Captain B.J. Hunnicutt (played by Mike Farrell) is a fictional character in the TV show M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972-1983 on CBS.
Hunnicutt resided in Mill Valley, California before he was recruited to join the US Army to fight in the War. He is a third generation doctor in his family, educated at Stanford University and was a member of the Tau Phi Epsilon fraternity. When he comes to MASH 4077 September 19, 1952 he is 28 years old and was married for 10 years after he graduated from Medical School; the best man at his wedding was his yellow practical Joker Captain Leo Bardonaro. B.J. is married to Peg Hayden (who writes scores of letters to him while he is in Korea). The couple has a daughter named Erin. When he first meets Hawkeye, he tells him that he was shipped out shortly after Erin was born, but otherwise Erin's age and birthdate remain ambiguous. His father-in-law Floyd Hayden fought the Germans in World War I and is a farmer in Quapaw, Oklahoma.
Aside from his reliable surgical skill, Hunnicutt was known for his generally calm, diplomatic, and pragmatic nature, often acting as a rational foil to his best friend Hawkeye's overly excited emotions and seat-of-the-pants judgments. Even the snobbish Major Winchester privately concedes Hunnicutt is a reasonable and personable chap, although he can't help but sneer that B.J. was born, raised, and took his degree in California (in contrast to a highborn New England Ivy League man such as himself).
Captain Hunnicutt first appeared on the show in 1975, after Trapper John McIntyre was allowed to return home.
His full name remained a mystery throughout the series. He claimed (in the Season 7 episode "Lil") - perhaps in jest - that he was named after his mother Bea and father Jay (hence Bea-Jay = B.J.). Hawkeye, for one, did not accept that explanation.
Unlike Trapper, who was a class clown, B.J. was used more as a straight man to Hawkeye's antics. Although largely agreeing with his assessment of the Army, the war, and regulation in general, Hunnicutt tended to be much less aggressive in his crusades than Hawkeye, usually preferring to be a quieter voice of reason to his friend (likely because he has a family at home to think about). While Hawkeye tends to fly strictly by his gut emotions (often at the expense of his better judgment), B.J. is more reasoned and mature. Despite generally empathizing with his best friend, he often suggests alternate, less confrontational solutions to problems and will occasionally outright refuse to participate in one of Hawkeye's schemes when it violates his principles.
Relationship with wifeEdit
He often frustrated his bunkmate and best friend, Captain Hawkeye Pierce, with his traditional values and steadfast loyalty to his wife and his marriage. The forced separation from his family was a habitual source of turmoil. While largely unflappable in other regards, the missing of important family moments and the apparent neglect of his own domestic responsibilities were particularly upsetting to him. He also took insults to his familial loyalty very personally.
In the fifth-season episode "Hanky Panky," B.J. unexpectedly comes close to having a one-night stand with nurse Carrie Donovan, causing him great shame and anguish. (While we see them kissing passionately on screen, we never see how far they actually go, so the jury is out on whether or not B.J. was truly unfaithful.). "I'm a happily married man!" he lamented, "Not like Frank Burns is happy because his wife owns real estate." He almost told his wife but Hawkeye advised against it, and B.J. eventually straightened things out and made peace with Carrie. In War Correspondent, a young, attractive news correspondent came to MASH 4077 and made advances toward him, B.J. again goes through the near temptation of having an affair with her. In fact, despite his joking and drinking, the anguish of being separated from his family caused B.J. to hit Hawkeye and have a nervous breakdown in "Period of Adjustment."
