Saturday, August 29, 2009

Episode 145 - Commander Pierce

Season 7, Episode 145: Commander Pierce
Original Air Date: 9/18/78
Written by: Ronny Graham and Don Segall

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

Col. Potter has to head to Seoul for a pow-wow with the other MASH commanders, so he turns to Winchester to take over. But Winchester is very sick with a cold, and is unwilling to take the job. Potter then turns to Hawkeye, who absolutely refuses. Potter tells him that Radar will see him at 5am sharp.

Hawkeye refuses to take any part of being in command seriously--he shows up to Potter's office in his robe, unshaven, and pretty much just wants to get some sleep atop Potter's desk, much to Radar's horror at all the paperwork not getting done.

Klinger figures this is his best shot at a Section 8, and begins a procession of attempts to get Hawkeye to ship him out. Father Mulcahy turns to Hawkeye for blankets, since the 4077th is running low and its getting colder outside.

Hawkeye runs into a wall trying to get the blankets from I-Corps, when he learns that they won't send the 4077th anything without the proper forms. Its then that he realizes the mile high pile of paperwork must be attended to, and he sits down, grumbling, to get it all done.

In O.R., Hawkeye wants all the noise to stop, acting an awful lot like the Regular Army clowns he despises. He's short-tempered with everyone, even Radar, and when B.J. makes a crack at Hawkeye's expense, Hawkeye admonishes B.J. to "Stay in the back seat where you belong!"

Later, more wounded arrive, and one soldier mentions that a buddy of his--who's hurt worse--got left behind at Battalion Aid. B.J., not bothering to check with Hawkeye, takes off in a jeep to go get him.

When Hawkeye learns of this, he's furious, knowing there's even more wounded arriving and now he's down two surgeons.

They manage to get through it, and he scolds B.J. for doing so when he gets back. B.J. is having none of it, saying he did the same thing Captain Pierce would've done, not wanting to know what Commander Pierce would've done.

Col. Potter returns, and Hawkeye goes on a rant, delivering a list of complaints about the difficulty of running the 4077th. Potter refuses to take the bait, and grabs a bottle of liquor which he's taking to the Swamp.

He shares drinks with Hawkeye and B.J., who immediately start squabbling. Potter watches all this, and then steps in, admonishing Hawkeye for overreacting, but also reminding B.J. that if he had done his disappearing act while Potter was in charge, he would've been in a lot of trouble.

He manages to get Hawkeye and B.J. to make up, but then an errant comment by B.J. starts it all over again. As they fight, Potter looks at his near empty bottle: "All that perfectly good whiskey, shot to hell." He leaves the Swamp as Hawkeye and B.J. continue to argue.

Fun Facts: You can see how different the show looks starting with this season, now being shot on video tape instead of film. The colors are more vibrant, the image is sharper, but I think it made the show look less realistic, less gritty. Not to mention Mike Farrell's mustache!

Was the Army in 1952(ish) still so anti-women that they couldn't put Margaret in charge? I mean, she was a Major, after all...

Update 4/5/12: A comment from Brian informs me that I am mistaken about why and how M*A*S*H looked different between Seasons 1-6 and 7-11: "
You're mistaken regarding how the series was shot. They used 35mm film for the entire series. Videotape would've been awful. The change in color you see is because the cinematographer decided to warm up the palette a bit and they also changed film stocks." Good to know, thanks Brian!

Favorite Line: Hawkeye is on the phone with I-Corps, and when he's told he won't get some supplies without sending in a form known as DD-5D, he turns, sees them in Radar's hand, ready for Hawkeye's signature. He cheerfully tells I-Corps, "Yeah--those are in the mail."

Radar, hearing that, yells/whispers, "Hey, you can't lie to I-Corps!" Hawkeye gives Radar the a-ok sign, leading Radar to walk off in shock.


Russell said...

Rob, in my opinion this is the season where MASH "jumped the shark." I mean, come on, this is supposed to be a comedy-drama, right? Where was the comedy here??

It doesn't help that this was obviously broadcast out of production order: BJ grows his mustache in the NEXT episode!!

I hadn't realized that MASH was now being shot on video; I only realized that it looked old/bad. Radar here *looks* like he's 30 years old.

And don't get me started on BJ and his mustache. He, Hawkeye, and Charles all look awful; straight out of the 70s, not the 50s.

And I agree with you, Rob; I never understood why Margaret wasn't put in charge. With all those episodes where she and Frank couldn't wait to be put in charge, I don't understand why Margaret didn't just step up. And BTW, did we ever see an episode where Charles *was* put in charge?

One of my least favorite episodes from one of my least favorite seasons.

rob! said...


Yeah, this is one of my least favorite episodes as well. Not because I think its bad, per se, but I just hate seeing members of the 4077 fighting with each other (except for Frank, of course).

Yeah, the whole BJ mustache thing is weird. Why not open the season with the following episode, "Peace On Us", which is a stronger episode?

And yes, Charles was put in charge in a later show, in Season 9.

Dr. Eric said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree here. I really appreciate this episode. It is always good to push a character out of their comfort zone and see how they react. Margaret's line "It's not so easy to play the clown when you're running the circus" was a very telling comment, and I think Hawkeye learned a lot in this episode.

What the Parrot Saw said...

As much as I find some of the late seasons' episodes overly silly in premise or overly serious in tone, this remains a favorite and not at all a bad introduction to the dramedy 'feel' of seasons 7-11.

Hawkeye's sudden change in personality works here because it is tied directly not not to the stresses of the deluge, but to the "endless details" of bureaucratic nonsense... that we see Hawkeye is distinctly unsuited by temperament to deal with. No surprise- but a serious, RA Hawkeye is an interesting thing to witness over an episode.

I agree with Dr. Eric- Margaret's line is perfectly written and delivered.

I will have to look at this episode again... I'd swear that the videotape shooting started later. The video always had a grainy filmed feel to me (unlike say a Norman Lear sitcom), so it was never that jarring..

Brian said...


You're mistaken regarding how the series was shot. They used 35mm film for the entire series. Videotape would've been awful. The change in color you see is because the cinematographer decided to warm up the palette a bit and they also changed film stocks.

Never loved this episode-parts of it definitely felt derivative of "Officer of the Day".

rob! said...

Brian--Thanks for the correction! I read that years ago (by someone who was obviously mistaken) and I never really bothered to follow up whether it was correct or not; not knowing much about that stuff it sounded like it made sense!

Brian said...


No problem!

Love this site-you've done an amazing job with it.

Donald said...

Surprised that you didnt mention Margaret mentioning Frank to Hawkeye.
"If only Frank Burns could see you now." implying how Hawkeye has turned into a regular army clown that Frank was.

mark said...

Russell: "And I agree with you, Rob; I never understood why Margaret wasn't put in charge." One possible reason: Hawkeye was Chief Surgeon; a position that may outrank that of Head Nurse, regardless of the incumbents' ranks. Also, Hawkeye was the senior of 2 Captains who were doctors.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I always thought this was a fun episode, if only to see how Hawkeye took being in charge-and he doesn't take it well, although I thought it a little unrealistic that he wouldn't do something as basic as sign a requisition order. He must have known that was how the camp got its supplies.
The scene between him and Margaret was good and I have to agree that as chief surgeon he probably outranked her; he did in the OR.

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