Did this M*A*S*H love scene give you déjà vu?
M*A*S*H reminds us déjà vu literally means “already seen.”
Read to Me
Established in the very first season of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye's letters home to his dad served as a flashback device for the show, allowing for a lot of character development in little time.
In the first season, Hawkeye writes home for the second time in "Dear Dad, Again," giving his dad updates from camp. At one point in the episode, he refers to Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan as "the King Kong and Fay Wray of the 4077," before he launches into a funny story about this fight between the not-so clandestine lovers.
As he tells the story, we viewers see a flashback…
Frank enters Margaret's tent as she is reading. He tries to distract her from her book, kissing her fingers, and she looks clearly upset. Hawkeye narrates what's happening in his letter to dad:
"Last week, Frank paid an afternoon call. And Hot Lips argued that she had a brain and Frank was only interested in her bones."
The next scene in the episode is Frank storming out of Margaret's tent, rejected after this quarrel. He returns to the Swamp, where he has some drinks with the boys. Having a little too much to drink, Frank then goes on to keep Hawkeye and Trapper John up all night, singing and musing. In his letter, Hawkeye jokes that in this moment they find out that "impossible as Frank is as an enemy, he's intolerable as a friend."
This fight was barely a blip in the episode, as these flashback episodes tend to be designed — just a string of very funny scenes, often packed full of physical comedy.
Then, the very next season, for people paying close attention at home, something kind of weird happened.
In another Hawkeye letter episode, "Dear Dad… Three," he is updating his father on the goings-on at camp once again. He talks about how some folks are keeping in good physical shape, while others occupy themselves with painting. Then, yet again, he decides his dad deserves an update on the Frank-and-Margaret romance.
"Then there are those devotees of exotic culture, who nightly practice their khaki fertility rites," Hawkeye writes.
The scene shows Frank enter Margaret's tent, and there she is reading. He tries to distract her from her book, kissing her fingers. She gets upset.
So far, this all feels extremely familiar. We've seen this scene before in "Dear Dad, Again!" And the dialog confirms it is the exact same fight from the first season flashback:
"Frank, be honest, you really think of me as a bag of desirable bones," Margaret says, pushing him away. Frank thinks she's being coy and says passionately, "Oh, of course, Margaret."
We already know, of course, where this is going.
"I have a mind, Frank," Margaret says. "A mind and a brain." Still not quite deterred, Frank persists, saying, "Of course you do. Let me kiss your brain."
At this point, everybody in the audience was prepared for what comes next — Frank storming out of Margaret's tent upset. The show came very close to delivering on what we expected. We watch as Margaret slaps Frank, and we wait for the rejection.
But that is not what happens in this weird, shot-for-shot remake of a prior scene, that's been expanded for some reason, only with a totally different conclusion.
Instead of tossing Frank out of the tent, Margaret flips a switch and she earns her nickname Hot Lips. They kiss passionately.
Can you remember any other time that M*A*S*H brought back a scene you’d seen before only to radically change the ending of it? Or is this the only case of déjà vu on the show that makes it hard to know what really happened at the end of this twice-told lover's quarrel?