M*A*S*HCast #121 – Fade Out, Fade In

M*A*S*HCast -  Season 6, Episode 1: Fade Out, Fade In

Special Guest Stars: Scott X and Dr. Anj

Air Date: September 20, 1977

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24 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #121 – Fade Out, Fade In

    1. Same here. The years when Radar & Winchester were on are my favorite. The more serious the show got, the more everyone picking on Frank felt like they were kicking a puppy. Now Hawkeye & BJ have someone on their level that can mess with them as much as they mess with him.

  1. Yay, you’re back! I’m so excited!
    How awesome that so many people wanted to come on the show, I look forward to many, many interesting conversations this seasons.

    I really love season 6, Charles was such a great addition to the show. A worthy “foe” for Hawkeye and BJ, it’s clear from the first seconds that they are not gonna be exactly friendly, but right away there is a professional respect there. I love that we see right from the beginning that Charles is clever and competent, and that the dynamics are about to change.
    And David Ogden Stiers – what a perfect casting choice! He is my second favorite actor on the show, I love the dignity he brings and just his presence on screen. He is such an honest actor, everything he does is 100% Winchester, I never see just an actor showing off his skills, if that makes any sense. One of my favorite things is to watch the actors reactions, and David has the best reactions, along with Loretta Swit, I just adore watching those two when they are not even the focus of the scene.
    Charles’s and Margaret’s relationship is great throughout the show, and I like that they have this little bit of flirtiness going on in the beginning. I guess they are just exotic creatures to each other, he is rich, tall and skilled – though rich only comes second on her list 🙂 – and just a type of man she is not used to being around. And for him, she is a cute, blonde firecracker and I’m assuming that the women in his life so far have been more demure.

    The scene with Hawkeye, BJ and Margaret is a favorite of mine. And I love that you mentioned Margaret’s reaction when BJ tells her that they care. It’s just a couple of seconds, but the way she looks at BJ then, like she can’t believe what she is hearing, just says so much about her. Margarets default setting is that everyone is out to get her, and she just finds it mind-boggling that someone could truly care.
    When it comes to her not getting Donald’s reaction, I think Margaret is very used to dating. Partying, having a good time, used to casual hookups, while deep inside longing for something real. Even though her love affairs are often treated as a joke, and sometimes it is more sad than anything – it probably has a lot to do with her looking for some kind of affirmation from older men in uniform because she was never good enough for her father – but I like that they gave her this unapologetic sexuality, that she knows what she wants and goes for it. Maybe she censored her previous love life a bit for Donald. And in the 50s, like you talk about, her lifestyle is unusual, and I’m sure Donald was very overwhelmed being confronted with it, I’m sure he though it was okay for him as a man to be out and about, but it was not okay for a woman.

    Ah, look at me, my first very long comment about this new season! 🙂 Keep up the great work!

  2. Welcome back M*A*S*HCast!!! You truly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, a feeling I learned quite well in my days as an Air Force medic back in the ’80s. Speaking of which, certain military occupations will give rank credit based on job experience, and I knew doctors with a decade or more experience that would enlist as a major or even a lieutenant colonel based on that experience. The military medical officer training was not physically tough, unlike enlisted basic training, so Winchester enlisting as a major at the age of 34 – which is how old David Ogden Stiers was when he joined the cast – after completing medical school, residency, and several years as a practicing thoracic surgeon would not require money or political connections. Remember, B.J. started fresh out of his residency and he was a captain, so add 5 years experience and enlisting as a major is not a stretch. Now, Winchester’s connections may have gotten him the assignment at Tokyo, but even having connections only mean so much if you are a jerk to your commander, so sorry Charlie, it’s off to combat you go. And creatively, it makes sense to give Hawkeye and B.J. a foil that they cannot just order around.

  3. Colonel Baldwin is a real piece of work. Putting a man’s life at risk just to weasel out of a gambling debt.
    Also I wish Larry Linville could have come back for this to act out his wild Tokyo departure. Farewell ferret face.

  4. Great start to the season. Going back and watching the open credits, sure enough there was Larry Linville. Perhaps in that era of television, casting choices weren’t well known and maybe they were sending out a red herring to the audience?

    As for the cribbage game. I have wondered something for years, how does one accumulate money while playing crib? Is it the number of points you win the game by? Is it based on the hand you have? I’ve played crib for years and could never figure this out.

    My understanding of the rank system is the same as Ted’s in that it had to do with experience determining the ranks prior to entry.

    And all I have to say to Scott is . Of course Frank would lie about it all. That’s who he is.

