M*A*S*HCast #103 – Dear Sigmund

M*A*S*HCast -  Season 5, Episode 7: Dear Sigmund

Special Guest Star: Cory Drew

Air Date: November 9, 1976

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9 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #103 – Dear Sigmund

  1. Hello Gentlemen,

    I just finished your “Dear Sigmund” episode and, as usual, it was great. I always liked this episode. It was nice seeing Sidney vulnerable for a change and his point of view of the characters. I always wondered if the writers wanted us to believe that he was actually writing a letter to Sigmund Freud, which would be difficult since he died in 1939, or just a letter Sidney is writing just for his own therapy (like writing nasty letters but never mailing them).

    Did you know that while we did see Sal Viscuso in this episode, there was no PA announcer at all?

    You mentioned different scenes which are cut for syndication and I just wanted to say that I never understood Sidney’s line of “It’s like spring at MASH. If you can’t find it and you can’t feel it, you just go ahead and make it” until I saw the episode on DVD since my area always cuts the 1st day of Spring scene.

    Thank you for this and all your episodes. Look forward to each one.

  2. Thank you for another great episode, I really liked the conversation.
    And “Dear Sigmund” is just marvelous. Sidney’s line about the sweet boy who listened to the voices is one of my favorites in the entire series.
    Sidney has such a great presence, and I really enjoy the perspective he brings. Because his appearances are so far apart it’s even more impactful.

    And also – nice to “meet” someone who feels the same way about Trapper as I do! 🙂

  3. Great discussion. This is one of my all time favorite episodes of MASH. I thought the same thing as you about how this could be a perfect entry episode to introduce a new viewer to the characters and premise of the show. Having Sidney Freedman as the main character and framing device is very effective.

    Alan Alda’s writing and directing of this episode are outstanding. It is clear how much Alda likes writing for the Sidney Freedman character. I love the story Alda has told many times about how he used to talk behind the scenes to Arbus as if he was really a psychiatrist, and Arbus said something to the effect that you realize I’m not really a psychiatrist, right? In fact, Alda told this story again recently on an episode of his Clear and Vivid podcast in which Michael Keaton was the guest.

    BJ as the practical joker was fun. I love how you can see BJ start to laugh before everyone else when he realizes Margaret is going to be the one to open the bottle, because of course BJ knows what is about to happen. It was a great acting choice by Mike Farrell that awards repeat viewing.

    With The Nurses, The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan, and Dear Sigmund, Season Five has had three A+ episodes in a row, all different from each other and showing the variety of stories MASH could tell.

    Anyway, great episode of the podcast, and I’m looking forward to continuing to rewatch Season Five along with the podcast.

  4. This is probably my all-time favorite MASH episode. I say “probably” because I haven’t ever made the effort to make an actual list, but this one is chock-full of excellent scenes. So I was looking forward to hearing you and your guest discuss it, Rob. Cory did a great job, and in spite of the fact that I’ve never met him (or maybe because of that, haha), I can kinda “see” him as the MASHcast’s Sydney. His conversational tone but his deep understanding of what is going on around him works for the characterization, IMO. Nicely done, gentlemen!

    Having said that, I do have two points I kind of disagree with you about. First, I never thought Hawkeye had anything to do with tying those empty gas cans to Sydney’s jeep. Look at the doctors’ faces when the gas cans fall off; it looks to me like BJ is smiling because the trick worked, but Hawkeye looks surprised. Doesn’t he? Secondly, the scene with Margaret suddenly explodes at the mere sight of a jock-strap never really worked for me. Now if it had been one of Hawkeye’s nudie magazines, I think it would have worked perfectly! Of all of the character vignettes, I think hers works the least well. And as an aside, we always saw the Swamp men in boxer shorts. Where did the jock-strap come from and who would have worn it…for what?

    Personally, I DO think the private was convinced at Klinger’s performance. It just felt like he was genuinely concerned. And that bit has one of my favorite lines in the show, when Klinger is rambling and says something, Potter asks Braverman what Klinger says, and he repeats it back to him. I can’t remember the words, but it makes me laugh every time.

