The Late Captain Pierce

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"The Late Captain Pierce"
M*A*S*H episode
TheLateCaptainPierce.jpg
Hawkeye tries to desert and BJ tries to talk him out of it
Episode no. Season 4
Episode 4
Directed by Alan Alda
Written by Glen Charles
Les Charles
Production code 404
Original air date October 3, 1975
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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List of M*A*S*H episodes

"The Late Captain Pierce" is an episode from M*A*S*H. It was the fourth episode of the fourth season and aired on October 3, 1975 (first-run) and April 6, 1976 (repeat). It was written by Glen Charles and Les Charles and directed by Alan Alda.

Guest cast is Richard Masur as Lt. "Digger" Detmuller, Eldon Quick as Captain Pratt, Sherry Steffens as Nurse Able and Kellye Nakahara as Nurse Baker.

Overview[edit]

A bureaucratic mistake leaves the army thinking that Hawkeye Pierce is dead, and he simultaneously enjoys the lack of responsibility that comes from being legally deceased, with trying to contact his father back in Maine to tell him he's still alive.

Detailed story[edit]

The episode opens with Klinger waking up B. J. Hunnicutt, whom Hawkeye's father wants to speak with over the phone. Unfortunately, they are soon cut off and all Hunnicutt catches is the question "how and why?"

The next morning, Lieutenant "Digger" Detmuller arrives at the camp looking for Captain Pierce. When he finds Pierce in the shower, he expresses shock that he is alive. Detmuller shows Pierce his own death certificate, explaining that he works for graves registration and is there to collect the body. Realising the reason for the phone call of the previous night, Pierce rushes to try to contact his father and reassure him that he is still alive. Potter orders Klinger to get word to Pierce's father and to dig into the paperwork to correct the erroneous declaration of death.

At first, Hawkeye accepts the situation with good humor, delivering his own eulogy and using his "death" as an excuse to get out of the camp exercises. However, he turns bitter when he discovers he cannot get paid and that his mail is being withheld. Worse, security for President-elect Eisenhower's sojourn to Korea makes contacting Pierce's father next to impossible.

Eventually, Colonel Potter gets help from headquarters. Captain Pratt promises to fix the error, but the paperwork involved is extensive and in the meantime Pierce will have to remain, in Pratt's words, an "unperson." In a fit of frustration, Pierce decides to accept his fate and desert as a suppositious cadaver.

Pierce climbs on board Digger's bus and prepares to leave. As a helicopter arrives with wounded, Hunnicutt attempts to talk Hawkeye out of his plan. Hunnicutt is unsuccessful and the bus drives off. However, it stops in front of Rosie's bar and Hawkeye climbs off the back, looks around, and heads back to the camp so he can operate on the incoming wounded.

The episode ends with Hawkeye talking to his father on the phone, casually explaining how he's still dead as far as the Army is concerned and asking if he could be sent his allowance for a while.

Production[edit]

  • This was the first script sold by writers Glen Charles and Les Charles, who went on to produce and write for several sitcoms before co-creating Cheers.[1]
  • Although listed in the opening credits, neither Loretta Swit (Margaret) nor Gary Burghoff (Radar) appear in this episode.
  • This is one of the only times following the departure of Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson from the series that their characters are referenced.

References[edit]