Episode Spotlight: Deal Me Out

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

“Deal Me Out” (#37, 2×13)
Originally Broadcast: Saturday, December 8th, 1973
Written by Larry Gelbart & Laurence Marks
Directed by Gene Reynolds

Capsule Summary: A poker game at the 4077th is interrupted by a traffic accident, a surgery, and a hostage situation.

This is a notable episode for a few reasons. First and foremost, it marks the first guest appearance by Edward Winter on M*A*S*H. It was the first of two episodes to feature Pat Morita. It was also the second episode to guest star Allan Arbus. As if that wasn’t enough, it also guest starred John Ritter.

The first four minutes of “Deal Me Out” are basically just setup for the reveal that the so-called “conference” mentioned numerous times is actually a poker game. I wonder if the episode could have opened with close-ups of all the characters saying their hellos, talking about a conference, and then pull back to show them hard at work playing poker in the Swamp. That way, the joke would still be there but those four minutes could’ve been used elsewhere.

The poker game acts less like a standalone story line and more like a waiting area for characters to get called away. First Colonel Blake gets called away to deal with the aftermath of Radar hitting a South Korean civilian with his jeep. Then Hawkeye and Trapper leave to operate on Lt. Rogers. Finally, just about everyone jumps up to respond to the gunfire in the compound.

That being the case, both Sidney Freedman and Captain Pak don’t add much to any of the storylines but do offer a lot of humor around the poker table. If I had to pick an A story, I’d have to go with Radar and “Whiplash” Hwang. I’m not a big fan of this storyline, to be honest. It’s a little over-the-top and drags on too long.

That would make Captain Halloran the B story, which is I do like. Halloran isn’t quite Flagg (more on that below) but he plays off of Frank well and offers my favorite bit of dialogue from the episode:

[Halloran sits down next to Klinger]
Halloran: “Hey, up close you’re a guy.”
Klinger: “Far away, too.”

Rounding out the episode is the Frank-Private Carter C story, which is hilarious. Larry Linville is at his whiny, gutless best throughout Frank’s confrontation with Private Carter in the shower. John Ritter, best known for his comedic roles, does a fine job portraying a traumatized soldier who can’t face a return to the front and thinks Frank is a heartless flag-waver. And how about Trapper sneaking into the shower and grabbing the gun? Hawkeye could never do something like that.

Private Carter confronts Frank.

In this episode, Major Freedman’s first name is Sidney. In his first appearance earlier in the season (in “Radar’s Report”) his first name was Milton. According to Larry Gelbart in April 2004, the name changed because he didn’t think the character would return and while writing “Deal Me Out” couldn’t remember “what I’d called him the first time around.”

In May 2000, Gelbart gave some insight into how the script for this episode came together:

Not sure how quickly that one got written. Shows with more than one storyline were relatively easier to write. Doing short bits and then writing the connective tissue was a great way to work. Remember, though, that in addition to writing there were countless other production chores going on at the same time. It’s not as though one had a clear day to do nothing but simply write.

It’s clear that the character played by Edward Winter in this episode is not Captain Flagg, although many fans like to say Halloran was just another alias used by Flagg. But Halloran acts very little like Flagg, aside from vague paranoia and a gleeful desire to shoot Private Carter.

Pat Morita returned as Captain Pak in “The Chosen People” later in Season 2. I’ve never come across an explanation for why Morita didn’t make additional appearances on M*A*S*H the way Allan Arbus and Edward Winter did. Perhaps he was just busy.

Jerry Fujikawa and Tom Dever both also make their first M*A*S*H appearances in this episode. Fujikawa made a total of seven appearances between 1973 and 1982; Devon made four credited appearances between 1973 and 1978.

Margaret and Father Mulcahy do not appear in this episode, although Mulcahy gets referenced by Colonel Blake.

16 Comments

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    Probably one of my top 10 favorite episodes in the series. So many great laughs. Sure, the premise is silly (as with many early season episodes), but the humor and acting are terrific. Pat Morita makes the most of his 2 appearances in M*A*S*H and I would have loved to see him appear in more episodes.

    • Father Angus says:

      I think I agree with everything you just said. Top 10, good acting, and more Pat Morita was needed. A really funny and silly episode.

  • BDOR says:

    In addition to the bit between Klinger and Halloran, another one of my favorite exchanges in this episode was Henry and Radar determining the difference between a thud and a thump. That, and this capper:

    RADAR: Gee, sir, I’m sorry to pull you away from your game.
    HENRY: Aw, Radar, don’t you think you mean more to me than a measley pair of deuces?

  • 5 O'Clock Charlie says:

    I love this episode. So many great lines.

