Tuesday, March 31, 2009

M*A*S*H Season Four

Let's start counting the days in M*A*S*H Season Four. This post will be continually updated until I have had a chance to see all the episodes in this season.

4.1: Welcome to Korea + 4.2: Change of Command (1 week, 6 days)

Note: I've combined the day count for the first two episodes of the fourth season because they essentially occupy the same space of time. Allow me to explain.

The season opener, Welcome to Korea, see's Hawkeye come back from leave only to find out Trapper has just left. Apparently he got orders to go home 3 days before Hawkeye returned. This means that the start of this episode represents the fourth day of a series of events, 3 days of which took place off camera before the episode even started.

Hawkeye's travel to try and say goodbye to Trapper before he leaves, and his return to the 4077 with B.J all take place on the one day (Day 4). The final scene, where Potter arrives to take command (on 19 September 1952, for those who are interested) represents practically the end of a two week period.

How did I come to this conclusion, you might well ask?

Good question. Bear with me here, because this is where it gets a little complicated. But it's made easier if we do this in dot point form.
  • Days 1 to 3: Happens off-camera before the episode begins. Trapper gets his orders to go home. He waits as long as he can for Hawkeye to return from Tokyo.
  • Day 4: Trapper leaves for the airport. Later, Hawkeye returns from Tokyo and learns Trapper went home. He accompanies Radar to the airport to say goodbye to Trapper but misses him by 15 minutes. Hawkeye and Radar pick up B.J and bring him back to the 4077 by the late afternoon.
  • Days 5 through 11: Happens off camera. Hawkeye and B.J, according to a line of dialouge by Potter in 4.2, set fire to the latrines at some point during this time, causing Frank to put them on report. We also know that a week passes due to a comment by B.J in episode 4.6 (The Bus) that he spent "a week with Frank in command."
  • Day 12: Potter arrives to take command in a scene that initially takes place in 4.1 but is repeated in 4.2. Later in the day, casualties arrive and he and the other doctors all go into surgery.
  • Day 13: The final scene of 4.2 takes place in the Swamp at 3am, after surgery. Hence, 1 week and 6 days worth of time have now passed since the beginning of episode 4.1.
Clear as mud? Thought so.

4.3: It Happened One Night (1 day)

4.4: The Late Captain Pierce (1 day)

4.5: Hey Doc (1 day)

4.6: The Bus (2 days)

4.7: Dear Mildred (1 day)

4.8: The Kids (2 days)


Friday, March 20, 2009

M*A*S*H: Season Three

Let's start counting the days in M*A*S*H Season Three.

3.1: The General Flipped at Dawn (2 days)

Note: The final scene could arguably take place on a third day but since it's not explicitly stated, we'll play it safe and say two days.

3.2: Rainbow Bridge (3 days)

3.3: Officer of the Day (1 day)

3.4: Iron Guts Kelly (2 days)

3.5: O.R (1 day)

Note: Adding some weight to my theory that at least a month had passed before the events of the pilot episode, Frank remarks in this episode that he and Trapper "got on well for the first two weeks."

3.6: Springtime (3 days)

Note: 36 hours had passed before this episode began, according to dialogue in the opening scene in the O.R.

3.7: Check-Up (2 days)

3.8: Life With Father (2 days)

3.9: Alcoholics Unanimous (2 days)

3.10: There Is Nothing Like A Nurse (2 days)

Note: Although there is no observable night sequence, after 5 O'Clock Charlie shows up, Radar says he can have the nurses back by breakfast. In the very next scene, the nurses return suggesting an evening has passed between the two scenes.

3.11: Adam's Ribs (2 days)

3.12: A Full, Rich Day (1 day)

3.13: Mad Dogs and Servicemen (1 day)

Note: It is more than likely that the events of this episode took place over the course of more than just one day. However no observable night sequence occurs during the course of this episode. So to play it safe, we'll just say one day.

3.14: Private Charles Lamb (2 days)

3.15: Bombed (1 day)

3.16: Bulletin Board: (2 days)

3.17: The Consultant (4 days)

3.18: House Arrest (2 days)

3.19: Aid Station (2 days)

3.20: Love and Marriage (3 days)

3:21: Big Mac (2 days)

Note: Although there is no observable night sequence, there are two verbal cues which we can use to show that this episode takes place over the course of two days. Firstly, on the first day, Henry tells Klinger that he wants to see him in his office at 4pm that afternoon. We are also told MacArthur will be visiting the camp at 1100 hours (although it is not specifically said how many days away the visit actually is). We then see Henry's meeting with Klinger, and then later we see MacArthur visit (obviously at 1100 hours). So it is safe to say that at least two days have passed, despite no observable night-time sequence.

