M*A*S*H episode
“Preventative Medicine”
SSN07 166preventative
Hawkeye and B.J. begin to argue over Hawk's performing an unneeded appendicitis on a visiting Col. Lacey, a careless commander who furthers his career by putting his men in harm's way by placing them in the most dangerous fighting action in "Preventative Medicine" in Season 7.
Season 7, Episode # 23
Number (#170) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Jeff Maxwell
James Wainwright
Larry "Flash" Jenkins
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: T416
Writer(s) Mitch Markowitz
Director Harry Morgan
Original airdate February 19, 1979
IMDb logo IMDB Preventative Medicine
Episode chronology
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Season 7 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

Preventative Medicine was the 23rd episode of Season 7  of the M*A*S*H TV series, also the 170th overall series episode. The episode was written by Tom Reeder, and directed by Tony Mordente. The episode originally aired on CBS-TV on February 19, 1979.


Colonel Lacy is reckless and his men keep getting wounded and ending up at the 4077th. Hawkeye is determined to stop him even if it means doing something unethical. Meanwhile, Klinger plays the part of a voodoo practitioner to try and get out of the army.

Detailed episode summaryEdit

During OR, the doctors notice that all the wounded have multiple shrapnel wounds, from all directions. Col. Potter explains these soldiers are part of Col. Lacy's unit, the 603rd Battalion, which sustains more casualties than any other in Korea.

Later, Col. Lacy (James Wainwright) himself arrives, and seems to be quite the charmer. He's complimentary to Radar, to Col. Potter, and to Margaret. Hawkeye and B.J. are indifferent to Lacy's kind words, and his troops are downright hostile to him.

Lacy makes a speech about how the bravery of his men have given him the initiative to put in a plan to I-Corps to take on Hill 403, a dangerous mission. Hawkeye and B.J. are disgusted, and in private Col. Potter tries to talk Lacy out of it, to no effect.

The next morning, Lacy sits down to breakfast with Margaret in the Mess Tent, and she's up front about how much she likes him. Lacy tells her about the mission to claim Hill 403, and when he casually admits that he expects "around 20%" in casualties, Margaret is horrified. She asks what makes the hill so important, worth all that, and he responds, as if it's a strange question, "Well, getting it."

Disgusted, Margaret walks off, leaving Lacy alone. He then tries to talk to Hawkeye and B.J., and Hawkeye lets him know how revolting he finds Lacy to be. Lacy is condescending and smug, still not caring a bit about all the casualties he's created and will create.

He returns to Post Op to give out Purple Hearts, but none of the wounded want them. One of them goes into cardiac arrest, while Lacy receives a phone call from a general, who tells him that Lacy's offensive on Hill 403 has been denied, on the grounds of it being too risky.

Hawkeye and B.J. overhear this and gloat, but Lacy won't take no for an answer. He says that he plans to send out reconnaissance, and that usually draws fire. And once the shooting starts, whose to say who started it?

B.J. is horrified, but Hawkeye seems to have changed his mind--he compliments Lacy, inviting him to the Swamp for some drinks. B.J. at first is shocked, but Hawkeye lets him know the plan is to slip Lacy a mickey, pulling him off the line.

They go ahead with the plan, and when Lacy doubles over in pain, B.J. immediately diagnoses it as gastritis, but Hawkeye says it's appendicitis, requiring surgery. When Lacy hears that, he protests, saying he'll lose his command if he's off the line that long, which only reaffirms Hawkeye's plan.

In the scrub room, Hawkeye and B.J. have it out--B.J. says cutting a healthy body open is "mutilation--why don't you just stab him?" Hawkeye argues that it's worth that to save the lives of all the young men who won't have to climb Hill 403, and goes ahead with the operation. B.J. walks out, refusing to participate.

Later, Hawkeye comes back to the Swamp. He wearily admits to B.J. that Lacy's appendix was "pink and perfect, and I tossed it in the scrap bucket." B.J. says there's wounded coming, just a few seconds before the P.A. announces it. B.J. adds: "You treated a symptom--the disease goes merrily on." He puts his hand on Hawkeye's shoulder, helping him up, and together they leave the Swamp.

On a more humorous note, the episode's sub-plot deals with Klinger's latest attempt to get discharged. He confronts Colonel Potter by spraying powder in the air and muttering in a strange language (as well as brandishing a dead chicken). Claiming to have taken up voodoo and now unafraid to be the bad guy, Klinger threatens to stab a voodoo doll of Colonel Potter if his demand is not met. Potter naturally doesn't budge despite several attempts over the course of the episode, causing Klinger to stab the voodoo doll with a pin, just as Hawkeye and Hunnicutt drag Lacy to O.R for his appendicitis, or gastritis (as the two argue). Fearing his "magic" has targeted the wrong man (as he simply addressed the doll as colonel, both Lacy and Potter's rank) Klinger guiltily hands over his voodoo materials to Father Mulcahy as an act of penance. Mulcahy insists that it was a mere coincidence, but agrees to take the items to set Klinger at ease. Naturally, he does not take the chicken.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • In a call sheet for 10/26/78, Jo Ann Thompson is listed as Nurse Able, separate from the other enlisted men and nurse extras who are not named. However, she does not get a credit in the episode.
  • The original script had Hawkeye and B.J. simply removing Lacy's appendix, as he and Trapper had done in a previous episode (White Gold) without incident. However, Mike Farrell strongly objected and felt that B.J. would not knowingly cut open a healthy patient, no matter the reason. His and Alan Alda's argument was written into the episode.

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit

External linksEdit

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