M*A*S*H episode
“Morale Victory”
Morale victory
Winchester convinces Sheridan to return to the piano by giving him the score of a concerto composed for the left hand in Season 8 "Morale Victory"
Season 8, Episode # 19
Number (#192) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) James Stephens
G.W. Bailey
Jeff Maxwell
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: S-621
Writer(s) John Rappaport
Director Charles S. Dubin
Original airdate January 28, 1980
IMDb logo IMDB Morale Victory
Episode chronology
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 "Morale Victory" is the 19th episode in the eighth season of the CBS television series M*A*S*H, also the 192nd overall series episode. Written by John Rappaport and directed by Charles S. Dubin, It originally aired on January 28, 1980.  

Plot synopsisEdit

Hawkeye and BJ are appointed “Morale Officers” by Colonel Potter to deal with the constant whining and complaining in the camp (even though they are responsible for most of it). Major Winchester tries to comfort a depressed virtuoso pianist with a hand permanently damaged by shrapnel.

Full episode summaryEdit

Tensions are running high at the 4077th, with most of the camp being bored to tears by the movie, which is the same movie that's been shown every night for weeks.

When Hawkeye and B.J. get up during the movie and flawlessly mimic the dialogue as it goes by, it enrages Potter, who bellows, "This the war, you know--be grateful we got a talkie!"

But this only seems to spark further unrest, and when Rizzo complains about the lousy food, everyone agrees--loudly. The mood gets so ugly everyone cheers when the P.A. announces wounded have arrived.

In OR, one of Winchester's patients has several wounds, including ones on his hand and leg. He spends all his time dealing with the leg, making sure the young man isn't paralyzed, with the work on the hand being a bit of an afterthought.

After surgery, Potter puts Hawkeye and B.J. in charge of morale, and they draft Klinger to help out.

Meanwhile, Winchester is there when his young patient, a Private named David Sheridan (James Stephens) wakes up in Post Op. Winchester is chipper and friendly (even making Hawkeye and B.J.-esque jokes), and assures Stephens that, despite his serious wounds, he will walk again.

But Stephens doesn't seem to care about his leg wound, only asking about his hand. When Winchester informs him that he has suffered some "nerve and tendon damage", Stephens asks for how long. When Winchester informs him it will be permanent, Stephens starts to break down in tears.

Winchester is confused, and Stephens tells him that his hands are his life--he's a concert pianist. As the young man cries, Winchester is stunned into silence.

While Hawkeye and B.J. try and assure everyone in camp that they have some amazing plans to boost morale (which is a complete lie), Winchester tries to get through to Stephens. Stephens is demoralized, and is convinced he has no future, which Winchester says "gnaws" at him. Stephens says he doesn't blame Winchester, but "It doesn't bring my hand back."

Winchester turns to Father Mulcahy for advice. Winchester admits that he's worried that, while he can perform miracles in the OR, he's somewhat lacking in his ability to "provide comfort" like some of the other doctors. Mulcahy reassures him that there's no one in camp who has a greater love and appreciation of music, and it's through their common love that he can get through to Stephens.

Hawkeye and B.J., have at last developed an idea to throw a beach party on the compound, and decide to ask Klinger to visit Inchon so he can pick up seafood. Klinger, citing the "dangers" of the territory, blackmails the doctors into giving him a blank three-day-pass first and they have no choice but to agree. Winchester then reveals that Klinger was ALREADY heading towards Inchon on an errand for Col. Potter! Unashamed, Klinger departs camp (after Winchester asks him to pick up some materials from the military library).

Potter chastises Hawkeye and BJ, believing Klinger may have finally escaped for good- especially since his FOOTLOCKER is no longer in Klinger's room! Worse yet, without the promised food the camp's mood is worse than ever and most personnel are ready to lynch the two "Morale Officers" in retribution. But Klinger returns just in time, with a Jeep containing several buckets of live crabs! BJ asks why Klinger needed his footlocker for such a mission, and Klinger explains that "a beach party needs a BEACH" & opens the footlocker to reveal it is filled with sand.

Everyone in camp enjoys the crab dinner, marking Hawkeye & BJ's first (and ONLY) major success as Morale Officers.

While the party goes on, Winchester wheels Stephens into the O Club, where he reveals the materials Klinger retrieved- a series of piano pieces written for one hand, created by a musician who served in World War I and lost a hand in battle.

At first, Stephens resists, saying he can't make a career "playing a few freak pieces."

Winchester doesn't give up, admitting to Stephens that, more than anything else, he has always wanted to play classical music, but lacks the true gift. He can "play the notes, but I cannot make the music", and that Stephens' true gift is in his head and his heart, not his hands, and there are other ways he can share that gift with the world.

Stephens relents and tentatively begins playing the piano. He quickly gets into it, however, playing the piece with vigor, and Winchester follows along, enthralled. The camera pans out over the compound, as everyone is partying, to the sound of the piano.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • The piano score which Winchester gives Sheridan is The Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major by Maurice Ravel. The story behind how the piece came to be written is exactly as Winchester recounted it--Ravel wrote it at the behest of an Austrian pianist who lost his right hand during World War I.
  • A touching episode where Winchester displays his humanity. His conversation with Mulcahy is convincing proof that he is genuinely concerned about Sheridan, and it is not merely his ego which is at stake when his patient has a setback. An interesting comparison may be found with the early Hawkeye in Season 1 "Sticky Wicket".
  • The movie which Klinger mentions, The Terror of Tiny Town[1], actually exists. It was produced by Jeff Buell and starred Billy Curtis. It came out in 1938 and can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.
  • In this episode Stevens graduated from Juilliard as a musical prodigy; in real life David Ogden Stiers played the French Horn in the Juillard orchestra Imdb

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit

External linksEdit

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