The Nurses was the 103rd episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, and, also the sixth episode of the fifth season of the series. Written by Linda Bloodworth and directed by Joan Darling, it first aired on October 19, 1976.
The nurses go behind Margaret's back so that a fellow nurse confined to her tent can spend the night with her soldier husband who is paying her a surprise visit.
Full episode summary
With temperatures rising outside and inside, an argument breaks out between the nurses and Margaret. It gets so ugly that it spills over into violence, with Margaret confining Nurse Baker (Linda Kelsey) to quarters for the duration.
Unfortunately, right after that, Baker's new husband, a G.I. named Tony, arrives in camp to visit his new wife - they haven't even had the chance to have a honeymoon yet.
Hawkeye and B.J. have them meet in the Swamp, and they take it upon themselves to give the two a night together, Margaret be damned. They contrive a story about Tony having the plague, and needing to be quarantined for 24 hours - in Margaret's tent.
Col. Potter is suspicious, but Hawkeye and B.J. bluff their way through it successfully enough for Potter to agree to the quarantining...for now. Margaret is mad, and gets madder still when Potter tells her she can spend the night in the Nurses' Tent.
Unfortunately, the next part of their plan is to have Frank try and romance Margaret in the Swamp, giving Baker the chance to sneak out. But when Frank refuses - out of some sense of misplaced pride - Hawkeye and B.J. realize they've "crapped out."
Margaret bunks down with the nurses; once everybody is asleep, Baker manages to get out and spend the night with her husband as planned. But by early dawn, just as she crawls back into her own bed, Margaret is there, awake, waiting for her.
The next morning, this leads to another confrontation, and Baker reveals what she was doing, and how the whole thing was a sham. Margaret is enraged but breaks down when she reveals that part of the reason she's so hard on them is because she's always felt ostracized by them - they never invited her to talk, or even offered her "a lousy cup of coffee." The nurses are stunned into silence and Margaret storms out, headed to the O.R. to take care of incoming wounded.
Col. Potter demands to know what happened to the soldier who supposedly had typhoid, and when Hawkeye and B.J. give a hastily-thought out, clearly B.S. answer, he calls their bluff.
He tells Margaret that they've been the victim of some trickery, and if she wants to press charges, he'd understand. She takes a long look at her nurses, and refuses, saying its a matter between her and them. Potter accepts this, and they all go to work.
Later, the nurses are back in their tent, winding down. Margaret comes in with the next day's assignments, but instead of it being another confrontation, they offer her a "lousy cup of coffee," which she gently accepts.
- None of the actresses who played nurses in this episode ever appeared again in the series (with the exception of clips in "Our Finest Hour") (actress Mary Jo Catlett, who plays Nurse Mary Jo Walsh, appeared once before, but as Lieutenant Becky Anderson, the friend who accompanied Lieutenant Caryle Breslin (played by Blythe Danner) to the 4077th in the Season 4 episode "The More I See You"). None of the actresses who would play recurring roles as nurses throughout the series (Jan Jorden, Kellye Nakahara, Gwen Farrell, Judy Farrell, JoAnn Thompson, or Enid Kent) were in this episode.
- While there's an explanation ready as to why they don't use Father Mulcahy's tent for the quarantine, it was never explained why they couldn't use the VIP tent, as in other episodes.
- It's also never explained where the rest of the nurses are. At one time, Margaret mentioned she was in charge of 10 nurses, and we've seen more than that in other episodes (when they were all gathered in the Swamp to help play a prank on B.J. in "Bottoms Up," for example).
- While trying to talk Frank into inviting Margaret over to the Swamp for the night, Frank says he's waiting to see "the sweat on her upper lip." B.J. says that it's 110 degrees (to explain the sweating). That's obviously an exaggeration -- other episodes show characters reacting to the hot weather with much less discomfort. In this episode (except for Radar, briefly), everyone's fully-clothed the whole time--hats, jackets, etc.
- This episode features yet another Nurse Baker, who is obviously different from previous (and future) Nurse Bakers posted to the 4077th. In just the previously-aired episode "Lt. Radar O'Reilly", the nurse known as "Baker" was single, had short straight red hair, and a tent all to herself, where she continually put the moves on Radar while he was still a Corporal. In this episode, Nurse Baker is a newlywed with long curly red hair sharing a tent with 3 other nurses. This Nurse Baker even has a first name: Mickey.
- Near the end of the episode, the nurses consider throwing the second batch of bad fudge against the back wall of their tent so it will match the front, where we can see the first batch of fudge splattered all over the inside of the door. For some reason, most syndicated airings cut out the part right after Margaret storms out of the tent in the beginning ("Your orders will be posted!") where Baker takes the first batch of failed fudge and throws it at the door.
- Linda Kelsey, seen as Nurse Baker, would the following year become much better known as crusading reporter Billie Newman on the show Lou Grant. Not coincidentally, Lou Grant was produced by M*A*S*H producer Gene Reynolds.
- Gregory Harrison would go on to greater fame playing Dr. "Gonzo" Gates on the M*A*S*H spinoff (of sorts) Trapper John, M.D.
- Cast member Loretta Swit marked this episode, along with Hot Lips and Empty Arms and Margaret's Engagement, as her favorite.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Linda Kelsey as Lieutenant Mickey Baker
- Mary Jo Catlett as Nurse Mary Jo Walsh
- Carol Locatell as Nurse Gaynor
- Patricia Sturges as Nurse Preston
- Gregory Harrison as Lieutenant Tony Baker
- Sal Viscuso as the P.A. announcer