TV history remembers the M*A*S*H episode “The Sniper” for a moment when Radar bares some skin when his towel falls, because it was the first instance of male buttocks in American primetime.
But despite containing plenty of the show’s characteristic sight gags like this Radar scene, “The Sniper” was a startlingly serious episode that saw the 4077th under attack. In it, a sniper’s bullets fly by as all our favorite cast members run for cover and in the middle of this extreme tension, there was some footage used to document this chaos that made this charged scene off-putting in another way entirely.
Just after we watch Hawkeye running toward the camera with Lt. Suzanne Marquette (played by the phenomenal Terri Garr), their expressions the picture of the horror we are witnessing, the frame cuts.
We see six or seven extras running toward the camera, and if you’re not looking closely at their faces, you might have found nothing unusual about these unfamiliar faces amid the drama of hoping none of the cast members you love got hurt.
Take a closer look next time you watch this episode, though, and you’ll see that most of the extras in this scene aren’t even trying to seem scared of the situation.
Some of them are outright smiling, including three women who start the scene just beaming.Why all the smiles?
The only thing horrifying about this group is how out of emotional sync these offbeat extras were, save for one. On the very far right, let’s recognize the one extra who gave this scene her all, clutching her hat and tugging her mouth down in a frown with the properly concerned eyebrows to match.
This is acting, and she’s the only one in the scene who held up the tension Alan Alda so masterfully conveyed in his own mad dash. Cheers to the extra on the far right!
In the next scene, Frank Burns and Margaret carry on with the drama, so it’s possible you never noticed the clear smiles on the faces of these extras in the quick shot before.
Of course, we can hardly blame them for being so excited to be a small part of classic TV history, so maybe next time we see them smile, we can forgive the idiosyncrasy and see ourselves in their indulgence in enjoying their time on M*A*S*H.