Recap / Mash S 1 E 16 The Ringbanger

Hawkeye and Trapper conspire to take down a colonel, Buzz Brighton, who has accumulated twice as many casualties while only gaining as much as half of the ground, marking the first of several such attempts from Hawkeye. In an effort to achieve this, they convince him that Frank Burns is a crossdresser and that Henry Blake is an alcoholic who is having a sordid affair with the promiscuous Margaret Houlihan. These stories achieve the purpose of rendering Hawkeye and Trapper the only two people in camp Buzz can be sure are trustworthy. A little manipulation and some conveniently timed events add some apparent proof to these claims. For example, when Buzz is drinking with them in the Swamp, they leave a pair of gold high heeled shoes by Frank's bed. Later, Frank tries to check Buzz's leg to see if it is healing properly, and he is rebuffed by Buzz, who suspects that he has romantic or sexual intentions. When Margaret becomes suspicious, Hawkeye and Trapper tell her that Buzz is suffering from low self-esteem and heavily imply that he needs intimate contact with a woman to prove that he is still a man. While he is alone with Margaret, they get Henry Blake very drunk and give him a pistol (telling him that he needs to undertake an arms proficiency test) and arrange for him to walk in on the two of them and encourage an angry, drunken response.

Throughout the episode, they undertake more subtle measures to try to convince him that, among these people he cannot trust, he is going mad. Such measures include switching his tent, leaving him confused about whether it has been there the whole time, and telling him to drink his glass of milk that he so fervently asked for, despite his never having asked for a glass of milk (someone offscreen is seen sneaking the glass of milk onto his desk when his back is turned). At the end, convinced that there must be something wrong with him, Buzz is shipped back stateside.

This episode features examples of:

  • Gaslighting: How Colonel Brighton becomes convinced he has battle fatigue.
  • Recycled Script: The basic premise - Hawkeye removing, if only temporarily, a gung-ho officer with a high causulaty rate from command - is reused in season seven's "Preventive Medicine". Notably, the later episode, lying deep in "Dramatic M*A*S*H" territory, has a much more serious and dark take on the plot, with BJ questioning the morality and ultimate value of Hawkeye's tricks, and Hawkeye being troubled about violating his integrity it in the end.
  • Values Dissonance: Homosexulaity is portrayed rather negatively, but this is undoubtedly deliberate given the setting.