Big Mac was the 21st episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 69th overall series episode. Written by Laurence Marks and directed by Don Weis, it first aired on February 25, 1975.
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur has scheduled an inspection of the 4077th because of its outstanding performance, and the camp is busy trying to prepare for its illustrious visitor.
Full episode summary
Big news: General Douglas MacArthur is going to visit the 4077th because the unit has the most impressive medical record in Korea. Henry is bursting at the seams, confiding in Radar, “This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me” and dreams of the headlines in the Bloomington paper.
Colonel Whiteman, from MacArthur's staff, arrives to brief the medical staff about the General's impending visit. He had encountered Klinger at the first sentry post and pointedly tells Henry not to have him stationed when MacArthur arrives. Whiteman has a strict minute-by-minute itinerary and feels an operation for MacArthur to view is a good way to wrap up the visit. Frank volunteers for the operation, so Hawkeye suggests a hysterectomy be performed on the Major.
Preparations are made for the General's arrival: Spalding is writing a song to commemorate the occasion, Radar is decorating the VIP with 5-star touches, and Frank...is burning books. Hawkeye stops “Dr. Hitler” and informs him MacArthur is going to see the camp for what it really is and saves the books from a fiery demise.
Henry arranges for Klinger to take three days of R&R in Tokyo during MacArthur's visit, but Klinger demurs, hoping to get an immediate discharge from the General. Henry threatens tent arrest and tying Klinger to his tent pole if he stays in camp (this scene is usually cut from syndicated airings). Frank and Margaret inspect the VIP tent, which has been converted into a 5-star shrine, complete with flags, bunting, and an enormous blow-up photo of the General. They're so caught up in the glamor and power of the furnishings, they make love on MacArthur's bed, Margaret even calling out the name “Doug.”
A dress rehearsal is staged with Radar standing in as a pint-size MacArthur. True to form, Klinger interrupts the rehearsal with his crazy schtick, claiming he needs to rehearse, too. As Klinger is dragged off, an announcement is made MacArthur has passed the first checkpoint and will arrive in seconds.
A sloppy formation is hastily assembled (including Radar still dressed like MacArthur) and the General and his detail drive through the compound. And they keep driving. Big Mac never stops to greet the 4077th, but takes time to give a smart salute to Klinger dressed as the Statue of Liberty on the road leaving camp.
In a very brief coda often cut from syndication, the personnel return to their tents as Captain Spalding sings a snippet of his MacArthur song.
Research notes/Fun facts
- Third and final appearance of Loudon Wainwright III as Captain Calvin Spalding. In this episode, we briefly get to see Spalding as a surgeon in the O.R.; he also gets to sing, as usual.
- The nurse who appears with Hawkeye in the O.R. has several lines, but is not named and is uncredited. Behind the mask, the role would appear to be played by Jeanne Schulherr who appeared in a few small roles in season 3.
- The actor playing MacArthur (who has no lines, but is seen very prominently in several close shots) is uncredited.
- MacArthur did indeed visit Korea in real life. However, unlike this episode, he did not wear his sun bleached khakis from World War II -- when in Korea, he rather sensibly wore cold weather clothing.
- Houlihan claims that her father and MacArthur fought the Huks in post-World War II Philippines. This is historically impossible, as from 1945 to 1950 MacArthur was the American Proconsul in Japan.
- Cast member (then recurring character) Jamie Farr regarded this episode, along with "Officer of the Day", as his favorite episode.
- Graham Jarvis as Colonel Whiteman
- Jamie Farr as Klinger
- Loudon Wainwright III as Captain Calvin Spalding