Monster M*A*S*H


Margaret's Engagement was the landmark 100th episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, and, also the third episode of the fifth season of the series. Written by Gary Markowitz, and directed by Alan Alda, it first aired on September 28, 1976.


Margaret returns from leave in Tokyo with surprising news - she's getting married! Everyone in the camp is excited for her, but how will Frank take the news?

Full episode summary[]

Margaret calls Col. Potter from Tokyo, where even though its early in the morning, she's still at a raucous party. She promises she has big news, which she'll reveal when she gets back to the 4077th.

The doctors discuss it during surgery, and Frank insists it'll be a promotion - for him.

The next day, Margaret returns, with her news: she's engaged to be married. She shows off her ring, and the photo of her husband-to-be: Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott, of West Point.

Margaret also has a medical report to deliver, and Col. Potter calls a staff meeting in the Mess Tent. At the end of the meeting, she tells Frank the news. Hawkeye, B.J., Col. Potter, and Radar tense up, preparing for Frank to explode, but he surprises them: he's gracious, kind, and congratulates Margaret.

As the doctors stand there, stunned, Frank walks off, ripping the doors of the Mess Tent off their hinges as he leaves.

Afterwards, Frank appears to be normal, but little things slip out: all of sudden, he laughs heartily at Hawkeye's jokes, and is deliberately kind to Radar. Things get worse when he "accidentally" stabs Margaret during surgery.

That night, Frank comes to visit Margaret in her tent. Things go okay at first, but then Frank loses it, and practically attacks Margaret. She slaps him silly, calling him a coward. Frank, enraged at being called a coward, storms out.

In the middle of the night, we see Frank dressed in fatigues, armed with a rifle. In a moment of idiotic bravado, he pulls the pin on a grenade, scrambling to find it on the floor after he's realized what he's done. Hawkeye and B.J. lay asleep just a few feet away.

The next morning, Hawkeye and B.J. are troubled to find Frank gone - and even more troubled when they see he took his gun and his toothbrush. "Shooting his mouth off again", B.J. offers.

They head off to tell Col. Potter, when Radar rushes in to Potter's office to ask him to come outside. They all see Frank march into camp with "war prisoners" - a Korean family, including small children and their ox. Potter has had enough, and he orders Frank to his office.

Hawkeye, B.J., and Potter try and talk Frank down, but he won't listen - he's testy and wired, pacing back and forth. He gets mad when Potter mentions Frank is headed for a Section 8, but Radar comes in at the right moment to tell him there's a call from Frank's mom.

Frank takes the call, and he breaks down telling his mom about what's happened. His exhaustion finally catches up to him, and he passes out right there on the phone. Hawkeye and B.J. carry him back to the Swamp.

The next day, Margaret is still going on - loudly - about her dashing Col. Penobscott. The doctors sit down next to her, and Frank asks Hawkeye about going out on a double date that night.

When Frank mentions what nurse he's interested in, Margaret sneers and says "She's a little young for you, isn't she, Major Burns?" Frank retorts with, "I don't know...I thought a little youth might be nice for a change."

Hawkeye and B.J. sit in wide-eyed horror, until Margaret gets up and leaves in frustration. Then they and Frank have a big laugh together - a rare event indeed.

Fun facts[]

  • There's an amazing part of the scene with Frank as he talks to his Mom back home. He mentions "a friend" who only "pretended to like know, the way Dad used to." The poignancy of the scene is punctuated by the lack of a laugh track - a great insight as to part of why Frank is the way he is.
  • This is the beginning of Franks Burns emotional breakdown from reality in the first two episodes of Season 6 ("Fade Out, Fade In, Part 1") in which Burns has a Section 8 Breakdown.
  • Anomaly: In this episode, Margaret tells Frank that Donald can give her everything he can't - a home, children - as well as allowing her to continue her military career. In a future episode ("What's Up, Doc?"), however, she is terrified she might be pregnant because it could end her military career. (While pregnant servicewomen were at one point automatically discharged, this is no longer the case.)
  • The scene of Frank taking the pin out with his teeth is an old movie gimmick from after World War I; in reality, the grenade pin is designed to not being taken out with the teeth.
  • Margaret met Donald in Tokyo, during a 3-day weekend, presumably either at the conference she was attending or the party afterwards. Didn't it ever occur to her as odd that he just happened to have his "family heirloom" engagement ring on him when he proposed?