M*A*S*H episode
“The Novocaine Mutiny”
MASH Episode - 4x21 Hawkeye testifys
Hawkeye testifies on his own behalf when, after being accused by Frank of mutiny, gets court martialed in "The Novacaine Mutiny".
Season 4, Episode # 21
Number (#93) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Ned Wilson
Johnny Haymer
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: G-523
Writer(s) Burt Prelutsky
Director Harry Morgan
Original airdate January 27, 1976
IMDb logo IMDB The Novocaine Mutiny
Episode chronology
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"Some 38th Parallels" (G‑521) "Smilin' Jack" (G‑508)

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"Der Tag" (G‑522) "The More I See You" (G‑524)

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Season 4 episodes
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The Novocaine Mutiny was the 93rd episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, and, also the 21st episode of the fourth season of the series. Written by Burt Prelutsky, and directed by cast member Harry Morgan, it first aired on January 27, 1976.


Hawkeye is court martialed, put on trial for mutiny under Frank Burns' command.

Full episode summaryEdit

This episode opens in a military courtroom, with Hawkeye as the defendant!

A Colonel, Col. Carmichael (Ned Wilson) is officiating, and he hears testimony about the alleged mutiny, a charge leveled by Frank.

Colonel Potter testifies, as does B.J., who gives the Colonel some examples of Frank's insanity as commander--a ban on gambling, snap inspections, parades--he even has the entire unit do a practice bug-out, moving across the road, only to move back to the same spot the very next day.

Frank testifies to the events that led to the "mutiny". He insists that during a long session in O.R., he had to do nearly everything, operating on several patients at once while giving blood--directly from his arm--to a third. He even does Father Mulcahy's job, saying a prayer (in Latin, no less), when Mulcahy collapses in exhaustion.

Bombs are falling, and everyone is scared and panicking, except for Frank. He insists more and more wounded be brought in. Hawkeye, unable to match the pace Frank is insisting on, grabs a hypo and knocks Frank out, screaming "I'm taking over!"

Hawkeye then testifies, commenting on the bizarre fantasy Frank has concocted in his mind. He makes a joke, but seems genuinely sad realizing that that's how Frank actually sees the world. He admits Burns was telling the truth on two was October 1952 and they were in Korea...otherwise..".

Then he gives the real story--Frank was doing a pathetic job prepping the patients, not sending them in in the right order, and not even preparing the ones he is sending in for surgery. Hawkeye and B.J. scold him for not doing his job, but he won't listen-in fact Frank goes borderline hyisterical at having to operate on wounded soldiers all at once!

The argument gets heated, then at one point a nurse accidentally slams a door into Frank, knocking him out. Hawkeye and B.J.--and everyone else--are relieved. Father Mulcahy takes over in Pre-Op, while Klinger drags the unconscious Frank--face down--out of the O.R.

After hearing all the testimony and looking into everyone's records, Col. Carmichael concludes that Capt. Pierce, while being thoroughly un-military, is a "top flight surgeon," and concludes that no case for mutiny exists. He dismisses the case, throwing in a shot at Frank in the process.

Later Burns shows Potter the weekly poker game, hoping to get Hawkeye in trouble; Potter just says "deal me in."

The Mystery Nurse or NursesEdit

The nurse assisting Frank in the O.R. (in Frank's version of the events) has a great number of lines but is uncredited. Frank calls her Nurse Johnson. See Unidentified Nurses for photo and help identify her.

In Hawkeye's version, there is a nurse who bumps into Frank. He calls her "clumsy" and she replies, "In your ear." Later she opens the door with Frank on the other side and knocks him out cold, earning praise from Hawkeye for saving countless lives. Many internet resources attribute this part to Patricia Stevens.[1] Certainly the eyebrows look similar, or do they?--see photo in Unidentified Nurses. So she could also have been the Nurse Johnson in Frank's version.

Absence of MargaretEdit

  • Loretta Swit does not appear in this episode. Commenting on this in the book "TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book", writer Burt Prelutsky says that he did not have to rewrite the script to deal with her absence so he thinks he must have been told beforehand that she would not be available.[2]
  • Loretta Swit also does not appear in "The More I See You" and "The Interview". Together with The Novocaine Mutiny, these are the last 3 episodes in the Season 4 production order. Her absence could be linked to her Broadway commitments as mentioned in the Research Notes section of The Interview. Swit appeared opposite Ted Bissell in the play "Same Time Next Year" debuting on 1 Dec 1975.
  • It would have been interesting to see her testify at the hearing. She would have been torn between wanting to support Frank and professional honesty--in Season 9 "Death Takes a Holiday" she has difficulty falsifying a medical record.

