M*A*S*H Episode Review: "The General Flipped at Dawn"

by StevenHelmer

A review of the season 3 television episode that first aired in September of 1974.

Synopsis: The 4077th is put under a microscope by a visiting general (Henry Morgan) who is determined to make sure the unit is running as efficiently as possible. There's just one problem, the general's antics quickly reveal he belongs in a padded room. Things come to a head when Hawkeye (Alan Alda) disobeys the general's direct order.

Review

I've seen this classic M*A*S*H episode a few times before. However, despite this, I saw it on TV last night and just had to watch it again. And, as is usually the case, I enjoyed every moment of it.

Harry Morgan stars in quite a few episodes from this series as Col. Sherman Potter. However, despite his longevity in that role, this early guest appearance still remains my favorite. This is both because he is outstanding in the role and because the overall plot is very clever.

The thing I love about this episode is it doesn't make the mistake of revealing the general's mental instability all in one dose. Instead, it does the correct thing and reveals it, piece by piece, over the length of the episode, saving the best for last.

As a result of this, when we're first introduced to Morgan's General Steele character, it's hard to tell if he's really crazy at first or just overzealous. This prevents the episode from becoming too predictable because you just don't know how he's going to react to various incidents, whether it's catching Hawkeye out of uniform with a nurse or meeting the cross-dressing Klinger (Jamie Farr) for the first time.

I especially like the various twists thrown into the episode, including the general deciding it was time to relocate the 4077th, his reaction to a sniper shooting at him and his eventual confrontation with Hawkeye on the helicopter pad. The last one, in particular, proved to be much better than originally expected because of Steele's handling of the court martial trial. I have to admit, even though I've seen that final twist more times than I am able to remember, it still makes me laugh every single time because Morgan's performance is just that outstanding.

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Final Opinion

This is a fantastic episode and one that is worth taking the time to watch if you haven't seen it before. After watching it, it's very understandable how Harry Morgan ended up being one of the stars of the series in later seasons.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 09/15/2016, StevenHelmer
 
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