Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
|"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"|
Hawkeye smiles as he sees B.J.'s "note"
|Episode no.||Season 11|
Episode 16 (256th overall)
|Directed by||Alan Alda|
|Written by||Alan Alda|
|Original air date||February 28, 1983|
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" is a television film that served as the 256th and final episode of the American television series M*A*S*H. Closing out the series' 11th season, the 2 hour episode first aired on CBS on February 28, 1983, ending the series' original run. The episode was written by a large number of collaborators, including series star Alan Alda, who also directed.
The episode's plot chronicles the final days of the Korean War at the 4077th MASH, and features several storylines intended to show the war's effects on the individual personnel of the unit, and to bring closure to the series. After the ceasefire goes into effect, the members of the 4077th throw a party before taking down the camp for the last time. After tear-filled goodbyes, the main characters go their separate ways, leading to the final scene of the series.
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As peace negotiations continue during the Korean War, Hawkeye Pierce is being treated by Dr. Sidney Freedman at a mental hospital. Sidney is trying to get Hawkeye to release repressed memories of an outing most of the 4077th staff attended at a beach near Incheon which appears to have led to a nervous breakdown. Hawkeye first remembers the trip home as having a party-like atmosphere with him calling for a bottle of whiskey to be passed to a person who "can't wait" to drink it. He next recalls that the person in question was actually a soldier who needed the bottle. Eventually he remembers that the bottle did not contain whiskey, but morphine, and the soldier was severely wounded. Hawkeye was actually yelling impatiently that "this guy can't wait".
Further on, Hawkeye recalls that they picked up some refugees and wounded soldiers further up the road as an enemy patrol was coming. The bus had to hide off the road and the occupants were forced to remain quiet. Before Hawkeye tells more, he lashes out at two of his fellow patients for getting into a loud argument. Hawkeye says they were screaming like chickens, and jokes about chickens taking the bus. Using that as a clue, Sidney digs deeper and Hawkeye remembers a refugee woman who was carrying a chicken that would not stop clucking.
Hawkeye insists that he is perfectly fine, but Freedman reminds him that after returning to the 4077th, Hawkeye had accused an anesthesiologist of trying to smother a patient, and then drove a Jeep through a wall in the officers' club and ordered a double bourbon. After more questioning, Hawkeye remembers telling the refugee to make the chicken be quiet, and then that the woman had killed the chicken to silence it. Hawkeye then breaks down sobbing as he remembers that the refugee woman was not carrying a chicken, but her infant child, and had smothered her baby to death to silence it as Hawkeye had insisted. Hawkeye is initially angry at Sidney for making him remember, but Sidney tells him, "You had to get it out in the open. Now we're halfway home." Hawkeye initially believes he will be sent home to Maine, but after more sessions, Sidney informs him he must go back to the 4077th and promises to check in on him.
Back at the 4077th, the camp is helping to shelter some of the North Korean and Chinese troops surrendering in the final days of the war. Charles Winchester, who is suffering from diarrhea, possibly dysentery, encounters a group of Chinese soldiers on a motorcycle when he is forced to relieve himself in a local creek after the camp's latrine is destroyed by a runaway tank. The soldiers surrender to him and reveal themselves to be musicians. Winchester brings the soldiers back to camp along with the motorcycle, which B.J. Hunnicutt decides to take for himself and paint yellow. As Winchester is trying to listen to music (Mozart, Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581), the Chinese musicians annoy him with their own playing. When Winchester tells them to stop, they recognize the name Mozart and one of the musicians begins playing the same piece to which Winchester was listening. An impressed Winchester decides to teach them how to play it properly, eventually forming a bond with the Chinese POWs.
Winchester is also distressed over the future of his career after the end of the war. He tells Margaret Houlihan that he has applied to be chief of thoracic surgery at Mercy Hospital in Boston, which he regards as "the finest in New England", but has been notified by a friend that another, less surgically qualified, but more politically connected surgeon might get the position, instead. Margaret decides to assist Winchester in his application, as a friend of her father's is the chief of staff at Mercy Hospital. Winchester receives a letter days later that tells him the good news. However, he is told by Klinger that Margaret assisted him, and angry that he did not get it through his own efforts, storms off, and is curt and rude to Houlihan.
