Exorcism is the 110th episode of M*A*S*H, the 13th in the fifth season of the show, which originally aired on CBS-TV on December 14, 1976. It was directed by Alan Alda, and written by Jay Folb from a story by Gene Reynolds and Folb.
Against Frank's objections, Colonel Potter allows an Korean exorcism ceremony to be performed for a local civilian who rejects an operation because of the bad spirits that surround the 4077th.
Full episode summary
A Korean peddler pushing an overloaded cart full of knick-knacks set up shop on the compound. Col. Potter asks the man to leave (giving him an hour to have a "going out of business" sale), because he's blocking traffic.
He also asks Radar to move a "spirit post" that some of the locals set up, to ward away evil spirits. Potter, not believing in any of that stuff, asks Radar to move it out of the way. Radar tries to talk him out of it at first, but Potter insists.
No sooner does he move it, then a young Korean man riding a bike loses control and crashes into the peddler's cart. Then more unusual phenomena take place: a gauge breaks in the middle of an operation, the P.A. conks out, Col. Potter stabs himself with his scalpel, a lighter he bought that worked earlier stops working, light bulbs blow out all over camp, and Hawkeye accidentally breaks Frank's mirror, cracking the glass in two. Margaret points out that the date is Friday the 13th, but Potter dismisses it as superstitious hogwash.
Hoping to change their luck, Radar puts up a horseshoe on Col. Potter's office wall. Potter still scoffs at the idea, but likes the horseshoe as a simple ornament. Potter has a change of heart about his stance on lucky superstition and asks Radar to point the heels up "So the luck don't run out", which Radar obliges.
Later, an ambulance carrying some of the 4077th's patients home crashes, and they are all brought back to camp. One of the other wounded is a very old Korean man, who jumped in front of the ambulance because he was trying to frighten off evil spirits. He doesn't want to be operated on at the camp because of supposed evil spirits haunting the place. He's so scared he won't let Hawkeye touch him, even though it means he'll probably die because of his injuries.
His granddaughter, who followed her grandfather to the 4077th, says there is a village priestess who can perform an exorcism, which would put the old man at ease. After a debate about it in Col. Potter's office (with Frank against it, of course), they bring the priestess to the camp, where she performs an intricate, colorful, and (to the members of the 4077th) baffling ceremony.
The old man, now relieved, allows Hawkeye to perform the operation. All of a sudden, the P.A. starts working again, Potter's lighter works, and the gauge that was broken earlier is now fixed. Hmm...
Later, as a way to say thank you, the old man's granddaughter gives Hawkeye a metal wind-chime: "Not for scaring away evil spirits - for decoration."
Col. Potter, just to be safe, has Radar put the spirit post back where it was. Radar, as always, is ahead of him and has restored the post already.
At the end, Hawkeye and B.J. pull a trick on Frank by unplugging his radio and leading him to believe that the "evil spirits" are back. Hawkeye performs a faux exorcism using the wind chime and the radio mysteriously comes back on...thanks to B.J. secretly plugging it back in.
Research notes/Fun facts
- One of Colonel Potter's paintings, that of Hawkeye with his feet on the desk, now appears to have been finished and is hanging on Potter's wall. It was earlier seen being painted in "Hawkeye Get Your Gun".
- The spirit post that the local Koreans put up to drive away evil spirits is inscribed with Chinese characters, not Korean.
- The battle of Hill 205 actually occurred in the Korean War, but it happened in November 1950. Despite the fact Potter came to MASH in September 1952 in this episode Potter refers to the "man upstairs" meaning General Douglas MacArthur who was relieved from duty in April 1951. The part of the end when Hawkeye wins the bet from Frank Burns is in the remastered version.
- When Margaret asks Col. Potter if he knows what's going on in pre-op (the exorcist is working in there), Hawkeye says, "You ask the Sol Hurok of Korea? He helped arrange the whole thing." Sol Hurok was an impresario (a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, or operas), who was known for booking dance acts in the early 20th century.
- Igor is mentioned several times by Radar, but isn't seen in this episode.
- The exorcist is a mudang shaman and her regalia and dance (probably a dodang-gut which banishes evil spirits from a community) are completely authentic. Likely the reason she is not credited is that she was not an actress but an actual mudang - Southern California has many Koreans who keep the old traditions. It would be interesting to research how Jay Folb came to write this.
- The ladder that Klinger used to change the light bulbs had “grip” engraved in the side. A reference to a member of the camera crew
- Many roles in this episode are uncredited, and the actors who play the roles are unidentified. The characters of Mr. Yee, the medic who arrives with Kyong Ja, the exorcist, and the anesthetist, are all unidentified -- see the pictures below.
Guest stars/Recurring cast
- Virginia Ann Lee as Kyong Ja
- James Canning as Corporal Marsh
- Philip Ahn as Korean grandfather
- Uncredited appearances: