Episode Spotlight: End Run


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

“End Run” (#113, 5×17)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, January 25th, 1977
Written by John D. Hess
Directed by Harry Morgan

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye is forced to amputate the leg of a soldier who in civilian life was a star football player. Frank, meanwhile, cooks up a boxing match between Klinger and Zale.

This is an episode where I am split right down the middle in terms of how I feel about it. The A story involving Sgt. Billy Tyler is incredibly well done and M*A*S*H at its finest. The Klinger/Zale B story is corny at best and just plain lousy at worst.

As is often the case, I wish less time had been devoted to the B story so there would have been more time to flesh out Billy’s story even more. For example, it would have been interesting (and potentially dramatic) had the soldier Billy tried to get to on the battlefield had ended up at the 4077th as well. Would Billy have blamed him for losing his leg? That could have added another dimension to the blame game, with Billy forgiving Hawkeye but finding another person to blame. Perhaps Hawkeye or Radar would have had to help him realize nobody was to blame.

This wasn’t the first episode to involve a wounded soldier wanting to commit suicide. What was unusual here was for Billy to tell Hawkeye not to save him if his leg couldn’t be saved. It wasn’t just losing the leg but what losing the leg represented and how it would impact his life. Most soldiers would be angry and depressed over losing a leg. To Billy, it meant losing his career, his passion, his livelihood. This would be revisited to a degree in “Morale Victory” in Season 8.

The feud between Klinger and Zale was never explained, which of course makes it more amusing. Unless I missed something Klinger never points out that Zale wasn’t participating in the fight at Rosie’s Bar. Despite what he told Frank about being great at eye gauging, I doubt very much he got his hands dirty. That could have defused the situation quickly. Of course, it’s possible Klinger didn’t want to defuse the situation.

There were a few good bits in the B story, though. Klinger’s retort to Zale’s “buzzard beak” comment is priceless: “If my dog had your face, I’d shave his butt and teach him to walk backwards.” And Frank’s comeuppance was nice to see as always. Still, the manner in which Klinger and Zale collectively redirected their anger at Frank made no sense. When Hawkeye went to try to talk them out of fighting one another, they almost came to blows. Yet when the bout started they had agreed to turn against Frank? When did that happen? Why did that happen?

Billy is depressed

Colonel Potter is noticeably absent from the bulk of the episode, no doubt due to the fact that Harry Morgan was directing. This was the second of nine episodes he directed; the first was “The Novocaine Mutiny” in Season 4.

I’m not sure I like the opening sequence in which Billy being wounded is intercut with the right in Rosie’s Bar. I understand why it was done, to juxtapose the senseless reality of war with an even more senseless bar fight, but seeing Billy wounded, treated and shipped off to the 4077th while Klinger is crawling around under tables trying to keep his hat on somehow feels wrong. Which is probably the point.

When Billy is being loaded onto the ambulance at the end of the episode he clearly has two legs.

The fight in Rosie’s Bar is a little overdone if you ask me. The stuntmen went all out. Granted, I’ve never been in a bar fight but this one didn’t seem realistic at all, especially that one who very obviously jumps into the air so he can be “thrown” across the room by another soldier.

Can anyone with eagle eyes identify the issue of LIFE that Radar shows Billy? Actually, is there any way of knowing if it is really an issue of LIFE at all?

14 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: End Run”

  1. By “bar right” (in 2 places) you must mean “bar fight”.
    It’s funny that Margaret’s still trying to manipulate Frank into doing “manly” things like forcing Klinger & Zale to fight while their affair was over, at least from Margaret’s POV. She certainly laughed the loudest at the result of the fight. Larry Linville was right to leave MASH at this point, as Frank had long outlived his usefulness as a character on this show.

      1. Love your response.
        Autocorrect is out to get me too. At least yours weren’t sent to your boss, spouse or other close person having changed whiny to weenie…..and worse!!!

  2. “Still, the manner in which Klinger and Zale collectively redirected their anger at Frank made no sense. When Hawkeye went to try to talk them out of fighting one another, they almost came to blows. Yet when the bout started they had agreed to turn against Frank? When did that happen? Why did that happen?”

    Hawkeye actually explained that to them: “Don’t you see what’s going on? He’s just getting you two guys to fight so he can feel more like a man.” It’s more assumed than it is apparent, but earlier in the episode, Margaret mentions that had Donald handled the situation, he would have made the two fight it out between them, which is when Frank suddenly decides that’s what he’d do too; he’s just using them to fight as a way to make himself look more manly in Margaret’s eyes.

