Episode Spotlight: Ping Pong


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

“Ping Pong” (#112, 5×16)
Originally Broadcast: Tuesday, January 18th, 1977
Written by Sid Dorfman
Directed by William Jurgensen

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and B.J. offer to help a South Korean couple get married, enraging Frank. Meanwhile, Colonel Potter must is forced to choose duty over friendship.

By the time this episode aired, the writers were scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to come up with ways to use Frank. “Ping Pong” is a perfect example of why Larry Linville opted to leave M*A*S*H after Season 5 when his contract ended. He was always a buffoon, but in this episode he’s more than dumb. It’s not funny. It’s sad.

Making Frank look worse is the fact that Margaret is no longer his partner in crime. Hot Lips likely would’ve agreed with most of what Franks says had “Ping Pong” aired during the first few seasons. But not Margaret. She’s evolved. She’s happy to help Cho Lin and Soony with their wedding.

Father Mulcahy giving a play-by-play of the Buddhist wedding ceremony is unnecessary but it does give William Christopher something to do.

Colonel Potter’s B story takes too long to get going. Sergeant Blanchard telling Hawkeye and B.J. how Colonel Becket (“an office boy”) nearly got his troops killed by bungling a retreat is riveting. Actor Robert Phalen does a fine job here, projecting Blanchard’s fury and disgust.

This storyline is repeated in “Friends and Enemies” during Season 11. Curiously, in that episode Potter initially refuses to believe his friend is at fault. Yet here he’s quick to confront Becket.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Ping Pong showing Radar

Radar yells at Igor and Goldman.

Hawkeye and B.J. lending Cho Lin $20 each seems like a nice gesture until you realize that $20 in 1950 is over $200 in 2017. That’s an awful lot of money to lend to someone.

Colonel Potter claims to be from Nebraska rather than Missouri.

If M*A*S*H is ever released in HD, perhaps we’ll be able to read Frank’s letter.

Why does Frank show up at the wedding if he opposes it so much? So he can eat some cookies?

Jeff Maxwell and Roy Goldman both go uncredited despite having lines of dialogue.

12 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Ping Pong”

  1. This is a rare occasion of Goldman having some dialogue, even if it is just one line.

    Other than that, I’d say this episode is pretty average; not the best, but it’s certainly not a bad episode, at least I don’t think so. This is also one of those episodes that butchered pretty badly in syndication: almost all of the scene involving Radar modeling the bridal gown is cut up until Frank barges in to ask to see Margaret.

    I used to be confused about Klinger’s “you workin’ my side of the street” line: was he reminding Radar that he’s supposed to be on his side in terms of his Section 8 capers, or is he chastising Radar for seemingly stealing his schtick? I’m told it’s the latter.

  2. You didn’t mention that Col. Becket’s rank was actually Lieutenant Colonel, and this was the reason why he was leading troops. From what I remember he needed a certain number of days in combat to gain his Combat Infantry Badge (?) so that he can retire a full Colonel. He only had about 3 days left, but Potter said that even 1 soldier’s life was too great a price to pay for that.

  3. IMO, Father Mulcahy’s description of the Buddhist wedding ceremony seemed necessary because most Westerners don’t understand Eastern culture.

    1. Yeah, that’s definitely true.

      And I’d also say it’s a nice way to show how knowledgeable he could be about other cultures’ religious ceremonies. He may not have known every non-Christian custom (i.e. having to receive instructions about how to perform a bris), but I always found it interesting when did show off his knowledge of other religions.

  4. It may not have been among the best episodes of the series, but I thought this was an enjoyable episode. My favorite parts of the episode were Klinger getting on Radar’s case about wearing a dress, the wedding scene, and Potter’s confrontation with his friend.

    I will say that it has been a while since I’ve seen “Friends and Enemies,” so my memory’s a bit hazy and my opinion may have changed, but I do think I preferred that version of the story a bit more despite it being a repeat of this story, and possibly inconsistent given how easily he accepted it in this episode. Though Potter may have just been closer friends with the character in that episode, explaining why he was so reluctant to accept it in that episode.

  5. Agree about Frank. Instead of being funny or buffoonish, this episode made him out to be a cold, uncaring jerk. This plays out in the scene where Soony is upset because Cho Lin was conscripted and possibly not coming back for their wedding. Frank’s lines to her are just plain mean; I wouldn’t have blamed Hawkeye for decking him right on the spot there.

  6. Jeff Maxwell’s lines include a Bogart impersonation complete with trademark ‘mouth twitches’: “Sh-ay, sh-weetheart, what are you doing afterwards…” on seeing Radar in a dress.
    I was taken aback by Roy Goldman speaking. I’d not seen him deliver a line in all previous episodes I’d watched.

  7. I quite like this episode but watching it does always highlight to me what MASH was generally lacking was a regular Korean character in the cast. Cho was a member of the 4077, and never seen again, but he fit in to the dynamics well. Either him or Soon Tek Oh (Who always played the ‘nice’ Korean and also had good chemistry with everyone) could have become regular characters, a la Klinger.

    I was surprised to read that this episode and Life with Father were the only acting credits for Sachiko Penny Lee (Soony). I always laugh at the lines “How much English do you speak?”, “Some of it”.

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