Payday was the 22nd episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 70th overall series episode. Written by John W. Reiger and Gary Markowitz and directed by Hy Averback, it first aired on March 4, 1975. 


Payday arrives, bringing lots of big trouble for Hawkeye (for claiming he wasn't getting what he should because of the war), when Captain Sloan from HQ arrives on behalf of the US Army, demanding the back pay (about $3,000) back. Klinger tries and fails to bribe Blake for a section 8 discharge; Burns buys his wife a pearl necklace, and a set of fakes intending to give them to Houlihan. Overhearing his plan, Houlihan tricks him into switching the strands. Trapper finally wins a huge poker pot after stealing Hawkeye's watch, only to see the loot vanish to save Hawkeye's neck (since he gave his windfall to the orphanage). 

Full episode summaryEdit

The eagle screams today, for it's payday at the 4077th and Hawkeye, as pay officer, is the “genial host.” Before the pay is doled out, Radar reads Hawkeye a long list of instructions, ending with the pay officer being wholly responsible for an overage or underage of funds. Radar provides the officers their pay and Hawkeye finishes the enlisted with $10 left over. Radar asks for his help filling out the form to return the $10, but instead Hawkeye wants the Army to know he's lost $3,000 from his civilian practice.

Payday usually results in poker games and a big one breaks out in the supply building with Trapper, Zale, Igor, Lieutenant Nelson (Pat Marshall) and others in attendance. Trapper is quickly down $500 and Zale helpfully suggests reenlisting to get the bonus. Quoc (Jack Soo), a local merchant, visits Frank at the Swamp to entice him with his wares. A string of pearls interests the Major, who pays Quoc $500 for the strand plus gets a free imitation set thrown in by Quoc for that “someone on the side.” Quoc then visits Margaret in her tent. She, too, is interested in the cheap pearls, but Quoc says he can have another strand in an hour, for another Major bought his last one plus a “$500 job for his wife.”

After receiving a delivery from HQ, Radar presents Hawkeye with an envelope with the “three thousand dollars you asked for.” He wrote down everything Hawkeye told him about lost wages, submitted a form, and the Army actually paid the $3,000 – and returns the extra $10. Hawkeye, incredulous, refuses the money, but Radar intimates he should just keep it.

Frank presents Margaret with the pearls he bought for her, passing them off as a purchase from a jewelry store at the Chosun Hotel in Seoul. Margaret tells him real pearls feel rough across the teeth and this strand is the real thing. Frank is in panic mode as Margaret hugs him for being so extravagant. Hawkeye gives the $3,010 to Father Mulcahy and asks him to give it to Sister Theresa's orphanage. Mulcahy is flabbergasted to receive so large a donation and tells Hawkeye he should be a saint.

Frank follows Margaret to the showers in hopes of getting his pearls back. She is proudly wearing them, but lets it be known she will take them off before showering. As Frank surreptitiously switches the strands, Captain Sloan (of “The Incubator” fame) makes a return visit, seeking the three thousand dollars. Meanwhile, Trapper is out a lot of money at poker. He tries to hit up Frank and Hawkeye for a loan, but gets rejected. Trapper feigns defeat and announces he'll just have to fold his hand as he sneaks Hawkeye's watch into his pocket.

Sloan tracks down Hawkeye and tells him he is “$3,000 deep in trouble.” Sloan demands the money be returned, and once he learns Father Mulcahy gave the money to the orphanage (in the middle of the night?), tells the padre he'll be preaching in the stockade. Sloan goes to tell Henry, who is now part of the poker game, he is arresting Hawkeye.

Trapper is on a hot streak thanks to the theft of Hawkeye's watch. Once Hawkeye learns Trapper's huge win – coincidentally $3,008 – is on account of his watch, he snatches the winnings and gives it all to Sloan to avoid imprisonment. Sloan returns the extra $8, which Hawkeye quickly claims as a watch rental fee.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit



  • In previous episodes, Hawkeye made references to his family or his home in Vermont. This episode marks the first time Hawkeye mentions his home being in Maine, where it will remain for the rest of the show's run.
  • Klinger jokingly reports his service number as 362436. This is the so-called "golden ratio" when judging a woman's body. 36 inch bust, 24 inch waist, and a 36-inch hip. A bit part has Klinger trying to bribe Blake for a Section 8 discharge [this part is usually cut from syndication airings.] Note that Klinger later tries the same trick on Colonel Potter, only to be informed that the only place Klinger would be discharged to is 20 years Hard Labor!
  • Eldon Quick appears as the bureaucratic Captain Sloan; the character had previously appeared in the episode "The Incubator" in Season 2, and would appear again in "Our Finest Hour" in Season 6.  Quick would also appear as Captain Pratt in the episode "The Late Captain Pierce" in Season 4.
  • At the end of the episode, Trapper supposedly wins enough money to pay back Hawkeye's debt of $3,000 (plus $8 extra). In another episode (one of the "Dear Dad" episodes), Hawkeye mentions that, as a Captain, he makes as little as $400 a month. Even considering that Majors and Colonels would earn more (but not that much), for any or the six people at the poker table (Trapper, Henry, Sgt. Zale, two other unknown servicemen who, at best, were also sergeants, Lt. Nelson, and Pvt. Igor), this would be an enormous sum.  
  • Margaret tells Frank that one way to see if pearls are real is to rub them against your teeth, and if they feel rough, they're real (which is true, BTW). She does this with the strand she's given, and tell him they're real--all the while knowing he had purchased the real ones for his wife and the fake ones for her. Knowing Frank wouldn't be able to tell the difference, she told him that because she *knew* he would switch the pearls the first chance he got. That's why she was smiling in the shower when she saw the pearls swinging--she knew Frank had switched out the real ones for the fake ones he had given her.   
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