Episode Spotlight: Officer of the Day

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

“Officer of the Day” (#51, 3×03)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, September 24th, 1974
Written by Laurence Marks
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye is Officer of the Day, meaning he’s in charge of dealing with Colonel Flagg, helping local indigenous personnel, keeping Klinger from going AWOL, and solving the case of Radar’s missing teddy bear.

This isn’t the first episode of M*A*S*H in which one of the characters has Officer of the Day duty (Margaret was O.D. in “To Market, To Market” during Season 1) but it is the only episode in which the Officer of the Day is the primary focus. Unless he’s joking when he asks Radar what the Officer of the Day does, Hawkeye has never been O.D before. Given the show’s dubious timeline, it’s hard to say how long Hawkeye had been in Korea when Frank ordered him to put on the O.D. armband.

However, there are only a handful of officers at the 4077th; it’s hard to believe Hawkeye hadn’t been O.D. before. We learn in “Tuttle” that Frank enjoys volunteering for Officer of the Day duty. Maybe the only reason Hawkeye is chosen for O.D. is because Frank is temporarily in command and can’t serve as O.D. himself.

(Later episodes that reference an Officer of the Day include “The Winchester Tapes” in Season 6 and “A Night at Rosie’s” in Season 7.)

Edward Winter makes his third of seven appearances on M*A*S*H in “Officer of the Day” and isn’t given much to do. Perhaps if five minutes of the episode weren’t devoted to Frank’s review of the troops, more time could be devoted to Flagg sparing with Hawkeye and Trapper. Flagg isn’t a total buffoon like he was in “A Smattering of Intelligence” in Season 2. But his single-minded cruelty is exaggerated, particularly when he draws his pistol in the Mess Tent. And yet Margaret eats it up. Watch closely and you’ll see her smiling when Flagg brandishes his sidearm.

The most notable aspect of the episode has to be Hawkeye’s famous speech about not carrying a gun:

Hawkeye: “I will not carry a gun, Frank. When I got into this war, I had a very clear understanding with the Pentagon. No guns.”
Frank: “Hmm!”
Hawkeye: “I’ll carry your books, I’ll carry a torch, I’ll carry a tune, I’ll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I’ll even “hari-kari” if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!”

I’m always surprised how easily Frank gives in by allowing Hawkeye to walk around with an empty holster. Speaking of Frank, what are the odds so many South Korean locals came to the 4077th seeking medical attention (as Kim Luc) while Hawkeye was O.D. because they knew Frank wasn’t in charge?

Trapper’s horizontal pinstripe suit is a hoot, the thieving sons of his tailor Sang Yu aren’t nearly as amusing.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Officer of the Day showing Hawkeye, Trapper, and Radar
Trapper shows off his new suit.

The picture quality at the start of the episode is uneven. The wide shots of the camp gathered at attention are dark and grainy while the closeup shots of Radar and his bugle, Frank and Margaret, and Igor with the cannon are clean and crisp.

When Hawkeye leaves the Swamp after talking with Trapper about Flagg, he snatches a baseball out of the air and tosses it to a soldier wearing a glove. Was this scripted or did Alan Alda improvise?

Radar talks about an older brother in this episode. He later references a little brother who died in “The Price of Tomato Juice” in Season 4. And in at least two episodes, he mentions having a sister. But most of the time, he’s an only child.

Why is there a cot in Henry’s office? Is Frank so paranoid that he sometimes sleeps in the C.O.’s office when he’s temporarily in command?

Roy Goldman, Kellye Nakahara, and Gwen Farrell are among the extras seen in formation during Frank’s inspection.

Richard Lee Sung and Jerry Fujikawa make their first appearances on M*A*S*H in this episode. The actress who shows up as the third “Kim Luc” is uncredited despite having a line of dialogue.

McLean Stevenson and William Christopher don’t appear in this episode.

8 Comments

  • 007 says:

    Carry me back to old Virginia! That always made me laugh.

    Another great episode from the best season of the show. Not much else to say that RJ didn’t cover already. This is M*A*S*H at it’s finest.

  • Lt Radar says:

    This is definitely one of my favourite episodes. The interactions between Hawkeye and Radar were a hoot. It was slightly awkward that Hawkeye would not give Radar his privacy to prepare for bed. I’m not quite sure what to make it other than highlighting Radar’s youthful innocence.But a memorable funny scene nonetheless.

  • BDOR says:

    This was a really good episode, and another example of how Season 3 was perhaps the first really good, solid season of M*A*S*H. I agree with how much I hate that smug smile Margaret has when Flagg draws his gun on Hawkeye and Trapper (but notice she has an even smugger smile when Frank is dressing down Igor in “Change of Command,” as if she’s thinking, “You tell ‘im, Frank!”). And yes, the pin stripe suit is hilarious! “He’s a great tailor, but with a lousy sense of direction!”

    Another favorite moment of mine from this episode is when Richard Sung Lee is brought in as a Kim Luck, and Hawkeye asks him to identify himself: “This is me!”

    William Christopher isn’t in this episode because he wasn’t a regular yet.

    And here’s something else about this episode: Jamie Farr said that he and Alan Alda had a hard time getting through the scene where Hawkeye walks into the office and finds Klinger dressed as a nun because Alan kept laughing so much . . . then once he finally pulled himself together, Jamie started laughing, and it took them several takes to get through it. There’s also another blooper reel of Gary Burghoff having trouble taking off his pants in front of Alan.

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    In addition to all the great comments already made about this episode, I would add the ‘changing of the guard’ scene as it never fails to crack me up. (quoting from memory, so I apologize if the dialog is not 100% correct).

    Radar to Hawkeye: ‘the guard needs to be changed sir”
    Hawkeye “well, change’em and get’em outta here”
    Radar: “they need to know the password”
    Hawkeye “what was yesterday’s ?”
    Radar: “betty boop”
    Hawkeye: “I like it, its got sex”

    Parting words of Hawkeye to the guards:
    “Be brave, be loyal, be true, but keep your white flags handy just in case”

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    Another thing notable about this episode, it gets referenced far later into the series. Hawkeye tells Charles about Flagg bringing a wounded prisoner to be patched up before he executes him, to show Charles Flagg’s character and why he dislikes Flagg.

    • 007 says:

      Love when later episodes reference previous ones. Brings continuity. Especially when past characters are brought up, such as Trapper, Blake, or Burns.

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