Episode Spotlight: April Fools


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

“April Fools” (#194, 8×25)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, March 24th, 1980
Written by Dennis Koenig
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Colonel Potter bans pranks when a strict general announces he’s heading to the 4077th for an inspection.

Practical jokes played a pretty big role in M*A*S*H over the years (“Major Fred C. Dobbs,” “Dear Sigmund,” “An Eye for a Tooth”) and this was the first of two episodes to focus entirely on practical jokes, the other being “The Joker is Wild” from Season 11. I’m not one is necessarily better than the other but, unless I’m mistaken, “April Fools” does have the distinction of including the very last time Klinger wore a dress in an attempt to get out of the Army. And it was an impressive one.

Although removing Margaret’s tent from its frame was perhaps the most impressive prank pulled during the episode, I think old Snake-in-the-Can gag was the most amusing if only because Charles was so disappointed not to actually have any pralines. As for the big finale, I’m not sure dumping a bucket of beer on someone actually counts as a practical joke.

This episode also includes a rare scene in the Swamp in which the camera is behind the Still, providing a very unusual angle of the Swamp. It’s when Klinger arrives to wake up the doctors. It actually took me a few seconds to orient myself because I’m so used to the camera being pointed right at the door.

The Great 4077th Pillow Fight

The Great 4077th Pillow Fight

During the meeting in Colonel Potter’s office, notice how Hawkeye and Margaret are looking at each other in the background while Potter is talking. Margaret had pulled a practical joke on Hawkeye and obviously Hawkeye wasn’t happy about it. I wonder if that was scripted or if the two were so used to their characters that it just happened naturally.

Pat Hingle does a fantastic job as Colonel Daniel Webster Tucker, particularly in the final scene when the prank is revealed. Potter at times almost goes over the top with his yelling and Potter-isms but Harry Morgan always manages to keep it just real enough to be believable. The line “Good heavens Margaret, where in the name of Carrie’s Corset is your tent?” has always confused me because I have no idea what “Carrie’s Corset” is referring to. Any thoughts?

Rizzo has a big scene in this episode. His take on the Army is certainly unique. I don’t think it would have impressed Klinger as much as it apparently did but the plot needed to move in that direction so that’s what happened.

24 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: April Fools”

  1. This is my favorite episode. I think this because I will never forget how I felt when I watched this episode for the 1st time. I was fooled just as much as Hawk, BJ, Margaret and Charles were. Excellent job of creative thinking and writing here!!

  2. Harry Morgan’s delivery of the whole “Carrie’s Corset” line makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it.

    This is one of the more flat-out comedy segments of the later seasons. A fun little show with a great performance by the awesome Pat Hingle.

  3. I really like this one. Definitely one of the more comedic episodes of the last few seasons. I was certainly wondering “how will they get out of this one?” the first time I saw this episode years ago.

    Obviously it’s a moot point at the end of the ep, but it’s kinda interesting to note that in earlier seasons when they got into this kind of trouble, Hawkeye and Trapper would simply impress the higher ranking officer with their surgical skills so much that they’d automatically be out of trouble. Good thing it was all a prank this time around, because I don’t that would have worked in this case!

  4. Pat Hingle is such a good actor – that he makes you intensely dislike him all during this episode -and then you like him when you get the joke. Klinger thinking he is really getting out is great, and the Cleopatra outfit… priceless!

    I looked up Carrie’s Corset, and the only thing it says about it anywhere on the internet, is that Colonel Potter says it in this episode.

  5. I have to echo what Chuckles says above (“I will never forget how I felt when I watched this episode for the 1st time”), because yep, I was completely fooled too, on that night in 1980. I was certain Hawkeye, etc., were in BIG trouble and I couldn’t see any way they were going to get out of it. Remember when TV used to be spoiler-free?

    Love everything about this episode.

  6. This episode contains what is my hands-down absolute favorite of BJ’s many puns from the entire series. When Margaret asks where her missing tent is, BJ responds: “We gave it to a dog. Now it’s a pup tent.”

  7. This was a hilarious episode with the prank war between Margaret and the denizens of the Swamp. Potter’s reaction to pranking the lot of them, however, seemed over the top.

  8. I like this episode but my biggest problem with the practical joke-centric episodes in the latter half of the series is how mean spirited some of the joking could be. Compare “April Fools”, “The Joker Is Wild” and -especially- “An Eye For A Tooth” with, say, “Dear Sigmund”.

  9. I agree that the later series practical joking got out of hand in “The Joker Is Wild” and “An Eye for a Tooth”. But “April Fools” seems pretty good natured. Sure, they’re terrified for a while, but at the end the only thing really bad that happened to anyone is getting soaked with beer. One of the best episodes in the series.

    Still not sure why Toby Hill didn’t pressure Margaret and the doctors into buying him a new dummy in “An Eye for a Tooth”.

