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Major Topper (TV series episode)

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M*A*S*H episode
“Major Topper”
Glassberg-major topper
Hawkeye and B.J. in the 4077th's pharmacy. They must get rid of Glassberg, the pharmacy technician, before proceeding to make "50 little white lies"--placebos for their patients to make up for the lack of painkillers.
Season 6, Episode # 25
Number (#147) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Kellye Nakahara
Andrew Bloch
Donald Blackwell
Peter Zapp
Paul Linke
John Kirby
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: Y-123
Writer(s) Allyn Freeman
Director Charles S. Dubin
Original airdate March 27, 1978
IMDb logo IMDB Major Topper
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde" (Y‑122) "Commander Pierce" (T‑404)
(Season 7 premiere)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde" (Y‑122) "Your Hit Parade" (Y‑124)

(production order)

(production order)

Season 6 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

Major Topper was the 25th and season finale episode of Season 6 of the M*A*S*H TV series, also the 147th overall series episode. The episode, which was written by Allyn Freeman, was directed by Charles S. Dubin. The episode originally aired on CBS-TV on March 27, 1978.

Plot synopsisEdit

Klinger breaks in a new guard, Corporal Boots Miller (Hamilton Camp), who turns out to seemingly be actually a much bigger nut than he pretends to be, one who actually shoots at imaginary "enemy gliders" and also takes in imaginary "POW's"; meanwhile Colonel Potter and the rest of the staff try to figure out how to deal with the excessive pain the casualties are experiencing in post-op. Thus, with the possibility of contaminated morphine, the doctors at the 4077th administer placebos to the patients which seem to work.

Full episode summaryEdit

During a long session in O.R., a verbal joust breaks out between Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester, seeing who can tell the tallest, but supposedly true, tale. Whatever Hawkeye and B.J. comes up with, Winchester can top it.

In Post-Op, a problem arises: it seems that the tiny supply of Morphine the 4077th has left has gone bad, and can't be used without potentially doing further harm. With a hospital full of patients, no painkillers, and no chance of getting any more until the morning, they're in a tough spot.

Back in Potter's office, they discuss their options. Winchester suggests using the Morphine, thinking the one soldier's reaction was a fluke. Potter comes up with a different idea, one that he dispenses in secret: giving the patients sugar pills. In other words, a placebo. Basing the idea on something he saw a doctor give his Aunt when he was a child, he believes that if the doctors can sell it--really sell it--they just might work.

Meanwhile, Klinger is going through his paces with Corporal "Boots" Miller (Hamilton Camp), who seems completely insane--talking into a spoon and acting like its a microphone, talking to his socks, and even firing real bullets into imaginary North Korean gliders that he insists are buzzing the camp.

Hawkeye and B.J. make up the sugar pills, and everyone gives them out, trying to sell them as convincingly as possible.

Some time passes, and the doctors--none more than Winchester--are amazed to see that, for the most part, the placebos are working. Almost half of the patients are without pain, and are sleeping soundly. Some of them need some more persuasion, but for the most part the experiment seems a success.

Back in the Mess Tent, they all marvel at what they've just seen, except for Winchester, who has another tall tale to top it.

Later that night, Cpl. Miller's lunacy gets so out of control it catches the attention of Col. Potter. After Miller shoots down some more "gliders", Potter commands Klinger to drag Miller back to this office while Potter writes up a transfer.

Back in the Swamp, the tall tales start again, when Winchester suggests he dated Audrey Hepburn--the Audrey Hepburn. Hawkeye and B.J. demand proof, which they fully expect Winchester cannot produce. But then Winchester whips out a picture of himself having dinner with...Audrey Hepburn. Hawkeye and B.J., knowing when they're beaten, crawl into their beds, while Winchester tells them about the time he climbed The Matterhorn.

Weeks later, Col. Potter gets a letter from Cpl. Miller, telling him that he's made a small fortune selling replicas of his Mr. Shoes and Mr. Socks characters, and is working on a new toy, "Enemy Glider." Klinger thinks they've been hoodwinked, until Miller asks if Col. Potter can send reference photos of the glider he shot down.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • The mention of dating Audrey Hepburn:
    • Audrey Hepburn did not shoot to worldwide fame until "Roman Holiday" which only came out in August 1953, after the end of the Korean War. She only had a few minor roles in British films before that, which Hawkeye and co. would not have known about. So how is she such a talking point among the Swamp mates?
    • Probably because in November 1951, she played the leading role in the Broadway play "Gigi" and apparently with great success. A review of newspapers of 1951 shows many stories written about her in papers across the country. A Walter Winchell column noted her "jump from oblivion to stardom." Stories talking about her as a "new Broadway star" were typical. Knowing how boring camp life can be, it is likely that the MASH personnel devoured every bit of entertainment news from any newspaper that arrived from the U.S.
    • Therefore, provided the timeline here is set after November 1951, it is, on balance, plausible and not an anachronism, that the Swamp mates would consider dating Audrey Hepburn a big deal - she was already some kind of minor celebrity. After 1953, of course, it would have been an even bigger deal but in 1951, it was still something to brag about.
  • Winchester refers to Audrey Hepburn as a charming child. In fact when Hepburn played the lead role in "Gigi" she was 22 years old! But perhaps compared to Winchester, she was a child.
  • Continuity issues. Winchester also refers to having been at his sister's wedding. Just one episode before, he said that his sister ran off and married a farmer and the family ostracised her. If they ostracised her, he would not have attended her wedding. Furthermore, in a later episode (Season 8 "Bottle Fatigue" his sister is unmarried and about to marry an Italian.
  • Actor Hamilton Camp would appear in another episode of the series, in Season 11's "The Moon is Not Blue." He also appeared in about a million other shows, like as Ted Knight's crazy boss in Too Close For Comfort. His made his acting debut doing an uncredited voice-over for another actor in the legendary Val Lewton's 1946 film Bedlam.
  • Lots of actors playing patients in post-ops so we need a process of deduction and elimination to identify them.
    • B.J's patient is Saxton--played by Andrew Bloch who also played Private Cordon in "Post Op".
    • Potter calls his patient "Rifkin", so that's Peter Zapp.
    • Hawkeye's patient is Collins--Paul Linke is better known as Officer Grossman in CHiPs. That leaves two more.
    • John Kirby is Caucasian, so he must be Duncan, Winchester's patient.
    • That leaves Donald Blackwell as Graham, the patient Father Mulcahy attends to.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit

External linksEdit

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