Episode Spotlight: Picture This


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

“Picture This” (#234, 10×20)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, April 5th, 1982
Written by Karen Hall
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: Fed up with B.J. and Charles, Hawkeye moves out of the Swamp. Meanwhile, Colonel Potter tries to paint a portrait of his friends at the 4077th.

If there’s a highlight of this episode, it has to be Charles accidentally calling Colonel Potter “Colonel Potty” and complaining about “becoming better acquainted with all the Hunnicutts: Beej, Peg and the little wet one.” Or perhaps Charles ripping out the end of Hawkeye’s book in an attempt to get some sleep.

Otherwise, this is an episode that just doesn’t work, due in large part to the ridiculous immaturity on the part of Hawkeye and to some extent B.J. and Charles as well. Even for a character prone to overreaction, this was over the top.

In “The Smell of Music” it made sense that Hawkeye and B.J. were fed up with Charles and his horn. Their plan to stink up the place until he quit playing wasn’t so believable. But in “Picture This” the tipping point for Hawkeye was B.J. taking his socks without asking, symptomatic of his larger issue with lack of privacy.

In true Hawkeye fashion, he decides to move out and live on his own in a hut behind Rosie’s. It’s a decision be immediately regrets, the hut being lonely and probably unsanitary, but once there he can’t very well move back to the Swamp. That would be admitting he overreacted.

Margaret, Klinger and Father Mulcahy scheming independently to trick the Swampmates into moving back in together wasn’t all that believable, either. The fact that it worked, at least at first, was even more implausible.

Colonel Potter’s family portrait

Could the conversation between Hawkeye and Igor about renting the hut be the most dialogue Jeff Maxwell had in a single episode?

The theme music played during the opening credits sounds almost identical to the closing credits, which is odd. One of these days I’ll get around to examining the theme music using throughout the series.

Truth be told, if I had to listen to B.J. share every detail from the letters Peg wrote him, I’d probably want to move out, too. Mike Farrell did a wonderful job portraying B.J. as an obnoxiously mushy father who thinks everything his daughter does is worthy of attention.

18 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Picture This”

  1. Haven’t seen this one since it first aired, but my fondest memory of the episode (my ONLY fond memory of the episode) was the addition of another corny Norman Rockwell-ish painting to Potter’s collection.

  2. The one bright spot in an increasingly bleak season. I love this episode and find it very funny. From Hawkeye’s overreaction of BJ wearing his socks to Charles’ increasing frustration with BJ’s home life anecdotes. I also like that the rest of the characters cared enough about the 3 doctors to want to bring them back together albeit with deceit but their intentions were all good.

    Best of all, seeing Col. Potter’s painting at the end contrasting with the bickering going on between all 6 of the subjects of the painting.

    I like this episode. Charles’ expressions are the best parts of this. BJ really was obnoxious with his ‘Erin is a genius cause she burped’ stories.

  3. I tend to agree with Seoul City Sue. Some parts might have been over the top and rather unbelievable, but as a whole, I liked this episode, especially with how the others tried to get the three doctors to “get along” again.

    As for the opening music, this wasn’t the first time this occurred. This music made for shorter opening credits. Why? I’m not sure, except that maybe they needed the extra tiny bit of time for the episode….? I dunno.

    1. Maybe this is the same intro CBS would use when they had a corporate sponsorship and added “MASH is brought to you by Prudential – Get a piece of the rock.”

  4. I’ve never seen this episode, but in reading the review about it, it sounds as if it reeks of Recycled Script Syndrome; the subplot of Hawkeye, B.J., and Charles becoming fed up with each other, and Hawkeye moving out of the Swamp seems eerily reminiscent of, “Ain’t Love Grand” (7×25)… and even that wasn’t the first time Hawkeye temporarily moved out of the Swamp.

    1. Hawkeye moving out of the Swamp was a plot device probably used best way back in Season 1’s “Sticky Wicket”, which IMO is a great an episode as “Picture This” a lousy one. There are probably worse episodes than “Picture This” (the one after, “That Darn Kid” for example) but not many.

      As for the odd theme music, if memory serves “Sons And Bowlers” and at least one or two season 11 episodes feature the same edit of the ending credits as the theme music.

  5. Didn’t care for this show much at all. To me, this episode, along with a lot of the Season 10 shows, makes clear that the series was running out of gas and was starting to coast on its reputation.