Klinger has fallen in love with Soon-Lee Han, a local Korean refugee at the camp. Soon-Lee has been searching for her parents, who have gone missing, and has been told they are in Chorwon nearby. Chorwon, however, is the site of ongoing fighting and Klinger does not want Soon-Lee going there. Eventually, he finds out that she has left and chases after her, hoping that she will come back. After she initially refuses, he declares his feelings for her and takes her back to camp.
B.J. Hunnicutt has received discharge papers and is excited about going home to finally see his daughter, Erin, whom he has not seen since she was born. Col. Potter is initially unhappy about being without two of his surgeons as Hawkeye has not yet left the mental hospital. However, the colonel agrees after B.J. tells him that he knows of a surgeon who will take his place.
Almost immediately thereafter, the camp is attacked with mortars. Several POWs, locked in a makeshift pen in the compound, are stuck in the line of fire and Father Mulcahy goes to let them out. A mortar explodes directly in front of him and knocks him out. B.J. examines Mulcahy and finds that he is suffering from tinnitus and could potentially lose his hearing. Mulcahy, knowing that deafness could result in him being discharged, demands B.J. keep it a secret from the camp, as he does not want to abandon the local orphans for whom he has been caring.
The mortar attacks continue and Potter, believing it is because of the abandoned tank that destroyed the latrine and remains in the compound, calls I Corps headquarters, demanding answers. He is told that the tank has to stay at the 4077th until the unit to which it belonged comes back and claims it. Klinger decides to help by draping a tent over the tank so the North Koreans will not see it, but it proves only to be a temporary fix, as the enemy knows the tank is still there and continues to attack.
As B.J. is leaving the camp by helicopter, Klinger opens that day's mail and informs Potter that B.J.'s discharge was rescinded. Potter decides to ignore this, telling Klinger to put any mail on his desk and that he will look at it later. Hawkeye returns shortly thereafter to find a new batch of wounded in the camp and that his roommate and best friend has gone home. Potter calls headquarters while operating and asks where the new surgeon is. The mortar attacks on the 4077th resume worse than before. As everyone is pinned down in the operating room (OR), Hawkeye decides to run out to move the tank. He turns it around, before hitting the OR tent, smashing through the newly built latrine, and finally running the tank into the camp garbage dump, deflecting the shelling away from the hospital. Potter is not amused by this and decides that Hawkeye needs to see Sidney again.
That night, an incendiary bomb attack sparks a fire in the nearby forest and the 4077th is in its path, forcing the camp to evacuate and move operations ("bug out"). Once the new camp is set up, Potter's replacement surgeon arrives. To his surprise, it is B.J., who tells Potter that he got about "a third of the way home" before word of his recall to the 4077th got to him in Guam. He apologizes to Hawkeye for not leaving him a note, as he was so rushed the day he left, but Hawkeye brushes it off.
Sidney arrives at the new camp site in the middle of a celebration, as the 4077th decides to throw a party in absentia for B.J.'s daughter, who is turning two. A two-year-old orphan girl is picked to take the place of Erin Hunnicutt and B.J. is touched. Hawkeye, however, is saddened and walks off. Sidney follows him, telling him that his tank stunt was the most sensible thing to do. Hawykeye reveals that he walked away from the girl because what happened on the bus has now made him afraid to be near children, and that he also feels more stressed when he is in the OR than he ever has before. Sidney in turns tells him that he should not be afraid of his job anymore, that he is overthinking things, and that his failures might make him a better doctor.
A POW exchange takes place later that day, which includes the five Chinese musicians. Winchester tries to keep them with him, but is turned away by a soldier. As the truck taking them leaves, the musicians bid farewell to Winchester by playing the Mozart piece correctly. Moments later, an announcement is relayed to the camp: a ceasefire has been agreed to and, at 10:00 that evening, the United States' involvement in the Korean War will come to an end. Almost on cue, a new batch of wounded arrives at the camp. Potter informs the doctors that this is to be the last set of wounded operated on at the new camp, as headquarters has ordered them back to their original site at Uijeongbu.
