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.
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.