Episode Spotlight: Dear Mildred


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

“Dear Mildred” (#79, 4×07)
Originally Broadcast: Friday, October 26th, 1975
Written by Everett Greenbaum & Jim Fritzell
Directed by Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: Colonel Potter writes his wife to celebrate their anniversary. Radar tries to get comfortable with the 4077th’s new CO. And Frank and Margaret conspire to get Potter an anniversary present.

This was an early Season Four episode and I think it shows. It seems like the cast and crew were still figuring out the new post-Henry Blake, post-Trapper John M*A*S*H. Colonel Potter most of all seems a little bit off, a little bit blandly serious. Not so much for B.J. but that’s only because he doesn’t really have much to do.

Despite airing as the seventh episode of the season, this really feels like it should have come third, after “Welcome to Korea” and “Change of Command.” Radar especially acts as if Potter has only been in command for a short while. On an unrelated note, it’s tough to take Radar seriously when he tells Potter that he’s just a kid considering Gary Burghoff was 32 when the episode was produced.

For a letter home episode it doesn’t feel like it involves much writing on the part of Potter. He starts the letter in his office, gets a little more written in the mess tent about Father Mulcahy, does a little writing about Margaret and Frank in his tent and then wraps things up again in his office. Most of the writing happens in real time; the only recollection is the movie night in which Father Mulcahy sings “All Dressed Up” with Lt. O’Connor (played by William Christopher’s real-life wife Barbara). The scene sticks out like a sore thumb.

I’m not sure want to make of Frank and Margaret going to such lengths to procure an anniversary gift for Colonel Potter. Were they sucking up? Margaret makes it very clear that the gift was only from her and Frank but otherwise there’s no indication that it was an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the new CO. The bust is hilarious. I wonder who carved it and who ended up keeping it (hopefully Harry Morgan).

It’s a horse

The involvement of a horse couldn’t have made this an easy episode to film. The scene in which the horse kicks through the doors of the supply room (which looks suspiciously like a redress of the Officers’ Club) is impressive. The horse legs are very obviously not actual horse legs but props. If you watch closely, you’ll see one has actually broken in half. And if you watch even closer, you can see hands pushing them through the wood paneling on the door.

Those aren’t horse legs

Also, during the following scene at the motor pool, right as Radar says “I’m keeping him” he moves to the left. Behind him you can see several members of the crew, including one in a cowboy hat. I doubt I would have noticed that myself but somebody at TV.com did.

A rare glimpse of the M*A*S*H crew in action

On the subject of horses, this episode contains one of the more infamous continuity goofs of the series. Despite being referred to as a male horse in this episode, Colonel Potter later names the horse Sophie and the horse becomes a she.

12 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Dear Mildred”

  1. All the ‘Dear…’ episodes are great and this one is no exception. I do agree that this episode probably was aired out of order because in the episodes previous to this, Radar didn’t have a problem with Col. Potter like he did in this one. He couldn’t dunk his Zwieback in his Bosco (I didn’t understand what this sentence meant till very recently).

    Col. Potter was very different in the beginning too. He spoke in a clipped manner not unlike a career soldier. He was fond of gossiping (mentioning about Frank and Margaret’s appearances on various occasions) and looking out of the windows in this tent to see the goings on around the camp.

    BJ throwing the noose around Hawkeye trying to capture the horse and then whining “It’s still my turn” when Hawkeye tried to take it from him was funny. Radar’s affinity with animals was revealed to its fullest extent in this episode, I think.

    Cho Man Chin with his 2×4 (“Used to be round”), Hitler’s pencilbox…LOL. Richard Lee Sung was a great guest star.

    Finally, Col. Potter slipping and then saying “Son, to me that is a tiptoe through the tulips” always makes me crack up.

    Great episode.

