Monday, December 10, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus M*A*S*H

Imagine a time-displaced Batgirl finding herself dropped into the war-torn hills of 1951 Korea.  Or, if you prefer, the pretend war-torn hills of 1970s southern California.  What would happen if Cass found herself at war with the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital?  Of course, I'm talking the TV version, not the Robert Altman film.

Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce.  Hawkeye doesn't present much of a physical challenge to Cass.  He's either exhausted from hours of meatball surgery or else hung over from some down-time debauchery involving home-brewed martinis and a nurse or two.  Or else he's waxing maudlin over some heartbreaking aspect of the Korean War.  Hawkeye isn't much on fighting and generally refuses to participate in calisthenics, preferring more leisurely pursuits as golf, womanizing and being sanctimonious.  Cass has Hawkeye down and out of the fight faster than you can write "Dear Dad" or order ribs from your favorite barbecue restaurant back in the States.

Captain John "Trapper John" McIntyre.  This depends on what era of M*A*S*H Cass encounters.  But in order to explore this possibility completely, we have to consider all the characters.  Trapper John is slightly more a physically challenging specimen than Hawkeye, but is similarly worn down by the rigors of combat medicine and likely drunk as well.  Cass soon disables him and moves on to her next opponent.

Major Frank Burns.  Burns talks a good game, but he's generally craven and ineffectual.  When his facade of military authority gives way in the face of Cass's inability to understand Burns's verbal orders and bluster, the hapless and largely incompetent doctor falls to his knees and pleads for mercy, citing his wife and children back home.  Cass can't understand this either, and rocks Burns to sleep with a quick multi-punch combo or roundhouse kick to the head.

Captain B.J. Hunnicutt.  Replacing McIntyre, Hunnicutt attempts to fool Cass with one of his ingenious practical jokes, and with a fall-back plan to distract her with a heartwarming anecdote about his beloved wife Peg.  The joke provides just enough of a delay to allow Hunnicutt to dye his hair and mustache bright red and then ride off on his motorcycle before Cass can grapple with him.  The Peg anecdote would not help, so it's just as well Hunnicutt never has to use it.

Major Charles Emerson Winchester III.  Large-framed and patrician, Winchester deploys condescension and pretentiousness in an effort to thwart Cass's relentless assault.  Undaunted, Cass presses her attack.  Fortunately for the Boston-born Winchester, Cass is somewhat gentled by his desperate ploy of having a small group of North Korean prisoners serenade her with classical music.  As a result, Cass uses a relatively painless choke-hold to subdue him.

Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan.  Cass's most formidable foe amongst the 4077th personnel, but her Regular Army ways and training are still no match whatsoever for Cass's almost superhuman martial arts skills.  Fearless to a fault, Houlihan witnesses the pathetic display by Burns and, angered at his mentioning of his stateside family, takes the fight to Cass only to fall within seconds.  In her unconscious state, Houlihan dreams of her former husband Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot and wearing a bloody wedding dress while tending to wounded G.I.s.

Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly.  Possessed of a predictive ability that rivals Cass's, Radar manages to avoid Cass's first assault, but soon must engage her mano-a-mano.  Resorting to his little-used basic combat training and then using his teddy bear as a cudgel, Radar is barely a blip in Cass's path.  This fight is the second shortest, after the Burns match-up.  Cass pauses a moment to kiss Radar's forehead and experiences a pang of regret.

Lt. Colonel Henry Blake.  Laid-back and avuncular under ordinary circumstances, yet ervous and high-strung in a fight, Blake nevertheless attempts to defend himself with his service pistol.  Cass quickly disarms him and sends him packing, where he meets his fate over the Japan Sea.  Eyes tear up across the nation, but Carol Burnett offers a happier alternative the next night.

Colonel Sherman T. Potter.  A toughened former cavalryman and veteran of both World Wars, Potter is way too aged to fight Cass one-on-one.  Still, the conscientious commanding officer bravely refuses to surrender his post or abandon his people.  After reluctantly but shrewdly calling in an artillery strike on the hospital camp itself, which Cass survives by hiding in a slit trench, Potter mounts his horse Sophie and attempts an old-fashioned cavalry charge.  Horse and rider succumb to a whirlwind Cass counterattack, but in deference to Potter's advanced age and brittle bones, Cass again relies on relatively painless techniques against the colonel.  Sophie she allows to wander free.  Under the guidance of Dr. Sidney Freedman, and in order to facilitate his recovery, Potter later therapeutically paints a portrait of Cass from memory.

Nurse Kealani Kellye.  She confronts Cass with an impassioned speech about feeling unappreciated and ignored, but Cass can't make heads or tails of it.  Confused, Cass simply slips around her, leaving Nurse Kellye to look within and discover her own path to self-esteem.

Corporal/(later) Sergeant Maxwell Q. Klinger.  Master of disguise Klinger dons traditional Korean women's dress borrowed from his wife Soon-Lee and the two of them escape back to Toledo and set up housekeeping, relieved at Klinger's not having to get his ass kicked.  After the war, they invite Cass to dinner where she's entertained by their body language as the marrieds bicker over the results of Klinger's latest somewhat shady money-making scheme.  Cass is able to convince Bruce Wayne to bail them out financially and they live happily ever after.  For the most part.

Colonel Flagg.  The menacing yet obtuse counterintelligence officer is the most competent fighter Cass must face at the 4077th.  He accuses Cass of Communist subversion and tells her in a clipped voice about causing his own father to have to wear orthopedic shirts, but once they begin to fight it doesn't take Cass too long to penetrate Flagg's defenses and land a knock-out blow-- a straight kick to the chin.  Regaining consciousness later, Flagg tells no one he's the wind, then leaps out a window and breaks his leg while attempting to escape and report on Cass's activities to his superiors.  Cass secretly thinks of him as alarmingly similar to her mentor, Batman.

First Lieutenant/(later) Captain Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahey.  Come on!  What are you thinking?  Cass doesn't fight Father Mulcahey.  He does attempt to physically restrain her at one point and angrily denounces her propensity for violence, but they don't exactly tangle.  He's present at the Klinger dinner later where he tipsily commends Cass for her "jocularity."  She has no idea what the word means.

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