  5. Great episode. Charles is my favorite character, and while this season was kind of shaky with his characterization at times, they really nailed a lot of his better qualities right off the bat. His arrogant attitude set things up for him to take the antagonist role from Frank, but we already get to see that he’s much more than that. He’s a genuinely competent doctor, who’s over his head in this environment, and he freely admits as much after the OR session despite his own pride. And what’s more, while he’s obviously a very serious, even stuffy character, they establish the fact that he can allow himself to drop the pretenses and have fun by pushing back at Hawkeye’s prank, while still maintaining his dignity. I will say “Welcome to Korea” is my favorite introductory episode given its concept of introducing BJ to the craziness of war one situation at a time, but “Fade Out, Fade In” is probably better in terms of getting us to understand the character itself.

    Since this is my first comment, and you talk about your favorite era of the series, I’d probably go with seasons 4-7 for mine. I do love its entire run, and even my least favorite season (season 11) has its great episodes, but as someone who loves MASH for its thorough exploration of dramedy, as well as the more experimental side of the show, those seasons hit all the right notes for me.

  6. Did anyone ever ask Larry Linville what he thought of Frank’s “fate”? Maybe his response would give us a clue as to whether the character was lying? Either way, I subscribe to Scott’s newsletter.

  7. Welcome back. Been looking forward to this for a while and you didn’t disappoint. I was glad when Frank left because during season 5, once Margaret got engaged, his character became almost impossible for me to watch. Charles is a great character and it was nice to see someone who can go toe-to-toe with Hawkeye & BJ. I almost forgot how egotistical he was throughout his run.

    I was wondering, the episode “The Price” season 7 episode 18 was the first time that he (and the show) referred to himself as the THIRD. Does anyone know why this was decided so far into his run? Was this done in order to make him sound more snobbish?

    Thank you for all your hard work on these episodes.

  8. Welcome back! It seems like our collective 3-day pass in Seoul lasted for months, but now we’re back in camp and ready for the choppers.

    We’re entering the phase of M*A*S*H* that I had long been less-certain about. I grew up in the mid-Seventies watching the nightly syndicated episodes (which at that point were still mostly the Henry and Trapper seasons), and only started to watch the new first-run episodes when BJ and Potter joined up, so “my” 4077th, the one I knew and liked best, were from those years. I still watched the Winchester seasons, of course, but even though some of my very favorite moments on the show happened during those years, I for the longest time didn’t feel as close a connection to the series, partly because of the shift in tone toward more drama, but largely because I wasn’t able to really connect with Charles.

    But through repeated viewings over the years, as I grew older and (for the sake of this point) wiser, I came to appreciate him more and more. What at first seemed to be an acting style from David Ogden Stiers that was seemingly at odds with the other actors was, I eventually came to realize, a specific choice so as to distinctly set Charles apart from the other characters, even in the midst of them. And I also developed great respect for the acting talents of Stiers once I saw him do other non-M*A*S*H* roles, and it became clear that he was playing Winchester in a manner that was something other than himself. To clarify, what I mean to say is I think it’s pretty obvious that Alan Alda and Mike Farrell were basically just playing themselves as Hawkeye and BJ, but Stiers was in essence giving two performances at once…playing a very specific kind of character while also performing his lines. I can’t imagine he was ever able to grow as ‘old shoe’ comfortable in his role as the other cast did in theirs, because he had to always be something he wasn’t, rather than just be an extension of himself. I finally came to understand that Stiers was as much of a genius at achieving this as Larry Linville was with his portrayal of Frank.

    And we M*A*S*H* fans often talk about how the series was in many ways two distinct shows: the first being the hi and low-jinx of the Henry and Trapper years, and the second beginning when BJ and Potter came aboard and the show began leaning harder into drama. But I would put forth that with Season Six, we got the start of a third show, also called M*A*S*H* and sharing the same cast as the earlier incarnations. But this third version didn’t simply move further into drama (without abandoning comedy, of course), but I feel that it went beyond powerful dramatic moments, and also often achieved moving and even profound moments in ways that the first five years only glancingly did. So while Seasons Four and Five will forever be my favorites, I could make the case that the sixth year and beyond are the seasons that allowed M*A*S*H* to have its greatest impact on the nature of what a weekly television show could fully be.

    1. Great points. I agree with a lot of it, especially the last paragraph. I have my own preferences (the middle seasons being my favorite), and can see how fans of one era may not connect as well with another, but I think each era brings something special to the show, helping to make it as great and unique as it is.

      Same goes for the cast. MASH has one of my favorite ensemble casts (along with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and it wouldn’t be the same without any of them IMO. I will admit, there was a period (after having watched the show for a while) when I under-valued Frank’s character, in large part due to contrasting him with Charles, who’s my favorite character. However, while he’s still my least favorite character, I appreciate him a lot more now, and agree with your point on Larry Linville’s acting. Put many other actors in that kind of role, and it could fall apart very easily. Also, while one could easily consider him over-the-top and cartoony (especially in his later seasons), I’ve come to realize that that can actually be pretty true to life as well, given certain *ahem* real-life people I’ve come to learn about.

  9. i dont know as i guy who found his later years of working in an office I found way too touchie feelie (it’s hard to do trust falls in a wheelchair) The part where hawkeye calls him “CHarlie” and gets corrected I no long think “What a stiff!” Now i think “damn it his name IS charles!

