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Recap / M*A*S*H S4 E2: Change of Command

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News comes in the mail that Frank Burns is being removed from the position of commanding officer of the 4077th. Something like this should be cause for celebration, as Hawkeye initially thinks, but soon he and the other MASHers are on edge about finding out Frank's replacement will be a career army doctor, leading them to assume the worst that the 4077th will soon be in the hands of a harder, more militant tyrant than Frank.


Attention! Attention, all personnel! Our new C.O. will deliver the following tropes:

  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Everyone's afraid that Potter, as a career soldier, would be one of these. However, he's actually a Reasonable Authority Figure that knows exactly what he (and everyone else) should be doing.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Played With. Hawkeye is at first overjoyed with the news Frank is no longer going to be commanding officer, mentioning to B.J. that he's been sticking pins in a Frank Burns doll for a year. Ecstatic, he reads the letter about the replacement until he reaches an important line and his face falls. Howver, by the end of the episode, when Potter reveals a reasonable side to him, Hawkeye knows they have a good leader replacing Henry.
    Hawkeye: Colonel Sherman Potter. Surgeon. Medical. (beat) USA?!
    B.J.: [turns to Radar] Regular army?
    Radar: Career man.
    B.J.: [eyes Hawkeye] Trouble?
    Hawkeye: An army doctor! He'll have people bleeding by the numbers. He's got to be a loser, or why would they dump him in a MASH? (beat) A career man. That's even worse than Frank, who's neither one or the other.
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  • Call-Back: A subtle, yet poignant one. Radar tanning himself with a silver tray is a call back to Henry doing the same thing in "As You Were".
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • Larry Linville proves himself as a legendary and underrated comedy actor when Frank Burns drops his stoic facade after learning he's no longer going to be commanding officer of the 4077th and unleashes a full-blown, exaggerated but nonetheless realistic childish tantrum. See the Manchild entry below for the full scene.
    • Klinger, on his way to introduce himself to Colonel Potter, is met by Radar who bars his way into the colonel's office. Klinger proceeds to try to get by him.
      Radar: Klinger, NO!
      Klinger: I saw him pull in. This is my chance.
      Radar: He's got a saddle.
      Klinger: I don't care.
      Radar: He's regular army.
      Klinger: And I'm regular crazy.
  • Covered in Mud: Frank returns to the 4077th this way after running off.
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  • Deadpan Snarker: As he is moving back into the Swamp, Frank roughly takes Klinger aside to inform him that he was very close to forcing the corporal to stop wearing dresses. Klinger refutes the claim in this way.
    Frank: "Another week and I'd have had you out of those dresses."
    Klinger: "I'm not that easy."
  • Defrosting Ice King: In his earliest scenes, Colonel Potter is a strict, elderly commander who wants his tenure as commanding officer to be endured without fuss. Then, once he goes through a session of surgery and remembers his lifetime of experiences, he winds down, accepting an offer from B.J. and Hawkeye for a round of drinks at the Swamp. By the next morning, he has softened his initial stance, allowing the MASHers to run as casually as usual.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When Colonel Potter tells Radar he wants all the other officers to report to him, Radar delivers the order over the PA in this manner.
    Radar: Attention! By command of the new commanding officer, all officers report to the commanding officer's office, sirs.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: For no reason whatsoever, the Army puts Frank Burns to the side, stripping him of his post as commanding officer and assigning a new man in his place.
  • Double Take: Colonel Potter once asks Radar why he has his nickname. Although Radar answers him honestly, Potter disbelieves in the corporal's alleged ability and starts to walk out of the office without saying where he's going.
    Radar: The officer's latrine is to the right, sir.
    Colonel Potter: Thank you. [[stops, realising, and stares back at Radar]]
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Frank is in this mood after he's had command stripped away from him and he's had to move back into the Swamp.
    Frank: Fine thanks I get. I took a sloppy, slipshod organisation and turned it into a smooth-running model of efficiency, and I'm tossed aside.
  • Due to the Dead: Frank gives a mildly heartwarming one towards the late Henry Blake after he instantly recognises he had been disrespectful to the colonel's memory when noting the messy state Henry left the office in before his fateful departure.
