On one of our favorite M*A*S*H forums, fans started a thread discussing the storylines on the show that they wish they’d seen resolved.
Some of these tantalizingly unresolved story arcs raised obvious lingering questions for serious M*A*S*H fans, like what happened to Ho-Jon? Did Frank Burns really forget about Margaret, not even sending one letter? And seriously, did things ever get any better for Radar (he only sent one letter)!?
But even more prominent in the fan discussion were persistent questions about what happened to cast characters that simply vanished, with no explanation.
Especially curious was when it happened to characters who carried over from the original M*A*S*H book and movie, like Capt. Oliver Harmon “Spearchucker” Jones, played by Timothy Brown in six episodes, and Capt. “Ugly John” Black, played by John Orchard in 11 episodes.
It seems for some fans, better send-offs for Spearchucker and Ugly John would’ve been appreciated.
Of course, it was nothing personal. The story goes that as the show developed, the cast narrowed to focus on the characters who became the show’s stars. Spearchucker and Ugly John just didn’t make the cut.
When it comes to “Ugly John,” we can’t help but wonder if the character who was written to be the most handsome in the 4077th was perhaps too much competition for camp ladies man Hawkeye?
We did see actor John Orchard return to M*A*S*H six years after his final appearance as Ugly John in 1973. And his performance was so outstanding, it helped heal some of the wounds that fans felt from the decision to cut Orchard from the cast.
Orchard appeared as MP Muldoon in the eighth-season episode “Captains Outrageous.” Talking in a fake Australian accent, the British character actor only performed once as MP Muldoon, but the performance was so memorable, most fans remember Muldoon as well as they do Ugly John.
In “Captains Outrageous,” Muldoon is portrayed as a regular at Rosie’s Bar who had struck up an agreement with Rosie that he’d be served free liquor when he ordered coffee, in trade for not closing the place down.
Comedy ensues when Charles Winchester III is acting as a server at Rosie’s and is unaware of this bargain. When he charges Muldoon for the drink he’s been served, Rosie’s gets shut down. Can you think of a more dire fate than robbing the 4077th of one of the camp’s few joys?
Although Orchard’s performance in “Captains Outrageous” kind of reminds us of the laughs we were robbed by cutting the actor from the cast, one of the greatest gifts of the episodes is that we get to see Orchard mostly exchanging dialog with characters who were not in the original cast, like B.J. Hunnicutt and Winchester. One of the funniest moments comes when Muldoon insults Winchester by calling him “Chauncey Uppercrust.”
And even though Spearchucker and Ugly John never came back to M*A*S*H, the two actors who played the characters did meet again soon after leaving the show.
In 1976, Timothy Brown and John Orchard both appeared in the Disney movie Gus. It’s about a failing football team who finds their championship solution by turning their mascot — a mule — into their kicker. Ed Asner starred as the football team owner and Don Knotts served as the clumsy coach. You’d have to be stubborn as a mule to claim you wouldn’t want to be on that set.