    On the other side of the emotional spectrum, the letter Radar writes on the death of O’Donnell brings tears to my eyes EVERY TIME I watch it. The genuine emotional kick of the letter just gets me. I have been told that I have a certain way with words, and often when there is a personal or even professional gathering, people ask me to say a few words. I always try to go for the simple and honest, like Alan Alda does in this scene. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

    I have read that Larry Linville made it clear pretty early-on during this season that it would be his last. Funny that you, Rob, thought that he decided much later. Surely the creative side knew by the time of Margaret’s Wedding episode? Also, I have read that Margaret’s divorce was NOT pre-planned. I can’t remember where I read it, but I think that the idea to keep her married was tossed after a few years because the writers realized that more story ideas were possible with her as a divorced woman than as a married woman. But like Rhoda, the intention was for her to stay married. This might be different depending on who is telling the story, though. Maybe for example producers Allan Katz & Don Reo wanted to keep her married, but the next group of producers/writers didn’t?

    Anyway, keep up the great work and I look forward to the rest of season five, my second-favorite season!

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  5. A few points:

    First, the line with respect to Mulcahy that “he has no training whatsoever” always struck me as completely wrong. I put it in context for two reasons: First, Sidney is “talking” to Sigmund Freud. Thus I believe this is meant “no training whatsoever” in psychoanalysis. My experience – and I will admit that I could be very wrong – is that psychoanalysts (a school with psychiatry) can think that even other psychiatrists who practice differently know nothing. Out of world, I believe it was written that strong to shock the audience and for THEM to say “Hey, that isn’t right!” as part of the pro-humanity theme of MASH: No one is perfect, (almost) no one is irredeemable.

    Second, I want to add a bit more about Radar telling Potter that the ambulance driver is dead: Once I was in the ED when a passenger was brought in after a bad car accident. The physician asked what happened to the driver. The EMT said, “I pronounced him dead.” The physician with a bit of not-unkind humor said, “YOU (a non-physician) pronounced him dead?” To which the EMT responded, “Well … you don’t need to have an M.D. to know a guy without a head is dead.” In the same way Radar noticed that the ambulance driver was dead instantly. This means that not only is he dead, but he is almost certainly gruesomely dead since Radar knows within seconds that he is dead. That obviously adds to his trauma.

    Finally, as you were talking on the podcast I noticed a parallel between Sidney and Captain Hathaway:

    It was correctly stated that Hathaway is incredibly privileged and does not realize it. However, it is also hard to ignore Sidney’s privilege. He says that “winter is the busy season for shrinks” and he was seeing “15 patients a week; total crackups.” However, he then goes and leaves and spends two weeks “on vacation” since he feels a little depressed. I am not making a comparison between Hathaway and Sidney – a “vacation” at a MASH is not the same as going home at night during a war – but it may not be that far off. I also don’t minimize the horror he faced but It is doubtful that anyone else in Korea would have had the ability to just take two weeks off. And what of the “15 patients a week” during the “busy season”? I also have to wonder if Sidney “going crazy” (possible pun possibly intended) over losing ONE patient struck Hawkeye in much the same way as Hathaway’s comments about the war? (Oh, ONE patient! You lost ONE patient and you think the world just stops?”)

    Along those lines, it is interesting to note that Sidney “perks” up after Hathaway is exposed to the realities of war. Perhaps Sidney realizes that he too has been avoiding the horrors of war; just in a different way these last two weeks. Perhaps that too was part of Hawkeye’s “master plan.”

    Since I can’t resist on two other points:

    I think Margaret’s boxers would have had to have been fairly common knowledge. There are a number of references to “hanging laundry on the line”, and even in the 70’s and 80’s my grandparents used to dry clothes in that way. I cannot imagine the 4077th would have a laundry for personal clothing – it being far too hard to transport.

