M*A*S*H episode
“38 Across”
MASH episode - 5x16 - 38 Across - Letter to Hawkeye
Hawkeye and BJ are stumped at a crossword puzzle word when Hawkeye, in trying to get an answer back, gets a return letter from a Navy friend whom Hawkeye attempts to ask in the episode "38 Across".
Season 5, Episode # 16
Number (#113) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Dick O'Neill
Oliver Clark
Momo Yashima
Bill Shinkai
Rex Knowles
Gwen Farrell
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: U821
Writer(s) Everett Greenbaum & Jim Fritzell
Director Burt Metcalfe
Original airdate January 11, 1977
IMDb logo IMDB 38 Across
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 38 Across is the 113th episode of M*A*S*H, the 16th in the fifth season of the show, which originally aired on CBS-TV on January 11, 1977. It was directed by Burt Metcalfe, and written by Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell.


A fouled radio call for help on a crossword puzzle leads to a senior officer coming to the 4077th to help with a supposed serious medical problem.

Full episode summaryEdit

Without a lot of wounded, Hawkeye and B.J. are bored, bored, bored. Luckily, they find a New York Times crossword puzzle and are determined to complete it, eventually getting the whole operating staff in on it.

They are down to one last clue--a five-letter term for a Yiddish bedbug--and none of them can answer it. Hawkeye gets so frustrated that he has Radar place a call to an old friend, Tippy Brooks, who is a crossword whiz and is currently serving on a Navy ship in Pusan Harbor. Brooks is in surgery when they call, so they leave a message saying they need his help urgently.

Unfortunately, Brooks takes the message a little too literally, and radios that he and an Admiral are on their way to the 4077th. Hawkeye and B.J. are bewildered, wondering how they're going to explain all this.

Meanwhile, Klinger is working on his latest ruse for getting his long desired Section 8 discharge. He plans to disassemble a jeep and EAT all the parts, one at a time.

Tippy Brooks (Oliver Clark) and Admiral Cox (Dick O'Neill) do in fact arrive, having had to avoid enemy fire and end up walking the rest of the way to the 4077th. Brooks asks Hawkeye what the emergency is, and after some hemming and hawing, Hawkeye tells him the reason they called.

Brooks is furious, and says they have to come up with some sort of story for the Admiral. They struggle to devise a suitable story (with Hawkeye still determined to find out the missing Yiddish word, much to Tippy's annoyance, especially since he doesn't know the answer).

They take the Admiral on a tour of Post Op, pretending a series of routine cases are confounding medical diagnoses.  One of the cases is Klinger, who has developed a stomachache from swallowing so many inedible items such as a windshield wiper and lug nuts with motor oil. The Admiral sees through all this, and is mad at the 4077th for wasting his time.

He's in the middle of a tirade when Father Mulcahy runs in and says there's been an accident involving some Korean civilians, who have suffered horrible burns. Brooks and Cox help out, impressed that this group of goofballs are in fact a top-flight medical unit.

After seven hours of surgery, Hawkeye, B.J., Col. Potter, Father Mulcahy, Brooks, and Cox wind down in the Mess Tent. A North Korean radio announcer, Seoul City Sue, brands "Captain Hawkeye Pierce" a war criminal because of his operating on a North Korean prisoner's head, stating that he was performing experiments.

The next day, Brooks and Cox leave, and they tell him the real reason for all this. Cox is incredulous, shouting, "You dragged us all the way up here just to get the word  'VANTZ'!?!?"

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Gwen Farrell, frequently in the background in most episodes, gets a credit here as an anesthetist. She is assisting Frank when he tells Hawkeye that he doesn't need any assistance. She interjects to say they are losing the patient--whereupon Frank yells for help.
  • There is an unidentified Nurse Baker in this episode. B.J. tells her to take an X-ray of Klinger, and later, asks her to bring the X-ray to show Admiral Cox. Towards the end of the episode, she helps at triage. If you want to try to identify her, see Unidentified Nurses.
  • Klinger is so overjoyed at the Admiral calling him crazy that he asks to transfer to the Navy. Unfortunately for Klinger, casualties come in and he has to act normal. By the way, if Klinger really had drank motor oil, he would have gotten quite ill, or possibly died.
  • Actor Dick O'Neil guest starred on M*A*S*H three times, each time playing an officer of one of the three different branches of the US Armed services: once as a US Navy Admiral, one as a US Army General, and once as a USMC Colonel.
  • Oliver Clark, who plays Hawkeye's friend Tippy Brooks, returns a season later playing "Captain Benjamin Pierce" whose mail is accidentally sent to Hawkeye due to their names being the same ("Mail Call Three"). In that episode, Clark's Pierce, despite not appearing as handsome or charming as Hawkeye, gets a lot of women sending him love letters, and Hawkeye can't understand why.
  • The name "38 Across" is an allusion to the fact that the MASH unit is stationed along the 38th parallel.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit


External linksEdit