M*A*S*H episode
“Change of Command”
MASH episode-4x3 Potter meets Radar
Col. Potter (Harry Morgan, left) catches Radar, who was sunbathing, by surprise when he pulls up in his jeep, greeting him with "On your feet, soldier, I'm Colonel Potter!", in one of the funniest moments of the series.
Season 4, Episode # 3
Number (#75) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) William Christopher
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: G-501
Writer(s) Everett Greenbaum, Jim Fritzell & Larry Gelbart
Director Gene Reynolds
Original airdate September 19, 1975
IMDb logo IMDB Change of Command
Episode chronology
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"Welcome to Korea" (G‑504)
(Season 4 premiere)
"It Happened One Night" (G‑502)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"Abyssinia, Henry" (B‑324)
(Season 3 finale)
"It Happened One Night" (G‑502)

(production order)

(production order)

Season 4 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

"Change of Command" was the 75th episode of the M*A*S*H television series, and, also the third episode of the fourth season of the series. Written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, and directed by Gene Reynolds, it first aired on September 19, 1975, with a repeat on March 9, 1976.


After a week of suffering under Major Frank Burns' command, the 4077th staff is relieved when a new commanding officer arrives. He's old and gray, but very experienced, a veteran of the first two World Wars, and a damn fine surgeon. His name: Colonel Sherman T. Potter.

Full episode summaryEdit

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 B.J. erect a bar where the Major's bunk used to be. Hawkeye mentions Henry and how much he still misses him, so B.J. 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, who's 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”, or 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 B.J. 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.

MASH episode-4x3 The Henry Blake Memorial Bar

The short-lived "Henry Blake Memorial Bar, which Hawk and B.J. made out of Frank's cot, is barely dedicated before Radar gives them the news of a new C.O. - Colonel Potter.

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 none of it, having seen such tendencies before, and 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 B.J. that Frank was so upset with being replaced that he ran away.

Hawkeye and B.J. 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 that it's dark and cold outside and Frank has yet to return. Hawkeye and B.J. reassure her that he's only having a tantrum, saying he'll come home when he's tired and hungry.

Potter is given routine operations and fares well, but quickly proves himself more than able when he helps B.J. through a tricky operation. Afterwards, Potter is pleased with his performance in O.R. after his years behind a desk, happy there is still some “pizzazz left in the old digits” and states he could really use a drink. Hawkeye and B.J. 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. It 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, hungry, and filthy. Next morning, he presents himself to Potter, sporting a nasty bruise, but intones he is no stranger to pain. Hawkeye and B.J. 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.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Col. Sherman Potter takes command of the 4077th in this episode.
  • The announcer gives the date of Potter's arrival as September 19, 1952; this episode was shown September 19, 1975.
  • In the scene where a shirtless Radar greets Col. Potter for the first time, note Radar hiding his left hand in his armpit. This is one of many instances in the series where Gary Burghoff took great pains to conceal a severely deformed left hand. 
  • In the mess tent, Frank calls Igor a sergeant, but in all other episodes he is a private.
  • During Potter's conversation with Klinger, he mentions having seen every dodge in the book, including a man who said he was a mare and carried a young colt in his arms for weeks, and a man that insisted he was a daisy and who asked to be watered every day.
  • When Potter meets Houlihan he mentions she been in the army 10 years; this is usally seen in the syndicated version but not in the restored version. Likewise the part where Frank stumbles into Margarets tent while coming back from running away; this part is cut out of the syndicated version but in the restored master version!
  • When Potter meets Hawkeye and BJ he receites their misdomeaners: setting fire to the officers latrine [accident]; a year before stealing a steam shovel in Tokyo; and Hawkeye had a chopper pilot fly in a chicken as a "patient." [The part of the chicken is usally cut out of syndication]
  • Potter mentions that he has 18 months to go in his service before he retires; September 1952 means he would retire in February 1954; however if the 18 months is ment until the end of the Korean War then Potter arrived February 1951. (An example of sliding timeline).
  • Potter claims he received a Purple heart when he was wounded when his still blew up in Guam in World War II; likewise in a latter episode he claims he was in the Battle of the Bulge (Europe 1944 - Two different theater of war; two different armies-sliding timeline)
  • Potter also claims he received the Good Conduct medal while a enlisted man and that officers did not get it; in fact it is given to a soldier with a good record within the first years of his enlistment.
  • In the episode The Bus (TV series episode) BJ remarks to Frank that when Frank was in command for a week he ordered the toilet seats to stand at attention; this is a reference to the Andy Griffith Movie "No Time for Sergeants"

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit

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