Bug Out were the 98th and 99th episodes of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, and, also the hour-long, two part season premiere episode arc of the fifth season of the series. Written by Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum and directed by Gene Reynolds, Bug Out first aired on September 21, 1976, and was repeated March 29, 1977.
When a rumor for a camp relocation turns out to be real, Hawkeye, Margaret, and Radar volunteer to stay behind for a patient who cannot be moved.
Full episode summary
Radar gets a phone call that the MASH is scheduled for a surprise practice "bug out", but that it's to remain top-secret. He unwisely tells Klinger, who tells Burns and Houlihan, and by the time the news gets to Col. Potter, it's assumed the camp is under a full-scale attack.
Col. Potter tries to stamp out the rumors, to no avail. When a patient with spinal-cord damage arrives, Hawkeye is initially reluctant to operate because, once he's been worked on, the patient can't be moved for 24 hours. Potter insists they aren't bugging out, so Hawkeye (with Margaret and B.J. assisting) goes ahead. But as soon as they start, the 4077th gets a word from HQ that they are, in fact, bugging out.
This sends everyone into a frenzy. Col. Potter puts Frank in charge (he has no choice, since Burns is second in command) while he scouts locations for a new MASH.
Hawkeye says he's staying behind to look after the patient, and Margaret volunteers to stay as well. And, at the last moment, as everyone is riding out of camp, Radar stays behind, too.
Col. Potter, B.J., and Frank lead the caravan to the new location for the 4077th, and walk up to what looks like an abandoned hut. Except that - it's not abandoned, it's full of "business girls."
Frank wants to evict them by force, but Potter wants to try and bargain with them. No matter what he offers, they refuse to turn over the building. That is, until they see Klinger's array of clothes, which they moon over. Potter asks Klinger to give up The Klinger Collection, as an act of patriotism ("Do it for...Toledo."). Klinger reluctantly agrees.
Meanwhile, back at the 4077th, the spinal cord patient is slowly recovering. Two jeeps drive into camp, doing reconnaissance on the area, and the soldiers are surprised when Hawkeye and Radar approach. When asked by Hawkeye where the front is, one soldier replies: "You're standing on it."
The next day, the patient is well enough to be flown out by chopper. After the chopper takes off, Hawkeye, Margaret, and Radar climb in a jeep to catch up with the rest of the unit. Hawkeye stops in the middle of the camp, remembering how much they all went through there together. He goes to start the jeep up again, but it won't turn over. When they hear a loud clamor of people coming up the road, they assume it's the Chinese and try to hide - which proves difficult, since all that's left of the tents are the framework.
They start to panic as the noise gets louder, but are relieved to see that it's the rest of the 4077th, led by Col. Potter. He tells them that the U.S. retook the same piece of land, so they have been ordered to return to home. Relieved, Margaret climbs aboard Sophie, her arms around Col. Potter as he manages the traffic.
In a final scene, things at the 4077th are returning to normal, as Hawkeye and B.J. resume their latrine-digging-watching (as they were in the beginning of the episode).
Research notes/Fun facts
- The second of three consecutive hour-long season premieres.
- This is first episode without Larry Gelbart working on the show, as he left the series at the end of Season 4.
- William Christopher was finally added to the official cast, and for the first and only time, a production credit - Executive Producer Gene Reynolds - was added to the credit sequence for this season.
- The general who now seems to oversee the unit is General Irving "Binky" Hamilton, an old friend of Potter's. (His 15-year-old grandson is named Sherman Potter Hamilton.) "Binky" Hamilton is an entirely offstage character; Potter talks to him on the phone, but we do not see or hear him. The previous general to oversee the unit was General Bartford Hamilton Steele. (General "Iron Guts" Kelly visited the 4077th after Steele was transferred, but while the nature of his command was ambiguous, he did not appear to be directly overseeing the M*A*S*H unit.) "Binky" was apparently later replaced, as the next supervising general to be mentioned was General Harrelson, in the late fifth season episode Ping Pong.
- The montage, with Col. Potter and Margaret on Sophie, is sweet. There had been occasional moments where we got to see how she looked upon him as a father figure - eventually pulling her away from the Frank and Margaret team that had been the standard for the previous seasons.
- This episode contains a rare combat leadership success for Frank Burns; although he makes a few embarrassing gaffes, he does orchestrate a (reasonably) successful bug-out in Col. Potter's absence, while the Colonel scouts a new location.
- When Col. Potter asks Burns if he's ever bugged out before, Burns replies, "Not intentionally." This is not only an anomaly, but a lie on Burns' part: In "The Novocaine Mutiny," B.J. testifies that while Col. Potter was away in Tokyo and Frank was in charge, the Major made the entire camp "bug out"--across the road and back.
- Ironically, though not mentioned overtly in the episode, Klinger loses the "The Klinger Collection" for nothing, as the unit does not ever occupy the house the clothes bought. He loses $300.00 worth of dresses (nearly 10 months pay) and 3 years of work.
- Eileen Saki, the Korean Madame, would later take over the role of Rosie in later seasons.
- The METV version has several parts not usually seen in syndication: Hawkeye and Radar almost getting run over by trucks on the way to Rosie's for one last drink; Hawkeye and Radar looking at the cockroaches in Rosie's; Rosie presenting Hawkeye his bill for $51.00; B.J. identifying the schoolhouse as a "brothel" to Burns.
- As usual with MASH, little attention is paid by the writers to setting a plausible timeline for this episode. Before Hawkeye and Radar leave for Rosie's, Houlihan remarks it's September; the only September that Potter is in Korea is September 1952 (the war ended July 27, 1953), which is just as he arrives at the MASH unit. Meanwhile, Klinger implies he's already been in Korea for three years, which is a month short of the length of the entire war.
- Some of this footage of the 4077th bugging out would be reused for the series finale “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”
- There is an unremoved blooper in the original version of the episode which is often cut for syndication. During the scene in which Colonel Potter and Father Mulcahy are talking in the showers, there is usually a cut in syndication partway through Colonel Potter's rendition of underarm Valencia. In the full version of the scene, Father Mulcahy pulls the chain on the shower, only to receive a single splash of water. He looks bothered by this and begins pulling the chain impatiently, causing the handle to break off.
Recurring cast/Guest stars
- Richard Lee-Sung as Cho Man Chin (as Richard Lee Sung)
- Frances Fong as Rosie
- Don Eitner as Captain (Captain Stevens)
- Barry Cahill as Helicopter Pilot ("Barry")
- Eileen Saki as Korean Madame
- James Carroll as Enlisted Man (as James Lough)
- Uncredited appearances: