M*A*S*HCast #125 – The Winchester Tapes

Season 6, Episode 5: The Winchester Tapes

Special Guest Star: Sean Ross

Air Date: October 18, 1977

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26 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #125 – The Winchester Tapes

  1. Another fine episode. Winchester is one of my favorite characters because he is so well developed. He’s a jerk, but he does have his humanity. He’s also, as you pointed out, a match for Hawkeye. Something Frank never had a hope of being.
    Winchester’s complaint about it being either extremely cold, or extremely hot, may be explained by how dry the climate is. The location of the 4077 does appear to be in a very arid location. The lack of humidity could cause days to be extremely hot, but nights extremely cold. Just a guess.
    Thanks for another good episode. FYI, Barney Miller is currently streaming on Amazon Prime for free if you’re a member.

  2. This is Charles Winchester both hamming it up and acting like nobody else on the show. I love the way he speaks it’s very unique and the show revels in writing his lines and kudos to David Ogden Stiers for bringing both dignity and the over the top necessary to make Winchester 100%.

    Recently I found out he played Jumba in the Lilo and Stitch movies and tv show and I still couldn’t entirely tell except for a few of the voice mannerisms that only David can make.

  3. I’m legally obligated by Orlando law to mention that Dennis Day is the performer in the Johnny Appleseed segment of the largely forgotten Disney animated package feature “Melody Time”

    1. Almost twenty years ago, my eldest child made me watch Melody Time for the first time. It was terrific. I’d watch it again right now if I didn’t have appointments and a job.

  4. I really enjoyed listening to this, thank you!

    I have a completely different view of the Margaret/Charles-scene, though, and here it is 🙂
    She was not being flirty with him. She compliments him on his skills, which he has – he is a great doctor. A woman can compliment a man without it meaning anything else.
    Having spent a lot of time in the presence of Hawkeye and Trapper, who called her baby, mocked her, and commented on her body as soon as she even leaned over to get something in the OR, being around Charles who was polite and eloquent must have felt like a breath of fresh air, so hence her commenting on the great words flowing out of his mouth.
    She absolutely got something in her eye, it may have been water, an eyelash, some mascara maybe. She was not that desperate to be close to Charles, I mean Margaret likes men, but she was married at this point, and quite happily still. No nurse telling her about Donald’s behavior had arrived yet, there was no Darlene. She had her Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott of West Point, who was tall, handsome and rich too, Charles may have been an exotic species in her world, but what could possibly beat a West Pointer?
    She was not annoyed at Charles for not picking up on her flirting, because she wasn’t, she was annoyed that Father Mulcahy misunderstood – her default setting is that people are out to get her, use things against her – and that Charles was obviously affected by her presence, when she was simply asking him for his help as a doctor and a colleague.
    Being a woman can be frustrating like this (I’m sure it can be for men too), your actions are often interpreted as flirting when you are just being friendly, and that is really annoying. I guess I am watching this through these glasses.
    Also, we have to remember this seen is told from Charles perspective, he has quite the ego, of course he is gonna think she was flirting with him.

    That’s the was I see it! 🙂 I absolutely respect others opinions, though!

    1. MarieKristina, I respect your opinion also, and I could easily be wrong (We should ask Loretta!), but my interpretation is closer to Sean’s. Margaret’s demeanor, to me, indicated that her flattery was not 100% sincere. She’s used the same manner on the show at other times when she did intend to flirt. Now, she might have had no intent to follow through on anything. She could have been flirting with the new guy to pass the time and maybe gratify her ego. Both men and women have been known to do such things on deployments, when people are from from their loved ones. I mean, that’s what I hear. I always focused solely on my work, like a good warrior-monk. 🙂

      Of course, your point abut Charles’ ego and this being told from his perspective is entirely valid and might torpedo my whole assessment. I also agree with you about Margaret’s default setting, and I regret that her life experience has led her to assume that posture. Finally, I agree that she would see the husband she’s already got as a better catch, despite all the elements in Charles’ favor.

