Monster M*A*S*H

Sons and Bowlers was the 20th episode of Season 10 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 238th overall series episode. Written by Elias Davis and David Pollock and directed by Hy Averback, it originally aired on March 22, 1982.


Colonel Potter and B.J. head a bowling team for a grudge match against the Marines. Meanwhile, Hawkeye learns his father is having a major operation back home and, feeling helpless, confides in Charles.

Full episode summary[]

To the 4077th's frustration, Colonel Pitts and his Gyrenes (Marines) are celebrating yet another victory over the camp (first football, then basketball, and softball), drinking heavily at the Officers Club, all on the 4077th's dime. Klinger mentions in passing that they could probably beat them at bowling, which gives Potter the idea to challenge Pitts to a bowling match in a week, which Pitts accepts.

Potter gets Klinger to start scrounging for proper bowling equipment (which he initially has no luck with) while he quickly assembles a team of himself, Klinger, and B.J., and begins searching for a fourth player. Margaret persistently offers to join the team, but Potter refuses.

When they finally get the equipment (balls, pins and plywood for the alley), Klinger informs Potter that Pitts has brought in a ringer, a nationally ranked pro named Marty Urbancic. Potter decides to ask Margaret to "work her feminine wiles" on him to weaken his game, but Margaret is furious at the idea and stomps away, but not before growling at Potter, "They may have a pro, but you don't!!". Later in the Officers Club when she overhears the Marines mocking the 4077th, and after she accidentally bumps into Urbancic himself, she reconsiders Potter's suggestion and introduces herself to Urbancic; when Potter later tells her she did her CO proud she replies that she didn't do it for him but for the unit, and warns him not to fail.

In the office, Klinger hands Hawkeye a recently arrived letter from his father. Hawkeye reads it then and there, and becomes concerned. After Klinger leaves, Hawkeye gets on the phone and tries to place a call to his father back in Maine. But getting through is an aggravating process, and Hawkeye has to practically shout at the top of his lungs to be heard. Charles, next door in Post Op, comes in and asks him to quiet down. Hawkeye brushes him off, and resumes his call within earshot of Charles, who then turns on his heel and stays with Hawkeye, who eventually tells him about the letter from his dad: Hawkeye's father is about to undergo surgery, but the letter doesn't tell what for, and Hawkeye fears it's serious. By the time Hawkeye gets a second call through, his father is already in surgery, and a nurse informs him that during an IVP test that the doctors found a mass pushing against his father's kidney, which turned out to be a pheochromocytoma.

With nothing left to do but wait, Hawkeye opens up about how when he was ten, his mother was ill, but his dad never let on about its seriousness to Hawkeye because he didn't want him to worry, even as she was hospitalized, and she subsequently died. Expecting the worst, and despite Charles' attempt to assuage his fear, Hawkeye can't bear the idea of losing his father without having one more chance to tell him how much he loves him.

Charles mentions that Hawkeye should be grateful that only distance is keeping them apart. He then expounds on the relationship he has with his own father, in that they have been "12,000 miles apart in the same room". Charles then reveals that his most intimate conversations with his father were always at the dinner table beginning promptly at 7:15 pm, during which soup would be served, and his father would ask Charles about the highlights of his day; Charles had until the salad was served to talk about his day, remarking, "even now the sight of lettuce makes me talk faster". Charles initially assumed that this was the way it was in every household until he saw the warmth and closeness that Hawkeye and his father share. He then compares their respective father/son relationships and says that, while he knows his own father is a good man and only ever wanted the best for him, he reveals a spark of inner envy of Hawkeye when he says, "where I have a father... you have a dad".

Wounded arrive, and Potter asks Pitts and his Marines to help out. After surgery (and in front of Urbancic), Charles and B.J. comment on how tired they both are and offer each other a "pep pill" (actually Methylene Blue pills) to help them get through the rest of the game. Urbancic asks for one as well, and they "grudgingly" oblige. When Urbancic leaves, Klinger chides the surgeons for helping the competition, but they chuckle and say the pill they gave him does nothing for pep, but actually turn one's urine blue, which is later confirmed when a panicked Urbancic runs up to B.J. and Charles having just come from the latrine, telling them he's "turning blue inside." They tell him he shouldn't bend over, which means he can't bowl anymore, but when he tells Pitts as much he refuses to listen, and Urbancic winds up inadvertently throwing the game.

On advice from Charles, Hawkeye tries to take his mind off his worries and volunteers to bowl for the team, but after only a few frames (in which he bowls well), another call from home comes in and he has to opt out. Potter is incensed at yet again being a player short, but when Margaret again reminds him that he still has a chance in her, Potter grudgingly calls her bluff and puts her in to replace Hawkeye, and despite the Marines' heckling, she finishes by throwing a strike in the final frame, winning the match for the 4077th.

Hawkeye finally gets to talk to his Dad, and is overjoyed to hear that the surgery was a success. Hawkeye then gently scolds his Dad for not telling him about it earlier, but then tells him just to get some rest and listen to the nurses, and then tells him repeatedly that he loves him. Hawkeye hangs up and goes back to the Mess Tent with a big smile on his face, to Charles' satisfaction.

Later in the Officers Club, the 4077th celebrates breaking the Gyrenes win streak, this time with Pitts and his men footing the bill. A surprised Potter asks Margaret how she got so good at bowling; Margaret explains that "between drinks" on her date with Urbancic, "he taught me everything he knew!" Hawkeye buys Charles their first round, and they share a toast to "our fathers...and their sons."

Guest stars/Recurring cast[]

Research notes/Fun Facts[]

While this episode tends to paint Potter in a chauvinistic light, it also amplifies his underlying competitive spirit (which was shown to a lesser extent in the OIympics episode). In Potter's defense it should be pointed out that near the episode's beginning, he is angry with Margaret after the (unseen) softball game against the Gyrenes, during which a potential rally got stymied when Margaret was tagged out at home plate; it is more likely that this reason above the others is why Potter didn't want her to bowl- not because she is a woman, but for the likelihood that she might cause another loss.

This is the only episode in which Charles addresses Hawkeye by his nickname rather than his surname. (although in Father's Day he called him "Hawk")

For the first time ever, the opening credits are edited down to five shots and the opening theme is replaced with the upbeat closing theme. This same opening would be used in Picture This and Foreign Affairs.

As a gag, the doctors give Urbancic methylene blue pills, so that his urine will turn blue and he'll quit the game. This was a poor medical decision on their part:

  • Besides being a dye, one of the uses of methylene blue is to lower levels of iron in the blood, which could cause anemia.
  • Common side effects could include headache, vomiting, confusion, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, serotonin syndrome, red blood cell breakdown, and other allergic reactions.
  • Without knowing Urbancic's physiology, they could have done some significant damage.
  • Perhaps the biggest gaffe of all regarding methylene blue is that it is administered as an intravenous injection, not in pill form.


In her final turn to bowl (which was shown in slow motion, and filmed from behind the pins instead of in front of them), Margaret's shot was too centered on the head pin, causing it to just glance off of the 3-pin, which would almost certainly have resulted in a split or at least leaving the 3 standing, but an 11th pin was thrown in from off-camera to at least ensure that all of the pins went down.