Episode Spotlight: Captains Outrageous


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

“Captains Outrageous” (#182, 8×13)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 10th, 1979
Written by John Rappaport
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Father Mulcahy is furious after being passed over for promotion again. Meanwhile, Hawkeye, Margaret, B.J., and Winchester have to run Rosie’s Bar temporarily.

There weren’t a lot of “sequel” episodes on M*A*S*H that followed up on storylines from earlier episodes. This was one of those episodes. Only a few weeks ago I reviewed Season Seven’s “Eye For a Tooth” in which Father Mulcahy is frustrated at being passed over for a promotion to captain. And now thanks to the random number generator I use to pick which episodes get the spotlight treatment here I am reviewing the episode that finally saw Mulcahy get his promotion: Season Eight’s “Captains Outrageous.”

In this episode, Father Mulcahy states that he has been passed over for a promotion four times. That seems like a lot to me but I’m not familiar at all with how promotions worked in the military during the Korean War. Maybe four was par for the course. Father Mulcahy does mention that he knows a lot of nerds from school who have become majors, which is a step above captain, so perhaps his lack of promotion was unusual.

Interestingly, Father Mulcahy didn’t really have much to do in this episode other than make some bandages and express outrage at his personnel file being misplaced. He was involved somewhat in the minor Turk/Greek storyline. Most of the episode seemed to be spent on the larger Rosie’s Bar storyline.

I wish we had seen a little more of Hawkeye, B.J., Charles and Margaret tending bar at Rosie’s. Seeing Charles as a bartender was a hoot. The Turk/Greek storyline was pointless and I’m sure that time could have been better spent showing B.J. as a bartender, for example. Or Margaret.

I think my favorite piece of dialogue from the episode is this exchange between Klinger and Colonel Potter:

Klinger: “It’s not your fault, compassionate leader. You’ve done everything but call the Pentagon yourself.”
Colonel Potter: “You’re absolutely right. Get on that phone. Get me the Pentagon.”
Klinger: “The what-a-gon, sir?”
Colonel Potter: “The Pentagon. Weird-looking building. Four walls and a spare. Monument to Murphy’s Law.”

Klinger’s “what-a-gon” response is just hilarious.


This episode saw the return of actor John Orchard to M*A*S*H in the role of Muldoon, the corrupt MP who turns a blind eye to Rosie’s Bar as long as he gets some whiskey in a coffee cup. Orchard portrayed Australian anesthesiologist Ugly Johny in a number of episodes during Season 1 before being written out. I’ve always wondered why he was brought back for this one-off role.

Also in this episode was a rare example of Hawkeye saluting and an even rarer example of him being serious while doing so.

Oddly, G.W. Bailey is credited as The G.I. in this episode rather than Rizzo. This was he second appearance on M*A*SH following “The Yalu Brick Road” where he was credited as Rizzo. And he was credited as Rizzo again in his third appearance (“Morale Victory”). It’s not like the episodes were aired out of production order. So why wasn’t he credited as Rizzo?

Why was Margaret wearing a blue bathrobe while helping wrap up Rosie’s ribs?

Is it just me or does William Christopher look a bit like George Morgan without his glasses on?

Hawkeye calls himself Noel the Coward, a reference to English playwright Noël Coward.

15 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Captains Outrageous”

  1. Fr. Mulcahy’s storyline was quite awesome as was this line “You know what it says in the good book. Love thy neighbor or I’ll punch your lights out.” LOL.

    The Rosie in this episode is the third incarnation of the character first introduced in Season 3 in ‘Mad Dogs and Servicemen.’ She is brash, rude, crude and is not one bit grateful for all that the camp is doing to maintain her business and make sure she still has a livelihood once she gets out of hospital….all in all, a typical hardnosed businesswoman.

    Good episode…glad that Fr. Mulcahy got his much well-deserved promotion and it was nice to see Col. Potter go that extra mile for one of his staff. That’s always the sign of a good leader.

    1. Rosie is an ungrateful witch whose comments aren’t the least bit funny. She’s dishonest and thinks ripping off customers and staff is free enterprise and the correct way to do business. I guess that’s why her bar is in the middle of nothing and nowhere. Her insults and disbelief of America as a superpower were even less intelligent since she’s out of a job without Allied soldiers drinking her watered down swill. I highly doubt the Korean peasants with the chickens and cows would be able to afford sitting in a bar all day. Why did MASH feel the need to insult the US to make its point? Or was it just to show that the South Koreans didn’t want us there?

    2. Yes, Seol City Sue! Glad to see that Father Mulcahy got some recognition,and so did William Christopher, who is one of my favorite actors! Wish more shows had focused on the Padre!

  2. “Did he just call me Porky?”
    “I don’t know, why don’t you waddle over and find out?”

    Cracks me up EVERY time.

