Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

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"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"
M*A*S*H episode
MASH Goodbye.jpg
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
Burt Metcalfe
John Rappaport
Dan Wilcox
Thad Mumford
Elias Davis
David Pollock
Karen Hall
Production code 9B04
Original air date February 28, 1983 (1983-02-28)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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Goodbye, Farewell and Amen is a television movie that served as the 256th and final episode of the M*A*S*H television series. Closing out the series' eleventh season, the 2½-hour episode first aired on CBS on February 28, 1983. Written by a large number of collaborators, including series star Alan Alda, who also directed, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" 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,[1] passed only in total viewership (but not in ratings or share) in February 2010 by Super Bowl XLIV.[2]

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 closing party before taking down the camp for the last time. After tear-filled goodbyes, the main characters go their separate ways, leading up to the final scene of the series. The episode drew 105.97 million total viewers[2] and a total audience of 121.6 million,[3] more than both that year's Super Bowl and the Roots miniseries. It still stands as the most watched finale of any television series.


As peace negotiations continue during the Korean War, Hawkeye Pierce is being treated by Dr. Sidney Freedman at a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown.[4] 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 the breakdown. At the beginning of the episode, Hawkeye 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. Sidney's questioning gets Hawkeye to remember that the person in question was actually a soldier who needed the bottle. Then he remembers that the bottle did not contain whiskey but plasma and the soldier was severely wounded. Hawkeye was actually yelling impatiently that "this guy can't wait".

Through repeated counseling sessions, 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. Hawkeye refuses to tell Sidney anything further but then 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 boarded the bus carrying a chicken that would not stop clucking.

Sidney begins to piece together what led to Hawkeye's breakdown. Hawkeye insists that he's 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, but when it suddenly stopped making noise, Hawkeye realized 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'll be sent home to Maine but, after more sessions, Sidney informs him he must go back to the 4077 and promises to check 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 diarhhea, 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 that Winchester was listening to. An impressed Winchester decides to teach them how to play it properly, eventually forming a bond with the Chinese P.O.W.s.

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 the 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 qualified 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 didn't 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 County 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, who he has not seen since she was born. Col. Potter is initially unhappy about being without two of his surgeons as Hawkeye has not left the mental hospital yet. 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 Francis 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, tells B.J. to keep it a secret from the camp as he does not want to abandon the local orphans that he has been taking care of.

The mortar attacks continue and Potter, believing that it is because of the abandoned tank that destroyed the latrine and remains in the compound, calls command headquarters demanding answers. He is told that the tank has to stay at the 4077th until the unit it belonged to 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 his discharge was rescinded. Potter decides to ignore this, telling Klinger to put any mail on his desk and that he'll 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 OR, Hawkeye impulsively decides to run out to move the tank. He turns it around, before hitting the OR tent, smashes through the newly built latrine, and finally runs it 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 wildfire in the nearby forest and the 4077th is in its path, forcing the camp to evacuate and move operations. 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, 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 cease-fire has been agreed to and, at 10:00 that evening, the United States' involvement in the Korean War will officially 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 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 cease-fire 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, he 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's 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 good-bye 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 that there's "no better way to leave a garbage dump", and leaves.

The next to leave is the colonel who will ride out of camp one last time on his beloved horse Sophie. Once he reaches the 8063rd, he will board a waiting jeep to head towards his flight home and will donate 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 there will be things at home to 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 even 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.

Cultural reaction and impact[edit]

Pre-broadcast buildup[edit]

The anticipation and buildup before the airing of "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was almost 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 (over $1,040,000 in 2013 dollars) each—costlier than even for NBC's airing of the Super Bowl of that year.[1][5]

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, re-aired the episode.

Reaction and aftermath[edit]

"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" surpassed the single-episode ratings record that had been set by the Dallas resolution episode of the internationally known Who Shot J.R. cliffhanger. From 1983 until 2010, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" remained the most watched television broadcast in American history,[1] passed in total viewership in February 2010 by Super Bowl XLIV, but M*A*S*H‍ '​s final episode remains the highest rated single television broadcast.[2]

M*A*S*H was one of the most successful shows in TV history. So as not to completely lose the franchise, CBS quickly created a new series, AfterMASH, that followed the post-war 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.

M*A*S*H concluded its 11-season run on CBS with a repeat of "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" on September 19, 1983. The episode was rerun once again in summer 1984.

"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 tenth 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 2011, the TV Guide Network special TV's Most Unforgettable Finales ranked this finale as the best.

In 2015, the episode was added to the Netflix streaming service.


  1. ^ a b c Wittebols, James H.. "Watching M*A*S*H, Watching America". pp. 161–166. Retrieved May 15, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "Saints' win over Colts in Super Bowl XLIV is most-watched television program ever". USA Today. February 8, 2010. 
  3. ^ "M*A*S*H Did You Know?". MeTV. Retrieved June 21, 2015. 
  4. ^ Classic Episode - Goodbye, Farewell and Amen[dead link]. (Accessed November 12, 2006)
  5. ^ Diffrient, David Scott (2008). M*A*S*H. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3347-8. 

See also[edit]