AfterMASH Episode Spotlight: By the Book

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

“By the Book” (#21, 1×21)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, March 5th, 1984 from 9-9:30PM ET
Written by Larry Balmagia
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

TV Guide Summary

Klinger and Potter go prospecting: Klinger for uranium, and Potter for an antibiotic not approved by the VA.

The Hartford Courant Summary

Klinger envisions the life of luxury when he goes prospecting for uranium with an eccentric patient.

Review

The penultimate episode of AfterMASH‘s first season, “By the Book” is a bit of a mystery. Why? Because the only copy of the episode available seemingly anywhere is dubbed in another language. Based on the on-screen bug in the upper left-hand corner, the source for the episode is TV Nova, a TV station in the Czech Republic.

Even thought I can’t understand the language (or even know what language it is), I watched the entire episode. Even with the help summaries from TV Guide and The Hartford Courant, it’s next to impossible to follow any of the storylines.

Here’s a breakdown of what happens in the episode:

Potter worries about a patient who’s developed a post-op infection. The patient is in a lot of pain but there’s nothing Potter can do to help. He’s so frustrated, he tosses his garbage can out the window. Klinger stops him before Potter can throw his typewriter out the window as well. The two come up with a plan, presumably to secure the antibiotic needed to treat the patient’s infection.

Still from the AfterMASH episode By the Book showing Potter and a patient.

Potter gives his patient an unapproved antibiotic.

When the antibiotic arrives, Klinger distracts the nurse on duty so Potter can administer the medicine to his patient. It works and the patient is soon back on his feet.

Klinger hopes to win a scooter in a contest at the Recovery Room. After Mike D’Angelo is announced winner, Klinger chats with Bob Scannell at the bar and comes up with his latest money-making scheme, which must somehow involve uranium. The two search Bob’s room at the hospital and find an old map. In the tag scene, Klinger returns from prospecting tired, cold, and empty-handed.

Father Mulcahy gets in trouble after putting a sign on the hospital bulletin board asking patients with “Vet Peeves” to come to him for help. Mike D’Angelo is not amused.

Soon-Lee is working as a volunteer at General General. She sits with a patient as he reads comic books and he tells her about Superman. When she walks away, the patient refers to her as Lois Lane. He later puts on a cape and takes Soon-Lee hostage in the hospital library, seemingly thinking he’s saving her.

Still from the AfterMASH episode By the Book showing Father Mulcahy, Soon-Lee, and a patient.

Father Mulcahy uses “kryptonite” to stop “Superman” and save Soon-Lee.

He plans on jumping out the window with Soon-Lee in his arms. Father Mulcahy remembers something he saw in Mike D’Angelo’s office: a green rock. He tells the man it’s Kryptonite and, thanks to his delusion, promptly collapses. Thankfully, Soon-Lee and her baby are both fine.

There’s also a minor storyline involving a patient who receives a telegram in Korean. He comes to Klinger for help and he asks Soon-Lee to translate. Whatever the telegram says, it isn’t good news.

Notes

According to the TV Guide listing for “By the Book,” a character named Vasco appears in the episode, played by Jim Boeke. Patrick Cranshaw (as Bob Scannell) and Carolsue Walker (as Sarah) are among the other guest stars.

References to the 4077th

I don’t know if there are any references to the 4077th in “By the Book.

M*A*S*H Connections

Scriptwriter Larry Balmagia wrote or co-wrote eight episodes of M*A*S*H between 1978 and 1982, including “What’s Up, Doc?” and “Temporary Duty” during Season 6, “C*A*V*E” during Season 7, and “The Moon is Not Blue” during Season 11.

Director Gabrielle Beaumont directed the M*A*S*H episode “The Red/White Blues” during Season 9.

4 Comments

  • Penguinphysics says:

    I was about 12 when I saw this episode, so my recollections are extremely vague, but I seem to remember that Soon-Lee was reading the Korean letter to the delusional patient (who thought he was Superman) The letter was from the girlfriend he had back in Korea and he was hoping that it would be a message letting him know she was OK and still loved him. Instead, the letter was letting him know that she moved on and married another man (I don’t remember whether it was a Korean man or an American GI) According to my recollection, that was the incident that broke the man and he began to believe he was Superman (Klinger even mentioned that he had the strength of several men)

    The green rock in D’Angelo’s office was some kind of award that he was proud of and Mulcahey used it to convince the patient that it was Kryptonite and subdue him.

    • RJ says:

      You call those recollections vague? You have an incredible memory!

      • Penguinphysics says:

        I call them vague because I have absolutely no recollection of the antibiotic subplot. I just wish there was a way to watch them on Hulu or some other source so that we wouldn’t have to deal with cut segments, poor picture quality, and language difficulties.

  • David G., Keeper of the "AfterMASH" flame says:

    I can confirm Max’s uranium scheme. (Am I allowed to just say “Klinger” when mentioning him in a series that actually had 2 people by that same name as regulars…?)

    There’s speculation I’ve seen on the Internet from some people who wonder if or outright claim that this episode never aired in the U.S. and might’ve been pre-empted by a rerun that instead aired on its scheduled day. I’ll echo the previous poster’s comments in saying that I can confirm that I also -DID- see this episode during the one time that it ever aired on CBS that spring Monday evening of 1984. I also specifically remember the tag scene, plus I also remember how cool I thought it was (as a comic book fan) that this episode dealt with a reader of Superman comics. FYI: The ONLY episode that never ran in the episode was the final one, “Wet Feet.” (Thank goodness for the fine nation of Australia, which is the source of that episode on YouTube!)

    I was -audio- recording most of the “AfterMASH” episodes back when this series aired, but unfortunately I re-used many of those tapes. I’ve also got a few original scripts from the series, and this one -might- be one of those. If I ever run across a still-exiting audio tape, or find that I do have “By The Book” in that script collection, I’ll notify you so you can properly update this installment!

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