Episode Spotlight: Bombed


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

“Bombed” (#63, 03×15)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, January 7th, 1975
Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum
Directed by Hy Averback

Capsule Summary: The 4077th is being shelled. Colonel Blake and Father Mulcahy are nearly blown up in the latrine while Trapper and Margaret find themselves trapped in the supply room.

There are quite a few impressive–and at times fiery–explosions in this episode. Yet despite all the shelling, none of the tents or buildings appear to be directly hit. According to Radar, during thirty minutes of shelling the 4077th did sustain some damage: a generator was knocked out, the water tank was smashed, and three people were wounded. That’s not too bad considering how intense the bombardment was at times.

It takes a while for this episode to get going but once Trapper and Margaret are trapped in the supply room things start to pick up. Trapper makes his intentions perfectly clear but Margaret, despite being attracted to Trapper (she admits this in “Hot Lips and Empty Arms” during Season 2), refuses to get physical with him.

Nevertheless, Frank becomes incredibly jealous after finding Trapper and Margaret huddled together under a blanket. He even proposes but quickly tries to take it back. He’s so concerned he can’t operate. Hawkeye, in a rare moment of kindness aimed at Frank, assures him that nothing happened between Trapper and Margaret.

Aside from the Trapper/Margaret/Frank storyline, this episode feels really disjointed at times. There are numerous plot points but no other storylines. Maybe that was intentional. The bombing continues because this is war. War doesn’t get wrapped up nicely. Costa Rican Nurse Sanchez reminds viewers that it was the United Nations and not the United States striving to beat back North Korea, even if she otherwise adds nothing to the episode.

I’m not sure what to make of Bob Hope’s USO show, Seoul City Sue’s propaganda broadcast, or Radar reading his mother’s letter. These likewise add nothing to the episode in terms of story but prove once again that life at the 4077th continues no matter what. Even being shelled by their own side won’t stop the doctors and nurses from doing everything they can to save lives.

My favorite line of the episode has to be Margaret’s “Well, if I’m going out, I’m going out with a clean scalp.”

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Bombed showing Margaret and Trapper under a blanket.

Margaret and Trapper huddle for warmth.

Director Hy Averback provides the voice of the radio announcer for Bob Hope’s USO show:

From Seoul in South Korea, it’s been “The Bob Hope Show,” with Marilyn Maxwell, Jerry Colonna, Les Brown and his Band of Renown, and yours truly, Hy Averback.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Averback was a radio announcer.

Does anyone know what Nurse Sanchez is saying at various times in the OR? She’s said to be from Costa Rica so presumably she’s speaking Spanish.

Watch closely as Trapper and Hawkeye are walking out of the supply room. Trapper says “Evacuate to where?” and then we see his lips move but don’t hear anything. Hawkeye then says “Now the book of the month club will never find me.” It’s hard to tell but it doesn’t look like Wayne Rogers is saying “Evacuate to where?”

19 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Bombed”

  1. I’d say this is an average episode – neither good or bad, but not one that I go out of my way to watch. There are some highlights, such as Trapper and Margaret in the Supply Room, but I think one of my favorite moments is when they’re trying to rescue Henry out of the Latrine:

    KLINGER: Wait a minute, I think I heard something! Colonel, if you can hear me, knock three times! If you can’t, knock twice!
    Two knocks are heard.
    KLINGER: Oh, lord! He’s dead!

    Should Henry have gotten a Purple Heart? After all, by Margaret’s logic when Frank applied for the Purple Heart in “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet,” his injuries were sustained at a frontline unit, technically making it battle-connected (and in this case, they were being bombed).

    In retrospect, this episode seems to shed some light on something that wasn’t really explored much on the series, but apparently was in the movie and novel, in that Mulcahy had an abusive childhood: in his daze, he tells a story of he and his sister baking a crabapple pie and eating the whole thing before their mother came home to prepare supper, and being met with her screaming, “What the hell’s going on here?!” “I remember, Mommy? That was the first time I ever heard you swear.”

