The Best of Enemies was the season opening episode of Season 9 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 199th overall series episode, Written by Sheldon Bull and directed by Charles S. Dubin, it originally aired on November 17, 1980.
En route to R&R, Hawkeye is flagged down by a North Korean soldier who holds him at gun point, forcing him to treat his wounded comrade. Meanwhile, Colonel Potter and Major Winchester go head-to-head in a grudge bridge match.
Full episode summaryEdit
Hawkeye has a 24-hour pass, so he climbs in a jeep headed for Seoul. He's so excited he can barely contain himself (keeping B.J. awake with his gleeful singing). His mood is brightened even more when Klinger delivers a letter from Hawkeye's father, including a picture of his hometown of Crabapple Cove, which he tucks into his pocket.
Col. Potter also gets a letter, from his wife Mildred, celebrating her win at a Missouri bridge tournament. Winchester mocks the whole idea, not even bothering to conceal his lack of respect for Mildred's skills. This, of course, angers Potter, and he challenges Winchester to a bridge tournament. The losers are to bring the winners breakfast in bed.
Meanwhile, on the way to Seoul, Hawkeye's jeep breaks down, and while he tries to get it started again, a North Korean soldier (Mako), armed to the teeth, emerges from the bushes and demands - through a series of grunts and gestures, since he speaks no English - that Hawkeye come with him, and bring his medical bag.
Back at the 4077th, Winchester tries to get Margaret to partner with him for the tournament, but Potter has beaten him to her. Winchester then turns to B.J., who, in return for his services, demands 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep, followed by breakfast in bed. Winchester, through gritted teeth, agrees.
Hawkeye is led by the soldier to their destination: an unconscious, wounded North Korean soldier, who the other one demands Hawkeye keep alive. Hawkeye examines the wounded man, and sees that he has serious wounds in his head and chest. With no way to communicate, it's impossible for Hawkeye to explain that the chest wound, which looks worse to the untrained eye, isn't really the problem - it's the head wound, and without the right instruments, there's not much Hawkeye can do.
The armed soldier shows Hawkeye a picture of himself and the young man and some others, indicating they are family or at least close friends. Hawkeye retorts by showing him the picture of his father back in Crabapple Cove. Hawkeye works on the chest wound, knowing it won't do much good. When the wounded man starts having trouble breathing, he asks the other to drop his gun and help out. When the man doesn't understand, Hawkeye grabs the rifle in a rage and tosses it away, dragging the man to the ground so he can hold his friend down while Hawkeye tries to get air into his lungs.
Back at the 4077th, the bridge tournament becomes a contest of egos. The teams go from Winchester/B.J. vs. Potter/Margaret to Winchester/Margaret vs. Potter/B.J., before breaking down to Winchester/Potter vs. B.J/Margaret. Because of the outsized egos of their opponents, B.J. and Margaret end up winning in an upset.
Hawkeye continues to struggle with his patient, but all for naught as the young man dies. Hawkeye is now fearfully resigned to the probability of being shot by the soldier when he picks up his rifle, but to his surprise the soldier quietly lets him go. Hawkeye begins to leave, but when he looks back and see the other man digging a grave for his friend, having only his knife to loosen the ground. Hawkeye returns and, using his helmet, helps the soldier. They look at each other for a moment, in total silence, then resume their digging.
The next day shows Hawkeye back at camp, sound asleep in his bunk, fully dressed. B.J. is also asleep, but is soon rudely awakened by Charles, who brings him breakfast in bed and hopes he "gags on every bite." Hawkeye rolls over and moans in his sleep, and B.J. speculates he had a wild time in Seoul. Winchester grumbles, "And he calls himself a doctor."
Research notes/Fun factsEdit
- Potterisms: "Hot mustard!" ... "What in the Sam Hill?" ... "Beaver biscuits!"
- This is the first episode of the ninth season. The arrangement of the show's theme, "Suicide is Painless", is a little different this time, it has a trumpet, tenor sax and synthesizer in it this time.
- Another guest turn by Mako - this was his fourth and final appearance on the show.
Guest stars/Recurring castEdit
- Another example of TV Show reality of Jumping the Shark. MASH 4077 is 20 miles south of the DMZ line near Seoul; in a truthful timeline no enemy soldiers would have got this far south in late 1952-1953; likewise it is hardly believable that an enemy solder would have let Hawkeye go-either killing him or using him as a hostage to go back up North.