The M*A*S*H, which stands for “Mobil Army Surgical Hospital,” TV series is about a group of Army doctors and nurses working in a MASH unit in Korea during the Vietnam War. They all work together to save the lives of as many wounded soldiers and refugees as they can. Of course, the main characters have their own special trait and there is the “good” side of the group and a “bad” side to the group. It is your own interpretation of which side to root for but to me the good guys in this particular episode are Col. Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan), Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell), Walter “Radar” O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff), Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) and Klinger (Jamie Farr). The antagonists are Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan (Loretta Swit). Gene Reynolds directed this particular episode and Johnny Mandel wrote the music/theme.
In this episode Frank has been the commanding officer of the MASH unit for only a short time. He has been driving all of the others except, Houlihan, up the wall. Then after the mail arrives Radar doesn’t take it directly to Frank as he is suppose to. He instead goes over to Hawkeye and B.J.’s tent where they are converting Frank’s old bed into a bar. Radar tells them they’re getting a new commanding officer and shows them the paperwork that came in the mail. This Col. Potter is an actual Army Doctor having once been a soldier himself in World War I. Hawkeye and B.J. are dismayed by the news that he is regular army and say he will probably have the patients all bleeding by the numbers. Then Radar begs him to go with him to protect him from Frank when he tells him he’s being replaced. Frank takes it unusually calmly and then excuses himself to walk across camp and enter Houlihan’s tent before he breaks down and has a temper tantrum just like a 2 year old child. Major Frank Burns is having an affair with Houlihan even though he has a wife and children back home. He tells Houlihan that he already wrote and told “Mommy” that he was commanding officer. Margaret tries to comfort him and tells him his mother will still be proud. However, Frank tells her that he means his wife and after he says that she tells him to “buzz off!”
We cut to Hawkeye and B.J. reverting the bar back into Frank’s bed in their tent when Klinger, dressed in a dress with a flowered hat on, and Radar bring in Frank’s things followed by Frank. They set the things down and go to leave but Frank grabs Klinger’s arm and says, “Another week in command, and I’d have had you out of that dress.” Klinger responds, “I’m not that easy.” And then he leaves. Hawkeye and B.J. make fun of Frank for a bit and then we cut to Radar, who is sitting outside the office/hospital building, shirtless, and holding a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil over his chest and trying to get a tan with his eyes closed. An army jeep comes into camp honking it’s horn. It gets to where Radar is and honks again as the man inside parks it. Radar does nothing and still has his eyes closed so the man gets out of the jeep waits for a moment then pushes the horn again. Radar says, with eyes still closed, “Stick that horn in your ear.” The man walks over to him and says, “On your feet, soldier. I’m Colonel Potter.” Radar is extremely embarrassed and repeatedly apologizes as he takes the Colonel’s things to his office. A few of the things he puts in his office is an old saddle from his cavalry days in WWI, pictures of a lot of horses he has owned & bred in the past, and a picture of his wife. He tells Radar to move a filing cabinet but to get some help to do so. So Radar leaves his office and runs directly into Klinger who is dressed in a golden sparkling evening gown, wearing white gloves, jewelry, including a tiara, and carrying a lady’s fan and evening purse. Radar tells him not to go into Potter’s office but Klinger says, “I saw him pull in. This is my chance!” Radar, “He’s got a saddle.” Klinger, “I don’t care.” Radar, “He’s regular army.” Klinger says, “And I’m regular crazy.” Then he pushes Radar out of the way and enters Col. Potter’s office. Col. Potter looks up at him as Klinger introduces himself, “Colonel Potter, sir. Corporal Klinger. I’m section eight, head-to-toe. I’m wearing a Warner bra. I play with dolls. My last wish is to be buried in my mother’s wedding gown. I’m nuts. I should be out.” Colonel Potter acknowledges his salute and then says, “Horse hockey. I've seen these dodges for 40 years, all the tricks. Knew a private, pretended he was a mare. Carried a colt in his arms for weeks. Another fellow said he was a daisy. Insisted we water him every morning. No, no, Corporal. It ain’t gonna go with me. Now you get out of that froufrou and into a uniform. And you stay in uniform. Dismissed!” Klinger starts to leave and runs into Radar who has just entered the office and says, “Radar, I’m finished. I gotta burn my bloomers.” Then Klinger leaves and Radar puts the things he’s carrying down where Potter tells him to. Right before Radar leaves Colonel Potter asks, “Why, uh, “Radar”?” Radar, “Oh, well, uh…sometimes I can tell what’s gonna happen before it happens." Potter doesn't really believe him and asks, "Is that so?" Radar, "Yes, sir. The officer's latrine is to the right, sir." Potter, "Thank you." And the he does a double take when he realizes Radar had answered a question he had yet to ask.
