Sunday, March 04, 2007

DAY 4: “I think we’re in the Army!”

March 4,2007
21:04 hours.

“Henry, Please Come Home” - Airdate: November 19, 1972
PLOT: When the 4077 is awarded for its high success rate, Henry is reassigned to a teaching position in Tokyo. With Frank making life more miserable than usual, Hawkeye and Trapper scheme to win Henry back.
-Trapper John: “He’s not a nice person!”
-Overly creative shot framing overwhelms the episode.
-Geishas singing “If I’d Have Known You Were Coming (I’d Have Baked a Cake)”!
OVERSTATED PRAISE FOR PIERCE (& McIntyre): “You’re the two finest cutters I’ve ever been associated with.”

This is, in my estimation, the first perfectly character-driven M*A*S*H episode. Not that there’s a major problem with earlier episodes, but “Come Home” hangs all its plot points no what we know about the characters and how they feel about each other, not just hatching wacky schemes for character-based reasons. So any civilian doctor would jump at the chance to get out of a front line unit, but because Henry Blake is such a man of creature comforts it’s going to be a hard task prying him loose from a comfy new job. Pierce and McIntyre find the leverage they need by exploiting Henry’s unspoken affection for Radar O’Reilly. The episode neatly reminds us of this special relationship as Henry is saying his goodbyes, and gets tongue-tied when he comes to Radar, finally chucking the boy on the chin and blurting “Crazy monkey!” So Radar feigns illness to summon Henry “home”, and there’s a brief panic when the colonel’s fatherly love goes too far and he wants to do an exploratory. “He’s gonna open me!,” Radar gulps. The scene rescues the episode from sappiness: because Henry cares about Radar so much, he almost cuts him open for no reason.

Sight gag-o-rama: Trapper threatens M.P.s with a flyswatter.

Lest we forget M*A*S*H is still finding its feet, there is a lot of visual experimentation in “Come Home” which does not pay off. A dozen shots are framed through foreground elements for no discernable reason, and conversations are shot through a pair of pants hanging on a clothes line, the wooden posts of the Swamp’s tent frame, a jeep windshield, a bedframe, and a closed screen door. This rare stylistic flourish doesn’t signify anything, doesn’t add depth to the frame, and just makes the compositions cluttered and confusing. So what were they thinking? Crazy monkeys.

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