Episode Spotlight: Friends and Enemies


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

“Friends and Enemies” (#248, 11×13)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, February 7th, 1983
Written by Karen Hall
Directed by Jamie Farr

Capsule Summary: While stricken with an ingrown toenail, B.J. combats Charles and his loud music. Meanwhile, Colonel Potter realizes he has to write a report criticizing an old friend.

This was the second episode to feature a storyline in which Colonel Potter must confront an old friend. The first was “Ping Pong” during Season 5–in that episode, Lt. Colonel Harold Becket was trying to get enough time on the front lines to allow him to retire as a full colonel. Potter was relatively quick to ship Becket back home, telling him “I don’t care if it costs me every friend I’ve got. If one kid gets hurt, the price is too high.”

Yet in “Friends and Enemies,” despite his experience with Harold, Potter reacts angrily when Hawkeye comes to talk to him and refuses to believe his old friend was at fault. Then he quickly changes his tune after talking to Sgt. Zurilli. Perhaps Potter was simply tired when Hawkeye came to talk to him. He does later suggest to Hawkeye he has a “blind spot” when it comes to friends that go back as far as Woody.

The scene in which Potter confronts Woody is very well done:

Woody: “You don’t understand, Sherman. With a report like that, there’s no chance I’ll ever get into action again.
Potter: “That’s exactly why I’ve got to do it.”
Woody: “When the chips are down who can you count on, Sherman, if you can’t count on your old friends?
Potter: “Woody, this has nothing to do with friendship.
Woody: “You bet it doesn’t. Not anymore.”
Potter: “Woody, don’t you think we’ve been through too much to let it end like this?
Woody: “I didn’t end it. You did!”

I wonder what they were drinking that made their voices so gravely.

The B.J./Charles/Margaret B story is just silly. Margaret is particularly shrill at times, first when she receives her record player and later when she accidentally runs into B.J.’s foot in Post Op. I don’t totally understand B.J.’s motivation for manipulating Charles and Margaret. If he truly wanted peace and quiet, why did he send Goldman to the Officers’ Club? Why was he willing to spend so much money to annoy Charles? I suppose he was bored.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Friends and Enemies showing Colonel Potter and Colonel Cooke

Colonel Potter confronts his old friend Woody.

There’s an abrupt cut when Margaret and Charles are leaning toward B.J. in the Swamp. “So where did you go to high school?” Charles asks. It looks and sounds as if he’s about to say something else, perhaps use a corny nickname the way B.J. did earlier in the episode when he called Charles “Chuck.”

Roy Goldman has quite a few lines in this episode. Could it be his largest role in any episode?

Jack Yates is credited as “Large enlisted man” in the closing credits. That’s an unusual credit, right? I’m guessing he’s the soldier who smashes the jukebox in the Officers’ Club.

Jamie Farr directed this episode, which explains why he only appears in one brief scene. He later directed an episode of AfterMASH. William Christopher is also only in one brief scene, during surgery in the O.R.

11 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Friends and Enemies”

  1. Actually, the episode where Potter files a report on Lt. Col. Becket was “Ping Pong”.
    This was a very uneven episode, with BJ manipulating Charles incessantly and Potter having a crisis of conscience about his old friend Woody.

    Klinger: That ain’t one of Fats’ songs unless that title is German for “Your Feets Too Big”.

    Not one of their best efforts, IMO.
    I thought BJ was particularly unlikable in this episode,but can you blame him knowing he had an ingrown toenail.

    1. I have no idea what made me write “Hanky Panky” instead of “Ping Pong” because I knew it was “Ping Pong.” I did. Weird mistake to make. Thanks for catching it.

  2. How does dropping a record player on your toe give you an ingrown toenail? I mean, I’ve dropped a chair on my toe once in Grade 1, but all it did was turn my toenail blue and then it eventually fell off when a new one grew in, but it was never ingrown. I get ingrown nails all the time, and it’s really not that big a deal.

    1. Actually, it’s never established how BJ got an ingrown toenail. As for getting them, my brother can attest to you that they’re bothersome.

      I honestly believe Margaret and Charles rehearsed their dialogue in exposing BJ’s duplicity.

  3. You point out my main issue with this episode, RJ: Potter’s reaction to Woody, in comparison to his earlier, similar situation with Becket. I suppose the differing dispositions could be explained by fatigue on Potter’s part, or his personal relationship with Woody, or what have you, but boy, it sure is glaring. And Potter’s chewing out Hawkeye is just totally unfair, and a little uncomfortable – though I suppose that was the point, huh?

    The BJ/Winchester/Margaret storyline is occasionally mildly amusing, though I agree Margaret is sometimes WAY too shrill.

    Overall, a middling late-series entry.

  4. Wonder if Mr Farr intended DIRECTED BY JAMIE FARR to pop up during the opening fanfare of the record Charles was playing.

  5. I liked Winchester’s “That’s a good idea….how’d you do that?” Said to perfection by DOS to BJ. One thing I don’t get is what was BJ’s motivation for getting Charles’ records out of the O Club? Even if he still could hear the music at least it wouldn’t be as bombastic as it was there in the Swamp.

  6. This episode grossed me out because it has an awful lot of bare feet in it which aggravated my foot phobia. Nothing worse than injured feet being shoved in your face at every turn. Yuck

    BJ’s utter selfishness hit a new low here. To deliberately destroy Charles’ property just because he’s worried it might disturb his peace and quiet? I’m sure needles aren’t that easy to find way out in a warzone. Not to mention that BJ lives communally with two other people! Where does he get off dictating to everyone in the tent what they can and can’t do? He seems to think that what he wants is what should be. Griping at Hawkeye about his light, Charles about his music, anyone who gets in the way of his beauty rest. It could be 7pm and if HE’S tired then everyone else has to turn off their lights and be silent no matter what. In the words of Hawkeye, how dare he? He’s a selfish jerk who expects way too much of a shared tent in a warzone. Charles should rip up BJ’s pictures. Harsh? Sure, but Charles relies on his music to keep him sane in a tough situation. All BJ cared about was himself.

    When Potter reacted angrily to Hawkeye telling him about his friend causing casualties, I got instantly tired. Just once I would have enjoyed seeing him actually listen to something he didn’t like hearing. Instead he yelled and pulled rank and continued to do so until he knew it was true. It was almost comical when Potter said, “you only have three witnesses.” It’s like how many more do you need?

    It’s funny how the show keeps rolling out people from Potter’s past that he thought were good guys but wound up being sneaky or getting someone injured. The poor guy must either be a really bad judge of character or else people really change drastically when he’s not around them.

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