Episode Spotlight: A Smattering of Intelligence


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

“A Smattering of Intelligence” (#48, 2×24)
Originally Broadcast: Saturday, March 2nd, 1974
Written by Larry Gelbart & Laurence Marks
Directed by Larry Gelbart

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and Trapper trick a pair of intelligence officers into accusing Frank of being a communist and a fascist.

If you think too much about this episode you’ll realize the plot doesn’t make sense. But who cares about plot when you’re watching Edward Winter? Just sit back and enjoy the absurdity.

This is of course the second episode to guest star Edward Winter but the first in which he played Colonel Flagg, at least officially. His first appearance was in “Deal Me Out” earlier in Season 2 when he was credited as Captain Halloran. Most M*A*S*H fans believe this was just another of Flagg’s aliases and an exchange between Sidney Freedman and Flagg in Season 4’s “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?” supports this.

I think what I like best about this episode are Colonel Blake’s interactions with both Flagg and Stone. His response to Flagg asking about his clearance is hilarious: “Oh, I go through the door with about an inch to spare.” So is his reaction to the file Stone showed him: “Hey, this is nothing but a pack of filthy lying lies which is beneath my contempt about it and you can count on my full and fearful cooperation.”

Captain Stone isn’t nearly as funny as Flagg. His conversation with Frank about amphibious MASH units is hilarious but more for Frank’s enthusiasm than anything else.

Frank is very lucky that Flagg and Stone believed Hawkeye and Trapper when they said they altered his file. And Hawkeye and Trapper are lucky they didn’t get in trouble for their prank. Flagg said they could get ten years for doctor’s file doctoring. Stone’s friendship with Trapper worked in their favor but I’m actually surprised Flagg gave up so quickly.

Radar gets ready to spill the beans

This was the first of six episodes directed by Larry Gelbart. He had this to say about his directorial debut in a May 30th, 1998 post the alt.tv.mash newsgroup:

This was the first of the half dozen or so episodes I directed. I cannot tell what a great help Gene Reynolds was – first, encouraging me to do it all, then being a tremendous help, explaining the process as I went through it. I truly couldn’t – and wouldn’t – do it without him.

Trapper would later refer to Flagg breaking his own arm in “White Gold” during Season 3.

Speaking of Trapper, notice how he tilts his hat with his golf club as he passes Flagg on his way out of the X-ray room. I wonder, was this something Wayne Rogers came up with or did Gelbart instruct him to do it? It’s a tiny almost insignificant thing but it fits with Trapper’s irreverent, laid back attitude towards authority.

Does anyone know what G2 is, the organization Captain Stone claims to be a member of? CIA is the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA the Counter Intelligence Corps of the United States Army, and CID the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command.

It’s hard to tell but is Radar smoking a cigarette in the doorway to signal Stone? If so, it’s one of the rare instances of cigarettes being seen on M*A*S*H.

The “slides” of Trapper and Hawkeye in their guerrilla suits shown in the tag are from “As You Were” while the slide of Radar is from this episode. What about the slide of Colonel Blake behind a line of drying lingerie or the slide of Margaret washing Frank’s hair? Can anyone identify which episode or episodes those are from?

12 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: A Smattering of Intelligence”

  1. I think G2 has even been mentioned on Rocky and Bullwinkle of all shows once.

    But at any rate, this is an amusing episode, and I agree that Henry’s various interactions are funny, but my personal favorite, of which RJ didn’t mention, was when Stone told him they his people wanted to know what Flagg’s people are up to, to which Henry responds, “But why do we have to be in the middle? Can’t you let my people go?” And the way he delivered it in such a subtle and straight manner makes it all the more funny!

    Is it just me, or did it seem like Frank always harbored something of a man-crush on Flagg? I forget if it was this episode or not, but I remember he was talking with Margaret, asking her if she thought he was attractive, to which he says, “If I were a woman, I would.” But there’s also been occasions where Frank seems to just stare admirably at Flagg for no reason, such as “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan” where he sits in Potter’s chair drinking (or appears to be drinking).

    Yes, I believe Radar smoking in the doorway was a single to Stone.

    As for the slides, I’m pretty positive the ones in question came from “Divided We Stand”, I’d have to look again.

    1. I also forgot to mention one other little funny I love from this episode, when Radar first approaches the gang in the Mess Tent:

      RADAR: Excuse me, sirs…
      MARGARET: And ma’am!
      RADAR: (To Trapper) And ma’am.