3:22: Payday (2 days)

Note: Most of this episode takes place at night. However there is an observable day sequence at the beginning of the episode, and right near the end a nurse says it's 3 O'Clock in the morning. Hence, 2 days are accounted for in this episode.

3:23: White Gold (3 days)

3:24: Abyssinia, Henry (2 days)

Note: Just as an interesting side-note, the pen Radar gives Henry as a farewell gift indicates Henry is sent home in 1952. In episode 2.9 (Dear Dad... Three), historical events mentioned in that episode suggested that it took place on either January 6, 1952 or March 12, 1952. This means that Henry left the 4077 at least some time after March 1952, which in turn means Potter was in command of the 4077 for, at most, 1 year and 4 months.

This means nothing in terms of the aims of this project, but it will be interesting to see if a future episode during Potter's tenure breaks internal series-continuity by placing an episode before March 1952.

TOTAL DAY COUNT: At the end of Season Two we had determined that a total of 196 days (28 weeks) had passed in the fake version of the Korean War. With a start date for the real Korean War of June 25 1950, this placed the approximate date of the final episode of Season 2 on January 6th, 1951.

In Season Three we saw a further 49 days pass. This means that a total of 245 days worth of time had passed at the end of the third season. This means that the approximate date (but not the actual date) at the end of the third season would be 24th February 1951.

Still plenty of time (about 2 years and 4 months) until the end of the real war, then. But with 8 seasons left to go, will M*A*S*H run out of time, or have time left to spare? Keep reading to find out!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

M*A*S*H: Season Two

Let's see how many days pass in Season Two!

2.1: Divided We Stand (3 days)

Note: A difficult episode to judge the flow of time in. Here's how I worked it out.

The episode starts with General Clayton explaining to an army psychiatrist, a Captain Hildebrand, why he's sending him from Seoul to the 4077; to evaluate if the 4077 needs to be split up. There are some flashbacks during this sequence that, as usual, I've not counted. Eventually we see Hildebrand arrive at the camp in a jeep. To avoid assumptions about the flow of time between his briefing with Clayton and his arrival at the 4077, I've (ironically) had to make an assumption. I've decided to assume that rather than waiting a day or two to leave Seoul, Hildebrand left that very same day and arrived at the 4077 that very same day. That's Day 1.

There is then a clearly observable night sequence and a scene where the main characters all have breakfast with Hildebrand. Following breakfast, Hildebrand observes more of the characters behavior and attends the O.R during surgery. That's two days. Then, although there is no observable night sequence, toward the end of the episode Clayton shows up to hear Hildebrands report. Hildebrand is drinking in the Swamp with Hawkeye, Trapper and Henry and offers Clayton a drink as well. Clayton remarks that it's only 7 in the morning. This therefore suggests that another night has passed, although we didn't see it. Hence the day count is 3 days.

2.2: 5 O'Clock Charlie (6 weeks, 3 days)

Note: Another difficult episode to judge the flow of time in.

First of all, at least six weeks have passed between this episode and the last episode, due to the fact that the characters actually state that 5 O'Clock Charlie has been trying to bomb the ammunition dump with no success for the past six weeks. Since in this episode it is shown that 5 O'Clock Charlie's daily visit is a major daily event for the 4077 (they bet on how close he'll get to actually hitting the ammo dump and most of the camp actually turns out to watch it) yet no mention was made of him in episode 2.1. So it can be safely said that he wasn't yet flying over the camp in that episode and that yes, at least six weeks have indeed passed between the two episodes.

The second difficulty in the flow of time is the appearance of an AA Gun, requested by Frank. At the start of the episode, 5 O'Clock Charlie is about to appear, fails his bombing run and flies away. That afternoon in Henry's office, Frank demands (over the phone) that Clayton send an AA Gun to defend the camp. Clayton says he will visit the camp the next day to assess the situation. When Clayton shows up in the next scene we can therefore safely say that only two days have passed during the actual episode so far.

5 O'Clock Charlie gets his name because he shows up every day at 5 O'Clock, so when he then bombs Clayton's jeep shortly after his arrival we can still assume that only two days have passed. Clayton says that Frank can have his AA Gun, and then in the very next scene we see the gun has been set up in the camp.

