The same actor got diagnosed with hysterical paralysis on M*A*S*H twice

You’re not going crazy. We got a double dose of this madness.

"It's a long story," M*A*S*H psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman tells Colonel Potter when he arrives in camp with a bandaged head for the sixth -eason episode "War of Nerves."

Freedman is injured, and we soon find out that it happened after he was called to visit a soldier in such extreme distress on the frontlines that he had to be carried into the doctor's tent. "He wasn’t wounded," Freedman tells Hawkeye later, "He'd seen three of his buddies killed in 24 hours."

"Hysterical paralysis," Hawkeye says knowingly.

Freedman's patient in this episode is simply called Tom. He is played by actor Michael O'Keefe, who is perhaps best known for playing the young caddie Danny Noonan in Caddyshack. But he might look familiar to M*A*S*H fans for a different reason.

By some crazy coincidence, O'Keefe appeared in one other M*A*S*H episode three seasons prior, and in it, he also played a young soldier stricken with hysterical paralysis.

In "Mad Dogs and Servicemen," O'Keefe appeared as Corporal Richard Travis, who is the lone survivor of a tank attacked by enemy fire.

"He's paralyzed but there's no apparent injury," Trapper John tells Hawkeye.

We first see O'Keefe with his face covered in sand. He's not angry like he is in "War of Nerves," but on the verge of tears as he explains to Trapper and Hawkeye what he's going through.

"Sounds like one of those cases Sid Freedman's been working on," Trapper says to Hawkeye in "Mad Dogs and Servicemen."

In this earlier episode, Freedman does not appear, but this seems to make the case that the camp psychiatrist often saw soldiers experiencing hysterical paralysis. It perhaps even foreshadows the later episode that also starred O'Keefe.

But without Freedman, this first time around, we watch Hawkeye step in to serve as a poor man's shrink. He tries to get O'Keefe's character to confront the fact that he has no medical injury keeping his legs from working, first by commiserating with him.

"We all have our breaking points," Hawkeye tells the soldier, asking him to tell him what happened when his tank was attacked.

Unfortunately, Hawkeye is no Freedman, and when his patient won't talk, he's the one who ends up mad and shouting, bullying his patient. He even goes so far as to refuse O'Keefe's character his dinner service in bed, trying to make the paralyzed patient walk if he wants to eat. Margaret intervenes, but not before Hawkeye brings the soldier back to the brink of crying.

In the end of O'Keefe's first episode of M*A*S*H, it's Trapper who's sensitive enough to get the soldier talking and on his way to recovery. What we see from O'Keefe here is a more subdued portrayal of hysteria, one characterized by damp eyes and stern frowns, and some trembling under the sheets.

This is heavily contrasted with his later performance in "War of Nerves." Here, O'Keefe becomes actually hysterical when Freedman asks how he's doing. Just moments earlier, the wounded soldier had been joking easily with Hawkeye and B.J., but upon seeing the psychiatrist, his mood shifts drastically. He calls Freedman a "butcher" for approving him to go back to the frontlines.

It's clear that he holds the psychiatrist in deep contempt.

The vitriol that O'Keefe's character spews at Freedman is unlike most interactions we watch with the camp psychiatrist, who is typically portrayed as a calming presence, enormously helpful and serious in his role.

This played against what audiences were used to seeing in Sixties and Seventies TV psychiatrists and psychologists like Bob Hartley (The Bob Newhart Show), Dr. Bellows (I Dream of Jeannie) or Dr. Smith (Lost in Space), whose expertise was mocked and mined for comedic effect.

Some have even credited the M*A*S*H psychiatrist Sidney Freedman for changing the way people see the field of psychiatry as a useful tool in society.

And in "War of Nerves," although O’Keefe’s character leaves the camp still fist-shaking mad at Freedman, the doctor does not get drawn into the tension. Freedman keeps his head about him and sends the soldier off with a polite nod, because as the wise doctor tells Hawkeye and B.J. near the episode’s end, "It's very possible his getting his anger out on me is the best thing for him."

