M*A*S*HCast #65 – The Consultant

M*A*S*HCast –  Season 3, Episode 17 :The Consultant

Special Guest Star: Chris Karam

Air Date: January 17, 1975

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16 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #65 – The Consultant

  1. I will admit I recognized Robert Alda as a character actor I saw a lot on TV, but I didn’t know he was Alan Alda’s father. He was particularly good in that Spider-Man episode Chris mentions, honestly much better than the material he was working with. That episode was also made memorable by Joanna (Mighty Isis) Cameron in a very tiny bikini.

    Chris

  2. Great review, gentlemen! Now, I will exploit you for free therapy.

    So the thing that happens to Borelli, where he thinks he’s fine right up until he isn’t? It happens just like that. I probably didn’t experience a tenth of what this fictional character would have gone through in two world wars, and there have been times when I needed a lot less in the way of a trigger.

    It was July 2016, almost a year after the last of my several combat zone deployments. My family had gone to a reunion in the mountains without me, because I had a spiffy new civilian(ish) job and no accrued time off. That was fine, of course; for a week, the whole house would be my man-cave. Then, my daughter’s cat got really sick, and I was off to the animal emergency room in the middle of the night.

    While I waited as the veterinarian performed tests that would yield no good news, I made small talk with the young vet tech sitting at the reception counter. Something one of was wearing or saying tipped the other one off that he was military; I don’t remember what. We started with the usual list of questions – branch, career field, where you served, where you deployed, etc. Turned out he was an intel Marine who had deployed to Al-Anbar province in Iraq – specifically Fallujah, I think – and Helmand province in Afghanistan. He saw my face fall when he said the place names. I think that told him I would know a little bit of what he was talking about. Then, our conversation was off and running.

    He told me about losing his battalion commander in Iraq and the effect that had on his unit. He told me about the IEDS in Helmand, and how they were able to identify new threats and new enemy tactics in the area and share the intel with others. He also told me how he volunteered to leave the forward operating base and go on more combat missions, because he couldn’t handle staying behind while he sent friends out and had them come back as casualties. He told me more stuff that I am fine with not remembering. He just wanted to process it with somebody who would get it, because it helps to do that every so often. I was happy to listen, because others have done the same for me, and my experiences were far less difficult than his.

    Then the vet came out with the bad news about my daughter’s awesome cat, and the Marine and I parted ways. I drove the cat home, full-on ugly crying in the car about the loss this young man had experienced and the less significant loss my family soon would. The realization for me was, I had thought I was “okay” – that I’d processed everything I would need to, and I was “back to normal.”

    A couple years later, the first job had led right into the next one. I was still working as contracted support for the same military command, but in a different division. We had scheduled a meeting with a military officer about a plan we needed his help with. When he showed up, he and I realized we had been deployed together, overlapping for a few months in western Afghanistan. We hadn’t worked closely together, but we had some mutual friends. After business was out of the way, we started talking about old times – how this op and that one had looked from our respective supporting roles, telling each other the parts of the story we didn’t already know. We eventually got to ops that went wrong and the people we’d lost, and we each ended the meeting more somber than we had started it.

    Two of the folks in my office noticed the change in demeanor. They started chatting with me about how they processed it when something like this came up — watching this war movie, reading this veteran’s poetry – and oh yeah, drinking. But not too much. We actually laughed about the dreams I could look forward to that week.

    The lesson I took from these experiences and others was that I would never be the same person I was before going to war. But I eventually decided that didn’t mean I wasn’t okay. Hearing about sacrifice and loss or the hardship and trauma that people living in a war zone experience affects me more deeply now. But I can still function just fine. Those things are more powerful to me because my understanding of them is deeper and more real. So I’m calling it a feature, not a bug. I hope Hawkeye and Borelli came to similar conclusions.

    1. Hey, Captain, I realize my comments below fly in the face of your comment “it happens just like that.” I mean no disrespect. I just didn’t feel like this episode did enough story-building to get to that emotional scene. Maybe if we had seen him flashback to something in a conversation with Henry or Father Mulcahy, I would be more convinced. Sorry!

      And I’m glad you’re doing as OK.

      1. Thanks, Russell. My experiences are just my experiences, and what resonated with me can certainly be implausible to you. I’m just happy I didn’t kill the discussion!

  3. Hey, I didn’t mean to kill comments here just ’cause I got all serious. Somebody be like MASH and crack a joke after the heavy part to relieve the tension, please!

  4. This is one of my least favorite episodes. I don’t like how the story is so crammed; SO much time spent on the Tokyo trip, and then SO much time spent on how good a doctor Berelli is, and then the rushed ending of him actually having “feet of clay.” I think later MASH episodes did this type of drama MUCH better than they did it this time out.

