The Proposed Hot Lips M*A*S*H Plot Loretta Swit Immediately Shot Down

Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan is one of the more complex characters on the classic Korean war sitcom "M*A*S*H," growing from one of the series' antagonists into another truly beloved member of the 4077th, and that is in large part thanks to the woman who portrayed her, Loretta Swit. Not only did Swit give Margaret more depth than many of her early episodes had written on the page through her performance, but she also was deeply protective of the character and went to bat for her against the writers and producers if she felt something wasn't appropriate. She helped develop the character beyond being a one-note, somewhat misogynistic joke and even gave Margaret her best character arc. The evolution from the early seasons with an alternatively icy and lusty Hot Lips to her later season incarnations is truly impressive, and according to Swit, part of that came with putting her foot down.

There were quite a few things that Margaret did over the years that could be frustrating to her fans, especially her long-lasting affair with married man and boorish bigoted buffoon Frank Burns (Larry Linville). However, there was one line that Swit refused to let the writers cross, and she had darn good reason.

A poorly-conceived proposed plot

In a 2015 interview with Studio 10, Swit explained that while she put up with certain puerile plot-lines and indignities in the name of comedy, she would never let those things come before Margaret's duty as head nurse:

"I kept demanding that she never lose her integrity as a head nurse. When we talked about character work to the writers or the producers, 'She's the best damn nurse in Korea, and I'll never settle for anything less than that.' I can be funny, but I can still have integrity. It was an episode I had to fight for because they wanted me to transfer a nurse because she was too attractive and too distracting, and I said, 'I can't do that. I can't sacrifice a good nurse just because she's attractive.' First of all, the nurses in Korea were all volunteers, so they weren't easy to get. So I'm gonna give up a good nurse? No. There's no — So that was a bit of a tug, you know?"

Margaret has a tough time with her nurses sometimes because she's rather demanding and expects the best from everyone all the time (herself included), but she also cares about each of them and she cares even more about the patients in their care. As much of a hot mess as she can be, she's undeniably the best damn American nurse in Korea.

A complicated but fascinating character

Women unfortunately tend to get short shrift in "M*A*S*H" sometimes, with Margaret being the only main recurring female character. (There are a couple of other nurses that exist in the sidelines, most notably Nurse Kellye, but they almost never get their own plots.) Her relationships with the other characters get much better as time goes on, when she's no longer treated as a sexual object or shrill annoyance and instead gets to be a real woman with her own motivations. By the later seasons, she's absolutely terrific, and her semi-romantic friendship with Hawkeye (Alan Alda) is one of the show's most compelling dynamics. 

Thank goodness for Swit, who brought the character to life with passion and wit and also helped fight for her, making "M*A*S*H" all the better for it.