In this excellent episode that features some of the best ensemble work of the series, Out of Gas is a gem that plays well viewing after viewing.
There are many things I enjoy about this episode. It touches on a believable and often serious problem regarding medical units in war zones, it provides an excellent focus on the more serious side of the M*A*S*H personnel, and it features tremendous work by everyone in the cast.
Of course, the big kudos of this episode go to David Ogden Stiers and William Christopher, who worked wonderfully well together in their scenes involving the malicious black marketeers. Somehow balancing suspense and hilarity in fine and yet believable fashion, Stiers and Christopher pull off a couple of "doozy" scenes. Mulcahy's and Winchester's "escape" from the marketeers was a stroke of comedic genius.
So why in the world were Father Mulcahy and Charles Winchester dealing with the black market? Because the 4077th was low on Pentothal, an important and safe anaesthetic. Its importance is felt all too well when the M*A*S*H unit becomes inundated with casualties. Unfortunately, the surgeons must resort to ether for patients to go under. The consequences of this are numerous and profound. Nurses pass out from the fumes, no heat (in, of course, a cold snap) allowed because of ether's volatility, and slow-go surgeries because of ether's inefficiency as an anaesthetic.
Fortunately, Father Mulcahy is involved in the black market (His religious background proves helpful here). Unfortunately, he must use Winchester's expensive wine to make the trade. This is unfortunate because Winchester demands to go along for the trade. And, thus, their first attempt at a trade goes rather badly.
Fortunately, wine is to be drunk -- and so after patient waiting -- Mulcahy and Winchester return and sneak off the Pentathol while the black marketeers party away. And we get a truly wonderful "escape" sequence.
After writer Tom Reeder's lackluster effort with Dear Comrade, he scores big points here with this clever and satisfying episode.