M*A*S*H episode
Chopper pilot Lt. John Hodges, The Cowboy, threatens Henry, who wouldn't allow him to go on leave to see his estranged wife, who contemplated leaving him in the episode "Cowboy".
Season 1, Episode # 8
Number (#8) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Timothy Brown
Billy Green Bush
John Orchard
Jean Powell
Patrick Adiarte
Joe Corey
Mike Robello
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: J309
Writer(s) Don Weis
Director Robert Klane
Original airdate November 12, 1972
IMDb logo IMDB Cowboy
Episode chronology
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"Bananas, Crackers and Nuts" (J‑311) "Henry, Please Come Home" (J‑302)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"Requiem for a Lightweight" (J‑308) "Yankee Doodle Doctor" (J‑310)

(production order)

(production order)

Season 1 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

Cowboy was the eighth episode of the M*A*S*H television series. Originally shown on November 12, 1972 and repeated May 6, 1973, it was written by Bob Klane and directed by Don Weis. It is the only first-season episode listed in TV Guide as a "classic episode".


After being refused a stateside trip to make sure his wife is not committing adultery, a displeased chopper pilot, known as The Cowboy, tries to kill Henry.

Full episode summaryEdit

Lt. John Hodges, a chopper pilot whose nickname "The Cowboy" stems from his omnipresent gun holster belt and Stetson hat, arrives at the 4077th with a shoulder wound. He is anxiously awaiting a letter from his wife, who he fears is leaving him for another man ("She's probably off with some rodeo rider; she's a sucker for a 10-gallon hat!"). The Cowboy wants to be sent home before his marriage completely falls apart, but Henry refuses, stating that The Cowboy's wound is not serious enough to merit a stateside ticket. Bad luck then follows Henry wherever he goes: he gets shot at while golfing, his tent gets flattened by a driverless jeep, and the latrine is blown up with him inside it. Deciding to leave camp for a while, he is nearly killed when his desk chair explodes.[1][2]

"The Cowboy" offers to fly Henry to Seoul, then tries to push him out of the chopper in midair. At the same time, Hawkeye and Trapper realize that these "accidents" have been The Cowboy's attempts to get revenge against Henry for not sending him home. Radar brings the letter from The Cowboy's wife, and Hawkeye and Trapper inform him over the radio that it has finally arrived.

The letter is postmarked Reno, Nevada, which sends the two doctors into a panic, given Reno's reputation (at the time) for quick and painless divorce proceedings. The letter also begins "Dear John", the clichéd opening of a letter to a man whose heart is about to be broken. It turns out, however, that The Cowboy's real name is John (Hodges) and that he does live in Reno. In the letter, his wife assures him that he is loved. He brings Henry safely back to camp and receives a month's stateside leave.

Later at The Swamp, Hawkeye and Trapper have a drink with Henry, and ask him if he was afraid of Cowboy. Henry replies no to this, only to jump and splash his drink all over Trapper when a jeep backfires, causing Hawkeye and Trapper to break out in laughter as the episode closes.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Of the many Nurse Bakers in MASH, the Baker in this episode is the most mysterious. Although credited, she only has one tiny line when she says "Thank you" to Father Mulcahy who is handing out mail in Post-Op. We only ever see the back of her head as she walks past. There is also very little data about Jean Powell on the internet, so we may never be able to know how this Nurse Baker looks like.
  • The syndicated TV Version cuts out the parts of Blake being shot at the golf course, or being run over by the jeep or the latrine being blown up. They did keep the part of Blake's chair being blown up.
  • Henry mentions that his wife has a "fistful of credit cards". Before the 1950s, credit cards were issued by individual merchants and only valid at one store or for one chain. That would explain why Henry's wife would have a fistful. The first modern credit card, Diner's Club, was only introduced in 1950. If Henry's wife had one, she would be an early adopter.
  • The Cowboy's callsign "Purple Rider" is taken from the name of a comic cowboy hero character popular in the 1940s. See "Purple Rider".
  • The Movie website has a couple of goofs listed: When Cowboy and Henry are flying around in the helicopter, high tension wires are visible in the background. There were no high tension wires in Korea between 1950-1953. When Cowboy is flying with Colonel Blake, a radio tower is visible on a hill top. Given proximity to the front lines, this wouldn't be there.
  • Cowboy in real life would have been part of the US Army Aviation section; Blake would have been part of the US Army Medical Corps-the only jurisdiction Blake would have had over Cowboy was to forbid him from flying -for medical reasons.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit


Memorable quotesEdit

(Hawkeye takes Henry golfing to relax)

  • Hawkeye: (describing the first hole) It's a par 29. The mine fields are out of bounds on the left, and the Chinese Communists are out of bounds on the right.

(Henry has just been shot at while playing golf)

  • Henry: What the hell was that?
  • Hawkeye: I don't know, but you'll have to take a stroke.
  • Henry: But I can't even find my ball!
  • Hawkeye: Well, then, that's two strokes.

(Henry is stunned after a jeep crashes into his tent)

  • Henry: Jeep crash. Tent...boom...crash...kill.

(Henry is suspicious about who is trying to kill him)

  • Henry: Where were you tonight when that jeep went through my quarters?
  • Trapper: (Jumping to his feet) When the what went through your where?
  • Hawkeye: He was right here!
  • Henry: Oh, yeah? And just where is here?
  • Hawkeye: Here is where we are.
  • Henry: (Deflating) Oh. This here here?

(Henry in the Cowboy's helicopter)

  • Henry: Say, shouldn't I have a parachute too?!
  • Cowboy: You don't need one, sir; it'll only BREAK YOUR FALL!
  • Henry: That's not funny!
  • Cowboy: Neither was your not letting me go home!


  1. The Classic Sitcoms Guide: M*A*S*H,, accessed 2009-05-15.
  2. All Movie Guide M*A*S*H Epiosde Cowboy, Synopsis by Hal Erickson