Episode Spotlight: The Moose

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

“The Moose” (#5, 1×05)
Originally Broadcast: Sunday, October 15th, 1972
Written by Laurence Marks
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and Trapper are shocked and disgusted to learn that a soldier has purchased a South Korean woman as his personal servant.

I think this was one of the first episodes of M*A*S*H I ever saw when I started watching the series on FX back in the late 1990s. It’s not that I have a particularly vivid memory of watching it. The term “moose” stuck with me. That’s what I remember.

Although they are without a doubt the good guys here, Hawkeye and Trapper are nevertheless pretty patronizing when they talk about Young Hi not understanding what they’re saying while she’s standing between them. And what should we make of the fact that Hawkeye enjoyed some of benefits of having Young Hi around? He may not have been a fan of her cleaning but he allowed her to shave him and the tag suggests she also shined his boots.

Radar mentions that the Army will deal with soldiers that have a moose if they find out about it. But Colonel Blake makes it pretty clear that there’s nothing he or anyone can do because Sergeant Baker’s commanding officer also has a moose. Why couldn’t Hawkeye complain to someone outside Baker’s chain of command, someone in the JAG corps, for example? Or ask Radar to make some inquiries.

The poker game was a good solution, I suppose. I’m not sure why Baker agreed to participate considering he didn’t really like Hawkeye. More importantly, how could Baker not realize that Hawkeye had an earpiece? It’s a good thing Baker always held his cards in such away that Radar, using a telescope never seen again, could see them.

“The Moose” is notable for having very few regular cast members. Hawkeye, Trapper, and Radar are in it. Colonel Blake is in it as well but has just a few lines. Frank and Margaret are not in it. Neither are Father Mulcahy or Klinger, for that matter, although at this early point in the series that wasn’t unusual. And yet, despite involving only a handful of regular cast members, because Season 1 featured so many recurring characters, you don’t miss the characters that aren’t in it.

That’s something I’ve always liked about very early episodes. Spearchucker and Ho-Jon, limited as their roles are, help flesh out this episode and make the 4077th feel like a pretty big place. Seeing Ugly John and Leslie Scorch, who are little more than extras here, only adds to the impression that there are countless stories to be told at the 4077th and not all of them have to involve every character. Sadly, by the last few seasons, the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction and every episode had to involve every main character no matter what.

Spearchucker chats with Young Hi

According to the captions, Leslie’s little noise as she ducks under the clothesline to give Henry a kiss is a “chirp.” I wonder if that was included in the script or of Linda Meiklejohn made it up on the spot.

This was the first of two appearances by Barbara Brownell as Lt. Jones. The other was in “Love Story.” I wonder if she would have been in more episodes if the decision hadn’t been made to cut back on the number of recurring characters about halfway through Season 1.

Virginia Ann Lee (credited in this episode as Virginia Lee) later played Kyong Ja in “Exorcism” during Season 5. Her Internet Movie Database profile states she also appeared uncredited in “Welcome to Korea” (Season 4) and some sources indicate she made an uncredited appearance in “Abyssinia, Henry” (Season 3) as well.

We never learn why Sergeant Baker was at the 4077th. All we know is he was looking for Colonel Blake. When Hawkeye tries to pull rank on him, Baker refers to himself as a transient, which I believe means he was only temporarily staying there and did not technically fall under the chain of command.

10 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    Virginia Lee was indeed in ‘Abyssinia, Henry.’ She was one of the girls who sings the farewell song to Henry at Rosie’s Bar (GI Classy). It also looks like she was pregnant in this episode.

    She also makes an appearance in ‘Henry, Please Come Home’ as one of the geisha girls singing ‘If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake’ to Henry, Trapper and Hawkeye.

  • Big Daddy O'Reilly says:

    Virginia Ann Lee was also in an episode of GET SMART as a Taiwanese agent for KAOS, and also an episode of THE ODD COUPLE, as a Hong Kong beauty pageant contender: outside the Korean garb she wore on this show, I must say, she is gorgeous!

