April Fools was the 25th and the season finale episode of Season 8 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 198th overall series episode, Written by Sheldon Bull and directed by Charles S. Dubin, it originally aired on March 24, 1980.
A visiting spit and polish officer visits the camp at the worst time during April Fool's Day.
Full episode summary
It's almost April Fool's Day, so Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester are getting into the spirit by pulling pranks. Potter puts the kibosh on all tomfoolery when he learns that the 4077th is about to be inspected by Col. Tucker, a firebreathing, Army-regulation quoting martinet who, according to Potter, "Picks his teeth with a rusty nail."
Klinger, sensing an opportunity, decides to pull a scam where he'll act like the perfect soldier, dress uniform and all, and then go the full crazy route, hoping that'll earn him a Section 8.
Going against Potter's direct order, Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester get back at Margaret (after she pranks them all) by removing all the canvas from her tent, leaving everything else untouched.
Margaret runs to the Swamp to protest, where waiting for her in Hawkeye's cot is a skeleton, which elicits a scream from her. The Swamp rats laugh in delight, causing a pillow fight which spills out onto the compound...right into the path of the incoming Col. Tucker (Pat Hingle), who is not amused.
He berates them all, including Potter. The only person he's impressed with is Klinger, who shows up in his dress uniform, with a copy of Stars and Stripes under his arm, ready to direct Tucker to the V.I.P. Tent.
The next day, Tucker has nothing but criticism for the medical staff, hurling insults and sarcasm when they protest his lack of respect for their efforts. In Post Op, he goes further by insulting Margaret who is trying to see his side of things, saying "I hardly need the support of a woman."
After a confrontation outside, Tucker puts them all on report, and then tells them all that he plans to bar them all from medical service and have them court-martialed.
Its at this moment that Klinger does the switcheroo, dressing as Cleopatra while working in his office. Col. Tucker is horrified that "The only good man here" has been broken by the 4077th. Potter can't believe Tucker is falling for this, and they go off to Potter's office to argue about it.
Meanwhile, in the Swamp, Hawkeye, B.J., Margaret, and Winchester decide that if they're going to get busted, they might as well go out in style - pulling off one giant prank on Tucker.
In the O Club, they set it up so Tucker asks for his trademark "shot and a beer", which gets him dumped with a bucket of beer from the rafters. Tucker is apoplectic, red-faced with rage. He screams at Hawkeye, collapsing onto the bar and then onto the floor.
They are all stunned, thinking they've brought on a heart attack. The O Club goes silent, and Tucker asks for Hawkeye. As Hawkeye gets in close, he whispers: "April Fools."
Hawkeye, confused, looks at the others. Then Tucker bolts up from the floor, arm in arm with Potter, laughing hysterically. Turns out this was an April Fools plot hatched by the two of them, weeks in advance, pulled off with perfection. Potter bet that if pushed hard enough, Hawkeye and the rest would pull a giant stunt like this, and they "Fell for it...like a school of hungry carp."
Later, in the O Club, Potter and Tucker - who have been friends since WWI - talk about other pranks they've pulled, and how they also managed to fool Klinger this time, too.
Right on cue, Klinger walks in, still dressed as Cleopatra, asking when he and Tucker are leaving camp. Everyone else breaks up into laughter, prompting Klinger to ask, "What's so funny?"
Research notes/Fun facts
- Potterisms: This episode is packed with good ones:
"What in the name of Marco Blessed Polo is going on here?"
"peck of pips"
"Where in the name of Carrie's corset is your tent?"
"You look like a furry Claudette Colbert."
"You really didn't stand a snowball's chance in Guam."
- Reference to Claudette Colbert: she starred in the 1934 film Cleopatra.
- Reference to Guam: In Season 4 Change of Command, Potter tells Hawkeye and B.J. that he served in Guam during World War 2 and kept a still there-which took place in the summer of 1944. Potter also claims to have been in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 - different armies and different theaters of war.
- If this had really been following the correct timeline as the real Korean War, this would be April 1953. The Korean War ended in July 1953.
- When Father Mulcahy is the victim of a practical joke, Klinger can't help but make a wisecrack at his expense. Mulcahy responds with, "How'd you like to receive the Last Rites? And a few lefts?" while brandishing his right fist.