To round out the month, I thought we would finish off with a Boxing Day episode, of which there are not many out there (got pretty close to it going live on Boxing Day too). For those that don’t know traditionally, Boxing Day happened the day after Christmas and involved the wealthy giving gifts to the poor. The 10th episode of the 10th season of MAS*H did their own little spin on it.
The 4077 has a few visiting officers from the British unit for their Christmas party. As the group parties on, the British officers inform them of a tradition of officers trading places with enlisted men for Boxing Day. Charles, of course, finds the notion ridiculous, and none of the officers are too thrilled with it, but when Potter suggests they do it and the majority of people are happy about it, he can’t resist. He decides to trade places with Klinger and that all the officers will be traded with enlisted as well.
The episode unfolds as expected, with the officers feeling resistant to what is happening and more than a few laughs along the way. Charles is put in the kitchen where he wants to introduce good food, but the realities of feeding the unit and the work involved take over. Potter struggles with keeping up with Klinger’s work, while Klinger struggles every time he has to make an important decision. To the absolute surprise of nobody, only Father Mulcahy seems to fully enjoy and get into it.
But because it’s MAS*H and even more so a later episode, we do face a little drama when a patient is showing signs of infection and needs to be operated on. His fever making surgery even more dangerous.
This episode is good… but not great. It struggles with what I think was the weakness of the show overall, even though it has so many strengths, the length. Because it was sitcom length and often followed that formula but still attempted to do so much, a lot of episodes are not fully fleshed out, this being one. We get a brief look at each of them taking on their new role, then suddenly surgery, then it’s over. There is not a lot of development or closure with most of the stories/role switches.
It is also a bit too deferential to the officer characters. Klinger shies away from basically every decision he has to make, never stepping in at all. This sort of flies in the face of a lot of what this show preached in the past as far as roles. I get it’s for the joke, but it is kind of off-putting to me. More so, Nurse Kelly having a moment where she says, “she didn’t even think to turn off the heater in the OR” when they have to bring the temperature down to operate on the patient. Kelly has always been a practical person and a good nurse, and something that simple went by her? Both of these seem to serve as saying the officers really are better/smarter than the enlisted, which once again flies a bit in the face of the show overall.
It’s still a pretty decent episode though, MAS*H rarely ever truly disappoints me. Klinger’s quips with Potter and Potter’s struggles to do even the basic tasks are amusing. Watching Charles get a bit of his own is always enjoyable, and Father Mulcahy is great. There is also a nice moment at the end that runs counter to the problems I had with Kelly and Klinger. The group, as usual, is complaining about the food when Charles actually comes to the cook’s defense, at least mildly. This really does bring it around that there was something worthwhile in what they did, and that is to have the officers understand the difficulties the others face.
So bottom line? It is not my favorite episode of MAS*H, it is, however, a decent episode and a way to draw out the season a bit. There are not a lot of shows that do “after Christmas but still sort of Christmas” episodes like this. It is fun enough, I just have a few problems with the overall delivery. I would have liked to see the arcs close out a little more, or at least not have Klinger be so hapless. All in all, though, I think it’s worth a watch, again, especially if you are looking to extend the holidays a bit.