    1. As I explained in a comment added with that episode’s review, there was an un-filmed Tag scene in “An Eye for a Tooth” which I didn’t know about until I recently bought a copy of the script from eBay. In the original script, Mulcahy’s last scene arriving back at camp after going on the helicopter ride, which is the episode Tag as filmed, was at the end of Act 2. In the original script’s Tag, Hawkeye, B.J. & Margaret present Capt. Hill with a dummy that is supposed to look just like Winchester, and they call it “Little Winch”. Capt. Hill has the last line in the script, “Now there’s a dummy!”, and I imagine the Tag’s freeze-frame would’ve been on the dummy.

      1. Little Winch might have been intended as a reference to another famous dummy, Jerry Mahoney who would always refer to Paul Winchell as Winch.

  10. The dumping of the beer at the end wasn’t, in my opinion, a practical joke. It was an act of revenge by four people who considered their military service was over …not in a good way.

    “Carrie’s corset” is merely alliterative humor to play on “Colonel Cowpie”‘s rustic background. The writers went overboard with this, seemingly intent on creating a new colorful phrase each episode …when in reality people tend to have a few such phrases they use repeatedly (and of course in the early seventies network TV wouldn’t allow a realistic “what the damn hell is going on here!”).

    1. Carrie Natin was a member of the Temperance movement who refused to wear a corset and spoke out against them because they damaged vital organs.

    2. Carrie’s Corset may refer to a woman named Carrie Nation who lived from 1846 through 1911 and told women not to wear corsets as they we’re harmful to them and their health. Agree with those who were really Worried about Hawkeye, Margaret, Winchester , and BJ really being in trouble that time when I first saw the episode. When Colonel Tucker said ” Just one thing…..April Fools” I was like ” What?” Funny that they were all joking the whole time and just didn’t realize Colonel Tucker was also pulling a joke on them

  11. This episode made laugh hysterically for a couple of minutes. The look on Pat Hingles face when he informed Hawkeye that this was all An April Fool was priceless. This man’s eyes were bulging out of his head as I went merrily along with the gag. I was briefly confused just like Hawkeye was. Once I figured out this was all an elaborate prank I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop..pure comedic genius.

  12. This episode is actually really good IMO, which was a rare treat for episodes in the later seasons.

    I love the Charles we see in episodes like this, or in episodes like Morale Victory, compared to super pompous, egotistical, I want out of this cesspool Charles that we see a lot of the time. Here he’s basically just one of the boys, and it make’s the episode so much more enjoyable for me. Margaret also is not her typical huge angry beyotch, giving us another one of the rare instances where she can be a really good character.

    Radar would have been great to have around in this episode too.

  13. I gave this as my favorite S8 episode mainly because I was as fooled as a lot of the audience on its original 3/24/80 air-date as some others here have commented. I at times would like instead to give this honor to “Morale Victory” for Winchester’s great subplot with the pianist who lost the use of his hand..

    Father Mulcahy has only 1 scene in this entire episode, and he’s not his typical cheerful self. He walks into Potter’s office in a type of dress, which had been substituted for his robe while he was showering, and wanted to read the responsible prankster his rights “…and a few lefts too!”. His last line, as he walks out of Potter’s office, responding to a wolf-whistle outside Potter’s tent, was “Oh, shut up!”.

    1. Actually, Father Mulcahy is responding to Klinger’s “defrocked priest” crack. “Klinger, how would you like Last Rites… and a couple of lefts???” (By the by, he’s holding up his *right* fist when he says that!)

  14. I watched this episode this evening. This one is one of my favorites for three reasons:
    1. Mulcahy’s one scene where he’s got his Irish dander up and wearing the bathrobe or housecoat thingy, and all the girls wolf-whistle at him, COMPLETELY out of the norm for him to get the attention of the ladies and not Hawkeye. “Klinger, how’d you like your last rites…and a few lefts?”, and “Oh, SHUT UP!!!” were two of William Christopher’s best lines in the entire series, IMO.
    2. Klinger in his Cleopatra get up. Since I’m a history buff, I just had an idea come to me just now: instead of Tucker stumbling upon him in the office, he should have gotten into the costume, rolled himself in a rug, and had himself delivered to the VIP tent. When the colonel unrolled it, he would grin goofily say, “Well, Caesar, Baby, I’m yours!”
    3. I loved the ending where Potter and Tucker reveal the whole thing was thier own practical joke. Hawkeye and B.J. were dethrone from their places as the Pranking Kings of the 077th!

    1. That line by Father Mulcahy contains one of my favorite goofs. “How would you like last rites, and a couple of lefts??” But he shakes his RIGHT fist!

      1. Funny goof! I never saw it before. I’ll have to look for it next time I see the episode! Thanks, Buckeyebrain!

  15. I always assumed “Carrie’s corset” was another colorful Potter alliteration. I always assumed the Carrie he referred to was Carrie Nation, the mother of the 18th Amendment (making alcohol illegal.) I assumed that because, like Colonel Potter, she was a Missourian.

  16. This episode shows how off the rails the show was by season 8. Margaret deliberately disobeying an order and going up against an officer of superior rank? That just goes to show how little the writers at that time understood these characters. I always say that Loretta Swit played two different characters on MASH: Hot Lips and then Maaaaargret.

    The pracitcal jokes episode Dear Sigmund is much, much better. Probably the best Alda episode of theseries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.