Episode Spotlight: The Moon Is Not Blue


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

“The Moon Is Not Blue” (#243, 11×08)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 13th, 1982
Written by Larry Balmagia
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: During a heat wave Hawkeye and B.J. try to get their hands on a racy movie.

You can’t really say this is an episode about military bureaucratic incompetence (like “The Incubator,” for example) because it’s not really incompetence but rather the brown-nosing Major Frankenheimer’s disdain for unimportant front line medicos that initially keeps Hawkeye and B.J. from getting The Moon Is Blue for the 4077th. Add to that the honest mix-up that took place after Colonel Potter stepped in and tried to help.

Considering the lengths he went to get the film, it’s no wonder Hawkeye was so livid when it finally arrived and turned out to be far less lurid and explicit than he hoped. Too bad he didn’t listen to Charles when he explained that being banned in Boston doesn’t necessarily mean much. The Moon Is Blue was released on July 8th, 1953 only weeks before the Korean War ended. Is it realistic that prints would make their way to Korea so quickly? I doubt it.

If getting the movie is the episode’s A story, I’d say the B story has to be the placebos. They worked well for Bannister, helping him conquer his fear of talking to women, but failed to keep Klinger cool once he learned the truth. While the placebo effect is well documented scientifically and has been known to do some incredible things, does anyone know whether it has been shown to work with oppressive heat and humidity?

Also, supposedly once someone is told they’ve been taking placebos, any improvement goes away. That’s what immediately happened to Klinger. Bannister, however, didn’t fall apart or at least we didn’t see him start sweating. One can only hope he was able to go out on his blind date. Good on Potter for figuring out a way to replace the placebos by telling I Corps they were stolen.

The C story involving General Rothaker’s prohibition doesn’t add much to the episode other a little more misery for the camp. Without booze, the heat was even more unbearable. The 4077th should count itself lucky that Potter planned to lift the prohibition once Rothaker left.

“Those are my beans!”

This was the last of six holdover episodes producing for Season 10 that were broadcast as part of Season 11.

Does Major Frankenheimer look familiar? He should. Hamilton Camp previously played the nutty Corporal “Boots” Miller in “Major Topper” back in Season 6.

The best line of the episode goes to Charles: “My, my. What has become of your wino’s Erector set?” Unfortunately, the worst line goes to him as well: “Those are my beans!” The bingo scene has to be the weakest part of the episode. At least it gave Igor something to do.

21 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: The Moon Is Not Blue”

  1. Has anyone seen the actual ‘The Moon is Blue??’ Is it actually as scandalous as they make it out to be?? Of course, scandalous in the 1950s was a lot different that what it is now, but I was wondering if the subject matter was perceived to be censor worthy.

    Good episode although I like Hamilton Camp a lot better in his first episode.

    1. It was considered risque for its day merely for sexual innuendo and use of the word “virgin”. It has since been shown on network TV without raising an eyebrow.

      1. Yes. Boston also banned the 50’s Everly Brothers song “Wake Up Little Susie”, a song about two teenagers who fall asleep watching a movie and don’t wake up at 4 a.m., thus worrying that they created an impression with others that they had sex even though they actually did not. So, I’d say this is realistic, especially with Boston as the backdrop.

    2. Yes and back when The Moon is Blue was released, the Catholic League had a major hand in whether the MPAA gave a movie a seal for release in mainstream theaters. Without a seal, movie would usually be relegated to smaller independent theaters. This was before the current rating system where movies just get an R rating if they’re really racy. Even if a movie got a seal for public release, the movie still had to contend with local censor boards. Hence the banning in a very Catholic city like Boston.

  2. I’ve never seen THE MOON IS BLUE but once I saw it listed on TCMs schedule and I read the description and it doesn’t sound very racy.

  3. I wonder what Frankenheimer said to Bannister to cause him to send “State Fair” instead of “The Moon is Blue”.

  4. “Without booze, the heat was even more unbearable.”

