Ridiculous M*A*S*H hypocrisy

Just gotta get this off my chest. I’ve got MAS*H on the telly as I’m checking out the Dope, and Klinger tells Potter he saw one of the nurses in the supply tent last night and she was (gasp) drunk. Potter talks to Houlihan, tells her to check it out, tells her we can’t have anyone with a drinking problem on his staff. Houlihan confronts the nurse and ultimately tells her she can’t take any chances, she is no longer allowed to work in OR. OK, now Houlihan tells Potter that she has someone keeping an eye on the nurse so she won’t sneak any booze.

It’s a good thing nobody else at the 4077th shows any signs of excessive drinking.

Col. Potter—“You don’t get the DT’s when you’re drinking, you get em’ when you stop!!!”

It was always assumed Hawkeye, BJ, and the others drinking was off duty.

But, the writers always skirted around the issue. I recall one episode that on a bet Hawkeye stopped drinking for a few days. Other than that, they rarely said much. Even Charles drank. In the ER there was never any indication that the surgeons were drunk.

Yeah, that was BS. We’d routinely see every surgeon we know of drunk, and just as routinely see everyone be surprised that choppers were inbound and there were several hundred wounded to operate on. Just never in the same episode.

There is also the earlier episode where Alan Alda’s Dad appeared for the first time as a doctor and he was too drunk to operate. They give him crap about it.

Somehow, we are to believe that while everyone(I mean everyone) drank, all the surgeons managed to time it so no wounded were coming in.

The reason, by the way, that that nurse gets in such trouble is that she handed the wrong blood type to Klinger during surgery the day before. She was known to have a drinking problem before and she clearly is not a totally functional alcoholic. Her drinking affects here career and the lives of the wounded.

There is also an episode where Hawkeye has to leave the OR to throw-up. He was drunk over Radar getting in an accident or something, and he had to leave a patient in mid-cut.

If I remember the scene correctly, Potter wasn’t very happy about it, and Charles was enjoying it a bit too much. He took over for Hawkeye after BJ yelled at Charles. “You know why as well as I do.” was his statement to Charles after Charles said something about Pierce not being able to handle the pressures of OR.

My impression of this scene was that everyone knew of their drinking, but the surgeons were expected to show up and not get sick at sea. In the rare occasion one does get sick, the other surgeons were supposed to cover for him.

That was the only time I remember alcohol being an issue for the doctors IN THE OR, so maybe this is why the nurse was a bigger concern (mistake in OR)

Of course they were very hypocritical about it. There were plenty of scenes where the boys were about to take a long swig of their martinis when they heard the choppers come in and put the drinks down. Are we to believe that the choppers never came in after they had pounded down a martini or two?

It was pretty clear in the show that they were on call 24/7, and that wounded could and did come in all the time unexpectedly, including in the middle of a supposed cease-fire (in fact, as I recall the call for wounded coming in came in during the middle of a big party - are we to assume no one was drinking?)

It’s just one of those things about MASH that you have to let go. The doctors drank so much that several episodes hinged on their potential alcoholism, yet we’re to believe that wounded had the good graces to only arrive when they were sober.

Of course, according to the show, in one of the early episodes, it is clearly stated that there are two shifts of surgeons, as Hawkeye is appointed Chief Surgeon over both. We just never see them, as we never see the other shifts on the Enterprise. It is understood that they generally hit the booze after the shift is over, and they roll out to do triage, not operate.

The episode in question is from the ninth season. Did they tone down the doctors’ boozing in those late seasons? They certainly made the whole cast a lot “nicer” over the years–namby-pamby even–but I don’t remember specifically if they cut back on the alcohol. If I’m right, it this situation wouldn’t be as incongruous as it would have in the early seasons, when the Swamp denizens were downright proud of being a bunch of drunks.

Drinking in the 1950’s and earlier was a lot more tolerant. People drove tipsy, went to work after a few drinks etc. That’s the way it was. You had to be obviously, swaying drunk before anyone gave a crap. I don’t doubt that surgeons on call sometimes came in after a few drinks at dinner.

Today, it’s a whole new world. I don’t even risk one lousy beer at a restaurant anymore. Thirty years ago, me and my friends always ordered a pitcher of beer at Pizza Hut to split among several people. It’s pretty much zero tolerance these days. At least as far as I’m concerned, I’m not rolling the dice on any alcohol in public.

True, though, IMO, MAS*H only rarely attempted to be historically accurate in the way it treated social issues. Yes, it’s set in the early 1950s, but it’s more a product of the 1970s and early 1980s, when it was filmed.

I think that Biffy may have hit the nail on the head…there’s a big difference in tone, and the characters’ behavior, between the first few seasons of the show, and the later seasons.

Functional alcoholism was the norm, actually. Basically, the doctors (and others) used alcohol as a way to cope with their lives. They drew the line at nonfunctional alcoholism.

This is exactly what I was thinking after I planted the OP.

Whatever became of the still? It is no longer there in the later seasons, is it? I wonder when it went away; I don’t recall any to-do made of it (I do remember the boys having to dismantle it once, but only for one episode).


The entire investigation into this nurse’s potential drinking problem was initiate based solely on the fact that Klinger saw her hammered late at night (and off duty) in the supply tent. Klinger and Potter - who knew nothing of her drinking history - were very concerned.

Then the preventive method is obvious. :slight_smile:

Hmmm, in my memory Hawkeye was operating on Radar himself when he had to run out. When Radar woke up and heard about it, he said that Hawkeye had really disappointed people who looked to him to be strong (hint hint, “you disappointed poor Radar”). Hawkeye then got quite indignant over that dressing down.(“How dare you put that all on me!” type stuff)
To the OP: I thought that the fact that she was drunk alone in the supply closet suggested she was a “worse” alcoholic than the run-of-the-mill MASH professional. I mean she wasn’t even there on a “date” with some sleazy Doctor!

I’m far more concerned about Charles Emerson Winchester’s amphetamine abuse and his subsequent delusions of grandeur…

And I don’t recall Hawkeye running out because he was drunk, I remember him running out because it was Radar. All of his other patients are safely random soldiers that he doesn’t know at all and isn’t close with. It’s not that he doesn’t care about these patients, it’s just that that relative anonymity gives him the distance needed to perform surgery and such. When Radar becomes a patient, someone he’s very close to, it makes the war that much more horrible and he struggles with it.

At least, that’s what I remember. I seem to recall that Hawkeye does get drunk in that episode, but only after Radar’s surgery is over. Off hours, in other words.

No- Radar calls him on it in post op tha he was too hungover to operate. Hawkeye yells at Radar not idealize him as he was only human. Then Radar gets ice cream. I thought the surgery was only a tonsillectomy? Or am I conflating two different episodes?

ETA: Yes I was: here’s a summary I found online:

Radar wants to become a man so Hawkeye recommends he goes to Seoul. On his way there he is hit by a mine. Hawkeye performs surgery on him. After surgery, Hawkeye goes to the Officers Club where he gets hammered. The next day he goes to surgery severely hung over. Radar tells Hawkeye he is disappointed in him. Hawkeye explodes and is then yelled at by Major Houlihan, Colonel Potter and Father Mulcahy. Radar and Hawkeye make up. Radar receives a Purple Heart.
Read Full Recap » (warning: possible spoilers!)

So, to recap- Radar gets hurt, Hawkeye does operate just fine but gets hammered after, is so hungover he has to leave surgery the next day, Radar yells at him. No one gets ice cream.

War is hell.