Season 3, Episode 1
Written by: Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum
Directed by: Larry Gelbart
WHAT EPISODE IS THIS?
“It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud!” One of the best episodes ever.
The 4077th prepares for a visit from Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele (Harry Morgan.) Henry gives the medical staff a briefing on the General but is interrupted when a lone wounded soldier arrives via chopper, piloted by Warrant Officer Marty Williams (Theodore Williams.)
Henry finishes his briefing in the O.R., telling the staff the General expects daily calisthenics at 6:00am, full uniform, and is going to bunk down at the 4077th for a week, so he wants no funny business.
The 2-star General arrives the next day and immediately inspects the troops. Harry Morgan steals this scene and every other scene he performs in. In one of the funniest scenes ever broadcast on M*A*S*H, Steele has a few choice words for everyone he inspects.
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!” and then asks where the Corporal is from. When he replies Iowa, Steele screams, “No talking in ranks!”
Klinger approaches the inspection in full drag and presents himself to the General with a snappy salute. Steele take a quick look at him and growls, “Not now, Marjorie, I’m inspecting the troops!”
Word spreads quickly the General is a little wacko. When Henry gives him a tour of the camp, the General picks up an old tongue depressor off the ground and insists it can be reused.
Hawkeye, who has yet to meet General Steele, has a date with Nurse Baker (Lynette Mettey) in the supply room. They are in mid-grope when Blake and Steele walk in, but Hawkeye passes himself off as a reporter from UPI. Steele reveals he is mailing his wife a jeep, enjoys dried prunes, and carries 8×10 glossies of himself. Blake yells at Hawkeye for not following his instructions to behave, but Hawkeye states the obvious by telling him the General is loony.
Blake and Steele next visit the Officers’ Club where the General meets Trapper and Marty Williams. Steele asks Marty how far away the front is by air (20 minutes) and how much fuel is consumed (20 gallons an hour.) Steele is mortified and wants the camp moved to the front lines to cut down on waste. He wants to put the mobile back in M*A*S*H and wants to scout new locations for the camp.
Henry, Frank, and General Steele travel by jeep to scout a new location, but end up drawing sniper fire when Henry reluctantly salutes the General after taking an order. As Frank and Henry cower in fear, Steele acts as if nothing is happening and casually drives back to the 4077th through the rifle fire.
Hawkeye is sending his patient by chopper to Seoul, but Steele commandeers the chopper to observe the move. Hawkeye defies the orders, tells Marty to fly off, and calls the General nuts (and notice the General doesn’t disagree!)
Steele quickly arranges a trial to bring Hawkeye up on charges of insubordination, disobeying orders, and impersonating a civilian (“Thought I forgot about you in the storage room, didn’t you?”)
The chopper pilot, Marty Williams, is called as first witness, but Steele asks the African-American Williams to do “a number” first. Perplexed, Williams doesn’t know what to do or say, so Steele gets up and stuns everyone with an impromptu version of “Mississippi Mud”. With the prosecution happily singing and dancing his way across the compound, the trial comes to an abrupt end.
Later, the staff reads in Stars & Stripes that Steele has been promoted to 3-star general for meritorious service in Korea and is assigned to the Pentagon, where he will oversee the entire Asian theater.
Once General Steele arrives, the whole script could be listed as memorable, but here are some of the best:
Radar: The winners of the model yacht race at the cesspool are…
Henry: Not that, Radar!
Hawkeye: Nah, let him read it! I haven’t seen a sports page in months!
Radar: First place went to Pvt. Norman Polanski with his yacht, the American Beauty Dream. Corncob construction, with toilet paper sails.
Hawkeye: Ah, that Polanski has the sea in his blood.
Radar: Second prize to Corporal Timothy McInerney for his clipper, the Evangeline, carved from a pound cake his mother sent him six months ago.
Trapper: Hope he doesn’t invite us for dessert.
Hawkeye: How do you feel about Biarritz in June?
Nurse Baker: Sorry.
Hawkeye: Baden-Baden in July?
Nurse Baker: (shakes head) Hm-hm.
Hawkeye: Monte Carlo in the fall?
Nurse Baker: Afraid not.
Hawkeye: How about the mattress supply room, Thursday night?
Nurse Baker: OK
Hawkeye: I’ll bring the saltines.
Steele (to Radar in formation): Non-coms. The backbone of the service. Where are you from, son?
Radar: Iowa, sir.
Steele: No talking in ranks!
General Steele: (picks up a tongue depressor off ground) What have we here?
Henry: That’s an old tongue depressor, General.
General Steele: It’s military equipment. You wouldn’t carelessly throw away a used rifle, would you?
Henry: Well, I don’t know…
General Steele: This can be cleaned up and used again. Waste! Waste!
Henry: Well, you see, General, that’s full of germs. I don’t even know if you can sterilize wood.
General Steele: Let me put it this way. Ever seen a bird get blood poisoning from a white picket fence?
Henry: Well, I know a little about birds, sir. My mother’s canary had bronchitis.
General Steele: It was waste that defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama. He was a darkie, you know. What’s that over there, Colonel?
Henry: Officers’ quarters, sir.
General Steele: And there?
Henry: That’s our four-place latrine, sir.
General Steele: Good thinking. The men can encourage each other.
General Steele: Precisely. What’s that building, Colonel?
Henry: Storage supply, sir.
General Steele: I’d like to see that.
Henry: Yes, sir.
General Steele: Canary had bronchitis, eh?
Henry: He didn’t die of it, though. He fell off his little swing and smashed his bill.
General Steele: Good. I hate birds.
Trapper: Henry, you’re not really gonna let this guy move us?
Hawkeye: He’ll get us killed!
