A former star college football player suffers a severe leg injury in combat and feels life isn't worth living after his leg is amputated, and Major Burns goes behind Colonel Potter's back to set up a boxing match between Klinger and Zale.
Full episode summary
This episode opens on the front line, as a group of U.S. soldiers come under enemy fire. One of the wounded is a young man named Billy Tyler (Henry Brown), who arrives at the 4077th with a nasty wound to his leg. Radar recognizes Tyler, who was a college football star back in Iowa.
Just before he goes under, Tyler tells Hawkeye and B.J. that if they "can't save the leg...don't save me." But despite their best efforts, Tyler's leg wound is too great, and Hawkeye ends up having to amputate it.
Later, in Post Op, Tyler thanks Hawkeye and B.J. for saving his leg. Hawkeye has to break the news to him that the pains Tyler feels are just "phantom pains", leftovers from the wound. Tyler, for the first time, looks under his blanket, and sees what has happened. He is furious, and, eyes welling up with tears, blames them and tells them to go to Hell.
Hawkeye is demoralized by Tyler's reaction, and so is Radar, who comes to the Swamp to drown his sorrows in booze as well. Hawkeye tries to take his mind off it by getting involved in a fight between Klinger and Sgt. Zale, organized by Frank (partially to impress Margaret, but mostly for his own entertainment). He tries getting the two of them to agree to a truce, but it doesn't seem to work.
Later, Radar tells Hawkeye that Billy wants "out" - and not just out of the Army. Hawkeye sits down and has a talk with Billy, but he's adamant about his belief that he has no future without being able to play football.
After Hawkeye leaves, Radar stops by to talk, bringing with him an issue of LIFE magazine featuring a football game Tyler played in, where, even though Tyler's team was behind, Tyler simply wouldn't give up until he and his team were victorious.
Remembering that game, Tyler agrees that it was his tenacity that won the day, and says "There's always a way to beat them - you just have to keep searching, until you find it." In that moment, Tyler realizes what he just heard himself say, and that Radar was drawing it out of him.
Meanwhile, Klinger and Zale's fight commences, with Frank gleefully acting as ringmaster. After they dance around each other, never landing a punch, Frank demands they really start throwing some punches. So they do - both hitting Frank at the same time, knocking him out. Turns out they both knew all along why the fight was happening, and knocking out Frank was their idea. The spectators - Hawkeye, B.J., Houlihan, and the rest of the camp - find this hysterical.
Later, Tyler is being shipped out, and he mentions to Hawkeye that he's going to go for "the short pass" - a term which bewilders Hawkeye but delights Radar. Tyler thanks Hawkeye for all his help.
After Tyler's ambulance departs, Radar explains to Hawkeye that Billy intends to try. Both of them feeling better, Radar offers to buy Hawkeye a drink at Rosie's Bar. Radar wonders, "Can you get drunk on Grape Nehi?" Hawkeye, putting his arm around Radar, answers: "I don't know, let's find out."
In an epilogue scene not usually aired in syndication, Frank--with both ears bandaged--drags Klinger and Zale into Colonel Potter's office and demands they be court-martialed for assaulting him. Klinger hopes that it will get him out of the Army, but Potter says it will just get him sent to the stockade. Unhappy with this answer, he and Zale hint to Frank--having to shout because of his bandaged ears--that if they go down, they're taking him with them, by reporting Burns for breaking regulations such as promoting--not stopping--a fight. Frank agrees to drop the charges.
Research notes/Fun facts
- Ironically, there are cases of one-legged football players in real life.
- The theme of a member of the MASH personnel restoring a disabled soldier's hope and pride is repeated in "Morale Victory".
- William Christopher appears in this episode as Father Mulcahy (ringing the bell at the boxing match), but has no lines. Oddly, he is never called in to counsel or offer spiritual solace to Sgt. Tyler.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Henry Brown as Sergeant Billy Tyler
- Johnny Haymer as Sergeant Zelmo Zale
- James Lough as PFC Felix Kornhaus
- Tom Tarpey as Battalion Surgeon
- Peter D. Greene as Medic
- Greg Mabrey as Wounded Soldier
- Uncredited appearances by: