Episode Spotlight: Where There’s a Will, There’s a War


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

“Where There’s a Will, There’s a War” (#230, 10×16)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 22nd, 1982
Written by David Pollock & Elias Davis
Directed by Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: Temporarily assigned to Battalion Aid, replacing a surgeon killed by a mortar, Hawkeye begins to write his will and reminisces about his friends at the 4077th.

This was a rare episode of M*A*S*H that utilized flashbacks, which allowed Hawkeye to remember good times spent with his friends at the 4077th as he sat huddled under a desk at Battalion Aid, listening to the shells explode around him.

Thoughts on the five flashbacks:

Charles – Exactly how did Hawkeye and the others manage to get the skirt (or was it a dress) on to Charles?

Father Mulcahy – Hawkeye certainly doesn’t come off well in this recollection, but Father Mulcahy does. But exactly what did he accomplish? The general may not have been able to finish his pheasant, but his Baked Alaska was still being baked.

Margaret – The jokes aren’t that great but Hawkeye is right about Margaret’s seldom seen silly side.

Colonel Potter – Said to take place only seven days after Potter transferred to the 4077th, this is a wonderful moment between the two characters.

Klinger – Another wonderful moment showing the kinder side of latter series Klinger, not the dress-wearing, Section 8-chasing Klinger of earlier seasons.

What should we, the viewers, make of Hawkeye not mentioning Trapper or Radar in his will? Or any family members other than his father?

When Hawkeye first crawls under the desk at the Battalion Aid station, there’s a small flame in the heater that quickly goes it. It’s a nice touch of realism.

Hawkeye sitting under a table, wearing a helmet, writing on a pad of paper

Hawkeye Writes His Will

I wonder, was the photograph of Erin and Peg Hunnicut actually a photograph of Mike Farrell’s daughter Erin and his then-wife (and occasional M*A*S*H guest star) Judy Farrell.

I may not know much about chess but I’m pretty sure the Yankakovich strategy isn’t real.

I wonder what Alan Alda was actually writing on the pad of paper when Hawkeye was supposedly writing his will?

Can anyone make out the cover to the issue of LIFE magazine? Was there really an article about Maine or was it something the prop department whipped up?

22 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Where There’s a Will, There’s a War”

  1. The photograph of Erin and Peg depicted was shown in the film Peg made for their anniversary which was viewed in ‘Oh! How We Danced.’ The photo itself showed Erin in the bath and Peg blowing bubbles off her hand.

    As for the episode, I like it. It did feel weird that Hawkeye did not mention anyone who had left the 4077th by the time. The scene with Charles drunkenly wandering out of the O Club wearing the skirt is chuckle-worthy.

    1. Hawk already had a will during the Trapper years.I forget the episode but he tells Trap about it just before he goes off on a previous dangerous mission.

      Hawk:”I leave everything to the Benjamin Franklin Pierce Memorial Brothel”
      Trap:”I’ll be sure to deliver it in person.”

      1. It’s in “Aid Station” from season 3,when Hawkeye,Margaret,and Join her are getting ready to go work at the aid station,in sort of a similar situation as in this episode,except in the former episode they need a surgeon in addition to a nurse and a corpsman. And no will-writing.

      2. Hawkeye,Margaret,and Klinger,as I unintentionally omitted from the other post,lol.

      3. Actually it was that stupid autocorrect that changed Klinger to “join her”.

  2. I always enjoyed this show – it’s great to see those little moments between the characters that remind us why we love them so much.

    I suspect the lack of Henry, Trapper, or Radar might’ve had something to do with having to pay the actors who played them. You must get an actor’s permission to use their likeness before you repurpose material, and that often means paying them a negotiated fee.

    1. They wouldn’t have needed to use their likeness for Hawk to mention them at least. He could have just said their names and left them something.
      Also the show owns those characters anyway so they could have used old footage they had already shot without getting permission since they already had it when the actor shot the footage. None of the actors own or have any legal claim to any of their characters. When they signed contracts, they agreed to that. Having Wayne Rogers playing Trapper John is different from having a video he shot himself. Then they might need permission.

      1. It might have worked using clips from old episodes while Hawkeye talked about them.

  3. I like this episode a lot. I usually tend to shy away from flashback shows, but since these aren’t REAL flashbacks taken from earlier in the series, it’s not really the same thing (unless these ARE real clips from earlier episodes and my mind is just completely blanking; if that’s the case, go easy on me!).

    Anyway, this episode is a good example of just how much Hawkeye changed over the course of the show. Can you imagine the Hawkeye of the first few seasons writing a will and letting his campmates know how much they mean to him? I sure can’t!

