Script Spotlight 14: “The Yalu Brick Road”

Happy Thanksgiving! It is Thanksgiving day in the United States, and it seemed fitting to look at the script for the episode “The Yalu Brick Road” (08×10) since it takes place the day after Thanksgiving. This is the only episode of M*A*S*H to feature Thanksgiving, but it is a classic in that it has a comedic A story and a more serious B story. We’ll look at the episode itself later, but another milestone for this episode is that it is the first episode to feature G. W. Bailey as Sgt. Luther Rizzo. Bailey was recently on an episode of the M*A*S*H Matters podcast, and I highly recommend listing to his memories of this episode and his tenure on M*A*S*H. Let’s begin reviewing “The Yalu Brick Road” by looking at the script.

The Script

This script is a revised final draft from August 1979. We see on the title page that this episode is written by Mike Farrell. In fact, this was the first of four episodes Farrell is credited for writing. As I mentioned in the introduction, the episode also introduces us to the character of Sgt. Rizzo. This copy of the script does not contain any production documents unfortunately, but it does contain some revised pages. Only two! Two pink, revised pages from August 20, 1979 toward the end of the script. Unlike some of the scripts I have reviewed in the past, we don’t see too much of the behind the scenes information for this episode.

The only interesting thing that I noticed in this script was that all of the “Ralph’s” lines are written in English. I assume that the actor would then speak in Korean for the episode delivering the lines as written on the page. I cannot speak Korean, so I cannot confirm that what Ralph and the North Korean soldiers say in the episode is as it is written on the page. I also noticed an interesting format choice on page 18. The page is formatted in a way to illustrate how Hawkeye and BJ’s conversation is happening at the same time as the North Koreans’ conversation. It is a really interesting technique!

The Final Episode

It’s the day after Thanksgiving at the 4077th, and all is not well. Klinger managed to get a turkey dinner, but it made everyone in the camp sick. While everyone is down with Salmonella, the only people who aren’t sick are the ones who didn’t spend Thanksgiving in camp. Father Mulcahy returns first and takes care of everyone alone until Majors Houlihan and Winchester return from the 8063rd. The other doctors, Hawkeye and BJ, are returning from Kansong Battalion Aid with antibiotics when they get lost and flip their Jeep. They begin walking back, and take a North Korean “prisoner.” They call him “Ralph,” and he ends up saving Hawkeye and BJ’s lives when they encounter a North Korean patrol. They eventually make it back to 4077th after some Korean countryside adventures with “Ralph.”

This is a well written, and often funny, episode. The scenes where Charles and Margaret are fighting about Charles helping by washing sheets or cleaning bedpans are great! The two classic scenes in this episode are when Igor is explaining to Potter what it feels like being sick with his stomach going “up and down…uuuup and doooown.” Then, the final scene where Klinger tells Thomopoulous to “stuff it” for sending the bad turkey. It’s classic! Overall, the changes from the script for this episode were minimal. I would rate this as a pretty good, later episode. I hope your Thanksgiving is better than our 4077th friends!

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