  10. I always thought that one of Winchester’s problems is that he is an introvert surrounded by extrovert. On top of that he comes from a part of society that the other’s don’t get. So his air of superiority is almost a shield to hold people back. He has all the signs. He tends to recharge by going and doing something by himself or only a handful of people. Even when doing things with others he tries to have it be with small numbers within the groups. Also he’s not really a big fan of small talk. He even actually cares about others he just shows it differently. Yes he is also full of himself but was kinda raised that way and when in stressful situations one tends to fall back on what one knows

  11. This is an excellent way to start the season. And whereas I would loved to have seen Larry Linville say good-bye, I did enjoy everything about this introduction of Charles. Nice discussion, as always.
    A few comments of my own: I really enjoyed the scene between Margaret, BJ, and Hawkeye. I also noticed when Margaret “picked up” after BJ says, “We care.” A really good, important scene for the three of them. I never thought Frank was lying when he talked to Hawkeye; I kinda always thought him getting promoted and shipped home was MASH’s way of saying, “Yes, the Army really was stupid sometimes.” (Regardless of how great Potter is.) And lastly, my favorite moment in the episode is after Charles’ first session in OR. He is in the changing room alone before the others join him, and he has a moment where his facial expression and body language totally represents DEFEAT. Then the others walk in, and he sits up straighter and blanks out his look. It’s amazing, and if you blink you miss it.
    Charles was never my favorite character, but I look forward to appreciating him more and possibly even liking him as I re-watch the episodes.

  12. Welcome back! As for Winchester being a Major, it could have depended on the needs of the Army. Even in modern times, the Army’s needs drove things like promotion rates. It’s entirely possible that the Army had a slot for a Major in Tokyo General and promoted Winchester.

  13. Ah, Charles! I’ve always preferred him to Frank, but it’s been great following this podcast, thinking about the episodes in ways I hadn’t before, and getting a chance to appreciate Larry Linville as an actor. So I’m sorry that he’s gone, but thrilled DOS is here!

    Speaking of new thoughts, I’m really seeing how much of Charles is an exaggeration of Hawkeye’s own character traits. Hawkeye’s a great surgeon, can be arrogant, doesn’t respect authority, and doesn’t want to be in the war. Charles takes all of those to an even greater extreme, making him abrasive, a worse doctor in terms of bedside manner, and loudly kvetching about being stuck at the 4077th. And if he’d *had* more respect for authority, he would have been careful in that cribbage game and not gotten assigned in the first place.

    This was honestly a brilliant move by the writers. Charles can grate on Hawkeye because he sees those things in himself, and it ticks him off. Also, it causes a reversal in the dynamic between hero and foil. The needling about who’s the better surgeon, who does the most complaining about the camp, it used to be Hawkeye doing that to Frank, but now it’s Charles saying those things to Hawk! Oh, how the worm has turned. I’m looking forward to seeing this in action with fresh eyes.

    Excellent podcast discussion, MASH-casters!

  14. Thank you for a great episode to kick off the new season. This is probably my favorite era of MASH, between Winchester’s arrival and Radar’s departure. I’m looking forward to the upcoming episodes.

  15. Charles was everything Frank wanted to be. He was from old money, was cultured and sophisticated. He was also well educated and a fantastic surgeon.

    Once again, MASH brings in a totally different character to replace one who left. Same with BJ/Trapper and Potter/Henry. Klinger the clerk was different than Radar, and was different from Section 8 Klinger. Even Rizzo was a change from Zale.

    I also noticed Radar was the first to meet the new arrivals. Makes sense as it was his job to check them in. He even met BJ before we did. Charles was the only one we met before the 4077 did.

    He and Hawkeye were different types of doctors. If I were in a bus wreck and a bunch of people and I were taken to the ER, I want Hawkeye there. If I have a serious heart defect that requires the best in the business, I want Charles.

  16. Rob (and Scott and Anj), this was a terrific episode about a terrific two-parter, and the comments above are so insightful they should rate their own Mail Call episode. My thanks to Ted, Stefan, and Major Joe for their explanations of Charles’ rank. Even for some vets (like me), the ways of military medicine can be strange and mysterious.

    I wanted to add — or maybe admit — that if I had been in charge of Charles (fan that I am), I would have been tougher on him than Potter. At this point in his arc, he is racist, classist, elitist, and self-centered. He’s a brilliant character to add to the cast, but he is not someone to admire, for the most part, anywhere outside the operating room. He is in dire need of a character-building comeuppance, and this assignment will be that for him. But right now, he’s the type of northeastern rich person who believes that anyone who would sacrifice and put himself in hardship and danger to serve his country is a “loser” or a “sucker,” although he might be too classy to use those words. He reminds me of someone, but I just can’t think of who it is. Anyway, Charles’ ongoing education always makes for satisfying television.

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