Monster M*A*S*H

Dreams was the 22nd episode of Season 8 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 195th overall series episode. Directed by Alan Alda, who wrote the teleplay and collaborated with James Jay Rubinfier on the storyline, it originally aired on CBS-TV on February 18, 1980. This episode is considered arguably among the finest written of all 256 episodes of the series.


During a hectic non-stop rush of wounded that is overcrowding the camp, the staff takes brief naps and each have disturbing dreams in which the war is an omnipresent intrusion.

Full episode summary[]

The 4077th is being inundated as never before with a seemingly endless barrage of incoming wounded. To make matters worse, the weather is too cold for the patients to be kept outside, the 8063rd has bugged out and is not available to assist, and a very naive transportation officer at Battalion Aid, Lieutenant Garvey, refuses to send EVAC ambulances to the 4077th because he was told he would be held personally responsible for any damage the ambulances incur from gunfire. Potter orders Klinger to try to reach General Imbrie to get the ambulances moving.

To maintain efficiency while in the midst of the endless deluge, the personnel are allowed short rest breaks. It is during these fleeting moments of respite that the viewer is pulled into an assemblage of dreams by the senior members of the staff, each one visualizing in their sleep what they long for the most, only to have their dreams invaded by surrealistic depictions of the hideous realities of the war.

Margaret dreams of herself in a wedding gown and on her honeymoon, running across a field to meet her groom. They fall onto the nuptial bed and begin to make love, but when a cadre of soldiers tramps by, the groom stands up and marches away with them. She turns to see the nuptial bed now filled with bloody and wounded soldiers reaching out to her for help. We last see her with a stunned expression on her face, standing alone with her hands and wedding dress stained with blood.

To relieve his surgeon's cramp, B.J. takes a short nap and dreams of dancing with his wife Peg (Catherine Bergstrom). They are dressed in formal wear and dancing in the hallway outside the OR with other well-dressed couples. After they waltz their way into the OR, Potter cuts in and hands B.J. a scalpel. Now ignoring Peg, B.J. begins surgery, while Peg stands there stunned until she is silently called away by two other men.

In his office, after an argument over the phone with Lieutenant Garvey about the ambulances, Potter dozes off at his desk, and his dream starts with his horse Sophie walking in. Potter, now dressed in his WWI Cavalry uniform, mounts Sophie and starts riding. When a North Korean soldier throws a grenade at him, Potter strikes it with a polo mallet, sending it skyward where it explodes into fireworks. Potter then stumbles across his boyhood home, and sees himself as a youngster, riding a horse, hearing the sound of his mother calling him to dinner. Potter is awoken by Klinger who informs him that he cannot get hold of General Imbrie, and worse, Lieutenant Garvey is no longer answering his phone.

Charles dreams he is a magician, in tuxedo and cape, entertaining the others in the OR by performing sleight-of-hand tricks. A patient is wheeled in, and Charles attempts to perform more tricks, but the patient's condition only worsens, leading him to try more elaborate magic, but all to no avail. In a vain attempt to save face, Winchester begins tap dancing and waving sparklers as the patient dies and is wheeled out. Charles is jarred awake, soaked in sweat and cursing.

In Post-Op, the recovering patients have become so numerous that all the beds are being converted into two- and three-level bunk beds. Father Mulcahy takes a moment to hear one patient's confession, but in his own exhaustion, he too falls asleep. Mulcahy dreams he is the Pope, dressed in flowing robes, and being carted into the Mess Tent with the camp cheering as he enters. He reaches his pulpit and blesses the congregation, when suddenly drops of blood fall on his opened Bible. He looks up at the cross statue next to him, and what was the figure of Jesus was now that of a dead soldier hanging from the cross. When he turns back to look at his flock, they are doing surgery in the Mess Tent.

Klinger falls asleep in the supply room and dreams he has returned home to Toledo, where he wanders the streets which are eerily deserted. He stops outside his favorite restaurant, Tony Packo's Cafe, and peers through the window, only to see a surgery session. Potter sees him and gestures for him to come inside, and when Klinger looks down at the operating table, he sees that Potter's patient is Klinger himself. At that moment, Klinger is awakened by Nurse Kellye, who tells him Potter needs him to immediately patch through a call. Elated that he is still alive, Klinger gives the confused Kellye a grateful kiss and runs to the phone.

