Episode Spotlight: ‘Twas the Day After Christmas


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

“‘Twas the Day After Christmas” (#223, 10×09)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, December 28th, 1981
Written by Elias Davis & David Pollock
Directed by Burt Metcalfe

Capsule Summary: The 4077th celebrates Boxing Day by having the officers trade jobs with enlisted personnel.

This is an enjoyable episode. It’s fun seeing the main characters taken down a few notches. Only Father Mulcahy manages to enjoy himself and not complain. Colonel Potter is initially wary (“I’m a little gun shy of any tradition that hasn’t been done before.”) but soon embraces Boxing Day. He later comes to regret swapping places with Klinger once he realizes how much work is involved.

Charles, of course, is opposed to letting the “lower classes” get a sniff of the good life. Klinger makes Charles pay for his pretentious attitude by assigning him to work in the kitchen under head cook Sgt. Pernelli. At first, Charles almost relishes the opportunity to teach the cook about real food. That doesn’t last and Charles grows increasingly distraught as the episode unfolds.

A question for military experts: Would the head cook at a military establishment like the 4077th not only prepare the food but also clean all the dishes? Isn’t that something Igor and others on KP duty would usually do? Which means Margaret and B.J. should’ve been scrubbing pots and pans. We do see Margaret and B.J. hard at work lugging chicken wings outside while Igor plays cards with Pernelli.

Father Mulcahy and Hawkeye become orderlies. As mentioned earlier, Father Mulcahy is able to find joy in manual labor. The same can’t be said for Hawkeye, who cracks plenty of jokes.

Like Charles, Margaret isn’t thrilled with the idea of introducing Boxing Day to the 4077th. And she hates getting assigned to KP duty alongside B.J., who is quickly exhausted by all the work he has to do serving food. He tries to hide out in Post-Op but Igor finds him.

With limited time available, the episode can’t focus on everyone equally. Most of the focus is on the Colonel Potter/Klinger swap and the Charles/Pernelli swap, plus the medical emergency involving Slater. It’s too bad, because I would’ve liked to see more of Margaret and B.J. on KP duty.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode 'Twas the Day After Christmas showing Charles and Sgt. Pernelli

Sgt. Pernelli tells Charles to dry his head.

If I’m not mistaken, all Army nurses during the Korean War were officers. So why did Colonel-Corporal Klinger have Nurse Kellye switch places with Margaret? They’re both officers.

It’s very cold at the 4077th. During the opening scene, many of the nurses in the background are wearing colorful hats yet Charles isn’t wearing the toboggan cap he received in “Dear Sis” back in Season 7.

When Klinger is handing out Boxing Day assignments, Igor can be seen in the background but doesn’t say anything. There’s a nurse standing next to him who also has no lines. She looks like Jennifer Davis to me.

This was the second of three guest appearances by Val Bisoglio. He was credited simply as The Cook in “The Life You Save” during Season 9. When he returned in this episode, the writers gave his character a name. He played Sgt. Pernelli for the last time in “A Holy Mess” later during Season 10.

13 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: ‘Twas the Day After Christmas”

  1. Definitely one of the best episodes of Season 10. I thought the Sgt Pernelli/Charles storyline was the best of the bunch. I would have liked the writers/producers to have used Val Bisoglio more in the series — he clearly added a fresh face in this episode (and by Season 10 the show was in desperate need of freshening up).

    1. I remember Val Bisoglio most from his regular appearances on QUINCY as Danny, the proprietor of Quincy’s favorite restaurant. i guess it’s only fitting he’d work in the kitchen here too. According to Wiki, he’s still living at age 90, making him the oldest surviving cast member of QUINCY.

      1. Not to mention he was the father in Saturday Night Fever, probably one of his bigger roles. Strange that he had such small parts after such a big movie role.

  2. A decent episode from a later season, though not too solid for reasons RJ mentioned (why would Kellye and Margaret switch places if they’re both officers?)

    Val Bisoglio was a regular on M*A*S*H’s one-season sister show ROLL OUT! from 1973: he was the lazy and clueless commanding officer of the supply unit; ROLL OUT! also featured two other M*A*S*H fixtures: Ed Begley, Jr. (Private Paul Conway) was the company clerk, and Hilly Hicks (who appeared in “White Gold’ and “Post-Op”) was one of the supply drivers.

    This is just a conspiracy theory, but I almost sense that B.J. and Kellye wearing jeep caps was to remind us that Radar isn’t there anymore, which brings me to this: I really feel like this episode could have worked better (and may have been more memorable) if it was done in an earlier season: can you just imagine what it’d be like if Henry switched places with Radar? And seeing as how Potter and Klinger went a step beyond by wearing each other clothes, imagine Henry sitting at Radar’s desk wearing his jeep cap, while Radar’s in Henry’s office with his fishing hat and University of Illinois sweater (that’s too big for him). And what about Frank? I could see him being even more of a pain about the switch than Charles – Charles at least tried to be a good sport about it at first, but I can’t see Frank even doing that.

  3. This was a rather entertaining episode, considering all that happened in the course of one day. At the end of the tag, when Hawkeye and BJ are critiquing the pancakes, Charles says they’re not so bad. What I want to know is how does Charles know that for certain?

    BJ: Is it treason to refuse to serve liver tartare?
    Klinger: Gasoline is a bush-league finagle, two “Archie” comics and a bag of walnettos.

    IMO, Klinger took great pride in being condescending toward Colonel-Corporal Potter.

  4. I want to find the video of MASH where Hawkeye was telling the cook about the finer ways of making French toast. Help!

  5. If not Nurse Kellye, then who would Margaret have switched places with? Goldman? The enlisted guy played by Bill Snider?

    There were no female enlisteds for her to switch with.

  6. Great episode! Reminded me of the old stuff when it was light and funny. The only one who really didn’t have to bust his butt much was Hawkeye. People kept coming in freezing and exhausted and he’s hanging out in warm post-op occasionally making a bed. Would have enjoyed watching him lugging some chicken wings. I did enjoy seeing how both officers and enlisted realized the value of the other. The only one who really didn’t was the cook who still looked at Charles as useless (even though he was arguably the best doctor they had). The actor who played Parnelli always creeped me out. The sinister way he talks and his cadence makes me think he could just kill somebody without even thinking about it.

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