M*A*S*H episode
“Old Soldiers”
Old soldiers
Potter, dressed in his World War 1 cavalry uniform toasts his departed comrades
Season 8, Episode # 18
Number (#191) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Jane Connell
Jason Autajay
Sally Imamura
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: S-620
Writer(s) Dennis Koenig
Director Charles S. Dubin
Original airdate January 21, 1980
IMDb logo IMDB Old Soldiers
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Heal Thyself" "Morale Victory"

List of all M*A*S*H episodes

Old Soldiers is the eighteenth episode of the eighth season of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H; Directed by Charles S. Dubin, the episode was written by Dennis Koenig. W.C. Heinz, Richard Hooker, Ring Lardner, Jr., who all were co-writers for the 1970 MASH film, who were uncredited, also contributed as writers on the episode, which originally aired on January 21, 1980.

Plot synopsisEdit

Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) leaves for Tokyo under mysterious circumstances, leaving Hawkeye (Alan Alda) in charge to deal with a group of refugee children, and to figure out why Potter is acting so strangely upon his return.

Full episode summaryEdit

In the middle of a night, a call comes in for Col. Potter. He's furious about being woken up at 3:30am, but after he takes the call he calms down and accepts the news, mentioning something about "Test results don't lie." He instructs Klinger to get him a flight to Tokyo, and Hawkeye will be in charge until he gets back.

While Potter is gone, a Red Cross worker named Betty Halpern (Jane Connell) arrives with a gang of Korean kids who need some basic medical care and some tetanus shots after being stuck in some thorny bushes.

Potter checks in at the 4077th over the phone, refusing to say why he's gone. All he seems concerned about is a package due to arrive for him. He tells Klinger to guard it with his life.

Without wounded to take care of, the Korean kids take over the 4077th, running around and causing general chaos. Their stay is extended when the doctors discover the kids have a mysterious rash, an allergic reaction to tetanus antitoxin. Thus the children will be required to have diluted doses so they aren't thrown into shock. Such a delay in their treatment means they will be required to stay at the 4077th in the meantime.

The next morning, Potter returns, but is still mum about who he calls his "sick friend." After telling him about the kids' rash, Potter figures out that its because of their diet--they eat horse meat, which is causing a reaction to the tetanus serum.

After a tossed off joke by Hawkeye, Potter goes on a rant about the atrocity of people eating horses, reminiscing about, back in WWI, "A man's horse was his best friend--where do people get off turning them into porkchops?" It leaves everyone stunned into silence, and Potter mumbles an apology and leaves.

Later, Potter asks Klinger to deliver a series of sealed envelopes, addressed to the others. They all open them, and inside is an invitation to Potter's tent the next night. Everyone wants to find out what's going on, but Potter insists he wants to be left alone until then. When Klinger messages that Potter also received a package in the mail from a lawyers' office, Winchester has a sudden realization- perhaps the "sick friend" is a ruse and Col. Potter himself is very ill.

We see that Potter is spending his time in his office, listening to old French records. When a little boy wanders in, Potter is sweet and gentle to him, putting him on his lap, showing him old photographs of himself in WWI and giving the child some fudge he brought back from Tokyo.

The next night comes around, and everyone arrives at Potter's tent at the prescribed time. Everyone is surprised to find the colonel redressed in his WWI Cavalry outfit. Potter tells them a story of his time in the war- he and several friends wound up trapped behind enemy lines and hiding in a French château. They spent most of that evening enjoying several bottles of brandy, until the next morning as they prepared to leave the men noticed one bottle was left intact. So, Potter and company made a tontine, a pledge that the bottle of brandy would be given to the last surviving man, and he in turn would use it to toast the memories of the departed.

Lo and behold, Potter himself is the last survivor of the group, having the bottle sent to him after his old service mate passed away in a Tokyo hospital. Though he mourns the loss of his old friends, he takes comfort in the friends he has made in the 4077th, and invites them to share the brandy with him. They agree, and share after Potter makes a toast of his own to his departed comrades.

Some time later, Potter limps into his office and instructs Klinger to take a memo stating that the use of starch in the laundry, and specifically his trousers (the minor plot of the episode) is strictly forbidden. Before limping out again.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Potterisms: Buffalo bagels! Who in the name of Annie's argyles are all these kids?
  • David Ogden Stiers regards Potter's tontine speech as his favorite memory of the show. [1]

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit


  1. chalmers, December 7, 2011 (8:56 p.m.), comment on Ken Levine, “R.I.P. Harry Morgan,” The World as Seen by a TV Comedy Writer, December 7, 2011,

External linksEdit

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.