    1. I know Hawkeye tried to get them to see the light but neither of them seemed to care. I can believe that Klinger eventually cooled down (maybe) but hothead Zale? Not so much.

    2. Get ZALE to understand anything?? COME ON!!
      I remember feeling a visceral dislike towards the Zale character as a kid.
      He was dirty, ill mannered, petulant, greedy and, IMO served no purpose to the show or themes/plots.
      Oh, did I mention he was also dirty??

      Skip any episode that even halfway centers around Zale!

  3. Klinger’s “If my dog had your face…” line is 1 of my 2 favorite Klinger moments in the whole series.

    The other is from Bug Out when Klinger tells Radar: “A good cigar is like a beautiful chick with a great body who also knows the American League box scores.”

    Both of those lines crack me up everytime.

  4. Margaret:No excuse for this animal behavior, not even from enlisted men.

    Sounds like something Frank would’ve said, which gives you an idea of how much of a buffoon he was. The only redeeming quality this episode had was Radar and Billy talking about Iowa’s game against Minnesota and how the Hawkeyes managed to prevail using what amounted to an early version of the West Coast offense.

  5. I always loved the scene where Frank gets punched out by both Zale and Klinger. If anyone ever deserved it, it was him.

  6. Re-watched this on ME TV last night. I have seen the episode at least a dozen times, but watching again I was really moved by the portrayal of Billy Tyler. I have never seen the actor in other shows, but I felt he nailed it in this story. Especially moving to me is the scene where he tells Hawkeye he “knows his leg is there, he can feel it” — followed by a dramatic pause and then he slowly lifts the sheet to face the reality.

  7. When Radar announces the boxers, he introduces Zale as “SGT George Zale”…I thought his name was Zelmo?….

    1. Actually, Radar introduced Zale as “Killer”. The fight between Klinger and Zale was half-hearted on the combatants’ part. I wonder what would’ve happened if Charles had organized the fight.

  8. I find this episode exceedingly depressing and very morbid. Particularly for a show that still sold itself as a sitcom that came on after “All in the Family.” I realize the show became more of a dramedy and eventually a drama with a few jokes peppered in, but this episode was almost too much.

    Not only do we have to see a guy grapple with getting his leg cut off, but they made him a famous football player too? Could it get any worse than that? Leg amputation is tough enough but to take someone’s livelihood too? Come on MASH writers! Some shows make the mistake of thinking people want TV to be a reflection of reality. The truth is that as Oscar Wilde said, “the good ended happily, the bad unhappily. For that is what fiction means.” Life is tough enough as it is. They can easily show the horrors of war without going as far as they went in this episode. Not to mention that this happens to be the first amputation we’ve seen any of the doctors perform in the show so it’s not something we’re used to witnessing. Certainly it was common in war, but Hawkeye behaved as though we had seen him chopping off limbs left and right. Though everything was wrapped up nicely in 25 minutes, I found myself depressed when it ended as I thought about how Billy’s story would continue. How he would go home and be treated differently by his loved ones and have to learn how to walk with an artificial limb. “The Best Years of Our Lives” covered this very well. All this really depressed me.

    The icing on the cake was the Frank storyline. Since his split with Margaret, he’s been wandering aimlessly and the writers don’t seem to know what to do with him. He has no allies and seems angrier and more petty than ever. I’m not convinced it’s only because he’s not with Margaret. I think it’s the writers being at loose ends with the character. The entire Margaret marriage was a waste of time anyway because we barely see Donald, then he’s cheating, and they divorce. The worst part about it was it made Frank have nothing to do and Larry Linville leave.

    This episode shows how sad Frank became in his final season. No friends, no allies, no women, and more ornery than ever. He literally snapped at every single person who tried to talk to him. The whole thing is just sad. Everything we needed to know about Frank we learned in the episode where he speaks to his mother about how Margaret pretended to like him just like his dad did. My heart broke for him. His future is probably written with a suicide in the epilogue. Frank plus the amputee footballer made for some excellent acting, but really depressing for a sitcom. Even if it is about a war.

    1. I agree with what you said about Frank. I do kinda feel bad for him at this point in the show. But at least he eventually gets sent stateside with a promotion, right?

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