Script Spotlight 19: “No Laughing Matter”

This week I chose a script from later in the series, “No Laughing Matter” (09×13). I don’t just have one script for this episode, I have two! One of the scripts, like several others in my collection, belonged to Albert Frankel, the men’s wardrobe director. The other script I got from the actress who used it, Eileen Saki. She is best known for playing Rosie in the later seasons of the M*A*S*H. The difference between the two scripts is interesting as Saki was likely only on set for one day. She didn’t have many lines in this episode, so in her script, she only focused on one page. Frankel’s script, in contrast, is full of production documents, markings, and wardrobe notes. Let’s dig in to “No Laughing Matter!”

The Scripts

This episode was written by the writing team of Elias Davis and David Pollock. They are credited with writing 18 episodes of M*A*S*H and went on to write for other popular series including Cheers and Fraiser. This draft is dated December 12, 1980 and both are labeled “Final.” On the cover page, and every page of the script, we see the production number for this episode (Z-468). Every episode of M*A*S*H has a production number, and the letter code and numbering would change every season, so it is a quick way to discern what page a script page is from because it’ll have the production number of the lower left corner of the page.

Saki’s lines in this episode were confined to one page, page 23. Looking at the page, we see her handwritten notes and changes to the lines. M*A*S*H fans know that Rosie had an attitude, and you see how Saki wrote in the attitude behind the line. Her last line, “No. She has a wig.” She added the note “stupid,” but Rosie doesn’t call Charles stupid. She does deliver the line to Charles like he is stupid, however. Looking at the page, it looks like it has been removed from the script and folded. Since she likely was only on set for one day (January 5, 1981 based on the Call Sheets) and had a few lines, she probably kept the page with her instead of the full script.

Both scripts contain the revised pages that were added as the episode was produced. There are blue revised pages (December 16, 1980) and pink revised pages (December 19, 1980). Frankel’s copy of the script also includes several production documents including the Call Sheets, Shooting Schedule, and Wardrobe sheets. There is even a revised copy of the Call Sheet for December 22, 1980 that is printed on orange paper while the original Call Sheets are on blue paper. The Call Sheets also show that production was split and went into January 1981 due to the Christmas holiday. Finally, Frankel’s copy of the script has many markings throughout indicating scene information, wardrobe needs, and even a few change notes. I really enjoy looking at Frankel’s scripts because he was there day in and day out during the production, and like the prop master, had to be ready at a moment’s notice.

The copy of the script I have from Eileen Saki is one of my favorites since I got it directly from her. Getting to hear the stories of her first appearance on M*A*S*H in season five as a madame and becoming Rosie is a big part of why I love collecting M*A*S*H scripts. Each script represents a person and a step in the process. Sadly, we learned a few weeks ago that Saki was diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. The M*A*S*H Matters podcast posted an update and an email address where encouraging messages can be sent directly to her and her husband. The M*A*S*H community is friendly and compassionate, and all kind words and memories will help her. The email address is

The Final Episode

In the episode, BJ bets Hawkeye that he can’t go an entire day without telling a joke. Hawkeye takes him up on the offer, but he picks a bad day to be left without his biting humor! Charles learns that Col. Horace Baldwin, the man who sent him to the 4077th, will be visiting the camp. Charles schemes to make nice with Col. Baldwin to get reassigned to Tokyo. Baldwin hints that he would like some “companionship” that evening, which Charles arranges. However, a misunderstanding takes place with Margaret that land Charles between having to choose between returning to Tokyo and hurt Margaret’s career. All of this happens in front of Hawkeye, who nearly slips in a joke on a few occasions, but he makes it until 12:01am the next day when he catches up on the jokes!

Overall this is a funny episode, and one thing that I noticed is that they are never in the O.R. in this episode. Changes between the final episode and the script are fairly minor. Both copies of the script have revised pages, so I am not surprised that they closely match. However, there are a few changes to note. The scene between Hawkeye and BJ in the shower is longer in the script (page 11) and there is a scene in the script that is not in the show. In the scene (pages 21- 23), Hawkeye meets a nurse, and she is interested in a late night visit with him. He is paranoid believing that BJ put her up to it to catch him making a joke, so he blows his chance. Finally, there is an interesting page in the script on which we see dialogue over each other. In the Officers’ Club, BJ and Hawkeye have a conversation while Charles and Margaret have theirs. It isn’t easy to hear what Charles and Margaret say in the episode, but it is great to see the lines written out.

These two script tell different stories. Saki’s script is focused on her lines as Rosie while Albert’s script has much more detail from the production for the entire episode. Having two copies of the script adds more dimension to the production process of M*A*S*H. For four days, the cast and crew would make a single episode, and the number of people and amount of creativity that took is outlined in scripts. As for this episode, it is fine. I honestly don’t think Charles would have been so easily reassigned back to Tokyo. MASH units would have been the priority in the Korean was since saving lives at the front was the primary goal. Nevertheless, there are some funny moments in the episode, and it was fun to rewatch it!

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