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WordsmithWorks 18 months ago
I never understood why Margaret was constantly complaining about changing Travis' sheets and not getting fed in bed. As a nurse and colleague, she should have understood what Hawkeye was trying to accomplish.
WilliamJorns 20 months ago
The reason O'Keefe's character lashed out at Sidney in "War Of Nerves" is that Sid managed to cure O'Keefe of his hysterical paralysis before the kid was sent back to the front. Then O'Keefe was physically wounded in his leg, requiring surgery and some rehab therapy before he could walk again. O'Keefe blamed Sidney for sending him back to the front where he got wounded, claiming he wouldn't have gotten hurt if it wasn't for Sidney. Never mind the fact that Sidney cured him of his hysterical paralysis in the first place.
The characters had different names.
Mukusthebadd1 22 months ago
Quite a few people played more than one character. Not many played the same problems.
That's what I liked about M*A*S*H.
JHP 40 months ago
a few Eps that weren't MASH - like

as time went on they got more and more darker - take or leave it

Hogansucks1 48 months ago
It takes a very special/caring and intelligent person to treat people coming back from the battlefield and going back- if they can ! We need more Sidney Freeman’s on this planet. 😌 It has to be an exhausting profession- seems they take the oath more to heart than in other professions 😊.
cajuntractor 48 months ago
Noooooooonan nooooooooonan Miss it noonan.
WordsmithWorks 48 months ago
I always thought it was interesting how they had the same actor with (kind of)the same affliction in two different episodes. Of course, one was a Trapper and one was a BJ. Also, Hawkeye was the bad guy in one (with "Sid" unavailable, and Sidney took the full brunt in the second. And the first was because of tanks and the second was due to his going back to the front. And in the first, the soldier was cured. In the second, he wasn't. In the first, he had hysterical paralysis and in the second, he didn't. Wait a minute, I guess they weren't all that similar.
PortelaJ 48 months ago
M*A*S*H 👍🏽 and please people, no bullying on this site. There’s enough of it in our world now. Sure, we all make spelling errors and others from time to time, coffee or not but there’s no need for the hate. It’s obvious we’re all MeTV fans. Just my 2 cents. Stay safe.
Moody PortelaJ 48 months ago
I agree with your comment but what bullying are you talking about?
texasluva PortelaJ 48 months ago
Its fun when you make one of the famous finger touch spelling errors or time period. I do it all the time and get called out in fun. I do not mind at all. What is hilarious is there is no edit key. So I use the 5 minute or less option. If more then 5 minutes I let it stand (or if some one has replied to me then the gig is over). So If I catch my blunder quickly I just copy-delete-paste back on and correct my mistakes. This site is 99% fun. Maybe a spew once in awhile including myself.
JHP Wiseguy 40 months ago
Monty Python's Flying circus :)
Hogansucks1 48 months ago
“Pull Down your Pants, and Slide on the Ice” Sidney Freeman (M*A*S*H*) 😋
Hogansucks1 48 months ago
‘War of Nerves’ episode reminded me of the episode’Blood Bothers’ - with very young Patrick Swayze who’s character had been diagnosed with leukemia- I just think sometimes it’s strange- perhaps ironic that he died of pancreatic cancer. SAD. Apparently he has a surviving TWIN brother. I think he stared in an episode of Quantum Leap. ABSOLUTELY LOVE M*A*S*H* !😊
Moody 48 months ago
What this article doesn't mention is that in the episode "Mad Dogs and Servicemen" Hawkeye consulted Dr. Freedman on the phone about this patient before he tried this tactic. So, it was on Freedman's advice not just Hawkeye going ballistic on the guy on his own. This is just another example of poor research on the part of METV's staff. What's the point of posting an article if you aren't even going to get the facts right? Here is a more accurate description of the episode:
Moody 48 months ago
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texasluva Moody 48 months ago
Hey Newbie. One with 800 comments and on the plus side of 1100 likes. Straighten up and fly right .
Moody texasluva 48 months ago
LOL! I couldn't have said it better myself! I just ignored her comment because, ya' know you just have to consider the source.
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Hogansucks1 48 months ago
Then have Coffee earlier before you open and read your messages ! ☺️
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