Yessir, That's Our Baby is the fifteenth episode of the eighth season of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, as well as the 188th overall series episode. Directed by cast member Alan Alda, the episode was written by Jim Mulligan; it originally aired on December 31, 1979.
When a young Amerasian infant is left abandoned in camp by her Korean mother, Hawkeye and the others decide to try and get her shipped to the states, but run into insurmountable walls of red tape at every turn.
Full episode summary
In the early dawn, the sleeping Swampmates all hear crying from nearby. Charles grudgingly goes to investigate and finds a basket near their doorstep with a baby inside. After he brings the infant into the Swamp, he finds a note from the elusive mother attached to its swaddling clothes. The note reads:
"This is my baby. She is good baby, strong, beautiful. Father, American G.I., gone now. Baby American, too. Please, doctors, care for her. I cannot, but I love her."
The infant quickly becomes the darling of the entire camp, and the senior staff all argue over who gets to take care of her. Eventually, they all wind up taking turns; Hawkeye feeds her in the Mess Tent, Potter gives her a physical, Klinger shows Margaret and the nurses how to put a "Lebanese sarape" on the baby, and Margaret offers up her quarters as a place for the infant to sleep.
Ironically, the one dark cloud comes from Father Mulcahy after he returns from a day at the orphanage. When he notices the baby is of mixed race, he paints a very harrowing picture of how the Amerasian babies and their mothers become outcasts once the villages learn that the babies are miscegenated. To Hawkeye, Margaret and Potter's horror, Mulcahy tells about how mixed-race boys are often emasculated while girls are outright slaughtered; he fears that the baby girl will have no future whatsoever if she is forced to stay in Korea.
But then Mulcahy offers up an alternative: taking the baby to a Catholic mission, a monastery hidden deep in the Korean hills, where the reclusive monks there will cloister and educate her, and with help from other monasteries abroad perhaps get her out of Korea in fifteen or twenty years. They all agree that it doesn't sound like much of a life, but Mulcahy says it's the only chance she has. Hawkeye disagrees and, since the baby is half-American, he is willing to try and go through whatever channels he can to get her shipped stateside.
For their first attempt, Hawkeye and B.J. go to Seoul and talk to a Miss Harper at the Red Cross, who only turns them down repeating "our areas of responsibility are very specific". Though she admires what they're trying to do, she also chides their naivete, and then suggests they talk to the Army.
Hawkeye and B.J. then talk to Major Spector, the top aide for the Adjutant General Corps. He tells about the numerous levels of protocol they would have to go through for approval, but even if they make it all the way to the top of the top (which is highly unlikely), there is no way the baby will make it out of Korea. When Spector callously says it is not an Army matter, Hawkeye remarks about all the GIs who are out in the field "making babies, and then making tracks" and feels it should become an Army matter. Spector then asks why Hawkeye and B.J. are so out of joint over one baby, and then snidely asks if one of them is the daddy. An offended B.J. intimidatingly says, "Good thing for you we're doctors, 'cause I'm gonna break every bone in your body."
Back in camp that evening, Colonel Potter rebukes the two for nearly getting into a fist fight, and then declares that he himself will accompany Hawkeye when he visits the South Korean government official the next morning. The official, Chung Ho Kim, offers no help, but validates Father Mulcahy's assessment of the situation. He states that the people of Korea are of one race, and fiercely intolerant of any intrusion by a mixed-race child into their society. Kim then points out that of all the nations fighting in the Korean War, only the United States refuses to accept responsibility for the babies fathered by their own servicemen, while other nations are more than willing to help their own by offering citizenship. Kim essentially rebukes the U.S. for "rejecting the children of your own people", which leaves Potter and Hawkeye in shamed silence.
Back at camp, Father Mulcahy again suggests the monastery, but Hawkeye wants to take one more shot: the U.S. Consulate in Tokyo. Potter agrees, but adds that their visit calls for sophistication, namely Charles, who happens to speak "fluent hoi polloi". At the meeting, and after numerous interruptions, the diplomat, Mr. Prescott, showing total indifference to their case, abruptly refuses to help. Charles has been keeping Hawkeye on a short leash the whole time, but towards the end of the meeting, Charles himself loses his temper and has to be restrained by Hawkeye when he threatens to assault Prescott.
