Dreams (M*A*S*H)

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M*A*S*H episode
Episode no. Season 8
Episode 22
Directed by Alan Alda
Written by Alan Alda(
) and James Jay Rubinfier
Production code 822
Original air date February 18, 1980
Guest appearance(s)

Ford Rainey
Robin Haynes
Fred Stuthman
Richard Waln
Catherine Bergstrom
Kutris Sanders
Ray Lynch
Connie Izay

List of M*A*S*H episodes

"Dreams" is an episode from the television series M*A*S*H. It was the 22nd episode of the eighth season, broadcast and aired on February 18, 1980 and repeated September 1, 1980. It was directed by Alan Alda. "Dreams" was conceived by James Jay Rubinfier and co-written with Alan Alda. The episode received two prestigious writing honors: The Humanitas Prize (1980), and a Writers' Guild of America nomination for episodic television writing in the dramatic category, which was a first as M*A*S*H received WGA nominations in both comedy and drama categories that same year. The laugh track is omitted for this episode.

Alda credits "Dreams" as one of his favorite M*A*S*H episodes.[1]


In this surreal episode, the group performs 33 hours of surgery without sleep. A motor pool administrator refuses to send ambulances to the camp to evacuate patients (who are piling up rapidly) because they might be damaged by gunfire. In effect, they are forced to build bunks in Post-Op and move the wounded soldiers into every available space, including Klinger's office (thereby forcing him to sleep in the supply room.) The show centers on the dreams of the cast as they attempt to catch at least a little slumber in the midst of the crisis. Unfortunately, even their dreams offer no sanctuary from the war, as everyone eventually finds himself or herself glad to be awake. After the marathon of wounded ends and the unit faces a respite from the constant surgery, a few consider getting some long-deserved rest. However, Winchester's glibly-delivered response ("...to sleep, perchance to dream..." from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1) causes them to reconsider sleep in favor of coffee to stay awake, and stay away from the dreams.


  • Margaret Houlihan takes a nap in her tent. The dream sequence begins with the door opening and white light spilling through. Houlihan finds herself in a wedding gown. She steps outside to find herself in an open field with a handsome, dark-haired civilian in a tuxedo, and an ornate bed. She is elated as she and the man kiss each other on the bed. That is short-lived, however, as a line of soldiers comes along and marches past the bed. The stranger bluntly gets up and gets in line and step with the soldiers. A dismayed Houlihan stares at the departing procession, then turns back to the bed to see a wounded and bloody soldier lying next to her. Soon there are three wounded soldiers. The sequence ends with Houlihan standing alone in the field, with her hands and gown covered in blood.
  • B.J. Hunnicutt falls asleep in Post-Op holding a photograph of his wife, Peg. His dream converts Post-Op to a ballroom, where he waltzes with Peg (played by Catherine Bergstrom) in an elegant evening dress to the second waltz of Tausend und eine Nacht Op. 346 by Johann Strauss II. Together they dance their way into the OR, where Potter hands Hunnicutt a scalpel, and Hunnicutt silently turns away from Peg and instinctively proceeds to operate. With an expression of heartbroken regret, Peg follows two other men back to the ballroom.
  • Sherman T. Potter has the least distressing dream in the episode. He dozes off at his desk, and is roused by his horse, Sophie, who enters the room in full saddle and bridle. He grabs his hat and mounts Sophie, riding into an open field. A pair of Koreans in the shrubbery throw a grenade at Potter, who effortlessly knocks it away with a polo mallet, resulting in a spectacular fireworks display. Potter then comes upon a familiar site: his childhood home. A younger Sherman Potter is riding on a horse outside, and a female voice is calling him to dinner. At this point, Klinger abruptly awakens Potter, much to his regret; "It's been a long time since I've tasted one of her home-baked muffins."
  • Charles Winchester is asleep in a tent next to patients. When the tent flaps rise and he finds himself dressed as a stage magician. He is greeted with applause, chiefly from the staff, as he enters the OR. He proceeds with a standard stage magic act, but his attention (and soon everyone's) is drawn to a gasping patient in the front row. Winchester attempts a progressively flashier performance, but to his horror, none of his charade does anything to improve the condition of the patient (alternatively, his inaction makes it worse). The dream ends with Winchester dancing with a pair of sparklers, with the crowd looking upon him as a fool as his patient dies on the table.
  • Father Mulcahy loses consciousness while listening to a confession from a patient. As he nods off, the patient's words turn to gibberish. In his dream, Mulcahy is dressed as the Pope, and carried in the Holy Father's ceremonial chair to the mess hall, where he is met by the praises and adoration of the staff. In awe, he ascends to the pulpit at the front of the room. Mulcahy blesses the people and motions to them to sit down, and opens his Bible. He sees blood dripping onto the pages, so he looks up. The camera only reveals the feet of Jesus Christ on the crucifix above the pulpit. Mulcahy looks back at his Bible, then up again to find that Christ is replaced with a soldier. He turns to the crowd in front of him; all have resumed their normal tasks of operating, seemingly oblivious to his presence.
  • Maxwell Klinger sneaks off to the supply room to take a nap. In his dream, the supply room is shaking, and a conductor's voice announces a train's arrival in Toledo. Klinger exits the supply room to find himself in the streets of his hometown. The streets are empty and desolate. He approaches Tony Packo's Cafe—one of his favorite Toledan haunts—and wipes away the dust on the front window, only to see the OR back at the MASH. Potter spots Klinger and beckons for him to come in. The patient he is operating on turns his head to the surprised Klinger, revealing himself to be on the table. Nurse Kellye wakes Klinger up abruptly with a message from Potter, but he responds with glee that he is alive.
  • Hawkeye Pierce dozes off in the mess hall, and undergoes the classic nightmare of being subject to a test he didn't study for (reattaching a limb). The professor instructs Pierce to remove both his arms (aided by Winchester, who was sitting next to him), which are promptly thrown away. The scene shifts to a lake full of mannequins' arms and legs, with an armless Pierce in a rowboat. He lands ashore, where a Korean child with a belly wound is waiting on an operating table. He is offered a scalpel, which he cannot take due to his lack of limbs, and hears the iconic sound of approaching helicopters, which causes him to scream in frustration. At that point, Pierce wakes up to the sound of real helicopters bringing more wounded.

Parallel story[edit]

Interspersed among the cast's dreams is a side plot involving the 4077's struggles with evacuating casualties from the compound. A young, inexperienced first lieutenant, Lt. Garvey, from Battalion Headquarters refuses to send ambulances to the 4077th because he fears they will be damaged by the heavy fighting and he will have to account for the expense (with his own money, he fears). Colonel Potter angrily tries to convince him that damage to the vehicles is imminent and expected and the Army won't hold him accountable, but to no avail. Potter vows to take the problem up the chain of command at the first opportunity.

Finally, General Coogan (Ford Rainey), who has been detained at the 4077th due to a minor injury, grows exasperated at the crowded conditions and demands to see Potter. Potter explains the situation and Gen. Coogan, in no uncertain terms, requests an opportunity to call the "pimply-headed lieutenant" on the 4077th's landline phone. Once on the phone, Coogan requests that Lt. Garvey come himself to the 4077th to explain why he won't send the ambulances. Fearing reprisal, Lt. Garvey agrees to send the ambulances immediately.

Other notes[edit]

  • Catherine Bergstrom would again play Peg Hunnicutt in the episode "Oh, How We Danced."


  1. ^ "CNN.com - Alda's favorite 'M*A*S*H' episodes - Oct 6, 2005". edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2015-08-04. 

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