Alcoholics Unanimous was the ninth episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 57th overall series episode. Written by Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell, and directed by Hy Averback, it first aired on November 12, 1974.
While temporarily in command of the 4077th, Major Burns bans all alcohol on the post, learning in the process that Hot Lips herself (along with almost the entire camp) drinks to avoid the pains of war and eventually succumbing to temptation.
Full episode summary
Hawkeye, Trapper, and a cast of dozens try to watch the evening movie during a rainstorm, but the audio cuts out and finally, a torrent of water pours thorough a hole in the roof on the projector, making it explode. Sipping martinis from specimen cups, the captains retire to the Swamp, where Frank, temporarily in command with Henry in Seoul, has Radar dismantling the still.
Hawkeye and Trapper lovingly reattach their “wellspring of life” and pour another drink under the watchful glare of Frank, who calls them alcoholics. Fed up with their constant drinking, Frank issues an official order banning all alcohol in camp while he is in command. The 4077th is dry.
During the next surgery session, Frank has the still torn down and hidden, prompting Hawkeye and Trapper to hit up Father Mulcahy for some sacramental wine. The Father refuses, so the captains stay for the 11:00 am Protestant service so they can pray for booze (they're the only attendees; Klinger was the only one who attended the Father's Catholic mass previously--he says he's actually atheist; he just attends so he can wear his white gloves). (The whole scene with Father Mulcahy is usually cut from most syndicated airings.)
Frank cackles with glee to Margaret about Hawkeye and Trapper's reaction to his prohibition order. Margaret is taken aback when she hears the still was deactivated and Frank's banning of alcohol. Margaret confesses she has an heirloom flask filled with brandy to help combat the cold and fatigue of war. Not surprisingly, Frank allows her to keep it.
Undeterred, Hawkeye and Trapper continue their quest for alcohol and break into a storage cabinet in the supply room. They quickly hide when Margaret enters the room and are delighted to witness her unveil a full bottle of brandy from a locked file cabinet. They confront her, then the three of them adjourn to the Swamp to empty the bottle. The drunken revelry is interrupted by Frank (who has just had Radar nail the doors to the O-Club shut), who is horrified there is alcohol being consumed and screams that anyone caught with intoxicating liquids will be severely disciplined. As he leaves in a huff, a drunken Margaret asks, “Who was that?” and the equally drunken captains howl in laughter.
Frank approaches Father Mulcahy about giving a lecture on temperance and the evil of drink. He agrees, but admits nobody comes to his services. Frank says that is no problem, for he will order the whole camp to attend.
The lack of booze is making Hawkeye and Trapper cranky. They snap at Margaret in surgery and later trade verbal jabs in the Swamp, which nearly escalates to physical violence. Ready to strike each other (see photo above), they come to the realization they might actually be alcoholics.
On Sunday, the mess tent is a full house, and Father Mulcahy, prepping in his tent, is nervous, so Klinger pours him a whiskey “bracer” to calm him down. Unfortunately, he pours him too much booze, for by the time he gets to the service, the poor Father, not accustomed to drinking so much, is snockered. He keeps repeating himself during the sermon and asks Radar to open a stained glass window. Mulcahy swoons, and when Trapper stands up to help him, unwittingly starts a scuffle that ends with Frank getting hit in the groin. Margaret quickly nurses him on her flask of brandy. Hawkeye and Trapper notice and happily announce prohibition has been repealed.
Later in the OR, Frank asks Hawkeye and Trapper if they feel better for drinking less. Hawkeye replies in the affirmative, and Frank commends them, reminding them to keep their drinking in "moderation." In response, Hawkeye asks his nurse for "two straws, please," to Frank's renewed chagrin.
Research notes/Fun facts
- McLean Stevenson, though billed, does not appear in this episode. The character of Henry Blake is said to be delivering a medical lecture in Seoul.
- The film that opens the episode (and that the M*A*S*H crew watches) is Tin Pan Alley from 1940, starring Alice Faye.
- During the oft-deleted scene where Klinger is helping Father Mulcahy swap out services, we first learn that Klinger is an atheist. In a later episode, "The Kids," we see Klinger praying for a wounded Korean girl who has just given birth. Father Mulcahy notices and says, "Klinger, I thought you were an atheist?" Klinger replies, "I gave it up for Lent."
- In the same scene, Klinger says he may have to re-enlist to prove he's crazy (since the dresses aren't working). In a future episode, "Your Retention, Please," he actually does (in a drunken despair after he learns his beloved Laverne has married his best friend).
- William Christopher as Father Mulcahy
- Jamie Farr as Klinger
- Bobbie Mitchell as Nurse Baker (name given in credits, not used in dialogue)
Virtually all the regular extras are seated near the very front during Father Mulcahy's sermon. All are uncredited, with no lines, but receive a fair bit of camera time: