Episode Spotlight: The Gun

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“The Gun” (#85, 4×13)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, December 2nd, 1975
Written by Larry Gelbart & Gene Reynolds
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: When a colonel’s beloved vintage revolver goes missing, Radar finds himself facing 15 years in the stockade.

I’m of two minds about this episode. On the one hand, I think Radar’s “My bear went off!” is a hilarious line. On the other hand, the rest of Radar’s drunken rambling is rather underwhelming. I don’t know if Radar was just a boring drunk or if Gary Burghoff had trouble acting drunk, but the scene in the Officers’ Club in which he discussed his predicament with Klinger was underwhelming.

There’s no B story in this episode, unless you want to split the main gun plot into Radar’s story and Frank’s story. I don’t really think that’s necessary. The two are so intertwined, although Radar certainly gets more screen time.

I don’t know whether taking the revolver was in character for Frank or out of character. I can believe he’d be impressed by the gun and wish he could have it. But to actually steal it and then immediately show it off to Margaret? How could be possibly think that she wouldn’t hear about a missing gun, particularity one owned by a colonel?

Screenshot featuring Gary Burghoff as Radar, holding his teddy bear and looking surprised
“My bear went off!”

I did enjoy the confrontation scene in the O.R. in which Hawkeye and B.J. kept pushing Frank across the room until he was trapped between two gurneys and had to climb over one to escape. But he was right about them believing Radar was innocent until proven guilty but not him. Sometimes Frank does make sense.

Unless I’m mistaken, the whole gun bin thing is one of those little plot devices invented for one episode and never seen or mentioned again. I know there was at least one other episode which involved the personal effects of wounded or deceased soldiers, but I don’t recall any other instances in which the gun bin appeared or receipts were issued to wounded soldiers for their weapons.

I wish we had learned something about the tank that ran Colonel Chaffey and his men off the road. Why wasn’t anyone more concerned about that? Chaffey certainly didn’t seem to care. All he was worried about was his revolver.

Radar mentions a sister while talking to Frank about his key ring. He also mentions a brother in one episode but otherwise is said to be an only child, something firmly established by Season Eight.

Try as I might, I can’t figure out what Margaret was reading in bed at the start of the episode.

8 Comments

  • PinkPagoda says:

    would love you to post a pic of Margaret reading! We could have a contest. I vote for Lady Chatterly’s Lover. hahahaha

    This is not one of my favorite episodes – Frank was many things, but I never thought of him as an outright thief.

  • Maybe because it’s a Radar episode, I don’t know, but this is an episode I really do enjoy. This is also an amusing episode for Frank as well, I love how he twisted his own lesson in the end: “When you steal something, don’t ever try to return it.”

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    Most funniest scene – Frank trying to twirl the gun and failing miserably while Radar just effortlessly shows off his gun-handling skills. Frank’s face is pure fun to watch during this sequence.

  • FourOhSevenSeven says:

    I really like this episode because of Radar and Frank. I love the character of Radar so the more of him, the better. And almost every scene with him and Frank is truly funny, so it is a great fun to watch “The Gun”.

  • Larry P. says:

    I love this episode, but then, there’s not much from season four I don’t like!

    I have no problem seeing Frank stealing a gun. He was such a sniveling creep that if he wanted something bad enough, I can see him being overcome with temptation and taking it. This wasn’t the only time he was caught stealing. Remember, he once took Margaret’s clock and blamed it on a bellboy (as per “Fade Out, Fade In”). Also, while maybe not quite the same as out-and-out stealing, he was certainly dishonest, such as denying Margaret ever gave him a ring (which she later found in his footlocker), and also when he denied buying a priceless Korean antique for cheap (and which he tried to send out of the country).

    Anyway, very funny episode!

  • jgf says:

    I always considered this episode a reference to Gen. Patton, who famously wore a pair of pearl handled revolvers.

    FWIW, the military, as do most police departments, frown on carrying non standard issue weapons. It means you must carry your own ammo, which is useless to anyone else, and if you run out of ammo your weapon is useless because you cannot use the standard ammo everyone else is carrying. But, few generals are ever involved in firefights (they are directing the action from the rear) so often carry personal weapons as status symbols.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    Oddly enough, Frank was already shown in “The Sniper” to be in possession of (his own?) pearl handled gun.

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