M*A*S*HCast #144 – Major Topper

Season 6, Episode 24: Major Topper

Special Guest Star: Mechelle Huber

Air Date: March 27, 1978

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18 responses to “M*A*S*HCast #144 – Major Topper

  1. Not gonna lie, I’m not a big fan of “Major Topper”… It’s not bad, just a bit meh, and as a season finale it’s a bit underwhelming, in my opinion.
    The storyline with the placebo is fine, I like that they are willing to try this alternative thing. Margaret’s line about how she hopes she can be convincing when distributing the sugar pills always makes me smile, it makes me think of how incredibly unconvincing she can be when she lies… Like when she tells Frank about how General Kelly’s daughter wants to be an army nurse, and that is the absolute only reason he was in her tent. I love that. 😀

    Charles topping Hawkeye’s and BJ’s stories is a fine plot too, I have nothing against it, but again – a bit meh.

    The Miller-plot, though, here’s where my real problem comes in… For a kind of weird reason, but here we go. I hate feet. They are good to have, for walking and standing and stuff, but other than that – I don’t want to think about them. And what does Miller do? He takes off his dirty sock and puts it on his hand! He’s getting foot germs on his hand. No! Yuck! And then at the end, Klinger puts that dirty sock-puppet on his hand. No! Noooooo! So when I see Miller in his other scenes, Mr. Sock is all I can think about and it grosses me out. There we are, my weirdness is out in the world. 😀
    (As you can imagine, I’m not a big fan of the foot inspection-episode either… )

    I wanna say thank you for a great season! Really looking forward to Season 7, that is my favorite!

  2. Congrats on Six Seasons of the greatest podcast of all time! Can’t wait for Season 7, which will unfortunately be Radar’s last season as a main character.

  3. I’m finally all caught up, only starting to binge this podcast a few months ago. I’m enjoying rewatching all these episodes.

    That Rockford Files theme is a classic! I have a few versions of it queued up on Spotify. I’ve always wanted to play in a cover band which specializes in TV themes. This one would be played at every performance.

  4. So all drugs have an expiration date, after which they get less effective (pro-tip: check your home medicine cabinets, folks, and have a clear out: chuck out any half-used packets of stuff that’s past it’s date!). But that’s a slow process, and in extremis, the good surgeons of the 4077th would likely just use it, even if it wasn’t in date.
    Morphine in solution as an injection doesn’t curdle as Rob suggested, but it can precipitate out. I can’t remember ever seeing that happen spontaneously in the phial, but can certainly happen when mixed with other drugs- for example, when we give morphine mixed with certain anti-sickness drugs in a syringe driver for a dying patient. That really would render the morphine useless. I’m prepared to give the script a bye on this one, as we don’t know how stable morphine manufactured in the 1950s was, and what kind of treatment the drug received by Army logistics as it was transported around Korea.
    Drug shortages are – sadly only too common. It may be something the UK is particularly prone to at the moment (thanks for nothing, Brexit). Right now we’re having to cope with HRT shortages, dubious availability of some steroid creams etc. In the past we have had problems getting hold of morphine, and needed to switch to alternatives such as diamorphine or oxycodone for our palliative care patients.

    1. Dr. Lewis, I wanted to know more about what a pyrogenic reaction was, so I did an internet search. I found that’s it’s a fever (to oversimplify), and it’s usually produced by bacteria or toxins (all of which you already know). But then I ran across a paper on opioid-induced pyrogenic reactions, which are apparently “rare and poorly understood.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9034657/) I didn’t understand the paper well enough to grasp whether the offending anomaly was in the medication or the patient, so I can’t say whether the rest of the batch would have been okay. I’m not sure the people who wrote the paper would know, either. There seemed to be a lot of big words in there that could be summarized as, “Hunh. That’s really weird.”

  5. Congrats on finishing Season 6. I’ve really enjoyed this season of MASH more than I expected. I generally prefer the Frank Burns era but I’m gaining a newfound appreciation for Davis Ogden Stiers’ acting skills, and it’s nice to see a more even match for Hawkeye and BJ.

    As for The Rockford Files theme, I was recently listening to an old Casey Kasem from the 70s and that theme was in the top 40 that week. It got as high as number 10 in August 1975. I think the five best TV theme songs of all time — in no particular order — are the themes for MASH, Cheers, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, and Welcome Back Kotter. Oh yeah and Happy Days so let’s say the top six.

  6. Agree with Dr. Lewis. There is an expiration date for meds. And who knows what the formulation was back then.

    I find the ‘placebo’ bit a little hard to swallow. I know they seemed to have no recourse. But it seems a bit of a stretch that it worked so well. Why ever use it in the future?I would’ve liked to see it work on some, not all. But I suppose that is a quibble.

    Congrats on getting through another season Rob! Great guests and discussion all around!

