Change of Command (4×03)

Season 4, Episode 3

Episode #75

Broadcast: 09/19/1975

Written by: Everett Greenbaum & Jim Fritzell

Directed by: Gene Reynolds


Frank is reveling in his new role as C.O. of the 4077th and wants to make the camp more “G.I.” as opposed to Blake’s lax command.  He has a slew of new regulations and plans to “teach those dirty, little enlisted rats” to love him.

With Frank out of the Swamp, Hawkeye and BJ erect a bar where the major’s bunk used to be.  Hawkeye mentions Henry and how much he still misses him, so BJ suggests they name their new watering hole after the deceased Colonel.  Radar is their first customer, but he has a different kind of order:  Frank Burns is being replaced as Commanding Officer by Colonel Sherman Potter, Regular Army.

Hawkeye is upset to learn Potter is a career man and army doctor who will “have people bleeding by the numbers.”  Hawkeye assumes Potter must be a “loser” else he wouldn’t be assigned to a MASH.  He asks Radar how Frank took the news, but Radar admits he’s too scared to tell him.

Hawkeye and BJ accompany Radar to deliver the news and they find Frank with Margaret in the mess tent berating Igor for not lining up the food compartments on every tray.  Radar gives Frank the news he’s being replaced, and surprisingly, the major takes the news very well and dismisses himself to go prepare for the new commander.  Margaret accompanies him back to her tent, marveling on the mature way he took the news, but once inside her tent, Frank dissolves into a juvenile tantrum, complete with stamping feet and holding his breath.  Classic Frank.

The Henry Blake Memorial Bar is torn down to make way for the return of Frank’s belongings, including his “personal papers” during his brief tenure in command.

Colonel Sherman Potter arrives in camp, finding Radar suntanning himself outside the office.  Potter turns out to be no Blake – he seems to have no sense of humor and is all business.  Radar is immediately skittish around him, and the sudden of appearance of Klinger in full drag doesn’t help.  Klinger barges in and introduces himself to the new Colonel by listing all his crazy tendencies, but Potter will have nothing of it, demanding the corporal get in uniform and stay that way.

Potter meets his officers, except for Frank who is missing.  Mulcahy and Margaret are the first to be reviewed, with each having a spotless record, but Margaret sullies her image when she blurts out “just friends, sir” at the mention of Frank’s name.  Pierce and Hunnicutt have sketchy records which does not please Potter, who rises to announce for the next 18 months, everyone is to be on their best behavior.  Outside the office, Margaret admits to Hawkeye and BJ that Frank was so upset with being replaced, he ran away.

Hawkeye and BJ are making small repairs on the still, hoping Potter does not take it away.  Klinger arrives, claiming a rash wherever his uniform touches his skin.  Quickly identified as psychosomatic, Hawkeye tells Klinger to wear a slip under his uniform, which greatly pleases the corporal.

Wounded arrive, which means Potter will get his first taste of meatball surgery.  As the captains scrub, Radar fills them in on Potter’s background:  he has been administration and has not performed an operation for two years.  Hawkeye asks Margaret to keep an eye on the Colonel, but she is more concerned it’s dark and cold outside and Frank has yet to return.

Potter is given routine operations and fares well, but proves himself more than able when he helps BJ through a tricky operation.  Afterwards, Potter is pleased with his performance in O.R., happy there is still some “pizzazz left in the old digits” and states he could really use a drink.  Hawkeye and BJ take this as an opportunity to introduce Potter to the Swamp (and the still) and to get to know him better.  The three of them harmonize beautifully over old war songs and knock back a few martinis.  Turns out Potter had his own still in WWII and turns out to be an affable guy they can relate to, so Hawkeye brings up Klinger and his dress code.

Frank finally returns from his tantrum wet and filthy.  Next morning, he presents himself to Potter, sporting a nasty bruise, but intones he is no stranger to pain.  Hawkeye and BJ are there, too, wearing civilian shirts and Klinger arrives with Potter’s bridle, dressed head to toe like Shirley Temple, silently letting Frank know his tough, G.I. regulations are dead and buried.



Frank: I want to see beans, beans, beans, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, applesauce, applesauce, applesauce.  Got that?
Igor: Yes.
Frank: Yes, what?
Igor: Yes, sir.
Frank: Yes, sir, what?
Igor (confused): Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full?


Frank: No no no no!  It’s not fair!  It’s not fair!  It’s my MASH!  It’s mine.  It’s mine.  It’s mine.  Mine, mine, mine!
Margaret: I know, darling.  There, there…
Frank: I already wrote Mommy.
Margaret: Your mother will understand.
Frank: I mean my wife.
Margaret: BUZZ OFF!


Frank: Another week of command and I’d have had you out of that dress!
Klinger: I’m not that easy!


