know that many people argue that she is so mean to Frank here. And sure, she is very inconsiderate and should have broken the news to him differently. But this is Margaret Houlihan – Queen of Denial, and I think in her giddiness she managed to talk herself into thinking he would actually be happy for her. They were only good friends, anyway, and absolutely nothing else.
    I have also heard that many thinks she deserved that line from Frank at the end, about a little youth being nice for a change, and as much as I think it’s a funny moment, I also can’t forget how horrible Frank is in this episode! He doesn’t want to follow procedure in the OR, and when his failings to do so almost costs a young man his life, Frank couldn’t care less. He tries to force himself on Margaret when she clearly says no, he holds a nice Korean family at gunpoint and then turns his gun on his CO and colleagues. And there are many moments in other episodes where he is really mean to her, calling her an army mule, giving her promises he was never gonna keep, not even lending her money etcetera etcetera…
    So what Frank deserves and doesn’t deserve can be debated, in my opinion…

    And speaking of men forcing themselves on Margaret, I am very happy you brought that issue up, thank you to the anonymous writer. I completely agree, even though Margaret is very capable and strong, she shouldn’t have to fight to keep men off. And even if you can fight an attacker off, it’s still a trauma. And would she have been able to fight that psychiatrist off in “Bananas, Crackers and Nuts”, if it hadn’t been a set up? Or that horrible plastic surgeon in “Operation Noselift”?
    The show written a long time ago, but it is still happening in real life all over the world, and I think it is so important that we talk about it, and also how we talk about it, so thank you for bringing it up.

    Again, thank you for a great episode!

    1. You expressed my own conflicted feelings on Frank’s treatment in this episode. It’s like his character seeping into the real world, because he’s a weasel and makes me feel sorry for him, but that’s the trick because he *uses* his weaselness to his advantage! But there is *no* excusing when he grabs Margaret in the tent.

      Glad you enjoyed the episode!

  5. First off, I want to thank the person who wrote you and you for reading it. She (I assume this was a female) that not every woman has the physical and emotional strength to fight back against an attacker. The show’s treatment of women as sex objects (particularly in the early seasons) was horrible. Much worse than cultural stereotypes that were played upon. Those were wrong as well, but trading a woman for a nose job is wrong on another level.

    I think this would have made a better season opener than Bug Out. With Margaret being gone for the last third of S4 and the summer break, the viewers hadn’t seen her in months. But with this being S5E2, we just saw her last week. An extended departure makes it look like she had been in Tokyo for a month.

    But here it looks like she met Donald and got engaged in a weekend. Which is really strange.

    I think the writers were setting Donald up to be a cad from the start. From the cheap ring (even Frank couldn’t see it) to the picture with his “cousin” told us he wasn’t a good catch.

    I wonder if Larry Linville had already given notice he was leaving and her marriage story arc was written to lead to his departure.

    I think the producers missed the boat in not developing Frank after this. Not saying he would turn into Charles, but do something to make him more human. He had a dry wit that came out from time to time.

    Yes, that was Back in the Saddle he was clucking. But I think he was singing about a different kind of saddle than Autry was, if you know what I mean.

    Radar’s line about sometimes a guy needs to talk to his mom was classic Radar. He also was close to his mother so he knew to call Mrs. Burns.

    We also see a rare time Hawkeye takes Frank’s side in telling Margaret she is being mean.

    My syndication package always showed the scene where Frank says youth would do him some good. My condolences if you grew up without seeing it.

    I do wonder what kind of 20-something woman would get the hots for Frank, but I digress.

  6. After watching this episode and listening to the podcast this morning, I have had the sound of Frank Burns clucking like a chicken in my head all day, so thank you for that! Seriously, it is one of the funniest but weirdest moments in MASH history!

