“Fallen Idol”

I was thinking recently about an episode of M*A*S*H I don’t really enjoy watching.

It’s not the one single episode out of the eleven seasons of the show that I dislike so much I refuse to watch it (“Dreams”).

It’s not the finale, which is so emotionally draining in the first half that I can’t handle watching it very often at all.

It’s an episode during my favorite time in the series, when Winchester has arrived, and Radar is still at the 4077th. Actually, the episode centers around Radar…and Hawkeye.

The episode I’m talking about is “Fallen Idol,” and I have an oddly visceral reaction every time I watch it. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is that Radar is injured, and Hawkeye feels guilty about it, because the injury is indirectly the result of some advice the chief surgeon gave to the company clerk. Hawkeye successfully operates on Radar, and then goes out and gets drunk in celebration (which isn’t unusual for the character in any way). The next day, though, Hawkeye is so hungover, he has to leave the OR in the middle of an operation to be sick, which never happens. Radar finds out about it, and is extremely disappointed in Hawkeye, and the two of them end up yelling at each other…and everyone else in the camp gives Hawkeye a piece of their mind, too.

The bottom line is that Radar, who has always idolized Hawkeye, realized that his hero has feet of clay, and no longer views him in the same way. At the same time, Hawkeye comes to realize just how much Radar looks up to him, but also realizes that some of that hero worship has been lost. In the end, they repair their friendship, but you know that they never see each other in quite the same way again, because Radar has lost a bit of his “Iowa naïveté” because of the actions of the chief surgeon.

I guess this episode is so uncomfortable to me because I share Radar’s admiration of Hawkeye. He certainly has his faults…especially in the early seasons, he’s kind of a lothorio, which is the thing I dislike about his character the most. But throughout, he’s always an excellent doctor (except, I guess, those few times he does an unnecessary surgery to prevent someone from returning to action in the war), so I share Radar’s disappointment in him for having to leave his post. Worse than that, though, is the fact that Hawkeye yells at Radar, who is still in many ways an innocent kid, when he’s already down and out. It is so out of character for Hawkeye to become angry with Radar in particular that it’s upsetting to watch…and yet, part of me always sympathizes with Hawkeye, because I can see his point, too, that it’s not fair for Radar to have put him up on a pedestal so high. It’s a very conflicting episode to watch!

It’s a good episode. I don’t skip it when it comes up in the rotation when I’m watching through M*A*S*H. But it always leaves me feeling uncomfortable and disappointed in Hawkeye, which I really don’t like. And that’s why it’s probably one of the best episodes of the series, because it really makes you feel something, and good writing always elicits a response in the reader/viewer.

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