Monster M*A*S*H

Major Topper was the 25th and season finale episode of Season 6 of the M*A*S*H TV series, also the 147th overall series episode. The episode, which was written by Allyn Freeman, was directed by Charles S. Dubin. The episode originally aired on CBS-TV on March 27, 1978.

Plot synopsis[]

Potter and the surgeons have to come up with an alternative remedy for the patients when their last case of morphine turns out to be possibly contaminated. Meanwhile, Klinger is faced with convincing Potter that a new guard in camp is actually crazier than Klinger only pretends to be.

Full episode summary[]

During a long session in O.R., a verbal joust breaks out between Hawkeye, B.J., and Charles, seeing who can tell the tallest, but supposedly true, tale of medical prowess. But any story Hawkeye and B.J. can come up with, Charles can top it, and Hawkeye and B.J. are slowly but surely showing their annoyance.

In Post-Op, a problem arises: the hospital is down to their last box of morphine, and the supply truck is already a half hour late with more. They hope that what little they have will last them through the night, but when Kellye administers it to one of the patients, he has a violent reaction, and the doctors conclude that the patient may have a severe infection, or the morphine they have might be contaminated. Back in Potter's office, they discuss their options; Charles suggests using the morphine, thinking the one soldier's reaction was an isolated incident, but Potter comes up with a different idea, one that he dispenses in secret: giving the patients sugar pills - placebos. Basing the idea on something he saw a doctor give his Aunt when he was a child, he believes that if the doctors can sell it - really sell it - it just might work.

Hawkeye and B.J. make up the sugar pills, and everyone gives them out, trying to sell them as convincingly as possible. Some time passes, and the doctors - none more so than Charles - are amazed to see that the placebos are actually working; almost half of the patients are without pain, and are sleeping soundly, while others need a little more persuasion, but for the most part the experiment seems a success. In the Mess Tent, everyone, even Charles, can't help but marvel at what they've just seen. He does, however, have yet another tall tale to top it: an appendectomy at Massachusetts General with no anesthesia. Hawkeye and B.J. are determined to top Charles once and for all and invite Potter to watch, but he declines, saying he'll read about it in the court martial.

Back in the Swamp, the tall tales start again, when Charles suggests he dated Audrey Hepburn - the Audrey Hepburn. Hawkeye and B.J. demand proof, which they fully expect Winchester cannot produce. But then Charles puts them in their place when he whips out a picture of himself having dinner with...Audrey Hepburn. Knowing when they're beaten, Hawkeye and B.J. crawl into their cots, while Charles tells them about the time he climbed the Matterhorn.


Klinger is going through his paces with a new corpsman in camp, Corporal "Boots" Miller, who does some increasingly crazy things, causing Klinger to wonder:

"The only thing I don't understand is why he's not an officer."

Miller's antics include:

  • In the Mess Tent, just as they're starting to serve lunch, Miller begins talking into a ladle like a radio microphone and pretending he's on the air
  • Later using the same ladle as a camera lens, shooting newsreel footage of Klinger for Movietone News
  • Talking to one of his boots (calling it Mr. Shoe), and then one of his socks (calling it Mr. Sock)
  • Firing actual bullets at imaginary North Korean gliders that he insists are buzzing the camp.

After the microphone caper in the Mess Tent (during which Miller sings "Come On-A My House" dancing all the way out of the tent), Potter advises Klinger to keep an eye on "Rosemary Looney". Later that night, Klinger tries to explain to Potter that Miller is certifiably crazy, but Potter thinks that Klinger is only jealous because he didn't think of Miller's stunts first, and then surmises that he and Miller are conspiring together. But Potter is persuaded otherwise when Miller, brandishing a rifle, asks Potter to imprison two "glider pilots" he just captured - that only he can see. Potter softly persuades Miller to hand his rifle to Klinger while they discuss the situation, but before Klinger can take it, Miller's prisoners "escape" in another glider, and he runs off after them, firing all the way. Potter orders Klinger to drag Miller back to his office when he's out of ammo, while Potter writes up a transfer.

Weeks later, Potter gets a letter and a package from Miller, telling him that he's made a small fortune selling replicas of his Mr. Sock character (one of which is enclosed) for a toy company, and is working on a new toy, "Enemy Glider". In the letter, Miller says he was able to replicate the pilot perfectly but cannot remember what the glider looked like, and asks if Potter has any photos of the glider he shot down.

Research notes/Fun facts[]

  • The mention of dating Audrey Hepburn:
    • Audrey Hepburn did not shoot to worldwide fame until Roman Holiday, which only came out in August 1953, after the end of the Korean War. She only had a few minor roles in British films before that, which Hawkeye, etc. would not have known about. So how is she such a talking point among the Swamp mates? Probably because in November 1951, she played the leading role in the Broadway play Gigi and apparently with great success. A review of newspapers of 1951 shows many stories written about her in papers across the country. A Walter Winchell column noted her "jump from oblivion to stardom." Stories talking about her as a "new Broadway star" were typical. Knowing how boring camp life can be, it is likely that the MASH personnel devoured every bit of entertainment news from any newspaper that arrived from the U.S. Therefore, provided the timeline here is set after November 1951, it is, on balance, plausible and not an anachronism, that the Swamp mates would consider dating Audrey Hepburn a big deal - she was already some kind of minor celebrity. After 1953, of course, it would have been an even bigger deal, but in 1951, it was still something to brag about. (However, Charles specifically mentions not seeing Audrey Hepburn in any of her "films".)
    • Charles refers to Audrey Hepburn as a charming child. In fact, when Hepburn played the lead role in Gigi, she was 22 years old. But perhaps compared to Charles, she was a child.
  • Miller mentions Movietone News, which, through 20th Century Fox, produced newsreels at the time for movie theaters worldwide.
  • Potter gives a placebo to one of his patients, a Private Rifkin, who said he can't swallow pills, claiming to have choked on Sen-Sen, a mint/breath freshener that was popular from the 1930s through the 60s, and whose strong, distinctive scent was used, particularly by young men, to cover up any unpleasant odors on their breath (e.g.: smoking or alcohol).
  • This was the final appearance of the clean-cut B.J. Hunnicutt, who, beginning in Season 7, would grow the mustache he would wear for the rest of the series' run.
  • Continuity issues. Charles also refers to having been at his sister's wedding. Just one episode before, he said that his sister ran off and married a farmer and the family ostracized her. If they had ostracized her, he would not have attended her wedding. Furthermore, in a later episode ("Bottle Fatigue"), his sister is single and about to marry an Italian.
  • Actor Hamilton Camp would appear in another episode of the series, in Season 11's "The Moon is Not Blue." He also appeared in about a million other shows, including huckster Del Murdoch in an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, and as Arthur Wainwright, Ted Knight's crazy boss in Too Close For Comfort. His made his acting debut doing an uncredited voice-over for another actor in Val Lewton's 1946 film Bedlam.
  • Hawkeye's patient, Collins, is played by Paul Linke, who played Officer Grossman in CHiPs.
  • Potter refers to Corporal "Boots" Miller as "Rosemary Looney." He's making a joke on the name "Rosemary Clooney", a singer who made the song "Come On-A My House" popular.

Guest stars/Recurring cast[]

External links[]