‘M*A*S*H’: Alan Alda Had Planned ‘Hawkeye’ and ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan’s Relationship from Beginning

by Suzanne Halliburton
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M*A*S*H fans probably remember the passionate kiss Hawkeye and Margaret shared on a night both thought they’d die in a bombed-out hut in enemy territory.

It made sense that Hawkeye, the womanizing surgeon of the 4077th, would make a move on Margaret, the head nurse of the M*A*S*H unit. Plus, Margaret did have flings while stationed in Korea. But she got married and wanted to stay true to her husband, Colonel Donald Penobscott.

But finally, the male and female stars of M*A*S*H hooked up. Alan Alda wrote the episode and co-directed it. The episode was called Comrades in Arms. It ran on Dec. 6, 1977, nine months after Margaret got married to her colonel.

Loretta Swit, who was so brilliant as Margaret Houlihan, shared some behind-the-scenes M*A*S*H details with Australia’s Studio 10 back in 2015. Of course, her night with Hawkeye (Alan Alda) was a hot topic.

“Alan and I were very, very close,” Swit said. “We were such a family, I can’t describe it – you had to be there. But Alan told me he had written that [episode] with the idea for quite a while before we actually did it. And Gene Reynolds [M*A*S*H executive producer] felt that the audience might not be ready for that in the earlier years. We really needed to grow into [when] they believed this could happen. And so we did finally do it. God, I loved it.”

In M*A*S*H Episode, Margaret and Hawkeye Fear They’re Going to Die In Enemy Territory

In the M*A*S*H episode, Hawkeye and Margaret visit another medical unit. Their jeep breaks down in enemy territory. The two spend the night in a hut as bombs fall around them.

Margaret gets hysterical and Hawkeye helps calm her. Margaret tells him she accidentally found out her husband was cheating on her. So for one night, thinking they would die, they slept together.

Loretta Swit’s character evolved on M*A*S*H. Swit said she pushed for Margaret to remain strong. She also made sure other female characters were well written.

“I kept demanding that they keep her integrity as a head nurse,” Swit told Studio 10. “When we talked about character work to the writers and producers (she’d say) she’s the best damn nurse in Korea and I’ll never settle for anything less than that. I can be funny, but I still can have integrity.

Swit continued: “There was a [M*A*S*H] episode I had to fight for because they wanted me to transfer a nurse because she was too attractive and she was too distracting. And I said ‘I can’t do that. I can’t sacrifice a good nurse because she’s attractive.’ First of all, the nurses in Korea were all volunteers. so they weren’t easy to get. So I had to give up a nurse? No. It was a bit of a tug.”

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