As the Winter Olympics wind down in Beijing, let’s spin the way back machine to that time M*A*S*H held its own Games.
Yes, it was a thing back in season six, with an episode called, simply, “The M*A*S*H Olympics.” It ran right before Thanksgiving in 1977. And in the script, M*A*S*H was following the lead of the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. The United States won 76 medals there, 40 of them gold. The biggest standout of the games was Czech distance superstar Emil Zátopek, who won the 5,000, then added golds in the 10,000 and the marathon.
How did M*A*S*H work Helsinki into its storyline? It was all Col. Potter’s idea, who decided the men and women in the 4077th were woefully out of shape. As the episode opened, Hawkeye and B.J. were helping a soldier, a sergeant named Ames, who was too overweight to stay in the Army. Unless he lost weight, the Army was going to kick him out, so Hawkeye and B.J. agreed to help him drop some lbs. We’ll circle back to Ames later in the story. But get this, Klinger, who always was looking for a way out of Korea, decided to gain weight so he could be too fat for the Army.
Col. Potter came up with the format for a competition. The ultimate team prize is three days of R and R. He divided the 4077th into two teams captained by B.J. and Hawkeye. So rather than the United States against any other country, the competition was between the Pink Elephants and Yellow Blackbirds. But the events were unique to the 4077th. It’s a guarantee that no one at the Helsinki Games competed in the crutch race (it’s the Yellow Blackbirds for the gold!)
But Wait, There’s a Ringer in the M*A*S*H Olympics
Margaret’s husband, Donald, showed up to visit Hot Lips. He ended up being a ringer for the Pink Elephants. And he dominated the competition. However, there’s a moral to this story. In the final event, Donald was pitted against Ames in an obstacle course race. Donald thought he had it in the bag, so he show boated as he ran. Then Donald got caught up in some netting, allowing the hard-working Ames to get past him. Go team Yellow Blackbirds.
How does this sweet M*A*S*H Olympics tale end? Margaret and Donald still went on vacation, but Hot Lips was irritated the couple didn’t get the three extra days. As per their bet, B.J. had to push Hawkeye in a wheelchair throughout the compound.
Then the two M*A*S*H doctors spot Ames. He gleefully told them he made the Army weigh-in, coming in under the requirement by three ounces. He was off to party in the mess tent, but not before B.J. and Hawkeye give him a celebratory spin in the wheelchair.