  2. Good comments all.

    I enjoy this episode (and just re-watched it), even though it is a little rough around the edges as they figured out the new cast and characters. I like the intro of the episode with Radar’s elaborate preparation of a balance for his un-level desk. The simultaneous pause by Radar and Potter when Potter writes that Radar is “a little squirrelly” is a classic moment and cements that Radar would be able to read Potter’s mind as well as he had Blake’s.

    I also like Hawkeye’s and BJ’s lines when they arrive to retrieve the horse.
    H: “You know anything about horses?”
    BJ: “I stepped in some manure once”.
    H: “Ok, you’re in charge”

    I like the period-correct beer can that Potter has to open by poking two holes in the top (no pull tabs back then). Nice touch.

  3. Overall a good episode, but I hate Radar’s childish begging when trying to talk Hawkeye and BJ into going to see the horse – “Come on! Please, please, pretty please.” I keep expecting him to drop to the ground and kiss their boots.

  4. The ‘squirrelly ‘ joke was like one made by Hawkeye in a letter to his Dad in one of the earlier “Dear Dad” Episodes. he writes “I don’t put much faith in ESP, but if it DOES exist,Radar has it,the little fink”. Radar looks up and says, “Is that a nice thing to say?”

  5. It’s never explained how Burnsahan knew about Potters anniversary, are officer’s wedding dates in their official records?

  6. Radar seems a bit selfish in this episode. Potters remarks are clearly those of a newcomer to the 4077th. His reaction to getting the horse is a nice scene.

    Frank on the bust: “It looks like you!” Carver: “Gives Colonel a little class.”

  7. Greatest final scene in series history. Col. Potter riding Sophie to the chopper pad, re-living his youth and earlier cavalry experience. “Let’s go get ’em boys and girls.”

  8. I really like just about all of season 4, and this episode is no exception.

    I’ve always loved the scene where Hawkeye, BJ, and Radar are trying to capture the horse (the dialogue and the horse’s antics are hilarious) and the later scene where they are trying to sedate it (even with the obviously fake horse legs).

    And of course, the scene where Potter gets his gifts is alternately very funny and very touching.

    Richard Lee-Sung nailed it every time he guest starred, but this appearance might be my favorite.

    The only thing I could do without is the duet between Mulcahy and O’Connor. It adds nothing and it seems way out of character for Father Mulcahy.

    Nitpick: If Potter is finishing his letter to Mildred on his anniversary, how long will it be before his wife receives it?!

  9. I always wondered how the writer described the statue in the script …something like ‘ it resembles both Potter and the Korean artist’ I guess. ether that or the prop just happened to come out looking like a fusion of both actors and they just threw it in.

  10. The chopper pilot wants to shoot the horse (I’ll call him “Mr. Sophie”) because he’s hurt and likely suffering. But when Mr. Sophie appears, he seems fine and active. So Hawkeye, B.J., and Radar take him back to the 4077th, and Radar gifts him to Col Potter. But the 4077th is in the midst of an agricultural community that depends on work animals. Which strongly suggests that Mr. Sophie is some farmer’s lost horse. Shouldn’t they have tried to find the owner? Or give the horse to a farmer in need of a horse?

    I have almost zero knowledge of horses and farming, so maybe my questions are just stupid. But this has always bothered me, so if someone can explain why everyone presumed that a healthy horse was free for the taking, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

    1. I just finished the episode, so I will correct my prior errors. Mr. Sophie had a minor shrapnel injury, which Hawkeye and B.J. treated. Hawkeye suggested giving him to a farmer, but Radar objected because he didn’t want the horse performing hard labor. Still, my point stands, whether Potter should have kept as his own a “found” horse who apparently made a full recovery from the shrapnel.

      1. Good idea for a spinoff there BJ! “Mr Sophie” After Potter says his goodbyes and leaves Korea, Klinger discovers Sophie can talk and is aware everyone is calling him a mare. Klinger consoles him/her “You’re talking to a soldier who wore more women’s clothes than men’s clothes, I understand your feelings, it really hurt everytime Hawkeye called me ‘Ma’am'” I smell reboot! Someone call CBS!

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