Henry: Well, what am I supposed to do? He’s a two star general.
Hawkeye: But he’s a three star loony!
Henry: He is nuts, isn’t he?
Trapper: Is Bismarck a herring?
Steele: I predict an early end to the war, if it doesn’t rain and we get all wet.
Steele: That’s Steele, with three E’s, but not in a row.
General Steele: You’re insubordinate!
General Steele: You’re insolent!
Hawkeye: Right! And you’re nuts!
General Steele: Now feel at ease. Just tell in your own words the incident at the helicopter pad, yesterday at 0900 hours…But first…a number.
Williams: (confused) Sir?
General Steele:A musical number. Why it’s in your blood, boy! (Gets up to sing and dance) “When the sun goes down, the tide goes out, The darkies gather ’round and they all begin to shout, “Hey! Hey! Uncle Dud, It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi Mud.”
TRIVIA & OBSERVATIONS
Harry Morgan’s first episode of M*A*S*H but would not become a show regular until Season 4 as Colonel Sherman Potter. According to stories, Morgan’s performance (which was nominated for an Emmy) made him the top choice to replace McLean Stevenson for Season 4.
The first of 24 episodes written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum.
Trapper says “Aaron Burr, the guy who shot John Wilkes Booth.” Actually, Aaron Burr was Vice President under Thomas Jefferson from 1801 to 1804, but was dropped from the 1804 ticket when Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel that year.
So who shot John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln? It was a Union army soldier named Boston Corbett.
When Henry reads the memo, he says “calisthetics” instead of calisthenics.” Everyone else in the scene pronounces it correctly.
Look closely at the scene where the chopper lands on the helicopter pad. The pilot is Caucasian, but the pilot we see when the chopper has landed, Marty Williams, is African-American.
Hawkeye tells the ambulance to get to Lenox Hill Hospital at 71st and 3rd streets. This is a real hospital in New York City, but it’s on 64th Street.
Hawkeye tries to entice Nurse Baker with three cities:
Biarritz: Luxurious seaside resort in France
Baden-Baden: Spa town in Germany known for its springs
Monte Carlo: Mediterranean resort town in Monaco known for its casino and being a playground for the rich and famous.
Henry’s t-shirt collar is stretched out while dressing in his tent but lays perfectly flat during Steele’s inspection.
General Steele mentions Blackjack Pershing. This is General John J. Pershing, nicknamed Blackjack, who led American forces in World War I. He is the only General to have the highest American Army rank of General of the Armies.
There’s an Indian soldier in a red turban standing behind Radar in formation.
Ry-Krisp: cracker made from whole rye and corn bran…still sold today.
Montezuma: Aztec emperor from 1440-1469.
Hawkeye tells Radar, “Get the car ready, Kato?” Kato is the assistant/chauffeur/bodyguard to The Green Hornet.
General Steele mentions Hannibal. This is not Harry Morgan foreshadowing his future character’s hometown, but an allusion to Hannibal, the Punic Carthaginian military commander, generally considered one of the greatest military leaders in history. He lived from 247 to 182 BC and fought the Romans in the Punic Wars.
Battle of Zama: Fought in Carthage (modern day Tunisia) in 202 B.C., Hannibal defended his North Africa home and suffered a devastating defeat to Publius Cornelius Scipio. This put an end to Carthage’s status as an imperial power.
Steele is mailing his wife a jeep in a crate marked “kitchen utensils”. That beats sending it home piece by piece like Radar did in “Dear Dad.”
General Steele mentions the Gatling gun. This forerunner to the machine gun was introduced by Union troops during the Civil War. A soldier would turn a crank to fire the gun which could expel about 200 rounds per minute.
Hawkeye mentions the Borgias. The Borgia family had great influence in Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy, producing two popes. They are known for their corrupt rule and notorious for murder, greed, and quest for power.
How did Hawkeye know the tongue depressor Henry was holding was full of germs? How would he have known Henry picked it off the ground outside the mess tent? He was busy in the supply room.
The Officers Club has been reconfigured and will stay this way for the remainder of the series, though it has a huge emblem on the wall reading “Kiss an Army Nurse.”
General Steele mentions General Cornwallis. He is one of the top 18th century British generals. He surrendered at Yorktown to General George Washington in 1781, thus ending the Revolutionary War.
General Steele mentions Marshall Foch (this guy knows his military history!). This is General Ferdinand Foch, a French general who was a World War I hero for both battles of the Marne and defense of Paris. Marshall is not a military rank, but a distinction given to generals for exceptional achievement.
Trapper asks “Is Bismarck a herring?” This is a reference to Bismarck Herrings, a delicacy in the 1930′s and 1940′s. This is salted herring pickled in white wine, vinegar, and spices and served cold. A German businessman admired the German statesman Otto von Bismarck and gave him barrels of the pickled herring. In 1871, Bismarck was asked, and consented, to lend his name to the herring and it was sold in Europe until World War II.
Again, we see a Caucasian pilot flying the chopper away from the helipad at the 4077th when Marty Williams was at the helm.
Mississippi Mud: The song sung by General Steele at the trial was a 1927 song made popular by Bing Crosby. The original lyric read “darkies gather…” (as sung by Steele) but was revised to read “people gather…” (as sung by Hawkeye) over time.
Theodore Williams played Warrant Officer Marty Williams. Williams was best known for playing hoodlum Sweet Daddy Williams on Good Times in the late 1970′s.
Harry Morgan played General Steele. Born Harry Bratsberg in Detroit in 1915, Morgan became a prolific character actor with over 100 film roles. He had memorable TV roles, too, like Pete Porter in December Bride, Bill Gannon in Dragnet, and, of course, Sherman Potter in M*A*S*H.