    Actually alcohol accentuates the heat effects.

  5. The C story was the only part that didn’t make much sense-surely Rothaker would have had some experience with wartime drinking, after all what else was the Officer’s club for? Did he ban booze wherever he went?

    And yes alcohol makes you dehydrate faster in heat so maybe they were better off 🙂

      1. What also didn’t make sense was Potter disingenuously thanking Rothaker for greasing the wheels for the 4077th to get “The Moon Is Blue” only to have Frankenheimer double-cross him and send “State Fair” as intended.
        How many others believe that Rothaker persuaded Hugo Reniky to send “The Moon Is Blue”?

  6. I know this was reviewed at much earlier, but the actor who played Bannister (Sandy Helberg) is the father of the actor who plays Howard (Simon Helberg) on “Big Bang Theory” I guess Bannister got over his confidence issues and had a couple of nice kids!

  7. Placebos allow the brain to fool the body. In Klinger’s case, his brain was able to fool his body into thinking it was cool. In Bannister’s case, the placebo allowed Bannister to believe he was “cool” and self confident.

    Once the subject knows about the placebo, the outcome depends upon the subject’s mind. Sometimes the effects are lasting, as Bannister’s seem to be because the person’s self-esteem just needs a gentle nudge. Sometimes the effect is rejected by the mind, often as dramatically and instantaneously as Klinger’s reaction.

  8. The storyline about the general banning booze at the camp because he smelled it on a corpsman’s breath was just ridiculous. His jump from the OC not being run by special services (which didn’t make sense either because their officer’s club was a gift from another general who would have known about the regs) to a complete ban of all booze was ridiculous. What about Rosie’s, which is right near the camp? Is he going to try to tell the Koreans to shut down selling liquor just because it’s so nearby? Good luck with that The whole thing was stupid and silly.

    1. The camp was told they are banned from going to local Korean owned establishments. Which, from what I can tell, you will find “ridiculous”.

  9. I have to disagree about the bingo scene. Charles stressing about his beans makes me laugh! It just goes to show how heat can greatly affect your temperament and judgment.

    POTTER: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement. Effective immediately: Those are Major Winchester’s beans.”

  10. For once I agree with one of the writer’s criticisms. I found the bingo scene with Winchester’s beans and the way the unknown man swiped them for no reason and then Charles’ reaction was very odd.

  11. We don’t know why General Rothaker’s is so against drinking and orders prohibition; we don’t need to, his hard nose attitude about that makes it all the more funny when he pulls strings to get “The Moon Is Blue”, only to have it end up being “State Fair” (because Hawkeye already had the labels of the two movies switched so they’d get it). And then it helps us know he is gone when they finally do get to see “The Moon Is Blue” (we have no idea how long it took to finally get but B.J. and Hawkeye have drinks in their hands so we know Rothaker is gone).

    It is so much fun watching Hawkeye & B.J. strikeout so many times and work so hard to get the movie, and THEN the letdown! There are enough twists in the strikeouts it’s easy to get lost, for me anyway.

    Fun lines:
    [B.J.] “Uh, we still have the still.”

    [Potters note] “Sorry, boys, but I’ve had to impound your hoochmobile for the duration of Rothaker’s stay. Reluctantly, Colonel Potter.”

    [Charles] “My, my, what has become of your wino’s erector set?” (I love this line but I also like Potter calling it a hoochmobile.)

    Fun how Klinger never wonders why Hawkeye doesn’t use the pills to keep cool.

    There are a lot of extras in this episode. The mess tent is full of women in shorts (giving us lots of bare legs), helps set up Bannister problem around women and Hawkeye’s line “Gee, that’s too bad. They’re everywhere.” There seem to be a lot during the bingo game too, helps give the feeling the camp is big (bigger than “our” few).

    This episode covers several days with no liquor in the camp, yet Hawkeye and B.J. do just fine, they just busy themselves trying to get the movie.

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.