Taking the Fifth was the 9th episode of Season 9 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 207th overall series episode, Written by Elias Davis and David Pollock and directed by Charles S. Dubin, it originally aired on January 19, 1981.


Klinger happens upon a bottle of vintage French wine and Hawkeye uses it to lure a nurse into his clutches. Winchester deals with Klinger to get more bottles of the wine. Col. Potter trades with the Canadians for a sedative forbidden by the U.S. army.

Full episode summaryEdit

The doctors in OR are frustrated by their lack of progress - ever since the US Army banned the use of Curare, a powerful sedative, it takes much longer to perform any sort of surgical procedure. They are particularly unhappy because every other army in the Korean theater allows its use.

Klinger gets a visit from a friend named Colin Turnbull (Charles Hallahan) who is company clerk at a Canadian unit who stops by for lunch at the 4077th. Much to Klinger's surprise, Colin loves the high-quality chow at the 4077th, particularly the fruit cocktail. Before Colin leaves, Klinger gives him two cases of fruit cocktail as a gift. Colin is so touched he gives Klinger a bottle of wine in return, saying that it only costs $3 a bottle at the Canadian PX.

Hawkeye tracks Klinger down and demands that he return $5 which he owes him. Klinger says he owns nothing of value except for the bottle of what he calls "Canadian wine" which he says is worth $10. Hawkeye looks at it and says it is not Canadian but French. "Okay, 5 bucks," Klinger replies. Hawkeye takes the bottle thinking he has made a bad deal, but when Winchester sees the bottle, he recognizes it as a 1947 Chateau Margaux, a particularly fine vintage Bordeaux. Winchester offers to buy it over for $25 but Hawkeye wisens up and refuses to part with the bottle. He had recently been particularly unsuccessful in chatting up the nurses, but now has an idea.

Hawkeye posts a notice on the bulletin board announcing a contest for some lucky nurse who would get to share the Bordeaux with Hawkeye. The winning entry would be the nurse who could best describe in 100 words or less why she should be "in a glass of her own". Margaret is particularly disgusted with the idea but later Hawkeye does receive some entries and he picks the winner - an entry from a nurse codenamed "Sweet Preserves".

In the meantime, Charles turns to Klinger to see if he can get any more, offering to pay $20 a bottle. Coincidentally, Col. Potter finally gets so sick of not using Curare that he arranges a trade with the Canadian unit to get some, demanding Klinger come along for the ride. "If people start shooting, I want your nose to hide behind," Potter says. Klinger sees this as an opportunity to score more of the wine, and make himself a tidy profit in the process.

Col. Potter and Klinger's drive to the Canadian unit goes off without a hitch, but on the way back the jeep's radiator boils over. With no water on hand, they're stuck - unless they use the wine. Klinger doesn't want to lose his investment, but when artillery starts to fall all around them, desperation sets in and, smashing the bottles open, they fill the radiator with the wine.

Meanwhile, Hawkeye readies himself for his date in the supply tent. "Sweet Preserves" arrives and turns out to be Lieutenant Palmer. At first, she acts like she is all smitten with Hawkeye but just as he is about to pour the wine, Palmer lets out a loud whistle and the supply tent is invaded by all the other nurses who proceed to help themselves to the wine. It turns out that Palmer was all part of a ruse organized by Margaret. Hawkeye sportingly joins the nurses in a toast. He has "just been had by the entire nursing staff!"

Potter and Klinger eventually make it back with the Curare, where Klinger offers to drain all the wine out of the radiator and sell it to Winchester at a discounted rate. Unsurprisingly, he passes. Everyone else, though, is happy having Curare to work with again, making sessions in OR go much smoother.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • The title comes from "a fifth", the term formerly used in the US to refer to a standard sized wine bottle, with a volume of one-fifth of a gallon (or 757 ml). Since 1979, the US has used the metric system for wine bottles, with a bottle now having a volume of 750 ml.
  • When Charles informs Hawkeye that he will soon have five bottles of the wine, Pierce says, "Five bottles? You could have your way with the Dionne Quintuplets." Born in 1934, the Dionne Quintuplets were the first quintuplets known to survive their infancy and quite famous at the time for that fact.
  • Timeline Notes, B.J. mentions that the '47 Chateau Margaux is already 4 years old. This places the episode in 1951.
  • Colin Turnbull introduces himself as specifically coming from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. The 2 PPCLI distinguished itself in combat, particularly for its defense of Hill 677 during the Battle of Kapyong, earning itself the United States Presidential Unit Citation for its heroic stand, now considered one of the most famous actions by Canadian forces in the Korean War.
  • As always, mentioning specific military units introduces timeline problems. 2 PPCLI was in theater from 18 Dec 50 - 4 Nov 51. Given that the episode takes place in 1951 as mentioned above, this is at least plausible within the context of the episode and possibly within Season 9, but wildly inconsistent with the events of the previous Seasons since Winchester is supposed to have arrived in 1952 or 1953. Likewise, Potter didn't come to MASH 4077 until Sept 19, 1952-a whole year after the 2 PPCLI 'Had already served in Korea'
  • The insignia on the door of Turnbull's truck is that of the Canadian Army Medical Corps. The shoulder sleeve insignia on Turnbull's jacket is that of the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade which became the parent unit of the 2 PPCLI from May 1951.
  • Plenty of recurring nurse characters to be spotted here. Margaret brings her entire nursing staff into the supply tent - there must be more than a dozen of them. Besides Baker and Able, there are Gwen, Kellye , Jo Ann, and ShariJennifer is likely to be somewhere.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit


Memorable quotesEdit

(Colin marvels at how good the 4077th porridge is, much to the cook's and Klinger's surprise)

  • Cook: Head wound?
  • Klinger: Canadian.
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