Episode Spotlight: Snappier Judgement


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

“Snappier Judgement” (#222, 10Ă—08)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 14th, 1981
Written by Paul Perlove
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: Charles tries to defend Klinger at his court martial while Hawkeye and B.J. hope to find the real thief and clear Klinger’s name.

I didn’t rewatch “Snap Judgement” before watching the second half of M*A*S*H‘s third and final two-parter. I did read over my September 2013 review of that episode which not only reminded me of the plot but also how much I disliked the episode. Unfortunately, “Snappier Judgement” is no better than “Snap Judgement.”

Like the first part, “Snappier Judgement” has just one storyline — Klinger’s court martial — with related plot points involving every character. For much of the episode the action is split between those taking part in the actual court martial and those left behind at the 4077th.

Charles volunteering to defend Klinger at the court martial is classic Charles and it is understandable that Klinger would agree. How can you argue with someone who has the word “win” in their last name? Seeing Charles try his hand at lawyering could have been amusing. Instead, Charles turns into a buffoon and it’s anything but funny. It’s embarrassing to watch and I have to wonder how David Ogden Stiers felt about those scenes.

Margaret’s performance during the mock trial in Klinger’s office is likewise embarrassing. Her laughter is actually disturbing, likely the result of some sort of mental breakdown rather than a reaction to the “testimony” Charles had written for her. Her laughter is also more than a little insulting to Klinger.

Hawkeye and B.J.’s plan to offer up an expensive tape recorder as bait for the real thief makes a certain amount of sense. The way they went about it, however, is absurd. Shouting about it in the at the mess tent, in the showers, and at Rosie’s Bar? Really? How did they know that the thief was even someone at the 4077th? They didn’t realize that all of the thefts took place during surgery until after the court martial was underway.

“This innocent man.”

Nobody noticed a huge and growing pile of explosives behind the mess tent? Nobody thought that was unusual or out of place?

How were Hawkeye and B.J. able to set up the phony surgery that flushed out the thief? Did they call ahead?

For some reason the first scene of the episode, right after the recap ends, is very grainy for approximately 57 seconds before abruptly clearing up.

16 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Snappier Judgement”

  1. Having watched this double last week I was surprised at just how such an interesting idea could turn out so… dreary. Everything looks perfect as a synopsis; new gadget, rash of thefts, Klinger wrongly accused, court martial, Charles biting off more than he can chew and a last minute acquittal. Where did it all fall down?

    I think some of the problem is the leaps in logic. Klinger coming back from the black market with the camera could have been covered by all the 4077 officers vouching for him, and the deus ex machina of figuring out the thefts all took place during surgery, then setting up a fake surgery session, just grates.

    A good idea, court martial episodes always give a lot of opportunity for humour, drama, and poking fun at bureaucracy, but so thinly handled and with such a reliance on luck, coincidence and huge plot gaps it falls flat.

  2. Completely agree with your review. Very silly two-parter, and one of the many signs that the series was running out of gas by this point.

  3. The courtroom scene was hilarious as Charles is quickly shown to be out of his league. But, that is as far as the good news goes. The final set up to catch the crook is forced and as phony as a three-dollar bill.

    Was Klinger ever offered REAL legal counsel, or did Charles just assume the role? I can’t imagine him going to an army trial without decent representation.

    1. Charles offered to represent Klinger which was Klinger’s near-undoing. I also want to know what the crooked MP had to gain from railroading Klinger in the first place. I agree that Charles made the case more about his reputation than Klinger’s innocence.

    2. Potter mentioned in the beginning that they didn’t use “real” lawyers for this type of thing which makes no sense to me because Captain Rollins sure seemed like a “real lawyer”. Also, Klinger was facing serious charges with a serious punishment, would they really use a competent prosecutor under those circumstances while telling the defendant “you don’t need a real lawyer?”

  4. Certainly not up to the standard of the Novocaine Mutiny or Henry Blake’s trial; there are so many plot holes nothing short of a complete rewrite could salvage this mess.

  5. I think Klinger was just a convenient target, or maybe the MP knew enough about Klinger’s shady past to think it would be easy to get him convicted.

    Potter at least should have had the knowledge and wisdom to not allow Winchester to represent Klinger, who would have been given an actual legal counsel by the Army at any rate.

  6. “Her laughter is actually disturbing, likely the result of some sort of mental breakdown rather than a reaction to the “testimony” Charles had written for her.”

    I can’t stop laughing at this. A mental breakdown! Lololol oh man that’s priceless! Her laughter really did border on the shrill and hysterical didn’t it? I just keep picturing her laughing and running off into the night like a maniac like the Tales from tye Crypt guy. Lololol

  7. I would really like to know what Charles said after Klinger’s “Racial Pepsi-Cola” remark. When I’ve watched this episode with the subtitles on, it only says “Speaking Latin” instead of the actual words. Leave it to Charles to use a non sequitur in Latin.

  8. Re: Charles’s closing argument
    If we’re talking epic tragedies, I don’t think losing a court case is up there with the sinking of the “Titanic”. IIRC, this episode aired exactly 36 years before Jack Blessing’s death.

  9. Took me until episodes 8 & 9 in season 10 but I finally have two episodes I can put on a “least favorite list” (which seems to be a big thing on this site). This one and its other half (Snap Judgement); there are some great lines and scenes so I don’t know if it’s because I don’t enjoy the character of Klinger (there’s a lot of him in these), or if it’s the storyline itself.

    Here are something’s I found to be fun:

    “You’re always calling me those long fourletter words.” (Klinger to Charles when wondering why he’s offering to defend him.)

    The scene in the swamp when B.J. and Hawkeye think the thief has stolen Charles’ tape recorder (before he has) is fun and well done.

    Hawkeye testifying is great.

  10. Potter mentioned that he couldn’t attend the trial because someone had to stay at the camp had to be there in case they got wounded. Made me wonder how they could spare the other 3 of the 4 surgeons they had on staff. So the plan was if they got wounded, Potter would be there to handle the entire load by himself? B.J. didn’t testify (unless that was edited out) so he didn’t need to be there. What if someone had died because their brilliant surgeon Charles was off being an incompetent lawyer?

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.