Episode Spotlight: Lil

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

“Lil” (#147, 7×03)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, October 2nd, 1978
Written by Sheldon Bull
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: Radar starts to worry when Colonel Potter takes an interest in a visiting female colonel. Meanwhile, Hawkeye becomes obsessed with learning what B.J.’s initials stand for. And Margaret thinks about her future in the Army.

This episode features three distinct plotlines, two of which involve the title character. The A story is the friendship (and almost more) between Colonel Potter and Colonel Lillian Rayburn. The B story is Hawkeye trying to get B.J. to reveal the meaning of his name. Finally, there’s a minor C story about Margaret.

Am I the only one who thinks Radar should mind his own business? I suppose some may call it sweet how Radar is so protective of Colonel Potter. But Sherman Potter is no Henry Blake. Out of everyone at the 4077th, Radar should know there’s no way Potter will cheat on his wife. Hawkeye hit the nail on the head: Colonel Potter just wants to talk to someone his own age.

Also, why does Radar get suspicious so quickly? Colonel Potter volunteering to show Colonel Rayburn around the 4077th doesn’t seem all that unusual. Maybe Radar’s “radar” picked up on something. I do feel a little bad for him. His suspicions are seemingly confirmed by Margaret and Klinger but, in my opinion, the two are joking with Radar, swapping innuendo and suggestions that only make him more concerned.

Hawkeye’s obsession with learning what B.J. stands for is hilarious. The scene in Colonel Potter’s office when Hawkeye’s interest is piqued is well done. Hawkeye and B.J. have a conversation about B.J.’s name in the background while Colonels Potter and Rayburn talk in the foreground. Viewers watching this episode back in 1978 didn’t have the option of rewinding the scene to catch both conversations.

Blink and you’ll miss Margaret’s C story. It consists of a brief conversation between Margaret and Rayburn plus an even briefer followup in the Officers’ Club. At first, Margaret just seems (over)eager to please her superior during an inspection. Only later is it clear Margaret sees herself in Colonel Rayburn and she wants to know whether the older woman worries about being alone. Rayburn reassures Margaret and Margaret, in turn, tries to pass on that reassurance to Klinger.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Lil showing Colonel Potter and Lil.
Colonel Potter realizes Lil is interested in more than friendship.

Anyone know what the machine Charles asks Father Mulchay to move does? Blood transfusion? Oxygen?

This episode takes place around September 10th. Klinger mentions the date while talking to Margaret in the Officers’ Club.

Jennifer Davis has a line of dialogue in the opening scene but is uncredited. Whoever plays Colonel Rayburn’s driver also has a line of dialogue and also isn’t credited.

Hawkeye makes two guesses about B.J.’s name. Which is better? Belvedere Jehoshaphat or Benito Juarez? I wonder if scriptwriter Sheldon Bull came up with additional guesses that didn’t get used.

Radar yells at the unseen voice on the PA system. It may be the only interaction between one of the characters and the mysterious announcer–this episode, Sal Viscuso.

8 Comments

  • BDOR says:

    Radar has been known to see both Colonels as his father figures, but I think this episode serves as evidence that he eventually grew closer to Potter than he did Henry. In “Henry in Love,” Radar kind of looks the other way regarding Henry being in love with Nancy Sue Parker – and in fact, pretty much Henry’s affair with Leslie Scorch throughout the first season as well – though he did patch through that call to Lorraine to remind Henry who is real love was. In “Lil,” however, Radar is not only so furious over the idea of Potter possibly cheating on Mildred, but he also takes it personally, like perhaps a kid would if he found out his father had been cheating on his mother and is now wanting a divorce. Some suggest that Potter became Radar’s truer father figure, and Henry was more like an older brother.

    Either way, I like this one. RJ, you forgot to mention that B.J. eventually tells (or rather, suggests) that his initial come from his mother Bea Hunnicutt and his father Jay Hunnicutt. One of my favorite moments is when B.J. is telling Hawkeye about his favorite people, all of whom also have initials for names (like W.C. Fields, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, et al). Hawkeye’s guess of Belvedere Jehoshaphat is so funny because it’s so random and out-there, and B.J. just humorous responds, “Got it! First try!”

    • Jon says:

      I’ve read that BJ was named for M*A*S*H Director of Photography William “Bill” Jurgensen, aka “BJ” to those on set.

      • BDOR says:

        Yup, the writers had a tendancy to name characters after people they knew in real life – Ken Levine was especially notorious for this, such two of Radar’s love interests (Linda Nugent in “Hot Lips is Back in Town” and Patty Haven in “Good-bye, Radar”) being named after ex girlfriends of his. Sherman Potter was supposedly named after an old doctor of Larry Gelbart’s. Some have even speculated that the name Adam’s Ribs came from Gelbart’s son Adam, but I’m certain it was a nod to the Book of Genesis in that God created Eve by taking one of . . . Adam’s ribs.

    • RJ says:

      Personally, I think B.J. was joking about being named after his parents Bea and Jay.

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    The conversation between Margaret and Lil piques my interest, especially Margaret’s remark about her marriage, “I was, but he wasn’t”. I don’t think that makes any sense at all. Can someone clarify it in any way?

    • RJ says:

      I took it to mean Margaret feels she was married (and faithful) but her husband never thought of himself as a married man.

    • TWoods says:

      I agree, RJ….that the commitment was there from Margaret, but it wasn’t there much at all from Donald.

  • mspence says:

    How could B.J. not tell the Army his full name?

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