MASH Episode Review: "Alcoholics Unanimous"

by StevenHelmer

A review of the season 3 television episode that first aired in November 1974.

Synopsis: Henry (McLean Stevenson) is away giving a lecture and Frank Burns (Larry Linville) is in charge. Concerned about the growing alcoholism in camp, Burns declares prohibition and makes the 4077th a dry camp.
This does not go over well and Hawkeye (Alan Alda) and Trapper (Wayne Rogers) begin to oppose the decision with the help of an unexpected ally, Margaret (Loretta Swit).


I’ve been watching this series on Netflix whenever I have some free time and thought it was a bit ironic I came across this episode (which was next on my Netflix list) on TV yesterday evening. Realizing I actually had time to watch it, I did. For the most part, I thought this was an enjoyable episode to watch.

The thing that I actually found most interesting about this episode was the fact Burns’ decision, while obviously not very popular, wasn’t exactly wrong either. And, while there were plenty of times when the episode’s writers made him out to be a villain, there were also some subtle hints, such as Hawkeye and Trapper breaking into the medical supplies in search of alcohol and being at each other’s throats after not drinking for a while, that he was being criticized unjustly.

Of course, I did find it a bit ironic that one of the first things Burns did was shut down the officer’s club, considering it was his idea to begin with. Because of that, I’m not completely sure if his attitude about drinking was a much more recent development or if he always had it but just never was brave enough to voice his opinion when he wasn’t the one in charge.

One thing I think I would have liked to have seen more of is how Burns’ drinking ban affected more of the camp. There were hints that everyone was opposed to his prohibition efforts. However, when it came right down to it, the only people we really saw coping with the ban were Hawkeye, Houlihan and Trapper. And, let’s face it, even Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) is known to get drunk on occasion on this series.

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Final Opinion

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this episode but, as I said, it was pretty decent, mostly because of the efforts that were made to balance things out to make Burns seem at least partially justified when it came to his no-alcohol policy. That’s not something the writers had to do but the episode was better because they did.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 07/26/2017, StevenHelmer
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