Monster M*A*S*H

Dear Sigmund is the 105th episode of M*A*S*H, the eighth in the fifth season of the show, which originally aired on CBS-TV on November 9, 1976. It was written and directed by Alan Alda.


A depressed and unfocused Sidney pays another visit to the 4077th, this time as his own patient, composing a letter to Sigmund Freud while the rest of the camp endures the hijinks of a mystery prankster...

Full episode summary[]

Dr. Sidney Freedman makes another visit to the 4077th and stays longer than he planned to. During his extended stay he finds the time to write a letter to no less than one Sigmund Freud, in which he tells the world-famous psychiatrist about what he calls "a kind of spa" - the 4077th. He expounds on how "the inmates have an interesting defense against carnage- insanity in the service of health", noting that one of them- namely Hawkeye, is particularly good at the defense. Sidney writes about how Hawkeye recently made rounds in Post-Op "with a personality that had split two for one", wearing his tuxedo, a pith helmet, and a pair of swim fins, all the while cracking Groucho Marx-style one-liners which earned smiles from the patients as well as the nurses.

Sidney then writes about Klinger, whom he calls "an interesting case [who has] found more ways to go crazy than you ever dreamt of". He tells of Klinger's latest attempt at a Section Eight, when he pretended to be hit in the head by a chopper blade and now can only speak in Arabic (with a Private Habib interpreting), He even shows Potter the helmet that got hit by the blade, but when Potter notices that it was actually run over by a jeep he again deduces a ruse and turns Klinger away, much to his perennial frustration.

Continuing his letter to Sigmund, Sidney remarks that he is drawn to the 4077th staff because they are, as he puts it, "faced with aggression in its most brutal form", having "regressed to a state of antic, if not lunatic pleasure", adding that there has been a recent rash of practical jokes in camp, and whoever is setting up the pranks has become a folk hero:

  • In the mess tent, when Frank sits down at the same table as Margaret, Hawkeye, Potter and B.J., the plank holding up his end of the bench quickly falls out from underneath him and he falls to the floor, with the food on his tray flying in all directions. Hawkeye, B.J. and even Potter all get a good laugh from it.
  • Another day, while out doing some surveying, Potter uses a pair of binoculars that, unbeknownst to either him or Radar, had had its eyepieces saturated with black ink; when Potter put the binoculars down he looks like he has two black eyes. Seeing this, Radar begins laughing, so much so that he falls out of the jeep they're in.
  • When he finds Hawkeye and B.J. perusing through his Sigmund letter, Sidney is indignant but nevertheless opens up to them saying, "There's something special about this place - you give life here. I'm running a little low on that right now", and then laments about how he just lost one of his patients to suicide, which is something he should have seen coming. Hearing this, Frank taunts him about it, but then literally winds up with egg on his face when he puts his helmet on and a raw egg cracks and runs down his forehead.

Pointing out Sigmund's observation that there's a link between anger and wit, Sidney writes that "anger turned inward is depression", while "anger turned sideways... is Hawkeye". He writes about how Hawkeye met and then treated Captain Hathaway, a bomber pilot who arrived in camp with a slightly injured foot after bailing from his burning plane. Hathaway is stationed in Tokyo, and his duties are little more than a half-hour bombing run over Korea before going back to his home base. Hawkeye begins to notice that Hathaway keeps himself above the war, both physically and emotionally, and is consequently oblivious to the destruction he is causing by his light duty. During triage, Hawkeye recruits Hathaway into helping to bring a patient on a litter into the OR, and then Hathaway catches a glimpse of Potter's current patient, an eight year old girl. Hathaway is horrified to learn that she was hit by a bomb dropped from a plane. He asks whether it was "one of ours or one of theirs" stating that it makes a difference, to which Potter replies, "Not to her". Now crushed, Hathaway walks out with Hawkeye close behind. Realizing that Hawkeye brought him in to the OR on purpose, Hathaway calls him "a real S.O.B.", but Hawkeye can only remark on how Hathaway seems like "a decent guy, too decent to think that this can be anything like a 'clean war'". Hathaway apologetically breaks down in tears, with Hawkeye adding that "twenty thousand feet is a long way to come down".

An ambulance loaded with patients leaves out for the EVAC hospital, but the driver takes a turn too tightly and flips the truck into a ditch. Radar screams for help as everyone available comes running to bring the newly-injured patients back into the OR. Potter angrily tells Radar he wants to see the driver, named O'Donnell, in his office, but when Radar tells him that O'Donnell was killed in the accident, Potter is stunned to silence. Sidney mentions in his letter how Radar seems just as childlike as the Korean children he plays with, and yet keeps the 4077th running smoothly. We later get to see him in action ordering extra provisions to trade with neighboring units for other items, and how he gently handles the task of writing a letter for Potter to O'Donnell's parents.

