M*A*S*HCast #104 – Mulcahy’s War

M*A*S*HCast -  Season 5, Episode 8: Mulcahy's War

Special Guest Star: Rev. Rob

Air Date: November 16, 1976

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23 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #104 – Mulcahy’s War

  1. Rob and Rev. Rob, thank you for a great episode about a great episode! And Rev. Rob, thanks for sharing your expertise as both a pastor and someone with experience in television. I’m only halfway through, and I’m about a month behind on my MASHcast commenting, but you’ve already brought a lot to mind. On top of that, I’m in line at a base Pass & ID shop waiting to renew my defense contractor access card. So, I have some time.

    First, as an consumer of and advocate for the ministry of military chaplains, let me affirm everything Rev. Rob had to say. Yes, they minister to atheists and agnostics and people who just haven’t thought about it much. Yes, there are chaplains on the front line. But the tension that COL Potter talked about is real, too. There are line officers who don’t want chaplains in the places where I would argue they are needed most. And I’m not saying chaplains should be in the stack when a platoon of Marines or Rangers are conducting a direct action raid, but I think they should be available as soon as those young men (and now women) come off the objective.

    There are even some senior chaplains who don’t want to put their officers in harm’s way, maybe because they don’t want the burden (emotional or administrative) of a chaplain casualty, and maybe because they’ve been conditioned by the anti-chaplain line officers to “stay out of the way.” The best chaplains, however, do it like Father Mulcahy did it — right there in the mix, helping any way they can, and therefore immediately available when spiritual support is needed. And the best commands I’ve worked for support them in that. Now, I’ll step away from the pulpit. As always, of course, I’ll stay within easy reach of it.

    Military working dogs — Again, they are every bit as amazing as this episode portrays. For example, in my first assignment, I was supporting a major joint training exercise wherein the Air Force Security Forces (cops and air base defenders) made great use of military working dogs. One of the senior security force trainers even told the exercise participants that, when it came to defending the perimeter of a forward landing strip, a dog was worth ten security force personnel. We never let him live that down and frequently reminded him how easily we could replace his whole shop.

    Finally, I’ve had some miserable times on deployments where I was feeling worse than useless, and only faith and friends got me through. I never thought about shooting myself, though. MASH taught me that was way too obvious. Now, stepping in front of a truck is a different topic. And a depressed person can also become too eager to run to the sound of the guns. But thanks in no small part to chaplains and fellow laymen of faith, I returned as one of the positive statistics, not the depressing ones.

    1. Dear Captain,

      Thank you very much for your kind comments and for adding your personal experiences to our collective understanding. Your descriptions bring to life much of what we discussed.

      Having served also as a police chaplain for a number of years, I felt some of the push/pull you noted in your military service. Police chaplains provide a welcomed and important service to officers, but don’t want to be in the way or be another person they have to worry about. It’s always a balancing act.

      Thanks again for listening, for commenting, and for stepping up to the pulpit!

      Peace & Blessings,

      Rev. Rob

  2. This is one of my favorite MASH episodes, and Rev. Rob was the perfect guest to help cover it. Rev. Rob brought a lot of personal experience and in-depth research to the discussion, which really added to my appreciation of this episode.

    Father Mulchay is my favorite character from the series, and (while I don’t remember younger me’s first reaction to this episode) I’m guessing Mulchay’s War played a role in that. His quiet warmth and compassion are on full display here and, to top it off, he get’s to perform a tracheotomy in the field with a pocket knife. Mulchay ranks up there with Mr. Rogers as people I try to emulate in my own life and relationships.

    As much as I like the good Father, my favorite line from the episode goes to Hawkeye, when he says that he could have stayed home and performed surgery by phone. I find that line to be particularly relevant as I sit at my laptop, while teleworking from home.

    Thanks for another remarkable episode.

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your support and your comments. Your description of why we love Father Mulcahy is spot on. Well said. And, as a side note, Mr. Rogers was also a man of faith and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He really was who we saw on his show.

      Keep tuning in and thanks again for commenting.

  3. Thank you for another great episode. I always enjoy watching this episode, William Christopher does an amazing job. I always feel for him when he feels useless (and I will feel the same again in the episode “Dear Sis”). I always felt that Private Fitzsimons was needlessly mean to Mulchahy but I guess that was needed for the story.

    I have to say that this season has a run of episodes that are among my favorite.

