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!

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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.

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CreatureFeatureFan 17 months ago
Bruno Kirby was my first 'actor crush' after I saw him in "Superdad". 🙂❤️
JeffPaul76 17 months ago
That's a lot of info I never knew before. Thank you, MeTV!
misterebert 17 months ago
Here is a picture of Leona Porter portrayed by Laura Miller from the Longstreet episode.

She does look familiar.

harlow1313 17 months ago
Here is something I always disliked. The married Trapper is a womanizer in several episodes, but in one episode he and his wife decide to adopt a Korean boy. This made his character inconsistent and less likable, to me.

Still, I like the first three seasons best.
RachelR 17 months ago
It makes me sick the way people make reference to Gary Burghoff's hand. How demeaning. And it isn't even politically correct to use the word "retarded" when someone has Downs Syndrome but it's okay to discuss a birth defect.
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RachelR Alfred 17 months ago
Yes, it's an etiquette thing. Would you talk about him that way to his face??
RachelR LoveMETV22 17 months ago
Yep...it's demeaning.
LoveMETV22 RachelR 17 months ago
Fair enough....You've made your opinion known albeit with added commentaries such as political correctness, Down's Syndrome, etc. So we'll leave it at that ( in your words) .... period!
RedSamRackham RachelR 17 months ago
* Although in real life that birth defect might've made him 4-F from military service.
ncadams27 17 months ago
The pilot was the only episode with a cold open. Several scenes are shown before the opening credits air.
Rob 17 months ago
I noticed all of these. Do not tell me what I didn’t notice! You don’t know me!
LoveMETV22 Rob 17 months ago
" Do not tell me what"
True. Lesley Gore agrees with you.

Rob LoveMETV22 17 months ago
Thank you.
Runeshaper 17 months ago
Bruno Kirby was AWESOME in City Slickers!
MrsPhilHarris Runeshaper 17 months ago
And The Godfather Part II.
BrianBrick Runeshaper 17 months ago
He was also great in Between The Lines, an underrated movie with a very young Jeff Goldblum.
ELEANOR 17 months ago
As for #3, I have seen the name of the problem with Gary Burghoff's hand and it is NOT Poland syndrome in which one side of the chest is clearly misshapen in addition to a webbed hand. His three fingers are short and not webbed and he definitely does not have a misshapen chest.
LoveMETV22 ELEANOR 17 months ago
According to one of the bio's on Gary Burghoff:


Are there other bio's of information on him that indicate differently, or perhaps medical documentation explaining what his condition is, if it's not Poland Syndrome.... Just curious.

Looks like MeTV's article is pretty accurate, unless someone with a Medical Degree has published something otherwise.
WGH ELEANOR 17 months ago
First off, I do have an MD from University of Pittsburgh.

They're not talking about webbed fingers like you thinking of, they're talking about amniotic webbing that causes fingers to be misshapen and shortened. Basically webs and bands in the amniotic fluid, when the fetus is developing, cut off circulation to fingers, toes, or other body parts. Anything beyond the point where the circulation is cut off dies. Amniotic webbing is different than the kind of webbing you're thinking about with fingers.

Here is a reference:

LoveMETV22 17 months ago
#5 is not 100% correct. If the narrative is a flashback....then Klinger has a flashback in
Season 8/ Episode 22 "Dreams", where Klinger is walking through the streets of Toledo and looking through the window of "Tony Packo's Cafe."
ncadams27 LoveMETV22 17 months ago
A flashback is different from a dream sequence. A flashback refers to an actual scene that took place at an earlier time; a dream is an imagined sequence that does not actually take place.
LoveMETV22 ncadams27 17 months ago
Thanks nc. I understand the difference between flashback vs dream sequence. Technically neither scene occurred in the series. General Hammond's flashback or Klinger's dream, ( they were both thoughts, real or imagined). So the phrase " a scene set in the United States", is not 100% correct.
ncadams27 LoveMETV22 17 months ago
Good point. The question does say “set in the United States” and Klinger’s dream is set there. Were any of the other “Dreams” sequences set in the US?
LoveMETV22 ncadams27 17 months ago
Maybe? I just remembered Klinger when I first read the article, because it was clearly set in Toledo.
There are plenty of references to the US in spoken form, but that's a good question on the visual part.
cperrynaples 17 months ago
Is there any explanation about how the hat in 2 ended up with BJ at the end?
ncadams27 cperrynaples 17 months ago
I assume Trapper left it behind - or gave it to Hawkeye as a reminder. Remember - Hawkeye was away when Trapper left.
Andybandit 17 months ago
MASH is my favorite show on MeTv. The guy that play Father Mulcahy George Morgan. Kind of looked like William Christopher. I am probably the only one that thinks so.
LoveMETV22 Andybandit 17 months ago
No, He does sort of resemble him. So your not the only one that thinks so.
MattAlbrecht 24 months ago
Who the hell is Bruno Kirby? Exactly.
LoveMETV22 MattAlbrecht 17 months ago
#7 explains Bruno Kirby. Exactly.
JohnFinnJr 24 months ago
"Knocko" appeared in the Pilot episode as a hopeful girlfriend for Trapper. I don't know if this is "Knocko" or not, but in this first episode photo, Trapper does have his arms around her.
DiannaGell 24 months ago
I managed to find that she appeared in a TV show in 1971 called Longstreet. I don't remember the show, but I grabbed a screen shotof her.
Mike DiannaGell 17 months ago
The Longstreet photo is of Marlyn Mason, who was James Franciscus's leading lady on that series.
If you've got the DVD set, you'll find shots of her like this throughout the episodes.
doug1376 29 months ago
As far as Knocko goes… this show was supposedly aired on 9/17/72 but somehow magically Laura “Knocko” Miller wasn’t born until 9/9/74.
CCHeckman doug1376 24 months ago
Wrong Laura Miller. It's a common name (there are at least 13 listed at IMDB), and the actress you're talking about goes by the name of Laura Carly Miller. (This seems to happen fairly often ... Michael J Fox uses his middle name because there was an actor named Michael Fox, who appears -- for instance -- in Young Frankenstein.)
Pacificsun CCHeckman 17 months ago
Yes, the rule (at least used to be) no actor in SAG could be listed with the same name, so many used their middle initials.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 17 months ago
I like some of the articles that mention Michael J. Fox, and the wordplay or representation that some media sources say he didn't choose " A" because he didn't want to seem vain. LOL!
ELEANOR Pacificsun 17 months ago
Michael Fox can often be found on Perry Mason as an autopsy surgeon, usually on the witness stand testifying as to the manner of death. Of course he is mainly known because of his name; the other Michael Fox had to adopt the initial. I think that the "J" has a ring to it that the "A" does not.
GaryS1509 39 months ago
Point #6 here is really, really dumb. About ten seconds after the pic shown, Frank throws the prototype still to the ground, accompanied with severe breakage noises. Of course they rebuilt it.
BrittanyDale 45 months ago
Ummmm DUH!! Frank broke the first still... does NO ONE remember how he flipped out, then grabbed it, tried running away from Hawkeye & Trapper, then threw it down, thus BREAKING IT?!?! Wow!!! 😳
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