Once they return, a new batch of wounded arrives at the compound on top of the one they were working on and Winchester is dispatched to perform triage outside. He discovers that one of the deceased patients is one of the Chinese musicians. Winchester also learns that everyone else in the truck carrying the POWs was killed in an attack. Winchester, still in disbelief, returns to the Swamp and listens to his Mozart record, but after a few seconds, he pulls it out of the player and smashes it to bits in anger.
As he is finished operating, Hawkeye's next patient is a young girl who was apparently wounded in a round of shelling. With Sidney observing, Hawkeye hesitates in performing the operation. Although Potter offers to switch with him, Hawkeye decides to operate on the little girl himself. With Hawkeye now apparently back to normal, Sidney decides to depart the 4077th for the last time and Hawkeye thanks him for his treatment. As Sidney leaves, he echoes a statement he made to the doctors in one of his first visits years earlier: "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice." Once Sidney is out of the OR, the announcement of the ceasefire and the end of the shelling comes over the radio. The doctors pause in wonder at the new peace, then continue operating on the remaining wounded.
The camp spends its last night together at a party in the mess tent. Colonel Potter decides to have everyone talk about what they will be doing after the war. Potter is heading home to his wife Mildred in Hannibal, Missouri, where he will still practice medicine part-time. Hawkeye says that he originally wanted to work in a city hospital, but instead everything that has happened to him has changed his mind and that he plans to open a practice in his hometown of Crabapple Cove, Maine. B.J. jokes that he has run off with somebody at the airport bar in Guam, but is really headed back to San Francisco to be reunited with his family. Winchester tells the camp of his new position at Mercy Hospital, but because of the deaths of the Chinese musicians he helped teach, the music that he loved and sought out as a refuge is to remain a reminder of the horrors of war. Margaret was offered two positions abroad through her father's influence, but has decided to refuse them and take a job in America working in a hospital. Mulcahy has decided to begin working with the deaf and hard-of-hearing, having been inspired by his accident. Klinger surprises everyone by announcing that, after years of trying to receive a section-eight discharge and go home, he is staying in Korea to marry Soon-Lee, who will not leave the country until she finds her parents.
The next morning, Father Mulcahy presides over Klinger and Soon-Lee's wedding with Potter as the best man and Margaret as the matron of honor. After the wedding, the camp starts to be disassembled and various members remove their hometown signs from the camp signpost. Father Mulcahy leaves for the 8063rd, with B.J. continuing to protect the secret of Mulcahy's hearing loss until the time he leaves. Winchester and Margaret are to leave in the same jeep, but Winchester cannot get on because it is overloaded with Margaret's belongings. Margaret, still upset at Winchester for his ingratitude, decides to disembark, but Winchester tells her to stay and orders Sgt. Rizzo to find him another ride. Winchester makes peace with Margaret and allows her to keep one of his treasured poetry books. She then says goodbye to B.J., Potter, and Hawkeye, who gives her a long, passionate kiss.
After Margaret leaves, the Swamp is struck down as its occupants sarcastically mock its demise. Winchester leaves in a garbage truck, the last vehicle Rizzo has, but not before telling Potter that he hopes to guide his charges in the way Potter guided him and the rest of the camp. He then bids farewell to his tentmates, telling Hawkeye and B.J. that they showed him "what going home is all about". Winchester then boards the garbage truck, commenting, "what better way to leave a garbage dump", and leaves.
The next to leave is the colonel, who rides out of camp one last time on his beloved horse Sophie. Once he reaches the 8063rd, he boards a waiting jeep to head towards his flight home, and donates Sophie to the orphanage for the children. Before he goes, he tells B.J. and Hawkeye that he was glad that they all worked together and that he will miss the good laughs they all shared, appreciating them because Hawkeye and B.J. always managed to give him joy when he needed it the most. After Potter climbs onto Sophie, Hawkeye and B.J. offer Potter a salute in appreciation of him. The colonel rides off into the distance, leaving the two Swampmates as the last people at the camp.
