The Consultant was the 17th episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 65th overall series episode. Written by Robert Klane, with a story by Larry Gelbart and directed by Gene Reynolds, it first aired on January 21, 1975.
Dr. Borelli visits to demonstrate his artery transplant technique. Unfortunately, being so close to the front at the 4077th causes Borelli's drinking problem to interfere at the worst time - when a patient needs the transplant.
Full episode summary
Hawkeye and Trapper are off to Tokyo for a medical conference, but golf and geisha take a higher priority. On the Ginza, they meet Major Anthony Borelli (Robert Alda), a civilian medical consultant with an honorary rank. Borelli is attending the conference and chides the captains when he learns they'll be skipping the lectures to chase girls. Hawkeye and Trapper explain they work at a M*A*S*H unit where technique takes a back seat to speed of service. Borelli, who has never been to Korea, is invited to the 4077th by Hawkeye and skip the “cozy locker room” of Tokyo. Borelli declines, citing his experience with the front lines of World Wars One and Two.
Back at camp, Henry is relaxing in a makeshift swimming pool and is joined by Hawkeye and Trapper who proudly admit they skipped the conference. A lone chopper arrives, producing Major Borelli, who obviously changed his mind. Borelli bunks in the Swamp and Hawkeye and Trapper are genuinely happy he's chosen to witness the real action of the war. Wounded arrive and Borelli, not exactly comfortable with front-line conditions, watches the doctors in action. Frank is about to amputate a leg with serious arterial damage, but Borelli steps in and claims the leg can be saved with an artery transplant.
Radar tracks down an artery for grafting at a British unit sixteen miles away, so Hawkeye and Trapper go pick it up. Dr. Borelli is paged to perform the surgery, which the medical staff is eager to witness, but he remains holed up in the Swamp. Irritated by the senseless delay, Hawkeye confronts him and learns Borelli is too “soused” to operate. Borelli tells Hawkeye he is good enough to perform the operation and he'll help guide him through it.
A large crowd watches Hawkeye successfully perform the arterial transplant under Borelli's direction, but Hawkeye gives the Major the cold shoulder, still incensed the doctor would be too drunk to operate. The two men meet up afterwards in the Swamp, where Hawkeye chastises Borelli for excessive drinking. Borelli admits the carnage of war got to him, but gently reminds the Captain that he is the one with a still in his tent and wishes him luck on his third war.
In a final scene not normally shown in syndication, Borelli departs via chopper, saying goodbye to Henry, Frank, Margaret, and Trapper. Hawkeye is absent, but shows up at the last second and literally tips his hat to Borelli, effectively burying the hatchet with the man he realizes he could soon become.
Research notes/Fun facts
- There is an uncredited nurse with a speaking part towards the end of the episode. Hawkeye and Trapper are scrubbing for the operation. Trapper tells Radar to find out which nurse he has a date with that night and tell her he can't make it. The nurse who has been assisting Trapper by taking his coat says, "It was me." See gallery below.
- Robert Alda, who plays Dr. Anthony Borelli, is Alan Alda's father. He would appear again in this role in Season 8 ("Lend a Hand"), though the character takes on a different demeanor for some reason.
- Just as Borelli predicted, Hawkeye would be on the other end of the lecture/criticism about stress-drinking affecting his ability to do his job, in Season 6's "Fallen Idol."
- This is one of the rare episodes where Trapper John is seen driving instead of Hawkeye while in a jeep. Other examples of this occurrence include "The Moose", "The Trial of Henry Blake" and "There Is Nothing Like a Nurse".
- According to co-star and close friend Alan Alda, Wayne (who played Trapper John) didn't like to drive as he stated in an interview.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Robert Alda as Dr. Anthony Borelli
- William Christopher as Father Mulcahy
- Joseph Maher as Major Taylor
- Tad Horino as Bartender
- Uncredited appearances by: