AfterMASH Episode Spotlight: Chief of Staff

6 Comments

I’m reviewing every episode of AfterMASH, in original broadcast order, and asking fans to add their memories and opinions.

“Chief of Staff” (#14, 1×14)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, January 2nd, 1984 from 9-9:30PM ET
Written by Gordon Mitchell
Directed by Burt Brinckerhoff

TV Guide Summary

Why a chief of staff turns gray: a conspiracy to keep him out of his office, an administrator facing surgery, and two old coots lusting after a Grey Lady.

The Hartford Courant Summary

While trying to reassure a nervous Mike D’Angelo about his upcoming surgery, Potter becomes increasingly annoyed at Klinger’s imaginative and obvious efforts to keep him out of his own office.

Review

The TV Guide summary mentions three of the four storylines included in this episode. Of the four, the best has to be Klinger scheming to keep Potter out of his office. Why? It’s not a birthday party, as Potter suspects. No, it’s because his paintings and gear from the 4077th finally made it back to the States. With the help of Father Mulcahy, Mildred, and Nurse Coleman, Klinger manages to sneak it all into Potter’s office.

Still from the AfterMASH episode Chief of Staff showing Potter's office.
Potter’s office filled with his paintings and gear from the 4077th.

There’s a wonderful moment near the end of the episode when Potter opens the door to his office and sees his paintings hanging on the wall, plus Sophie’s saddle and everything else he had in his office at the 4077th. Even the name plate that sat on his desk. The theme from M*A*S*H plays in the background as Potter takes everything in. He pauses in front of his Radar painting.

During the tag scene, Potter, Father Mulcahy, and Klinger reminisce about their time at the 4077th. Potter even mentions Frank Burns by name.

There’s another dramatic storyline (not mentioned in the TV Guide summary) involving an African-American nurse unaccustomed to working with white patients. After running out on a patient in distress, she tries to explain her career as a “colored” nurse to Potter. It’s a solid storyline but far too brief.

Still from the AfterMASH episode showing Potter and Nurse Angela John.
Potter and Nurse Angela John (played by Ann Weldon) talk about racism.

Then there are the two comedic storylines. The larger of the two is Mike D’Angelo needing prostrate prostate surgery. I’m sure this doesn’t sound funny but it’s all but impossible to take anything involving D’Angelo seriously. He leaves a letter for Alma Cox to read in the event of his death. Of course, she reads it and overreacts the way only Alma Cox can.

Finally, there’s the storyline involving Bob Scannell and another patient competing for the affection of a nurse. It’s silly but not particularly funny. I usually enjoy Bob Scannell yet this storyline just doesn’t work. Nor does it add anything to the episode. Without it, perhaps the Potter storyteller could’ve been expanded with more involvement from Father Mulchay or perhaps Mildred.

Still from the AfterMASH episode Chief of Staff showing Mike D'Angelo.
Mike D’Angelo worries about his upcoming surgery

Like so many M*A*S*H episodes, “Chief of Staff” suffers from too many characters needing to be utilized and the desire to balance drama with comedy. One dramatic and one comedic storyline would work much better, in my opinion. In fact, there’s probably enough material in these four storylines to fill two complete episodes.

Notes

Dr. Pfeiffer does not appear in this episode. Mildred and Soon-Lee make brief appearances.

Four paintings are seen on the walls of Potter’s office: Klinger with a discus, Radar holding his teddy bear, Father Mulcahy’s face, and a group painting featuring Hawkeye, Margaret, Klinger, Father Mulcahy, B.J., and Charles. They are clearly not the same paintings seen on M*A*S*H, although most are close approximations.

For example, the painting of Radar shown in the M*A*S*H episode “The More I See You” has him holding a medical bag, not his teddy bear.

Here’s the painting from “The More I See You”:

Still from the M*A*S*H episode The More I See You showing Potter's painting of Radar.
Potter’s painting of Radar, from the M*A*S*H episode “The More I See You.”

And here’s the painting from “Chief of Staff”:

Still from the AfterMASH episode Chief of Staff showing Potter's painting of Radar.
Potter’s painting of Radar, from the AfterMASH episode “Chief of Staff.”

These are not the same painting. I wonder who painted the AfterMASH reproductions and who owns them today.

References to the 4077th

As mentioned above, Potter, Father Mulcahy, and Klinger talk about the 4077th in this episode. “It was dirty, it was a nightmare,” Potter says. “It was one of the best times of my life.”

M*A*S*H Connections

Lois Foraker shows up as Nurse Coleman in this episode.

6 Replies to “AfterMASH Episode Spotlight: Chief of Staff”

  1. Once again, I hate to be a nitpicker over such a minor issue, but Mr. D’Angelo’s surgery was for his prostate, not prostRate (which just means lying face-down, which, I suppose might be his position during the procedure…) Otherwise, another great rumination.

  2. I’m actually wondering WHY they didn’t use the same paintings as on M*A*S*H? Might’ve been fun to see the Charles yelling portrait again on the new show.

  3. Hands down, the final few minutes of this episode are my favorite minutes of “AfterMASH.” Keep in mind: When this one originally aired, it had been more than 9 months since the national phenomenon that was the finale of “M*A*S*H.” This callback to some mourning that the TV audience was still feeling at that time made that slow pan-through of Potter’s 4077th stuff (particularly the faces of the other cast members in the paintings) accompanied by the old theme song such a perfectly on-point and poignant moment. It’s still the scene that I zip forward to from time to time on YouTube. Extra nice: Potter’s 4077th stuff would remain in his V.A. office throughout the rest of the sequel series.

    (My 2nd favorite moments of “AfterMASH”: Every scene involving Col. Flagg in the 2nd season episode “Trials”! Ed Winter and especially the scriptwriter completely nailed that one!)

    Regarding the re-do situation on the paintings — and I’d need confirmation on this from anyone who might’ve attended the exhibit at DC or might have photos of it — it’s a logical assumption that when “Chief of Staff” was in production in the fall of 1983 that all of Potter’s “M*A*S*H” paintings would’ve been among the multitude of props that were at the Smithsonian and on display there during 1983-1984.

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