Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hawkeye's speech

Here’s the speech from our first MASH, “Out of Sight/Out of Mind” that took us a week and at least fifty drafts. But launched our career. Hawkeye was temporarily blind, with no guarantee he’d ever see again. He dealt with it by staying very busy, even being a little manic.

Finally, B.J. sits him down in Post Op and they have the following exchange:

Listen, Hawk, why don’t you just settle down for five minutes? I know what you’re trying to do, and I know how you really feel.

No you don’t.

You don’t want to have time to think about what might happen to you.

That’s not it. Sure, when Overman walks in tomorrow and unwraps my package, I hope to God I’ll have my sight back. But in the meantime, this crazy accident has taken on another meaning.


One part of the world closed down for me, but another part opened up. Sure, I’ve been seeing myself sitting on a corner with a tin cup selling thermometers. But things are happening that take me away from that. This morning I spent two incredible hours listening to a rainstorm. I didn’t just hear it, I was part of it. I’ll bet you never realized that the sound of rain hitting the ground makes the same noise as steaks when they barbeque, or that thunder seems to echo forever. And you can’t believe how funny it is to hear someone slip and fall in the mud. Had to be Burns. Beej, it’s full of trapdoors, but I think I’m using this thing to my advantage. I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life.


Richard Cooper said...


I wonder if Hawkeye claimed the Blind Person's Tax Credit for that year?

Anonymous said...

Dear Ken,

I remember that episode well although I strongly suspect I only saw it when it aired the first time. The speech is really wonderful. That said, I would share something with you.

A few years ago, I suffered a traumatic injury that briefly threatened my long-term mobility (compression fracture of a vertebra involving a bone fragment resting against the spinal cord). What's interesting is that while all of my friends were pondering the gruesome possibilities, they never occurred to me. I later confirmed this with another patient who broke a cervical vertabra that often leads to quadraplegia or instant death and she too said that she never thought about the less-pleasant possibilities. It's not that we consciously repressed it, it never occurred to either of us. In retrospect, I can only plead astonishment.

I love the speech, but the first part of it doesn't ring quite true.

Best regards,

Alan Tomlinson

blogward said...

That's interesting, Alan. I was wondering whether Ken and David bothered with a 'scientific' approach to characterisations like that, where reaction to change is supposed to follow a sequence of anger, denial, bargaining, etc. Maybe they just go with what's funny though.

Anonymous said...

The speech is a beautiful piece of writing, Ken.

But Alan's insights are enlightening. Thank you both for sharing.

Now back to Potter.


Anonymous said...

While I have never suffered a traumatic injury of that extent, I think that speech rang very true because it was Hawkeye Pierce: that person, in that place, under those circumstances, at that time. If you look at the character over the course of the show, I think starting over at anger and denial would have felt wrong --- every day he was going through those emotions, thanks to the war. So a traumatic event like losing his sight would jar him... somewhere else.

Week well spent, Ken. It's a classic.

Max Clarke said...

The power of writing. Since I don't have a tv, old episodes of Mash don't follow me around. I probably haven't seen a MASH episode since the series ended, but I recall Hawkeye's remarks like yesterday. Funny in a way, a man with eye in his name would have that experience.

Michael Jones said...

He might've become the next "Daredevil".

Scott said...

So weird. I spent all weekend reformatting my home PC after a virus attack so I wasn't able to read this until Monday morning. But when I woke up Sunday morning, it was raining pretty hard and I was laying in bed listening to the rain and this very scene from [i]M*A*S*H[/i] was running through my head (especially the part about Hawkeye hearing someone fall in the mud). Made me smile all morning.

Thanks Ken and David.

Fox Cutter said...

I always loved this speech, the very last line is one of those things that just sort of sticks in the mind, in a good way.

Anonymous said...

this was the second episode of MASH I ever saw in my life.
The first one was the one previous to this, which I watched, so I would know who the characters were when I watched this one.
This was back in the days when you actually could read the entire TV Guide, and I, apparently, did.
Of course, I have the ep on tape somewhere. How odd, years later, to find a blog by the person who wrote it.

I remember the speech well (if not word for word)

Also fun hearing about the Sitcom room

Anonymous said...

PS - after seeing this ep, I actually started watching the show.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favourite episodes of my favourite tv show, it's wonderful to read about the writing process 20 or 30 years on. I wasn't even born when MASH first ran, but BBC2 showed it (without the laughter track!) while I was growing up and it became a staple of my cultural diet, even more so since the DVD releases.

This episode, along with Gelbart and Reynolds' 'The More I See You' (possibly my favourite 24 minutes of television ever, sorry Mr Levine!) from the previous series, mark for me key phases in the development of MASH (alongside a development of Hawkeye's character) from a more conventional sitcom (albeit an outstanding one) into something more... mature doesn't seem quite right - perhaps 'rounded', in any case making it into the cultural milestone it was.

I had an eye injury earlier this year that doctors needed two weeks to confirm I'd fully recover from, two weeks of preparing myself for the possibility of losing sight to a large degree. I thought about this monologue a lot - it certainly helped. Seeing it written down looks odd, in my head it was much longer. I guess that's a testament to its power, tv at it's very best.

By Ken Levine said...

"The More I See You" is my favorite episode of MASH too so don't feel bad.


Anonymous said...


This post has haunted me for the past couple of days. I haven't had the time to focus on it until now.

I am stunned by the audacity it must have taken you and David to bring such character-perfect simplicity to your first M*A*S*H assignment. Showing off here would have been so simple and tempting.

If your Sitcom Room students learned to just imagine restraint their money was well-spent.