M*A*S*H episode
“Potter's Retirement”
Potters retirement
Going through the camp mail to find the "snitch" who has been writing letters of complaint about Potter. Hawkeye and B.J. need to open an incriminating letter. Radar shows them how.
Season 6, Episode # 23
Number (#145) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Peter Hobbs
Johnny Haymer
George Wyner
Kenneth Whtie
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: Y-120
Writer(s) Lawrence Marks
Director William Jurgensen
Original airdate February 20, 1978
IMDb logo IMDB Potter's Retirement
Episode chronology
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"Temporary Duty" (Y‑125) "Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde" (Y‑122)

(broadcast order)

(broadcast order)

"What's Up, Doc?" (Y‑119) "Mail Call Three" (Y‑121)

(production order)

(production order)

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

Potter's Retirement was the 23rd episode of Season 6 of the M*A*S*H TV series, also the 145th overall series episode. The episode, which was written by Laurence Marks, was directed by William Jurgensen. The episode originally aired on CBS-TV on February 20, 1978.

Plot synopsisEdit

Outraged at hearing complaints coming from inside the camp about his abilities as a commanding officer, Colonel Potter decides to put in for retirement. Which of the heartbroken Potter's subordinates has been spreading those awful stories about him? Even more disturbing is the possibility that General Kent (Peter Hobbs) will relieve Potter from duty and put the old campaigner out to pasture.

Full summaryEdit

Col. Potter has a meeting with his friend General Kent (Peter Hobbs), who tries to dance around some bad news he has to deliver--he's been receiving bad reports about the 4077th, specifically about Col. Potter's leadership. Potter isn't especially concerned until Kent tells him that the reports are coming from within the camp. Potter is hit hard by this news as he considers the 4077th his family, and he is hurt that one of his own people has been saying bad things about him behind his back.

Later that afternoon, an embittered Potter returns to camp to find the Kentucky Derby Party, which he had already approved, is off to an early start. He barges into the Mess Tent, barking at everyone including Radar, demands to see the duty roster and orders everyone back to work.

Back in his office, Radar tries to delicately ask Potter what's wrong, but he won't say. Radar then tells him of a memo from I-Corps about a surprise inspection in a few days--not the news Potter wanted to hear.

That night Potter walks into the party and grimly tells everyone about the bad reports (though he doesn't mention that they came from within the camp) and then the surprise inspection. He says he wants to show the "pencil-pushers" that the 4077th is the "best damn MASH unit in Korea", eliciting a loud cheer from the unit, but then Potter drops a bombshell-- right after the inspection, he's transferring back home to spend his remaining military time stateside. He then withdraws, leaving everyone in the Mess Tent in stunned silence.

The next day, after Potter sternly gives instructions to Klinger, Zale and Corporal Benson (George Wyner), a new corpsman in camp, on preparing for the inspection, Hawkeye and B.J. enter Potter's office demanding an explanation. At first he refuses to oblige, but when they persist he reveals that the bad reports are coming from inside the camp. Leaving them alone in his office with Radar, the doctors resolve to find the snitch; Radar suggests Klinger, but Hawkeye and B.J. come up with another more plausible candidate: Winchester.

Back in the Swamp, Hawkeye and B.J. peruse through Winchester's foot locker searching for any incriminating material, but Winchester catches them in the act and protests his innocence, saying that Winchesters do not spy, "though on occasion we hire them". Although outraged, he advises them to look through the outgoing mail for any letter addressed to I-Corps.

In the orderly room, Hawkeye and B.J. enlist Radar's help to rifle through the outgoing mail and eventually find a letter addressed to I-Corps from Cpl. Benson; Radar thinks it can't be him, but when B.J. points out that nobody writes home to I-Corps, they open the letter and, to Radar's shock and disgust, find that Benson is indeed the mole.

After a session in O.R., B.J. and Hawkeye confront Benson and present him to Potter. After some harsh words, Benson (who reveals he is actually a Lieutenant) admits he was sent there as a spy on orders from a Colonel Webster from the 3rd Armor, a recent patient disgruntled with the care he received at the 4077th. Potter remembers Webster's arrogance; he came through triage with a tiny shrapnel wound in his rear end and was angered because he had to wait until after the more serious cases were treated. That, along with his observation that military discipline was exceptionally loose at the 4077th, was why Benson was assigned there to dig up dirt on Potter. Disgusted, Potter replies, "I'd trade your shoeshines and snappy salutes for a good surgeon any day." He orders Benson out of the camp, but gives him a message for Webster that, "If he ever gets in my way again, I'll put that shrapnel back where I found it!"

Later, Potter calls General Kent and asks him to call off the inspection. Kent apparently agrees but then asks if Potter will be staying at the 4077th, but Potter forestalls his answer and hangs up. Still pondering his choice, Potter says "It's been a long war, and I passed my prime about 10 squares back." Hawkeye (who addresses Potter by his first name for the only time) quietly says, "Sherman, you can give me a hundred good reasons to leave, and I can't give you one good reason to stay. Stay anyway." Radar and B.J. both put their support behind Hawkeye's words.

Potter thinks for a moment, and agrees to stay. Right at that moment, Radar hears choppers coming, and as they all run out, Potter quietly mutters to himself, "I hate this place."

Later, the gang surprise Col. Potter in his office with the leftover Kentucky Derby cake with a candle in it, celebrating his "first day back." Potter apologizes to them for being so surly, and admits they're the best bunch he's ever worked with. When asked to make a wish before he blows it out, he tells them he'll make a wish for all of them: peace.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit


  • The Kentucky Derby is in May. As Potter came to MASH 4077 on Sept 25, 1952 in the real timeline, this would have been May 1953--Winchester would only have had to stay in this cesspool for a month and a half (he would, of course, have had no way of knowing that).
  • The 3rd Armored was never in the Korean conflict.
  • Early in the episode, the soldier making the Kentucky Derby doesn't want to put green icing on a chocolate cake, insisting on white. Later, when they serve the leftover cake to Col. Potter, we see it's a yellow cake.
  • During the scene where Winchester discovers Hawkeye and B.J. going through his things, B.J. is wearing one of Charles's white scarves. It goes back and forth between just hanging around his neck and being wrapped around his neck between shots.

External linksEdit