      1. I think it’s so interesting how different out interpretations can be, I love hearing other point of views and discuss!
        To me, she is not being flirty (and Margaret Houlihan can FLIRT! 🙂 ), but she has this natural sensuality about her, so I see how it can be read differently. And she for sure likes the attention of men and to feel attractive, so maybe it’s subconscious.
        Oh, I wish we could ask Loretta! She is on top of my list of celebrities I want to meet. But since I live in Sweden, and is terrified of flying, my chances are slim… Maybe she decides to come overe her for a nice vacation trip, though, and decide to visit my unglamorous suburb for some reason… That could happen… 😉 😉 😉

        1. Yes! Rob, you should recommend to your good friend Loretta that she holiday is Sweden in the suburbs, so she can see real Swedish culture. Tell her you have a friend named MarieKristina who can act as her guide.

          MK, it may be the natural sensuality I’m picking up on. This is why men like Charles and I can so easily miss or misinterpret cues, and must tread cautiously. Fortunately, I’ve been married a long time, so I’m comfortable learning as a spectator, not a participant.

          1. Yes Rob, please make this happen! My unglamorous suburb is really close to the airport, so I can pick her up and everything! Deluxe transportation in my small, red car 😉 And I promise I wont be a crazy fan girl. Okay, I probably will, but in a very charming way! 🙂 “Miss Swit, can you tell me everything that ever happened on set, ever? Thank you!” 😀 😀 😀
            And Rob and Captain Entropy – you are welcome to come over too! 🙂

          2. How about it, Rob? We’ve met once for brunch. The next logical step is traveling to Europe together!

            MarieKristina, the invitation is mutual. If you’re ever in Florida, please let me know. Rob has my contact data, and I hereby authorize him to share it with you. I know you hate to fly, but there are several seaports (including two cruise ship ports) within my driving distance.

          3. That so sweet, thanks for the invitation! I have a dream to travel to The States, I wanna rent a car and just drive around. Absolutely up the East Coast to Maine, maybe I will discover Crabapple Cove 😉 . Florida sounds wonderful too, and I would for sure see a lot of the country during the drive! 🙂 Maybe some day!

  5. Great episode of the podcast and a great episode of MASH. I thought this did a great job of showing us who Charles is. Just wanted to comment on one thing.

    Mostly I want to comment on the statement about Charles’ skill diminishing. Like anything, the devil is in the details. Charles is used to doing long, detail oriented, elegant surgeries where he can take his time. He is also doing them in an academic setting where he is probably learning or innovating the latest techniques. So he is not doing those surgeries. And so his skills are probably being diminished in a way. He isn’t doing THOSE surgeries, so he isn’t experiencing them. The less you do something, the further away you are from doing something, the more rusty you’ll be.

    That said, in the pressure setting of MASH, he will gain new skills. He will have to make decisions faster. He’ll have to learn to be more efficient. He’ll be dealing with much worse pathology than he is used to and that he would probably ever see. The abdominal surgeries he would do in Boston would not be the shredded tissue he would be seeing here. He will be a better surgeon for sure just putting together these trauma patients quickly.

    He can relearn the former stuff. But without his MASH experience, he would never learn the latter.

    1. Thanks for the expert medical perspective on this point, Dr. Anj! I was surprised to hear this trivia and wondered how credible it would be, and whether all the surgeons would have to go through some requalification upon return home – but you suggest that wouldn’t necessarily be the case? I’d just imagine how frustrating it would be for doctors like Hawkeye and BJ who have already missed out on years of “regular” surgical experience through no fault of their own and having to face an additional hurdle to getting back into the field back in the States.

    2. Spot on, Anj. Do we ever learn if the surgeons of the 4077 have sub-specialties? (And to what extent did surgeons in the 1950s even have sub-specialties?)

      If Charles is a Trauma surgeon Stateside, his skill set will likely be preserved – perhaps even enhanced – by his time in Korea. However, if he’s- say – a plastic surgeon (Margaret does complement him on his tiny sutures!), or a cancer surgeon, or a breast surgeon, then meatball surgery in the field isn’t going to flex those same muscles or provide much opportunity to display those skills, and he may well need a period of retraining or mentoring on returning home to get back to the same level of practice as when he was drafted.

      Much is made of Charles operating at a slower pace than the others. (In pre-anaesthetic days, the faster your surgeon did his work, the better!) Generally speaking, I think I’d like my surgeon to work carefully, thoughtfully and methodically, but if the injuries are severe enough to be life threatening, speed becomes more of a factor. We’re observing Charles shift his approach from a refined meticulous planned approach to the faster, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants surgery necessitated by the severe injuries caused by the war.

