Episode Spotlight: Promotion Commotion


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

“Promotion Commotion” (#231, 10×17)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, March 1st, 1982
Written by Dennis Koenig
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye, B.J., and Charles are charged with overseeing the 4077th promotion board. Meanwhile, Colonel Potter befriends a young soldier.

If you are or were in the Army, or are otherwise familiar with how ranks and promotions work in the Army, this episode may seem ludicrous to you. According to the trivia section for “Promotion Commotion” at TV.com, nearly everything about the promotion board depicted in this episode was inaccurate. M*A*S*H often played fast and loose with certain military and/or Army regulations, so it’s no surprise that things were quite right in this episode. It would have taken the entire episode to properly explain and depict actual promotion board.

Nitpicks about accuracy aside, it was nice to see Klinger promoted to sergeant, continuing his evolution from crossdressing Section 8-seeker to valued member of the 4077th. The timing of the actual promotion felt a little rushed but that’s also understandable. Klinger’s solution to the Hitalksi problem doesn’t make any sort of sense, however. Not only was it far too neat and tidy, there would have been some sort of investigation that ultimately would lead back to the 4077th and Klinger because nobody would believe Hitalksi could have forged his own travel documents.

(I can’t recall if this was the only “promotion” episode of M*A*S*H, not counting “Lt. Radar O’Reilly” or the various episodes in which Father Mulcahy was upset about not being promoted. Colonel Potter makes it sound like promotion boards were regular things, and refuses to let Margaret serve on this board because she’s already done it recently. At first I thought there was an early episode in which Klinger tried cheating to get promoted but eventually realized I was thinking about “Soldier of the Month” which was not about a promotion.)

The B story about Colonel Potter befriending young Private Danielson would have been more believable if Danielson didn’t look so old. He was supposed to be a very young, very naive soldier fresh from the States (much like Radar, come to think of it) but he looked quite a bit older. It made it hard to take a lot of what he was saying seriously. Ron “Ronnie” Howard way back in Season 1’s “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” looked like a young soldier.

Klinger knows his stuff

Father Mulcahy was barely in this episode. His outrage over not getting peas seemed unnecessary. It wasn’t Hawkeye’s fault that Igor gave him the last of the peas, nor was it Hawkeye’s fault that Igor ignored Father Mulcahy.

Hawkeye should have been less concerned about Igor trying to bribe him and more upset about the fact that Igor (or whoever was cooking) was clearly capable of producing better food than the regular mess tent slop but only when it suited him. That cake was obviously very tempting and yet Hawkeye didn’t seem at all curious as to where it came from or why it was possible for the cook to even create such a delicacy.

This was the first of two episodes in which Deborah Harmon played Nurse Webster. The other was “Hey, Look Me Over” from Season 11.

12 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Promotion Commotion”

  1. By season 10 (actually as soon as Radar left), the role of Klinger was played VERY broadly and over the top. Lines such as “You rang, your royal colonelness” – or something to that effect, became the norm and pretty irritating.

    The subtle comedy that was prevalent in years 1-6 was by nowhere near as well written or acted. Potter was believable and professional in the first couple of years he was in command. By years 8 and 9, he was a cartoon.

    Of all the characters who left, Radar was the one that was almost impossible to replace.

  2. It must be noted that former NFL defensive lineman John Matuszak played Hitalski in this episode. Does anyone know what happened to Hitalski after the MPs caught him

  3. Not a very good episode IMO. I always found both the A story with the promotions and B Story with the “young” soldier a bit boring and annoying.

    I too always confuse this episode with the one where Klinger writes the answers all over his body, but I agree it was nice to see him do it professionally this time and earn the well deserved promotion.

    If Radar had been here still, I would have to believe he would have been the one to win the promotion. SGT O’Reilly would have been interesting.

  4. Inspector General would have been all over this promotion board for the following reasons:

    Board was all medical officers, so how could Rizzo, a 63B (supposedly) motors sergeant, expect a fair shake? He needed a Quartermaster Corps officer on the board.

    Igor is an E2 private (“mosquito wings”). Only requirements for him to be promoted to E3 are a clean service record and CO’s recommendation. He shouldn’t have had to even appear before a board.

    Klinger is a medic and the board is medical officers, yes, but they only asked him “company clerk” questions (71L?).

  5. I always figured that was how promotions were done in the 50s. Nowadays they are nothing like that obv.

  6. I have a question for a military person. This has bugged me for a long time: How the heck could Klinger have become a corporal in the first place? He clearly states on several occasions that he was drafted; he was not an enlistee.

    I guess he could have been drafted right after the Selective Service Act of 1948 went into effect. At some point, I guess he could have made corporal (How long does it typically take to make corporal?). Then when he found out he was going to a war zone, he started wearing dresses?

    If he was drafted after the Korean War started, he wouldn’t have had time to make corporal, would he?

    Also, even though he was a competent company clerk, wouldn’t all of his prior shenanigans preclude him from getting promoted to sergeant?

    I know it’s just a TV show, but I wonder about weird things sometimes.

  7. Fun episode, but the actor playing Danielson was so wooden (at least in comparison to Harry Morgan) that his performance takes the enjoyment out of watching this episode for me. It was a nice idea for a subplot, but the actor was ill-equipped to perform next to such a talented thespian

  8. All this talk about Klinger being promoted just made me think how badly Radar deserved a promotion but never got one. Klinger has at times destroyed his office, messed up, destroyed, lost, or forgotten to file important paperwork, been court martialed, gone AWOL, neglected his duties MULTIPLE times, gambled incessantly to the exclusion of all else, lied, cheated officers out of their money, plus all the section 8 stuff. Are we to believe that a few good trades and good natured conversations supercede all this? They tried way too hard to make us think of him as invaluable as Radar but he wasn’t. Why did they only ask Klinger about paperwork and everyone else about army trivia? He had a different accordion than he had in It’s Showtime. How many accordions do they have in a warzone?

    The guy who threatened Charles for the promotion was pointless. Why didn’t Charles just have him arrested and sent away then and there? The idea that Charles was even intimidated by him was ridiculous. The law was on his side.

    The actor who played Jimmy was terrible. Not only did he look about 45 but his acting was so stilted. It took me right out of his storyline. It seemed like a lot of the post op guys were trying to act like Wally Cleaver. Forced innocence.

  9. One thing that bothered me about Maj. Houlihan, was she was supposedly all military, yet she was CONSTANTLY out of uniform. Her hair should have always been up, not draped across her uniform, her dog tags would never be outside her blouse, etc…

  10. I think Father Mulchay was actually promoted in the episode where he finally got really fed up at having been passed over, and there was the one with the male nurse who became an honorary Lieutenant, and where Radar got “promoted” to 2nd Lieutenant as a gag.

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