M*A*S*HCast #126 – The Light That Failed

Season 6, Episode 6: The Light That Failed

Special Guest Star: Britt Eisnor

Air Date: October 25, 1977

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19 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #126 – The Light That Failed

  1. Radar is absent in 10 episodes of this season. In Season 7 they improved on this by having him absent in only 6 or 7 episodes. Out of those 10 episodes, which episode would’ve been improved by having Radar in it?

  2. A Charles spin-off, yes! I’ve come to feel indifferent about most ideas of MASH spin-offs of MASH outside of the war, since that’s such a big part of what makes this show work so well IMO. But a Charles spin-off is one I would have loved to seen. As you mentioned, David Ogden Stiers was a wonderful actor, and could have easily carried a show by himself. Plus he’s one of the few characters who I feel could have his “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” story addressed without hurting the impact of the episode.

    It’s great to hear Britt turn around on the Charles story due to the discussion. TBH, I forgot that this was the episode to have this story, but I did like it. It’s a good example of early-Charles at his worst and most stubborn, while again showing how he can learn and grow.

    1. In the 70’s, it was commonplace to spin off a character from a sitcom into an hourlong drama (Lou Grant, Trapper John, MD). I could see this working for Charles, he was very much a FRASIER type character, in that he was brought on as an antagonist but grew into a fan favorite over time. He also grew in the show as a character and would have made a wonderful, sardonic, yet now softer character in a show of his own. I would have watched!!

  3. Britt was such a great guest! Loved hearing from another younger fan like myself who discovered the show relatively recently and is embracing it (and continuing the tradition of crushing on Alan Alda). This episode is a favourite of mine from this season mainly because of the book plotline – I love when the 4077th all comes together around something, whether it’s a movie or another group event or supporting Hawkeye (“Peace On Us” my beloved). Bigelow is also my favourite nurse, aside from Kellye of course, and it’s great whenever she gets a lot of material.

    BTW Rob, MASH is on Disney+ in Canada and Europe, I believe! It’s the higher definition version as well – it would be perfect if it weren’t the cropped aspect ratio and if there was a way to toggle the laugh track on and off. Once again, this is why we need MASH to be released on blu ray. PLEASE, DISNEY.

  4. Phillip Baker Hall also appeared in “Seinfeld” as the librarian who is still hunting down Jerry for having failed to return a book twenty years earlier: Jerry is labelled a “criminal” by his pursuer. As far as I know, Hall and Edward Winter (Col. Flagg, of course) were the only two actors to appear on both iconic sitcoms.

  5. 2 small things bugged me about this episode:

    – What novel announces the killer on the final page? Are you telling me there was only one, maybe 2 paragraphs left to wrap up the book after that?
    – What about those still reading the book? BJ had just finished. Some people would have only been midway through. Spoiler Alert!!!!

    Great chat as always.

  6. Another great episode with a great co-host. A couple of comments.

    I never liked that the killer is literally named on the last page. There would have to be some discussion after that explaining how it all happened, right?

    Now on to the doctor-y stuff.

    One, it is not uncommon for a nurse to tell a doctor to wait if what she is doing is more urgent than what is being asked. Nurses usually run things to be honest. So the nurse telling Charles to wait wasn’t too shocking to me.

    Now on to the mistake. Yes, you would think that something as simple as checking the label of a med or pulling the wrong med would always be done but human error is human error. Now a lot of modern checks and balances make this much less possible but back then. Meds were probably left all on a table top and anyone could pull and dispense.

    Two, curare is an odd post-op med. But (were it in Korea) it would be an OR med. If the two areas are adjacent and the meds are mutually stored, it could be there.

    Now on to Charles response. The nurses probably were the usual providers to draw up and administer the medicine. Since the nurse said ‘wait a minute’, Charles was doing something which he didn’t typically do. And it wasn’t an error of knowledge. He wasn’t giving curare intentionally not knowing what it did. He grabbed the wrong bottle.

    In his mind, it would be very easy to distance himself from this mistake than own up to it. It was really the nurse responsibility but he was ‘forced’ to do it. It was dark. And even the best docs can get defensive if they get confronted with a mistake. But all the docs I know feel awful if they have made a mistake. They might rationalize but inside they are kicking himself. The fact that Charles doesn’t initially have that feeling of regret or compassion really makes him seem almost too aloof. I am glad that in the end he seems to warm up a bit.

    1. In other high stakes work, I’ve noticed that the steps along the path to tragedy are familiarity, fatigue, complacency, and carelessness, in that order. I also thought the scenario presented in the show was plausible.

  7. I’ll echo Stefan and Anj’s observations about the unlikeliness of the killer’s identity being revealed on the last page…there HAS to be more of the story after that, whether it be the detective’s explanation of the case, the killer’s arrest (or sometimes a “you’ll never take me alive” suicide), or a scene with some of the exonerated suspects. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE for a mystery to end with no denouement, but it seems unlikely that any story that ends so abruptly would be well-written enough to capture the entire camp’s interest.

    Also, I don’t remember whether the episode said that he literally turned the page to discover that the ending was missing, but that seems impossible just because of the way books are printed…if he turns the page, the next line with the killer’s name would be on the opposite side of the same page, not on a separate missing page. It’s possible that he got to the end of the left-hand page and then discovered that the following page was missing, but then, wouldn’t he have already seen that the book was torn?