      1. My guess is there wouldn’t be any ‘requalifications’ for the surgeons. But the more esoteric stuff that he hasn’t done in a while there might be another surgeon who has done it more recently in the OR with him to assist.

    3. I’ll start with my usual caveat that I have no medical training in the combat equivalent of first aid. That said, Dr. Anj’s “Well, yes and no” analysis makes sense to me, too.

      Several years ago, there was a West Point professor named Lieutenant Colonel Gentile (pronounced “genteel,” believe it or not). He made a splash writing that fighting insurgents for so long was causing the U.S. military to become dangerously out of practice at conventional force-on-force warfighting skills, like tank battles. I remember discussing this with a friend and colleague while we traveled. We each thought he should change his rank and surname so he could officially be Captain Obvious. Any skill you don’t practice rots. I still know how to ride a bike, but I’m nowhere near as proficient as I once was. However, there were many combat skills that Soldiers practiced in Afghanistan and Iraq that carry over to any form of ground combat — marksmanship, small unit movement, calling in fire support, and many more. Those improved considerably. I know in the Air Force, we’ve gotten better at close air support to troops in contact than we’ve ever been before. And I heard that assessment from a Soldier!

      I also remember hearing about the experiences of humanitarian aid doctors in Afghanistan. They saw diseases and parasites among the poorest of the populace that they had only heard of in books. They got experience they couldn’t get anywhere else.

  6. Another great episode.

    As for Rob’s question regarding nudie mags being sent via mail. In Iraq, such magazines were prohibited. Even websites that showed nudity were blocked. I was even lectured about having Maxim Magazine.

    1. My brother-in-arms, Major Joe Price, is talking about the effect of U.S. Central Command’s General Order 1. When I last saw it, it was General Order 1-C (amendments, you see). I’ve mentioned GO 1-Charlie before. It was in effect while one was deployed to the Middle East or Central Asia. It basically forbade anything that we knew would offend a significant portion of the populace in our Muslim host nations. In Iraq and Afghanistan, that included drinking alcohol, fornication, adultery, and other things. Now, unlike Joe with his relatively tame Maxim, some service members intentionally flouted such rules, but that was risky business.

      I doubt that the military would have had the same rules in 1950s Korea, but our own society was more conservative, so it’s hard to say. In the seventies, there were Playboy magazines on the rack at the post or base exchange, but that was stateside, twenty years later. I understand there was actually a lot that happened that would be frowned upon now, but there’s probably no need to discuss all that.

      Regarding condoms, I wasn’t aware of the gonorrhea study, but I know the military found a way around it — by the sixties, if not earlier. Condoms were in survival kits as “water storage bags.” Also, despite GO 1-Charlie, condoms were freely available and set out in a serving bowl in some clinics in Afghanistan and Qatar. Just ’cause someone gave an order, doesn’t mean everyone will follow it.

  7. I love the “Dear” episodes, and this being one in all but name, it’s only natural that I’d love it, especially since it revolves around my favorite character. His narration adds a lot to the episode and Charles’ character, as his attitude gives us more reason to hate him, but his great one-liners show how fun he can be as an antagonist, while still maintaining some level of sympathy for his situation. It just goes to highlight the complexities of the character, even at this early stage.

    I do get what you mean about the order of the episodes, but I don’t think I agree. It’s not quite like “Dear Mildred,” where we’ve seen Potter settle in over several episodes, and then suddenly see him feeling like he doesn’t quite belong. He’s still relatively new to the camp, and still getting acclimated to his situation and those around him. Also, in many ways it does feel like a continuation of the themes set up in “Fade Out, Fade In,” in that it continues both Charles’ attempts to leave the camp, and his prank wars with Hawkeye and BJ, so while it may make sense to have one after another, it also makes it feel less redundant than it might have been otherwise.

  8. As this episode is largely Charles dictating his experiences to his family, I can’t help but wonder if in some of the scenes…specifically the ones with Charles himself in them…we’re seeing things from his perspective, with his prejudices. Thus, Margaret’s behavior toward him appears to be overly flirtatious, because that’s how Charles interpreted it (and perhaps even prefers it), and Hawkeye comes across as especially boorish and obsessed with sex to an almost perverse degree, because Charles cannot yet see him as a competent surgeon, much less a mature adult. When Charles is absent, such as when BJ reveals to Hawkeye the gag he’s pulling, we the viewers are seeing things as they really are. In a way, maybe this episode can be seen as a much subtler take on Frank’s outlandish testimony at Hawkeye’s court martial. As Hawkeye put it, he has no doubt that’s exactly the way Frank remembered it, and therefore perhaps Charles is equally as deluded in his own way.