Now, I'm no army engineer. I don't know how long it would have taken to get an AA Gun to the 4077, nor do I know how long it would take for it to be set up once it gets there, so to avoid error I'm simply going to have to guess that the AA Gun is set up by the next day. But this is actually a pretty safe guess to make, given what we know about the characters and what we see on screen. To explain, Hawkeye and Trapper (who were there when Clayton said the gun would be installed) immediately hatch a plan to stop Frank ever getting to shoot the thing at Charlie (they argue if Frank hits Charlie the whole camp will be in danger of being attacked). This therefore implies that between the time Claytons jeep is bombed and the time that we first see the AA Gun, only one day has passed as given what we know of these characters you'd assume Hawkeye and Trapper wouldn't have let Frank shoot the gun at Charlie even once, especially given their firm opposition to his doing so. This means that we can say with some degree of certainty that three days have now passed during the course of this episode.

Frank shoots the gun when Charlie shows up but thanks to Hawkeye and Trapper he misses and hits the ammo dump instead. Charlie thinks he's hit it and it's implied he won't be back anymore. So, despite some difficulties with knowing how long it took to get the AA Gun to the 4077 and set it up, we can safely say that between episode 2.1 and the end of this episode, at least 6 weeks and 3 days has passed.

2.3: Radar's Report (1 week, 1 day).

Note: Radar actually mentions the date in this episode, saying that his report (which is essentially another 'letter-to-home' style episode set-up) is for the dates October 17 to October 24, 1951, inclusive. He is writing this report at night, and the next day he gets Henry to sign it. So we can now safely say that the date, as of the end of this episode is at least October 25, 1951. The day count will work from this date going forward from this episode. UPDATE: Later episode analysis has shown that chronology is something the writers didn't really care very much about so while this episode obviously takes places between these dates, it's not actually safe to say that the next episode takes place after October 24 1951.

What is interesting about this is speculating about when the events of the previous two episodes, which amount to a total of almost seven weeks, took place? Did they take place immediately before this episode, placing the events of episode 2.1 around the end of August, 1951? If so, this suggests that we've missed out on just over 11 months worth of events between the season finale of season one, which, you may recall, was estimated to be on about September 18, 1950. Could it then be argued that some of the flash backs we saw during Clayton's briefing on the 4077 to Captain Hildebrand occured during these 11 months?

Or is this merely the first episode to take place in 1951, with the previous few episodes taking place in the last few months of 1950? Or was it a bit of 1950, a bit of 1951?

It's fun to speculate. My guess is the writers/producers never thought M*A*S*H would run 11 years and decided that it would probably only go for three, so why not make each season depict one year of the war? At any rate, it'll be interesting to see whether or not this relatively big jump in time blows out the length of the fake war when compared to the length of the real war.

2.4: For The Good of the Outfit (1 week, 6 days)

Note: An interesting contradiction occurs in this episode. In the last episode, 'Radar's Report,' we were able to pin down a date for this season's happenings thanks to Radar telling us it was October 1951. But in this episode, right at the end, Radar appears to contradict himself by reading a letter to Hawkeye (one which just arrived in camp as a result of the events of this episode, so no mail delivery delays can be blamed) which is dated May 24th, 1951.

Given this, it has become apparent that trying to work out the exact date that an episode of M*A*S*H is set on is not only counter-productive to the aims of this blog but nigh on impossible as well. Clearly the writers decided to throw continuity and chronology to the wind whenever it suited them. Instead, we're simply going to go forward from this episode counting the days that we can witness (or are told by characters to have passed) and compare that tally to the length of the real war. Dates and idle (albeit fun) speculation be damned!

Also for those playing at home, this was another hard episode to work out the passage of time for. It's almost as if the writers knew I'd be starting this project one day and wanted to make it as difficult as possible for me. So, let me explain how I worked out the length of time on this one.

First, on the day that the doctors discover U.S shrapnel in the Korean villagers they're operating on, they go to Henry to file a report. In the next scene Henry is asleep, telling Radar he doesn't start until 9. Thus, clearly we are into Day 2 of this episode's proceedings.

The officer assigned to investigate Hawkeye and Trapper's claims (a Major Stoner... can you tell this episode first aired in the 70s?) leaves the camp with their evidence, and we later find out that "after a week and a half of calls" the doctors haven't heard back from Stoner. We're now at 1 week, 5 days.

