M*A*S*HCast #71 – White Gold

M*A*S*HCast -  Season 3, Episode 23: White Gold

Special Guest Star: Bitt Schramm

Air Date: March 11, 1975

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Theme music by Johnny Mandel

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25 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #71 – White Gold

  1. Great episode guys & welcome Britt; your first podcast was really enjoyable!


    1] Hawkeye & Trapper are strapping up Perkins’ chest which was a common treatment for a fractured rib (…although Trapper clearly says that there’s “no broken bones”…) Strapping is not performed now, as it’s thought that over-tight bandages can prevent the chest from fully expanding, which increases the risk of a chest infection developing. However, I think strapping the chest would still have been normal practice in both the Korean War and in the 1970s when the show was filmed. As to the correct length of bandages, I suspect Trapper likes the longer length as it will stretch further and give a bit more traction to the painful area?
    I like that there’s a discrepancy between Hawkeye & Trapper’s individual practice, and that there’s some good-natured banter about what’s the best approach. Almost all clinicians will have their own quirky preferences about how best to do something, and – trust me – I’ve been party to some heated Real-life discussions about the correct approach to a problem that were far less civil than Trapper’s dark mutterings!

    2] What did they give Flagg to mimic appendicitis? The text book symptoms of appendicitis are evolving pain in the lower Right part of the abdomen (although confusingly the pain can move around as it develops), fever, nausea & vomiting and loss of appetite. Hawkeye says that Flagg had abdominal cramps and his whole side is inflamed – enough to make his gun hot! (That’s odd, as the inflammation with appendicitis is internal, causing peritonitis. I’m going to put that comment down to Hawkeye’s Groucho-like sense of humour!) Obviously pain, fever, cramping and inflammation are all symptoms we want to CURE, not CAUSE, so these symptoms would be considered Adverse Effects of a drug.
    There are a few modern immunosuppressant drugs that could cause all of these effects, but nothing that would be contemporary with the war or even the show’s production. I’m going to suggest that what the boys slipped into Flagg’s coffee was some sort of powerful laxative that would cause horrible bowel cramping, and that they falsely confirmed the other symptoms. Perhaps that’s why Flagg seems to doubt the veracity of their diagnosis as he fails to go under the anaesthetic for the umpteenth time.
    (And it goes without saying that it’s all highly unethical, of course. There’s a well-known phrase in medicine: “First, Do No Harm”. It’s not actually part of the Hippocratic Oath, but it’s definitely violated by Hawkeye & Trapper here, even if it is for the greater good!)

    1. Okay, Dr. Lewis, that’s all very informative, and it authoritatively answers the questions raised by the podcast. But you made me think of another question. How do you treat someone who slams his head into filing cabinets? Because that seems like one of the most serious conditions we saw on the show.

      On the topic of Flagg, has anyone else noticed that in every appearance, his sleeves are significantly too short? It’s as if he’s intentionally showing a little forearm for Margaret’s sake. Or maybe he had a growth spurt in his late thirties.

      1. For the head injury, you’d want to assess for concussion and exclude a skull fracture, but here Flagg doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of confusion (over and above his usual rather odd behaviour!) so the boys are suturing up what look like at least three superficial scalp lacerations. There’s not enough bleeding depicted here – scalp wounds can bleed like a stuck pig!
        As to treating someone who can be driven to cause himself harm in order to maintain an apparently delusional story… I think that’s more in Psychiatrist Sydney Freedman’s realm tbh!

        1. Thanks, Chris! “Over and above his usual rather odd behaviour” would be a high bar indeed. I did like Rob’s phrasing of “in love with his own toughness.”

  2. I cracked a rib in 1995 and the doctor gave me a padded vest to wear for a few days. If you have never cracked a rib, you are lucky. It hurts to breathe.

    I take four pills every morning. I usually take them with water but a couple weeks ago I used coffee and they dissolved before I could swallow them.

    Loved the use of the word penultimate.