<Horn honking>
Radar: Stick that horn in your ear!
Potter: On your feet, soldier.  I’m Colonel Potter.
Radar: Oh, my.  I’m sorry, sir.  I had no idea you were who you are, Colonel Potter, sir.
Potter: Get my gear, son.
Radar: Yes, sir.  Your permission to cover up my nakedidity.


Klinger: 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.
Potter: Horse hockey! I’ve seen these dodges for forty years, all the tricks. Had a soldier pretend he was a mare. Carried a colt in his arms for weeks! Another fellow said he was a daisy. Insisted we water him every morning! No, no, corporal, it ain’t gonna go with me. Now you get out of that froufrou and into a uniform, and you stay in uniform!


Potter: Major Houlihan.
Margaret: Yes, sir!
Potter: 10 years, spotless record.
Margaret: Thank you, sir!
Potter: Major Burns.
Margaret: Just friends, sir!


Potter: You two were reprimanded by Major Burns for setting fire to the latrine.
Hawkeye: That was an accident.
BJ: We were having a weenie roast.
Potter: In the latrine?
BJ: We’re not allowed to cook in our tents, sir.
Potter: Also, Pierce, it says you had a live chicken flown here by helicopter claiming it was a patient.
Hawkeye: That was a rare bird, Colonel. It could tap dance.
Potter: And a year ago, the Tokyo Provost Marshal claims you stole a steam shovel.
Hawkeye: I couldn’t get a cab.
Potter: I gather you drink.
Hawkeye: Only to excess.


Potter: I could use a belt.
Hawkeye: Colonel, Captain Hunnicutt and I know just the place.  Checkered tablecloths, candlelight…
Potter: Out here?  Pizza?
Hawkeye: No, but you can chew on a rubber glove.


Potter (offering a toast): To Blackjack Pershing!
Hawkeye: The inventor of 21.




Harry Morgan’s first episode.

Instead of the usual trees and mountains, the view from the the Commanding Officer’s window is a corrugated building.

Hawkeye refers to Cesar Romero and the spraining of his mustache.  Romero was a Latin actor, dancer, and comedian with decades of TV and movie credits, known for his trademark mustache.  He is best known for playing The Joker on the 1960′s TV series “Batman” starring Adam West.

Roy Rogers:  mentioned in conjunction with a Shirley Temple, both are non-alcoholic cocktails.  Both made with grenadine syrup and a maraschino cherry, the Roy Rogers uses cola while the Shirley Temple uses lemon-lime soda.

Frank calls Igor “sergeant” although he’s only a private.

Greasy the Clown will be appearing at Frank’s service station in Fort Wayne to support the opening of a new lube rack.  Bet that’s one scary clown…

Klinger got his spring hat back and is wearing it in the Swamp.  This is the same hat confiscated in “Welcome to Korea” during morning assembly.

Frank’s official papers include an order to Zale to glue a cracked bedpan and an order to the mess sergeant to drain the oil from the tuna fish.

When Potter gives Radar the saddle, Radar’s shirt is unbuttoned.  When he puts the saddle down on Potter’s desk, his shirt is partially buttoned.

Klinger’s necklace changes position from Radar’s office to his entry in Potter’s office.

Mulcahy is wearing an olive drab t-shirt.  Usually he wears black underneath a fatigue shirt.

A weenie roast in a latrine?  That’s one cookout I’d definitely skip.  You could binge and purge all in the same place.

The photo of Mrs. Potter is actually Harry Morgan’s wife, Eileen Morgan.

Mildred Potter has four sisters.

Notice Margaret was sleeping in her uniform?  Frank chewed out Radar for doing the same last episode.

The song Potter, Pierce and Hunnicutt sing in the Swamp is “There’s a Long Long Trail A-Winding”, a popular song from World War I.  Very nice harmonizing, especially Hawkeye on the high part.

Blackjack Pershing:  General John J. Pershing, leader of American forces in World War I.  He got the nickname “Blackjack” from commanding the all African-American 10th Cavalry Regiment in the 1890′s.  The nickname was originally an insult, but it stayed with the General the rest of his life.

Potter earned a purple heart on Guam in World War II when his still blew up.

After a night of drinking in the Swamp, Potter must have approved civilian wear.  Hawkeye brings up Klinger, but it’s never revealed what he tells Potter about him.  Suffice it to say, he told the Colonel about the corporal’s need to wear women’s clothing and (likely) he was a good medic.  Next morning, Potter compliments Klinger on his Shirley Temple outfit and the captains are wearing civilian shirts.

Terrific final scene with Frank’s look of disbelief upon recognizing Potter’s acceptance of Klinger’s cross-dressing.  The final shot of Hawkeye, BJ, and Potter grinning at Frank is priceless.


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