Episode Spotlight: Post-Op


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

“Post-Op” (#119, 5×23)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, March 8th, 1977
Teleplay by Ken Levine & David Isaacs
Story by Gene Reynolds & Jay Folb
Directed by Gene Reynolds

Capsule Summary: Desperately low on blood, the doctors and nurses of the 4077th struggle to care for wounded in Post-Op.

This was the penultimate episode of Season Five to hit the air but was actually the very last episode produced for the season. That means for viewers, “Post-Op” featured the second-to-last appearance of Frank Burns on M*A*S*H. But for the cast and crew, it was the last chance to work with Larry Linville as well as with Gene Reynolds in a producing capacity. Both would leave the series after Season Five, although Reynolds remained a creative consultant until the very end. It was also the last time Reynolds would direct an episode of M*A*S*H.

According to Ken Levine in a November 2011 post at his blog, he and writing partner David Isaacs wrote the script for this episode very quickly:

We were just handed the outline. That particular episode came at the very end of the season when lead-time was non-existent. We were brought in and asked to quickly write the script. That’s one of the MASH episodes I’m most proud of, because we did write it in only a few days, and they used probably 95% of our draft.

There isn’t much of a plot to “Post-Op” or storylines featuring different character. Instead, the wounded soldiers recovering in the Post-Op ward provide all of the action. I’m sure everybody has their favorite character. I’m partial to Corporal Robelo, the Puerto Rican soldier upset because his mustache was shaved off so his face could be stitched up.

Robelo should be thankful just to be alive, not complaining about facial hair that will grow back. On the other hand, he’s been wounded, may have seen buddies killed, and may have killed enemy soldiers. Maybe worrying about his mustache helps him cope with what he’s been through. Klinger seems to understand. His solution to the missing mustache? Make a fake one out of his own hair. It looks ludicrous but an initially skeptical Robelo likes it.

Other wounded include a young soldier Margaret talked to, who seemed unsure how to feel about having killed a young Chinese soldier; a mine layer who lost his leg after forgetting about booby trapped mines; a soldier embarrassed about being shot in the butt; a soldier from Chicago who corrects Colonel Potter’s recollections of the city; a soldier unconscious due to a snake bite; and a soldier who doesn’t want to fight anymore, forced to listen to Frank prattle on about his life; a soldier who flirts with Margaret. There’s also the medic with newly acquired self-respect.

Klinger’s replacement mustache

According to Frank, he’ll be going home soon. Was he planning on going crazy after Margaret left for her honeymoon, plotting to get transferred stateside and promoted?

Speaking of Frank, could his resistance to donating blood be a reaction to Hawkeye and Trapper stealing blood from him without consent in “Germ Warfare” back in Season One?

Sal Viscuso, better known for providing PA announcements on M*A*S*H, made his second of three guest appearances in this episode as a soldier who doesn’t want to go home because he’s making too much money in Korea.

There are a few Dracula references in this episode, including a crude drawing of the famous vampire on the Blood Bank sign over the Mess Tent entrance.

Neither Radar nor Father Mulcahy appear in this episode.

12 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Post-Op”

  1. I love Colonel Potter’s conversation with the patient about Chicago at the end of the episode, and how, after mistaking all those points of reference, he tries to console himself by asking the patient if he’s ever been to Detroit, and saying that he’ll talk about that next time, advising that the patient get some rest. “Remember, you’ve had a concussion.”

  2. Is this the episode where the soldier propositions Margaret (the one whose wife was a CPA and then propositions another nurse who turns out to be Klinger)?

    The guy who played the Puerto Rican soldier was so funny. That was a very nice thing that Klinger did for him.

    On the other hand, the soldier who has the conversation with Col. Potter in the end was also one the gang of teenagers who gets stranded in the middle of the ocean when a shark attacks the boats they’re in in ‘Jaws 2.’

  3. I’m sorry, I normally don’t say anything when I see an error in an article but I really feel I should on this one.
    Germ Warfare was in Season One, not Two.
    A very minor error in an otherwise great read, thanks RJ for providing us with good reading material!

  4. The soldier who propositions Margaret, I believe, looks a lot like Richard Kind from “Spin City”. Does anyone else notice the resemblance?

    1. I Just googled the hell out of it after finishing the episode. As I thought the exact same thing. It doesn’t appear to be Richard Kind. There is no note of him being in this episode. But the hand gestures the way his lips move when talking, I was sold as well.

  5. I like this episode, but then I’ve always been partial to the eps that actual focused on medical issues and less on the characters’ personal drama…

  6. “According to Frank, he’ll be going home soon. Was he planning on going crazy after Margaret left for her honeymoon, plotting to get transferred stateside and promoted?”

    With little reliable timeline through the series we have no idea how long the original characters have been on active duty when the series started. But everything I’ve read implies MASH doctors were rotated after twelve months (they may not be sent home but they are removed from front line duty; a draftee serves three years, doctors would receive six weeks basic training then be sent to their duty station). So Frank could have been near the end of his front line service.

    1. Yes but the problem with that is that certain doctors have been there longer than 12 months. Frank and Hawkeye both say they’ve been there since the beginning of the war. I believe Henry stayed a year and was sent home. It’s inconsistent in the context of the show and seems strange for Frank to say he’s going home soon without any other mention of it anywhere else.

  7. When Klinger comes into Post-OP in a nurse’s outfit:
    BJ: Very sleek, Klinger.
    KLINGER: I just threw it on.
    The nonchalant way he responds gets me every time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.