    Wow, I’m over-thinking this…

  8. I can imagine why it was done…I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from the network said, “People aren’t going to tune in to hear the voices of the actors in the dark”…but I’ve got to say, that is the brightest-lit “dimly-lit” post-op ever.

    And I think maybe Potter was snappish about the book because he’s still peeved that no one wants to take up his square dancing idea to improve morale. 😉

  9. Great episode with a brilliant new guest, Rob. Based on Britt and Lisa, I guess the kids really are all right! I think, given that Korea is a peninsula in the Pacific, it’s plausible that a call to Australia would involve fewer connections and therefore be easier to make and of better quality. It’s still a truly long distance, though.

  10. Fun episode. I enjoyed the discussion but Britt made me feel old saying her grandfather watched the show. Great she could bond with him over MASH. Hope he listened to the podcast.

    I assumed they lost the last page when it fell out after everything had been torn out. I agree the killer being exposed on the last page isn’t realistic. And the reveal (as mentioned above) would have been on the backside of the last part they read.

    I did read a book once that had a big zinger on the last page but it wasn’t a murder reveal. Too complicated to explain here but a character saw something written on a wall and had an adverse reaction. I turned the page and saw a drawing of what he saw.

    I guess Swit was busy and that’s why Bigelow had such a big part.

    Charles’ error was very Frank-like. Sounds like an episode they had in the hopper and had to change it. I could see Frank reading to Margaret trying to get her back and she kicks him out.

    I saw this episode years ago and during their argument it hit me why they didn’t get along. (At least at this point). Neither had met anyone who could match their skills in OR. Hawkeye was just a naturally highly skilled surgeon while Charles had the highest and best training available.

    I also loved the delivery guy’s attitude. After 20 years in the army running supply, he didn’t give a shit and had no qualms about talking back to a colonel who is blowing his top.

  11. I know I’m really late to the party, Rob, but your MASHcast has reeled me in. MASH was always one of my favorite shows since I was a kid, watching it with my dad. I’ve started watching the show again on HULU while listening to your past MASHcasts. I wanted to comment, so I jumped ahead to season 6’s The Light That Failed so I could listen to the most recent episode. Britt was a great guest. I remember this episode well, as it always drove me nuts that BJ just started ripping chapters out of the book, but I guess when the 4077 was so starved for new things to read, it makes sense to spread the wealth so the whole gang can enjoy it. I’m just glad Peg didn’t send BJ “Atlas Shrugged,” or the whole tone of the series could’ve taken a dark turn.

    A Boston-based Winchester spin-off could’ve been great. A doctor by day, and a green skinned hero by night. Winchester: Thoracic Surgeon from Mars.

    My favorite moment of the episode was probably Nurse Bigelow talking to BJ through the officer’s latrine door to shoot down his murderer theory. At the very end of their conersation, you hear BJ replying that she’s right. And a beat later you hear Hawkeye’s voice, clearly coming from the women’s latrine, telling BJ the murderer has to be Maurice, the French accountant. Great stuff.

    Okay, I have to get in my time capsule and head back to season 2. Damn you for dragging me back into an 11 season show, Kelly! I’m revoking your weekend pass to Seoul!

  12. I was inspired by the podcast to think that it would be possible to write the fictional murder mystery novel “The Rooster Crowed At Midnight” in the communal online creative writing site http://www.Storium.com. I’m just putting this out there to see if there’s enough listeners to the show who would be interested in collaborating on some creative writing.
    According to the Monster M*A*S*H wiki, the novel has at least eight main characters (not counting the 11 murder victims, 2 pigs and a canary!) – so if anyone would like to be part of a project like this, drop a comment below. If there’s enough interest, I’ll set about setting up a game in Storium.

  13. You mention that Charles and Margaret seem to have no chemistry. The same cannot be true for Hawkeye and Bigelow. It looks like Alan Alda and Enid Kent really enjoy being in scenes together.

    Enid sat for a nearly three hour interview on the podcast stusshow.com. Search the archives for episode 472. The host is a little hard to take but the interview is very informative.

  14. I like the fact that the writers of this Episode were still experimenting with Charles and Margaret seeing if there could be chemistry between them. But, if it “were” to work I think it would be one sided. Charles doesn’t seem that interested in Margaret romantically . As we have seen in previous episodes he only interacts with her because She is the only other Major in Camp. And the only person who doesn’t annoy him in one way or another. He sees her as some sort of equal.
    If I could have someone narrate my life it would be David Ogden Stiers. He has that voice that is very recognizable and draws you in when he narrates or reads something like he did in this episode. Also in the Winchester Tapes Episode.
    He makes it feel “real” and not fake like Frank would do when Frank would write to his patients or when he wrote the Narration for Yankee Doodle Doctor. Or in Novicane Mutiny. Charles, made it believable.
    I love Margaret as he is reading she is really getting into what Charles is reading. Love the pause they have when the candle flickers, he gets a little nervous, she does the same.
    For Margaret its his voice I think really likes, cause how he speaks.

  15. After listening to interviews with Mike Farrell and Jamie Farr as well as Gary Burgoff I am convinced that it is David Ogden Stiers (rhymes with pliers, liers and fliers not Steers, beers and fears)! Interviews that I’ve heard on this podcast!

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