Episode Spotlight: The Bus


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?

Screenshot featuring Mike Farrell as B.J. reenacting the famous Kilroy Was Here drawing/slogan from World War II

B.J. Was Here

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.

10 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: The Bus”

  1. The ‘Kilroy’ bit is cut out on TVLand but is visible during the shot of Hawkeye looking out the door for Radar, so if someone hasn’t seen the episode in its entirety, this bit would surely seem out of place.

  2. Hallmark Channel and TV Land played the same prints, so yeah… another interestingly bad cut like that is from “The Ringbanger” (1×16), where Henry’s trimming his hair in his tent, Frank barges in to complain, which startles him and causes him to slice his ear – the whole thing is cut, which causes for confusion later when we see Henry has a bandage of sorts around the edge of his ear for seemingly no reason.

    I like this episode too, but I just don’t really understand why this one doesn’t have a laugh track, considering it has a number of wonderful comedic moments throughout, but visually and in dialogue as well. Oh well.

    I agree, Frank was great in this episode, but you left something out of your review, RJ: when a wounded Chinese (or North Korean) soldier finds their bus and surrenders to them, and Frank volunteers to stand guard over him, waving his rifle around, and talking a good game, trying to sound all intimidating, with very little effect (hey, the prisoner even fell asleep during his monologue, lol).

  3. If you watch the episodes on MyTV (or in some places called MeTv) – you will see that much less is cut from the episodes. They are more fun, as you do see the Kilroy scene and also the Henry shaving scene, to name two.

    The toilets coming to attention is straight out of “Make Room for Sergeants” which is an old Andy Griffith movie, and the one that Gomer Pyle was based on. Andy is the “Gomer” who is excited about latrine duty, and rigs the toilets to come to inspection in honor of an inspection from a visiting dignitary.

    And last but not least, Frank on the broken radio telling their position by the plane being directly overhead, in the hopes of both maybe being heard, and scaring the prisoner, is really a little scary if you think of his frame of mind, and paranoia he must have been feeling, to do such a thing.

  4. “Just who was in charge with so many high-ranking personnel away from camp?”

    Margaret was technically next in line since she was the only officer of command rank in the camp. But women were rarely, if ever, given command of front line units. Next in line would be the commissioned officer with OD duty …but here we have another inaccuracy in MASH – Hawkeye and Trapper/BJ are the only commissioned officers we ever see not of command rank. In actuality a MASH would have a half dozen or more command rank officers, and they would NEVER all be absent at once.

  5. I love how borderline ungrateful Hawkeye and BJ are when Frank gives them chocolate. I would have just taken it back, be like ” Oh sorry I didn’t share my food that you are in no way entitled to sooner! Go ahead and starve”

  6. Soon-Teck Oh surrenders to Hawk and Bj in this episode, AND another time later in the series. Worst Chinese solider ever haha.

    Would have been funny if they had “recognised” him the second time he surrendered to them.

  7. One of the 4 funniest epsiodes of MASH 4077 {The Novacaine Mutiny and the Fred Dobbs one ,plus A Smattering of Intelligence of course what made them funny is Larry Linville as the dope} Particially hilarious is Burns going hysterical screaming about how “China was lost” and when Burns thinks he talking to North Koreans {Of course when Linville left -rightly so-he realized hed taken the Burns character as far as he could…} The show got boringly serious and unfunny

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