Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“The Bus” (#78, 5×06)
Originally Broadcast: Friday, November 9th, 1981
Written by John D. Hess
Directed by Gene Reynolds
Capsule Summary: Returning from a medical conference, Hawkeye, B.J., Colonel Potter, Frank and Radar find themselves stranded in the woods when their bus breaks down.
When this episode number came up randomly as the next episode to be spotlighted, I admit to being less than enthusiastic about rewatching it. For some reason, I remembered it as a rather boring episode. Yet after watching it again I discovered it was a great episode, one I really enjoyed.
“The Bus” is one of only a handful of episodes not to feature the laugh track at all. It also did not feature any scenes at the 4077th. Margaret, Klinger and Father Mulcahy do not appear in the episode. Presumably they were furiously running around trying to keep the 4077th operational without its surgeons, commanding officer or second in command. Just who was in charge with so many high-ranking personnel away from camp?
Radar and B.J. don’t have all that much to do in this episode, particularly because Radar disappears for a good portion of it. But Frank certainly shines throughout the episode in his sweaty, paranoid, borderline delusional way. Which only got worse after he was shocked while tinkering with the engine. I wonder why none of the other doctors mentioned that later when he was acting even more unusual than usual.
My very favorite moment from this episode is when B.J. is sticking his nose and fingers out of the bus window, emulating the famous “Kilroy Was Here” drawing from World War II. Hawkeye takes notice and writes KILROY in the dust on the window, which can be seen intermittently throughout the remainder of the episode. I do not believe it is ever seen from the inside of the bus, perhaps because all those scenes were filmed separately from all the scenes taking place outside the bus.
B.J. mentions having spent a week with Frank in command. That would have been prior to Colonel Potter’s arrival. He states that Frank rigged the toilet seats to rise to attention, which Frank insists was only for inspection.
Radar is said to have once sold tickets to the hole in the nurses’ shower, only to be ratted out by Frank. That sounds more like something Season One Radar would have done rather than Season Four Radar.
Frank’s chocolate bars don’t appear to have UPCs on them, which is accurate because UPCs weren’t introduced until 1974.