Episode Spotlight: Showtime


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

“Showtime” (#24, 1×24)
Originally Broadcast: Sunday, March 25th, 1973
Teleplay by Robert Klane & Larry Gelbart
Story by Larry Gelbart
Directed by Jackie Cooper

Capsule Summary: While the USO brings entertainment to the 4077th, Henry awaits word of the birth of his son back in the States, a paranoid dentist worries about getting home safe, Trapper and others carry out a tough surgery, and Hawkeye is the butt of Frank’s practical jokes.

Yes, the random number generator really did pick “Springtime” last week and “Showtime” this week.

I’m not going to lie. I’m not a big fan of this episode. I really don’t like the USO segments but the rest of the episode is fine. Jackie Flash is annoying. The Miller Sisters are okay but the USO segments interrupt the flow of the episode. At times, it feels incredibly disjointed with limited interplay between characters. At other times, the characters and storylines fit together perfectly.

Which of the five unconnected storylines is the best? Henry’s baby? Trapper’s surgery? Captain Kaplan’s paranoia? Frank pulling practical jokes on Hawkeye? Father Mulcahy worrying about his impact at the 4077th? I think Henry’s storyline is probably the strongest and the most substantial. The way he finds out about he birth of his son, his conversation with Hawkeye, kissing the South Korean baby. It’s depressing to hear him worry about not meeting his new baby until his son gets drafted because, as we all know, Henry never does meet his baby boy.

It may seem a little strange that Hawkeye doesn’t have a storyline of his own but I like the ensemble feel of the episode. He participates in the Henry and Trapper storylines. He also gets his revenge on Frank in a scene reminiscent of the famous shower scene in the movie MASH.

I haven’t done the math but I’m guessing the USO segments eat up at least five minutes of the episode. That’s a lot of time that could’ve been spent expanding Father Mulcahy’s storyline or giving Margaret more to do in Trapper’s storyline. Or even given Frank more time to pull pranks on Hawkeye.

Following the tag scene when Hawkeye gets his revenge, there’s another scene in which the main cast is credited on screen, followed by the closing credits. I don’t know why M*A*S*H did this several times during the first two seasons. In this case, perhaps it was a small way to acknowledge the cast in the event CBS didn’t renew M*A*S*H for another season.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Showtime showing Hawkeye saluting Frank.

Hawkeye salutes Frank.

This was both the final episode produced for Season 1 and the final episode aired by CBS. That means it could have been the last time viewers got to enjoy M*A*S*H, had CBS not renewed it for a second season. I wonder what the cast and crew wrap party was like after filming wrapped? Were people too worried about getting renewed to celebrate? Did the party wind down with everyone saying goodbye, unsure if they’d be back together in a few months?

Recurring character Ugly John makes his final appearance in this episode. John Orchard later guest starred in Season 8’s “Captains Outrageous” as a different character.

Just after Ugly John says “It doesn’t look good, Trapper” you can see Margaret’s lips moving but you don’t hear her say anything unless you really turn up the volume. She says “You did your best.” In the same scene, Hawkeye calls Father Mulcahy over for some “cross action.” That same phrase is also heard in the pilot episode.

Trapper is seen reading a book in the audience during one of the USO scenes. Maybe Wayne Rogers was bored during filming and decided to do a little light reading (although knowing his financial interests, he may very well have been reading a book about economics).

Sheila Lauritsen makes her second credited appearance in the series in this episode, offering Captain Kaplan a farewell kiss that he refuses. Oksun Kim, who played the unnamed Korean woman with the baby, later guest starred in “As Time Goes By” during Season 11. Gwen Farrell, Roy Goldman, and Dennis Troy all appear uncredited.

Hawkeye’s sarcastic salute to Frank in the tag scene was used heavily FX promos for the series.

9 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Showtime”

  1. This is an interesting episode with a lot going on, I’ll say that. I think my favorite storyline is Frank pranking Hawkeye throughout, if only because it’s one of the very, very few times we actually see Frank fight back, and you have to admit, while some of his pranks were a tad childish (like the bucket of water over the door), some of them were clever, like those showerheads . . . how did Frank even figure out how to make that work if he’s such an idiot?

    Urban legend has it that the accordian player in the USO show was a young, uncredited Joe Pesci. I’m not entirely convinced.

    Off-topic, but I see the old Finest Kind domain is finally completely dead and no longer redirects to this site anymore, so I’m going to have to update the address on my browser speed dial.

    1. Yup, I finally decided to stop paying the annual fee for the domain name. It’s been over five years since I launched MASH4077TV.com so I figured it was time to let the old domain name go. I wondered if anyone would notice.

  2. I like this episode quite a bit, and it’s probably because of the, as you say RJ, ensemble aspect.

    Frank turning the tables on Hawkeye is a very funny plotline, and especially surprising when you consider the Frank of later seasons; hard to imagine season four-era Burns doing the same thing!

    The Henry and Mulcahy storylines are both terrific, emotional threads.

    The USO stuff, it’s not great, but harmless enough IMO. The bored reactions (i.e., Trapper reading) from the camp are pretty funny.

    The character of Ugly John and the appeal for “Cross Action!” are both holdovers from not only the pilot, but the book/movie source material. Aside from the occasional “Finest Kind!” declaration afterwards, and one or two subplots, this was the last episode to really overtly show those influences.

  3. Ugly John must have had the best hearing in South Asia. His stethoscope ear buds weren’t even in his ears when he declares to Trapper that it didn’t look good for his patient.

  4. Another interesting thing worth noting about this episode is that it indicates that the first season of M*A*S*H had to have taken place in less than nine months, as Radar points out that Henry had to be back home for the “important part” involving his son.

    Then again, by Season 2, his son is already the same age as his daughters, and by Season 3 is already taking trombone lessons.

  5. Apparently, my mom recognized one of the actresses playing one of the Miller sisters. This one is a member of the King family, who, evidently were a singing group from many years ago. Is this actually true or is my mom mistaken?

    On an unrelated note, this episode was rather funny, what with Frank pulling pranks on Hawkeye, but, tbh, Kaplan seemed annoying and a wee bit paranoid for my liking.

  6. I just noticed that Trapper’s patient is played by Don Most, who played Ralph on Happy Days. IMDB confirmed it though his role was uncredited.

  7. The “Miller Sisters” harmonized quite well. Wonder if that was really their voices. Only one of the three, Marilyn King, had an acting career worth noting. The other two made no other acting appearances other than this MASH episode.

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