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Recap / M*A*S*H S2 E23: Mail Call

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An assortment of mail arrives at the 4077th, bringing Frank Burns good news about his ever-growing wealth, Trapper an update of his two little girls growing up, Hawkeye a gift from his sister, and Henry a package of cheques from his wife so he can handle her chequebook. Naturally this results in a combination of Hilarity and Reality Ensues, as Hawkeye seeks to prank Frank Burns for his greediness and Trapper starts missing his wife and daughters a lot. Henry tries to focus on his mammoth task but is continually frustrated by Klinger's attempts to prove he's nuts.

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Just another day at MASH 4077, really...


Attention, attention! Mail call! The arriving mail consists of the following tropes:

  • Ask a Stupid Question...: In his second appearance of the episode, Klinger enters Henry's office to find the colonel at his desk and asks him if he's in. Henry, irritated with working through his wife's collection of cheques, loudly replies:
    No! No, Klinger! This is a film of me. I died about a hundred dollars ago.
  • Batman Gambit: One that lasts the entire episode. Hawkeye decides to teach Frank a lesson about greed.
  • Be Yourself: Hawkeye encourages Radar to be this with his pen pal after it is revealed Radar sent her a photo and general information of Hawkeye instead and he wants to continue the charade as he thinks the pen pal would never go for him.
    Radar: But I don't know what my feelings are. Nobody ever asked me my feelings before.
    Hawkeye: You've got 'em, Radar. Everybody does.
    Radar: I have?
    Hawkeye: Of course.
    [beat]
    Radar: Can you give me a hint?
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  • Blatant Lies: Klinger's second attempt to get out of the army in this episode is to falsely confess that he is a communist.
    Henry: Bolshevik.
    Klinger: No, honest.
    Henry: You are not.
    Klinger: I am too, you imperialist dog.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The one using the differences between time zones.
    • Lorraine Blake sending her husband Henry cheque records to help her balance the books.
  • Character Tics: Margaret can tell whenever Frank is either double-talking, lying, or making false promises to her because his upper lip disappears every time he does it.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: After everyone mobs Radar for the mail, this is revealed to have happened to him.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Margaret imagines herself out loud as one day becoming Mrs. Frank Burns. Frank takes it to mean his wife is somewhere around the camp.
    Margaret: Mrs. Frank Burns.
    Frank: Where?
  • Deadpan Snarker:
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    • Hawkeye responds with this when Frank joyfully announces that the two thousand dollars richer than he was a month ago.
      Hawkeye: What happened, Frank? Did you die and leave yourself a lot of money?
    • Klinger reads out the first line of a letter he presumably got from his mother, which is "Dear Son". Henry dryly snarks back about his dress-up schemes.
      Henry: You obviously haven't sent her a recent picture.
  • Defiant to the End: When Klinger gives him another tall tale about a dying family member in an attempt to get sent home, Henry Blake asks Klinger if he is ashamed of stooping to such a low trick.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: When Margaret reminds him that he said when he would get rich enough that he'd divorce his wife to marry her, Frank balks and states that just because he's doing well in the financial world does not mean he's getting rich.
    Frank: Nobody said I was rich. I said I was doing well.
    Frank: Well... well is okay, but to be rich, you've got to be a lot weller than only well, no matter how swell well is.
  • Dreadful Musician: Trapper is bad at piano playing when he's drunk.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Hawkeye gets an oversized sweater as a gift from his sister. It is later firmly established in the continuity that he grew up as an only child.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Henry believes the parcel he got from his wife might contain one of her homemade cakes, hopefully her sour cream and chocolate recipe. Unfortunately, it really contains cheque stubs, bank cheques and cancelled cheques.
    Henry: Twenty thousand miles from home, and she wants me to balance her chequebook.
  • Hey, Wait!: When Radar is reading a letter he got from his pen pal, a listening Hawkeye is paying attention to the pen pal's description of the photo Radar has sent of himself: six foot two, black hair, and a doctor. He instantly clues in that the photo was actually of him.
