Episode Spotlight: Big Mac


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

“Big Mac” (#69, 3Ă—21)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, February 25th, 1975
Written by Laurence Marks
Directed by Don Weis

Capsule Summary: The 4077th frantically prepares for a visit from General Douglas MacArthur.

The enduring mystery of this episode is the identity of the actor playing General MacArthur, who is not credited for his brief appearance.

The first minute or so of the episode in which Frank and Hawkeye trade barbs in the O.R. is the weakest portion of the episode, and that’s saying something because the jokes are pretty good (I particularly like Hawkeye’s line about Vivisection State Teachers’ College). It’s interesting that we never learned exactly what Hawkeye needed the book for; all we know is that it is for an orthopedic case.

Henry’s impromptu cheer “That’s North, South, East or West. We’re the M*A*S*H that is the best” (and Radar’s enthusiastic “Rah Rah!”) is hilarious. As is Henry explaining how he’ll charge more per tonse for tonsillectomies now that he’s famous.

Graham Jarvis does a fantastic job as Colonel Whiteman, explaining down to the minute how General MacArthur’s visit will unfold. I think it’s the mustache.

Klinger as the Statue of Liberty

Klinger as the Statue of Liberty

Frank’s book burning seems really out there even for Frank but the scene is saved when he accidentally touches the hot barrel and burns his hand. I wonder if that was scripted or not. At the end of the book burning scene, when Trapper and Hawkeye head into the Swamp, they suddenly go out of focus. It happens at about 13:41 into the episode. It’s very obvious. Was it an artistic choice or perhaps a mistake not noticed until it was too late to fix? The man cleaning in the background sweeping of the Swamp is in focus, however.

The scene in which Frank and Margaret check out MacArthur’s V.I.P. tent is bizarre and one I think usually cut from the episode in syndication. Whose idea was it to hang the huge picture of MacArthur? Radar?

Klinger’s incredible Statue of Liberty costume has to be one of his most memorable stunts, right up there with the big red bird with fuzzy pink feet.

40 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Big Mac”

  1. This was a gem from Season Three, the whole time everybody is frantically preparing for MacArthur’s impending visit, only for him to simply pass through camp is hilarious; a downer ending, yes, but still a hilarious one.

    And Klinger’s Lady Liberty stunt is considered by many to be his funniest moment ever from the series.

  2. McArthur solemly saluting Klinger is the best thing ever. I laugh every time. I watched the movie “McArthur” with Gregory Peck, and I can totally see that happening in real life.


  3. I think this episode did more for Jamie Farr than anything else in his career. It really opened up the Klinger character in the series from here till the end in 83.

  4. I’ve been given special permission by CID or is that CIC or even CIA that it was Robert Mitchum playing General Macarthur.

      1. No way is that Robert Mitchem. Nor is it Gregory Peck – no way on both counts, for several reasons. One is that visually, it is clearly neither one. Secondly, if anyone thinks that either of those two MEGA-stars would have an uncredited role in a TV sitcom, you have no clue as to “how the system works. It is easy to tell who it ISN’T. Having said that, I have to agree that it certainly appears to be Craig T. Nelson. Just look-up and compare photos of each.

    1. Sounds right….Robert Mitchum was drafted into the United States Army, serving at Fort MacArthur, California, as a medic.

    2. Just watched the episode today, I could swear MacArthur was played by Leslie Nielsen, but I have no idea either.

  5. Out of all their attempts to get ready for Mac’s visit, only Klinger as the Statue of Liberty seems to truly impress the famed General. Note: MacArthur did visit Korea, but it was in early 1951 during the winter-also his firing by Truman was never mentioned during the series.

    1. Note: MacArthur did visit Korea, but it was in early 1951 during the winter-also his firing by Truman was never mentioned during the series.
      Unless you count Hawkeye’s comment at one point that Truman’s footprints could be found on Mac’s backside.

      Getting back to this episode I always laugh at the “Her father was a horse” sequence.

      1. There is radio broadcast in a later episode that mentions Mark Clark as being named commander of forces in Korea and it gives a list of the other commanders who came after MacArthur

  6. Hmm… the ending (except Klinger – he was fantastic) kind of threw me. I don’t understand what the point was of the General’s aide briefing everyone about the General’s planned visit if all he did was drive by. It just seemed sort of pointless for that initial meeting taking place. I also felt sorry that the unit wasn’t appreciated in the end.

    1. Something similar happened in a nearby town when George Bush was campaigning for President. People prepared and looked forward to his visit. He was to be passing through on a train, which was to stop for him to make a speech before continuing on. Lots of people gathered with signs, eager to hear what he had to say. But the train sped right past all those waiting people

  7. Hawkeye: You touch one dirty sock, you remove one layer of crud, you kill one cockroach, Frank, and I will personally grind you into a fine powder and sprinkle you on MacArthur’s oatmeal.

    Certainly the best line from a funny episode.
    I agree that the scene in the VIP tent with Burnslihan was very weird, especially Margaret moaning MacArthur’s first name while Frank nibbled on her neck.

    1. It actually fit with her character. There wasn’t a General in the Army that couldn’t have her and he was “The General”.

  8. Wall to wall laughs in this one. Klinger’s Lady Liberty was by far his best stunt, and the salute from “Mac” is hilarious! I wonder, though, how Klinger was able to get into the costume so quickly. TV magic, I guess!

  9. Well, personally, I think it was McDonald Carey playing the part of General MacArthur. I doubt Robert Mitchum would have done it.

    1. Of the mystery for so long as to who played this role, I looked up a quite few pictures of McDonald Carey, and I completely agree with you. The chin/eyes/whole face and age at this year fits perfectly. As for it being (like others posted) Craig T. Nelson or even Tommy Lee Jones at this date and year… those ideas are absurd. And I agree that Mitchum or Peck would have at least been credited.

  10. First off, yes, megastars WOULD do a cameo like that uncredited. It’s actually kind of common. They’ll do something like this for fun without credit so that the show doesn’t have to pay them under union rules. Google it. Lots have done it. Next, no way in the world that was Craig T Nelson as McArthur. Do the math and look at the actor. Craig was only about 30 years old when that episode was filmed. This actor had loose skin under his chin. Definitely not a 30 year old. Mitchum had a very distinct cleft chin, so he’s out. Peck is still a possibility. Look at stills from “The Omen” (filmed soon after this episode) and you’ll see the similarities. He had darker hair in the omen, but its Hollywood, so I don’t put much weight on that. A possibility is it could have been Gene Reynolds, one of the producers. He would have been about the right age. That’s total speculation, though, as I didn’t find any pics of him from that period. But later, older photos of him do bear a resemblance.

  11. Also this episode marks the final series appearance of Loudon Wainwright III as “Captain Spalding,” the famed folk-singing surgeon. It’s too bad he didn’t appear in later episodes.

  12. … re the identity of who played Macarthur, they did just that.

    it was referenced in the MASH Matters blog – details are on IMDB, at review #3 under:


    An excellent episode.

    Other highlights not already mentioned include Klinger’s whole appearance before Radar (who is dressed as MacArthur in rehearsal) including kissing his corncob pipe, TJ’s reaction, the camp sign falling over just after Macarthur passed through, Hawkeye taking the camp photo and the dialogue around that, and Loudon Wainwright’s two songs.

    Interestingly, this episode also included a brief scene in the O.R. in which Spaulding appears to carry on as a doctor, operating at a table, so it looked like Spaulding was a surgeon?

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