One Of Radar’s Most ‘Unhinged’ M*A*S*H Moments Was Completely Improvised

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Written By Sedoso Feb

Burghoff says he “ad-libbed Radar’s entire reaction,” which he noted still made him laugh when he caught the episode in reruns decades later. It’s unclear whether Burghoff came up with the lines being delivered here, the blocking and delivery itself, or both, but the scene is just as memorable because of Radar’s visible anxiety as it is because of the jokes he lets fly. When pregnant Mrs. Kwang screams, Radar lets out a mini scream as well, then covers his mouth. As he backs into the far corner of the bus, he asks if he can go find some hot water. “Maybe there’s a hot river near here, like at Yellowstone?!” he says, panic rising at the end of the sentence.

Eventually, Radar loses his grasp of the English language altogether, muttering, “Oh no, oh no no no no.” The final straw comes when Hawkeye lifts up the patient’s legs, presumably giving the innocent character a full view of a crowning baby. Radar yelps again and turns away, declaring, “Don’t do that!” In the next scene, viewers see that mother and child are fine, but the overgrown baby of the 4077th passed out during the action. While scenes about men fearing childbirth might feel overused now, Radar’s reaction feels extremely in line with his character (a sweet but not particularly clever or experienced country boy in the 1950s). The scene also demonstrates how competent and caring Hawkeye is as a doctor, despite his own clownish tendencies.

Burghoff’s improv would be great no matter when it happened, but its placement makes it especially memorable. Just four episodes later, the actor would be performing off the cuff again, delivering lines he’d only just read about the death of his boss and mentor Henry (McLean Stevenson) in the show’s most controversial episode, “Abyssinia, Henry.”

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