Despite these later developments of his character, it seems that when he was brought onto the show, B.J. was intended to be another Trapper John: just three episodes after Hanky Panky (TV series episode) in Movie Tonight (TV series episode) shows B.J. and Hawkeye singing a duet about how they work on patients throughout the day, and on nurses throughout the night, which is more consistent with Trapper John's attitude toward marriage than B.J.'s relationship with his wife. Especially early on, he is often depicted in similar ways as Trapper John, for instance in one of the first episodes of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and Trapper are shown waiting in Hawaiian shirts and lounge Chairs for 5 O'Clock Charlie (TV series episode) to fly over their camp; Later in Bug Out, Hawkeye and B.J. are wearing Hawaiian Shirts and sitting in lounge chairs, much like Trapper John and Hawkeye were often depicted. He also has a passion for motorcycles he drives one in The Yalu Brick Road (TV series episode); his Indian motorcycle is wrecked by Clayton Kibbee Blood and Guts (TV series episode); apparently he could not get it repaired as he rides a motorcycle from some Chinese P.O.W.s and he rides it off into the sunset in the last episode Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen (TV series episode)
As a doctorEdit
Hunnicutt is an excellent doctor with strong morals and is always looking to do the right thing. This was displayed in Preventive Medicine where Hawkeye and B.J. spike the drink of a bloodthirsty commander to make him medically unfit to lead an unnecessary battle. Hawkeye unexpectedly ups the ante by claiming he has appendicitis and must be operated upon, a trick he and Trapper John once used to put Colonel Sam Flagg temporarily out of commission. This time however, B.J. objects to this needless surgery as human mutilation and a violation of his oath so he refuses to cooperate after a heated argument with the adamant Hawkeye.
As a soldierEdit
In "Bombshells," B.J. is in a helicopter and forced to cut a rope leading down to a wounded soldier he and the pilot were trying to rescue from enemy soldiers (effectively abandoning him to capture or death). He receives a Bronze Star for bravery for the act, but announces to Hawkeye that he cannot go on thumbing his nose at authority any more, and that the act he had committed turned him into a soldier. (In fact the Bronze Star is awarded for combat action with a enemy; he would have probably been awarded a US Army Commendation Medal or the US Soldiers Medal).
At the start of the seventh season, Hunnicutt grew a mustache, which he would wear for the remainder of the series. He is also portrayed as a motorcycle enthusiast in at least two episodes, including in Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen. His final line in that episode (and the series) is not spoken. Hawkeye was upset at B.J. for refusing to say 'goodbye' to him; B.J. did not like saying goodbye and sensed that both men knew they would not see each other after the war, given the distance between their homes. One of the final scenes of the episode is Hawkeye getting into a helicopter to fly out of the camp site on the first leg of his journey home, and seeing B.J. standing on the helipad below him as the chopper lifts off. The word GOODBYE is spelled out in white rocks on the ground. B.J. then gets on the motorcycle he had gotten from the Chinese POWs and rides off.
- The character is named for the series DP, Bill Jurgensen, but Mike Farrell likes to never answer what B.J. stands for as a joke
- Prior to his joining M*A*S*H, Mike Farrell's then-wife, actress Judy Farrell, appeared on the show in the early seasons playing various nurses. When he joined the show, he had B.J.'s daughter Erin named after his own daughter with Judy.
- B.J. was referred to in passing in the TV hospital drama St. Elsewhere as a one-time drinking buddy of Dr. Craig while he was in Korea. The series writers were fond of inserting such inside jokes from time to time. How this might challenge the authenticity of the whole series (in lieu of St. Elsewhere's final revelation) is never addressed.
- Incorrectly regarded as a goof in the series is him being shown as a Captain. The series is correct in having him be a Captain. Once the degree of MD or DO is conferred on a member of the military they are given the rank of Captain in both the US Air Force and US Army. The rank of Captain is achieved after 7 years of active duty service or a field promotion for officers on the line side (fighting). The rank of Major is attained for members of the AMEDD after serving as a Captain for 6 years.
- During production of M*A*S*H, Mike Farrell met doctor Patch Adams, who served as a technical consultant on the show. Farrell later produced the biopic Patch Adams, which starred comedian/actor Robin Williams.
Notes and references Edit
- ↑ The Actors from M*A*S*H — On How M*A*S*H Changed Our Lives (February 2019)