Mail Call Three was the 143rd overall episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 21st episode of Season 6 of the series. Written by Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell and directed by Charles S. Dubin, it originally aired on February 6, 1978.
A long-overdue shipment of mail from home arrives in camp, but it only brings a mixed bag of emotions for everyone, especially Klinger.
Full episode summary
After a three week drought, the mail finally arrives at the 4077th, and everyone is anxious to get updates on what is going on back home. But unfortunately for most of the members of the 4077th, news is not good.
One exception, though, is Hawkeye, who has already gotten two smoldering love letters from two women, but the letters are addressed to another Captain Benjamin Pierce and were mistakenly sent to him; he has just received a third letter to Benjamin from yet another woman.
B.J. gets some not-so-good news from home: his wife Peg tried to fix the sink, only to flood the kitchen and catch a cold, but B.J. is more annoyed when Peg mentions that she went to a party and a good neighbor made a pass at her.
Margaret, after a series of back-and-forth correspondence with her mother-in-law, who makes no secret of her dislike for Margaret, reveals to Charles that after Donald put Margaret's name in for an associate membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, her mother-in-law blackballed her. Charles' explanation for Margaret's rejection gives no comfort to her and she throws him out of the supply room (this scene is usually cut from syndicated airings).
Radar gets a letter from his mother, mentioning that she is dating again. Radar is confused and stunned at the news, even after Potter tries to tell him that it'll be good for her.
But Klinger gets hit the hardest by his news. After not hearing from his wife Laverne for two months, he gets the one letter no soldier ever wants to get: a 'Dear John', in which Laverne tells Klinger she is leaving him for another man. Klinger begs Colonel Potter to help him to at least get back home to try and straighten things out, but Potter, thinking it's another of Klinger's ploys, refuses. During the movie in the Mess Tent, Klinger's bad mood spills over, and when everyone else accuses him of trying to pull another fast one, he angrily tears off his dress and tells everyone that Laverne took all of his allotment checks and has left him for another guy. He storms out of the Mess Tent, leaving everyone stunned except for Charles, who is interested only in seeing the rest of the movie.
The next morning, Potter tries to console Klinger in his office, allowing him to place a call back home to Laverne, but Klinger can't bring himself to do it for fear that the other guy might answer. Inwardly, Klinger feels the only way he can straighten things out is in person, so later that night, after borrowing twenty dollars from Father Mulcahy, Klinger confides in him that he is going AWOL. Mulcahy futilely tries to dissuade him, but when he threatens to tell Potter, Klinger relents and promises Mulcahy that he'll sleep on it so they can talk more in the morning, but unbeknownst to Mulcahy, Klinger has no intention of keeping that promise.
Hawkeye puts a drunken B.J. to bed, and Radar arrives at the Swamp for advice from Hawkeye about his mother and her new boyfriend. During their discussion Hawkeye hits a nerve when he points out to Radar that he's jealous, that he has to "share his mother with someone else for the first time since he was a little kid". He then tells him about how his dad became interested in another woman not long after his mother died. Though Hawkeye never let on, his father could pick up on his resentment. Hawkeye realized in hindsight that his father must have needed his approval so much that he gave up on the woman, and has "remained alone to this day,"; Hawkeye regretfully adds that, "loneliness is everything it's cracked up to be." He suggests that Radar wait and see what happens, to which he agrees, but then offers up the idea that if it doesn't work out, maybe his mother could be introduced to Hawkeye's father.
In the middle of the night, B.J. wakes up worried that Peg no longer needs him at home, so he wakes Radar to place a call to San Francisco. Radar initially refuses, but when B.J. tries to place the call himself, Radar grudgingly gets out of bed and places the call for him. At the same time, when Father Mulcahy goes to check on Klinger only to find him gone, he frantically goes and tells Potter what has happened, blaming himself for not stopping him. They head to Radar's office to try and track Klinger down, only to find B.J. tying up the phone line; he leaves satisfied after Peg's reassurance, and Potter puts Radar back on to call the MPs to track down Klinger; not to arrest him, but to simply bring him back to the 4077th.
The next day, the "other" Captain Pierce arrives to pick up his mail, carrying with him mail meant for Hawkeye (all unopened). The other Pierce is not happy to learn that Hawkeye had opened all his mail, and despite the fact that the women who write him won't leave him alone, Pierce insists that he's not interested in any of them. Hawkeye and B.J. press Pierce to know how he gets all the women to go crazy for him; he simply replies that it's because of his sense of humor, a fact not in evidence from his humorless demeanor, and which leaves both Hawkeye and B.J. in confused disbelief.
To Potter's relief-- and fury, Klinger returns to the 4077th on his own. He tells Potter that he was just a hair's breadth from making it out of Korea on a plane, but while he was waiting he had time to think things over, and came to understand that Laverne's dumping him is her loss, not his, and that she will reap the rewards of what she did. He came back to camp because he realized he didn't want a jail sentence on top of the hitch he is serving in the Army, and declares that when he leaves the Army "it'll be the honorable way -- with a Section Eight!". Potter offers to buy him a drink, and Klinger confides in him that back home there are more women than men, with a lot more money. Klinger rebuilds his hope with the presumption that, "there's gotta be a rich, beautiful dame out there for an attractive lunatic like me!"
Later that evening, all the guys (Mulcahy, Winchester, Hawkeye, Potter, Klinger, Radar, and B.J.) gather in the Officers Club to celebrate their collective good news. Hawkeye proposes a toast to Klinger, "Korea's most eligible bachelor", with B.J. adding, "May you find a wife who dresses as well as you do!" Klinger then drunkenly proposes a toast of his own "to M*A*S*H Four-oh-seven-seventh... seventh... I may not have a family no more in Toledo, but I sure got one here. I love you guys!" He then passes out and falls off his barstool, which earns the comment from a drunken Potter: "Pretty rotten way to show it!"
Research notes/Fun facts
- The scene in the Officers Club during which B.J. is off to the side getting drunk features Mulcahy needing Hawkeye to join him in singing; they sing the 1928 song "Button Up Your Overcoat", which gained fame from its use in the 1930 movie Follow Thru. In the epilogue, the men of the cast are gathered in the Officers Club to celebrate Klinger's return, and they sing the last line of the song together.
- The "Captain Benjamin Pierce" who keeps having women write love letters to him would make him the third "Captain Benjamin Pierce" in the Army during the Korean War, counting the one who died in Season 4's "The Late Captain Pierce."
- When Klinger returns from going AWOL and reconciles with Col. Potter, he says he plans to marry a "rich, beautiful dame" in America. He would go on to marry a poor, beautiful Korean farm girl in Korea during the series finale "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen."
- Oliver Clark as Captain Ben Pierce
- Oliver J. Grapes as Kelsey (as Jack Grapes)