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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”:
And here’s the painting from “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.”
Lois Foraker shows up as Nurse Coleman in this episode.