    Frank: What a slob that man was. (beat) May he rest in peace.
  • Eye Take: After being informed Colonel Potter hasn't been in an operating theater for two years, Hawkeye gets worried the man might slip up when a batch of wounded is brought in. Not only does Potter not slip up, he also gently guides B.J. through a troublesome surgery, surprising Hawkeye.
    Colonel Potter: [My hands] were pretty shaky going in, I gotta tell a. Sittin' behind a desk for two years, I thought I might have lost my touch. But I guess surgery's just like riding a bicycle. Once you learn it, you never forget.
  • Feedback Rule: Radar experiences this with his microphone, disgruntledly pushing it to the side after he's finished using it.
  • First Appearance: He technically already appeared at the end of "Welcome in Korea", but this episode gives us Potter's first day from his arrival to the next day.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: After he sets up the administration office for Colonel Potter, Radar freezes and Colonel Potter asks him what the matter is. Radar answers there's choppers coming in. Potter listens and replies he doesn't hear a thing. One second later, he can.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Frank, there is a very good reason why Radar didn't follow your order of delivering the day's mail to you first.
    • When Frank tells Klinger that had he been in command a week longer, he would have had the corporal stop wearing dresses. Klinger retorts to the major he's not that easy. Later, when trying to prove himself crazy to the newly-arrived Colonel Potter, the colonel sternly orders him out of the dress and to stay in uniform.
      Klinger: Radar, I'm finished. I gotta burn my bloomers.
  • Freudian Slip: After reviewing Margaret's file, Colonel Potter notes her exemplary record. Margaret beams with pride, standing dutifully at attention, resulting in her being unaware that the colonel is moving onto Frank's file and misinterpreting his next question being for her to answer.
    Colonel Potter: Major Frank Burns?
    Margaret: Just friends, sir.
  • The Ghost: Sergent Zale is referenced in an old supply order
  • Hidden Depths: When Frank announces at the very start of the episode that he is going to outlaw gambling at the camp, Margaret defends the activity, knowing that it gives the MASHers something to look forward to.
    Frank: Margaret, you're beginning to sound like Blake. Soft.
  • Jaw Drop: Radar, after discovering that within minutes of taking command, Colonel Potter has done something that Henry Blake, Frank Burns and many others had failed to do: get Klinger to stop wearing dresses and instead put on a military uniform.
  • Loophole Abuse: Potter orders Klinger to wear "GI"-style clothing. By the end of the episode he is wearing a female sailor uniform.
  • Manchild: This episode further showcases Frank's startling lack of maturity.
    • Upon learning the Army has already found a replacement and that he will be out of command, Frank feigns nonchalance over this. However, when he and Margaret go back to the tents...
      Frank (stamping on his feet and wailing) NONONONONO! IT'S NOT FAIR, IT'S NOT FAIR! IT'S MY M.A.S.H! It's mine! It's mine, mine, mine!
    • Right after this, Margaret tries to comfort him to no avail.
      Margaret: I know, darling. There there.
      Frank: I already wrote Mommy.
      Margaret: Your mother will understand.
      Frank: I mean my wife.
      Margaret: [visibly offended] Buzz off!
      Frank: [retorts loudly as she leaves] You'll all be sorry when I'm gone! You'll see!
      starts holding his breath
    • He then proceeds to run away from from the base like a child, only to return by episode's end wet, hungry and dirty with a bruise on his face.
  • The Neidermeyer: This is what Hawkeye and B.J. initially believe Potter would be when he first arrives; a regular army blowhard who'll end up slowing them down in the O.R. Potter eventually proves them both wrong. See Reasonable Authority Figure below.
  • Noodle Incident: Between the end of the previous episode and this one, Hawkeye and B.J. burned down a latrine when having a "weenie roast."
  • No-Sell: Klinger introduces himself to Colonel Potter dressed in sparkling, golden regalia, a pearl necklace, white opera gloves, and a silver tiara complete with a white purse hanging from one arm in a bid to prove to the new commander that he's crazy.