    Although, his ignoring Trapper and Radar is pretty headscratching. Henry and Frank, the reasons they’re ignored are obvious, but those other two, unless we’re supposed to assume he added them in some scene we weren’t shown, it’s definitely confusing. If they had gotten Wayne Rogers and Gary Burghoff to film some short flashback scenes, it would have been terrific, and definitely a unique moment in the series. But, even if he had just mentioned them without the corresponding flashbacks, it would have been better than nothing at all.

      1. Yes, he stated at the start of the will that he’s leaving all of his worldy possesions to his Dad, “with the exception of the following…”, which is when the episode goes into the flashbacks.

    1. Well Wayne and Gary we’re long done with the show,especially with Wayne leaving on the terms that he left having to do with the Fox studio and the heads at the time and he probably had no desire to come near the studio for any reason(ironically enough he was a reporter for the Fox network in his later years up until his death in 2015). And Gary had moved on as well and if the rumors were true about him being the pain in the butt that he was alleged to be off camera then they may not have wanted to have to do any kind of work with him at all even if it was for a short scene. The alleged little-man syndrome in him might have come out for that little bit.

  4. Another great episode and it’s really nice to have an episode where Hawkeye acts different than normal Hawkeye. He’s serious and sentimental in this episode, and it’s great.

    The flashback with Charles with the dress is hilarious, as is Mulcahy and the Pheasant, The flashbacks with Potter and Klinger are great too. What Klinger did for Hawkeye is one of the many reasons I love Klinger as a character, especially later season Klinger (except when he see him in episodes like Depressing News).

    While I do agree it is a little strange that there is no mention of Trapper, Henry, or Radar at all, it also kind of makes sense. He was clearly not leaving all his belongings (I’m sure he owns a bunch of stuff back in Maine) but rather is just leaving his buddies here in Korea still the things he prizes amongst and endless amount of crap.

    I agree with Larry P though that having Wayne Rogers and Gary Burghoff filming quick scenes for a flash back would have been absolutely amazing, but I think M*A*S*H was made a bit before we started getting things like that in TV shows.

  5. I used to be rather indifferent to this episode, but seeing it tonight for the first time in years, I really enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting to the point in life where I should make out a will, I can relate to it more?

    Anyway, the flashbacks were all solid, and the other scenes were good too. I didn’t even remember the scene where BJ returns to camp all gussied up, but it had some wonderful moments. I’m not sure why BJ had to go to Seoul for a haircut, but so be it.

    In my opinion, the best flashback was the one with Potter. I really like that it took place when Potter had just arrived at the 4077th. It reminds us of the history of the show, plus it demonstrates that Hawkeye and Potter immediately had a fondness for one another. Also, it hearkened back to a similar scene in “Hawkeye Get Your Gun”.

    I agree that flashbacks featuring Radar, Trapper, and even Burns would have been nice, but that would have been difficult to pull off. And a flashback featuring a clean-shaven BJ would have been really cool. Other than those minor issues, I give this episode high marks nowadays.

  6. I think Charles is wearing a kilt.

    One quibble is that Hawkeye seems to be acting like this is his first time at the front. It would have been nice to have heard Radar’s voice over the PA during the scene between Hawkeye and Potter.

  7. Great episode for the most part. Was nice to see the bond between characters and how close they had all grown. Hawk’s bequest to Erin Hunnicutt tugged at the heart strings though I would have rather he write the same list for Henry’s kids. I was a bit peeved too that Hawkeye only thought of people who were still there with him, but I guess he was leaving things that were already in Korea so it made more sense. No matter what Hawkeye says, BJ is nowhere near a close friend as Trapper was. Hawk and Trapp were so alike as to be brothers. BJ and Hawk are a marriage of convenience. They would never be friends if they had met back home as they have virtually nothing in common. Trapp and Hawk had chemistry because the two actors were close friends off set and it showed.

    Little thing that didn’t make sense was when BJ realizes that Hawkeye was alive because of his vertical white cotton sutures. You hear Klinger happily yell, “that’s Hawkeye alright.” How on Earth would he know? On his best day, he’s just an orderly. Does he even know what a suture is? Why would he be celebrating?

    Also, it seemed like they were doing actual surgery at battalion aid. Sutures and whatnot. I thought they only did triage at battalion aid. Why would they sew people up at battalion aid only to have them ripped open at MASH?

  8. I really do ike this episode and the flashbacks are great… but I’ve always thought Hawkeye’s robe was red. While he’s writing to Charles, he says “purple is the color of royalty.” Am I colorblind? Other than that one little thing that always bothers me (and of course that he doesn’t mention Radar or Trapper), I really like this “flashback” episode.

    “The sofa’s in the living room!”

  9. Could just be something on the writers’ part and that they wanted to focus mainly on the current characters. Who knows,maybe he wrote and left some things to Radar and Trapper off-screen and we just don’t hear about it onscreen? Maybe he even willed something to Frank Burns as a practical joke.

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