  3. I feel they skipped a lot of steps in getting Mulcahy promoted. One minute,Potter was on the phone to the Pentagon, the next everyone was at Rosie’s welcoming her back and toasting Mulcahy. I wonder what the proper course of action was in promoting an officer and how long it took.

  4. Again, MASH greatly simplifies military protocol.

    Father Mulcahey’s assessment would be through the Clerical Review Board not the General Review Board (just as all hospital personnel would be assessed by the Medical Review Board). When the board convenes they merely look at your military record, if there’s nothing there to distinguish you from the other candidates they are likely to close the folder and move on. What do they want to see? The infamous Letters Of Commendation. These can be from anyone who has known you personally, even civilians; but the most weight, by a wide margin, will be given to that military status symbol – “officers of equal or higher rank”. So in this episode all of Potter’s getting “everyone writing to everyone else” is virtually useless; much more effective would be for Potter, Margaret, Charles, Hawkeye, and BJ to each write a letter to the Clerical Review Board detailing Mulcahey’s work and value to the MASH; then get anyone who had been through the unit – wounded or just visiting – who had interacted with Mulcahey, to also write letters detailing their experiences. At the next Review Board they would see not just his military papers but a stack of letters praising is work and contributions ….he would get that promotion.

    It should be mentioned that at this point Mulcahey was quite lucky; he had been bitten by the dread “time in rank” bug. In all branches of service the longer you hold a rank, the less likely you are to be promoted (eventually the unvoiced assumption is that if you deserved a promotion you would have gotten one by now). And from what I’ve heard being passed over four times is about the end.

  5. FWIW, the title is a play on the Kipling novel “Captains Courageous”, which itself was taken from a line in an old song, “When captains courageous, whom death could not daunt…”.

    But the pertinence to this episode eludes me.

  6. Potter: His head is so high in the clouds, he starts his prayers with “As long as I’m in the neighborhood”.

    A rather entertaining episode, IMO.

  7. Muldoon trying to get his free drink from Charles was funny, as was Father Mulcahy being the one to talk to him.

    I do have to wonder if Mulcahy really would have been that concerned with getting a promotion, since his job didn’t really change.

  8. My thing with Father Mulcahy’s seeming obsession with getting promoted is that it seems like it doesn’t fit with his vows and duties as a man of God. Catholicism teaches humility and pride in oneself is certainly one of the seven deadly sins. He is violating both those tenets by his constant fishing for a promotion. He certainly does deserve one. After going into combat zones, saving several people’s lives including performing a tracheotomy, trading in the black market for medicine, and generally being a comfort to hundreds of people, I suspect he would have received one long ago. That doesn’t mean he should succumb to his pride over believing that he’s deserving of praise for his actions. In fact he HAS gone above and beyond, but it’s not for him to be calling attention to it. That’s what bothers me about this. When your have other non-military people like Pierce, Klinger, and Hunnicut who don’t seem to care about rank contrasted with a Catholic priest who is supposed to be humble and unconcerned with earthly pleasures, it really seems like a glaring flaw in his role as a priest. Of course he’s human but he doesn’t even seem to realize that his pridefulness and lack of humility is directly at odds with his role as a man of God. That’s what bugs me. Not enough Catholics writing for MASH maybe. They just didn’t catch the connection.

    1. The majority of chaplains are no different than any other officer in any other community…they want to advance in their careers and feel they deserve it based on their accomplishments and get upset it when doesn’t happen.

  9. I’ve always liked this episode. It was cool too see John Orchard return, even if it was as a different character. Muldoon’s interactions with Winchester are highlights of the episode. Actually, a whole episode featuring Charles as the bartender could have been very entertaining.

    In addition to John Orchard’s reappearance, we get a few other returning guest actors. The main Greek character is played by Paul Cavonis, who played another Greek soldier (or maybe the same guy?) in “They Call the Wind Korea”. Also, the Turkish soldier is played by Sirri Murad, who was hilarious as the “Mad Turk” in “A Full Rich Day” (Could he be the same character in this episode?). Also, the actress who played the waitress appeared in a couple of earlier episodes. And, of course, Eileen Saki appeared as a lady of the evening in “Bug Out” a couple of seasons before she took over the role of Rosie.

    As for G.W. Bailey, it doesn’t seem like the character he plays here is meant to be Rizzo. Charles doesn’t seem to know who he is (although that could be because of Charles’ disdain for enlisted men). And Bailey’s character doesn’t know who Charles is, then attacks him (although that could be because he’s drunk and angry).

    At the beginning of the episode, why did it take Potter so long to come out of his office to yell at Klinger for reading the report to Mulcahy?

    If Charles graduated from Harvard in 1943 that would mean he’s only about 30 years old, which doesn’t seem possible; he was always portrayed as a very experienced surgeon. I’ve always figured that Charles was in his mid to late 30’s. Maybe he meant that he finished at Harvard Medical in 1943?

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