Bottle Fatigue is the sixteenth episode of the eighth season of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, as well as the 190th overall series episode. Directed by executive producer Burt Metcalfe, the episode was co-written by Thad Mumford and Dan Wilcox; it originally aired on January 7, 1980.
After running up a very high bar tab, Hawkeye vows to go on the wagon for one week. At the same time, Charles is livid that his sister is about to marry someone beneath their social class.
Full episode summary
After a session in OR, all of the staff wander into the Officers Club, where Igor is waiting to hand out their bar tabs. When Hawkeye discovers to his shock that he owes a staggering $38.20, which is much higher than everyone else's, he decides then and there to go on the wagon, which earns a round of laughter from everyone else. But Hawkeye insists that he's only going to stop drinking for a week to prove to himself that he can do it.
Meanwhile, Charles gets a letter from back home: his younger sister Honoria has announced that she has become engaged to marry an Italian. Infuriated over the idea that a woman of Honoria's bloodline is about to marry someone so far below her social class, Charles' bigoted snobbery kicks into high gear. In an attempt to stop the wedding, he tries placing a call home to Boston, but is rebuffed by both Sparky and Klinger. He then wakes Potter begging for an emergency trip home, but is again refused.
During the first few days of Hawkeye's sobriety he is full-on annoying and sanctimonious driving everyone crazy, while Charles decides to get drunk every night in an attempt to deal with his frustration over the mere idea of Honoria marrying an Italian, even resorting to all sorts of derogatory stereotypes when referring to his future brother-in-law.
Hawkeye later has a date in the Supply Room with a new nurse, Lt. Mendenhall, but he quickly ruins it with his snide comments about her drinking, and Mendenhall angrily leaves.
Charles is also making things worse for himself: while discussing his problem with Father Mulcahy, he blurts out that at least his sister "isn't marrying an Irishman", unknowingly angering the Irish Mulcahy. Later, Charles gets another letter from Honoria informing him that the engagement is now off. Charles is initially delighted, but when he reads that it was the groom's family that intervened refusing to let him marry outside of their faith, Charles' thinking pattern is jolted as now he himself is being discriminated against.
Wounded arrive in camp, and one of Hawkeye's patients is a North Korean POW who somehow smuggled a live grenade into the OR. Before anyone can stop him, he pulls the pin from the grenade and is about to set it off, but Hawkeye grabs both his hands keeping him from letting go as Klinger immobilizes him by holding his legs. In the struggle, the anesthesia tank is knocked over and broken preventing Margaret from gassing the POW, so Klinger runs to get an ether mask while Goldman takes over the POW's legs, and Potter orders all non-essential personnel to clear out. Hawkeye tries to calm down the agitated prisoner by singing "Hush Little Baby" while Margaret and Father Mulcahy get down on their knees to find the grenade pin. The others still in the OR join in singing along with Hawkeye, and it works just long enough for Father Mulcahy to find the pin and put it back in the grenade; Klinger returns a split second later with the ether mask to anesthetize the POW.
After surgery, Charles, soberly reflecting on what just happened in the OR, and now realizing with full clarity the significance of Honoria's last letter, dictates a telegram to Boston; he warns Honoria of the "boorish" letters he now regrets sending, citing "greatness of distance and narrowness of mind", and then apologetically admits that he finally realizes that his sister is no longer the naïve little girl he remembers from when he left home. He ends by saying that he only now understands the depth of the heartbreak she must be feeling and wishes he were there to share in her pain.
The others gather in the Officers Club, with Potter buying a whole round of drinks for Father Mulcahy. They each order a drink, including Hawkeye, who admits that after "spending five minutes serenading a guy who was holding our lives in the palm of his hand", he needs a drink to calm himself down. But after holding the glass of scotch in his hand for a moment, he calmly puts it down saying, "I'll be back when I want it, not when I need it", and walks out.
Potterism: Hang on to your homburg, Winchester.
Potterism: This is no time for experimenting. That's a Commie Pineapple! We gotta find the pin it came with!
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Shelley Long as Nurse Mendenhall
- Jeff Maxwell as Igor Straminsky
- David Hirokana as Chinese Soldier
- Shari Saba as Nurse (see Nurse Shari)
- Uncredited appearances
- It is of great irony that the nurse trying to get Hawkeye to drink is played by Shelley Long, who would soon achieve great fame in her own right for her role in as Diane Chambers in the 1982 TV series Cheers .
- At the three years of steady drinking Hawkeye had been doing-he would have too drunk to operate! The only time Hawkeye even considers going sober before this is in Alcoholics Unanimous (TV series episode) but only for a few seconds...
- Likewise stopping his drinking "Cold Turkey" would have resulted in having the DT from alcohol withdrawal-as happened to Major Houlihan's friend, Captain Helen Whitfield!
- $38.20 bar tab. Booze was 5 cents a drink-Hawkeye would have 764 drinks! An average of 2.09 drinks per day for a whole year! In Bug Out (TV series episode) Hawkeye Bar tab from Rosie is $51.50. At 5 cents a drink Hawkeye would have had 788.61 drinks!
- Hello; I am a new contributor, and did not write the above comments. But as a recovering alcoholic myself, I disagree with them. I haven't checked the math, but assuming it's accurate, 2-3 drinks per day isn't enough to give an otherwise healthy man symptoms of withdrawal; but it IS enough that the drinker might want to examine his drinking habits - and the levels of his liver enzymes. - C.
- Likely Anachronism: While on his date with Nurse Mendenhall Hawkeye references J. Fred Muggs. Muggs, a chimpanzee/television personality, was not born until March 1952, rising to prominence in 1953 as the mascot of The Today Show. Given that Hawkeye has been in Korea since 1950 this reference is unlikely, though not impossible.
- As the MASH staff was singing the "Hush Little Baby" nursery rhyme, they made a few mistakes. Here are the proper lyrics:
Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won't sing, Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring.
If that diamond ring turns brass, Mama's going to buy you a looking glass.
If that looking glass gets broke, Mama's going to buy you a billy goat.
If that billy goat won't pull, Mama's going to buy you a cart and bull.
If that cart and bull turn over, Mama's going to buy you a dog named Rover.
If that dog named Rover won't bark, Mama's going to buy you a horse and cart.
If that horse and cart fall down, You'll still be the sweetest little boy in town.
So hush little baby, don't you cry, Daddy loves you and so do I.