  2. G-2 is intelligence (assistant chief of staff).G1 assistant chief of staff,
    G-3 operations and plans, G-4 logistics (supply), G-5 civil affairs
    These are staff positions at the headquarters company, battalion, or divisional headquarters.

  3. In the military G2 refers to the intelligence staff section of an Army formation commanded by a general officer. G-2 often actually refers to the officer on the divisional, corps or field army staff who is responsible for overseeing intelligence gathering and security operations. At lower level units, the battalion or regiment/brigade level (at the time of the Korean War, they used the term regiment instead of brigade) these staff officers are called S-2 (staff position 2). The soldiers assigned to the intelligence section are usually also called “G-2” as a group.

    Since 1967, S-2 and G-2 officers usually are part of the Military Intelligence Branch of the US Army. At the lowest level, an intelligence officer usually is a lieutenant who may lead recon platoon and be tasked with reconnoitering enemy lines and capturing prisoners for interrogation. S-2 at battalion and brigade/regiment level usually are responsible for coordinating all the data that the unit gets from recon patrols and interrogation of prisoners. Usually their main focus is on determining the strength and disposition, and possible intentions of the enemy units immediately in front of the battalion or regiments line. G-2 officers likewise focus the enemy’s actions in the areas in front of the division, corps or field army.

    Prior to 1967, officers were not branched into a military intelligence specialty, but special training on intelligence activities would qualify an infantry or armor officer, for example, to be assigned the S-2 or G-2 slot in a unit. At the time of the Korean War, it was referred to as the Military Intelligence Service, and was not as well coordinated as a whole as it later became.

    G-2 and S-2 usually has the duty to handle security matters for the unit, which involves radio security, passwords and codes, guarding against saboteurs and infiltrators at headquarters.

    At the higher Corps or Field Army level, a small portion of G-2’s efforts could be focused on investigating breaches of security, and in the concept of this episode of MASH, it would be in this capacity that Stone would be have been assigned to investigate any rumors of security threats at the 4077. When Stone said he was with G-2, he probably meant he was from the I Corps intelligence section, or possibly even 8th Army intelligence section. It would have been unlikely that an intelligence officer who reported to Theater Command in Tokyo, or to Washington would be assigned to investigate potential security leaks at an individual unit like the 4077th. MASH units were not assigned to divisions, however, they were directly under the command of corps and Army HQ. So it is unlikely that Stone would have been from a divisional level G-2 section.

    G-2 can also informally refer to the entire Military Intelligence apparatus of the entire Army and the chief of the US Army Military Intelligence Corps – officially title Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence is also referred to as the G-2.

  4. The correct spelling for the suits Hawkeye and Trapper wore is gorilla. And the episode that they wore those suits is “As You Were”

  5. Easily one of my favorites, as is any episode with Col. Flagg. I once read an interview with the writers, who said they had intentionally written the part “over the top” for comic effect and that Ed Winter, with no coaching, read the part exactly as they had envisioned it. Knowing that such a character could easily get old they made the decision to never use Flagg more than once a season so each appearance would be special and the character would not get stale.

    This episode is great as the two intelligence men each become convinced Frank is at opposing ends of the political spectrum.
    Frank: “I’m not anything!”

    And at the end we find not only do Flagg and Stone know each other, they are friends. As they leave the Swamp,
    “Buy you a drink, Sam?”
    As Stone pauses to take a few final photos of the Swamp with his miniature camera.

  6. I think the reason that Flagg and Stone folded when Hawkeye and Trapper said they altered his file was because neither of them wanted to admit to their superiors that they had been douped into believing anything was going on. At this point I don’t believe that Flagg was fed-up with them enough to just get them into trouble for the sake of just getting them in trouble.

  7. Dosen’t Hawkeye mention G2 during his gibberish explaination of the Corporal Captain rank survey during “Welcome to Korea”?

    1. Yes, he does. He also references G3 and G5 in his explanation.

      All the spy talk goes over my head completely. If someone can explain it reasonably, I’d greatly appreciate it.

  8. I thought I didn’t like the first two seasons so when I bought the DVDs, I only bought seasons 3-11. Recently I decided to get the first two and I’m so glad I did. Most of the episodes I had seen before, but for some reason I don’t think I had ever seen this one. It’s hilarious! I love the character of Colonel Flag and the dialogue in this episode had me in stitches.

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