Episode Spotlight: As You Were

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

“As You Were” (#44, 02×20)
Originally Broadcast: Saturday, February 2nd, 1974
Teleplay by Larry Gelbart & Laurence Marks
Story by Gene Reynolds
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and Trapper play practical jokes to avoid boredom, Henry gives another lecture, Radar tries to stop shelling, and Frank’s hernia requires surgery.

Ah, the infamous gorilla suit episode. Very little actually happens during “As You Were” but it’s an episode with a lot going on. There are a few vague storylines woven through the episode: Frank’s hernia and Radar trying to convince someone to stop shelling so close to the 4077th. Otherwise, it’s just a collection of vignettes followed by a long stretch of surgery.

A lack of casualties makes life dull for the 4077th. Radar uses his free time to play the piano. Henry works on his tan. Father Mulcahy plays baseball and later washes his feet. Klinger writes a letter to General Mitchell threatening to send a picture to the general’s wife.

Frank lining up condiments in the Mess Tent is based on an actual experience Larry Gelbart’s had during his military service. From an April 2000 post to to alt.tv.mash newsgroup:

Incidentally, the piece of business was inspired by my own experience with an officious non-com during my own days in the Army, who was batty about the symmetry of the condiments on his tables in his mess hall.

Gelbart couldn’t remember who was holding the piece of string. It wasn’t him or Gene Reynolds. He thought maybe it was Roy Goldman or Jeff Maxwell.

Hawkeye and Trapper also pull an elaborate practical joke on Frank: they somehow get him into a wooden crate while he’s asleep. I love the way they look at the finger sticking out one of the air holes. This brief exchange between Frank and Trapper is perfect:

Frank: “I’m boxed in!”
Trapper: “We all feel that way at times, Frank.”

Henry’s lecture on the perils of venereal disease isn’t quite as good as his lecture on marital sex and the family from “Dear Dad” and it probably runs a little too long. He warns the men to stay away from “b-girls” while out at bars. According to the Internet, b-girls are either prostitutes or women paid by bars to attract men and encourage them to spend money.

How were Hawkeye and Trapper able to afford to buy gorilla suits and have them shipped to the 4077th? Actually, considering that they were never seen again after this episode, perhaps the suits were borrowed or rented rather than purchased. If anyone doubts that Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers were actually wearing the gorilla costumes, they were. Larry Gelbart confirmed this in a July 2005 post to the alt.tv.mash newsgroup. It was, he explained, “Too hard to find stunt gorillas.”

Radar impersonating a major and then a general is mildly amusing. But the sequence is redeemed at the end when he yells at his friend Tony to “Move your azimuths!”

Gorillas in the Swamp

Yes, that really is Gary Burghoff playing the piano in the Officers’ Club at the start of the episode. According to the Twentieth-Century Fox cue sheet for “As You Were,” the piece of music is called “Radar’s Rag.” It was composed by Burghoff and published by the 20th Century Music Corporation. It’s heard again briefly at the very end of the tag.

Sheila Lauritsen makes an uncredited appearance in this episode. She’s the nurse who Henry asks to start another unit of whole blood. You can see her clearly when Frank strangulates his hernia.

Who is the mysterious George who takes over for Hawkeye in surgery? Another doctor?

The PA announcement about Alfried Krupp’s release from prison means this episode takes place in January 1951.

The very first scene of the episode–a shot of the 4077th depicting a man playing golf, football being played, and a group practicing dancing on a stage–is shown again at the start of the tag. I wonder if this was a mistake or done intentionally to suggest how easily the 4077th slips back into its routine when there are no causalities expected. That would fit with the title of the episode; “As You Were” being a military command telling soldiers to go back to doing whatever they were doing. Or maybe I’m thinking about it too much.

5 Comments

  • Doc Funnypants says:

    This episode,especially when Frank agonizes about his hernia,is really funny.
    In case anyone wasn’t aware of this, the last name of the person Radar calls about the shelling is Rizzo. Hawkeye and Trapper’s gorilla suits were absolutely hysterical.

    Frank: Kindly do not block the aisle.
    After he says this, his hernia gets strangulated.
    Other than that, this episode is rather uneventful.

  • BDOR says:

    This is one of the few episodes from Season 2 that actually stands out for me, mainly because as Doc pointed out, it’s a really funny one.

    I’ve noticed people use this episode to point out the possibility that Frank may actually be bisexual, or had a gay fling before, as once he’s loopy from the sedative, he asks Hawkeye, “Fred? Do you think the principal saw us?” Maybe it’s my own naivete from having first seen this episode as a sheltered teen, but I never saw it as that – we know Frank can be a practical joker himself when he wants to (“Showtime”), I always assumed perhaps he and this immortal Fred perhaps were pulling some kind of a prank and was concerned the principal was spying on them or something. Still, I love that sound Frank makes when he’s injected in the butt, the way Larry delivered that was so hysterical, especially since we know Frank’s usually a wimp with needles.

    If Gary really did compose that rag he was playing, I’m not surprised – he used to have his own Dixieland band. Best Care Anywhere used to have samples of a record his put out in the 50s.

    • NurseAble says:

      I’ve never been accused of naïveté but I didn’t get bisexuality from Frank’s interjections either. I thought maybe Frank and Fred had been smoking in the boys’ bathroom or pulled the fire alarm, maybe practiced some petty larceny or graffiti. More telling is the fact that there is no evidence of Frank’s bisexuality in any other episode. An adulterous, unhappy, untalented social-climbing, money obsessed person, yes, bisexual, no.

  • jgf says:

    A funny episode. As you said, nothing really happens, but it is the interplay between characters that makes this enjoyable.

    But this episode is also the first of many that display a serious inconsistency – the gorilla costumes.

    In the episode about the long johns (which I hate) we have the impression these are the only long johns in Korea, if not the world. But throughout the series, either as direct plot devices or items we see, people have ordered gorilla suits, tuxedos, dressmaker’s dummies, a bathtub, a side of ribs (with sauce), a sewing machine, a double barrel shotgun with hunting jacket, etc.etc.etc. …so why couldn’t they order more long johns. For that matter, why couldn’t they have ordered another (two or three) bathtubs rather than having to get rid of the one they had?

  • penguinphysics says:

    It might be silly, but the line about “…me and the missus” just gets me laughing uncontrollably.

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