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.
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?