    And I’m sorry, while the portrait gag is hilarious, I can’t for one instant believe that Col. Potter managed to paint an entirely new expression on Winchester’s face in just a few moments. Remember, he was only bellowing for less than a minute. If we didn’t later see that same painting on the office wall, I would be willing to conclude that it was simply an exaggeration Charles was making to his family.

    Speaking of the paintings, I guess I’ve always wanted to assume that Harry Morgan was actually doing them himself, but a couple of years ago I came across an interview with Larry Gelbart, in which he said they were done by anonymous Twentieth Century Fox prop department staff. But here’s a holy grail moment…no one knows where they are now. They weren’t sent to the Smithsonian, so either someone claimed them as their own mementos, or else perhaps they’re still sitting in a crate deep in the heart of a studio warehouse, like the Ark of the Covenant. Rob, get your bullwhip and fedora and find ’em!

    1. Gene, I always assumed there were several sittings for the portrait, and bellowing was the state Charles eventually reverted to in each of them. Regardless, it was a great gag, and I’d love to have one of those paintings, too.

  9. Love the podcast! I’m a crazy M*A*S*H* fan and have been since my childhood sooooo long ago. The love for the show is palpable in every episode. Thank you.

    I had to write after listening to The Winchester Tapes episode. I agree that the bit where Winchester is being played about his “weight gain” is one of the best in the show’s history. However, my favorite line isn’t the button line even though that absolutely seals it’s greatness. My favorite line is when Hawkeye and B.J. place Levine’s pants on the pole and Hawkeye comments that he is glad that B.J. isn’t his enemy. The response from our practical joker? “Never assume. Check the door” Absolute GOLD!

    Thank you for this spectacular podcast!

  10. Dear Mildred was S4E7 and Dear Peg was E10. So this was about right.

    I get Charles “writing” his letters home via tape was just one of his odd quirks that made him Charles. But how did he always find time alone in the swamp to do it without someone barging in? (Yes, I’m being pedantic but that’s what message boards are for).

    In a later episode Potter was showing off his artwork to a guest. They asked why Charles looked so angry and Potter said he never noticed.

    Charles wanting to get back to Tokyo was his dream and part of his character. But his training does seem more suited for follow up work rather than meatball surgery. (Again, reading too much into people who don’t really exist).

    I agree everyone should have gotten a letter episode. Trapper started one but they dropped it after a couple paragraphs. Henry never had one. But Hawkeye had three in S1? No wonder the other two left.

    We had a glimpse of a Frank letter in the Hawkeye court martial episode. He is sailing along while Hawkeye is struggling to keep up. I can see him telling his wife a story like that. He could even mention Margaret coming in. We see Swit looking like she just got hit by a bus while Frank is writing so Mrs. Burns doesn’t suspect anything.

    A Margaret letter to her father would have been nice. Might have given a deeper insight into her psyche and her relationship with him.

    I think we saw Mulcahy writing to his sister the Sister once but he never voiced one. Would have been great to hear his perspective on camp in a letter to her. Since she is a nun she could relate to how he feels about not being a real contributor. We saw something similar in Sydney’s letter to Freud but Mulcahy wiring a letter to God (or maybe an episode long prayer) would have been fascinating.

  11. You want rat stories? I’ll give you rat stories.

    I grew up in a poor but loving family. We rented quite a few rural houses in my youth. One was in farmland and infested with rats. One night my sister (who has a huge fear of mice and rats) woke up at about 3AM to find a live rat on top of her blanket.

    Dad eventually bought a house in the “city” (population about 10,000). We always had a vermin problem. The house was old and the kitchen was lit by a single bulb that hung from the ceiling by an electrical cord. You had to pull the chain to light the bulb. If you went to the kitchen at night it was not uncommon to see a rat or rats on the kitchen counter when you turned on the light. One night I was walking through the dark kitchen on the way to the light bulb when I felt something under my foot and heard a high pitched scream. I had stepped on a rat’s tail.

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