    Like you, Rob, I didn’t understand that Berelli was drunk in that scene. He didn’t act or “act” drunk, and he hadn’t been shown drinking earlier (or upset with his environment). It just seemed to come out of left field. Also, he seemed lucid enough to guide Hawkeye and Trapper in the operation! So as a kid I didn’t get it, and as an adult I don’t think it was well presented. No hand shaking or slurring or anything….

    Also agreeing with Rob, I dislike immensely the loss of Trapper from the second act. Why did Radar come to tell only Hawkeye that Berelli was drunk? Why did Trapper (or for that matter, Henry) not get more angry at Berelli for letting them all down? It became a “let’s think about how much Hawkeye drinks” episode rather than a …. I don’t know what, but something about clay feet and feeling pressure and etc.

    I just didn’t “buy” that an operation that he had done dozens of times before would spook him like that.

    Lastly, I’m surprised neither of you mentioned that Robert Alda was a legitimate Broadway star before he went to Hollywood. He won a Tony for Best Actor for his role in Guys & Dolls, which is where my parents knew him from. For years, Alan was famous as HIS son, instead of HIM being famous as Alan’s father. Check out the original Broadway cast of Guys & Dolls if you want to hear him sing, especially “Luck Be A Lady Tonight.”

    1. Thanks for the tip, Russell. I will definitely look up Robert’s performance, especially if the local community theater resurrects post-pandemic for the planned showcase, where “Luck be a Lady Tonight” was a number I’d be doing.

  5. Russell, I agree with you and Rob about the loss of Trapper being unfortunate, but I’m betting that Chris is right that they were going for the father-son acting scene. Also, I think Radar wanted to minimize Borelli’s shame, and this just occurred to me, but if everyone had gone to the Swamp and lectured Borelli, it might’ve looked like they were ganging up on him.

    I haven’t rewatched the episode in a while, but I don’t think it was the operation that threw him. It was the sights and sounds and smells of medicine in a combat zone all over again, and especially the parade of mutilated young men. But that’s me and my head canon. This is fiction, so we can make it whatever we want.

    I never saw or heard the Broadway version of Guys and Dolls. The Hollywood production, with Brando in the Sky Masterson role, is my favorite musical. Did you know Sky and Bat Lash are both based on the real Bat Masterson? At least, that’s the way I heard it, I think.

  6. Finally got to the last twelve minutes! Rob, I would think part of the medical staff’s fascination with the graft was genuine fascination, but part would have to be the knowledge they might have to do the same procedure the next day.

    Chris, thanks for adding in the point from Dr. Dishell’s interview. That raises my esteem for this troupe (and the show) even more.

  7. I actually like the introduction of the arterial transplant technique in ‘The Consultant’, because it was something that would pop up from time to time in future episodes. In “Comrades in Arm, Parts 1 & 2′, Hawkeye and Margaret are going to the 8063rd to teach them the arterial transplant technique. Later, in ‘Patent 4077’, Hawkeye and BJ are trying to build a vascular clamp to help with arterial transplants. I’m guessing there are other episodes that I’m not remembering.

    While MASH is known for ignoring past continuity, this is one continuity thread that weaves throughout the series.

    Thanks for another incredible episode.

  8. In real life, Trapper and especially Henry would have jumped on Borelli’s ass for being drunk but the writers wanted to set up an Alda v. Alda showdown. I wonder if this role was created for Robert or if it was written first and then he expressed interest in guesting on the show.

    I watched Comrades in Arms last week and he got mentioned. Margaret and Hawkeye were headed to the 8063rd to demonstrate the procedure when they got stranded. When Potter was telling them about going, she said Dr. Borelli had taught it to him.

    When he returned (along with his other son) he was practically a different character as the previous visit and what happened was ignored.

    He didn’t really drunk to me. But maybe he just looked drunk sitting there. I guess he was able to explain how to do it even if he was in no condition to operate.

    Thanks for the information about Dishell adding extra information about the surgery with the details about the foot regarding its color.

    The part about Radar driving off and leaving Henry sounds like it was an old sight gag from a movie.

    At risk of reading way too much into this, I wonder if having Alda’s dad as a guest star further entrenched MASH as the Alan Alda Show and helped push Rogers and Stevenson out the door. And, yes, I know Robert Alda was a legitimate star in his own right.

    I had always hoped they would have a reunion movie and have Robert play Hawkeye’s dad. But he died not long after the show ended and they didn’t do one anyway.

  9. Maybe this is too obvious, but it’s interesting watching this episode knowing about Hawkeye’s own breakdown in the series finale. Very different causes, reasons, and coping, but the parallels are there. Pretty powerful yet understated episode.

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