Monster M*A*S*H
Monster M*A*S*H

The Smell of Music was the 138th overall episode of the CBS-TV serie M*A*S*H, also the 16th episode of Season 6 of the series. Written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, and directed by Stuart Millar, it originally aired on January 3, 1978.

Plot synopsis[]

Hawkeye and B.J. have grown tired of and annoyed by Charles's terrible French-horn playing, so until he gives it up, they decide to give up showering. 

Full episode summary[]

After a long, grueling session in O.R., tension is running high.

Back at the Swamp, Hawkeye and B.J. are driven nuts by Winchester's insistence on practicing on his French Horn, loudly. They ask him to stop, but he refuses. As revenge, they decide not to shower, hoping their stink will drive Winchester to capitulate.

But he refuses, and the whole thing escalates. Hawkeye and B.J. start to offend everyone in camp (ruining what was a rare, tasty breakfast in the Mess Tent), and Margaret, Col. Potter, etc., try and talk reason into the three of them.

But Col. Potter has other things to worry about: one of his patients, a young man named Saunders (Jordan Clarke), caught the blast of a defective rifle in the face, causing horrible scarring. Potter tries to comfort the young man in Post Op, but Saunders is convinced his life is worthless, now that he looks like a "freak." He's also sure his beautiful girlfriend back home will dump him once she gets a look at him.

Later, Saunders attempts suicide by taking a huge dose of barbiturates, but they get to him in time. He wakes up unapologetic, promising he's going to kill himself, no matter what. He feels like a fool for becoming disfigured by his own gun backfiring, and with no satisfaction of being a war hero. Potter insists Saunders isn't a fool because of what happened in the battlefield, but because of his attitude about it, and orders that Saunders not be left unsupervised at any time.

The battle between the three doctors goes overboard, leading to Hawkeye and B.J. playing a bunch of hand-crafted instruments in an attempt to drown out Winchester's horn-playing.

While the Post Op staff is distracted by the commotion outside, Saunders takes that moment to sneak off. Potter finds him trying to overdose on nitrous oxide. Potter has had enough, and tries a bit of reverse psychology. Instead of stopping him, he grabs the mask, turns the tank up to full blast, and shoves it onto Saunders' face.

After Saunders realizes that Potter is serious, he pushes it off and threatens to belt Potter if he continues. Potter observes that Saunders is now "fighting to stay alive," which finally calms the young man down. Sobbing on Potter's shoulder, the Colonel says, "The part that wants to live is stronger than the part that wants to end it all." He then helps his patient back into Post Op, saying "I'm too old for this kinda crap. I think I tore my shorts."

Margaret and the rest of the camp, having had enough of the loud and smelly war, take it upon themselves to end it - they drown Hawkeye and B.J. in soap and water, and then grab Winchester's horn and flatten it under a jeep.

Potter comes out, observes what has happened, and tells everyone they are "confined to the Officer's Club, for the duration of the whiskey." Everyone cheers, and he then sweetens it, adding, "Pierce, Hunnicutt, and Winchester are buying."

A few days later, Winchester thinks he's getting his revenge - he's had a local Korean craftsman fix his horn. But the craftsman had to cobble together the new horn from different parts, creating a huge, awkward, Frankenstein-esque instrument...without a mouthpiece.

Guest stars/Recurring cast[]


Research notes/Fun facts[]

  • The title is a spoof of the musical The Sound of Music.
  • When Margaret walks from a freshly bathed Hawkeye and B.J. over to Charles to take his horn, she's wearing pants that have back pockets. However, as she lays the horn down and whistles for the jeep, her pants have no back pockets. She has back pockets again when Potter walks out for the "moment of retribution." This is due to some shots in the scene having been filmed on location, and some in the studio. Such intercutting occurs throughout the episode.
  • When Col. Potter stops Saunders from killing himself with the nitrous oxide, he gently leads him back to Post Op--without turning the nitrous off.

External links[]