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Recap / M*A*S*H S3 E1: The General Flipped at Dawn

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MASH 4077 plans for the usual rigmarole when they are told another general will be visiting to inspect the unit for both its medical and military efficiency, but General Bartford Hamilton Steele turns out to be something completely unexpected for them. From the outset, he appears to be the regular strict-like kind of military leader, but as the episode goes on, it gradually becomes dangerously clear that Steele is not right in the head. The situation culminates in the general wanting the 4077 moved closer to the front and having Hawkeye arrested and put away in prison.


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  • Accidental Innuendo:
    Henry: That’s our four-place latrine, sir.
    Steele: Good thinking. The men can encourage each other.
  • Adam Westing: For those who saw the Potter episodes before this one, this could seem like Harry Morgan doing this to Potter.
  • Bowdlerize: In-Universe example: when Gen. Steele flips and starts singing "Mississippi Mud", he leaves in the "darkies" reference. When Hawkeye reprises the song in the tag, he leaves the word out.
  • Captain Obvious: Referenced by Hawkeye when Trapper notices he is getting dressed up and asks him if he's going on a date.
    Hawkeye: You have a fantastic grasp of the obvious.
  • Catchphrase: General Steele's is "Waste, waste, waste."
  • Celebrity Lie: Major General Steele comes from a well-renowned family in Maryland. He and his two brothers are all military generals, one of which is now a senator.
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  • Court-Martialed: Steele has Hawkeye put up on criminal charges after the latter defies his commands. A hearing takes place to determine whether those charges should hold and be proceeded to an actual court martial.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • One of General Steele's orders for the camp is that all uniforms must be cleaned and pressed.
      Trapper: Who's gonna press uniforms?
      Hawkeye: The motor pool. They'll run over them a few times.
    • Henry also mentions another one of Steele's orders in that the camp has to be entirely cleaned up. Frank chooses this moment to complain about the mess the Swamp is in. Hawkeye and Trapper give his complaints a response.
      Frank: What about the pigsty we live in? My part is neat and tidy, but the other two parties who shall be nameless live like swine.
      Hawkeye: Pierce.
      Trapper: McIntyre.
      Hawkeye: The Swine Brothers.
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    • Radar tries to make Hawkeye guess what he brought for him to take on his date. Trapper gives it a go.
    Trapper: A dehydrated date. You add water and there's a girl inside.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: General Steele
    [to Frank] Trim the hair in your nose!
    [to Margaret] Gut in! Chest out!
    [to Father Mulcahy] There are no atheists in foxholes!
    [to Radar] The Irish were rotten Indian fighters!
    • Towards the end of the episode, when Hawkeye ignores his orders, Steele launches into a furious tirade.
      Steele: You bring that chopper back down here!
      Hawkeye: Too late, General.
      Steele: You're insubordinate!
      Hawkeye: Right.
      Steele: You're insolent.
      Hawkeye: Right! And you're nuts!
  • Dude, Not Funny!: This is how Henry treats Hawkeye's Courtroom Antic of continuing with his snarkery in the middle of a military hearing.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Hawkeye's sister once again gets a mention.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Steele considers a thrown-away tongue depressor to be as wasteful as throwing away a used rifle, and states it can be cleaned and used again. Henry tries to gently refute that belief.
    Henry: Well now you see, General, that's full of germs. I don't even know if you can sterilise wood.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Frank is unimpressed with the collection of nudist magazines Hawkeye has.
    Frank: Naked people playing volleyball? Do you participate in this sort of thing?
    Hawkeye: It's a tax shelter.
    Trapper: You can deduct your sneakers and deodorant.
    Frank: Disgusting!
    Hawkeye: I certainly hope so.
  • Exact Words: When General Steele goes to inspect the company, Henry politely offers "After you" to him, to which the general responds "At all times". Turns out he actually meant that when Henry starts moving ahead of him.
    Henry: Something, General?
    Steele: I'm a bit surprised.
    Henry: Sir, the tag just fell off, honest.
    Steele: Bear left and a pace behind!note 
  • Eye Take: Colonel Atkins, the MP in charge of Hawkeye's hearing, loyally follows General Steele's leadership until the general tells Martin Williams to start his witness statement with singing a musical number.
  • Foreshadowing: Before the general arrives, Henry tells Radar to remind him not to have Klinger wear any dresses.
    • The real first sign that all might be not be mentally well with General Steele is when he mistakes Klinger for his wife Marjorie.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Margaret loudly voices her agreement with General Steele's order of half-hour callisthenics. Trapper gets back at her by twisting the meaning of her words.
    Margaret: Callisthenics is a good idea. We're all in bad condition. I for one am very soft.
    Trapper: Is that true, Frank?
  • Glamour Failure: "Not now, Marjorie! I'm inspecting the troops!"
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted. One of the patients is brought in to the unit with half his face covered in blood.
  • Historical In-Joke: At the beginning of the episode, Radar comes to tell Hawkeye and Trapper that Colonel Blake wants to see them. An over-exhausted Trapper blurts out that it's a holiday. Hawkeye adds on the detail that it's Aaron Burr's birthday.