Other Research Notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Although Frank was legally in command of the MASH while Potter was away, many of the arguments he had with Hawkeye in this (and in other episodes) are about what priority to give to which patient, and when and how to operate on a patient. These decisions are the prerogative of Hawkeye as Chief Surgeon. So Hawkeye could just have easily have pressed charges for Frank's failure to comply with his instructions. But perhaps Hawkeye was not G.I. enough to want to do that.
  • In fact, Frank's refusal to assume responsibility in regard to prepping the wounded for surgery (at least two of the wounded would have had strokes due to Burns' incompetence) could have landed Burns before a court martial board on violation of Article 96 - conduct unbecoming a officer.
  • The episode title is based on the title of the movie "The Caine Mutiny" about a mentally unbalanced commanding officer.
  • The Only flaw is Potter putting a medical incompent such as Burns in charge-it would have been funnier if the Col was Henry Blake and Trapper John taking the place of BJ! While Blake cared so little about command he did leave Burns in charge {despite knowing how bungling Burns really was} a supposedly professional like Potter leaving Burns in charge would have reflected badly on his command and service record as well!
  • In the ME-TV version of this episode, parts which had the poker game in the beginning and the end are left in place; other syndicated versions leave these parts out. Ironically the ME-TV version cut out part of Burns' dialogue about Hawkeye's civilian underwear.
  • Time line is October 1952--Potter took over command Sept. 19, 1952 in 4/3 "Change of Command"; this is Episode 4/20; in Episode 4/4 The Late Captain Pierce the timeline is December 1952 (Eisenhower's visit to Korea after being elected President). However 4/4 was filmed before 4/20.
  • This is called a preliminary "hearing" - in fact it would have been an impartial investigation before a court martial. According to the 1959 US Army almanac, the three types of court martials are: summary court martial (one officer presiding - resolution of relatively minor offenses for simple form of procedure); special court martial (three officers presiding for non-capital offenses - max punishment is confinement at hard labor for three months; hard labor without confinement for six months; or forfeiture of 2/3 pay per month for six months; also adjudge a bad conduct discharge; it is also noted that an offense for which the death penalty is permissible but not mandatory may be tried by special court martial provided that the proper authority determines the offense is "not capital" - such an offense can not be tried by a summary court under any circumstances); and general court martial (five members and is highest trial court provided by the court of military justice - can try any person who is subject to military jurisdiction for any offense punishable by military law. It may adjudge any punishment not forbidden by the law including the penalty of death when specified by the Code. The Code goes one step further and provides that a general court martial may try and punish any person subject to trial and punishment by the law of war)
  • Hawkeye, despite being anti-military, actually legally threatens to have Frank reported for misconduct. Frank tells Hawkeye that he cannot threaten a superior officer like this. The irony is that Frank, himself, has several times threatened to report former C.O. Henry Blake for misconduct.

Great Lines/QuotesEdit

(Frank is searching the swamp for "stolen" money and tells Hawkeye and B.J. that he doesn't believe they took the money because "Officers don't steal." Hawkeye and B.J. laugh and sarcastically agree with him.)

  • B.J.: Right...we don't go to the bathroom, either.
  • Hawkeye: We just explode when we're fifty.

(When Hawkeye explains that the money was actually won by gambling, Burns disagrees and gives his reasons why it must have been stolen.)

  • Burns: Impossible. Gambling's prohibited. There is no gambling in this unit. Therefore the money was stolen.
  • B.J.: I can't argue with that kind of logic!
  • Hawkeye: I wouldn't even try. My mother taught me two things - never argue with crazy people and always wear clean underwear in case you get run over by a Sherman tank and have to go to the hospital.

(B.J. is testifying about Frank's crazy commands.)

  • B.J.: The Major insisted on cold showers, parades, retreats ... let's face it, Colonel, all that discipline is a bit much to expect from a bunch of dumb doctors.
  • Colonel: True.

Hawkeye, and Frank in the operating room in Hawkeye's version of events

(bomb explodes from outside)

Frank: Was that a bomb?

Hawkeye: Uh, no Frank. Someone's playing their World War II album

Recurring cast/Guest starsEdit


  1. Ed Solomonson & Mark O'Neil, TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book (Albany, GA.: BearManor Media, 2009), 303.
  2. Ed Solomonson & Mark O'Neil, TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book (Albany, GA.: BearManor Media, 2009), 303.