    Next week sounds interesting given all the hype you gave it. From the title, it sounds like Henry is going to Ethiopia. Can’t wait to hear it.

    1. And used correctly, too! Next, I’d like to hear “decimated” and “literally” used correctly. Just sometime before I die, I mean.

      1. I once saw a comic strip (not Far Side, but one of those like it) that had a drawing of nine Roman soldiers standing around looking at a deceased colleague that had an arrow stuck in his chest.

        One guy said “ Getting decimated isn’t as bad as I thought it would be”.

  3. Bitt, I failed to mention this, but great first podcasting performance! I’m just a listener, so there may be telltale signs I’m missing, but you sounded like an old pro to me.

    Also, solidarity to all military brats, although your experience was more impactful than mine. My family had already finished its last overseas assignment by the time I was born. My Airman dad enjoyed MASH just like your Sailor dad, though. He allowed that things were exaggerated for humorous effect, but they also got a lot right. And he didn’t think they were really mean-spirited toward the military, like some small percentage seem to do.

  4. I’ll concur with Chris’ assessment above.

    It isn’t an appendicitis pill as much as a pill to cause severe abdominal pain. Back in MASH days, appendicitis was a clinical diagnosis. No use of ultrasound or CT then. So if as a doc you had high suspicion, you needed to bring someone to the OR. The risk of perf’d appendicitis and significant morbidity there made taking some ‘normal appendix’ patients to the OR okay.

    But yes, this is a wrong thing for Hawkeye to do. There is risk to the OR – anesthesia complications, surgical complications, post-op infections, and even lifelong risk of adhesions in the abdomen. So this is definitely an overreach by him, ends not justified by the means.

  5. The background music in this episode made me feel like I was watching The Brady Bunch or I Dream Of Jeannie when hijinks are jinking along. Maybe it was an experiment, or maybe just following the tropes of the time. Truly bizarre, but oddly helpful to convey not taking Flagg wrecking the tent seriously.

    I forget, was it Flagg’s son or grandson that leads the Suicide Squad? (Comic book jokes! *trombone sound*)

    Interesting thought about wanting to see the original commercials, Rob. It’s similar to your sentiment against digital comics because they don’t have the ads, again a time capsule of the book’s period. Having seen the kind of ads the MeTV shows with MASH, I’d welcome those original commercials!

    Welcome to podcasting, Britt! You did fantastic! I’m sure we’ll hear you again.

    1. Tim,

      Great comparison! This episode would definitely fit right at home with either of those two shows with those music cues.

      As for the Colonel, I’ve always thought that his offspring was Reuben Flagg (comic book reference).

      And shockingly enough, I’m in agreement with Rob on the distaste for digital comics. In fact, I wrote a column for Movie Poop Shoot (RIP) about their blight on society.

      Thanks for the kind words, sir!

      1. Well, the Colonel IS an American! Someone should Chaykin to that. I mean, “check into that.” Don’t know how I made that mistake. (Ok, I’ll stop.)

        You’re quite welcome, Britt!

  6. I really like this episode, for a few reasons. First of all, it’s got Trapper and Hawkeye in tandem working together, which was great. Secondly, it’s a Col Flagg episode, which were always funny. And third, the story was equally funny and serious. Unlike Rob I didn’t think it was THAT goofy. Sure, the scene where Flagg is injuring himself was way too long (and painful to watch, ouch!), but it follows right after a scene where Hilly Hicks seriously thought he was about to be shot in the back “escaping.” That’s some pretty serious stuff! (Especially nowadays) The arguments about torture were great, as well as the whole episode premise: the Aid Station as well as the Black Market *needs* morphine.
    This is one of my favorite episodes. Hawkeye and Trapper don’t take the seriousness around them too seriously. They wouldn’t have that luxury much longer. 🙁

  7. On the subject of Flagg with the prisoner being the longest scene without a main character. How did it compare in screen time with Sidney talking to Jesus?

  8. Something I have always found curious is that Flagg never flirted with Margaret. I think he must be the only visiting brass not to, well one of the few anyway.

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