9 tiny things you never noticed in the M*A*S*H pilot episode
See the cast changes, references to the novel, and continuity errors in the episode that started it all.
M*A*S*H started on a strong note. Of course, it had a lot to work with, considering it was adapted from a novel and an acclaimed, hit film, 1970's MASH. These characters were fully formed from the get-go, which made the series immediately compelling.
Speaking of characters, there were a lot of them. Many of them, like Ugly John, Lt. Dish and Spearchucker Jones, would quickly disappear from the 4077th. There simply was not enough screen time to go around.
They are not the only differences you might pick up on when watching "Pilot," the series premiere from 1972. Here are some other interesting little details!
1. Hawkeye has a mom.
In later episodes, we learn a bit of Hawkeye's backstory. His mother died when he was 10 years old and his dear old dad has been a bachelor ever since. However, in the pilot, Hawkeye mentions that Ho-Jon can "stay with [his] parents, so there's no problem there." Well, there is one problem — how does he have two parents in this scene?
2. This wacky hat made it from the pilot to the finale.
It's hard to forget a hat like that, what with the black-and-white checkered pattern, pink ribbon and poofy tassels. At the raffle party in the pilot, a random member of the 4077th debuts this fashionable headpiece. Of course, it would later become associated with B.J., who did not join M*A*S*H until season four. This hat is there at the bittersweet end, when B.J. bids "Goodbye, Farewell" to his close friend Hawkeye. Most castmembers can't boast about being in the first episode and final episode!
3. You can see a clear shot of Radar's left hand.
Gary Burghoff hid his left hand well throughout most of his time on the series. The actor has three shorter fingers on that hand, as he was born with Poland syndrome. It is most noticeable in the opening scene, an extended version of the credits, as he catches a football and hears approaching helicopters.
4. It's the only episode with George Morgan as Father Mulcahy… well, not really.
First this one episode, George Morgan portrayed Father Mulcahy. Oddly, he never speaks. Perhaps he is more of a monk in the pilot. That being said, Morgan can actually be seen in subsequent episodes! Take a close look at the opening credits in later episodes. In the shot where Hawkeye leads a crouched crew to the helicopter, Morgan's Mulcahy can be seen at the back of the pack, as circled here.
5. It is the only episode with a scene set in the United States.
Of course, most of M*A*S*H takes place in Korea. However, there is a brief glimpse at characters in America (that is not from a home movie or photograph or whatnot). When General Hammond (G. Wood) received a phone call from Margaret, he flashes back to a romantic moment they shared in Fort Benning, Georgia. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the only scene of the series in which we see Margaret wearing a white nurse uniform.
6. The gin still changes after this first episode.
The gin still is a key feature of "The Swamp" throughout the series. It looks like a chemistry experiment with tubing, glass containers and metal stands. In the pilot, it looks more like something from the hills outside of Mayberry. Frank Burns snatches up the still, which is a large copper tank. Maybe he broke that one?
7. Bruno Kirby appears in a silent role.
Bruno Kirby (City Slickers, Good Morning, Vietnam, When Harry Met Sally) can be seen briefly waving when Hawkeye and his conspirators sedate Frank. Kirby (billed as "B. Kirby, Jr.") speaks no lines of dialogue as "Boone." Private Lorenzo Boone does turn up later in the show — with a different actor, with lines. Robert Gooden plays the part. You might remember Bud Cort in the role in the 1970 film, too. Perhaps Kirby was intended to play a larger part? He does get mentioned in the closing credits (see below).
8. There's a reference to a significant character from the movie and novel.
Captain Walter Koskiusko Waldowski might not ring a bell to most M*A*S*H fans, but the character made a key contribution to the franchise. In the 1970 movie MASH, John Schuck plays the part. Waldowski, nicknamed "the Painless Pole," contemplates suicide. Hence the song, "Suicide Is Painless," which became the theme song to the TV series. The Painless Pole never appears on the show, but Hawkeye mentions his name when reading out raffle entries. Again, this might have been a character intended for a larger role and subsequently dropped from the series.
9. Who the heck is "Knocko"?
We've mentioned two tiny characters that are notable. Here is another one. In the closing credits you can see a line for "Knocko.....Laura Miller." If you are wondering who that is, you have good company. Knocko was scripted a love interest for Trapper, but her scenes were apparently trimmed from the final product. Captain Bridget "Knocko" McCarthy was in the movie. The pilot script described her as a "30-year old attractive no-nonsense nurse." The is uncertainty as to which actress Laura Miller even is in the pilot. Likely, she is a woman wearing a mask next to Trapper in the O.R. Laura Miller never appeared in another episode, and it's challenging to even find an image of her.