Season 6, Episode 4: War of Nerves
Special Guest Stars: Mike Jamison and Rob Reilly
Air Date: October 11, 1977
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12 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #124 – War of Nerves”
This is an episode that gets better and better upon rewatches. I like to think that eventually over time, Tom forgave Sidney, but like the episode says, he’ll never know.
Here’s my head canon, Sidney helped treat Frank’s mental breakdown and tells Hawkeye, BJ and Potter about thus disproving Frank’s story of being promoted and relieved of the charges.
I think if they showed the meeting after Frank left then we would know if Frank was or was not promoted. It feels more like MASH to not know. Because both scenarios involve something insane
I don’t know that the Army would have given Sidney permission to go to the front, but then again, I don’t see Sidney asking for permission. That’s where his patent was, so that’s where he was going to be.
Another highly enjoyable episode! Just wanted to let you know, I recently attended the ATL Comic Convention, where the guests included Jamie Farr and Loretta Swit! I bought a photo op with the two of them, and then got the photo signed by them both. I also got to see the Q&A panel with the two of them…too many great anecdotes for me to recount or remember all of them, but I did want to share two fun comments.
One audience member asked Jamie Farr what his favorite Klinger outfit was from the show, and he replied that, besides the famous Statue of Liberty costume, he loved doing the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers scene with Kellye Nakahara, where she was Fred and he was Ginger. After that episode, one day he was in the commissary and he met Ginger Rogers, who was in the studio to do a guest appearance on Love Boat, and she told him “You wore that dress better than I did!”
Another question asked to Loretta Swit was “Who was the best kisser on the show?” She replied that she and Alan Alda actually set the record for the longest kiss on broadcast television, so she’d have to say Hawkeye. She said that Frank and Penobscot were lousy kissers…I hope she was only talking about the characters!
Another great episode and another great episode of MASH. Really love this one.
As I have said before, as I watch MASH now, over 20 years in medicine, I find some of the episodes much more relatable. Here, the idea of an area needing catharsis and/or some event to unify them, like a bonfire, rings so true. I can say that at peak volumes or peak pressures, even the most tightly knit unit can get frazzled. And suddenly minor things become major irritants. I can remember specifically a time when that feeling of easy aggravation was happening where I work. A conference room was held for the morning hours. There were free bagels. And the PC projector in the room was set to YouTube. Everyone had to go to the keyboard and play a song from the band they saw in their first concert. It sounds so simple and silly but it worked. Everyone exhaled and laughed and sang.
Second, the Fr. Mulcahy line about souls sounds accurate. Hawkeye worries about death. Sidney worries about quality of life. Mulcahy worries about the after life. If someone loses their faith, renounces their beliefs, or looks at the world as a cesspool and lives a life of sin (however you define that), then for Mulcahy your soul is lost. You are going to Hell. So if someone comes to him and says they are losing their faith and Mulcahy can’t turn them around, he feels the weight of that person heading to eternal damnation. It is a fine line.
Like Giovanni, I like to imagine that Sidney was the one to treat Frank and, ultimately, send him home. Though, I do believe that Frank’s promotion was real, because that would further highlight the irrational nature of the US military (or any large bureaucracy, for that matter), which was a reoccurring theme of the show.
This is in my top 20 episodes. I love this one.
Interesting discussion surrounding the last moments of Mmmmm at the ambulance before he was about to leave. I was always under the thought that he did want to get one more diff in. I’ll need to watch the head movement again.
As for Mulchahy losing a soul, I would agree with Dr Anj. Though it isn’t his duty to save a soul, when he sees someone walk away from their faith it would seeing someone losing their souls for eternity.
Also the 3 person weave is great. More voices bring s about great conversation.
A great episode and great discussion. Having 3 people on the podcast has been a real joy this season.
Now, I’m going to dissect Fr Mulcahy’s statement a lot. But full disclosure, I am not a theology expert, just a preacher’s kid and lifelong Christian, so I’m sure my church would ostracize me for the following analysis, but here goes.
