Discuss: Too Much Colonel Flagg or Not Enough

Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.

Today’s topic is: Was Colonel Flagg used too often or not enough?

“I Am The Wind.”

Colonel Flagg, as played brilliantly by Edward Winter, appeared in six episodes of M*A*S*H between 1974 and 1979. Seven if you think Captain Halloran from “Deal Me Out” is simply Flagg using one of his many aliases.

List of Colonel Flagg Episodes

  • “Deal Me Out” (Season 2) [Captain Halloran]
  • “A Smattering of Intelligence” (Season 2)
  • “Officer of the Day” (Season 3)
  • “White Gold” (Season 3)
  • “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?” (Season 4)
  • “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan” (Season 5)
  • “Rally ‘Round the Flagg, Boys” (Season 7)

(Edward Winter later returned as Colonel Flagg in a 1984 episode of AfterMASH during that show’s first season. For the record, Winter also guest starred in two episodes of Trapper John, M.D., playing two different characters, neither of them Flagg.)

Scriptwriter Ken Levine has mentioned a few times at his blog how the writers on M*A*S*H were afraid of using Flagg too often. That likely explains why the character disappears after Season 7.

What do you think? Should Colonel Flagg have shown up at the 4077th more than he did? Or was the character too outlandish, too unrealistic to make more than the occasional visit? Do you wish Flagg had returned during the last four seasons?

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

16 Comments

  • 007 says:

    Flagg is arguably the best guest character of the entire series and every episode with him is a complete joy to watch. He was brilliant as Flagg and I would have been happy with another 10, 20, or more appearances from him.

  • penguinphysics says:

    With all due respect to 007, I feel that the use of Flagg was just about perfect. His personality, while hilarious, is a bit one-dimensional, so an over-saturation of the character would (in my opinion) has diluted the hilarity. It is often seen in sitcoms (particularly recently) where a gag, that gets a hearty laugh at first, devolves into self parody where it becomes tiresome. The sparing use of Flagg in the show was brilliant, because he didn’t fall into this morass of overuse. Instead, like the color red, he was used just enough to bring humor without overstaying his welcome.

    I suppose that the writers could have added depth to his character to make him more multi-faceted, but that would diminish the nature of the character. He was intended to be a heartless (but not quite despicable) figure for the rest of the camp to react to. Adding to his character might have made him more sympathetic, but that would devalue the type of character that he was far too much.

  • BDOR says:

    From what I understand, Flagg disappeared after Season 7 because the more dramatic and serious tone the series was taking at that point, a broad character like Flagg would have been out of place.

    Personally, I think there was just the right amount of Flagg on the show: it seems like since his introduction, they brought him in at least once a season (save for 6), and I think that’s about enough of him that I could tolerate, lol.

  • dhla says:

    I agree – the show used him the perfect amount. Similarly, I wouldn’t have wanted more Rizzo, either. Arguably, I would have liked Soon-Lee to come in a little earlier in season 11, so the build from total stranger to Klinger’s fiancee wasn’t the blink of an eye from As Time Goes By to GFA. I’m also glad we had one nurse, Kelly, who stuck around the whole 11 seasons.

  • Crabapple Cove says:

    I think he was used sufficiently. My two favorites are Deal Me Out (yes, I consider that a Flagg episode) and Smattering of Intelligence (love the spy vs spy battle). The show had changed too much and Flagg too little by Season 7 (my least favorite appearance of the character). I am glad the writer’s quit while they were ahead with this character. Thanks for the laughs Col. Flagg!

    P.S. I know that I have seen the Col. Flagg AfterMASH episode at least 2-3 times but I don’t remember anything about it, so it must not have been too good in my opinion.

  • Captain Tuttle says:

    The amount of times Flagg appeared was perfect! Any more use of the character and the novelty would have worn off quickly. Flagg was a one dimensional character that worked really well on occasion. Edward Winter played Flagg to perfection.

    My all time favorite Flagg episode is A Smattering of Intelligence. I do consider Deal Me Out” as Captain Halloran to be a Flagg episode. In Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler? I believe it’s Flagg who says he and Sidney played poker together once. This sort of confirms it was Flagg using the name Halloran.

  • Doug says:

    Add my vote to the idea that Flagg was used just enough. And his final episode, Rally ‘Round The Flagg, Boys, was very fitting and well done, complete with Charles giving him his comeuppance. And Hawkeye’s line, “They’ll take your decoder ring for this” was perfect.

  • Craig says:

    I’d have liked a final Flagg episode, he’s really such a great character for disrupting the 4077 routine. In his final episode he was outwitted, the MPs resignedly mention this being ‘another wild goose chase’ (I can’t remember the line verbatim) so the writers had decided to undercut him entirely, leaving him a figure of mockery.

