O.R. was the fifth episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 53rd overall series episode. Written by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks, and directed by Gene Reynolds, it first aired on October 8, 1974.
The OR is filled with more wounded than the unit can handle. Dr. Freedman drops in during the deluge as well.
Full episode summary
The 4077th is deluged with wounded arriving by jeep, chopper and ambulance with intensity at its peak. Frank is late scrubbing in, for someone stole his tortoise shell scrub brush given to him by his mother. Henry's arthritis has flared up and causes him to drop his surgical instruments multiple times.
Hawkeye works on an Ethiopian soldier who later thanks the doctor in his native tongue for saving his life, and in gratitude, kisses him on the hand. Hawkeye confronts Henry about his arthritis, telling the Colonel this could be his ticket home and he's willing to sign off on the diagnosis. Surprisingly, Henry wants to stay because his duties in Korea are more challenging than what he sees in his thriving, but mundane, practice in Bloomington.
As Blood and Sand plays over the O.R. speakers, a patient insists on Father Mulcahy dictating a letter to his wife, admitting many indiscretions. Trapper puts the patient under and advises Mulcahy not to send the letter because this patient will pull through... unless his wife gets that letter.
Frank is working on his own case and mutters he has to remove a kidney. Alarmed, Hawkeye dispatches Trapper to oversee Frank's operation. Wise move...Trapper arrives just in time to diagnose the surgery and prevent Frank from removing the patient's only kidney.
Hawkeye's latest patient suddenly loses a heartbeat during surgery. Attempting a procedure previously unseen in the O.R., he attempts open heart massage, and it succeeds, for the patient regains a pulse after a heart-stopping minute (forgive the pun). Henry announces to no one in particular that procedure was the “most fantastic thing I ever saw.”
Pressure begins to mount. As a couple artillery shells burst outside, Frank and Hawkeye get into another verbal tussle which culminates in Hawkeye squirting a syringe of saline into Frank's face. Tempers are flaring, so Henry orders Frank to take a break and take a sleeping Trapper with him.
Frank and Trapper have an insightful conversation. When Frank seriously asks Trapper why nobody likes him, Trapper explains he likes him, but he's a joyless person. Frank opens up and admits he hails from a very strict family where no talking was allowed at the dinner table, and if someone hummed, they got a punch in the throat. Frank tells Trapper he wants to be friends with him and Hawkeye and asks to stop being razzed. Trapper, too tired to continue the conversation, agrees to the request and tenderly adds, “Now shut up, Frank, or I’ll kill you.”
Later, Sidney Freedman makes a surprise appearance in the O.R. He arrived for the scheduled poker game, but assuming the game is called off due to heavy casualties, turns to leave, but Hawkeye and Trapper stop him and tell him to scrub in. Dr. Freedman, who claims to have stopped washing his hands since becoming a psychiatrist, gets prepped for surgery by Margaret.
Supplies are dangerously low and the doctors must resort to using common sewing thread to close wounds. The shelling has stopped, but now the generator is on the fritz and the electricity comes and goes.
Radar is pale and weakened from giving two pints of blood that day. The second pint was “siphoned” off him when he fell asleep in the mess tent. He is the bearer of bad news when he informs Hawkeye his heart massage patient passed away in post-op. Hawkeye is so shaken, he has to briefly sit down, as he's devastated by the news. Sidney and Trapper try to provide comfort, but Hawkeye decides the best therapy is to get back to the O.R. table.
Henry has to make a difficult decision when presented a patient who will need about 8 hours of surgery, the service of two surgeons, and a lot of blood, which is now in short supply. Hawkeye tells him the patient never should have been brought to the O.R., so Henry decides to let the boy pass away so they can dedicate time and supplies to the wounded still waiting.
About the only issue not faced is a fire. Oops – check that...an electrical fire breaks out near Trapper which he (foolishly) douses with a basin of water. Frank and Margaret yell at him for not knowing if that was alcohol he sprayed on the fire; Trapper suggests they might like the fire back.
The grueling session finally ends with Hawkeye nearly passed out on a gurney in a nearly empty O.R. while Trapper slowly wheels him out.
Research notes/Fun Facts
- Tribute to Korean War allies. This episode pays tribute to Ethiopia which sent its "Kagnew" infantry battalions to Korea. Three battalions were rotated through the Korean theatre one at a time, with a total of 3,158 men seeing action. The Ethiopian battalions fought well, suffering 121 dead and 536 wounded, and had the distinction of winning each of 238 engagements they had with the enemy.
- This is the first episode without a laugh track, and the only episode without one for then-regulars McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Allan Arbus as Major Sidney Freedman
- William Christopher as Father Mulcahy
- Jamie Farr as Klinger
- Bobbie Mitchell as Nurse Able
- Odessa Cleveland as Lieutenant Ginger Bayliss
- Jeanne Schulherr as Anesthesist (see Unnamed Nurses)
- Bobby Herbeck as Patient
- Orlando Dole as Ethiopian Soldier