Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“Commander Pierce” (#145, 7×01)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, September 18th, 1978
Teleplay by Ronny Graham
Story by Ronny Graham and Don Segall
Directed by Burt Metcalfe
Capsule Summary: Hawkeye is left in temporary command of the 4077th and the pressures of command soon begin to get to him.
This isn’t a particularly memorable episode. It kicked off Season Seven with a bit of flare by introducing B.J.’s mustache (more on that later) but the storyline is relatively ho-hum. Colonel Potter drunk is always worth a few chuckles. Charles being sick fell flat, though. It was a necessary plot point in order to force Hawkeye to become acting C.O. but otherwise it didn’t really go anywhere.
I did like Klinger trying to get a discharge from Hawkeye the second he became temporary C.O., reminiscent of how he introduced himself to Colonel Potter in “Change of Command.” Potter taking the key to the liquor cabinet was a nice touch, too.
The focus of the episode was the obvious clash between Hawkeye’s complete lack of interest in all things command and the realities of being in command. As a doctor and chief surgeon, Hawkeye was certainly used to making split second, life or death decisions. He wasn’t used to duty rosters, reports or piles of paperwork. Or was he? He was officer of the day in “Officer of the Day” during Season Three, and that meant he was basically in charge of the 4077th although Frank was actually temporarily commanding officer.
Margaret telling Hawkeye “it’s not easy to play the clown when you have to run the circus” was fitting and a nice moment between the two. The fight between Hawkeye and B.J. felt forced and unrealistic.
As the fourth episode produced for Season Seven but the first aired, “Commander Pierce” offers a rare continuity error for M*A*S*H. B.J.’s mustache is on full display in this episode but he then grows it in “Peace On Us,” the next episode to be broadcast but the first produced. The mustache can be seen in a new show of B.J. inserted into the opening credits.
I can’t identify the book Potter is seen holding at the start of the episode. It looks like the title ends with “-ADERS.”