    Hawkeye: Six foot two? Black hair?!
  • Hidden Depths: Hawkeye Pierce is an intolerable prankster, an arrogant Casanova and a snarker to boot, but he will never allow his friends to make such stupid reckless errors like Trapper deciding to go AWOL.
    Hawkeye: Was it something I said?
    Trapper: I'm gonna grab a Jeep, drive to Seoul and catch the first plane home.
    Hawkeye: Right. After they shoot you for desertion, you'll get a ticket for drunk driving. You got eight rolls of toilet paper in there now!
    Trapper: I don't wanna go home empty handed. I gotta see my daughters. Do you know how long it's been since I made love to my wife?
    Hawkeye: At least one daughter ago. Trap, leaving a war in the middle is very upsetting to those who invited us.
    Trapper: Hey. Listen. I don't like a movie, I get up and leave. I don't like the war, I'm going.
    Hawkeye: Oh come on, Trap. You got to stick around to see how it ends.
    Trapper: Oh, but it doesn't end. It's continuous. When it finishes here, they take it on the road. I can catch it anytime anyplace.
  • It's All About Me: Frank Burns.
    Frank: Well. Frank Burns is gonna look after number one. I'm not gonna be a surgeon forever.
    Frank: Oh, go soak your head.
  • Jaw Drop: Frank does this when Hawkeye blurts out that his great grandfather Tombstone Pierce sold whiskey and hors d'oeuvres to the Indians.
  • Jerkass: Frank Burns
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope:
    • Frank acts as Hawkeye expects he would and reads the letter Hawkeye is supposedly writing to his father about the Pioneer Aviation stocks, a market that is heavily implied to have the potential to make a man a millionaire. When he gets to the end of the letter, he realises it is incomplete and he starts tearing the Swamp apart to find any more of it to read.
    • Trapper decides to go AWOL in order to get back to his family.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: It appears that Klinger is trying a new tactic of getting home by claiming his family has suffered a bereavement and they need him back there. It turns out he's done this before.
    Henry: Uh-huh. [collects a folder from behind him] Here we go. Father dying, right?
    Klinger: Yes sir.
    Henry opens the folder and examines the records inside, going page by page
    Henry: Father dying last year. Mother dying last year. Mother and father dying. Mother, father and older sister dying. Mother dying and older sister pregnant. Older sister dying and mother pregnant. Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying. [pauses] Here's an oldie but a goody: half the family dying, other half pregnant.
  • Oh, Crap!: Radar shouts "Mail Call!", realising a little too late that he was getting surrounded by overeager MASHers wanting news from home.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Henry does not want to see Klinger when Radar informs him the corporal wants to see him.
    Radar: Uh sir, Corporal Klinger wants to see you.
    Henry: Oh no, not Klinger. Not today.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Hawkeye enters the Swamp towards the conclusion of the episode, finding that Trapper is packing. When Trapper says he's going to go AWOL, Hawkeye first takes it as a joke, until he realises Trap's dead serious.
  • Over-the-Top Secret: Henry receives a letter from Regimental Headquarters stating the contents inside it are this. Radar doesn't think so.
  • Pun: Trapper mentions hearing about a guy who smuggled himself home in a harp case.
    Trapper: That took a lot of pluck.
  • Sanity Slippage: After getting a letter from the, Trapper starts to miss his family really badly, placing him in a sour mood throughout much of the episode.
  • There's No Place Like Home: In his letter from his wife, Trapper gets a recent photograph of his two daughters, Kathy and Becky. The photo causes him to realise how much they are growing up without him, which leads to him wanting very much to get back home.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Frank Burns replies that he doesn't need Hawkeye's help to look foolish when he understands he fell right into Hawkeye's gambit.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Frank brings up the known fact that war always increases stock prices. Even Trapper says he has a point.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Hawkeye settles upon this when it becomes clear that Trapper is remaining implacable in his drunken desire to go home and he blocks his friend from exiting the Swamp.
    Hawkeye: Trap.
    Trapper: Hey, Hawk. Out of the way.
    Hawkeye: I don't want to use violence.
    Trapper: Then I will.
    Trapper knocks Hawkeye down with his duffel bag
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