Season 3, Episode 24 (Season finale)
Written by: Everett Greenbaum & Jim Fritzell
Directed by: Larry Gelbart
WHAT EPISODE IS THIS?
The final episode for Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson.
During an O.R. session, Colonel Blake gets the news every G.I. dreams of hearing: you’re going home. Henry has earned enough points for a discharge home and can hardly believe it’s true. He discusses calling Lorraine in Bloomington with Radar, but the time difference causes a problem.
Frank and Margaret are elated with the news, but only because Frank will take over command of the 4077th. Frank, however, is anxious about being a leader, so Margaret tries to bolster his confidence by pinning a Colonel insignia on his uniform.
Henry finally calls Lorraine and breaks the good news, but the first thing out of her mouth is her want to re-cover the furniture. Henry tells her he’ll be home in three days, but don’t tell anybody, for he wants them to make a grand entrance at their country club this weekend.
Henry is going through his belongings and finds a picture of Radar and him right after he removed Radar’s appendix. Radar reminds Henry he saved his life and then adds he’s really going to miss him and he sees the Colonel as a father figure. Henry, uncomfortable, asks him not to get “gushy.” Radar presents Henry with a bullet key chain inscribed “To Colonel H.B. from Corp. O’R., Korea 1952.” Choked up, Henry gives his company clerk a thermometer that belonged to his father.
For his final evening in Korea, Henry Radar, Trapper and Hawkeye have an authentic Korean dinner at Rosie’s Bar, complete with plenty of booze. Henry is blitzed, but is able to tell the guys he’s really going to miss them and “I wish we could all go home together.”
As Korean barmaids hum “America the Beautiful”, Hawkeye and Trapper perform a mock ceremony relieving Henry of military rank and naming him “Mister Dr. Henry Blake” from this day forward. They present hima gift of a handmade suit complete with silk tie. Henry is touched and asks how they knew his size. An equally inebriated Radar informs him he traced the Colonel in his sleep!
Assembly is called next day to give Henry a proper sendoff. Henry, looking smashing in his new pinstriped suit, tells Frank he is now in charge of the camp. Instead of reviewing the troops, Henry opts to simply say goodbye. Quick farewells are given to Hawkeye, Trapper, and Father Mulcahy, who tells Henry “your work here will never be forgotten.” Klinger is dressed like Carmen Miranda, impressing Henry enough to quip that outfit may actually earn the Section 8.
With two minutes till his chopper arrives, Henry bids everyone farewell and good luck, but Hawkeye whispers a suggestion to his Colonel as Trapper grins wildly. Shrugging with a “Why not?”, Henry suddenly embraces Margaret and plants a long kiss on her, finishing with “It’s all yours, Frank.”
Henry’s chopper arrives with a wounded soldier which Henry instinctively tends to. Hawkeye reminds Henry he’s been fired and tells his former boss to leave. As Henry boards, he notices his faithful Radar in full salute and choking back tears. Henry runs back to return the salute and growls, “You behave yourself, or I’m going to come back and kick your butt.” The surrogate father and son embrace and Henry leaves the 4077th for the final time.
Later, a clearly distraught Radar staggers into an O.R. session to deliver a message: Henry Blake’s airplane was shot down over the Sea of Japan, killing all aboard. Shock and tears permeate the O.R. silently, save a lone instrument that clatters on the floor.
Radar: Do you know what I found in this morning’s mail?
Henry: Now that’s a tough one. Hum a few bars, will you, Radar?
Radar: You’re going home.
Henry: I’m going home?
Radar: You got all your points. They’re discharging you.
Frank: I just wish I’d taken ROTC in school. I wasted so much time in the stamp club.
Margaret: I thought you were president.
Frank: Well, it wasn’t leadership. They needed someone to lick the stamps and I had the biggest tongue.
Radar: I just wanted to say that I’m really gonna miss you. Um, you know, my own father didn’t have me until he was 63. And, uh, first time we played peek-a-boo together, he had a stroke.
Henry: Look, Radar, don’t get gushy, OK? You know how I am.
Henry: There’s a picture of you and me, Radar.
Radar: Oh, that’s right after you took out my appendix.
Henry: Hm. You were one sick kid. You know I looked for that thing till 4 in the morning? It was behind your caecum.
Radar: Oh, I didn’t put it there on purpose, sir.
Frank: Let’s get into uniform and play “Assembly”, soldier.
Radar: Sir, I’m getting a cold sore.
Frank: Well, Captain Ahab only had one leg!
Radar: Well, he wasn’t in the army, sir. He was a whale guy.
Frank: You didn’t even shave!
Hawkeye: It’s not a school day.
Henry: So long, Hawk.