Sidney even adds some details about Father Mulcahy; he is fascinated by the good father, categorizing him as "shy and studious" while adding, "he's got a left hook that could stop a truck". He also remarks on how Mulcahy seems to be a natural as a therapist despite having no training whatsoever. He observes the Father talking with one of the re-injured soldiers from the ambulance accident; the young man says he refuses to ride in an ambulance or a chopper to go home, but when Mulcahy says he can make arrangements for the man to ride home in a nice, slow ship, and that he should be home with his family in three or four months, the man asks when the next ambulance leaves.

During his stay, Sidney shares a drink with Margaret in the Swamp. He characterizes Margaret in his letter as "an interesting woman: on the outside, all discipline and strength, and on the inside, six kinds of passion looking for an exit". She remarks on the shortages of medical supplies, and then complains about how her fiance Donald celebrated his birthday in Tokyo without her, adding that he told her "they had a nice time". The small conversation quickly turns dramatic when the self-described "unflappable" Margaret becomes loudly offended when she sees an athletic supporter laying nearby. Initially Sidney doesn't see what the big deal is, but Margaret gets so worked up that she screams for Sidney to put his hat over it so she doesn't have to look at it, after which Margaret denies she even got upset.

Sidney then talks with Frank, who is very busy digging several fox holes around camp in anticipation of an air raid. Frank boasts about his adamancy to go back home in one piece, mainly because of some signals he has been getting from his wife Louise back home. He tells about how Louise has been dropping some hints about how she's going in for "strange things", including spending fifty-five dollars on a day trip to Indianapolis with some of her female friends "just to look around", getting involved in politics stuffing envelopes and ringing doorbells for "the Republican club", and even wearing slacks (as evidenced by a picture she sent him in which she is walking away from the camera). Frank dislikes the fact that Louise is changing and is convinced she won't be the same girl he married when he gets back home. Sidney attempts to reassure him despite the new things Louise is doing it doesn't mean she's going to divorce him, which Frank callously asserts while coining one of his more memorable Frank-isms: "I happen to believe in the sanctity of marriage, no matter how ugly or disgusting it gets!"

The one person Sidney can't figure out is B.J., whom he describes as "an enigma with size thirteen shoes". Sidney asserts in his letter that there must be something bubbling underneath B.J.'s calm and serene demeanor, and his suspicions are confirmed when he sees that B.J. is in fact the phantom prankster as he's filling Frank's air raid bunker- the one closest to the Swamp, with water. Sidney offers to help, and B.J. instructs him to shout "air raid!" at the top of his lungs. Violently startled awake, Frank runs out of the Swamp in a panic screaming, "Air raid!" and heads toward the bunker, tripping over the low wall and literally making a big splash.

After a brief ceremony unveiling a small cherry tree branch to mark a very chilly first day of spring, Sidney, ready to head back to work, climbs in his jeep and begins to ride away when he notices a strange noise: B.J. had tied a few large cans to the bumper of Sidney's jeep. He stops for a moment wondering what's making the racket, and after a wave from B.J., smiles as he resumes his trip back to Seoul, the cans still loudly clunking away behind him.

Research notes/Fun facts[]

  • In the final scene usually cut from syndicated airings, Potter is operating with both his bare feet soaking in a tub of water, as Sidney narrates to "Sigmund" that the staff at the 4077th "may look like other doctors, but underneath..."
  • Klinger makes a reference to "Hula Hoops", but these were not a craze in the USA until later in the 1950s - the modern version wasn't invented until 1958. Coincidentally, Klinger would try to convince Major Charles Emerson Winchester III to invest in the hula hoop when he discovers Korean children playing with them in the Season 11 episode "Who Knew?" It is entirely possible that Korean children would play with hoops in such a manner, as children have for hundreds of years, but they obviously weren't referred to as "hula hoops" until after they were marketed in the United States.
  • Sal Viscuso, who took over the recurring role of the unseen P.A. announcer beginning this season, is seen on camera as Patient John. The P.A. announcer is not heard during this episode.
  • Most syndicated airings omit the part where Klinger speaks Arabic and the joker gets Potter with the binoculars--it usually cuts from Hawkeye in Post Op wearing the tuxedo to the bomber pilot arriving at Rosie's by oxcart and running into Hawkeye.
  • Sigmund Freud died in September 1939, three weeks after World War II started in Europe, and less than 11 years before the Korean War began.
  • Possible Anomaly: Another victim of the mystery prankster, Frank puts on his helmet, only to find someone has put 2 eggs in it. The status of the fresh egg at the 4077th fluctuates from episode to episode, but most times, it's revered as something rare and almost unattainable (half of an entire episode was dedicated to the downright veneration of the egg ["A Holy Mess"]), so it's always puzzling why someone would use them in such a manner (in an earlier season, someone threw one at Radar as he was playing "Reverie").

Guest stars/Recurring cast[]

Uncredited (extras, no lines):

External links[]