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.
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.