    This was a pretty decent episode: I don’t know if we can say that Hawkeye enjoyed the benefit of having a moose, I was always under the impression that he simply gave into Young-Hi’s persistence and insistence because there was nothing more he could do with her till he, Trapper, and Spearchucker started giving her her “person lessons.”

    And Baker being a transient, yes, I assume that his stay at the 4077th was something of a pitstop, so to speak.

    I believe this was also the first episode written by Laurence Marks, who Larry Gelbart later hired as a story editor the following season (as per union regulations); Marks also was a frequent writer for HOGAN’S HEROES.

  • Big Daddy O'Reilly says:

    Wait a minute, I just happened to think: haven’t we done a spotlight on this episode already? I seem to recall discussing whose legs those were that Radar was spying on, and suggesting they may have been Barbara’s.

    • RJ says:

      Nope. I double checked and I have not previously shined a spotlight on “The Moose.” Perhaps there was another episode that led to a discussion of legs?

      • Lady youARE A Piece of Cornbread says:

        Maybe the legs in back of the soldier under the poncho in “Chief Surgeon Who”?

  • Joe Kienlen says:

    didn’t Linda Meikeljohn also play Leslie in one scene in “Henry, please come home”?

    • Big Daddy O'Reilly says:

      Leslie was a recurring character throughout the first season; she also appears in “Pilot Episode,” “Chief Surgeon, Who?,” “Henry, Please Come Home,” “I Hate a Mystery,” “Edwina,” and “The Ringbanger.” I’m pretty sure she also made occasional appearances earlier in Season 2 – I believe she was in “Divided We Stand.”

  • jgf says:

    “Transients” are unassigned troops. Usually en route to a duty station, they are not part of that unit until they report to the commanding officer. They could be fresh troops from home as replacements, or wounded soldiers whose recovery was long enough they were replaced and are now awaiting reassignment. Anyone, from a private to a general, can be classified as a transient.

  • Derek says:

    Hello everyone! This is my first comment on the site, but since I received the complete set for Christmas this year, I imagine it will not be my last.

    I was just watching near the beginning where Radar is explaining what a “moose” is and thought something was funny in a hypocritical kind of way. The guys are in the swamp discussing how terrible it is for Sgt. Baker to have paid for Young Hi to perform menial tasks for him. I found it funny that this was going on in the swamp with the guys laying back and relaxing while Ho-Jon prepares their martinis and picks up the place. It really made me wonder exactly how much different are they from Baker? I don’t recall them ever mentioning how much they pay Ho-Jon (if they pay him at all –
    “dollar a day”? Its the going rate!) while Baker paid her family upfront to acquire her services. Granted the money went to her parents instead of her, but all-in-all is it really that different?

    I was curious if anyone else noticed it and felt similarly or feels if its a completely different situation in your mind(s).

    • 007 says:

      Welcome to the site! Hope to see you around in the comments sections as you make your way through the set. There is an episode spotlight for every single episode thanks to the awesome work of @RJ running the site here.

      To your point/question, I always thought the same thing. There are a couple instances of hypocrisy on the show, this being one of them. I guess one could argue that Ho Jon was more free than Young Hi or the other Moose’s and could leave if he wanted, and was probably treated a bit better than a Moose was. It’s never mentioned if Ho Jon is paid, but I get the impression he was not, especially after an episode you’ll get to soon enough in season 1. I think he did all that work in exchange for getting to stay in the camp and eat the food in the mess tent.

      A Moose is definitely more of a form of slavery, but it’s still questionable. I suspect this is one of the reasons Ho Jon disappears from the show very early on.

      Also, random, but wasn’t the entire pilot about raising money for him to go to college (like in the book), but then Ho Jon’s around the rest of the season. Did the plans just..fall through?

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