    Klinger: [saluting] Colonel Potter, sir. Corporal Klinger. I'm Section Eight, head to toe. I'm wearing a Warner bra. I play with dolls. My last wish is to be buried in my mother's wedding gown. I'm nuts. I should be out.
    Colonel Potter: [salutes back] (beat) Horse hockey.
    Klinger's face falls
    Colonel Potter: I've seen these dodges for forty years. All the tricks. Knew a private pretended he was a mare. Carried a colt in his arms for weeks. Another fella said he was a daisy, insisted we water him every morning. No, no, Corporal. It ain't gonna go with me.
  • Not So Different:
    • Radar is pleasantly surprised Colonel Potter started from the ground up as an enlisted man in the Army ranks rather than being made an immediate officer like the other doctors he's known.
    • After a night of surgery, Potter is invited to attend a drinking session with Hawkeye and B.J. at the Swamp, and goes on to drunkenly regale the two with the story of how he built a still of his own back in World War II.
  • Oh, Crap!: Radar is shirtless and enjoying a suntan outside the administration building when a Jeep rolls up. Its driver and sole occupant beeps the horn to get his attention. Radar ignores it, leading the man to get out of the Jeep and beep the horn a second time.
    Radar: Stick that horn in your ear.
    Colonel Potter: On your feet, soldier. I'm Colonel Potter.
    Radar: Oh boy.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: When they go with Radar to inform Frank he's going to be replaced as commanding officer, Hawkeye and B.J. expect Frank to erupt into a full-blown tantrum. They are therefore surprised and a little unnerved when he instead expresses a Stiff Upper Lip and quietly leaves the scene with Margaret.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • This is what Potter turns out to be in this episode, and all episodes after.
    • Margarete shows her dutiful side for surgery when she agrees to Hawkeye's request to work with Potter and observe if he needs help after being out of the surgery room for so long, beginning a trend of having Margaret assigned to new surgeons and surgeons that they have concerns about.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Hawkeye mentions that Table 27 of the Henry Blake Memorial Bar is usually reserved for Caesar Romero.
    • At their drinking session towards the end of the episode, Hawkeye, B.J. and Potter toast several people, including Black Jack Pershing, Montgomery Ward, Harry Truman and Myrna Loy. And their orchestra.
    • Klinger notes that the dress he wears in the final scene is from the Shirley Temple collection.
  • Standard Snippet: Hawkeye, B.J. and Colonel Potter sing There's A Long Long Trail A-Winding during their drinking session.
  • The Summation: Colonel Potter gives his displeased first impression of the officers he has under his new command at the conclusion of his meeting with them.
    Colonel Potter: Colourful officers, I must say. Well, that is one thing I do not need. I would greatly appreciate it if, for the next eighteen months, you keep your noses clean. Dismissed.
  • Super OCD: When Frank reprimands Igor for the way he serves food at the mess tent, he orders Igor to keep the servings in standardised compartments. Igor tries to respond appropriately but Frank comes down harder on him, leading to a funny Shout-Out moment that that leaves both Margaret and Frank speechless and Igor confused.
    Frank: Seargent, I want standardization of compartments. When I look down a table at a row of trays, I want to see beans, beans, beans, beans. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Apple sauce, apple sauce, apple sauce, apple sauce. Got that?
    Igor: Yes.
    Frank: Yes, what?
    Igor: Yes sir.
    Frank: Yes sir, what?
    Igor: [stammers] Yes sir, yes sir...three bags full?
  • Title Drop: Frank, after being given the news that command of the unit is being taken away from him.
    Frank: If you'll all excuse me, I'd best prepare for the change of command.
  • Troll:
    • Hawkeye lightly mocks Margaret standing at attention whenever Colonel Potter addresses her at the meeting.
    • After Margaret entrusts him and B.J. with the reason why Frank was unable to attend the officers' meeting, Hawkeye's single response is to laugh and try to tell the whole camp about it through the PA.
  • Wrong Assumption: Hawkeye asks Klinger if the reason the corporal has a rash is because he's visited one of the business girls at Rosie's Bar.
    Klinger: No, no. They don't like me. They're jealous of my clothes.

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