With no other options left, Hawkeye, B.J., Charles, and Father Mulcahy take the baby to the monastery; Mulcahy reminds them that the monks want no outside contact with anyone and that the baby must be left in complete secrecy or she will not be accepted. After the four take turns saying goodbye to the infant, Hawkeye gently places her inside the revolving cradle and closes it. He then rings a nearby bell, and the four quietly drive back to camp.
Later, during a session in O.R., Hawkeye muses how much the child meant to them all, and how each of them will carry the memory of her for the rest of their lives.
Research notes/Fun facts
- The episode title comes from a 1925 song.
- Sliding Timeline fix: Hawkeye calls the milk in the surgical glove "Chateau Moo '51" which places the events in 1951 and also refers to the US Commander as Douglas MacArthur - an anachronism, since Potter didn't arrive at the 4077th until September 1952.
- It is also possible, however, that Hawkeye might have been making a quip about when the powdered milk itself was made; it almost certainly would not have been immediately shipped to Korea when it was first manufactured.
- Klinger suggests naming the baby "Scheherazade", which was the name of a legendary Arabic queen and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights.
- Trapper John McIntyre tried adopting a lost Korean child in Season 2 "Kim" - but he never got started tackling the bureaucratic process (Kim's mother showed up looking for him), so we don't know if he would have succeeded.
- In 1982, the Amerasian Immigration Act defined Amerasians as children whose fathers were U.S. citizens and whose mothers were nationals of Kampuchea (Cambodia), Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam, and who had been born between January 1, 1950, and October 22, 1982 [it did not immediately award citizenship to the Amerasians it defined, and that children of American fathers and women from Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines were not considered Amerasians under the law]. The 1989 American Homecoming Act provided passage for Amerasian Children from the Vietnam War. In 2012, it is reported that Amerasian Children of the Phillippines were fighting to be accepted as Americans. This episode is dated, as it refers to the Pearl S Buck Foundation - it is now Pearl S Buck International, which manages overseas humanitarian programs that provide aid to marginalized children and their families in South Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China.
- In one scene when Klinger helps with the baby, he talks about someday becoming a father. Although he said he could get attached to a little girl (added to which he had "a foot locker full of hand-me-downs"), he predicts that he will have a son; his prediction comes true when, in AfterMASH, he and his future wife Soon Lee have a baby boy.
- Sergeant Zelmo Zale is mentioned for the final time since his final appearance in Good-Bye Radar: Part 1.
- Klinger says he has clothed the baby in a "Lebanese sarape." It's unclear where they got this term from; a sarape is a Mexican poncho, usually worn by men. Since most native Lebanese speak Arabic (as does Klinger), the term would most likely be "hafadat."
- Interesting observation: While Hawkeye is pacing back and forth near the American and Korean flags while talking to Major Spector, he reaches in his right-hand pocket, pulls out a partially eaten donut, takes a couple of bites, and then puts the donut back in his pocket. We don’t know how much time has passed between when he got the donut while at the Red Cross and when he “unpocketed” it, but one must assume between travel time between the two offices, and more than likely a bit of a wait prior to meeting with Major Spector, it must have been at least a couple of hours. The donut must have been full of lint and fibers from the coat pocket, and the inside of the pocket must have been a sticky mess (a close look at the donuts during the Red Cross scene reveals that they were iced - some with a dark glaze, and some with a lighter colored glaze). Could Hawkeye really have still been THAT hungry after eating 5 of them at the Red Cross (which he clearly stated while there)? And who puts donuts in their pocket anyway?
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Howard Platt as Major Ted Spector
- William Bogert as Roger Prescott
- Elizabeth Farley as Louise Harper
- Yuki Shimoda as Chung Ho Kim
- Uncredited appearances by Kellye Nakahara, Gwen Farrell, Jennifer Davis, Jo Ann Thompson, Shari Saba