Episode Spotlight: Snap Judgement


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

“Snap Judgement” (#221, 10×07)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 7th, 1981
Written by Paul Perlove
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: A rash of thefts has left the 4077th — and the military — on edge. While attempting to recover a new camera sent to Hawkeye and B.J. and then promptly stolen, Klinger finds himself charged with stealing it himself. To be continued…

There’s really only one story line in this episode, one that ties almost all the characters together via plot points branching off from that main story line. Everything ties back to the camera, sent to the chief surgeon of the 4077th by the grateful father of a wounded soldier treated there.

Among the many plot points are Hawkeye and B.J. fighting over the camera, Charles insisting he knows everything about cameras, Margaret wanting to use the camera for a group shot of the 4077th, Colonel Potter deciding the theft of the camera is the last straw and ordering tighter security for the 4077th, and of course the theft of the camera and Klinger’s attempt to find it.

Of these threads, the only one of real consequence is Klinger’s. The petty argument between Hawkeye and B.J. was embarrassing to watch. Charles would, of course, claim to be more knowledgeable about something than his Swampmates (even if ultimately he isn’t). Margaret was known to become bizarrely obsessed with projects and lash out when they didn’t go her way. And Colonel Potter raising his voice in anger was also fairly common.

Father Mulcahy is the only character not to really interact much with the camera. He was involved in “white washing” Klinger to Captain Triplett, however.

Winchester posing for the camera, grinning

Ready For Your Close-up, Dr. Winchester?

Trying to tie all of the characters to the camera was a mistake. There should have been at least one additional story line involving at least Margaret and Father Mulcahy, and potentially Charles as well, leaving the camera story line to Klinger, Hawkeye, B.J. and Colonel Potter.

Hawkeye and B.J. becoming so attached to their camera that they would get so angry at Klinger rings false. Once Klinger got involved in trying to find the camera, the episode picked up somewhat. I found the idea of Little Chicago interesting.

Unfortunately, things went downhill when the two MPs and their completely unbelievable and not at all amusing stupidity and ineptitude were introduced. The evidence that Klinger was innocent of stealing the camera was so obvious. The episode had to go to great lengths, both absurd and implausible, to craft a sequence of events that would end the episode with Klinger in great peril.

Had there been some question as to whether Klinger was innocent, perhaps this episode would have worked. Instead, it feels like five minutes of set up for part two, with an awful lot of padding for length.

The camera in question appears to be a Polaroid Land Model 95, which was introduced in 1948.

19 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Snap Judgement”

  1. It is just not worthy of the show. Charles thinking he could be the attorney is just ridiculous, and something I don’t think Charles would actually do. He would be more apathetic, like he was when he recited what HE would do with a young woman, and not knowing at all what Radar would do.

    It is a very forced episode, and I’m surprised the actors didn’t rebel and run for their lives. It is very much the same tone as the Time Capsule, another forced episode.

  2. Definitely not a favorite (either part). It all stems from the fact that, as you say RJ, it’s pretty obvious from the evidence that Klinger is innocent. Everything after that is increasingly implausible, and everyone’s attempt to “whitewash” Klinger is, IMO, more cringeworthy than anything (“There’s no telling how many lives you saved with this, Klinger!” “Well, thanks to Klinger, my day is now free.” – give me a break).

    The germ of the plot is good, but the execution is weak, and making this a two-parter just wasn’t a good idea at all. This could have worked as a breezy single episode, maybe, but stretching it to two episodes just doesn’t come off successfully.

  3. yes I agree it could have been done as 1 part very easily. That being said, this 2-part episode is-like the above poster said-rather silly and not among the best; since it’s in season 10 I think the writers were starting to run out of ideas.

    ME TV just showed this the other night.

  4. This episode could have been done in one part I agree, and I agree with the behavior of the MPs. I took it as there was pressure from above to take down the theft ring so they basically went after the first guy they could find, and it happened to be Klinger. Not one of the better episodes of the series.

    One thing that makes this episode memorable for me is Peter Jurasik, who was Captain Triplett, went on to be Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari on Babylon 5.

  5. I always get stuck on the topic of film for the camera. Did the patient’s father send Hawkeye a bunch of containers of blank film for the camera? And what did the thieves of Little Chicago think they were going to do with this very unique camera? I’m sure Polaroid film was as rare in Korea then as it is in the states in the digital age.

