Episode Spotlight: Lt. Radar O’Reilly

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

“Lt. Radar O’Reilly” (#100, 5×04)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, October 12th, 1976
Written by Everett Greenbaum & Jim Fritzell
Directed by Alan Rafkin

Capsule Summary: Radar receives a surprise promotion to second lieutenant but soon realizes he doesn’t like being an officer.

Depending on how you count, this was the 100th episode of M*A*S*H to be broadcast on CBS. If you consider “Welcome to Korea” and “Bug Out” single, hour-hour episodes then, yes, “Lt. Radar O’Reilly” was the 100th episode. If, on the other hand, you are of the opinion that both “Welcome to Korea” and “Bug Bug” out were in fact two half-hour episodes broadcast back-to-back then this is the 102nd episode.

Either way it’s a good episode even if the plot isn’t very believable. It seems highly unlikely that Master Sergeant Woodruff could push through a promotion for Radar just because he was in charge of the I Corps mimeograph. I’m sure someone higher up than a master sergeant would have to sign off on a promotion, particularly one that jumps an enlisted man to officer status (in this case non-commissioned officer status). Is that even possible?

Likewise, how exactly would Hawkeye and B.J. have reversed the promotion? It’s never explained. If they admitted what happened to Colonel Potter I’m sure Woodruff would have gotten in serious trouble.

This another one storyline episode with nearly every main character somehow tying into Radar’s promotion, notably Hawkeye and B.J. who set it in motion, Frank and Margaret who refused to accept it (although Margaret at least offered some advice to the new officer), Colonel Potter who didn’t believe it, and Klinger who didn’t respect it. The only character who never interacted with Lt. O’Reilly was Father Mulcahy.

Supporting characters Igor and Zale also get drawn into Radar’s promotion. Like Klinger, they don’t respect Radar’s newfound authority. I wonder if Radar actually put Igor on report for sleeping on guard duty and giving a rifle to a South Korean boy. Apparently the only thing Igor did when he wasn’t serving food was sleep; he’s also shown sleeping in Supply.

Finally, there’s Radar’s romance with Nurse Baker (played by Lynne Marie Stewart who appeared in several other episodes between 1975 and 1977). She wanted him when she couldn’t have him due to his rank, didn’t want him when when their ranks were equal, and then wanted him again after he’d been demoted. Radar didn’t seem to care too much, though. It all worked out for him in the end. We rarely saw any other nurses concerned about relationships with enlisted men, though.

Radar’s a second lieutenant

Margaret seems to be pretty skilled with a whip. I wonder if Loretta Swit had fun filming that scene.

While talking to Margaret about surgical supplies in the O.R. Radar says “Jenkie bottoms, when I made corporal I broke out in hives.” Does anyone have any idea what “jenkie bottoms” means or where the phrase originates?

The way Hawkeye and B.J. respond to Radar’s promotion is hilarious:

Hawkeye: “Oh, I’m not surprised the way you’ve been working. Toting that barge, lifting that bale.”
B.J.: “Not getting drunk and landing in jail.”
Hawkeye: “Had to happen.”
B.J.: “It was in the cards.”

I especially like the way Hawkeye turns to B.J. and laughs at how clever they’ve been. The first two lines are from the song “Ol’ Man River.” Are the last two lines also from a song (or songs)?

The tag scene would have worked better if Klinger, Igor, and Zale were all teenagers overly excited to hear about about one of their friends kissing a girl. Grown adults making such a fuss just seems weird.

I could have sworn there was a scene in this episode in which Radar (as a lieutenant) tries to sit with his friends in the Mess Tent only for them to get up and move away. Did I blink and miss it or am I thinking of another episode?

9 Comments

  • I think my favorite part from this episode was when Radar tries to teach Klinger how to use the P.A. system, and Klinger kept spitting into the microphone as he blew out the feedback. It’s butchered pretty badly in syndication, but the most hilarious part is where they get into their little blowing fight… which is being heard on the P.A., and Hawkeye and B.J. exchange looks with each other as we hear them blowing raspberries.

    I also like when Radar is first cruising the Compound in his new uniform and insignia, and everybody he crosses paths with salutes him – then he sees a small crowd exit the Mess Tent and walk toward him, so he takes off in another direction to avoid having to salute all of them.

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    The part with Radar and Klinger fighting in the office over proper usage of the PA system is my favorite bit in the episode too.

  • doc funnypants says:

    I thought Lieutenant Baker treated Radar pretty bad leading him on like that.
    First, she was smitten then she spurned him when he got promoted.
    It annoyed me very much.

  • AK-11 says:

    My favorite part in this episode is when Radar shows Frank his Lieutenant bars..and Frank tells him he could be shot for impersonating an officer..and Hawkeye retaliates by saying” they haven’t shot you yet Frank..and Frank says”Don’t you sass me bub…Lol

  • Phil says:

    You mentioned in the second paragraph that Radar was promoted to NCO status. Second Lieutenant in the Army is a commissioned officer.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    “bugling!My horse can bugle better than he does!”
    “maybe your horse is up for a promotion too.”
    “from gelding to stud.”
    “that would be unusual”

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    The exchange between Radar and Klinger on the PA was hilarious especially Klinger’s announcement of that night’s movie. Is “One Ticket to Broadway” a real movie or is it as imaginary as Teddy, the Wonder Lizard?
    One other tidbit about this episode that no one may know about, Woodruff, who sets up Radar’s promotion, was played by Sandy Kenyon. He later was heard on CNN’S Headline News reporting on Hollywood.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    Too bad Fr Mulchay left the poker game when he did, he might have gotten his sought after promotion earlier.

  • Lady,you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    Was there a scene cut from the syndicated version? The IMDB summary mentions Father Mulcahy receiving Ritz crackers in the mail instead of communion wafers . I don’t remember ever seeing this.

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