The Lovelife of Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan

Houlihan and Burns

“Frank & Hot Lips”

Every fan of MASH knows exactly how they feel about the strong female character Major Margaret”Hot Lips” Houlihan, the top nurse for the Army Nurse Corps of the 4077. We see her scream at the men, get even with those who have done her wrong, stand her ground and still appear to be an extremely emotionally vulnerable human being.

She is a top nurse who seems to struggle with personal relationships. Her father was Army Colonel Alvin Houlihan and growing up in the Army left her with all the knowledge and skills to survive in a military environment but unable to relate to those who come from outside that world.

As an attractive female she is set upon by men and her poor choices are painfully obvious. Her only marriage is to a Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott. It occurred during the fifth season. He’s a handsome man she falls in love with while on leave in Tokyo and accepts his proposal of marriage.

During the episode where she gets married Hawkeye and B.J. have a bachelor party for Penobscott. After Margaret’s fiancé passes out from drinking too much they cover him in plaster. During the ceremony incoming helicopters he can’t move because of the plaster. As Major Houlihan leaves for her honeymoon she fails to hear how the cast can be removed.

Unfortunately Margaret Houlihan is not a woman lucky in love. During the 7th season a new nurse comes to the 4077th and proclaims she’s involved with an Army colonel named Donald. Margaret realizes her husband is having an affair and unleashes her rage at the new nurse.

The clincher is when she receives a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott that was intended for another woman. In the letter he says many bad things about Margaret and indicates he is indeed having an affair. Not a person to accept such treatment Margaret tells the world she is getting a divorce. Her official divorce degree is received during the episode titled “Hot Lips is back in Town.”

Not only was the strong Margaret Houlihan susceptible to tall, dark and handsome men, she also had an attraction to bad boys. For three episodes Sergeant Jack Sccully, a rebel against Army rules and regulations is the man Margaret found very attractive. She admired self-sacrifice and willingness to put himself in danger to save other soldiers. Margaret also hated his attitude toward women.

In their last meeting they fight after as he lets it be known  that she can only boss around women. Determined to make things work Margaret decides to show her feminine side and put on a pink outfit for Sergeant Scully. This is when she realizes it’s over. Scully likes the dress but asks her to make him an omelet and tells her after a time in bed with him she’ll be a new woman. They decide its over and Sergeant Scully returns to his unit.

There is a bit of sadness in watching such a strong woman be with the spineless, power hungry Major Frank Burns. She stands by Burns and takes his side against Hawkeye and the others . He constantly leads her on with promises of leaving his wife to be with her, but in the end Frank Burns slinks back to his life in the civilian world.

It’s a shame Margaret Houlihan was never able to have the type of man in her life she deserved. It seemed as if she was married to her life in the Army and any other type of relationships was something she just did not understand.


  1. Kathy says:

    It was Major FRANK Burns… NOT George!!!

  2. admin says:

    @ Thanks Kathy, silly typo fixed it

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