Episode Spotlight: Private Finance


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

“Private Finance” (#177, 8×08)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, November 5th, 1979
Written by Dennis Koenig
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Klinger gets himself into trouble trying to help a young South Korean woman; Hawkeye makes a promise to a wounded soldier who later dies on the operating table and has trouble fulfilling it.

Neither of the storylines in this episode are particularly strong. The A story involving Klinger and the misunderstanding that leads to Mrs. Li wanting to perforate him with a pitchfork wasn’t very believable. Despite Oksun Li supposedly serving as translator, Mrs. Li seemed to understand plenty of English when Colonel Potter and Margaret were talking to her, making it hard to understand why someone couldn’t have explained what was going on.

As for the B story in which Hawkeye has to deal with the ill-gotten gains of the late Eddie Hastings, it seemed even more unrealistic. Both that Hastings would be able to acquire so much money without being caught or at least suspected, and that the $8,873 would fit in the money belt he was wearing.

After Hawkeye got the money back from the Hastings, I’m surprised Colonel Potter didn’t say “Well, we tried, time to send it to I Corps” (saving a little to help the Lis move to Pusan, of course). Or that nobody suggested giving it to the orphans that Father Mulcahy was always raising money for. In the tag scene in the Swamp, we hear suggestions like the Red Cross, the U.S.S. Hope, the U.S.S.O. and the A.S.P.C.A. but nothing about the orphans.

Klinger faces the pitchfork

Unfortunately, by this point in the series, comments about the futility of war like those expressed by Hawkeye and B.J. after Hastings died had become almost as tired as the characters looked. As a viewer, hearing the same frustrations from the doctors episode after episode becomes repetitive after a while and they lose their impact.

If you watch closely, after Eddie Hastings dies, you can see his eyes moving underneath his eyelids. Maybe he wasn’t quite so dead.

When Klinger bursts into the Swamp, we see Charles reading and there’s a pretty clear shot of the two pages he has open. There are two pictures and a lot of text. Could be be reading an encyclopedia?

Gary Burghoff is given a special “Also Starring” credit in the opening credits despite not appearing in this episode and having left the series earlier in the season.

15 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Private Finance”

  1. I’ve always wondered if Radar had a scripted scene(s) in this episode that were cut or simply never filmed due to his exit.
    Does anyone know if there is a ‘rule’ for this sort of thing? If an actor is scripted and either cut or his scenes not filmed, is he still shown in the credits?

    1. I often wondering that, too. In fact, my kids in the past wondered that as well. Why was his name listed, but he was never on the episode? Maybe because it was cheaper to just leave his name there instead of editing the credits for those episodes he was on/not on…?

    2. Most likely his contract stated his name appeared in the credits for the season. This isn’t uncommon; on “Perry Mason” Ray Collins was ill for much of the last seasons he was in, but his name appeared in all the credits even though his character, Lt. Tragg, wasn’t in the episode at all.

  2. I’m perhaps one of the few who liked every episode…..But, this one would be one that is listed close to the bottom. It’s almost as if these two story lines were in the pile of “to be used if we run out of good ideas” pile. The A story line is just silly. The B story line is okay, not great. And definitely not realistic, as RJ pointed out. And why not give it to the orphans? That’s almost a no-brainer.

    1. I feel the same, I’ve always enjoyed virtually every episode though some more than others. I can see the fault in the episodes but I find myself having a grand time nonetheless

  3. The storyline of Eddie Hastings, like it was mentioned, is a little hard to swallow. How can a mere foot soldier be involved with all those things and still fly under the radar?? His comrades allegedly hated him but no one thought to report him to their superiors??

    Regarding Klinger’s storyline, I liked that Col. Potter went to bat for his company clerk despite his reservations, showing that he was a good leader and commander looking out for his troops.

    Good storyline, not great. I watch it if it comes on but it’s not one I actively go looking for to play.

  4. I enjoyed this episode too even though it wasn’t one of the best of the series. The Hastings story of a man away from home, probably for the first time gets exposed to things he’s never been exposed to before, doesn’t know how to handle them. I do agree the amount of money was a little excessive though. Perhaps others didn’t turn him in because they feared retaliation from some of the people he did his crimes with or he didn’t work alone. Perhaps the guys who turned him in thought since he was dead, they wouldn’t be responsible for breaking up his crime ring so nothing would happen to them.

    The dilemma of Hawkeye’s promise to Hastings provided an interesting conflict, but I was also surprised when it was sent back Potter didn’t say to send it to I-Corps.

  5. We have another plot inconsistency here. Potter and Margaret go to the Korean woman’s home, her daughter translates since neither speak Korean. But in the episode where Margaret leaves the camp to deliver a baby, she not only converses in Korean but seems quite fluent.

  6. Honestly, I had no problem with this episode. Klinger as usual gets into trouble, and a soldier knows how to grift enemy and ally alike.
    The issue of the mother understanding Margaret wasn’t a word-for-word understanding, but rather by reading her body language (standing astride her while arguing with her commander) and the tone of her voice. Hawkeye and others did the same thing frequently when dealing with Korean soldiers possibly threatening them.
    The amount of money was excessive, but it was a setup essentially for the payoff (literally) at the end–the guys get to decide who benefits from Hasting’s ill-gotten gains.

  7. This is actually one my favorite episodes of Season 8, simply because of Klinger and what he was trying to do for Oksun Li. I already really like Klinger as a character and this just makes him even better in my eyes.

    It’s kind of disappointing that Potter and Margaret both seem to side with Mrs. Li at first, as even Margaret should have known right away that Klinger would never do that, but at least they believe him in the end.

  8. Hastings probably built up his little next egg over time. I wonder what would have happened if he’d lived and gone home only to find out that his folks knew about the money the whole time? Or if he’d lived and gotten exposed while still in the hospital? He certainly would have been questioned about the money in that case.

    Klinger’s encounter with the old lady was funny and so was the scene where she and Potter both aim a pitchfork at him.

  9. I like the part with Hawkeye reading the letter from Eddie’s parents when he yadda yaddas “honest and trustworthy” about himself.

  10. I enjoy watching this episode in part because of the pitchfork goof: in one scene the number of tines keeps switching between four and five. They may have filmed the scene twice, using different pitchforks for each take, then just spliced them together.

  11. What makes this episode a favorite of mine is when Klinger kisses Mrs. Li. And then she laughs and smacks him. It’s priceless.

  12. Wonder if the character was named Eddie Hastings to bring to mind another rotten below the apple pie surface character Eddie Haskell.

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