Hawkeye writes a letter to his Dad (thankfully not in the cliched 'flashbacky' way he and other 4077'ers have done a few times so far) asking for his assistance to thwart what is obviously an attempt at a military cover-up. This is likely done on the same day as his statement that he's not heard from Stoner for over a week. He is then told in a later scene by Henry that his letter was stopped by the censor and he's now "restricted" (under arrest) to the boundaries of the camp. Although it would be safe to assume that the process of sending the letter and having it stopped by the war censor would eat up another three days minimum, we're in the business of avoiding assumptions at this blog. But clearly it would take at least one day for this to happen, so we are going to ring up the tally to 1 week, 6 days.

General Clayton shows up on the same day as Hawkeye finds out he's under arrest. During a discussion Clayton is having with Hawkeye, Henry and Trapper, Frank and Hot Lips intervene and Clayton is forced to reveal the truth. This then leads to the scene where Hawkeye gets an uncensored letter from his Dad (the one where Radar says the date is May 24th, 1951). Now, although we could conservatively assume that the length of time it took Clayton to file his report, for Hawkeye's Dad to write a letter and for it to make it all the way from the US to the 4077 would take at least a week, our mission statement here is to avoid assumptions. But like before it's more than safe to say that this scene takes place on a day other than the one during which Clayton discussed the matter with Hawkeye, so we'll tally up just one more day. And so we arrive at a total count of one week, six days.

2.5: Dr. Pierce & Mr Hyde (3 days)

2.6: Kim (4 days)

2.7: L.I.P (Local Indigenous Personnel) (2 days)

2.8: The Trial of Henry Blake (2 days)

2.9: Dear Dad... Three (3 days)

Note: Another 'flashback' episode as Hawkeye writes a letter to home. Although I normally don't include the events of flashbacks in the day count, it seems OK to do so in this instance since the events of the flashback are directly tied up in the events of the end of the episode, just as Hawkeye finishes writing his letter.

Interesting historical note here; Hawkeye writes (on Day 2) that they just heard Eisenower had announced he was running for President. Depending on how you look at it, this likely dates this episode on either January 6, 1952 or March 12, 1952, according to Wikipedia.

2.10: The Sniper (2 days)

2.11: Carry On, Hawkeye (5 days)

Note: At least 2 days have passed unseen before the start of the episode, as Hawkeye says near the start of the episode that Trapper has been sick with the flu for three days.

2.12: The Incubator (2 days)

2.13: Deal Me Out (2 days)

Note: The episode starts in the late afternoon and ends at 3am in the morning, so although we don't see daylight again in the episode once night falls, 2 days have still clearly passed.

2.14: Hot Lips & Empty Arms (2 days)

2.15: Officers Only (6 days)

2.16: Henry in Love (1 week, 5 days)

2.17: For Want of a Boot (2 days)

2.18: Operation Noselift (1 day)

2.19: The Chosen People (1 day)

2.20: As You Were (2 weeks, 2 days)

Note: The lull in the action has gone on for at least two weeks before this episode, as Henry laments how they didn't use that time to get more blood donations.

2.21: Crisis (3 days)

2.22: George (2 days)

2.23: Mail Call (1 days)

Note: It's hard to tell if the final scene in the OR takes place at night or at day, so it's difficult to tell if this episode is 1 or 2 days long. To be safe, I've said just 1 day.

2.24: A Smattering of Intelligence (2 days)

TOTAL DAY COUNT: Season One accounted for 56 days. Including the assumed one month before Season One, that means around 3 months had passed by the end of the first season.

Season Two accounted for 11 weeks and 63 days worth of time.

So by the end of Season 2, a total of 196 days worth of time appear to have passed on screen.

And although we have as of this season determined that working out the exact date that an episode or season takes place in is useless given that the episodes clearly do not take place chronologically, just for fun we'll say that this means in the real war, the date would be January 6th, 1951.

Friday, March 6, 2009

M*A*S*H: Season One

The first episode of M*A*S*H clearly establishes that the first season takes place in 1950, the year the real Korean War began, but doesn't say what month it is or what the date is. As I said in my introductory post, I'm therefore making pretty much the only assumption I'm going to make during the course of this project; namely that a month has passed since the start of the war and the establishment of the 4077 camp. This is based on the view that established character relationships, like Hawkeye and Trapper's friendship and everyone's mutual dislike of Frank and Hot Lips, is well established by the pilot episode, so obviously some time has passed, and a month feels about right, especially given that in the pilot Hawkeye and Trapper aren't sure what to make of Henry and don't yet. know Margaret's nickname of Hot Lips. Therefore it is being assumed that the first episode takes place on July 25, 1950. Given this, I think that this is a fairly safe, conservative assumption, given that these indicators could easily suggest more than a month has passed.

