As Time Goes By (M*A*S*H)
|"As Time Goes By"|
|Episode no.||Season 11
|Directed by||Burt Metcalfe|
|Written by||Thad Mumford
|Original air date||February 21, 1983|
As Time Goes By is the 255th episode of M*A*S*H, airing on February 21 (first-run) and September 12 (repeat), 1983, and the last episode filmed. As it was the final episode filmed, they took a moment to pay tribute to the characters (except for Trapper John McIntyre) who had left the series before its conclusion. It also introduces the character of Soon-Lee, who would play a vital role in the series' final episode and the short-lived spin-off AfterMASH.
The episode is dedicated to Connie Izay, RN, one of the show’s medical advisors.
Although this was the penultimate episode of the series, it was the final episode that was produced. The series finale was filmed at the beginning of the season.
The episode opens in the Officer’s Club, with Sgt. Rizzo sleeping at the bar. B.J. barks the question if the general’s Jeep is ready, causing Rizzo to jump out of his slumber. Unimpressed with this prank, Rizzo seeks revenge, and decides to get it using a dummy hand grenade he borrows from Igor.
Meanwhile, Winchester reads a story in the newspaper about a new skyscraper in Los Angeles that will have a time capsule placed in its cornerstone. Major Houlihan becomes enamoured with this idea and decides to place a time capsule to commemorate the 4077. Hawkeye also likes the idea, and decides to help Houlihan. Hawkeye later confides to B.J. and Winchester that Houlihan’s time capsule would only represent the army side of their lives, and he wants to be sure to include something to represent “us malcontents.”
As this goes on, Father Mulcahy helps an elderly Korean couple board a transport headed for a refugee camp. The elderly couple though is distraught, as they became separated from their daughter in the middle of the fighting. Mulcahy tells them to ask the officials at the refugee camp for help as they speed off into the night.
Later that night, a shipment of wounded arrives at the 4077, and one of the medics advises Colonel Potter of a helicopter that was sent earlier that day with a sniper victim. Colonel Potter tells the medic that the helicopter never arrived, and tells Klinger to have it reported as MIA. The medic tells Potter and Klinger that they managed to capture the sniper and produce a young Korean woman named Soon-Lee Han who was found with a rifle in the fields, and is suspected of being a guerrilla. Soon-Lee claims her innocence, saying that she simply found the rifle as she was plowing the fields. Klinger is ordered to lock up Soon-Lee until Army Intelligence can arrive to interrogate her.
As work on the time capsule continues, Houlihan grows increasingly frustrated with Hawkeye’s suggestions. For example, while Houlihan wants to include a copy of a Zane Grey novel from Col. Potter, Hawkeye proposes that Potter throw in some xeno pads. Things reach a head when Houlihan decides to throw Hawkeye off the project. Undaunted, Hawkeye soldiers on with his own time capsule.
Rizzo decides to carry out his revenge when he goes into the showers, where B.J. is currently washing up. Rizzo begins fidgeting with the dummy grenade, when he pretends to accidentally pull the pin. Fearing for his life, B.J. runs naked out of the shower building. When B.J. learns that the grenade was a dummy and this was all a prank, he vows to get back at Rizzo.
While Klinger is guarding Soon-Lee, Father Mulcahy comes in to report that Army Intelligence will be late. When Mulcahy hears Soon-Lee’s story, they all become convinced that the elderly Korean couple are Soon-Lee’s parents. Soon-Lee urges Klinger to let her go, but Klinger cannot.
The missing helicopter finally arrives with the sniper victim. The pilot dismisses his delay to engine trouble, and his radio silence to a damaged radio. But once the sniper victim is out of surgery, he tells the real story to Hawkeye and Houlihan. The helicopter took enemy fire which damaged the fan belt, meaning the helicopter could only fly a maximum of 200 yards before the engine overheated. So, the pilot would fly for 200 yards, land his helicopter, and then walk ahead 200 yards to find a safe clearing to land. By the time the pilot returned, the engine was cool and ready to fly again. The pilot did that until it was too dark to fly, and then began the next morning as soon as it was light out. Hawkeye and Houlihan are touched by the pilot’s heroism.
When Klinger learns that the sniper victim has finally arrived, Klinger comes up with a plan to exonerate Soon-Lee. While in surgery, Klinger has B.J. extract the bullet. The bullet is shown to be too big to have come from the rifle Soon-Lee had. That’s enough evidence for Army Intelligence to release Soon-Lee. Now that she’s free, Klinger, Father Mulcahey, and Soon-Lee speed off to the refugee camp to find the elderly Korean couple. When they arrive, they are met with heartbreak. The elderly Korean couple are not Soon-Lee’s parents.
Back at the 4077, Rizzo and Winchester have an argument in the mess tent, and Rizzo decides to use his grenade prank to get back at Winchester. However, instead of running to safety like B.J. did, Winchester throws Rizzo to safety and then uses his body to smother the grenade. When the grenade doesn’t go off, Winchester claims the grenade is a dud, and takes it from Rizzo, saying he’ll dispose of it safely. Moved by Winchester’s heroism, Rizzo walks away. When Rizzo is gone, Winchester gives a signal to B.J., showing that the two orchestrated the whole event to get back at Rizzo for what he did to B.J.
That evening, Houlihan is holding a ceremony to bury her time capsule, and as expected, it’s full of military gear. Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester then arrive to bury their time capsule, but before they do, Hawkeye makes one last attempt to get some his items in Houlihan’s capsule. First he offers the broken fan belt from the helicopter, saying that the pilot’s heroism is something that deserves to be remembered in 100 years. Houlihan agrees, and takes the fan belt.
Hawkeye then offers up Radar’s teddy bear, saying it can stand for the soldiers who came as boys and went home as men. B.J. offers up a fishing lure that belonged to Henry Blake, to stand for those who never made it home. Father Mulcahy then offers up a pair of boxing gloves, saying that if countries in the future feel the need to go to war, they can use them to resolve their differences. Houlihan then also relents and allows a bottle of cognac from Winchester (Winchester arguing that the cognac will be excellent in the future, having aged for over 100 years) and a little black dress from Klinger (which Klinger dedicates to the all the women the men have back home). Hawkeye and Houlihan finally end their argument.
At the episode’s end, as Hawkeye, BJ, and Winchester walk away from the ceremony, Winchester asks that, with all the items they put in for their former friends, why didn’t they put in anything to remember Frank Burns? Hawkeye jokes that he thought about including Burns’ scalpel, but didn’t want to include any deadly weapons. They meet up with Klinger and Soon-Lee, and they all decide to go to the Officer’s Club. They see the club is packed full, but Winchester says he believes a few tables will open up soon, as he pulls the dummy grenade from his pocket.
The Real M*A*S*H Time Capsule
As this was the final episode filmed, the cast decided to take a cue from this episode and bury a real time capsule filled with props from the show. It was the hope of the cast that the time capsule would remain undisturbed for 100 years. However, once filming was done, 20th Century Fox sold the land the set was on. The time capsule was then dug up by a construction worker who took it home. The construction worker tried to return the time capsule to the cast, but Alan Alda told the construction worker to keep it.
- "Alda's favorite 'M*A*S*H' episodes". CNN.com. Retrieved September 5, 2010.