Episode Spotlight: Rumor at the Top


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

“Rumor at the Top” (#217, 10×03)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, November 9th, 1981
Written by David Pollock & Elias Davis
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: When a rumor starts circulating that a new M*A*S*H unit is being put together, members of the 4077th react in a variety of ways.

Here’s another late series episode strongly reminiscent of episodes from the first three seasons. In this case, that’s because the plot of “Rumor at the Top” is very similar to the Season Two premiere, “Divided We Stand.” The big difference is that while breaking up the 4077th was a very real possibility in “Divided We Stand,” it was always just a rumor in “Rumor at the Top.”

Although overall the episode is an enjoyable one, there a few things that just don’t work for me. First and foremost, why was everyone so quick to jump to the conclusion that Major Burnum was being sent by good ole General Torgy Porgy to poach the best and brightest from the 4077th for a new MASH unit?

Klinger, proselytizer of Sh-boom

Klinger, proselytizer of Sh-boom

I can buy that poor, paranoid Klinger thought that was the only logical explanation for the visit and the classified supply freeze. And maybe Hawkeye and Margaret, too, who both had a history of hysterical reactions. But B.J.? He made a lot of sense when he told Hawkeye not to listen to Klinger. We never really saw him starting to believe, actually, he seemed more upset about Hawkeye assuming he’d be picked for chief surgeon at the new MASH. And Father Mulcahy?

Furthermore, why didn’t anyone think to just ask Colonel Potter what was going on? Hawkeye especially should have known that Potter would likely have been informed, given that Colonel Blake had known what was going on in “Divided We Stand.”

The really unbelievable part of the episode is Margaret’s plan to keep Colonel Potter from being shifted to the new MASH. How could she possibly think that convincing Major Burnum, and by extension General Torgeson, that Potter was senile and/or demented was a good idea? Sure, it might mean he wouldn’t be transferred to the new MASH. But it certainly would mean he’d be transferred away from the 4077th and out of command. He’d probably be discharged from the army, too.

Poor Charles. His misinformed and futile attempts to charm Major Burnum were great, as were his reactions to Margaret’s comments about Pottter and Klinger’s attack on Burnum’s spam.

Hawkeye and B.J.’s scheme using Igor and Goldman was classic M*A*S*H tomfoolery. I loved Igor’s explanation for losing the patient:

Igor: “It’s too late, Captains. We lost him.”
Hawkeye: “The patient is dead?”
Igor: “No, we just don’t know where he is.”
B.J.: “How could you lose a patient between pre-op and O.R.?
Igor: “We tried a shortcut.”

Klinger reverting back to pulling a crazy stunt worked pretty well. I liked that Margaret was able to react quickly enough to use it to her advantage by suggesting Colonel Potter had been converted. Earlier in the episode, he makes a joke about purchasing matching pumps to go with surgical gowns. He may not have been wearing dresses by Season 10, but years of doing so had certainly left him with his own special kind of humor.

10 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Rumor at the Top”

  1. I agree, the people at M*A*S*H started to believe in that rumor too quickly. But they reacted in funny ways and it makes the episode a nice one. I only don’t like the way Fr. Mulcahy made Col. Potter paint his portrait. And the Colonel believed it, not asking many questions.
    And there’s another thing: What about the other personnel? We only see the main characters believe there’s going to be a new M*A*S*H and reacting hysterically. Gossip always spreads, so everybody should have known it.

  2. ha ha I’m so watching this one right now!!!!!! Its SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO what the military does tho ha ha !!! Love the photo having seen this one yet floating around the internet!

  3. Just watching it in Australia right now, and one of those little set dressing pieces jumped out at me. When Charles was questioning Margaret about Torgesen there’s a photo of somebody in surgical gear behind her left shoulder. It’s not clear but looks a bit to me like Henry Blake. Anybody able to get a better look? And I agree that Igor’s line about the shortcut is a stone cold MASH classic!

  4. I like this episode, but it does seem like they were trying a little too hard to recapture the ‘zaniness’ of the show’s early days.

  5. A much needed light episode for the later seasons. Some great lines in this one. “Tell me about Montana, does it have City?” and “next time I’ll order a Manhattan” .Winchester’s reaction when he finds out the true purpose of Burnhams is priceless.

    1. I think they might actually be foreshadowing the next scene where they’re eating the dog. It’s a joke after the fact I guess.

  6. Is this supposed to be the same character “Ol Throw Rug” who was throwing HotLips a party as she called Potter about her engagement to Panobscott?

    1. That was General Tumwater who Potter referred to as “Old Throw Rug” when Margaret called about her big news which was anything but earth-shattering.

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