Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler was the 82nd episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, and, also the 10th episode of the fourth season of the series. Written by Burt Prelutsky, and directed by Larry Gelbart, it first aired on November 7, 1975.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
The latest group of casualties includes an air force bombardier who claims he's Jesus Christ. Frank and Margaret think he's faking battle fatigue in order to get a discharge, and they bring in Colonel Flagg to help expose him.
Full episode summary[edit | edit source]
Another day, another batch of wounded, but this one brings a very special visitor: one of the wounded claims to be Jesus Christ.
Hawkeye operates on the man, but first alerts Father Mulcahy he has a friend in surgery. The patient has only a superficial head wound, but in post-op, he calmly repeats that he is the Lord. Father Mulcahy is brought in to speak to him, but he finds himself speechless.
Frank and Margaret aren’t amused by this “blasphemy” and seek out Colonel Potter for a solution. They want the soldier court-martialed for cowardice and blasphemy, but the compassionate Colonel turns the other cheek and refuses, stating the man is not hurting anyone, and if he claims to be Christ, what's the harm?
Undeterred, Frank and Margaret call in Colonel Flagg from Intelligence, who arrives with a file on the soldier. Frank thinks the soldier is a communist and trying to get out of duty. Flagg insists he knows who the “friend with the messiah complex” is and intends to get him back to work.
Flagg meets Potter in his office along with Hawkeye and B.J. It turns out the soldier is Captain Arnold Chandler, a bombardier with 57 combat missions. The doctors agree it's combat fatigue, but Flagg insists Chandler has turned “chicken” and needs to be back flying bombing runs quickly. Flagg demands an immediate decision from Potter, raving that the previous C.O. needed a month's warning to make a decision. Potter won't take Flagg's verbal blather and puts him in his place, much to the delight of Hawkeye and B.J. Potter agrees to release Chandler in two days, but agrees with Hawkeye that psychiatric therapy is needed and Sidney Freedman is the man.
In an epic meeting of the minds, Sidney arrives in camp and meets Colonel Flagg, who asks the doc to go along with him on Chandler. Sidney demurs, stating Chandler needs his kind of help. Flagg brings up certain “subversive” groups Sidney belongs to and threatens to expose him as a communist. Sidney ignores him and excuses himself, remarking he's already kept Jesus waiting five minutes.
Sidney has a talk with Chandler, who claims no knowledge of this former life and army responsibilities. He claims he is Christ, has no enemies, and loves all his children. Sidney says he belongs in a B-29 bomber, dropping bombs on the enemy. Chandler again denies his identity and tellingly informs Sidney he hopes he can find and help this Chandler. Sidney wraps up the talk by asking if God answers all prayers. A tear rolls down Chandler's face as he responds in the affirmative, but adds, “sometimes the answer is no.”
Later, Sidney tells Flagg, Potter, Hawkeye, and B.J. it's his professional opinion Chandler has lost himself. Something inside him snapped and he decided he will be Jesus Christ instead of a bomber. As Freedman puts it, with that mental break, Chandler's subconscious effectively said to him, "You're Christ, not a killer. The next bomb you drop, you drop on yourself." He feels Chandler will never be an effective soldier again, but with proper care, he can find himself. Flagg, furious with this “psychoanalytical double-talk”, threatens to have Sidney thrown out of the army for not signing a loyalty oath. After Hawkeye and B.J. congratulate Sidney on his shrewdness, Flagg reverses course and thinks Sidney is playing him.
Chandler leaves on the next bus, but is stopped by Radar who asks for a blessing on his teddy bear. In a tender scene, Chandler blesses the bear, then Radar, who professes his Christian name is Walter.
Klinger, impressed with Chandler's case, shows up at the Swamp dressed as Moses in hopes of getting a discharge from Dr. Freedman. Unfortunately, he can't keep his bible – or dwarfs – straight.
Research notes[edit | edit source]
- In his conversation with Captain Chandler, Radar's real first name -- Walter -- is revealed for the first time. It is only revealed to Chandler, and not to any of the series regulars.
- The episode title refers to Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero (1895), a novel by Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz which had been made into several movies, the most popular one being "Quo Vadis" (1951). The phrase comes from the Christian legend of the apostle Peter fleeing Roman persecution, only to have a vision of Christ along the way. Peter asks "Quo vadis, Domine? (Where are you going, Lord?)" The legend states that Christ replied, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." Peter returns to Rome to face his death.
- This is probably the first and only time Margaret would go over the head of Colonel Potter. She routinely did that with Henry Blake by sending reports to various generals but does not do this again with Potter. Potter, being an old soldier, would know how to handle this kind of behavior among his subordinates. He probably gave Margaret a stern talking to after Flagg's departure.
- Flagg tells Sidney Freedman that they played poker once. He is most probably referring to the game in "Deal Me Out" and thus more or less confirming that he was Captain Halloran.
- There is an internal inconsistency in the timeline. Freedman remarks on the most recent news: that the Marines have landed at Inchon (an event which took place in 1950). Later, he also remarks that Chandler has been in the war for two years (which would place this episode in 1952 - consistent with the date of Potter's arrival).
- Potter claims he will retire in 17 months, 6 weeks, and 2 days. As he arrives in September 19, 1952, this means he would retire in January 1954; yet in AfterMASH he retires after the Armistice of July 1953. But this is plausible, as early retirement is always an option (in fact, in the Season 6 episode "Potter's Retirement," he announces his plans to retire early after bad reports about him make it to a general friend) and he might have accumulated leave.
- Chandler is said to be with the 428th Bomb Squadron; a formation by this number served in World War II but never served in the Korean War.
- This is third episode of the series that has no laugh track, as the first two were "O.R." and ¨The Bus¨.