In the 50s when this was set, and the 70s when this was filmed, “I lose a soul” wouldn’t have been questioned. Not because all viewers had an informed opinion or even the same opinion on theology, but rather since it was treated as the cultural norm, questioning a religious statement was simply not to be questioned. Done in my Archie Bunker voice, “You don’t talk about dat!” So I daresay, original audiences would have fallen into that mindset regardless of exactly “why”.
But let’s look at what Mulcahy does. What does “comfort” and “support” from him mean? In some ways, it’s very similar to Sydney’s job, except culturally, a company chaplain was more acceptable than an onsite psychiatrist, as faith-based counseling was commonplace and anybody could use, but psychiatry was only for extreme problems and not viewed favorably. Thankfully, that has changed with the times, but we’re still in the era of distrust of psychiatrists, and disdain for people who see one.
So Mulcahy does what he can to help people recover from emotional distress expressed thru their faith. Not just platitudes, but really, trying to find insight for his patients to accept what’s happened and find a way to move forward. So what if Mulcahy can’t help? What does that mean for the patient? I would say, for the patient, the world doesn’t make sense, and they give up. They no longer see the point to their own life. That’s what faith does, fills the gap between what we can explain in life and what we can’t, and believing that there’s some sense to it, and ultimately, that you as a person matter. When Mulcahy loses a soul, that person will go on thinking their life doesn’t matter, going thru the motions, but never truly connecting with joy, love, or even anger. Just detached and full of despair. Dead inside.
Today, that could be classified as depression. Again, not something commonly expressed in the 70s. But it’s not always a direct comparison. I know it sounds like the patient might be thinking suicide, and it could be, but there’s even that level of a person who’s just waiting to die, for it all to end. That’s when Mulcahy has lost a soul. And something I enjoy seeing in MASH is how hard Mulcahy works to save every soul he can.
Well, if you read this whole thing, bless you, and even if this didn’t provide big insight or answers, maybe it raises some interesting questions. A hallmark of faith. 😀
When it comes to the Charles/Margaret-thing, I have mixed feelings. I agree that David Ogden Stiers and Loretta Swit don’t have sizzling sexual chemistry. Completely unlike her and Alan Alda, they have this sexual tension just oozing off them, even when their characters hate each other the most. In my mind, Charles is asexual. I know he has a couple of flings during the show, the one with Martine being the most prominent, but I honestly don’t feel any sexual tension between them either. I think it comes down to convention for Charles, he was supposed to get married and have kids, that was just the was it worked, and he never questioned it.
I think Margaret and Charles were exotic creatures in each others eyes, and that the attraction came more from that. Charles is eloquent, skilled, tall and rich – all things Margaret goes for. She had to deal with the shenanigans (and harassment) from Hawkeye and Trapper for a long time, some to have someone come in and bring an air of sophistication was breath of fresh air for her. And for Charles, Margaret was a cute firecracker. I’m sure the women he usually met were more demure, all about social conventions, and Margaret was very opinionated, strong willed and spirited in a way he was unused to.
I’m very happy there was never a romance between these characters, but they are my favorites so I appreciate every moment the two of them are on screen together, I wish there had been many, many more moments where their relationship could have evolved in a more friendly way. David Ogden Stiers and Loretta Swit are my favorite actors on the show, both of them have the best reactions, I love how they listen and interacts with others, even when they are not the focus of the scene, they are 100% present in every moment. Kudos!
I can’t imagine a Charles-Margaret affair. They have no spark of romance. There were occasional hints something was going to happen but thankfully it didn’t.
Mulcahy wasn’t there to proselytize but he was worried about someone’s eternal destination. His final line on the show was “I’ll be praying for you”.
I don’t think a real shrink would be in a foxhole but as I’ve said before this isn’t a documentary.
In his early years BJ was the normal one in a show full of wacky people. Later he turned darker, always complaining about missing his family. Maybe it was the mustache.
Love any episode that has Sydney in it. This one does a great job of portraying the characters at the edge of their rope, and the importance of going a little crazy to fight the craziness of war.
I will say, I’m glad they dropped the flirting between Charles and Margaret before too long. I love both characters, but going in that direction wasn’t doing either of them justice. I much prefer the friendship they developed later on.