Radar then calls out to the camp using the microphone and tells all the officers to report to Col. Potter's office. Potter goes over the officers' records and has a talk with them about their records. Frank Burns doesn't show up. Hawkeye's record in particular has a long list of tricks he'd played. Sometimes B.J. helped him and so Potter tells them that he "would greatly appreciate it if, for the next 18 months, you keep your noses clean. Dismissed!" Hawkeye and B.J. stop Houlihan on their way out and find out that Frank has run away like a little boy throwing a tantrum.
We cut to B.J. and Hawkeye fixing their alcohol still in their tent. Hawkeye says that if Potter makes them get rid of it he'll get into one of Klinger's dresses and maybe even with Klinger still in it. Then Klinger shows up in regular army fatigues but he has a rash from the material the uniform is made of and asks them to help him so that he can wear the dresses again. They say they'll speak to Col. Potter about it.
Cut back to Radar and Potter in Potter's office. Radar is helping Col. Potter by hanging up all his pictures of the horses he brought with him. They chat but Radar suddenly breaks off talking and looks up. Potter asks him, "What is it?" Radar says, "Choppers, sir." Col. Potter says, "I don't hear anything." And then we start hearing the sound of the choppers and Radar rushes out while Col. Potter pauses for a moment and looks like he's considering the fact that Radar might have been telling the truth. Then we cut to all the doctors scrubbing up for surgery with help from the nurses. Radar tells Hawkeye and B.J. that Col. Potter hasn't been in an operating for 2 years and Hawkeye instructs Margaret to watch him and get him or B.J. if he gets into any trouble. Then in the surgery B.J. runs into a patient having heaving bleeding and gets really anxious and Potter comes over and tells him to be steady that he'll be fine and then instructs him how to fix the problem. Cut to Potter and Hawkeye and B.J. washing off their arms after finishing the surgeries around 3:30am. Potter mentions that he could use a "belt" (meaning an alcoholic drink) and Hawkeye grins and he and B.J. lead him out of the wash room telling Potter they know just the place he needs to go.
We cut to Frank sneaking around the camp covered in mud while the people who catch an occasional glimpse laugh at him. He finally enters Margaret's tent where she comforts him.
Cut to Potter, Hawkeye & B.J. drinking and singing in their tent. They mention Klinger and start singing again. The singing fades out as the camera fades to black then we're with those three in Potter's office the next morning talking when Frank shows up hoping to impress and get on the Colonel's good side. He is dumbfounded when Klinger comes in, in a dress, and Potter acts as if there is nothing amiss. Before Klinger leaves Potter tells him he likes his outfit and the episode ends with the men laughing at Frank's expression.
I really like this episode. The actors are wonderfully talented and their playful banter with each other plays well into their characters. Frank's reactions are just hilarious and Klinger's outfits always make me laugh. There's no knowing what he'll wear any given day. These actors really exceeded my expectations for this episode and I definitely wouldn't mind watching it again but, alas, I have no time to.
Some of the film techniques used were effective, like the fade down after the singing at the end. At other times you could tell where they had planned to stick a commercial in because the screen stayed black for a couple of extra seconds. I liked that the angles in the surgery room showed enough to make it believable to be a surgery but not so much as to gross me out, not that blood really grosses me out. I just know people who do think it's gross. The music was nice. The theme of course is standard for every episode so it isn't too impressing after you've heard it for a lot of episodes. But there was some just to help give some background noise. I did like then part wear Hawkeye, B.J. and Col. Potter are singing in the tent. They all have excellent voices and sang with a nice harmony.
So you should definitely watch this episode of MASH. It is very good and it introduces a new character to the team of actors, Col. Potter (Morgan). I love his style of leadership better than the previous colonel.