Script Spotlight 16: “The Longjohn Flap”

Since we are now in the depths of January and it has been pretty cold, I decided to pull out a cold weather episode for this week’s post. There are several to choose from, but I was really excited when I saw that I had a script for “The Longjohn Flap” (01×19) and it has some revised pages. I would argue that this episode is one of the highlights of the first season. I have been kind of critical of the first season episodes, but I also acknowledge that M*A*S*H was new, finding its way, and fighting the network. I believe that season two is when the show really hit its stride, but this episode is an example of a clever and funny storyline that was unexpected!

The Script

The script has the early cover style without the fancy 20th Century Fox Television logo and more stylized M*A*S*H title. This copy is a Revised Final draft dated December 8, 1972, so this would have been filmed toward the end of the first season. The episode was written by Alan Alda, and is, in fact, the first episode he is credited with writing. As I mentioned in the introduction, there are several revised pages in this draft. The pink pages are dated December 14 and the green pages are dated January 19, 1973. The green pages are interesting, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The rest of the episode is printed on blue pages.

The revised pages do make this script very interesting as it is very hard to find any scripts from the first season, let alone a production copy. The most interesting revised pages are the green pages found at the back of this script. I was confused when I started watching the episode, and I discovered that the opening scene in the episode is very different from the one in the script. I then remembered these green pages at the back of the script that didn’t have page numbers, but page letters instead. This scene was used at the beginning and the original opening scene was either replaced before it was filmed or it was filmed and the writers decided to go a different direction with the opening. The opening scene of the episode where Henry is dictating the letter to Radar is really funny, and I was surprised to learn that wasn’t how it was originally written. These pages are dated a month after the script, so this scene must have been filmed later and added to the beginning. That means that the opening pages in my copy of the script were likely filmed, but for some reason, the opening scene was replaced before it aired.

The Final Episode

This is a classic, early episode. By this point, M*A*S*H was in the second half of the second season and the storylines were getting better. In this very cold episode, Hawkeye has a pair of longjohns that he gives to Trapper. Trapper loses them in a poker game to Radar who trades them to the cook who then trades them to Frank, and on it goes. By the end of the episode, just about everyone has had the longjohns, but they find their way back to Hawkeye. I really like the winter episodes of M*A*S*H for some reason. I think their storylines are more interesting when the weather plays a factor.

As I mentioned earlier, there are several changes in the script besides the minor line changes. I’ve discussed the replaced scene at the opening of the episode (see the green pages above). The original opening pages are in the slideshow below (pages 1 -3). On pages 5 and 6, we see another change where a scene between Hawkeye and Trapper is slightly different. Same for page 9, where the scene between Hawkeye and Trapper is extended. On page 15 and 16, the scene between the cook and Frank is extended. Then, on page 18, there is a scene between Henry, Trapper, and a driver that does not appear in the episode at all. Since this was early in the show’s run, I am not surprised to see this many changes as the series was still finding itself. I really like that this copy of the script kept some of the replaced pages because we can see what changed!

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