So, how many days pass during the course of Season One?

1.1: The Pilot Episode (2 days)

Note: This episode starts with a note that this episode is set in Korea in 1950, so although we don't know the exact date, at least we know the year.

1.2: To Market, To Market (2 days)

1.3: Requiem for a Lightweight (2 days)

1.4: Chief Surgeon Who? (2 days)

1.5: The Moose (3 days)

1.6: Yankee Doodle Doctor (3 days)

1.7: Bananas, Crackers & Nuts (3 days)

1.8: Cowboy (2 days)

1.9: Henry Please Come Home (3 days)

1.10: I Hate A Mystery (3 days)

1.11: Germ Warfare (2 days)

1.12: Dear Dad (2 days)

Note: It appears to take Hawkeye two days to write and finish his letter. This is the first episode to feature flashbacks showing the events that a character is writing about in a letter to someone. As I've said before, I'm not counting the days in the flashbacks, since it's too hard to work out the proper flow of time in these sequences.

1.13: Edwina (3 days)

1.14: Love Story (2 days)

Note: Interesting aside here, although nothing to do with the flow of time. The previous episode, Edwina, featured a story where the nurses all banded together to refuse affection to the men of the camp until at least one of them agreed to go out on a date with a clumsy yet well liked nurse called Edwina. This episode is almost the same, except that the unlucky-in-love character is Radar. And although the men of the camp don't really band together to get him a date as the nurses did, Hawkeye and Trapper do ask several nurses to go out on a date with him and all refuse. Bizzare on several levels.

1.15: Tuttle (3 days)

1.16: The Ringbanger (3 days)

1.17: Sometimes You Hear The Bullet (2 days)

1.18: Dear Dad... Again (2 days)

1.19: The Longjohn Flap (3 days)

1.20: The Army Navy Game (1 day)

1.21: Sticky Wicket (3 days)

1.22: Major Fred C. Dobbs (3 days)

1.23: Ceasefire (2 days)

1.24: Showtime (1 day)

Note: Not a 'letter to home' episode, but the episode still features flashbacks to earlier events as the camp watches a USO show. Again, I'm only going to count the time spent watching the show, as it's too hard to lock down the flow of time in the flashbacks.

This count suggests that at least 56 days has passed since July 25th, 1950, making the approximate date at the end of Season One September 18, 1950. So plenty of time to go until July 27, 1953, then!

M*A*S*H Time: What's It All About Then?

My partner and I have started watching M*A*S*H on DVD. About half way through the first season, I remembered the old joke about M*A*S*H, namely that it ran about 8 years longer than the actual Korean War did.

And then I thought, how much time passed on the show vs. the length of the real Korean War. And so began my mission.

The aim of this blog is to detail how many days can be observed to have passed in the show, and then compare that to how long the actual Korean War ran for.

I will, for the most part, avoid assumptions. In other words, I will only say two days have passed when there is an observable day period, followed by scenes set at night, followed by another day period OR if the characters or some on-screen text say how much time has passed. In episodes where a character is writing a letter, a plot set up that happens frequently in the show (there are two such episodes during the first season alone), I will only count how much time is observed to have passed in the period of time that the letter is being written by the character. In other words, the 'flashbacks' to what is being written about in the letter will not be included in the day count, only because such flashbacks usually detail the happenings of various characters over several undefined periods of time. This should ensure that the day count remains observable and should be more accurate.

The only assumption I am making is that the 4077 has been operating for at least a month before the pilot episode. This is based on the view that established character relationships, like Hawkeye and Trapper's friendship and everyone's mutual dislike of Frank and Hot Lips, is well established by the pilot episode, so obviously some time has passed, and a month feels about right, especially given that in the pilot Hawkeye and Trapper aren't sure what to make of Henry and don't yet know Margaret's nickname of 'Hot Lips'. Therefore it is being assumed that the first episode takes place on July 25, 1950.

Each post will account for a seasons worth of day counts (so this blog shouldn't run for more than 13 posts, including this initial introductory post and then probably a conclusion). So join me over the course of the next few months as I work my way through 11 seasons of M*A*S*H, and then compare that to how much time passed in the real life Korean War.