Patent 4077 was the 139th overall episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 17th episode of Season 6 of the series. Written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs, and directed by Harry Morgan, it originally aired on January 10, 1978.
The surgeons of the 4077th need a special kind of instrument to perform a difficult operation on a casualty, and soon produce the new vascular clamp; meanwhile Corporal Klinger works hard to find Margaret's missing wedding ring after he accidentally throws it away.
Full episode summary
Hawkeye is frustrated at trying to perform a tricky arterial operation without the proper tool...a vascular clamp that is delicate enough to hold an artery without crushing it.
The surgical staff decides to try and devise their own specially-made clamp, first by asking the Army Engineers. When the engineers turn them down, they try and make it themselves, but Hawkeye and B.J. are mechanically inept (it doesn't help that Winchester tags along just to sit and laugh at them).
Meanwhile, Margaret is on the warpath because Klinger accidentally tossed out her wedding ring - a 14 kt gold ring, surrounded in stones, every third one a diamond chip, with the inscription "Over hill, over dale, our love will never fail". Livid, she has Klinger chase down the garbage truck and dig through the trash at the dump, but to no avail.
In the Mess Tent, Sgt. Zale overhears the doctors complaining about the inferior clamp. He says he's a "master craftsman" and can make a new one himself. After some initial skepticism, they put him to work. A day later, he produces his clamp. Hawkeye and B.J. test it out, but when it grips itself too tightly on Hawkeye's hand and can't be dislodged, it proves a failure. Zale storms out, his feelings hurt, and Hawkeye and B.J. are back to square one.
Desperate, Hawkeye offers up the Army Engineers a bunch of the 4077's nurses as "guests" for their next unit party (which horrifies B.J.) without checking with them first. They then have to go to the nurses and ask for this huge favor, but the nurses turn them down cold, explaining that the engineers are "animals." On top of that, they're exhausted from all the work Margaret is throwing at them - she's in a foul mood ever since Klinger lost her ring.
A Korean merchant named Mr. Shin (the legendary Keye Luke) comes by with his cart of handmade items, and he mentions that he has a ring that bears a striking resemblance to the one Margaret had. They commission him to put in the original inscription to get Klinger off the hook.
When they notice some of the other custom-made stuff, they also ask him to try his hand at the new clamp. He offers them a deal on the clamp, since they're buying such a crappy ring.
A few days later, Klinger tries to pass off the new ring as the original, but Mr. Shin messed up the inscription ("Over hill, over dale, our love will ever fail"), tipping Margaret off. She thinks it's a joke on her expense, but Klinger tells her they were just trying to make her happy.
In surgery, Hawkeye breaks in the clamp with a patient with a crushed artery - and it works perfectly. The surgery goes off without a hitch, and the patient's leg is saved. Margaret reveals that she knows about her ring, and tells Hawkeye she likes it better than the original.
After showing off the clamp to the patient, they notice there's an inscription - "Over hill, over dale, Korean clamp will never fail." Hawkeye proclaims, "That's where he put the 'n'!"
Later, they run into Mr. Shin in the camp again, and thank him for the work on the clamp, telling him it was "a real life and limb saver." Mr. Shin says that was nothing, and has started a whole new line of surgical equipment. He shows them the equivalent of a surgeon's Swiss army knife, complete with pearl handle, scalpel, spoon, can opener, cuticle remover - and a corkscrew, which seals the deal for the surgeons.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Johnny Haymer as Sergeant Zelmo Zale
- Brenda Thompson as Nurse Campbell (as Brenda Thomson)
- Patricia Stevens as Nurse Baker
- Keye Luke as Mister Shin
- Harry Gold as Cohen
- When Klinger first appears (right after Margaret discovers her ring is gone), he is dressed very much like the Charwoman character created by comedienne Carol Burnett for her show "The Carol Burnett Show" (which ran from September 11, 1967, to March 29, 1978), which was in its final season when this episode of M*A*S*H* aired - also on CBS. However, it is standard charwoman attire, at least in entertainment, going back far earlier than Burnett.
- The phrase inscribed inside Margaret's wedding ring is an altered version of a line from "U.S. Field Artillery March", a patriotic military march of the United States Army written in 1917 by John Philip Sousa, based on an earlier work by Edmund L. Gruber. It's also notoriously one of Margaret's favorite songs--she can be heard singing it several times throughout the series.
- The vascular clamp invented in this episode, in a slight series continuity glitch, appears in previous episode Comrades in Arms, Part 2