    Hawkeye: Okay, moving right along now, dealer’s choice, five card stud. Sidney, what’s the psychiatric basis for gambling?
    Dr. Sidney Freedman: Sex.
    Hawkeye: Why?
    Dr. Sidney Freedman: I don’t know. They told me to say it. Sex is why we gamble, sex is why we drink, sex is why we give birth.
    Hawkeye: Thank you, doctor.
    Dr. Sidney Freedman: I’m taking a five-dollar chip. That was a house call.

    Army Capt. Halloran: What about her?
    Capt. Sam Pak: She’s my wife.
    Dr. Sidney Freedman: Interesting joke, Sam.
    Capt. Sam Pak: Thanks for seeing me, Sidney.

    Hawkeye: Sidney, front and center.
    Dr. Sidney Freedman: I’m not going out there without a bulletproof couch

    Dr. Sidney Freedman: Fondling your chips is very infantile.
    Henry Blake: Not now, Sidney.
    Radar: But sir…
    Henry Blake: Not now, Radar.
    Radar: Yeah, but sir…
    Henry Blake: Radar, whatever it is, sign it, cancel it, or order five more!

    • BDOR says:

      CARTER: Major, you don’t have any clothes on.
      FRANK: Well, I like to take them off when I shower.

      HALLORAN: What was that?
      FRANK: Oh, he’s just pretending to be violent.
      HALLORAN: Good cover.

      FRANK: There’s nothing wrong with you! It’s all in your head! But don’t get the idea that it’s psychological or anything.

      FRANK: It’s amazing. Everyone who comes into this tent is instantly corrupted!

    • Father Angus says:

      Possibly my all time favourite line of M*A*S*H:
      Radar: I’m sorry to take you from your card game, sir.
      Henry Blake: Oh Radar, don’t you think you mean more to me than a pair of deuces?

  • Tuttle says:

    This is in my top 10 as well. Larry Gelbart at the top of his game. I laugh every time I watch it.

  • Father Angus says:

    RJ, this spotlight for some reason (unknown to me) isn’t showing at the top of the screen where the five most recent spotlights are in a slideshow.
    Just a nit picky thing, but I am that sort of a person!

  • Joe says:

    oh, so THAT’S why it also didn’t show up on my screen!

  • AK-11 says:

    One of my favorites…Lots to laugh at throughout the episode..

  • jgf says:

    Also one of my favorites; though it seems any episode revolving around The Poker Game is a good one.

    I don’t think Halloran was Flagg, but he was certainly the genesis of Col. Flagg.

  • chauncy Upercrust says:

    Perhaps Morita was ether too busy with his “Happy Days” and “Mr T. And Tina ” assignments or else he had a contract exclusive to ABC/Paramount.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    I like the bottle of gin vodka and Burbon all in one bottle for Sidney’s (and I assume the other player’s convenience

  • Edwin Frydendall says:

    Radar: “Oh, sir, if you’d like a drink. Compliments of Colonel Blake. Scotch. Gin. Vodka. And, for your convenience, all in the same bottle.

    Pak: “Corporal?”
    Radar: “Sir?”
    Pak: “Have a nurse wake me – a little at a time.”

    Sidney (to Klinger): “I’m gonna beat the pants off ya, lady!”

    Henry: “Go out in turn, Sidney.”

    Trapper John: “Whaddaya wanna play next, Sam?”
    Pak: “Five Card Stud. High-Low. You can buy one at the end, and low hole card wild.”
    Hawkeye: “Now *that’s* inscrutable.”

    Radar: “Are these sandwiches for anybody?”
    Sidney: “Anybody with a death wish.”

    Halloran: “Hey, up close you’re a guy.”
    Klinger: “Far away, too.”

    Pak (to Frank): “Read any good commandments, lately?”

    Public Address: “Will doctors Pierce and McIntyre kindly return to the conference? They need your money.”

    Hawkeye: “Sidney, what’s the psychiatric basis for gambling?”
    Sidney: “Sex.”
    Hawkeye: “Why?”
    Sidney: “I don’t know. They told me to say it. Sex is why we gamble; sex is why we drink; sex is why we give birth.”
    Hawkeye: “Thank you, doctor.”
    Sidney: “I’m taking a five-dollar chip. That was a house call.”

    Trapper: “All right. Come on. Ten bucks a man ought to do it.”
    Halloran: “Hey, this is blackmail, you know. Maybe I ought to run him in.”
    Hawkeye: “Maybe you will on the way home.”

    Henry: “OK, the first thing people do in a situation like this is panic.”
    Hawkeye: “Well, I think I’m doing it in the right order.”

    Sidney: “Same time next week?”
    Hawkeye: “I thought this was the same time next week “

  • Jeff says:

    I think it is Flagg in this episode. I
    N the Capt Chandler episode, Flagg greets Freedman by saying “Dr. Feedman, Col. Flagg. We played poker once together.”

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