M*A*S*H episode
“Communication Breakdown”
Season 10, Episode # 7
Number (#225) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Byron Chung
James Saito
Kellye Nakahara
Jeff Maxwell
Kwang Baek
Roy Goldman
Jo Ann Thompson
Abigail Nelson
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: 1G03
Writer(s) Karen Hall
Director Alan Alda
Original airdate November 30, 1981
IMDb logo IMDB Communication Breakdown
Episode chronology
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List of all M*A*S*H episodes

Communication Breakdown was the seventh episode of Season 10 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 225th overall series episode. Written by Karen Hall and directed by Alan Alda, it originally aired on November 30, 1981.


Stop the presses! Charles has just received a load of newspapers from back home and the camp, being without a newspaper for weeks, are determined to share Charles'. He is reluctant, but agrees--only after he's read them first, of course. But when he finds a newspaper missing, he wages war on the camp and they, in turn, wage a war of practical jokes on him.

Full episode summaryEdit

The 4077th is suffering from a breakdown in the mail system involving second class mail, so there hasn't been any reading material--newspapers, magazines, etc.--for weeks. The only person getting a newspaper is Winchester, whose family sent him a package containing a week's worth of The Boston Globe. He opens the package carefully and with great ceremony, treating the papers as if they were sacred parchments.

Hawkeye and B.J. of course want dibs, but Winchester refuses, only allowing them to read each day's paper after he's done with it. Hawkeye and B.J. reluctantly agree to the deal.

Some North Korean soldiers are among the recent batch of wounded, so three South Korean soldiers arrive in camp to oversee the prisoners until they are well enough to travel. One of the South Korean guards reacts violently to one of the prisoners, but no one understands why.

After a session in OR, Winchester sees Father Mulcahy sitting outside the Swamp, reading one of his papers. He tries to shoo Mulcahy inside (after lying about how he got them, claiming they were used to wrap fish), but he's too late: people walking the compound see it, and a crowd develops, each of them wanting to get their hands on it.

Finally, Winchester gets so fed up he offers the camp the same deal he offered Hawkeye and B.J, with the same grumbling response.

That evening, Hawkeye is confronted by the South Korean guard, who reveals that the captured North Korean soldier is actually his brother, and that they were placed on separate sides of the country by their father to ensure that at least one would see victory. The brothers cannot speak with each other, or else they will be accused of collaboration with the enemy.

After a couple of days, Winchester sees one of the papers is missing, and he immediately assumes "some lowlife" in the camp stole it. So he goes on the P.A., accusing anyone and everyone of the crime, and rescinds the offer. This leads to an ever-escalating series of vengeful acts--first, someone steals his bathrobe, followed by all of his possessions (except the papers), leaving him a bright red kimono (which he bought for his sister and is much too small) as his only piece of clothing. That leads Winchester to keep everyone up all night playing music over the P.A.

Later, the wounded North Korean (seemingly) suffers complications and requires a blood transfusion before another operation. Hawkeye grabs the South Korean guard after asking his blood type, but the guard is perplexed when they reach the operating room and he is not actually injected. Hawkeye reveals that the complications were faked; the brothers now have a chance to speak to one another without anyone overhearing or suspecting them of wrongdoing. Both men thank Hawkeye for his actions.

When his possessions are not returned, Winchester decides to do something big--collapse the Mess Tent as everyone is inside eating. Just as he boards a Jeep he's using for the task, he's stopped by Col. Potter, who is enraged and points out Winchester's fatal mistake, revealed in the very newspapers that started all this.

Winchester is forced to apologize via the P.A. and admit that there was a "wildcat truckers strike" on May 5th, stopping the delivery of the paper to some areas--meaning the paper wasn't stolen, it never arrived in the first place. That settled, Col. Potter takes that day's paper and reads Li'l Abner aloud to everyone in camp. Everyone enjoys Potter's effort, but they burst into hysterics when he tells Winchester, who is still wearing the kimono, to close his robe.

Later, as Charles is dining alone in the Mess Tent, Klinger comes upon the improperly parked Jeep Charles was going to collapse the tent with. Not noticing it's still tied to the tent post, Klinger starts the Jeep and goes to park it in the Motor Pool, collapsing the whole Mess Tent on Charles.

Fun FactsEdit

  • There's a scene between Winchester and Nurse Kellye involving sub-titles, the only time the show would use them. She speaks Japanese to him, telling him he looks ridiculous in his kimono, the only article of clothing the pranksters have left him.
  • Charles had previously succeeded in dropping a tent on Hawkeye, B.J., and Major Sidney Freedman in the Season 7 episode "The Billfold Syndrome." Hawkeye and B.J. had sent Charles a false telegram telling him he had been accepted as Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Boston Hospital in an effort to get him to talk. He silently hands them a telegram that says simply: "Gentlemen: Heads Up." A Jeep can be heard outside, and as Charles pulls away, the rope connecting the Jeep to the tent post pulls the whole tent down.

Guest/Recurring castEdit

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