    Rev Rob made a comment on how good Klinger’s hearing is when he said that wherever he was he could hear the phone. I always felt that he did have great hearing because in “Death Takes a Holiday” Klinger was inside the mess tent where they were having the Christmas party for the orphans and was able to hear the conversation between Charles and the man who ran the orphanage, Choi Sung Ho, which was taken place pretty far from the tent.

    Thank you again for another episode and I look forward to “The Korean Surgeon”

    1. Hello Benjamin,

      I suppose there aren’t many feelings worse than the feeling of being useless, unneeded, unimportant. No one should feel that way. In the episode “Souvenirs”, Col. Potter says, “Remember, somebody at home loves you. Don’t ask me why.” Why?…because everyone is needed and is important even if only at the most basic level of humanity. Someone who feels useless, unneeded, and unimportant needs someone to remind them, “You matter.” Maybe that someone is one of us.

      Thanks for listening and for your comments!

  4. Terrific episode – Rev. Rob is a great guest with insights into the worlds of both TV Production and organised religion – that must be a unique combo!

    Doctors and Vets: As far as I know, in UK law, you’d have to be a doctor registered with our General Medical Council to practice medicine on humans, and a qualified Vet registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons before you can treat animals. So… short answer to the question is No, Doctors shouldn’t be treating animals. Although many of the medicines used are much the same for humans & animals (albeit at different dose, granted) and cats, dogs, hamsters and humans are all mammals with some shared characteristics, there are significant physiological & anatomical differences (just think how humans love chocolate, but it’s toxic to dogs, for example).

    However… if you’re in extremis and the animal would suffer & die without simple / non specialist treatment, such as treating an non infected wound, and there’s no better options available (eg in theatre of war) then maybe it would be reasonable to care for the creature as a “Good Samaritan”act. Perhaps there were so few Military Animals deployed that having a Mobile Veterinary Surgical Hospital (M*V*S*H?!) wasn’t a priority?

    Funny tracheotomy story (because who else is going to offer you a funny tracheostomy story, right?!)

    As a junior doctor, I worked for some time in our local Ear, Nose & Throat department. One day a phone call came through to our ward; an elderly patient on a far-distant geriatric ward had a tracheostomy. As described in the show, a tracheostomy is tube is placed in a surgically created hole in the neck to allow air into the windpipe to allow the patient to breathe – so a blocked tracheostomy will result in asphyxiation and cardiac arrest – a genuine life-threatening emergency. I grabbed the emergency bag we kept on the ward for just such an occasion. Accompanied by our very experienced ward matron, we ran as fast as we could down a couple of stairways and the entire length of the hospital to try to reach the stricken patient in time.

    Sweaty and breathless we piled into the geriatric ward.
    “Where is he?” We demanded of the receptionist.
    Puzzled look. “Where’s who?”
    She indicated a room across the ward. The curtains were drawn. This was not a good sign – was a cardiac resuscitation already in place? Were we too late?

    I pulled back the curtain… A completely naked gentleman was receiving a bed bath from a health care assistant, and – whilst frail – was definitely not experiencing any extreme breathing difficulty! We apologised and backed out.

    Turns out that the ward were concerned about some mucous secretions coming from the tube (a very common issue) and not an actual life0-threatening blockage.

    I left my nursing colleague to have a few choice words with her counterpart about tracheostomy care, and retired to the canteen for a quick coffee after my unexpected – and fortunately unnecessary – High Intensity Workout for the morning!

    1. Thanks, Chris, for the first, and so far only, funny tracheotomy story I’ve heard! Hospitals are indeed unique places. Although there was only one war dog unit in the Korean War, a spin-off of a M*V*S*H dog series would be a hoot. Think of the casting: a pit/poodle as Margaret, golden retriever as BJ, chihuahua as Radar, hound as Hawkeye…? Thanks for your comments!

      1. What an excellent idea! I’d definitely be onboard for an all-canine episode of M*A*S*H! May I propose a handsomely saggy-jowled bloodhound to play Col. Potter.

      2. This discussion teased a childhood memory from the depths of my mind. I recall a cartoon show called M*U*S*H, which was a parody of M*A*S*H where the characters were all sled dogs. According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Croc%27s_Block), M*U*S*H was a cartoon short that was part of a live action/animated TV series called Uncle Croc’s Block, which was broadcast on ABC back in 1975-1976. I don’t know how I ever saw it, since I was just born at the time the show was on, but I definitely remember that it existed.

    1. Thank you, Russell, for listening and for commenting! Among so many great episodes throughout the series, I’m with you as this one still holds a special place on my list. By the way, we didn’t mention it, but Mulcahy seems a little tipsy in his final scene. His hair is a little mussed and his expression is, well, at least one sheet to the wind (to borrow a nautical phrase). Perhaps he is celebrating or more likely settling his nerves?

