|“Sometimes You Hear the Bullet”|
Henry consoles Hawkeye after the death of his friend. "There are certain rules about a war, and rule number one is: Young men die.
Rule number two is: Doctors can't change rule number one."
| Season 1, Episode # 17 |
Number (#17) in series (256 episodes)
|Guest star(s)||James Callahan |
|Original airdate||January 28, 1973|
|IMDB||Sometimes You Hear the Bullet|
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|"The Ringbanger" (J‑316)||"Dear Dad...Again" (J‑317)|
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Sometimes You Hear the Bullet, the 17th episode of Season 1 of the M*A*S*H TV series, was also the 17th overall series episode. Written by Carl Kleinschmitt, it was directed by William Wiard, and originally aired on CBS-TV on January 28, 1973.
Frank throws out his back and applies for the Purple Heart. Meanwhile Hawkeye finds out one of his patients (played by Ron Howard) is an underaged soldier. He begs Hawkeye to let him stay on and at first Hawkeye agrees. But then an old friend of Hawkeye's, Sergeant Tommy Gillis, is wounded, rushed to the 4077th, and dies despite Hawkeye's best efforts. Hawkeye is overcome by grief and decides to turn in the underaged soldier for his own good.
Full episode summaryEdit
Frank and Hot Lips engage in a romantic evening, but it's ruined when Frank's back goes out. As Hawkeye and Trapper tend to him, they learn Frank has applied for the Purple Heart, something neither they or Henry can believe.
But that's interrupted when a childhood friend of Hawkeye's, Tommy Gillis (James T. Callahan) arrives in camp. The three of them head back to The Swamp to get blasted.
Tommy tells them he's writing a book about the war (You Never Hear The Bullet)--not from a reporter's POV, but a soldier's--Tommy is there, on the front lines, with the rest of them.
Wounded arrive, and Tommy heads back. One of the wounded is a very young man, Private Wendell (Ron Howard!). After talking with him, Hawkeye learns Wendell is not even 16 years old, and went to war to impress his girlfriend back home, so he can "Earn a medal and be a hero."
Wendell begs Hawkeye not to turn him in, and Hawkeye agrees after failing to talk Wendell out of it.
More wounded arrive, and one of the most hurt is Tommy. Hawkeye works on him, but its no use. Tommy dies on the table, muttering in amazement that, unlike his book title, he actually heard the bullet that did him in.
Afterwards, Hawkeye stands in the doorway of the O.R., crying. Henry tries to console him, pointing out the two rules they taught him in command school: "Rule #1--Young men die. Rule #2--Doctors can't change Rule #1."
Hawkeye decides, then and there, to do something--he tells Major Houlihan to get the M.P.s because Pvt. Wendell is only 15 years old, and should be sent home immediately.
Wendell threatens to hate Hawkweye as long as he lives, and Hawkeye hopes that's a long, long time.
Later, to partially make it up to Wendell, Hawkeye gives him Frank's Purple Heart--so he's getting what he wanted, but will no longer be on the front lines.
Research notes/Fun factsEdit
- Although he plays an underage young person, Ron Howard was actually 18.
- Frank Burns
- Burns and Hot Lips have a secret knock now.
- The last time that Frank Burns's back went out, it was VJ day, in Times Square.
- Hawkeye knows someone in China who can get him green olives on the black market, but they aren't very good.
- Hawkeye hadn't cried since he got to Korea, before this episode.
- This is one of the few times Hawkeye follows military regulations--when it will save a life. He will do it again later when he refuses to fudge Col. Potter's high blood pressure results in Season 9 "The Red/White Blues".
- In syndicated versions of this episode the part where Wendell receives the purple heart it is usually edited out.
Ron Howard certainly proved his worth as a performer very young - the wonderful performance he gave this episode, he was only eighteen when it was made. This was also before the start of his great success in Happy Days (1974) and one of his first more adult roles after his time on The Andy Griffith Show. Mind you, according to his file on the IMDB, he was in a film with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr when he was only five! Some people just start really young, I guess. An early installment of the genre that will appear so much in later seasons: 'War is really nasty after all.' A well done one, though, all the better when it's slightly out of place, and the grim matter is balanced nicely with the very silly story about Burns's back.