"To Market, to Market" first aired on September 24th, 1972.
After a harrowing moment trying to stabilize a wounded two-star General, Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper MacIntyre complain to Major Houlihan about missing supplies for the OR: specifically, bottles of Hydrocortizone. Frank Burns interrupts to snidely inform them that the supplies ordered were hijacked before they left Seoul. A replacement truck shows up the same day, but that shipment was also hijacked, leaving them with no supplies at all.
Hawkeye and Trapper complain to Henry Blake, who is more interested in fawning over his recently-acquired 100-year-old antique oak desk than listen to the two surgeons. With Blake unwilling to put a call in to Brigadier General Hammond, Hawkeye calls in his place to request more supplies. The Brigadier denies the request, forcing Hawkeye and Trapper to improvise. Hawkeye decides to deal with the Black Market instead of the military supply chains.
Their contact in the Black Market is reluctant to give them the Hydrocortizone for anything less than ten thousand dollars, since medical supplies are so valuable in the war-torn country. Hawkeye suggests the idea of bartering for the medicine, offering free medical care in trade. Their contact, Charlie Lee, refuses, as he steals whatever his organization needs anyway. At this point, Hawkeye appeals to Lee's sense of importance, stating his tiny office desk is unbefitting a man of his (albeit illicit) position.
In short, the three of them plan to steal Henry Blake's antique oak desk and trade it for the Hydrocortizone.
Lee is smuggled into the 4077 to examine the desk for himself, and agrees to trade the medicine for the desk, on the condition that they have it ready for pick-up by six a.m. While Frank Burns tries to run interference against Hawkeye and Trapper, convinced he'll catch them at something that will have them court-martialled for sure, the two surgeons resort to removing one of the walls of Blake's office and having the desk air-lifted by chopper all the way to Seoul.
The episode ends with Lee delivering the medicine, as promised, and Blake trying to come up with a believable story for his insurance company to compensate him for the lost desk.
Attention, all personnel! The following tropes may be found on the black market:
- Artistic License Geography: Charlie Lee says they are in "southeast Asia" whereas Korea is, of course, located in northeast Asia. You'd think he'd know where his own country was. This is one of many examples of early episodes mixing up Vietnam and Korea.
- Black Market: Hawkeye and Trapper have to go to them to get the medicine they need. It's implied that they're buying back their own stuff. Ironically, the black marketeers are so well-supplied and well-outfitted that there's almost nothing they can trade or offer in exchange.
- Coat Full of Contraband: While being interrogated by Frank, a black marketeer hikes up his pant leg to reveal several watches, which he offers to sell.
- Failed a Spot Check: When Henry learns that black marketeers are on the base, he rushes to his office to see if his booze is safe. As he runs across the office to check on said booze, he manages to miss the fact that his desk is gone and an entire wall has been removed. Played for Laughs, of course.
- Made in Country X: As a genuine, American-made antique, Henry's new desk was, "not made in Japan on assembly line." Of course, Japan was known as a manufacturer of cheap junk in the '50s. In fact, that reputation still held when this episode aired in 1972.
- Mistaken for Gay: Frank, when he asks to see the legs of Charlie Lee's driver. Frank was trying to determine if he was the same man who had the watches on his leg.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Both Charlie Lee and his driver show up in borrowed American uniforms. The only people they aren't fooling is Trapper, Hawkeye, and Radar. Oh, and the audience, too.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Hawkeye and Trapper risk dealing with the Korean Black Market, Court-Martials, and jail sentences for their attempts to steal Blake's desk. But they need the Hydrocortizone to keep their patients alive, and the military refuses to send more.
- Status Quo Is God: Henry has a new desk? It will be gone by the end of the episode.
- They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: Parodically inverted, when Hawkeye and Trapper are struggling to move Henry's antique desk:Trapper: These things were really built to last.
Hawkeye: It's that lousy good craftsmanship. Why didn't they make things like they do today?