Episode Spotlight: The Red/White Blues


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

“The Red/White Blues” (#210, 9×16)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, March 9th, 1981
Written by Elias Davis & David Pollock
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Capsule Summary: Colonel Potter tries to keep his blood pressure down while Klinger deals with a mountain of paperwork.

I spent way too much time after rewatching this episode trying to figure out exactly what the title means. I focused mostly on the “Red/White” portion, ignoring the obvious reference to the three colors of the flag of the United States of America. At first I thought perhaps it had something to do with blood pressure measurement (cuffs or gauges, perhaps). Then I wondered if it maybe it was tied to red and white blood cells. That’s the best explanation I can think of, unless I’m missing something.

Poor, poor Klinger. He’s the Rodney Dangerfield of M*A*S*H. No respect at all. Although his statement to Margaret (“I never pulled anything on the job and I never would ever pull anything on the Colonel.”) seems like something of a stretch, Klinger wasn’t petty and it paints everyone else in a poor light that they assumed he was slacking off to get back at Colonel Potter for nixing his pass to Tokyo. Hawkeye in particular appears foolish and incompetent by not noticing that Klinger is ill and then actually ordering him, not to mention trying to put him on report.

Klinger’s angry reaction to the nixing (“I have yet begun to grump!”) was somewhat out of character as well.

As for Colonel Potter, I too would be upset if everyone was mollycoddling me. He’s a big boy and a doctor. He can take care of lowering his own blood pressure. It’s embarrassing to watch Hawkeye and Margaret and the whole gang treating Potter like he’s a little kid. Hiding salt? Bringing him breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed? Offering him a glass of warm milk? Insisting on drinking lemonade? Ugh. I really wish Charles had stood his ground and ordered his cognac.

Colonel Potter threatens to wrassle Father Mulcahy.

Jo Ann Thompson is credited as Nurse in the closing credits but I don’t see her in the episode.

I’d love to know how long it took the prop department to dress the company clerk set with all those papers–and how much work it was to clean up.

This was one of only a handful of episodes of M*A*S*H to be directed by a woman. Gabrielle Beaumont later also directed an episode of AfterMASH.

The on-screen text at the end of the episode explaining developments in the understanding of primaquine is unique in the history of the series. “As Time Goes By” also featured on-screen text but it was a dedication, not an explanation.

8 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: The Red/White Blues”

  1. OK episode and as RJ mentioned, it was a little irritating to see everyone treating Col. Potter with kids gloves.

    RJ, the answer for last Thursday’s Episode Spotlight has not been posted.

  2. I wonder why it took HQ 60 days to realize Klinger’s morning reports were wrong and why they didn’t send the right forms as soon as the mistake was noticed. Other than that, it was a decent episode aside from Hawkeye and Margaret yelling at Klinger for his perceived goldbricking.

    1. I think Klinger had the correct forms all along. He just didn’t change to the new ones because he wasn’t paying attention and isn’t a very good company clerk. It’s crazy how well he did as a clerk when Radar was still there but once he left, I guess the pressure got to him and he forgot everything he knew.

  3. Another of those flat episodes that doesn’t move me either way; it isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it just exists.

    By this point in the series the main characters are close, so neither plot holds up well.

    Potter’s high blood pressure is not at all uncommon in someone his age, especially in the fifties. And it isn’t that high, he just needs to lower it a few points. So why all the drama? Just casually mention at the breakfast table, “I’m going to take it easy for a couple of days. I have a physical coming up and would like to lower my blood pressure a couple of points before taking it”. He doesn’t make a big deal of it, no one else would. All is well. Of course that would negate half the episode.

    In his daily tasks Klinger doesn’t shirk any more than the average GI, he never shirks in the OR, and he likes Potter too well to be vindictive towards him. Yet Hawkeye and Margaret automatically assume he is malingering as revenge against Potter. Both of them are medical professionals yet neither consider giving Klinger a quick check to verify his condition. Of course if they did it would negate the rest of the episode.

    1. Thank you! And with that comes all the annoying tropes of a bad sitcom. The way they try to hide cuddle Potter in this episode is so forced, false and unfunny it just shows that the writers of MASH at this stage just didn’t know how to write good comedy. The show was on serious overtime here, and these are the seasons that got me into MASH. Today, I can hardly watch them, and I stopped buying the DVDs after season 8. Strange

  4. Not a bad episode. I enjoyed the medicine lesson on primaquin.

    It was almost comical how Hawk kept showing up to remind Potter to calm down. Doesn’t he have anything to do other than follow him around? The man lived through 3 wars and although he has a few years on them, he’s also a doctor.

    Klinger is turning into a real jackass. His whining over not being able to go to Tokyo, his laziness about doing the work that’s part of his job, his indifference at the messiness of the office that others need access to, his constant attempts to half ass everything, and his selfishness at not giving a damn that he’s upsetting Potter and wanting to make everything about him. He turned into an unpleasant ass once he stopped wearing dresses. I just keep thinking about how he tearfully promised Radar that he would make him proud. He hasn’t lived up to that promise at all. They should throw his ass into the kitchen and hire a new clerk who can actually do the job. And why didn’t Margaret just clean up the office and sort it all out somewhere else? Seemed like an utter waste of time to try to actually do the reports when Potter could come in at any time.

  5. Just caught the tail-end of a showing of this episode & the end comments went by so fast. I was able to remember ‘primaquine’ so to Google I turned & found this great blog!
    The question about the title “The Red/White Blues” further piqued my curiosity & another quick Google search showed that chloroquine (the curing pill) is white while primaquine (the suppressant) is red(ish).
    Thank you to all who have served, those who are serving, and those who will serve.

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