  6. The episode is forced and unrealistic… the biggest flaw is Rosie spouting off about Klinger and looking for “Little Chicago” in front of two Captains, the Commanding Officer, and a total stranger. Especially after she was so adamant that little Chicago be kept a secret, and refused to even mention it unless she was paid. And right before the end of the first half, so the show was over! But they tacked on a dumb and humiliating court-martial to make a second episode.

    1. If one were to stretch a point of Carma, Rosie’s bigmouth moment could be payback for all the contrived moments where Clinger opens his big mouth at the perfectly wrong time.

  7. I have a Polaroid Land Model 95 camera that my father left me when he passed away. I’ve often wondered if I could still find film for it.

    As for the one thread, I always liked the episodes that tie everything and everyone together. It feels like an actual community, with characters reacting to one another rather than to disjointed situations,

    Having said that, I also love the composite episodes, such as the episodes revolving around a character writing a letter.

    1. I agree, I like the episodes the tie everything and everyone together too.

      I just really like M*A*S*H, I find it very hard to find anything to criticize.
      Maybe it’s because I’m still on my first time through the series?

  8. what was the latin phrase the young attorney used when questioning Klinger that Klinger thought was “racial pesi-cola?”

      1. In civilian law, at least, it’s a way to prove negligence in certain types of tort (civil liability) actions. It doesn’t have any pertinence to criminal cases.

  9. This episode was so pointless. Unlike previous “crimes” and court martials, we know Klinger is innocent. Jamie Farr has said he pushed for serious stories so here we have one. It didn’t hold up because it was all a big misunderstanding with glaring evidence showing Klinger didn’t do it. The audience had to have known how it would turn out because the show was never going to send Klinger to jail. I’m not sure why they made it a two parter other than maybe it airing right before Christmas so they wanted to draw in more viewers before the holiday break reruns.

    Jamie Farr just didn’t have the acting chops to pull off a story like this. There’s a reason why they always cast him in comic roles. He’s just not sincere enough to do drama and it showed here. He kept smiling and acting silly when he was supposed to be acting serious. “Hey I might wind up doing 6 months hard labor,” he says with a big grin. His demeanor didn’t change from when he thought he would go to jail or beat the rap. He didn’t convey the severity of the situation and just kept hamming it up making silent film style faces. I half expected him to bite the side of his fist like in the old movies. Incidentally why did they keep doing so many Klinger episodes in these later seasons? They’re some of the worst storylines (along with the BJ stories). His cheerfulness in a war zone got old after the first season.

    The biggest error in the episode was Rosie telling a crowd of people about Klinger and Little Chicago. It made her look ridiculous, was out of character, and completely implausible. Paul Perlove (the writer) may have been in the wrong line of work if he thought this worked. Not a very well known name so maybe he realized it too. It didn’t make a lick of sense for Rosie to charge Klinger for information on the black market and then just spout it out to a table of officers. I guess they felt they needed to find a way to make Klinger look guilty.

    Margaret was very rude. Laughing hysterically about saying something nice about Klinger? She knew it was serious so it wasn’t funny or pleasant to listen to her literally scream with laughter.

    It was kind of funny when Charles told Mulcahy to speak up and he started shouting his lines. Charles saved the show with his dramatic lawyering. It was so painful to watch him get smashed by that army punk lawyer. Was a kangaroo court anyway considering the army required a real prosecutor but let any officer defend the accused.

    1. I agree with your assessment of Margaret’s attempt to say something nice about Klinger and laughing hysterically. She thought it sounded ludicrous that Klinger was “the cement that binds the unit together”.

  10. This episode isn’t as much fun as everything I’ve seen up to now but these are lines I thought were fun:

    Rosie to Klinger “Big place in field somewhere. Just like Macy’s.”
    Klinger, “Where is this place?”
    Rosie, “Always one step ahead of the law.”

    Hawkeye, “Look, it even has my B. F. P. scratched right there.”
    B.J. “Wait a minute. You scratched your initials in our camera?”
    Hawkeye “An old habit from summer camp where initials are 9/10ths of the law.”
    B.J. “Well, don’t forget that 5/10ths of the camera is mine.”
    [Delivery is better than reading it. I thought the different “fights” over the camera were fun.]

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