    Radar: Who's Aaron Burr?
    Trapper: Aaron Burr. The guy that shot John Wilkes Booth.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: As usual, North Korean snipers are evident graduates, not that it stops Henry and Frank from running for cover. In this instance, General Steele might actually be Genre Savvy!
  • Implacable Man: General Bartford Hamilton Steele
  • Implied Death Threat: When Frank is cleaning up the Swamp in preparation for General Steele's visit, he approaches the drinking still and gets this from Hawkeye and Trapper.
    Trapper: Hold it, Frank.
    Hawkeye: Touch that still, I'll put knots in your dental floss.
  • Innocent Bigot: Steele asking an African-American to sing "Mississippi Mud" may be racist as all hell, but there's no malice behind it.
  • Internal Reveal: Subverted with Henry. From the start of the general's visit, he seems to be clueless to the fact that Steele might be crazy, but when he's alone with Hawkeye, he shows he's already come to that conclusion.
    Hawkeye: Henry, that general is gooney bird. He's psycho.
    Henry: Yeah I know. How do you figure that? He comes from a fine family.
    Hawkeye: So did the Borgias.
  • Jump Scare: Steele appears to greet Radar warmly during the inspection and asks him where he's from.
    Steele: Non-coms, the backbone of the service. Where are you from, son?
    Radar: Iowa, sir.
  • Just Following Orders: Hawkeye and Trapper beg Henry Blake not to let General Steele move the unit closer to the battlefield. Henry regretfully states he is under the effects of this trope.
  • Kicked Upstairs: In The Tag it's revealed that Steele got a cushy stateside position and a promotion.
  • Large Ham: General Steele
    • The "Mississippi Mud" scene deserves a special mention.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: An in-universe case. When the PA Announcer makes his usual call for all personnel to pay attention, Hawkeye replies, "Yeah?". The announcer actually pauses to give Hawkeye time to say this and continues his message afterward.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: When snipers fire on Steele, Henry and Frank, the latter two duck for cover inside their Jeep. The general on the other hand calmly ignores the shooting, gets in the drivers' seat and starts the vehicle, all the while humming and singing "I Love A Parade". Henry lampshades the ridiculousness of this by silently mouthing the song's title in stunned fashion.
  • Mattress Tag Gag: Actually a uniform tag on Henry's new fatigues.
  • Non-Answer: Nurse Baker asks Hawkeye if he respects her.
    Hawkeye: Do I respect the flag, apple pie, hamburgers, the loyalty of a fine dog?
    Baker: That's all I needed to know.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Frank remarks that Klinger is one of the few members of the camp to show a little sanity.
    • Later, Frank shows a rare moment of common sense by trying to point out to the General why the new site is less than ideal and pointing out the dangers of saluting too close to the frontline.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: No mention is made of it, but in the hearing where Steele flips out, he starts to go off the rails by asking a black serviceman to sing an incredibly racist and offensive ditty, with the added implication of "You've got it in your blood, boy!"
    • Also illustrated in an earlier conversation with Henry:
    Steele: It was waste defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama. (He was a darky, you know.)
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Steele is correct that the M in MASH stands for mobile, but that doesn't mean the camp should be moved closer to the front.
  • Running Gag: Steele's way of categorising things he's finding wrong at the camp.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Hawkeye cooks up one of these to save himself and Henry from Steele's potential wrath when the general catches Hawkeye in civilian clothes and on a date with a nurse.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A patient brought in for surgery early in the episode asks Hawkeye if his injuries are going to leave him with a bad scar. Hawkeye tells him he's gonna have a beauty.
      Hawkeye: Z like Zorro.
    • Hawkeye calls Radar Kato.
    • While playing a game of checkers with Trapper, Hawkeye loudly refers to how insane General Steele is.
      Hawkeye: That general is nuts! I've seen that look in every Hitchcock movie.
  • Special Guest: Harry Morgan as General Steele.
  • The Tag: A funny scene of Hawkeye, Trapper and Henry breaking into a reprise of "Mississippi Mud" and dancing out of the Swamp, much like General Steele did at the hearing. Unseen by any of them, Frank gets in on the fun.
  • Tempting Fate: While out scouting for a new location to move the 4077 to, General Steele demands that Henry and Frank salute him. Frank points out that saluting is not advisable in open terrain due to enemy snipers in the area who will target the officer of superior rank if this is done. Steele nonetheless demands they salute him.
  • Wham Line: After meeting the chopper pilot Martin Williams and reacting badly to how much fuel the helicopters consume in going from the hospital to the front and back, General Steele orders Henry to have the unit moved closer to the frontline.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Henry gets into this when he and General Steele unexpectedly walk in on Hawkeye having a date with Nurse Baker. After Baker leaves and the general is placated with a cover story, Henry rips right into Hawkeye.
    Henry: Dammit, Pierce! You didn't come to formation. You didn't come to dinner. And then we come in here and find you horsing around with a girl!
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Henry Blake hears a siren going off around the compound and believes the kitchen is on fire again. It is in fact Steele signalling his arrival.

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