    1. Dr. Anj, I went to Hulu to check. In the mess tent after the dosing, Potter says, “Almost half! Not too bad.” So I think their success orate was about what you expected.

    2. Yeah – The evidence on placebo effect is less good than the premise for this episode believes. But let’s not let daylight in on magic!

  7. Thanks to Rob and Mechelle for a terrific MASHcast episode! I especially like the parts where Mechelle tells Iron Guts about the parts of the episode he missed, and Iron Guts tells Mechelle about the way things were back in the Cretaceous era (which was my childhood, also). Now, thoughts about the MASH episode.

    There were a couple remarkable events in the episode that the writers glossed over, maybe due to lack of time. For example, I don’t know why they didn’t spend some time on Andrew Bloch’s character’s leg growing back. Was that character’s name Curt Connors, by chance? Also, no one showed the proper appreciation for Boots’ marksmanship! Shooting down a noiseless, unlit glider at night with a short-barreled rifle is quite a feat. That’s at least a Stars & Stripes write up and probably an achievement medal, right there.

    Speaking of that rifle, it was an M1 carbine, which I’ve discussed before. As previously mentioned, my dad has one. Does it sound like that? Well, it’s been 25 years since I shot it, so I can’t say exactly. I can tell you that the sound effect they used was the standard rifle sound effect used in a hundred Westerns and war movies. In my experience, most rifles have a louder, deeper bark (small calibers excepted) and also a simultaneous crack — the sonic boom from the round breaking the sound barrier.

    Regarding blanks: Yes, they produce a muzzle flash. I have some experience with blank ammunition. One of the most fun days I’ve had in the service was playing the bad guy in a training exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana. I got to lean out the back of a Soviet-made helicopter firing blanks through an M60 machine gun at some very irritated 82nd Airborne troops. The purpose of that event was to motivate them to get out their air defense weapons. They eventually did and “shot us down” (notionally, within the exercise). That was not a normal duty for me, but something arranged by one of my NCOs as a going away before I transferred. Obviously, he was an outstanding senior NCO.

    Anyway, enough reminiscing. Blanks are basically full up cartridges, except they lack the actual bullet, so they’re crimped at the front end. A cartridge has a metal casing (usually brass); a primer (a tiny explosive on the back end that the firing pin hits to ignite the gunpowder); the gunpowder itself; and the bullet, which is a piece of shaped lead, sometimes jacketed in copper to improve penetration. Remove the bullet, and it still goes bang, but no lump of lead shoots out the front. (No sonic boom crack, either, so it doesn’t sound *exactly* the same.)

    This site shows what Sen-Sen looked like (https://www.oldtimecandy.com/pages/sen-sen). They’re little black bits with licorice flavoring. Who knew? I always assumed it was a spray, or one one of those fresheners where you just put a couple drops in your mouth.

    I am eagerly awaiting the mail bag! I know it’s a lot of work, Rob, but we do love hearing your reactions to all the comments. Look at it this way: with no guest, the scheduling hassles are greatly reduced.

    1. Oh, regarding supply: Logistics nowadays is far better than it was in the fifties, although to be fair, we’re never operating on that scale anymore. Because of those differences, I can only speak in generalities.

      Supply works on principles that are similar to those of many other variable requirements, such as close air support, medical care, etc. What I mean is, there is what is regularly expected and planned for, and there are urgent, pop-up requirements. Consequently, there are really two systems — routine and urgent. Both systems are subject to time and chance, as well as enemy action and entropy (not to be self-serving). So if you can, you build in some “squish” factor — excess capacity to accommodate the things that go wrong. Nevertheless, sometimes the emergency exceeds the squish factor. When you’re in urgent mode, you will often break the carefully constructed plan you made in routine mode, and you’ll just have to fix it later.

      One other point I want to make out of appreciation for logisticians and supply warriors everywhere: Logistics is really, really hard, as the Russian Army has recently demonstrated. There’s a saying that amateurs talk tactics, and professionals talk logistics. If the British hadn’t had to try and fight us thousands of miles from home (and we hadn’t gotten loans from the Netherlands, trainers from Poland and Germany, and actual combat support from France, etc.), we would have lost. The entire history of the world would have been different. The Romans were a global empire mainly because of their engineering and their logistics — their ability to support an army in the field. America is a global power only because we can move people and things — even heavy things, like fuel, food, and munitions — halfway around the world at the drop of a hat. And in most years, we do it to support evacuations, relief efforts, and diplomacy far more often than we do it to support combat, because we can. Many of our allies have superbly trained troops. A slightly smaller number have superbly equipped troops. An even smaller number can get all those troops to the fight without our help. That isn’t a diss on them; it’s just the facts in a resource-constrained world. So, here’s to the logisticians!

