Dr. Sidney Theodore Freedman, played by Allan Arbus in the television series M*A*S*H, is a psychiatrist frequently summoned in cases of mental health problems.
Episode Radar's Report
- Freedman first visited the camp to do a psychiatric evaluation of Klinger, who was aiming for a discharge (as always). After Freedman had finished the report, he quietly took Klinger in for an interview and told him that while he is obviously not mentally ill, Freedman was willing to declare him transvestite and a homosexual. This label would not leave him, as he put it: "From now on, you go through life on high heels." Klinger vociferously denied it: "I ain't any of those things! I'm just crazy!" Klinger's discharge was uniformly dropped and Freedman left the camp.
- In this first appearance in the series, Dr. Freedman's first name was Milton, not Sidney. However, he is not addressed by his first name by any character during the first appearance; the first name Milton only comes up once, in a voice over as Radar reads out his report. In future episodes, Dr. Freedman would familiarly be addressed as Sidney by most of the show's regulars.
Freedman helped M*A*S*H 4077 in many cases, such as when Hawkeye began sleepwalking and having nightmares, an episode where Hawkeye started uncontrollably sneezing and all surgical tests turned up with nothing, and another where Colonel Potter began to doubt his skills following a surgical error. In turn, Freedman found his visits to the camp a welcome break from his regular duties. He came frequently to play cards, and once stayed for several days after the suicide of one young patient, to get insight into how the M*A*S*Hers coped with their experience. (As a psychiatrist, he'd also been to medical school, and was able to assist the surgeons when emergencies arose.) He seemed to find comfort in the people at MASH going so far as to come for a visit when he was feeling depressed. He identifies with Sigmund Freud and writes a letter to him as a form of self-therapy.
Freedman treated a bomber pilot whose horror over the deaths of the civilians his bombs killed led him to believe he was Jesus Christ. He recommended that the pilot be encouraged to remember and resume his identity, but not his military role. This infuriated another visitor, Colonel Flagg, who decided Freedman might be a Communist, or a disloyal American. However, Freedman refused to be intimidated and Flagg's subsequent investigations of the doctor evidently turned up nothing useful against him.
Freedman used a post-hypnotic suggestion to stop the suicidal thoughts of another soldier, a Chinese-American named SGT. Michael Yee. Yee had served in Europe, not the Pacific Theater, in World War II. "This is the first time he's fought an Asian enemy," Freedman told Hawkeye, invoking the Asian sense of honor. "He has to kill Chinese to be a good American, and he has to kill himself to be a good Chinese." This led Hawkeye to call SGT Yee "A man without two countries." Another time, Freedman used hypnosis to help a combat medic with amnesia recover his memory (The Billfold Syndrome), and had Hawkeye and B.J. help by providing sound effects and the voices of soldiers. He is not always successful. In the case of one patient. In the episode War of Nerves (TV series episode), Freedman tries to treat a soldier named Tom who was wounded and felt shellshock/guilt about surviving; Dr Friedman’s therapy was to have him sent back as soon as he recovered--a therapy that had worked before. However in this case it didn't; Tom was wounded again. The experience left the patient vowing to never forgive or forget Friedman for sending him back to the lines.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen finale appearance
Sidney is seen treating Hawkeye, who had finally cracked under the strain of the war, at a mental hospital. Freedman led Hawkeye to stop suppressing the memory of inadvertently causing a Korean mother to smother her baby in an effort to keep silent, in order that North Korean troops wouldn't hear them. He convinced a reluctant Hawkeye that the best thing for him now was to return to duty for the last days of the war.
In an earlier episode, Freedman told those gathered in the operating room, "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: Pull down your pants and slide on the ice." He repeated that advice as his last line as he bids farewell to the 4077th for the last time.
- Sidney Freedman was originally introduced by Radar in "Radar's Report" as "Milton Freedman."
- Originally, when Radar was written out of the series, Sidney Freedman was going to join the regular cast of M*A*S*H. However, Allan Arbus didn't want to commit to be anything other than a guest starring role, so the character remained an irregular character.
- A character in the popular 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V named "Dr. Isiah Friedlander" may have been based upon Sidney, as the two have similar mannerisms, names, & appearance.
- Freedman has been described in Psychology Today as the finest positive fictional depiction of a psychiatrist on television: respected, caring, skilled and professional using reasonable methods to help the mentally ill.