Episode Spotlight: The Chosen People

13 Comments

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

“The Chosen People” (#43, 2×19)
Originally Broadcast: Saturday, January 26th, 1974
Teleplay by Laurence Marks & Sheldon Keller & Larry Gelbart
Story by Gerry Renert & Jeff Wilhelm
Directed by Jackie Cooper

Capsule Summary: A Korean family insists the 4077th is on their farmland and refuses to leave the compound. Meanwhile, another Korean woman says Radar is the father of her baby.

The highlight of this episode was definitely Pat Morita making his second guest appearance as Captain Sam Pak (the first came in “Deal Me Out“). Story-wise, there are two things about this episode that stand out.

First, there’s the fact that for once Frank was actually useful and got his way, trucking the South Korean civilians off to a refugee camp. True, he couldn’t convince Henry to fire off some warning shots to scare them off as he had originally hoped, but he was still able to get through to Civilian Affairs when Henry couldn’t. His phone call to civilian affairs ended on a bizarre note; we’re supposed to assume he was propositioned by the male major on the other end of the call.

Second, it doesn’t ring true to me that Henry, Hawkeye, Trapper and everyone else would assume that Radar was the father of the baby, even after he claimed he wasn’t. Why would they believe a complete stranger over a fellow soldier, a colleague and/or a friend? It also doesn’t seem in character for Radar to eventually insist the was the father just because he wanted the 4077th to keep thinking he had done It. It would have made more sense had he tried to do the right thing because he wanted the baby to have a father.

Henry talks up his sex orientation lectures

It’s too bad Captain Pak only made two appearances on M*A*S*H. He does a great job as a straight man opposite Henry. I particularly like his line “Well, Sheriff, looks like you’ve got troubles right here in Pregnant City.” And notice when Henry throws Captain Pak the keys to the liquor cabinet, he uses an impressive over-the-shoulder toss. I wonder if it took more than one attempt to get that right.

I thought perhaps the opening shot of Radar playing Reveille and getting hit in the face with an egg was filmed for another episode. He’s wearing gloves and a jacket but in all the other outdoor scenes in the episode, he and the other characters are only wearing their uniform shirts. But Larry Gelbart was asked about the scene at the alt.mash.tv Newsgroup in 2004 and had this to say:

The chief purpose of that piece of business was to do something humorous.

Detesting the bugler is an age-old Army tradition (In Irving Berlin’s song,
“Oh, How l Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” one lyric says, “Some day l’m going
to murder the bugler).

Perhaps there is something Freudian about Radar getting hit with a raw egg and
then being accused of impregnating a girl. But that is a more then 30 year-old
afterthought.

For some reason, this episode went to great lengths to show people walking past the windows in Henry’s office.

The South Korean farmer didn’t appear to know English. But the shoeshine boy did. Where did he learn to speak it? Choon Hi said she learned from nuns but wasn’t part of the family squatting in th 4077th compound.

If you listen closely, you can hear Father Mulcahy say “Alright Dennis, fall out” as the truck carrying the Korean civilians drives off. The truck driver was played by Dennis Troy in an uncredited role. Was Mulcahy’s line scripted?

Margaret does not appear in this episode. I don’t think I saw Klinger, either.

13 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: The Chosen People”

  1. Very funny episode! I also felt that Pat Morita’s character was a natural fit and had great chemistry with the other cast members. Would love to have seen more of him. If I recall correctly, he also added some nice moments to Sanford and Son.

    Although I agree the assumption of Radar’s guilt (as father of the baby) is a little odd from his co-horts, but I do love his defense “you wouldn’t know me when I was in town, I had had one, maybe two beers and I was looking for trouble…” (I may not have the word 100% correct, but the line always cracks me up). Of course, other episodes had indicated that Radar has a fairly lowly tolerance for alcohol, so maybe he would be drunk after only a couple of beers?

    1. I would also add that I love Henry telling Morita that he “really gets the joint rocking” when he gives his sex lectures. Morita then has a great response (very deadpan) asking that he be saved a couple of seats for the next show.

  2. Just about every role Pat Morita plays is deadpan genius, and I agree, it would have been nice if Sam Pak could have been more of a recurring fixture on the show, much in the same way as, say, Sidney or Flagg. And like Crabapple Cove previously mentioned, Morita was great on SANFORD AND SON as Lamont’s Japanese buddy Ah Chew, he really got off some good zingers on Fred.

    FRED: Listen Lamont, you need to quit hanging around Ah Chew, he’ll give you that yellow jaundice!
    AH CHEW: Yeah, and what is it you got, the black plague?

  3. Very funny episode. I never even thought about the fact that the officers believed the young lady over Radar after working with him for all that time.

    I think this might be one of my favorite episodes of the entire show.

    Henry: I believe one of you knows Miss Choon Hi a little bit better than the other one of you knows Miss Choon Hi. She claims she and one of our doctors committed parenthood.

    This is also the episode where Henry delivers his “This is Capt. Pak. ROK and this is Lt. Mulcahy GOD” speech.
    LOL

  4. Henry: What’s Korean for suicide?

    Capt. Pak: That’s the Japanese. We don’t do that schtick.

    Clearly, Pat Morita’s funniest line on MASH. A close second would be “And we thank you from the bottom of our bomb craters.”
    In short, a very funny episode with a moralistic twist.

  5. Another hilarious exchange from this episode:

    Hawkeye: Sam, what’s Korean for quack?

    Capt. Pak: Quack? That’s my father-in-law’s name.

    Hawkeye: Frank, you’re a father-in-law.

    Frank: I don’t need any of your lip.

    Hawkeye: Lip is Sam’s cousin.

    Frank: Oh, pishposh.

    Capt. Pak: Pishposh? That’s my mother’s family.

    Absolutely hilarious dialogue from the best writers on television.

  6. Another hilarious exchange from this episode:

    Hawkeye: Sam, what’s Korean for quack?

    Capt. Pak: Quack? That’s my father-in-law’s name.

    Hawkeye: Frank, you’re a father-in-law.

    Frank: I don’t need any of your lip.

    Hawkeye: Lip is Sam’s cousin.

    Frank: Oh, pishposh.

    Capt. Pak: Pishposh? That’s my mother’s family.

    Absolutely hilarious dialogue from the best writers on television.

  7. Sorry about the accidental double post, but I got panicky.

    After Radar is fingered as the father of Choon Hi’s baby, this exchange took place.

    Hawkeye: Radar! (attempts to speak Korean)

    Henry: What’s that mean?

    Capt. Pak: Mazel Tov.

  8. I got the idea that Sam and Henry might have gone to medical school together in the States and that Sam was an American citizen who happened to be of Korean descent (hence his American English without a trace of accent.) I liked his rapport with Henry and he seemed a natural fit with the others at the 4077th. It’s indeed a shame he didn’t appear in later episodes.

  9. Gorgeous laundry room! If you have yet to find the perfect disguise for the electric panel, consider asking your cabinet guy to frame it and attach a matching cabinet door. The look would be similar to your ironing board, and provide easy access when needed. Ours turned out great.
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  10. A thought occurred to me while watching this today. In later episodes the characters complain that they only eat powdered eggs. So where did someone get the fresh egg thrown at Radar? And why would he waste it rather than frying it up for breakfast?

    (I guess I know the answer: it was just a humorous site gag. Still, it’s a bit of an inconsistency.)

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