M*A*S*H episode
“A Holy Mess”
A Holy Mess
Father Mulcahy counsels Private Nick Gillis, who is AWOL from his unit and seeks sanctuary for personal reasons in the episode "A Holy Mess" in Season 7.
Season 10, Episode # 13
Number (#232) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Cyril O'Reilly
David Graf
Val Bisoglio
Bill Snider
Roy Goldman
Ed Ramirez
Dennis Troy
Leland Sun
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: 1G10
Writer(s) David Pollock & Elias Davis
Director Charles S. Dubin
Original airdate February 8, 1982
IMDb logo IMDB A Holy Mess
Episode chronology
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List of all M*A*S*H episodes

A Holy Mess was the 13th episode of Season 10 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 232nd overall series episode. Written by David Pollock and Elias Davis and directed by Burt Metcalfe, it originally aired on February 1, 1982.


A special egg breakfast is complicated by a distraught AWOL soldier talking Father Mulcahy into granting him sanctuary in the mess tent during a preceding church service.

Full summaryEdit

A G.I. wanders into the Mess Tent and sits down next to Hawkeye and B.J. He seems nervous and sullen, so they ask him if he wants to talk. He's reticent at first, but when they invite him back to the Swamp for drinks he accepts. The young man, named Nick Gillis (Cyril O'Reilly) opens up to Hawkeye and B.J. He admits that he's AWOL, and then tells them why: he just found out from a friend that his wife has had a baby--even though he's been in Korea for over a year.

Hawkeye and B.J. try and gently suggest that Gillis go talk to Father Mulcahy, which he agrees to--but not until he's gotten some sleep. Without another word, he passes out on a cot, sound asleep.

The next morning, Gillis agrees to talk to Father Mulcahy after the Sunday services, and he assumes that Hawkeye and B.J. are going, too. Afraid to turn him down, they reluctantly tag along.

During the service, Lt. Spears (David Graf), an officer from Gillis' platoon, steps in and demands that he comes with him. Gillis refuses, and, grasping, claims he has a right to Sanctuary, since he is, in effect, inside a church. Father Mulcahy agrees with Gillis' point of view, and grants him Sanctuary. Col. Potter is dubious, but goes along with Mulcahy until he can get further instructions from command. He and Lt. Spears calls the Judge Advocate General. In the meantime, Mulcahy and Gillis get to know each other. He tries to show sympathy for Gillis, but warns him that, after thirty days, AWOL becomes Desertion.

Eventually, the JAG rules against Mulcahy. But Mulcahy still won't relent, saying he will only follow the advice of Command Chaplain at I-Corps. Lt. Spears can't believe what he's hearing, and insults Mulcahy, which Potter angrily slaps down.

Tensions rise when the camp gets impatient over the fresh eggs--a rare treat--they were promised (courtesy a local farmer) don't arrive because the Mess Tent is busy with Mulcahy and Gillis. Potter puts Hawkeye and B.J. in charge of calming the angry mob down. After a few moments of panic, they announce that the eggs will be served outside--dining in the great outdoors!

Word from the Command Chaplain arrives, and he agrees with the Army--as a non-permanent structure, the Mess Tent is not a church, therefore no Sanctuary. But Mulcahy still disagrees.

Lt. Spears has had enough, and sends in some MPs to get Gillis. Gillis panics, and grabs his rifle, preparing to fire. Mulcahy gustily grabs it, knocking the barrel into the air. The gun goes off, causing everyone to hit the dirt (where the eggs get knocked over), and Gillis ends up pointing it at Mulcahy.

Mulcahy is aghast, and stares Gillis down, calling him out for using the "sanctuary" option only when it was convenient for him and for blaspheming God's house by threatening a fellow man's life. He commands him to give up the gun. When Gillis refuses, Mulcahy slaps the gun to the ground away from Gillis, who collapses into tears in Mulcahy's arms. Later, we learn that Gillis is being seen by Sidney Freedman, and he's "being treated as a casualty rather than a criminal."

Fun facts Edit

Final appearance of Val Bisoglio as SSG Sal Pernelli, the mess cook.

Mulcahy could have been brought up on charges of interfering with the MPs.

The status of the fresh egg in the M*A*S*H* universe seems to change from episode to episode. In Season 1, we see Radar pelted with one while playing "Revelie" on the bugle; a future episode sees Hawkeye talking about how Klinger won a fresh egg in a poker game and was having it poached. In the Season 5 episode "Souvenirs", we see Hawkeye waxing poetic about the egg while cracking open a hard-boiled one.

Guest castEdit

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