    Oh, and one more thing: this episode recycled a joke from an earlier episode (can’t remember which one though): during the tag, Hawkeye is giving Trapper a haircut, and asking if he’d like a little tonic, to which he flaps his cheeks and proceeds to lather nothing into Trapper’s hair: Trap did the same thing to Hawk in an episode, I believe the previous season. It’s ironic, because the writers of M*A*S*H swear the only recycled one joke in eleven years, but this is evidence they recycled more than that.

      1. As far as I am aware they indeed only recycled three jokes during the 11 year run:

        The one above.

        The one re “the bus stopped with a jerk and I got off” (admittedly that was originally a Groucho Marx line, but Hawkeye channelled Groucho, esp in the early seasons) and …

        The one about “since when did they use stewardesses on this line?” referring to (pretty) nurses on the incoming wounded bus. [I don’t recall its first use, but the repeated use was in “That’s Showbiz” Part 1 in season 10.]

  2. Margaret always admitted to being attracted to Trapper. In Check Up, She mentions how she always watches him play football, and how much she will miss him when he leaves because she will be stuck there with Ferret Face.

    1. she said she always watches Trapper play Football in his shorts, and when he leaves she’ll be stuck “with Needle Nose”, not Ferret Face.

  3. “Yet despite all the shelling, none of the tents or buildings appear to be directly hit. According to Radar, during thirty minutes of shelling…”

    Friendly fire from artillery units figures in several MASH episodes, but this would have been highly unlikely in reality. Until recently artillery fire relied on a forward observer (FO), a person with good eyesight and depth perception who would get as close as practical to the target and watch via binoculars. One gun would fire one shot and the FO would note where it hit then radio adjustments to the artillery unit, they would make corrections and fire another shot; a good FO and a good gunnery crew could, with half a dozen rounds, bracket the target then drop shells in there all day long. Frequently such fire was used not against enemy installations but as “area denial”, rendering roads and bridges unusable.

    Damage from friendly fire was mostly a danger to front line combat troops, who were often only a few hundred yards from the enemy and subject to being hit by the bracketing fire.

    As for the MASH structures not being damaged, such bombardments were usually high explosive rounds fired on steep ballistic trajectories, these shells went a mile or more up before falling near vertically and penetrating several feet into the ground before detonating. This created large craters (ruining roads, landing strips, etc.) but the blast radius was relatively small. The main danger to people nearby was being temporarily, if not permanently, deafened (of course if you are within that small blast radius deafness isn’t a major concern).

  4. I remember back when this episode first aired in 1975 I recorded it on a cassete recorder I had at the time. (I used to do that for A LOT of TV shows-I’d put the recorder right up against the TV and everyone would have to be real quiet. They wouldn’t all the time though and once I recorded my brother in the next room yelling at me to turn the TV down so he could go to sleep! LOL)
    I don’t know what ever happened to the tape.

    1. I used to do that with a few episodes of “The Dukes of Hazzard”! I remember playing pool in the “carport room” (carport blocked in) listening to it.

      1. Wow, I used to record Mash and Odd Couple repeats from the late 70s the exact same way after I got my own cassette recorder as a gift. In a couple of them I can hear myself and my younger brother insulting each other.

  5. When Blake asks “What happenend to the yearling?” Is he asking what happenend to the character in the movie, or what happenend to the copy of the movie that Mulcahy tried to get?

  6. This wasn’t the best episode ever, but the one thing that I found interesting about it was that Trapper was given a bigger role than usual. Web watching this episode all I could think of was, “Hey, it’s like they switched storylines. This is the one they always give Hawkeye.” I wonder if, in some small way, they were trying to appease Rogers with a little bit of the spotlight.

  7. How long were Trapper and Margaret in the supply tent? The timing doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. They went in there when it was bright out during the day. Then there’s the sequence at night with the movie and Frank looking for them. Hawkeye and Frank leave the movie to find them. Then Hawkeye and Frank open the supply tent door and it’s daylight again.

    This makes it seem like they were in there the whole night, potentially for a full 24 hours, yet in that final scene in there they are just then getting ready to go to sleep? And how long did it take Hawkeye and Frank to find them when they left the movie the previous night?

    Just something I noticed.

  8. I like this episode but am I the only one who thinks Trapper looked like a pervert when he patted the seat next to him in the supply tent? What a creepy, creepy smile.

