Episode Spotlight: Soldier of the Month

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

“Soldier of the Month” (#84, 4×12)
Originally Broadcast: Friday, November 28th, 1975
Written by Linda Bloodworth
Directed by Gene Reynolds

Capsule Summary: Colonel Potter institutes a Soldier of the Month program for the enlisted men. Meanwhile, Frank develops a high fever and writes a will.

There was a lot going on in this episode. The A storyline was, of course, the Soldier of the Month contest, involving both those in charge of and those participating in it. The scene in which Frank was nominated to head up the contest was yet another example of Frank’s inability (or lack of desire) to assert himself, allowing Margaret to speak for him.

The B storyline could either be the mysterious hemorrhagic fever or Margaret’s fiendish plot to get Frank to dictate a will while delirious from fever. The fever storyline didn’t get much screentime but was the only serious aspect of the episode. It gave Father Mulcahy something to do other than just sort of take down Frank’s will.

This was a great episode for Frank, despite the fact that he spent much of it delirious due to high fever. There as his line about Frank Burns always doing more than his share; his disturbing rat trap; his fainting spell in the Swamp; his feverish revelation that he had money buried in his backyard (with the map in the freezer) and had been taking prescription kickbacks.

Klinger is done trapping rats

Klinger also had some great moments in this episode, including his attempt to curry favor with Frank by helping track down and trap rats but mostly his absurd plan to cheat on the Soldier of the Month exam by writing all of the answers on his body.

Upon returning from Tokyo, where he was celebrating his Soldier of the Month win, Radar calls Colonel Potter “Sherm” while intoxicated, one of the very rare instances he’s called Sherm or Sherman rather than Colonel Potter.

Speaking of Radar, this episode contains another example of his incredible appetite and ability to eat anything that the mess tent cooks up.

There was a reference to The Shadow in this episode as well as an anachronistic reference to the murder of Albert Anastasia (which took place in 1957).

Klinger calls himself Nutsy Fagin while explaining to Frank how he is not insane if he wins the Soldier of the Month contest but is insane if he doesn’t. According to Larry Gelbart in a 2003 post to the alt.tv.mash newsgroup, this is “a reference to someone who had a screw loose, who wasn’t ‘all there’.”

6 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    Lots of laughs to be had in this episode.

    During the contest:
    Hawkeye: Klinger, who was the first president of the United States and what city was he sworn in?? Please answer using seven or less of the basic ballet movements

    Zale: Why don’t you ask me the capital of Cleveland?? Go on!!

    Frank’s design of the rat trap was just so screwy…..based on the logic that a rat would turn around to see who tapped him on the shoulder. LOL

    The best moment of the entire episode – Margaret’s face when she hears Frank will her all his clothes. Fr. Mulcahy’s “Oh dear!!” reaction and side look towards Margaret was also noteworthy.

    Col. Potter asking if Radar knew how to protect himself when one was a soldier and on leave and Radar demonstrates a karate chop. Col. Potter knew right then he had nothing to worry about with his company clerk. Oh Radar!!

    I think the one unexpected moment of this episode is when Frank faints and hits his head against the side table. Both Hawkeye and BJ startle a little bit when that happens which makes me think this was not something that was in the script.

    The topic of Korean Hemorrhagic Fever is once again revisited in ‘Mr. and Mrs. Who?’ from Season 8 although there it is arguably treated with much more seriousness than it was in this episode.

  • Larry P. says:

    “He’s got writing all over him!”
    “Those are tattoos, leave me alone!”

    I love this episode. Season four was, IMO, one of M*A*S*H’s strongest seasons, and this episode isn’t a letdown. I love Frank’s delirious recounting of his will to Fr. Mulcahy.

    “I could’ve died, you know!”
    “We did our best, Frank.”

  • Probably one of my favorite Season Four episodes, like Sue pointed out, there’s a lot of laughs to be had in this episode.

    I really have to wonder though, if Frank hadn’t indisposed, and knowing how much contempt he holds for enlistedmen in general, how do you think that contest would have played out if he did give it himself, instead of Hawkeye and B.J.?

  • 5 O'Clock Charlie says:

    Ok, I gotta ask. In the exam writing part, Klinger yells out an answer. He yells Tugaraf (to ga raf or raph) and someone else (I think BJ says “He spelled it backwards”

    Was it in this episode that this took place or a different one and what the hell is the original word if tugaraf is the backwards spelling?

    Thanks!!!

    • Seoul City Sue says:

      Charlie, that answer was yelled out by Klinger in this episode. The question was “Who said ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead?” The answer to that was Farragut.

      Klinger shouted out Tugaraff which is exactly Farragut but spelled backwards.

  • 5 O'Clock Charlie says:

    SCS:

    Thanks. I guess I should have googled it because when I spelled it backwards, I got the answer you gave me (minus the misspelling) but for the life of me, I didn’t know what a “Farragut” was.

    Plus, being from Canada, I didn’t study very much American history.

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