    Sometimes I think of this episode as the real season opener because it sets up the story arc of Margaret’s engagement and the end of her relationship with Frank, which sets the tone for the rest of the season (and even into Season Six). The prior episode Bug Out, although also a strong episode, seems like more of its own one-off story rather than connected to the season as a whole.

    I have to say my favorite line is one that neither of you mentioned. When Margaret shows her engagement ring to Frank, he crouches in a defensive posture and asks, “Is there a bee on me?” For some reason that line struck me as hilarious as a kid and it always stayed with me. And Frank somehow having the strength to tear the doors of the mess tent off their hinges strains believability but is also very funny.

    I agree that the scene of Frank talking on the phone to his mother is the best Frank Burns scene in the entire series. It’s hard not to have sympathy for him in that moment in saying that no one likes him as usual, and that his father only pretended to be his friend. It offers a little insight into why he is the way he is. I only wish the series had continued to develop his character, and perhaps show him continuing to get along sometimes with Hawkeye and BJ, instead of reverting to the “factory preset” for the rest of Frank’s time on the show.

    I think the only other time we will see a serious, and dare I say almost dignified, moment for Frank Burns will be at the end of his final episode, but I’ll leave that for another time.

  7. Rob Kelly and Tim Price make a great podcast regardless of topic, but this was not a very enjoyable MASH episode. I mean, everyone did a great job, and no one’s really out of character, but watching Margaret and Frank both make decisions that hurt other people and themselves isn’t fun. The insight into Frank is, as you say, Rob, devastating.

    In general, I agree with everything you and the other commenters said, so I’ll only add a couple of notes. First, I think Season 4 was really the season where Margaret fully realized her relationship with Frank had no future. We got a lot of foreshadowing for the treatment she gives Frank here. There’s no big break-up talk, because she’s finally decided there’s nothing there anyway. But she still desperately wants a relationship, if for no other reason to get her through this war.

    Regarding physical advances and assaults on Margaret– and some of them were assaults — the letter writer is correct, and you and Tim were right to agree with him or her. I have a male friend — a fellow veteran, and really a tougher guy than I am, in some respects–who was a victim of rape. He’s only mentioned it a couple of times, and I don’t know the details, but each time it’s come up, it really jarred me. Whether it’s sympathy or stereotypes or whatever, it bothers me. When the day comes that I react similarly to these assault scenes with Margaret, I’ll probably be close to thinking correctly about this.

  8. I forgot to talk about the rifle (although I may be the only one who cares). I looked up what rifle Frank was carrying on the MASH page of the Internet Movie Firearms Database (http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/M*A*S*H_(TV_Series)). It’s an M1 carbine. I can confirm their ID based on the pictures, ’cause Dad has one. Now I will prattle on about rifles. But first, terms and definitions! (Calm down, I know you’re all excited.) If you read to the end, there’s a surprise. Please forgive me when I tell you things you already know. You know I’m pedantic.

    Rifle – long gun with a rifled barrel, i.e., grooved to make the bullet spin and be more accurate.

    Carbine – rifle with a shortened or collapsible stock and a shorter barrel, designed to be lighter and easier to carry. Shortening the barrel decreases accuracy. Typically, officers, senior NCOs, and paratroopers carry carbines. The M4 (and the GAU-5 before it) is a carbine version of the M16. The M4 has been so successful that many troops are carrying it who are not in the usual categories listed above.

    Semi-automatic — one trigger pull = one bang. The semi-auto uses the kinetic energy of the round going off to rack the action back and load the next round into the chamber. Semi-automatic is different than lever-action, bolt-action, pump-action — all ways to manually load the next round into the chamber.

    Fully automatic – one trigger pull (if held) = lots of bangs — until you run out of ammo, which always happens more quickly than you expect. Full-auto guns (usually rifles) load the next round just like a semi-auto, but then the firing pin engages and fires it, too! (NOW how much would you pay?) Full-auto is significantly less accurate than any other action, because the gun is in constant motion while firing, but it’s great for keeping heads down.