    My favorite line is from Radar’s mother’s letter, “About the dog, Leon.
    “Three times in the bedroom, once under the washer, and twice on the cat.
    ” Testing, testing.
    “About the cat.
    We don’t have one anymore.”

  9. One of the all-time greatest lines is in this episode. Sanchez, the UN exchange nurse, has of course been traumatized all through the bombing. She begins the episode as a frightened little bird, crying, and breaking down at the destruction, the loud noises, the booby-trapped patient, etc. Towards the end of the episode, she and Hawkeye are brought a patient into OR who is already dead. Hawkeye, trying to shield or prepare her, says, “Take it easy, Sanchez.” She says “He dead?” and then she says one of the all-time greatest MASH lines: “Klinger, next patient.”

    What better way to show the de-sensitization to the unrelenting horrors of war.

    As for the inaudible lines of Trapper, he clearly says “Evacuate to where?” before the next line, which you can see him say but we don’t hear. I’ve always wondered if that was deliberate in the script, that we shouldn’t hear his words because of the bomb, if it was an unintended result of the noise outside and they just decided to keep it in, or something else. This question is what brought me to this page.

    As for Margaret’s attraction to Trapper, it had made appearances before this episode as well, not only in “Check Up” but also in “Hot Lips and Empty Arms,” when she tells Trapper under the shower that she could have “really gone for” him.

  10. In my view a very good episode. One of the unmentioned highlights is the opening credits sequence, showing a long shot from a nearby hill (the helipad?) on location of the 4077th under fire whilst the episode credits are playing in yellow text, and when it comes to “Directed by Hy Averback”, smoke clouds swirl ominously towards the camera, a very visually dramatic opening.

    I agree that the timing of the scenes of TJ and Margaret in the supply tent is very confusing re night vs day.

    Another oddity is in the latter part of the episode, Henry is injured yet wanders around the OR musing on the circumstances, and making dialogue comments, not helping anyone, yet all the while he wears NO MASK and all the cast react as if Henry wandering around OR wearing no mask while surgery is taking place is just fine.

    Another oddity to my mind is – if the 4077th is being shelled by friendly fire, how come they keep getting a neverending string of incoming wounded, including a North Korean, someone booby trapped with a wire and a dead soldier amongst others?

    Were the choppers still flying in? Did buses arrive in the compound? If so, how did they not notice the shelling and alert ICORPS? Choppers simply would not fly into a location being shelled. But if not buses or choppers, where did the wounded come from (an they did keep coming)?

    Another question is considering the wounded as listed above, including a North Korean, someone booby trapped with a wire and a dead soldier, who was doing triage? How did they get into the OR?

    Not only did virtually every other episode of MASH have a triage scene in the compound with wounded arriving via chopper, jeep or bus, but the triage was managed by the surgeons out in the compound, so what happened in this episode? Fair enough the 4077th was being shelled, but who was doing the triage, where, and why not the surgeons (notably, Henry never commented on this)?

    Obvious it was all dramatic license, but it is interesting in that MASH can be super realistic in some aspects and full of plot holes in other aspects.

    … and yes, I did notice that one of the explosions started a fire in the canvas roof of The Swamp. Under constant shelling, there would have been nobody out there to douse the fire, so most likely the Swamp would have been left to burn, but clearly this did not happen.

    One final comment about the episode: it is called “Bombed”, and yet as far as I can tell the 4077th was never bombed (i.e bombs falling from planes) but was shelled (i.e explosives fired by ground based artillery).

    The episode should have been called “Shelled” but of course that does not sound nearly so dramatic a title!

  11. Whether it was “F Troop,” “Columbo” or “MASH,” director Hy Averback was always partial to those aerial camera shots overlooking a scene.

  12. Regarding the “Evacuate to where?” part, I think this must have been some type of post-editing where the original script has Trapper saying something at the door, but it was changed for some reason during the final edit. They seemed to have dubbed in the “Evacuate to where?” line, with Trapper’s back to the camera, then edited out his original line at the doorway, whatever that may have been, with the bomb explosion.

    That’s my theory. I wish I could read lips to see what he says at the door.

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