Script Spotlight 15: “‘Twas the Day After Christmas”

Since today is the day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day in some parts of the world, there was only one episode that made sense for this week’s post: “‘Twas the Day After Christmas” (10×09). In this episode, the camp celebrates Boxing Day by having the officers and enlisted personnel switch jobs. The results are just as funny as you’d expect. As for the script, this must be a fairly early draft as there are several scenes that were written between this draft the script and what was filmed. Let’s take a look!

The Script

It is always fun going to the cabinet to pull out a script because I never know what I am going to get. With this episode, I was greeted by a bright red script cover with pale green pages, which seems festive! Flipping through the script, I quickly discovered that are no revised pages. There also aren’t any production documents, wardrobe sheets, or handwritten notes. The cover indicates that this a “Final” copy, so it would likely have made it to the first table read in this form. Changes would have been made throughout the week, and there were definitely changes, but we’ll get to that.

The title page tells us that this draft is dated November 6, 1981. The dates amaze me because the episode aired less than two months later on December 28. That really speaks to the quality of the acting and dedication of the editing team. The episode is written by David Pollock and Elias Davis, who are credited with writing 18 episodes of M*A*S*H.

You might think that a script like this is disappointing. It only has the script pages and nothing else. But I don’t mind that all! Following along with the script as I watch the episode is one of my favorite parts of writing these posts. I get to see the written words on page come to life. In addition, I see the changes that the writers made (major scene changes), and the minor wording changes that the actors made, likely due to misremembering a word. As the actors have said, they always read the scenes as written because they trusted the writers. Minor word changes (a synonym being used, for example) never change the scene, but they do illustrate the fallibility of the human mind!

The Final Episode

This episode opens on the night of Christmas with the gang in the mess tent, clearly lacking Christmas cheer. There are a few British soldiers joining them, and they mention that the following day is Boxing Day which, in British tradition, would allow the servants to switch places with the owners of a manor. This inspires Klinger to suggest the 4077th to do the same with the officers switching places with the enlisted, something neither Margaret or Winchester are excited about. Winchester ends up as a cook, Margaret and BJ are on KP, Hawkeye and Mulcahy are orderlies in post op, and Potter is company clerk. Meanwhile, Sal and Igor get to be officers in the kitchen, Kelleye is head nurse, and Klinger is the commanding officer. This goes just as about well as you imagine, and seeing the officers preparing and serving food, mopping and changing linens, and typing daily reports is really funny!

My favorite switch is Potter and Klinger. It is clear that they are both in over their heads fairly quickly. Potter is not a great typist (he gets up to “7 damns” a minutes), and Klinger isn’t the greatest at making decisions, something the C.O. has to do fairly often. The concept of switching places for the day made for a great episode, and since this is a season ten episode, this is one holiday that the series hadn’t covered yet by that point.

As for changes in the script, this must be a fairly early draft as there are more changes than usual. Lines have been changed on just about every page. Some changes have lines removed or added. Pages 4-6, where Klinger, Potter, and Charles are initially discussing the idea of Boxing Day is very different from the scene in the episode. I have also included an image of page 27 to illustrate how some of the lines changed, even though the context of the scene did not. But this is what makes scripts so fascinating! We see the working drafts and changes. I only wish I had revised pages as well to see what other original lines were replaced as the process continued.

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