House Arrest was the 18th episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 66th overall series episode. Written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum and directed by Hy Averback, it first aired on February 4, 1975.
After getting punched in the face by Hawkeye, Frank Burns demands a court martial and Hawkeye is placed under house arrest, which he begins to enjoy.
Full episode summary
Margaret is uncharacteristically making a lot of mistakes during surgery; she reveals that she is nervous about the impending arrival of a Colonel Reese, the most decorated nurse in the Army. But after one too many mistakes, Hawkeye dismisses her. She berates Hawkeye in the scrub room, but after he insinuates she got where she is by sleeping around, Margaret demands Frank defend her honor. Frank's idea of that is to snap a towel at Hawkeye's back, resulting in Hawkeye nonchalantly giving Frank a punch in the face.
Despite Henry's attempts to dissuade him, Frank demands that Hawkeye be court-martialed. Radar informs them that the accused officer is to be placed under house arrest pending the investigation, meaning that he is to be relieved of all duty and confined to his tent. Hearing this, Hawkeye welcomes the idea. Trapper later tells Henry what he himself witnessed in the scrub room, concocting a story of Frank slipping on a bar of soap and hitting his face on the sink. Henry goes along with the farce and has Radar write it up.
Margaret arranges for Reese to bunk with her in her tent; she arrives in camp and is shown to be leather-tough, but not near as uptight as Margaret. Reese then meets Frank, who is waiting in Margaret's tent and now sporting a terrific shiner. Reese guesses correctly that Frank is unhappy in his marriage and fooling around with Margaret, but indicates that she has no problem with their dalliance.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye is enjoying his house arrest, even thanking Frank for slipping on the bar of soap and blaming him for his injury. Trapper delivers Hawkeye's meal: water buffalo steak, compliments of the Mess Sergeant who made it special for Hawkeye when he heard he decked Frank. Father Mulcahy delivers a POW package, and when he mentions the movie of the evening is Leave Her To Heaven with Gene Tierney, Hawkeye asks him to intervene so he won't miss it. Mulcahy comes through, and most of the camp arrive at the Swamp for the special screening.
Annoyed that Hawkeye is being treated like a king despite his house arrest, and also at being unable to get to his things in the Swamp, Frank goes to see Margaret in her tent but finds Reese there alone in her robe and nightgown (Margaret is in Post Op). She invites Frank in to talk, which he accepts. As he opens up about the stresses in his life, she starts rubbing his shoulders and then brings up his unhappy marriage. She then softens him up with a shot of blackberry brandy, and insinuates that, with her help, Frank could be a Colonel, serving at Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C. Flush with passion, she plants one on Frank's lips just as Margaret walks in.
Caught in the act, Reese starts yelling "Rape!", causing the whole movie audience to congregate outside Margaret's tent. She wants charges filed against Frank, but when Hawkeye says he doesn't want him sharing his house arrest, a jealous Margaret turns on Frank and declares Hawkeye innocent, saying that Frank indeed slipped on a bar of soap.
Frank is now under house arrest and is delivered a meal of C-rations. As Frank ponders how he will explain this to his wife, Hawkeye suggests he tell her he was “waiting for his mistress and got impatient and attacked another woman.”
In Henry's office, As Radar is transcribing Trapper's story about Frank slipping on the soap in the scrub room, Klinger brings in Radar's pants, mentioning out loud that he lengthened them three inches, which Radar didn't want Henry to hear. After Klinger leaves, Henry asks why Radar wanted his pants lengthened, but he only replies "They were chafing, sir.", which is a cover for the truth.
During the movie, Radar opens a highly anticipated package he received in the mail: a pair of O'Brien & Murphy's Elevated Shoes. With Klinger's help, he tries them on and feels like a “real person”, though he can barely stand up straight in them at first. Frank arrives looking for Henry, and then asks Radar what he did to himself; he thinks that Radar has either changed the part in his hair or gotten new glasses which give him "authority and dignity", but later as Radar walks toward the Swamp, Hawkeye immediately notices the change saying, "Either you've been raised or the camp's been lowered". When Hawkeye asks him why, Radar replies that he hates his diminutive stature and being the brunt of "short jokes" from everyone, including Hawkeye. Hawkeye admits he was out of line and tells him that "There's height that people never see", and advises Radar to get rid of the shoes, which he eventually does; later, when he delivers the C-rations to the now-house-arrested Frank, he is back to his normal height.
- Mary Wickes as Colonel Reese
- Jamie Farr as Klinger
- William Christopher as Father Francis Mulcahy
- Bobbie Mitchell as Nurse Baker
- Jeff Maxwell as Igor Straminsky
- Dennis Troy as M.P.
- Kellye Nakahara as Lieutenant Kellye Yamato
Research notes/Fun facts
- Hawkeye comments that the patient he is operating on has a "gut full of shrapnel from a claymore." This line is anachronistic as claymore mines weren't introduced until 1960.
- When Frank formally accuses Hawkeye of assault, he invokes the Articles of War, which at the time defined military law. The Articles of War would be supplanted by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) when it went into effect on May 31, 1951 after being signed into law by President Truman a year earlier. The invocation of the Articles of War would place the timeline of this episode before May of 1951.
- Army regulations actually prohibit the superior officer from pressing charges if they provoked the person of lower rank to strike them.
- It is never explained how or why Burns was acquitted, nor why Margaret took him back.
- Frank's remark that Hawkeye "is a prisoner and he's treated like the Aga Khan" is a slightly anachronistic connection to Gene Tierney, who starred in Leave Her To Heaven(1945), the film being shown in the Swamp. The connection being that in 1952 Tierney had become engaged to Prince Aly Khan (son of the Aga Khan III) while he was going through a divorce from another Hollywood femme fatale, Rita Hayworth. The Aga Khan III was firmly against Aly marrying another Hollywood actress, and thus his engagement to Tierney ended.
- Leave Her To Heaven was originally released on December 20, 1945. The film was later nominated for four Oscars including Best Actress (Tierney), and won for Best Cinematography (Leon Shamroy).
- Apparently, Gary Burghoff was allowed to keep the infamous shoes when he left the show, as he proudly displayed his "famous heels" during an episode of "Match Game 79".