Episode Spotlight: Eye for a Tooth


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

“Eye for a Tooth” (#157, 7×13)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 11th, 1978
Written by Ronny Graham
Directed by Charles Dubin

Capsule Summary: Margaret engages in an escalating prank war with Hawkeye and B.J., egged on by Charles. Meanwhile, a frustrated Father Mulcahy is determined to get a promotion.

I liked two-thirds of this episode: all of Father Mulcahy’s storyline and half of the prank war gone too far storyline. What I didn’t like was the way Charles was portrayed as the instigator quietly pushing Margaret and Hawkeye/B.J. to escalate their pranks. Although it might seem beneath him, the fact that he would enjoy pranks wasn’t the issue.

He just came off as a little too shady and conniving. A little too slimy. The scene near the end of the episode after the tables had been turned, when he was screaming at Hawkeye, B.J. and Margaret, was actually a little disturbing. It made him appear unstable and wasn’t at all funny.

The rest of the prank war storyline was decent. Father Mulcahy getting a pie to the face was a bit much. For William Christopher’s sake I hope that scene didn’t require too many takes. Was I the only one who thought of anthrax after B.J. opened his letter and white powder went everywhere? The nurses lying in wait for Hawkeye and B.J. in the Swamp after Margaret stole their clothing from the showers was hilarious, particularly the one nurse with a magnifying glass.

I wonder if scriptwriter Ronny Graham wrote the scene as a counterpoint to the infamous Hot Lips shower scene in MASH the movie.

Father Mulcahy, helicopter counterweight

In so many episodes Father Mulcahy doesn’t really have all that much to do, so it’s nice to see him become the focal point of an episode like this one. I couldn’t help but spend much of the episode trying to remember if we had seen a chopper unloading a single patient before without a counterweight. It wasn’t until “Captains Outrageous” in Season Eight that Father Mulcahy would finally be promoted to captain.

A P.A. announcement at the beginning of the episode mentions a party to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Officer’s Club, meaning this episode takes place a year after “Officers Only” from Season Two.

Why was Charles so sweaty during the scene in which he was revealed to be pulling the strings in the prank war? Was he really that upset?

21 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Eye for a Tooth”

  1. The scene in the Swamp with the nurses and the magnifying glass doesn’t get old. The reactions of Hawkeye and BJ are even funnier. LOL.

    I like this episode. It gives you a little bit of an insight into Charles’ devious mind. We all knew he is very smart but he is also very sneaky and can influence people in subtle ways.

    Father Mulcahy getting hit in the face with the pie was classic. Also, the guy who played Capt. Toby Hill………….GORGEOUS!!!!

    1. Charles was devious but it backfired unfortunately for him Margaret stealing
      Hawkeye and B.J.’s clothes and they have to escape naked (supposedly because the
      last time when Hawkeye was supposedly naked in Dear Dad again (not) )

      I liked Charles after this episode

  2. This episode was written based on David Ogden Stiers being a big prankster off camera. I forget what the prank itself was, but the rest of the cast got him back when they staged Gary Burghoff having a meltdown when another one of Stiers’s pranks went into play, and because of that, he fessed up about being the one who was pranking everybody, to which everybody revealed they were pranking him.

    Other than that, this is a fairly amusing episode. It kind of brings to mind what I’ve always said about how complicated a character Father Mulcahy really is… notice how in some episodes (like the preceding “Dear Sis”) he feels like he’s completely useless and nobody really needs him, but then you have episodes like this where he’s the exact opposite and feels he’s an important fixture in camp, and in this case, deserves a promotion.

    1. Your info about the idea for this episode is very interesting, would it be possible for you to get a link or a website that I can look at this information for myself?. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t believe you but I’m just such a MASH fan I like to learn about it. Thanks!

      1. It’s actually in The Complete Book of M*A*S*H, Ken Levine & David Isaacs talk about it when discussing Season Seven.

        “One of the funniest shows that year was An Eye for a Tooth. That was based on a real incident at the studio. David Stiers was a big practical joker, and he set up a joke in which each person thought another person had created the joke while David sat back and watched. Then, when everyone discovered what happened, they got together to pull the string on David. The cast was eating in the Fox Commissary, and Stiers sent over a round of frozen yogurt desserts for everyone with a note saying that they were compliments of Sir Richard Attenborough, who happened to be sitting at another table. As they left, each actor stopped by Attenborough’s table and thanked him, although Attenborough had no idea what was going on. Then Stiers signed Gary’s name to the check, even though Gary had not been at the table. When Gary got the bill, he pretended to be so angry, and he faked a fight with some of the other actors. Stiers was forced to confess. The writer, Ronny Graham, took that story and turned it into an episode.”

    2. Wasn’t there another story told about how the cast got back DOS?? This was told during ‘Making M*A*S*H’ but I might be a little hazy on all the details.

      Apparently over the Christmas break, the entire cast (sans DOS) got together and painted his dressing room purple to get back at him for all his practical jokes. DOS was less than pleased when he returned and saw what they had done to it.

      Alan was the one who spoke about this. Has anyone seen more of that documentary?? It wasn’t included in the Martinis and Medicine Collection but I do remember seeing Alan talk about this.

      1. This story was also told in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF MASH. DOS said that Mike Farrell had told a painter to paint his dressing room purple & orange, but the painter had pulled a bit of a joke back on the Farrell by choosing shades of purple & orange that worked well together, or at least better than standard orange & purple would work together.

      2. Sorry, this story wasn’t in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF MASH but rather in the MASH book that I mentioned below. I have the original edition from 1980.

  3. This was hysterical with the war of pranks between Margaret and the Swampmen. However, Charles’s reaction to being played was disturbing. I agree Capt. Hill was quite handsome .

  4. The story about DOS & his prank war was also detailed in “M*A*S*H: The Exclusive, Inside Story of TV’s Most Popular Show”, which was originally published in 1980 and then updated to include the final episode in 1983. It mentioned that Farrell pretended to be in a fistfight with Burghoff, and that scared DOS badly, understandably so.

    I just got a copy of the original script of this episode, dated October 2, 1978, which was a Monday, so the episode was probably filmed the first workweek of October 1978, 10/2-10/6. It includes a tag scene at the end that was apparently never filmed, maybe cut for time or expense, which wrapped up what I think is a loose end from the episode regarding Capt. Hill’s dummy, “Little Mac”.

    The original script had Winchester’s rant a bit longer, and it led into the scene with Potter & Mulcahy on the helicopter pad, which became the tag in the actual episode, as it appeared. In the script, Mulcahy said “Stop Swaying!” (which became the freeze frame last line of the episode as filmed), then Potter said “It’s ok, Padre. I’ll drive”, which ended Act 2 in the script.

    The unfilmed tag has Hawkeye, B.J., & Margaret present Capt. Hill with a replacement dummy for Little Mac, which the last prank had destroyed. The dummy looks just like Charles, with “supercilious smirk and bald head”, and they call him “Major Charles Emerson Winchester the Fourth”, or “Little Winch”. Hill gets the last line, saying “Now there’s a dummy”. It’s too bad this wasn’t filmed. Maybe it was too hard to get a dummy to look enough like Winchester. 😉

  5. Overall a funny episode, but with one gigantic hole in the plot –

    “I couldn’t help but spend much of the episode trying to remember if we had seen a chopper unloading a single patient before without a counterweight.”

    This entire concept is, as Charles would say, “absurd”. When carrying one litter it is placed on the side opposite the pilot, the small weight offset is easily compensated in flight.

    A good analogy is, you are carrying one bag of groceries in your right hand, you automatically lean slightly to the left to maintain your balance while walking; you don’t have to think about it, you just do it. Now, we want you to be “balanced” so you carry a couple of bricks in a bag in your left hand – you no longer have to lean but you are carrying twice as much weight. Which would you rather do?

    I guarantee you will not find a helicopter pilot anywhere, especially for a small chopper like a Bell 47, who would rather carry extra weight than make small flight corrections.

    (You always want an aircraft to be as light as possible. It will climb faster, fly higher, fly faster, be more maneuverable, and use less fuel.)

  6. I don’t know if it should be considered an error or not but Hawkeye says “Too bad they can’t switch jobs” before the chopper pilot tells him why he has Little Mac.All he says is that he named the dummy after McArthur.

  7. Only part I didn’t care for was Potter telling Mulcahy about being passed over in the presence of everybody else…that conversation should have taken place in the privacy of Potter’s office or Mulcahy’s tent..

  8. Why on Earth did Charles have such noticable pit stains at end of ep? I almost think it wasn’t meant to be there but the lack of a continuity director on the set (the person who should be keeping track of stories and jokes that have been done in previous episodes) may be the culprit. Usually they will put sweat on the forehead if someone is nervous and the arms if it’s very hot. My guess is it was a hot day in Malibu and might have been hot in the studio and nobody caught it. I’ve never seen them do that without commenting on it and since they didn’t, it just came off as odd. Not to mention he didn’t get nervous until the very end so why would he be sweating enough to stain his shirt? I’m thinking they just didn’t catch it

    1. I think you just answered your own question there. It was hot. The working conditions on the actors were deplorable – both out on the Ranch, and in the studio. It’s been noted that the mid-day temperatures out on the Fox Ranch would soar over 100 degrees. If you watch “Cowboy” and notice in close-ups of Henry when he’s in the chopper with Cowboy, he’s sweating profusely.

      Not to mention, Charles was a slightly hefty guy, so I’m sure his bulk caused him to sweat a little more than others (something I can attest to).

  9. Even though I despise having pranks pulled on me, I like this episode very much.

    I wasn’t bothered at all by Charles’ behavior. I think that manipulating people is perfectly in character for someone like him. Also, factor in that he feels like he’s smarter than anyone else at the camp, and he’s bored and lonely. I also believe his reaction to BJ “attacking” Margaret. Deep down he cares about these people and he’s also probably worried about the ramifications of his actions. He’s genuinely scared for a moment. It all works for me.

    All of the pranks are entertaining. When I watched this for the first time at the age of 11, I momentarily fell for the prank that Margaret, BJ, and Hawkeye pulled on Charles. I remember being genuinely concerned for Margaret’s safety, until the big reveal. Then I felt as foolish as Charles did.

    The scene with the pie is very funny, especially when Hawkeye and BJ start laughing in the background. The pie-in-the-face to Mulcahy is not staged very well, though. Surely, Margaret’s rage would not have blinded her so much that she didn’t see the Father standing there.

    There’s a couple of slight goofs regarding time that no one has mentioned. I know it’s hopeless to try to figure out the timeline in this show, but what the heck?

    At the beginning of the episode, the P.A. announcer thanks everyone who celebrated the first anniversary of the Officers Club. Later, during the prank on Charles, Margaret says that she is writing to Peg, detailing her year-long love affair with BJ. The O-Club has been there a lot longer than BJ, so the timeline doesn’t compute. I know they’re just play-acting, but it’s always bothered me.

    Also, when Captain Hill asks the Father how long he’s been in Korea, Mulcahy says, “Seems like years. As a matter of fact, it has been.” If the O-Club is only a year old, Mulcahy couldn’t have been there for “years”.

    Silly nit-picking aside, this is one of the best episodes of the season.

  10. love the scene where haweye and bj walk in nude to the women was funny. but it happen b4 we radar took there robes and hawkeye walked in naked in the mess tent alan alda has a great body for being in 30s-4os and a nice butt

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