Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.
“I Hate a Mystery” (#10, 1×10)
Originally Broadcast: Sunday, November 26th, 1972
Written by Hal Dresner
Directed by Hy Averback
Capsule Summary: Hawkeye is blamed for a rash of thefts at the 4077th and is forced to uncover the real culprit.
This is a delightful episode in nearly ever way, which is remarkable considering it was just the sixth episode produced and the 10th aired. M*A*S*H really hit the ground running early during its first season. The plot features just one main storyline that touches every main character and a number of supporting ones, too.
When I sat down to rewatch it for this review I was about 90% sure I remembered who the thief was. If you don’t know or can’t remember, I would suggest you stop reading this and go rewatch “I Hate a Mystery” right now unless you want the mystery to be spoiled.
I wonder if anyone watching this episode when it originally aired back in November 1973 actually thought Hawkeye was responsible for the thefts. It could have been some sort of prank, as Colonel Blake suggested. Even Trapper seemed to turn against Hawkeye after the stolen items were found in his trunk. Trapper completely ignored Hawkeye when he returned to the Swamp after golfing.
If there is a weak part of this episode it’s the end. Not necessarily the revelation that Ho Jon was the thief, although one could argue that doesn’t make much sense given the events of “M*A*S*H — The Pilot,” but how nobody seemed upset at all. They all immediately forgave him and offered up all of their bits and pieces. Even Margaret or Frank. And even after it became obvious he was stealing way more than he needed.
Colonel Blake’s search of the 4077th is as hilarious as it is amateurish. He and Radar paw through Leslie’s undergarments but apparently leave Lt. Bannerman’s unchecked. Henry insists on inspecting a shower head, as if anything could be hidden in there, and somehow manages to turn it on. He then thinks there might be stolen items in the Swamp’s stove pipe, resulting in him being covered in soot. It’s actually surprising he asked Hawkeye to open his trunk because that was actually a good place to look.
Supporting cast members get a lot of screen time in this episode: Spearchucker, Ho-Jon, Father Mulcahy, Leslie Scorch, and Barbara Bannerman. This was the first appearance of Bonnie Jones as Lt. Bannerman. She made a handful of other appearances during Season One. Odessa Cleveland (Ginger) is credited as appearing in this episode as well but I don’t recall seeing her anywhere, not even in the O.R.
Henry’s voiceover during the search is very unusual. Although many episodes included voiceover representing letters being written or read, in this case we heard regular dialogue. Hence the echo to indicate it was out of sync with the action on screen.
Hawkeye’s PA announcement calling for everyone to come to the mess tent was still taking place when they started showing up. And Ho Jon wasn’t even called yet he showed up.
This episode introduced Radar’s teddy bear. Although Henry seemed surprised to find it under Radar’s bunk, nobody notice or cared that he walked into the mess tent.
Very few episodes of M*A*S*H in which a cigarette is seen. This is one of them. “Yankee Doodle Doctor” is another.
Did you notice that Leslie and Henry have matching bathrobes.
Klinger doesn’t appear in this episode.