Hawkeye: I’m afraid just a handshake won’t do it, Henry. [kisses both his cheeks]
Henry: Trap, thanks for the outfit, it’s really dressy.
Trapper: Henry, that suit is really you.
Hawkeye: If you’re Adolphe Menjou.
Henry (to Radar): You behave yourself or I’m gonna come back and kick your butt!
Trapper: Radar, put a mask on.
Hawkeye: If that’s my discharge, give it to me straight. I can take it.
Radar: I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake’s plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors.
TRIVIA & OBSERVATIONS
The final episode of the third season and the last to feature Wayne Rogers as Trapper and McLean Stevenson as Henry. Wayne Rogers didn’t announce his intention to leave M*A*S*H until the season’s filming completed, so no special goodbye was ever prepared for him. McLean Stevenson let the show’s producers know he was leaving, so they decided to send him off in a dramatic fashion that was a foreshadow of the rest of the series. From this point on, M*A*S*H slowly evolved into a more dramatic show with comedy taking more and more of a back seat until the finale in 1983.
The term “Abyssinia” is a slang term meaning “I’ll be seeing you”, and was spoken by Henry in the “Private Charles Lamb” episode as he’s hanging up with the Greek Colonel.
Radar tells Henry it’s now 1:00pm in Bloomington, IL. South Korea is 15 hours ahead of the U.S. central time zone, so it should be 4:00am, Thursday morning at M*A*S*H, but daylight is clearly seen out Henry’s office window.
Henry’s mother-in-law went to a party dressed as Conrad Nagel, who was a matinee idol of the silent film era (1910′s and 1920′s) with an extensive film list from 1918 to 1959.
Henry’s final words to his wife: “We’ll just walk into the country club Saturday night, start dancing, and let ‘em all cheer.” The phone line then went dead.
While discussing trees at Rosie’s, Hawkeye remarks “Thank God for Joyce Kilmer.” Kilmer was an American writer and poet best remembered for the poem “Trees” published in 1914. Joyce Kilmer is a man (I just learned this!)
Frank refers to Captain Ahab, who is a character from Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick. He is captain of the Pequod who seeks revenge on the whale that bit off his leg.
To play “Assembly” on the bugle, Radar admits he plays “Sleepy Lagoon” fast. Written by British composer Eric Coates in 1930, bandleader and trumpeter Harry James took “Sleepy Lagoon” to the top of the charts in 1942.
Klinger’s dress looks like it is already zipped up when he lines up in formation.
Adolphe Menjou: another matinee idol from the silent film era, Menjou was known for his suave and debonair appearance. He was voted best-dressed man in America nine times.
When Henry kisses Margaret, her right hand is behind her head. Next scene, her right hand is on Henry’s back.
The instrument falling in a loud clatter on the O.R. floor was an accident, but was kept in the final print because it fit the scene so well.
The tag, removed for syndication, features various clips of McLean Stevenson as Henry Blake, introduced with the simple, “MASH 4077 bids Henry Blake a reluctant and affectionate farewell.”
McLean Stevenson left M*A*S*H because he wanted to be the star of a show instead of being part of an ensemble plus various disagreements with the production staff. Stevenson went on to star in the TV series The McLean Stevenson Show, In the Beginning, Hello, Larry, and Condo, all of them bombs that didn’t last more than one season. McLean Stevenson later said leaving M*A*S*H was a mistake and even wondered if Henry Blake could be found alive in Japan, sole survivor of the plane crash. Alas, it was not to be. McLean Stevenson died of a heart attack in 1996.
Wayne Rogers left M*A*S*H because he also had differences of opinion with the production team, but was tired of seeing his character reduced from Hawkeye’s equal to sidekick. In the M*A*S*H novel and movie, Trapper was the prominent character and chief surgeon. Upset that Alan Alda was getting the best scenes and lines, he abruptly departed the series during mid-1975, thus no goodbye episode or language was prepared. Rogers starred in House Calls from 1979 to 1982 on CBS which usually aired right after M*A*S*H on Monday nights. He is now a very successful investor and money manager, often appearing on the Fox Business Channel.
This is certainly a classic episode, easily the most popular 30-minute installment of M*A*S*H. I will be in the minority in this opinion, but outside of the final 5 minutes, I think this episode is rather forgettable. The final 5 minutes was superb and some of the best scenes ever filmed on M*A*S*H, but the rest of the episode drags in many places.
The decision to kill off Henry Blake was very controversial at the time, and CBS field a lot of angry mail over the episode. According to Wikipedia, the next episode of the CBS program The Carol Burnett Show opened with a scene of McLean Stevenson portraying Colonel Blake, in a lifeboat saying he was OK.