As a fan of M*A*S*H, there are several things that I really enjoy about the show. One of the things is that they were not afraid to do different things. Some of the out-of-the-box episodes were The Interview, which the cast members, except Margaret, were interviewed on screen. This episode was actually ad-libbed by the actor answering the questions in character. Larry Linville was particularly good at this. Another was Life Time, where they had 20 minutes to save a soldier or risk paralysis and there was a clock on the screen for the whole episode. Another was Dreams. One by one the members of the 4077th grab a nap during a long session and each of them have a nightmare (except Potter). This was more like a Twilight Zone episode. I go to a M*A*S*H group on Facebook and Dreams comes up quite a bit. Unfortunately it comes up in the context of people’s most hated episode. I don’t get it. This is one of the absolute best episodes of the entire run. At least to 20, and with 251 episodes, it is still well within the top 10%.
People say it is scary or just too different. These are the reasons I like it. It really puts the characters psyche in perspective. I think it is really telling that Potter’s dream is about the war, but he is literally playing a game, then is called home for dinner. He is a battle hardened vet, but we know from other episodes that he is tired of war and hates the killing. Deep down, however are we seeing another story? Does he think that war is a game? Or does he think that war is childish? To me this was the most interesting part of the episode. The other dreams were just as telling.
BJ was dancing with this wife and called away for surgery. He is operating while Peg waits and BJ doesn’t look at for even a minute until Peg is whisked away back to the party, though she is obviously disappointed. Is BJ worried that because of this work he will forget what it is like to be with Peg? He will forget how to be a husband?
I also liked Charles’ dream. I think it shows his attitude toward medicine. He often tells Father Mulcahy that the skills are his alone. Though we also see that he is fascinated by the workings of the human body. I think that he often considers the work he does to be magic and almost beyond comprehension, even his own. It also shows how upset he gets when he fails to save a life, even with the magic he can perform.
I thought Margaret’s dream was too chiche even for Margaret.
I thought Klinger’s dream was a little on the nose. He finally gets home, but even after he gets home he is haunted by the visions of war and scared of the fact that he is going to die.
Father Mulcahy’s dream was very interesting mainly for one part. It was pretty on the nose that he was disappointed that people were no longer paying attention to him, and by extension, God because of the war, but the interesting part was when Christ on the cross was replaced by a wounded soldier. I wish I knew what the writers were thinking here. To me it means that he fears that the masses will forsake God for war. That violence will win the day and that people will no longer turn to God. A soldier on the cross could mean that people will look more to death and even revenge and war will become a never ending event. (Prophetic if you ask me)
Hawkeye’s dream is meant to be the anchor of the episode. I don’t think it was as interesting as Potter’s or Mulcahy’s or even Winchester’s but it does show where Hawkeye’s mind it. He is fearful of not being able to help. Of not knowing the answers and for every answer he doesn’t know he will be punished with another limb or another death. There are some really frightening images of an armless Hawkeye floating down a river of his own failure until he comes to a wounded little girl who he can not help. The image of a nurse trying to hand him an instrument and his yell up to the incoming choppers was a perfect chilling ending.
To me this is M*A*S*H at its absolute best. I am really surprised that people who are fans of this show can say that it is their most hated episode.