A chopper then arrives at the helipad to take Hawkeye to his next stop. B.J. offers him a ride on the motorcycle he claimed from the Chinese musicians and takes him up the hill to the helipad. While there, Hawkeye and B.J. have one final conversation. Hawkeye says that he will never be able to "shake" B.J., and the two tell each other that things at home will remind them of each other. The two embrace and say they will miss each other, and Hawkeye boards the chopper.
Earlier, Hawkeye had been irritated with B.J. for his apparent inability to say "goodbye" as the two would probably never see each other again. Just before B.J. rides off for the last time, he says to Hawkeye that though he will try to find him once they get back to the states, he left Hawkeye a note just in case. The chopper takes off and as it gains altitude, Hawkeye sees that B.J. has arranged a large number of stones to read "GOODBYE" on the helipad. Upon seeing that, he smiles, knowing that B.J. was capable of saying goodbye after all, and the chopper flies away from what is left of the 4077th for the last time. The original theme song "Suicide Is Painless" (from the 1970 film) is then played in its entirety.
Cultural reaction and impact
The anticipation before the airing of "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was unprecedented, especially for a regular television series (in contrast to awards shows, sporting events, or special events). Interest from advertisers prompted CBS, the network broadcasting M*A*S*H, to sell 30-second commercial blocks for $450,000 (equal to $1,131,991 today) each—costlier than even for NBC's airing of the Super Bowl of that year.
On the night the episode aired, large areas of California (particularly the San Francisco Bay Area) suffered power outages due to unusually stormy winter weather, which prevented many viewers from watching the series finale. Three weeks later, on March 21, KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, reaired the episode.
Reaction and aftermath
In the United States, the episode drew 105.97 million total viewers and a total audience of 121.6 million, more than both Super Bowl XVII and the Roots miniseries. The episode surpassed the single-episode ratings record that had been set by the Dallas episode that resolved the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger. From 1983 until 2010, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" remained the most watched television broadcast in American history, passed only in total viewership (but not in ratings or share) in February 2010 by Super Bowl XLIV. It still stands as the most-watched finale of any television series, as well as the most-watched episode.
As M*A*S*H was one of the most successful shows in TV history, in order not to lose the franchise completely, CBS quickly created a new series, AfterMASH, that followed the postwar adventures of Colonel Potter, Max Klinger, and Father Mulcahy in a stateside hospital. Despite wide popularity in its premiere episodes, script problems and constant character changes led to a sharp decline in viewers, and the show was cancelled by CBS after only two seasons. Another would be spin-off, W*A*L*T*E*R, was a pilot made in 1984 that was never picked up. It starred Gary Burghoff, who reprised his M*A*S*H character.
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was not initially included in the syndication package for M*A*S*H's final season. However, in 1992, the episode made its syndication premiere in time for its 10th anniversary. Local stations aired it as a part of a Movie of the Week.
When M*A*S*H was shown on FX and Hallmark Channel, they aired "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" occasionally. Hallmark Channel showed it twice a year, February and August, before dropping M*A*S*H from its schedule. TV Land and MeTV have also shown the episode sporadically, including a Veterans Day broadcast on November 11, 2015. In Canada, the cable channel History Television shows the episode in its entirety annually on the Labor Day holiday.
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- Wittebols, James H. (2003). Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America. McFarland. pp. 161–166. ISBN 9780786417018. Retrieved May 15, 2009.
- Diffrient, David Scott (2008). M*A*S*H. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3347-8.
- "Saints' win over Colts in Super Bowl XLIV is most-watched television program ever". USA Today. February 8, 2010.
- "M*A*S*H Did You Know?". MeTV. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
- Porter, Rick (February 5, 2018). "TV Ratings Sunday: Super Bowl LII smallest since 2009, still massive; 'This Is Us' scores big [Updated]". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
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