Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan” (#102, 5×06)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, October 26th, 1976
Teleplay by Allan Katz & Don Reo
Story by Gene Reynolds
Directed by Gene Reynolds
Capsule Summary: Margaret rushes to the aid of a South Korean family, leading Frank and the rest of the 4077th worry she may have been abducted by the Chinese. Colonel Flagg arrives to investigate.
This is a truly hilarious episode and I honestly don’t know where to start talking about it. Every line out of Colonel Flagg’s mouth in this episode is a winner. Even before Flagg showed up, though, the episode was hitting on all cylinders: the South Korean girl’s reaction to Klinger; Hawkeye playing basketball in the Swamp; the banter between B.J. and Frank in the Swamp; the aftermath of Frank accidentally shooting B.J. in the leg. Everything worked and worked well.
I also can’t decide what bit of dialogue is the most amusing. As I said, everything Flagg says in the episode is a gem. A few choice exchanges:
Frank: “I’m going out into the jungle to hunt for Margaret.”
B.J.: “Well, I understand she’s game.”
Frank: “Don’t be a smarty-pants. She’s probably been abducted by Chinese heathens. They have her hanging upside down by her feet from a bamboo tree, doing unspeakable things to her.”
B.J.: “Speak a few.”
Colonel Potter: “Making yourself at home, Flagg?”
Colonel Flagg: “I have no home. I’m the wind.”
Hawkeye: “I told you he was the wind. You said he was the stars.”
B.J.: “No, I said he was the moon.”
Colonel Flagg: “There’s only one flaw in that theory.”
Hawkeye: “Only one?”
Colonel Flagg: “They don’t do three shows Saturday night at the Sands.”
Hawkeye: “How do you know?”
Colonel Flagg: “I was a showgirl for six weeks.”
Colonel Flagg: “Alert the Navy for offshore artillery. I want a squadron of copters for air-to-ground search and, uh, round up a box of scorpions. About a dozen.”
Radar: “You mean, uh, scorpions scorpions?”
Colonel Flagg: “Big ones.”
Hawkeye: “What the hell are you gonna do with a box of scorpions?”
Colonel Flagg: “It’s personal. Gift for a friend.”
[Radar begins to leave]
Colonel Flagg: “Corporal. If you can’t find scorpions, get two snakes and a rat.”
Radar: “And a rat. Right, right.”
If I had to pick just one single line to sum up the hilarity of the episode, it would be this Colonel Flagg line: “Nobody can get the truth out of me because even I don’t know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of confusion.”
Sometimes, after watching a Colonel Flagg episode, I wonder what might have been had the character been given a spin-off. But then I realize it never would have worked. Flagg was hilarious because he was so seldom seen on M*A*S*H. Had he been used any more frequently, he would have become stale and familiar.
The weakest part of the episode is the childbirth lecture. It almost feels like filler, added to pad out a short episode. But even it is worth watching, if only for the detailed diagrams the prop department designed or acquired (perhaps they’re actual childbirth diagrams from the Korean War).
Sadly, Colonel Flagg’s exit from Colonel Potter’s office through one of the windows loses some of its comedic impact due to the editing required. He forces everyone to close their eyes, screams and then presumably flings himself out the window. All of this is heard while the camera is on Hawkeye, B.J. and some of the others. It doesn’t quite work.
There are a few unusual and bombastic musical cues heard in this episode, including one played right after Hawkeye says “The wind just broke his leg.”
Father Mulcahy does not appear in this episode.