While Hawkeye and B.J. help rigging up bunk beds in Post-Op, General Coogan, one of the patients, is annoyed by the overt lack of privacy and demands to see Colonel Potter. When Potter explains the ambulance debacle, Coogan decides to remedy the situation himself. Klinger patches through a phone call to Battalion Aid, and General Coogan, still in bed in Post-Op, demands that Lieutenant Garvey come and explain to him in person why he hasn't sent out any ambulances. Suitably intimidated, Garvey informs Coogan the ambulances are on their way, much to Potter's satisfaction.

After 211 patients in 33 hours, the deluge is seemingly at an end, and the staff gathers in the Mess Tent for dinner, but Hawkeye is so exhausted he falls asleep at the table and dreams he is back in med school. When his professor awakens him after dozing off in his class, he asks Hawkeye about the procedure for reattaching a limb. Hawkeye apologetically admits he doesn't know, and the professor responds by ordering Hawkeye to remove his left arm which, to his horror, comes off easily. He hands his arm to the professor, who brings it to a wounded soldier. He tells Hawkeye that the young man would like his arm back, and again asks Hawkeye if he knows the procedure. Hawkeye again apologizes for falling asleep, and the professor tosses the arm away and then demands Hawkeye's other arm, but as Hawkeye cannot remove it himself, the professor directs Charles (who is also in the dream, as he was sitting next to Hawkeye when he nodded off) to remove it for him. Charles obeys and hands it to the professor, who tosses it away as well.

Now without his arms, Hawkeye finds himself drifting downstream in a small skiff with numerous other disconnected limbs floating around him in the water. When he floats past a small wounded Korean girl standing on the shore, he becomes discouraged that he cannot help her. He then walks up to an operating table (on which the same wounded girl now lies), and a nurse hands him a scalpel as he hears helicopters coming. Helpless, Hawkeye screams to the heavens and is quickly jerked awake as actual choppers approach with yet another batch of wounded; wearily, he straggles out of the Mess Tent and back to the OR.

Later, when the crisis is finally over, everyone is back in the Mess Tent. They all plan to go back to their tents and catch up on sleep, but when Charles obliviously quotes Shakespeare, saying, "Ahh, to sleep...perchance to dream," they all rethink and sit back down for another cup of coffee.

Research notes/Fun facts[]

  • If these calculations are accurate, 211 patients over 33 hours divided between four surgeons (not counting the additional wounded that arrive after Hawkeye's dream) amounts to an average of 1.6 patients per hour per surgeon, each one operating on an mean total of 52.8 patients over the 33-hour deluge.
  • To show Mulcahy's exhaustion, and that he is not really hearing him, the young soldier confessing to Mulcahy begins to speak in nonsensical gibberish, except for one part where he says: "But fringes are gerbel, you know?"
  • This is the first time Peg actually appears in the series, although she has no dialogue in this episode; in the later episode "Oh, How We Danced", she appears along with their daughter Erin via home movie footage, and we hear her in a recorded message that is played along with the home movie, an anniversary gift for B.J.
  • Also featured is a visual of Klinger's favorite eatery, Tony Packo's Cafe, an actual restaurant in Toledo, Ohio, which Klinger has mentioned several times throughout the series. The address on the door, 1902 Front Street, is the real address.
  • Klinger’s dream sequence in Toledo was filmed on the Fox backlot’s New York set.
  • Winchester's last line comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1, sometimes known as the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy:

To sleep, perchance to dream; Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come....

  • This episode is in Alan Alda's list of episodes that "were really good."[1]
  • In her book The Complete Book of M*A*S*H, Suzy Kalter has a still showing the final part of Margaret's dream, with Hawkeye in a surgical gown standing next to Margaret in her wedding gown with all the wounded soldiers in her bed.[2] This scene does not exist in the episode, and Hawkeye doesn't appear in Margaret's dream at all. So this still must have come from footage that was cut during editing.
  • This episode is an indication that goof-off Hawkeye is finally beginning to have the start of a nervous breakdown under the strain of war; he has earlier symptoms in "The Late Captain Pierce", when he confesses that he can't take the pressures of war anymore.
  • This would be the last episode before Margaret changed her hairstyle for good until the series ended.
  • Hawkeye is the only one who speaks in his dream. In fact, aside from the train conductor in Klinger's dream, Col. Potter's mother in his dream, assorted "ooo's" and "aah's" in Charles' dream, and the crowd in Father Mulcahy's, there's no speech in any of the dreams.

Guest stars/Recurring cast[]


  1. “Alda's Favorite 'M*A*S*H' Episodes,”, last modified October 6, 2005,
  2. Suzy Kalter, The Complete Book of M*A*S*H, (New York: H.N. Abrams Publishing, 1988), 166.