M*A*S*H Episode Review: "The Bus"

by StevenHelmer

A review of the season 4 television episode that first aired in October 1975.

Synopsis: While returning from a medical conference, Potter (Harry Morgan), Hawkeye (Alan Alda), B.J. (Mike Farrell), Frank (Larry Linville) and Radar (Gary Burghoff) end up in trouble when they get lost and the bus they are riding in breaks down. Things become even more complicated when Radar disappears and they end up taking a North Korean prisoner (Soon-Tek Oh).

Review

My wife took the girls to a tea party at our local library last night so, after working in my garden for a short while, I killed some time watching this episode. I had seen part of this one before, but this was the first time I had watched the entire thing. And, overall, I did think it was pretty decent.

I think the thing that really impressed me about this episode was the way the writers kept a decent balance when it came to the comedy. There were some funny moments, especially with Burns, who was scared to the point he was starting to lose his mind. However, the writers also made sure to acknowledge the seriousness of the doctors' situation, including having Potter refer to another time he got lost and wound up captured and tortured by the enemy.

The twist with the Korean soldier was also an interesting one because, while he obviously didn't pose much of a threat to them (he was wounded and surrendered as soon as he saw them), it did, in a way, add some emphasis to the fact they could be behind enemy lines and in a great deal of danger if the soldier's friends showed up. In fact, until Radar came back and told them he didn't see anyone, I was half expecting them to come under fire at any moment.

The one thing that did leave me scratching my head a bit about this episode was the decision to have all four surgeons on the bus. While the interaction between the men was entertaining, I did think it was a bit odd that the writers would have all four away from the 4077th. Not only are they the only surgeons the hospital has (or, at least the only surgeons you ever see), they also are the camp's primary chain of command. I found myself wondering who exactly was left in charge. Major Houlihan (Loretta Swit)? Father Mulcahy (William Christopher)? If it was either of those two, I would think the writers would have taken advantage of that potential story.

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Final Opinion

I do think the writers missed an opportunity to have a secondary story about whoever was left in charge of the 4077th while the doctors were out of town (it could have easily been used as filler instead of some of the slower scenes). However, I thought this was a decent episode overall with a good mix of comedy and suspense. I would recommend the episode as a result of that.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 08/18/2016, StevenHelmer
 
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