    But one more appearance, in the final season, would have been great. They knew the series was wrapping up, so some quips from Hawkeye about what Flagg will do with his spare time when the war’s over could have opened things up. I could imagine Edward Winter’s squinting at Hawkeye saying something about there still being important work to do… at home.

    Too dark perhaps? Maybe, but Flagg has always had that barely suppressed violence to him. When he pulls a gun in Officer Of The Day nobody doubts his willingness to use it. I think that fool/sociopath dichotomy is what makes Flagg such an appealing character. He’s the war, wrapped up in one man.

  • Ferret Face says:

    I guess I’m the only one here who thinks he was over-used, albeit only slightly. I do think he’s a great character, very well played by Edward Winter, and most of the episodes with him were really fun to watch. However, I would have been fine with him appearing in one less episode than he did. Specifically, “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan.” Don’t get me wrong, there were still some very good moments in that episode, but the episode as a whole didn’t work as well as it could have for me, and Flagg did start to feel a bit like a caricature of himself at that point. It could also be argued that he was a caricature of himself in “Rally ‘Round the Flagg, Boys,” but I actually really liked that one, largely due to the use of Charles, as he gets one over on Flagg. And I do agree with Doug in that it was a pretty fitting final episode for the character.

  • UglyJohn says:

    Flagg was the perfect foil for Hawkeye to jab at with one liners landing on him constantly. IMO, he was used just the right amount since he served as a windmill for Hawkeye et al, to tilt at.

    Because he was so one dimensional, putting him in more episodes would have gotten the audience too used to him and then the novelty and distraction he provided would have gone away.

    The other issue would have been to explain why a supposed CID man was hanging around a MASH so often to get intelligence when there was better info coming from the front lines and beyond.

    btw Edward Winter was a masterful scene-stealing actor as Flagg. It’s astonishing to see how many guest starring roles he really performed; everything from Dallas to Seinfeld!

    Ironically he’ll always be known as Col. Flagg to most people.

  • BecLeo1972 says:

    Flagg came on just enough times during the series. I do wish Rally Around the Flagg Boys had been a smarter farewell for him. The episode falls a little flat with Charles getting the best of him so easily.

  • Larry P. says:

    We got just enough Flagg, both in number of appearances and spacing between them. Any more and he would have gotten tiresome. He would have been increasingly out of place in the later seasons anyway, and even though the episode IMO worked both by itself and as an (informal?) send-off for the character, it was kinda pushing it by having him appear as late as season 7. M*A*S*H had changed too much by then.

    While on the subject, I don’t consider “Deal Me Out” to be a Flagg episode, despite the conversation between Flagg and Sidney in “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?” that apparently references the poker game in
    the former. There are some similarities between the two characters, but Captain Halloran is a (relatively speaking) more likable individual than Flagg ever was, and besides, Flagg is treated as an entirely new person by Henry et al. when he’s introduced proper in “A Smattering of Intelligence,” which wouldn’t have been necessary if Halloran had just been an alias of Flagg’s.

    Nevertheless, it makes sense to throw “Deal Me Out” in with the other Flagg episodes, not only because of the similarities between the two characters, but also because Edward Winter was absolutely brilliant in each and every appearance he made on the show.

  • David G. says:

    I could’ve used a little more of Col. Flagg than what we were able to get. When the character was done right — which means every appearance except for “Officer of the Day” (where Flagg was TOTALLY off-character as someone who’s just plain mean and without any component of comedy to him) — he was funny and interesting and, honestly, among my top 5 characters in the entire “M*A*S*H” series.

    And, if you haven’t watched it it, locate the “Trials” episode of “AfterMASH” on YouTube. The Flagg storyline in that episode (and, unfortunately, -only- the Flagg portion of that episode) is hands-down THE truly stellar highlight of the mostly misguided second season of the sequel series. The writers had the character completely back in PERFECT form in this one, and Ed Winter’s portrayal is spot-on as he was back in the “M*A*S*H” days. (Note: The YouTube version of this episode is a bit randomly chopped up, so you’ll have to endure some very sudden jumps. There’s around 2-3 total minutes of the episode that’s missing, but thankfully most of it is from the non-Flagg portion.)

  • JocularityGirl says:

    Definitely more, although my mother and father would beg to differ. I LOVE Flagg’s antics and wish he was on more! P.S. I think Colonel Halloran on “Deal Me Out” was Flagg using one of his many aliases, as his conversation with Dr. Freedman in “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler” seems to imply.

  • Rick Schaefer says:

    I would have liked to have seen Flagg a few more times. But I agree, having him on too often would have made him less funny. Same goes for Sgt. Luther Rizzo. I would have liked to have seen Flagg in the series finale, Goodbye, Farewell And Amen as well. MASH will forever remain my all-time favorite tv show

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