  5. Great episode.

    I concur with the good doctor above. I should not be treating animals in any way. I am not trained. That said, if this was something simple (lacerations from shrapnel), or straightforward for a trauma surgeon (a ‘simple’ belly wound), Hawkeye could probably fake his way through it in an attempt to save the dog’s life. For me, I would think the anesthesia would be the trickier part. What are the safe doses, etc. As for Hawkeye, doesn’t he operate on Radar’s rabbit when they use that method to see if Margaret is pregnant? Doesn’t he and BJ treat Sophie’s colic with a colonic? This isn’t a first.

    As for the tracheostomy, it is on my list of credentialed procedure although luckily I have never had to actually perform it on a crashing patient. I have treated plenty of patients with trachs and all their assorted ‘usual’ problem.

    Now my funny MASH story. As I said, this is a credentialed albeit rare procedure for me. So every year we get a lecture and a simulation to perform it on to make sure our skills are polished. Inevitably, someone will say ‘where is my Tom Mix pocket knife’? This is a definite way to check on the generation of physician there. If they are nodding, they are old like me. If they say ‘what does that mean, they are young and didn’t watch MASH’.

    1. Agree Anj; the drug doses would be one of the most worrying parts of treating anything but a superficial animal wound… especially without reference to books (and Google was a loooong way off!)

      Anaesthetics in general in M*A*S*H seems to be a very fluid area (excuse the pun); it seems almost anyone can do it! I’ve seen both BJ and Margaret act as anaesthesiologist for Hawkeye so far… how hard can it be?! (Answer – Very hard! Those guys know their respiratory physiology and gas physics like nobody else!) I’m quietly keeping an eye on the head end of the operating table and crossing characters off on my M*A*S*H Anaesthesia Bingo Card. I’m wondering if – in the course of 11 seasons – Radar, Klinger or Mulcahy will ever put a patient under? ;o)

      1. It would be interesting to see when Anesthesiology became its own specialty or if it fell under the umbrella of the proceduralist.

  6. Great episode and I really enjoyed hearing Rev. Rob’s perspective. In watching the series as an adult I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for William Christopher’s acting ability. He’s so believable as Father Mulcahy that sometimes you actually have to remind yourself that he’s not really a priest. Sort of like how it’s hard to imagine that Allan Arbus isn’t really a psychiatrist (as even Alan Alda has said!).

    I think Frank is continuing to lose IQ points this season. He seems to actually buy Hawkeye and BJ’s football story at one point. And then Frank keeps acting like the dog is a human. When it’s pointed out that the dog stepped on the land mine to save a life, Frank responds, “Sure, that’s what he says now.” As if a dog is capable of lying to cover up his true motive. And then later in the mess tent Frank says he’s going to put the dog on his Christmas card list, apparently so the dog will choose to go to Frank for medical care even though Frank is not a veterinarian?! Too funny.

    1. Good point about William Christopher. I wonder if Alan Alda thought of going to Bill for spiritual advice?
      Thanks for your comments.

  7. Great episode. Thank you Rev. Rob for your insightful knowledge. Very informative and quite fun. Cheers!

  8. I remember joking in my review of The Bus that your guest was a Mulcahy fan in an episode without him. Glad he got back on in one where he stars.

    Rev, interesting that you mentioned training dogs to be companions for autism patients. As you probably know, William Christopher had an autistic son. When I was young, a girl at my church got hit by a car and had severe brain trauma. Her parents took her to Philadelphia several times to a clinic and met Christopher and his son. My mom said the girl’s mother (my mom helped with the girl’s therapy some) told her he was a very nice man, just like you see on TV. Do you know if he was religious in real life?

    Christopher was in a late season episode of Andy Griffith. He played a young doctor that nobody trusted because of his age. The Taylors had him over for dinner and he fumbled with his steak knife. Then Opie’s tonsils got infected and Christopher’s character had to take them out. Everyone was nervous, but of course everything went well.

    I haven’t watched the show regularly in years and have gotten things mixed up. I didn’t remember the dog as a part of this episode and thought the tracheotomy was in the Winchester years.

    Anyway, thanks for a great review from you and your guest.

  9. I forgot to mention above that Vince Lombardi played football at Fordham. He was part of their Seven Blocks of Granite offensive line. He played there in the mid-1930s, so Mulcahy may have been aware of him. (Lombardi was a coach at West Point during Korea, became head coach at Green Bay in 1959).

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