No Laughing Matter was the 13th episode of Season 9 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, and the 211th overall series episode. Written by Elias Davis and David Pollock and directed by Burt Metcalfe, it originally aired on February 16, 1981.
Hawkeye's challenge to go through a day without telling a joke is complicated by Winchester's amusingly desperate attempt to curry the favor of a visiting officer, the same man who had Winchester sent to the 4077th.
Full episode summaryEdit
In the Officers Club, B.J. has Hawkeye take a Reader's Digest quiz about how "secure" he is. When B.J. gets to the third question, "Do you find it necessary to deal with serious subjects in a joking manner?" Hawkeye answers no, but B.J. refuses to believe it, citing Hawkeye's incessant penchant for making quips.
Hawkeye later points out that he likes to make jokes, but only because he wants to, not because he feels he needs to, and bets $10 with B.J. that he can go 24 hours without making a single joke; B.J. agrees, but stresses that they should keep it to themselves to keep it honest. But for Hawkeye, winning the bet becomes a lot harder than it seems when, while in the Mess Tent, B.J. starts making cracks about the food being served, and even tempts Hawkeye into saying something amusing, but Hawkeye bites his tongue and refuses to cave.
Meanwhile, Klinger informs Colonel Potter that they are about to get a fact-finding visit from a Lieutenant Colonel Horace Baldwin, whom Potter remembers as the man who transferred Winchester from his cushy job at Tokyo General to the 4077th. Potter tries to break the news to Winchester gently, but when he swears revenge on Baldwin, Potter orders him to stay away, but Winchester warns him "The last laugh has yet to be laughed, Colonel!" Klinger tries to convince Winchester that he can catch more flies with sugar than vinegar, advising him "the man who sent you here is the man who can take you away from all of this", and also saying "to grow a beautiful rose, sometimes you gotta shovel a lot of manure", but Winchester refuses to listen... at first.
That night, Baldwin arrives in camp, and Hawkeye, B.J., and Potter are shocked to see that Winchester is indeed buttering Baldwin up, treating him with the utmost courtesy. Baldwin barely remembers Winchester, but is receptive to all his hospitality. Potter is deeply suspicious and confronts Winchester for his about-face, saying "Joe Palooka has turned into Smiling Jack", and Winchester candidly admits he's "shoveling a little manure for my 'Tokyo Rose'".
Winchester offers to play cribbage with Baldwin, painfully throwing game after game so Baldwin can win back all the money he lost to Winchester in Tokyo. He plies him with his own cache of fine cognac, which Baldwin refers to as "First-class hooch." Winchester keeps trying to steer the conversation back to Tokyo, and how much he misses it. Baldwin pays little attention at first, but then he hints that if Winchester can procure him some female companionship for the night at, say, 2330 hours, he "won't forget it." Winchester is repulsed by the idea, but even so, he heads to Rosie's and hires a lady to send to Baldwin's tent.
At 2330, Margaret's relief, Nurse Kellye, comes into Post-Op with some medical reports she plans to give to Colonel Baldwin in the morning, but as he is leaving first thing, Margaret decides to stop off at the VIP tent on the way back to her own tent and drop them off. Baldwin thinks she is the one Winchester hired and invites her inside with the lights turned out; though unseen, he is apparently wearing some sort of fetish outfit later described by Margaret as leather pajamas, and a black hood with silver oak leaves on it. Margaret is disgusted and shocked and, from what we hear, causes some kind of bodily harm to Baldwin as he is heard groaning in pain.
Assured of his eventual transfer back to Tokyo, Winchester proposes a goodbye toast to Hawkeye and B.J. in the Officers Club, but then Margaret charges in and angrily accuses Winchester of pandering and then goes to inform Potter. Moments later, the girl Winchester hired to visit Baldwin storms in and, after saying Baldwin yelled at her to get out, demands the money he promised; at first Winchester refuses, but when the girl's muscular pimp threatens to break his legs, Winchester coughs up the sawbuck. B.J. is laughing in delight at what is going on, but the lunacy is too much for Hawkeye who gets up and leaves before he loses the bet. After the girl and her pimp leave, Baldwin comes in and tells Winchester he's going to accuse Margaret of accosting him, and if Winchester will corroborate his side of the story, he'll arrange to reassign him to Tokyo.
Margaret returns with Potter, who demands an explanation. Baldwin gives his own false story and accuses an infuriated Margaret; he then turns to Winchester to back him up, but he finally admits that Baldwin is lying and reveals the truth. He then levels with Baldwin, admitting he's been sucking up to him, but even for a return trip to Tokyo, Charles refuses to lie to protect him while destroying a friend's career, which earns a round of applause from everyone else in the Officers Club. Baldwin beats a quick and cowardly retreat just as Hawkeye gets on the PA system to broadcast a string of jokes about the day's events; it is just after midnight, and Hawkeye has won his secret bet with B.J., so he is now free to say what's been on his mind.
Later, Charles, still in the Officers Club, is wallowing in sorrow over losing his big chance to be reassigned to Tokyo. Margaret thanks him for refusing to let Baldwin get away with his false accusations, saying that he should be proud that he stood up for his principles. Chuckling, Winchester quips "Well, I certainly won't let that happen again".
Research notes/Fun facts/QuotesEdit
- Winchester quote: "I swear by all that is holy on Beacon Hill, I shall have my revenge!!" (Beacon Hill is a neighborhood suburb of Boston where Charles grew up, and the hill upon which the Massachusetts State House resides).
- After winning the bet, Hawkeye gets on the PA system and lets loose with a barrage of jokes, including:
- "Hey, Igor, keeper of the public ptomaine, before you go to bed, don't forget to walk tomorrow's breakfast!"
- "Let me tell you something, Margaret: You always talk about the leather, but you never do anything about it. Ya know what I mean?"
- "..and a big hello to Charles, our Chief Procurement Officer. I guess you found out you can't get to Tokyo on the layaway plan!"
- "...and the ever-popular Horace Baldwin is hereby awarded the "fig-leaf cluster" for service above and beneath the call of duty!"
- The V.I.P. tent has an attached kennel (apparently also made of canvas) with a sign "Do not feed me."
- Despite the fact Baldwin nearly molested Margaret he is allowed to drive away. In contrast Major Frank Burns, whose flirtation with a visiting female Colonel was falsely reported as rape (House Arrest) is put under arrest...However, in Frank's case, the female Colonel (outranking Frank) actually demands for his arrest, while Margaret (Major, therefore, subordinate to a Colonel) does not call for his arrest.
- "Tokyo Rose" was a reference to WWII; it was the nickname given by Allied troops in the South Pacific to all female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda.