Sunday, May 13, 2018

On the “pathology of normalcy” … or psychoanalysis on the fly at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital

What follows is the dialogue between Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, a surgeon, and Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, an Army psychiatrist, in a scene from one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes (on the ‘pathology of normalcy’). Allan Arbus plays the part of Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, the Army psychiatrist who visited the 4077th many times. Alan Alda plays Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (the only character to appear in all 251 episodes). “Between long, intense sessions of treating critically wounded patients, he makes the best of his life in an isolated Army camp by making wisecracks, drinking heavily, carousing, womanizing, and pulling pranks on the people around him.”
M*A*S*H Season 5, Episode 109: “Hawk’s Nightmare” … or psychoanalysis on the fly at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War, 1950-1953 (written by Burt Prelutsky; originally aired December 21, 1976):
Sidney [hereafter S.] How’s it going?
Hawkeye [hereafter H.] Well, you is the cuckoo expert. I’m just a cuckoo.
H. Potter call you? S. Would you be upset if he had? H. – No, I’d appreciate his concern.
S. – I’m just here to play a little poker, have a couple of drinks and figure out the meaning of life.
H. – Sidney, I’m afraid to go to sleep. S. – So I hear.
H. – And they tell me I’ve been playing a mean game of zombie basketball.
S. – They tell me you’ve been worrying about losing your marbles.
H. – Ah, very good. S. – For my next trick I’ll invent sibling rivalry.
H. – Tell me, what’s happening, Sidney? I’m scared sick.
H. – Why do I sleepwalk? Why do I have these terrible nightmares? I see old pals as clearly as I see you, and they’re getting zapped. And then I call the States, and they’re home watching Milton Berle. If this keeps up, people are gonna realize I’m as crazy as I think I am. What do you think? S. – I think I’d like to sit down.
H. – Tell me, Sidney, has my little red choo-choo gone chugging around the bend? S. – You amateurs just can’t resist tossing around that psychoanalytical jargon.
H. – Okay. Have it your way. Has my, uh, trolley been derailed? Am I playing with half a deck? Am I driving without my headlights? S. – That’s better.
S. – So you’ve been walking in your sleep.
S. – What do you think it means? H. – I’m walking. I’m, uh, uh I’m walking towards something. I’m walking away from something.
S. – Mm-hmm. H. – I’m trying to escape.
S. – In other words, you go to sleep, your subconscious takes a little walk and brings your body along for company. H. – Yeah, well, I don’t seem to be getting very far.
S. – You’re making it all the way back to Crabapple Cove. All the way back to a time when playing ball and shooting marbles and going on picnics were all there was to worry about. No more responsibility. No more life and death decisions. And pain was a skinned knee.
H. – What about my nightmares? What about them? I keep having these dreams about these kids I grew up with. The dreams start out okay. The kids are fine. And then they end in disaster.
S. – Like those kids who roll past you on that bloody assembly line. You dream to escape, but the war invades your dream, and you wake up screaming. The dream is peaceful. Reality is the nightmare.
H. – Am I crazy, Sidney? S. – [Scoffs] No. A bit confused, a little ‘fershimmeled’ [a Yiddish word] is all. Actually, Hawkeye, you’re probably the sanest person I’ve ever known. The fact is, if you were crazy, you’d sleep like a baby.
H. – So when do my nightmares end? S. – When this big one ends, most of the others should go away. But there’s a lot of suffering going on here, Hawkeye, and you can’t avoid it. You can’t even dream it away.
H. – You’re very reassuring, Sidney. You’ve got a heck of a ‘warside’ manner.

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