One day during my college years, my roommates and I deftly avoided studying for any of our classes by watching three consecutive movies. If I recall correctly, it was Apocalypse Now, then Rumble Fish and finally King of New York. In the closing credits of each movie, the same name kept coming up. Somehow we managed to unintentionally pick three movies with the same actor. Who was this Larry Fishburne guy anyway? A better question might be, why Rumble Fish?
It wasn’t until he started going by Laurence that the man who would be Morpheus became a well known name. While writing about familiar faces that have appeared on Cheers, I discovered that Fishburne was one of dozens of popular actors that popped up in an episode of M*A*S*H during its run. Upon further review, it might be easier to list the actors that never appeared on the show instead of those that did. However, I thought it might be fun to pick ten of my favorites and see if you can guess who they are. Watch for the clues and good luck!
Identity Crisis (Season 10, Episode 2) – Kicking things off is Corporal Gerald Mullen, or is it Josh Levin? In the episode, Josh assumes the identity of his buddy who was killed in the same battle that merely wounded him. He realized that posing as Mullen he would be able to use his discharge papers to get home. However, Father Mulcahy stepped in and read some of the real Corporal Mullen’s letters from home. This subtle tug at the heart strings made Levin see that if he went through with the ruse, Mullen’s family would never find out what really happened to him. In the end, Corporal Levin returns to his unit and back to the war. I’ll bet he wishes he had taken the blue pill.
Deal Me Out (Season 2, Episode 13) – Private Carter wanted to go home even more than Corporal Levin. He was so weary and battle fatigued that he decided to take Frank prisoner in the shower. Dr. Sidney Freedman tried to talk him down, even going so far as to claim that Burns was a good person and excellent physician. That’s laying it on a bit too thick. The episode features the first appearance of Colonel Flagg, albeit with a different name…yeah I know, what else is new. Eventually Trapper comes to Frank’s rescue and order is quickly restored. Good thing too, because in the shower three is a crowd.
Mad Dogs and Servicemen (Season 3, Episode 13) – Be the first one on your block to try out that new psychology. Our special guest star is the lone survivor of a brutal tank battle. He claims that he cannot walk or move his legs at all. The problem is, there is nothing medically wrong with him. Hawkeye, with the help of trapper, tries a new technique recommended by Dr. Freedman. Refusing to believe that he is paralyzed and making him crawl to get his meals is sub-par, but seems to be their only option. Sure enough though, the technique works and our mystery guest is soon walking around and ready to hit the links.
Sometimes You Hear the Bullet (Season 1, Episode 17) – The suspiciously baby faced Private Wendell Petersen, sneaks his way into the marines to impress his girl back home. The focus of this episode is Hawkeye’s friend, played by Walter Powell from Charles in Charge. But, he’s not the most intriguing guest star in this one. It’s Wendell, real name Walter that has me whistling to the fishing hole. Reacting to his friends death, Hawkeye reports Walter/Wendell as underage to get him sent home. At least then he can save one young soldier from dying. While this doesn’t totally soothe his pain, Pierce can at least enjoy a happy day or two after his decision.
Blood Brothers (Season 9, Episode 18) – The Cardinal is coming and Father Mulcahy is completely out of sorts trying to prepare for his visit. Meanwhile, Private Gary Sturgis desperately wants to stick around and watch over his buddy. It’s revealed that a blood donor is needed, and Sturgis happily steps up to offer his own. Unfortunately, BJ and Hawkeye discover that Sturgis is in far worse shape than his friend. He has leukemia and very little time left. The good father stays with him until the sun dawns red, providing what little comfort he can. This leads to Mulcahy delivering a special sermon for the Cardinal’s visit in his bathrobe. The small indignity does not detract from a stirring and heartfelt homily.
Trick or Treatment (Season 11, Episode 2) – This spooky episode features more than one cool guest star. I’m not going with George Wendt and his magic eight ball for this one. I feel it would be too “on the nose”. Speaking of nose…BJ is a clown, and not just for halloween. He does have the honor of treating my patient of choice, though. The Marines are drinking a wee bit too much for the holiday, and the aforementioned Wendt is not the only one to get into a predicament. Corporal Hrabosky decides to challenge his fellow drunkards to a motorbike race and crashes into a chicken coop. The incident leaves him bloody, but feeling no pain. Pretty stand up guy, I’d say.
Bottle Fatigue (Season 8, Episode 16) – Paging Nurse Mendenhall. Hawkeye unsuccessfully tries to give up drinking at the same time as dating the lovely new nurse. His sudden abstinence leads to him being hypercritical of everyone else’s faults. What caused him to get on the wagon in the first place? Must’ve been that giant bar tab. Anyway, Pierce manages to anger everyone in camp including his new friend. It seems Nurse Mendenhall has a knack for dealing with sanctimonious sobriety. Before storming off she lays into Hawkeye, “If I would have known that I was going to get a temperance lecture… I would have made a date with someone more fun…like a cadaver!”
The Ringbanger (Season 1, Episode 16) – We got ourselves a real ringbanger here, and I am serious. Colonel Buzz Brighton is in with a flesh wound and curiously becomes a drinking buddy to Hawkeye and Trapper. They don’t typically get social with this type of soldier. Brighton likes to bang his West Point ring while he talks, as a little reminder of the power he wields. And Buzz has easily the highest casualty rate of any commander in the field. The guys concoct a plan to convince ol’ Buzz that he has battle fatigue. The hope is that he’ll be knocked out of action for an extended period, thus easing the flow of wounded. Naturally, it works like a charm and the Colonel is soon on his way back to the States.
L.I.P. Corporal Walker wants to marry a Korean woman and comes to Hawkeye for help. Our interest though, lies with the C.I.D. man that comes to investigate the matter. Things don’t look so hot from the get go. Lt. Willis seems to be pretty firm in not letting the marriage go through. Luckily, the man has a taste for the Swamp’s finest gin. Before long he is knocked out cold and suitable for framing. Some lipstick here, a bra there, several incriminating photos, and the wedding is back on.
Foreign Affairs (Season 11, Episode 3) – This is the one where Major Winchester falls in love with a French Red Cross volunteer. Awkward. Charles ultimately breaks things off with her when he finds out that she once lived with a man out of wedlock. Oh my! However, let us turn our attention to the PR man who has arrived in camp. Major Reddish has come to recruit an enemy pilot who was shot down and captured. He plans to take the soldier on a tour of the U.S. in order to “sell” the war…or something like that. The plan enters a state of arrested development, because the man would much rather go to a P.O.W. camp then promote the war for Americans. And shockingly, he doesn’t speak English. Hawkeye and BJ find a great substitute for Reddish, though. He’s not a combat soldier or pilot and also happens to be South Korean. Details, details. But after some thought, the Major is convinced. Hopefully nobody asks him to fly a plane.