Tea and Empathy was the 140th overall episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 18th episode of Season 6 of the series. Written by Bill Idelson, and directed by Don Weis, it originally aired on January 17, 1978.
In one sub-plot, B.J. has to deal with a junkie of a patient who's hooked on morphine; in another, the 4077th is low on penicillin and Klinger and Father Francis Mulcahy go out hunting for some penicillin that has been stolen from them; in another sub-plot, Hawkeye deals with tough British Major Derrick Ross who seems to want to march his troops right out of post-op.
Full episode summary
Wounded arrive, presenting more than their usual share of problems to the 4077th.
Some of the patients are from a British unit, who frequently don't wear helmets, resulting in a number of unnecessary head wounds. To make matters worse, some of them were served tea while waiting to be shipped out for surgery, resulting in peritonitis.
As if that wasn't bad enough, black marketeers have broken into the Supply Shed and stolen all of the 4077th's penicillin.
The British unit's commander, Major Ross (Bernard Fox) arrives to visit his troops, insisting that the 4077th doctors are "molly-coddling" his men, and that they are ready to return to active duty. Hawkeye and B.J. refute this, and it gets a little nasty, ending with Hawkeye telling Ross to get out.
Father Mulcahy hears a confession from a soldier, Corporal Benny Bryant (Sal Viscuso), who about to ship out. He tells Mulcahy that he was involved with the black market, helping steal medical supplies and re-selling them - including a cache of penicillin. In his confession, Bryant shares with Mulcahy the location of the penicillin.
Back in Post-Op, B.J.'s patient demands more morphine for the pain, but when B.J. notices the young man is play-acting, he confronts him and gets him to admit that he's hooked on morphine. He doesn't need it for pain - he just needs it, period. B.J. promises him that he will not leave the 4077th still hooked.
Father Mulcahy seeks Col. Potter's permission to go retrieve the penicillin, but can't reveal either his source for the information or the location because of his priestly vow to never break the Seal of Confession. Instead, he grabs Klinger and they drive to the location of the stolen penicillin - an abandoned schoolhouse. They find it, despite being shot at by snipers, and make their way back to the 4077th.
Later, Major Ross returns to visit his men. Klinger rushes to the Swamp to tell Hawkeye that Ross is back, and Hawkeye runs to Post-Op, prepared for another fight; except when he walks in, he sees that Ross is laughing with his men, as they're all reading letters from home and telling stories. Ross now seems like one of the guys, and his soldiers seem in high spirits. What's going on here?
Ross asks Hawkeye to talk outside, and it's then Ross admits this whole thing was a plan - he has found that if he acts like his wounded men are actually fine, they know subconsciously that they'll be okay, which helps speed their recovery. Ross admits it might seem callous, but as Hawkeye can see, it seems to work.
Hawkeye admits Ross was right, but points out that another British condition - giving wounded soldiers tea - leads to peritonitis. Ross is aghast - not have tea? - but says he'll mention it to his superiors.
Both men satisfied, Ross is summoned back into Post-Op because his men want to hear him read his letter. Before he goes, he says that he appreciates how much Hawkeye cares for his men. "Almost as much as you do," Hawkeye replies. Hawkeye goes back to the Swamp to get some sleep. And finally, one last piece of good news: B.J.'s patient - now off morphine, after a grueling two days of detox - ships out, thanking B.J. for the help.
In a light-hearted ending to the episode. Hawkeye tries the Major's approach and reads his letters from home, full of local gossip, to a patient in Post-Op. B.J. has to forcibly remove Hawkeye when he notices that the patient is being bored to tears.
Research notes/Fun facts
- At the beginning of the episode, Potter mentions that the wounded English soldiers are from the Gloustershire Regiment. The cap badge on Major Ross's beret is accurate and shows he does indeed come from the Glocestershire Regiment. But the Gloucestershire Regiment had already been almost wiped out in the Battle of the Imjin River which was mentioned in the P.A. announcement towards the end of the Season 4 episode "Smilin' Jack".
- Perhaps Hawkeye should not have been so surprised with Major Ross's behavior. In Season 3 "Mad Dogs and Servicemen", Hawkeye, on the advice of Dr. Sidney Freedman, tried something similar with Corporal Richard Travis. Many of the MASH staff thought he was overdoing it, but it worked.
- On the jeep that Klinger and Father Mulcahy are driving, the star on the driver's side is upside down.
- This episode was later remade in having Mulcahy and Winchester retrieving stolen drugs (except that Winchester looses his winter parka and uniforn Out of Gas (TV series episode))
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Bernard Fox as Major Derrick Ross
- Sal Viscuso as Corporal Benny Bryant
- Neil Thompson as Johnson
- Neil Hunt as Enright
- Chris Winfield as Whitefield
- Jay Pirelli as Michaels
- Chris Mulkey as Soldier
- Uncredited appearances by Kellye Nakahara and three Unidentified Nurses with small speaking parts.