    Also, I have to think that Habib was in on Klinger’s plot. It is pretty hard to fake being hit in the head with a helicopter blade. Especially, since as Potter noted, the helmet had tire tracks on it.

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  6. This is one of my favorite episodes. You both covered it well. I think that BJ and I had something in common. I played a lot of jokes while deployed to Iraq myself. I headed in with some prank devices that used caps from a cap gun. They were a pen that would bang when you opened it; a paperclip that would bang when you picked up the paper it was attached to; and what looked like a disposable lighter that went bang when you picked it up.

    I snuck into the orderly room when no one was in and set up the pen and paperclip with some reports attached to it. I then went out to the smoking area and placed the joke lighter on the couch out there. My bunk was close to both areas. As I was laying in my cot getting ready to sleep, I heard the first bang followed by a frustrated, “damn.” Then I heard another bang and another, “damn.” I heard footsteps going out to the smoking area. After a moment there was another bang and another, “damn!”

    Angry footsteps approached my cot. A very angry sergeant tossed all of my prank devices onto my cot. He looked at me and said, “sir, take these things and shove them…” Well, I don’t want to make you get in trouble with the censors. He told me to put them where the sun doesn’t shine.

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    1. Joe, I’m with your NCO, although it’s pretty funny NOW. 🙂

      I remember the “Summer of Green on Blue” in 2012, when any sharp noise or might make someone put his hand on his firearm, even in a “safe” conference room with your Afghan partners. I also remember Thanksgiving at Camp ISAF in 2014, when some dining hall contractor or NCO thought it would be a fun idea to put party poppers on the tables. I looked around at all the guys I knew with significant deployment time. It was not a relaxing, holiday environment for us, although we appreciated the effort. We ate quickly and left.

      Side note: Then I Skyped my family. Then the obligatory holiday attack on Kabul’s version of a green zone happened. I had to explain to my family why the lady on the PA was saying “Shelter in place” over and over. They accepted my conversation redirect, but I didn’t fool anybody. It was a perfunctory attack, really. I’m grateful that we didn’t lose anybody on the camp that night, and I don’t know if there were any casualties at all in the area. That said, it was still a little more harsh reality than I wanted my family to see.

  7. Wow. Great MASH episode, great podcast episode, and great comments! I won’t repeat everything I agreed with (like the Corporal Captain’s take on Margaret’s reaction). Some additional points, though:

    Laundry: Even in *somewhat* austere camps, I’ve seen both makeshift do-it-yourself laundromats or drop-off laundry services where local contractors do the washing, drying, and folding. Time is short and hygiene is important. If it was a drop-off laundry, the Koreans working there would know what Margaret wore.

    I just asked somebody how it was done by a small unit (smaller than a MASH) on a forward operating base. I’ve been to a FOB (pronounced like key fob), but I wasn’t able to stay long enough to do laundry. My friend says that once the camp was fully established, they got washers and dryers and did their own. Before that, it was buckets and a clothesline.

    Regarding Captain Hathaway, an aircrew member who is that cognitively disconnected from the effects of his work is rare — but I’ve met a few. Even as a kid, I thought Hawkeye’s “treatment” was appropriate, and I still think so. War is ugly, but the Powell doing the work, especially officers and NCOs, need to know exactly what their decisions really mean. It’s the only way to make the right ones.

    Regarding the 9 to 5 war concept, it was real in my career and I suspect it was real then. In Operation ALLIED FORCE (1999 — stopping Serbs from killing Kosovars), we had pilots stationed in Europe flying combat missions on the same day they mowed their lawn or went to their kid’s piano recital. Let me tell you, making people go through those jarring transitions every day and dividing their focus like that is a sub-optimal way to go to war.

    We have similar problems with the crews flying remotely piloted aircraft, commonly called drones. Some of them are in regular communication with guys on the ground and then watch them die. Many of those aircrews are responsible for killing the enemy that targets those troops. Then those aircrews go home and have to live their normal lives with their families. We employ some Sidneys and Fathers Mulcahy to address that dichotomy.

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