  6. Anyone know what the music is that Hawkeye turns up on Charles phonograph in the last scene? It’s terrific.

  7. This episode highlights a glaring inaccuracy throughout the series, but if corrected would negate half the plots and much of he humor – every commissioned officer merits private quarters, whether on a permanent military base or living in tents. So Hawkeye need only requisition a tent from quartermasters and have the camp laborers (those dozens of unseen PFCs, assisted by locals, every MASH had) erect it. (The two man tent was popular for this as it was slightly over half the size of the four man tent; “the Swamp” was a four man tent.)

    The same goes for the times Winchester demanded private quarters.

    FWIW, noncoms could have private tents but they would have to “wheel and deal” with quartermasters to get one. I assume this is how Klinger had a private tent.

  8. I like the little smile Charles gives Father Mulcahy after he says, “Your confession is safe with me, Father”

  9. I’m not sure who to suggest poll topics to, but here goes…. Suppose someone offered you the original of one of the Potter paintings, which would you want and why?

    1. I’d want this one, all members of the cast together, or the one Potter made of Father Mulcahy.
      I found out from this site that this painting from Picture This was sold in Dallas, Texas, just forty minutes from the small town I live in for a cool several thousand!
      I do hope that the Christopher family has the Father Mulcahy portrait, though.

  10. Any episode that featured BJ acting selfish and like he’s never wrong is one that is not a favorite. Granted, Hawkeye was extremely childish too. But the episode began with BJ deliberately stealing Hawkeye’s socks, barely apologizing for it, then getting angry that Hawkeye was upset about it. Then he steals Hawkeye’s pillow because the light is bothering him. How dare he? I’ve been in a communal living situation and it’s called roommate etiquette. Things that might bother you at home, you’ve got to just find a way to deal with because there are others living in the same room. BJ acted like an ass particularly because he has also stayed up reading letters, medical journals, or whatever. Not to mention that they’re sleeping in a tent that has lights and noises you can’t turn off. I don’t mind them getting tired of each other but at least make it believable. Nobody would expect complete darkness in an army tent. It’s like jail. Somebody always has a light on.

    Not sure why Charles was the only one with a sleeping mask and why nobody invested in ear plugs. Also seemed like he ripped up the book not because of the light, but because he knew BJ wouldn’t shut up about it. Colonel Potty was one of the funnier lines this season. Reminded me of something Henry would say.

    Why would BJ get so bothered by the power going out? Why would Peg write him about it? What a boring couple they are. Sure she doesn’t want him to miss anything but you’d think she would know she’s married to an overemotional fool.

    It does seem like Hawkeye’s crazed overreaction was foreshadowing his mental breakdown in the final episode. I’ve been known to act a bit crazy just for the fun of being where nobody can see. But he definitely had something mental going on underneath.

  11. I’m looking for the location or person who knows what happened to the picture from the Picture This episode. If you have information, shoot me an email.

    Mash Fan #1

  12. Dear Mr. Ellis,
    As I said previously, I read on this site several months ago that the painting was sold in my vicinity of Dallas, Texas. I don’t know who obtained it, but I would believe that the page RJ made about it is still up on the site somewhere or perhaps your search engine could give you more information. Hope this helps!
    God bless,

  13. Is this the only episode in which someone refers to the Swampmen as Swamprats? Iirc they were called such repeatedly in the book.

    “Well, Father, I DO have my pride….of course, in my case it’s justified.”- CEW3

  14. I actually love this episode– it’s one of my faves from this season. Any episode that emphasizes the friendship between all three of the Swamp rats works for me. Admittedly BJ, Hawkeye, and Charles are all jerks here, to some degree, but when you live in close quarters with someone, little faults become magnified, and you’re bound to find they get on your nerves eventually. Hawkeye’s desire to find some alone space makes sense– but as a social person, it also makes sense that he’d promptly find himself TOO alone. His relationships with other people have always been a central element of the show, and it’s obvious he can’t be truly happy in solitude.

    The tension between Charles and BJ is perfectly believable, if slightly over-the-top to make the plot race along. BJ has always been portrayed as an excessively adoring sort of father, the type who nowadays would probably accost strangers and make them look at hundreds of photos of his daughter on his iPhone, and we’ve seen Charles irritate his roommates with his love of music before (Potter in the mumps episode). Plus, we’ve seen BJ and Charles blow up with each other (“Stars and Stripes”). It makes sense that Hawkeye might be the only thing that allows the two of them to get along.

    I love how the others try in various devious ways to get the surgeons back together again, and the last shot of the squabbling characters contrasted with the idealized painting of them smiling and holding hands is terrific. The tag scene (in which we see that even if they’re all getting along, they still haven’t fully given up their irritating ways) is great too.

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