    2. Captain Entropy, I love that you loved me telling Rob what Rob missed. (Heart emoji)

      I get explanations about life in the Cretaceous era quite frequently because I happen to be involved in the fandoms of many ‘vintage’ TV series’ including Hogan’s Heroes, The Fugitive, Rockford, and recently, Mannix. I am in FB fan groups for MASH and the latter three as my autism just loves to find special interests in older TV shows. They are definitely the main “obsessions” I develop. (Two weeks ago, “Bonanza” became my special interest but I haven’t managed to interact with *that* fandom and from what I’ve learned about the behind the scenes of that show, I want to talk about stuff!)

      I don’t mind being reminded how young I am compared to almost everybody else in those as long as the person doesn’t mind me telling them that my Mom and Dad were born *after* MASH aired. *Laughing emoji* in fact, Mom was born only a few days before “Rockford” aired.

      I am glad you liked the podcast!

      1. Aww! *Heart emoji* to you, too, Mechelle! I think your interests are fascinating. Fun fact you may already know: Dirk Blocker, who played Hitchcock on Brooklyn 99 and one of the pilots on Baa Baa Black Sheep, is the son of Dan Blocker who played Hoss on Bonanza! Well, I think it’s a fun fact, anyway. Can’t wait to hear you again!

        1. Yes, I did know that! My Grandma told me about Dirk Blocker, and I found an episode of the “Bananas for Bonanza” podcast where Dirk was a guest. They talked about behind the scenes stuff (that Dirk could remember as he was a small child at the time of Bonanza) and apparently, Hoss’s horse was the largest they could possibly find. I found that interesting myself. And about how towards the end everyone besides Michael Landon wore a hair piece.

  8. We’re officially past the halfway point for the series, and suddenly I’m wishing the show ran for twenty seasons, just to keep this podcast going for an extra decade or so.

    I like this one, but it really feels like a patchwork episode to me, as if they shot the different storyline scenes throughout the previous season, and then stitched them together. That might explain why Radar is only in very specific scenes, when there’s no reason why he wouldn’t have been in the mess tent scenes, for instance, unless Gary Burghoff wasn’t on set when they filmed that part.

    And poor Klinger. Is his experience typical of corporals in a wartime setting? Throughout the first six seasons, at any given time the guy is a corpsman, an orderly, a driver, a supply room stocker, a mess tent staffer, an overnight camp guard (and after only two hours of sleep), plus he has to play MP and go corral the runaway lunatic with a gun, all by himself. And in this one, he’s even forced to share his private tent!

    And when Boots starts firing his rifle at the “gliders”, why does the compound suddenly fill with people rushing in to see what’s happening? Haven’t they been trained to run away to safety when they hear gunfire in the middle of the night, not run right to it? And how in the world did Col. Potter not hear the shots, when everyone else seemed to?

    Okay, bring on Season Seven!

    1. Gene, terrific points. If you have an enlisted troop or even an officer whose duty is mostly “on call as needed,” he or she will likely pick up additional duties, especially when deployed. The most extreme example I ever met was a Marine Corps generator mechanic. He went around to little firebases sparsely scattered throughout our regional task force’s area of operations, which was about 40% of Afghanistan’s territory. For scale, Afghanistan is just barely smaller than Texas. This young man (I don’t remember his rank) did all the preventive maintenance, including regular checks, and he was on a helicopter immediately if a generator went out. That still left him with a lot of free time. So, the Marine battalion that was the core of the task force taught him to drive every vehicle they had. They also taught him to pull camp security detail, do minor repairs in the gunsmith shop, and I’m not sure what all else. He was probably charging radio batteries in the comm shed. He pulled security on a lot of my trips outside the wire. Fine young Marine, and fortunately very adaptable.

      And I agree with you about the reaction to gunfire. In my experience, when things go “bang” or “boom” in or around the camp, everyone either runs to or away from the sound, depending on their role and whether or not they are armed. To be fair, now that I think of it, the MASH crew could’ve been showing up to see if anyone needed medical care.

      Also, every real camp I’ve been on had bunkers for people to run to, unless they had “hardstand” (i.e., hardened, brick and mortar type) buildings like at HQ ISAF in Kabul. Camp bunkers are made of concrete, cinder block, sandbags, or some combination. They’re generally rectangular and open on both ends. Now we have the giant sandbags that make stackable four foot walls called HESCO barriers. Back then, with a mobile outfit like MASH, it would’ve been made of a lot of little sandbags, and remade every time they moved. Of course, if they’re getting shelling, they probably also have casualties, so the surgical staff would’ve been working in the OR anyway and hoping for the best.

      Sorry to comment sooo much, but this one sparked a lot of thoughts.

  9. It always makes me smile that when Potter first gets the parcel, he thinks it’s something cute for Sophie from Mildred. I just think that’s so sweet.

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