    Now, the M1 carbine. It sounds like it’s supposed to be a carbine version of the M1 Garand, the full-size rifle that troops carried in in WWII and Korea. It is actually a similarly-styled, similarly-designed smaller gun that is firing a completely different cartridge. Both fire thirty caliber (written “.30”) rounds, which means the round (and the diameter of the bore, natch) are 30 hundredths of an inch across. But the Garand fires a .30-06 (pronounced “thirty-aught six”), which was designed in 1906. Actually, it was designed in 1903 and modified in 1906, but that’s where it gets the name. The .30 carbine round is shorter. It has less lead in the bullet part and less gunpowder behind it, so it doesn’t shoot as far or have as much stopping power (Force = mass x accelera– you get the idea).

    Anyway, here’s the surprise: Both the M1 carbine and the M1 Garand are semi-automatic, not fully automatic. So Frank would have had to pull the trigger multiple times to spray the room. He was still being crazy spooky dangerous, though. I have it on good authority that even getting shot with only one round hurts a lot (“It BURRRNS!” was the quote, ironically).

    The only fully automatic weapons at the infantry platoon level (platoons are about thirty soldiers commanded by a lieutenant) were the Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR (pronounced Bee Ayy Are) and the M-1919 A-4 light machine gun. Conveniently, they both shared the .30-06 round with the M1 Garand. I don’t know if Frank would have had access to those. You see guards carrying M1 Garands and carbines on MASH pretty regularly, so it makes sense that the 4077th had them in their armory.

    BONUS CONTENT: But where did he get the camouflage fatigues? I didn’t think they were common in the Korean War. The Internet (specifically an unofficial Marine Corps merch site with a blog) tells me that the Marines used a camo pattern called M1942 in the Pacific theater in World War II. They then used it in Korea. So, my head canon is that Frank bought the fatigues from some Marine who needed cash so he could look cool in warrior photos he sent home to Louise. They were then sitting in his footlocker until he freaked out. I think that’s the most pleasant (but still plausible) explanation.

  9. I always felt that Margaret’s engagement came on so quickly. I suppose she always seemed to be looking for someone. She wants a military man like her father. And you can be overcome with passion some time. I have had friends who got engaged within days of meeting someone … it never seems to end well.

    That scene with Frank is gut-wrenching. When re-watching for the show I thought how the writers could have used this as some sort of pivot on Frank to have him soften up. Instead he remains Burns. In other ways, they could have pivoted to make Margaret insufferable and the butt of jokes. Glad that didn’t happen.

    Great comments on this board. Love reading everyone’s insights.

  10. Great episode. As has been mentioned before, Frank seems to be the only MASH character really to have not had an arc. All of the major characters went through changes, and most notibly Margaret, as seen in this episode. But as it has been noted, Frank’s gross ineptitude as a doctor would never get him in the good graces of the other surgeons. The relationship between BJ and Hawkeye and Winchester softened over time, but BJ and Hawkeye did respect Charles’s ability as a surgeon. Frank could never have that luxury. And again, what awesome acting chops Larry Linville had, by repeatedly nailing how unlikable Frank is, even though that seemed to be way off base from the person Larry Linville was.

  11. Another great episode, and another great podcast!
    This is one of my favorite episodes, because it’s the closest we ever get to a humanized Frank Burns. I, too, wish the writers had stuck to the “uber-patriot, kind of iditotic, trying to fit in by being mean to Margaret” Frank that was previewed in the last scene. It would have been better, I think if Hawkeye and BJ had somehow let Frank know that they overheard him talking to his mother. Instead, we get that they know why he is such a broken person, but don’t seem to care. We never see them trying to be nice to him again , IIRC.
    Of course, Larry Linville had already announced his intention to leave, so he probably didn’t push too much to be a “deeper” character. And even if Frank had been given layers, he probably would have ended up as a less-likeable Winchester, anyway.

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