Impressions: M*A*S*H- The Party

The Party is the 26th episode of the 7th season of M*A*S*H and is one of my all-time favorites. Amidst the camp needing to bug out, BJ comes up with an idea for the camp’s families back home to get together. A reunion of sorts. What plays out is possibly not the funniest or more profound episode of M*A*S*H, but it is sweet and has a delightful ending.

The episode starts, as so many, with everyone tired post-surgery. BJ is reading a letter from his wife and says that she burnt some preserves. Radar and Potter both say that their mother and wife, respectively, have ideas to help. Potter gives BJ his address to give directly to Peg so that they can write to each other instead of using them as a go-between. BJ is excited by the idea of them talking to each other, and Hawkeye quips that if they ever have a reunion, they’ll already know each other. While he means it as a joke, it gives BJ an idea.

He wants to organize a party with each of the families of the people in camp getting together so they can meet and get to know each other.

Then the orders to bug out come through. While most people are panicking, BJ is spending his time trying to talk them into inviting people to the party. His only real concern with the bug out is that he has a patient that shouldn’t be moved in order to avoid paralyzing him.

At first, most of the group is pretty hesitant about the idea, with a few exceptions. Potter and Mulcahy are unsurprisingly on board. Radar is too distracted by the bug out. Klinger is resistant, but not as much as other people, mostly concerned about his mother only speaking Arabic.

When they arrive at the new campsite, BJ’s patient is not showing any signs of cord function, and he starts to dip into a depression. He gives up completely on the party and laments that he “doesn’t care about anything.” Hawkeye, who was one of the people resistant to the idea, sees that his friend needs help and demands that the camp suck it up and try.

Flash forward a few weeks later, and it’s time for the camp to move back. As they are driving, we cut to various groups as they read their families’ responses. Hawkeye is informed by his father that while it is true that he doesn’t like to travel away from his patients, his son means more than any of them, and he is disappointed that Hawkeye doesn’t realize he would drop anything for him. Margaret has been hiding her parent’s divorce and is surprised to discover they are willing to set everything aside to do this for her. Charles is horrified to discover his parents are excited by the idea and more than happy to attend.

The next hiccup in the plan comes with trying to pick a date for the party. Everybody seemingly has something happening every weekend they pick. It takes a while, but they finally pick a date and celebrate. Even Charles seems into it. Notably, Klinger is not happy.

The final issue is when Klinger confronts Hawkeye and BJ about their plans to take a picture in front of the famous signpost – pointing to the various places they come from – because his mother does not know he is in Korea because nobody wants her to worry about him. It takes a bit, but the guys agree to get everyone to go along with the ruse.

The episode ends with Radar reading Peg’s, BJ’s wife, letter to the group while they are in the OR. It is pretty touching as they realize the families have all come together in a rather beautiful way with their shared love and grief over being apart from their loved ones. There is a touching moment when Klinger’s mom tells Peg that she’s always known that Klinger was in Korea but agreed to allow him to think his lie worked so that he wouldn’t worry about her. A sort of Gift of the Magi moment.

As I said at the start this is not the funniest episode. There are some decent jokes, but it is more sparse than some episodes. It’s also not the most profound. It doesn’t have the impact that, say, Dreams, or some of the interview episodes do as far as the tragedy of war. However, it is still one of my favorites. It’s just so darn sweet and touching. The families’ surprising their kids with a show of love for them. The touching letter from Peg and how it reflects what is happening with the characters we know and love.

At this stage in the show, with Margret calming down and Frank being gone, there is a real message about how these different people are brought together by these horrible circumstances. Yes, they still fight and disagree, but at the end of the day, they care for one another because they can’t help it. The letter shows the same thing. The extremely different families in class, background, hell, even language meet and begin to love each other too because of their own shared circumstances.

So maybe it is a little more profound than I give it credit for, the notion that we can come together because of the things we share.

Bottom line, I highly recommend this episode. It is one of my favorites, as I said. It leaves me feeling touched and often gives me a bit of a cry, but a good one. I think it gets lost in the shuffle for a lot of “must-watch” episodes, but you can consider it on my list.

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