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.


During the final days of the Korean War, Hawkeye Pierce is being treated by Dr. Sidney Freedman in a mental hospital. Hawkeye has suffered a nervous breakdown stemming from the aftermath of an outing most of the 4077th staff had at a beach near Incheon.[4] Sidney is trying to get Hawkeye to release repressed memories, which are causing Hawkeye to remember things incorrectly. The first memory Hawkeye is repressing involves the trip home on one of the 4077th buses. Initially the scene is jaunty, with a drunk Hawkeye calling for a bottle of whiskey to be passed to someone who "can't wait" to drink it. Sidney draws the memory out of Hawkeye slowly, and first discovers that the person in question was a soldier who needed the bottle. Then, it is revealed that the bottle was not containing whiskey but plasma and the soldier was severely wounded. Hawkeye was attending to the soldier and was frustrated that his fellow staff members were not responding quickly enough to the injured soldier, hence why he said "this guy can't wait".

Next, Hawkeye recalls that they picked up some refugees on the side of the road and a group of lost and wounded soldiers further up the road, as an enemy patrol was coming. The bus, however, had to go off the road and hide while the occupants were forced to remain quiet. Hawkeye refuses to tell Sidney anything further but after he lashes out at two of his fellow patients for getting into a loud argument, Hawkeye says they were acting like chickens running around with their heads cut off and jokes about chickens taking the bus. Using that as a clue, Sidney delves a little deeper and finds out that Hawkeye remembers a refugee who boarded the bus carrying a chicken that would not stop clucking.

With all that he has found out, Sidney is beginning to piece together what led to Hawkeye's breakdown. A key piece of information needs to be found to connect the story with the rest of Hawkeye's night. After he returned to the 4077th, Hawkeye 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, which he never drank. Trying one final time, Sidney goes digging. Hawkeye remembers telling the refugee to make the chicken be quiet, but when it suddenly stopped making noise, Hawkeye found that strange. He then suddenly remembers that the only reason the noise stopped was because the chicken stopped breathing, and finally he bursts into tears. The refugee was not carrying a chicken but her infant child, and that because he told her to keep the baby quiet the refugee smothered her baby to death, something he had not intended. With that revealed, Hawkeye is initially angry at Sidney for making him remember, but Sidney calmly replies, "You had to get it out in the open. Now we're halfway home." Hawkeye then believes he is heading home but Sidney sends him back to the 4077 with the promise that he will check on him.

Back at the 4077th, the unit is having problems of its own. A wounded tank driver comes barreling through the camp and crashes into and destroys the camp's latrine. Charles Winchester, who is suffering from some sort of intestinal illness, is forced to use a creek down the street where he encounters a group of Chinese soldiers on a motorcycle. Amazingly, at least to Winchester, they surrender without a fight and reveal themselves to be musicians. Winchester brings them back to camp with him along with the motorcycle, which B.J. Hunnicutt decides to take for himself and repaint yellow. One day, as Winchester is trying to listen to one of his favorite Mozart pieces, Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581, the Chinese musicians begin to annoy him and he tells them that he is trying to listen to a record. One of the musicians then begins playing the same piece that Winchester was listening to, and an impressed Winchester decides to teach them how to play it properly. Eventually he forms a bond with the Chinese men, even though it takes some time and patience that Winchester normally does not have.

In addition to his intestinal issues and his perils with the musicians, Winchester has another more pressing issue to be angry about as his fate once the war is over has yet to be determined. He tells Margaret Houlihan that he has applied to be the chief of thoracic surgery at Mercy Hospital in his home city of Boston, which he regards as "the finest in New England". However, he has been notified by a friend that someone is playing politics with the hospital board and that Winchester might not get the position as a result. Margaret decides to assist Winchester in his application, as a friend of her father's is the chief of staff at Mercy, and it works as Winchester receives a letter days later that tells him the good news. However, he is told by Klinger that Margaret assisted him, and unamused by this he storms off and regards his fellow Major curtly for several days.

Klinger also is having issues, as he has fallen in love with Soon-Lee Han, a Korean prisoner of war that the camp has been holding. Soon-Lee came to the camp under misunderstood pretenses, as she had been arrested and accused of trying to shoot a soldier. Instead, 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., in the meantime, 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 this, as he will be down two surgeons as Hawkeye has not left the mental hospital yet. However, the colonel acquiesces after B.J. tells him that he knows of a surgeon who will take his place. Almost immediately thereafter, a mortar round is fired into the compound. 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. As he is doing this a mortar explodes directly in front of him and knocks him out. B.J. examines him and finds that Mulcahy 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 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 attempt to defuse the situation 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 launch attacks with a specific pattern.

B.J. is able to find a way home and leaves, but just as he is leaving Klinger informs Potter that the discharge was rescinded. Potter ignores Klinger, however, claiming he "couldn't hear" over the chopper carrying B.J. leaving, and thus can do nothing about it. Hawkeye returns shortly thereafter to find wounded in the camp and that his roommate and best friend has gone home. Hawkeye's return does not solve the camp's understaffing and Potter calls command while operating asking where the new surgeon is. He discovers that the discharge given to B.J. was rescinded and demands he get a new surgeon immediately. After surgery is finished, the mortar attack on the 4077th resumes and is worse than the ones before. As everyone is pinned down in the OR, Hawkeye finally decides that something needs to be done and impulsively runs out to move the tank. He turns it around before hitting the OR tent, smashes through the newly built latrine, and finally lands into the camp garbage dump, deflecting the shelling away from the hospital. Potter, however, 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 slinks off. Sidney follows him, telling him that his tank stunt was the most sensible thing to do and that he should not be afraid of his job anymore and that he is overthinking things, saying 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 pm 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 command 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 wounded men is one of the Chinese musicians and is immediately stunned and horrified over what happened. Winchester also learns that everyone else in the truck carrying the POWs was killed in an attack on it, and that the sole survivor was the lone remaining musician who is gravely wounded and will most likely not survive. Winchester, still in disbelief, decides to head back to The Swamp and listen to his Mozart record, but after a few seconds he pulls it out of the player and smashes it to bits out of anger.

Meanwhile, as he is finished operating, Hawkeye is given his next patient: a young girl who was apparently wounded in a round of shelling. With Sidney observing, Hawkeye begins to have second thoughts about performing the operation. Although Potter offers to switch with him, Hawkeye decides to bite the bullet and operate on the little girl. With his patient 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 one final time 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, 10:00 pm arrives and the doctors stop operating for a moment to take in what has just happened. They then resume working on the patients.

After every patient has been operated on and accounted for, the camp spends its last night together at a party in the mess tent. Colonel Potter decides to have everyone say to their comrades what they will be doing now that the war is over. As far as the principal characters are concerned, Potter is heading home to his wife Mildred in Hannibal, Missouri where he will still practice medicine but part-time. Hawkeye says that he originally wanted to work in a city hospital, but instead everything that has happened to him over the past few days has changed his mind and that he plans to open a practice in his hometown of Crabapple Cove, Maine, where he plans to get to know all of his patients. B.J. jokes that he has run off with somebody at the airport bar in Guam, but is realistically 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 but 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. The big surprise of the evening comes from Klinger, who announces that he has proposed to Soon-Lee and they will be married. However, Soon-Lee does not want to leave Korea unless she finds her parents. This means that Klinger, who for years had desired to receive a Section Eight discharge so he could go home, will ironically be staying behind.

The next morning Klinger and Soon-Lee are wedded with Mulcahy presiding, Potter as the best man, and Margaret as the matron of honor. After the wedding, the camp begins to be broken down one tent at a time. Before everyone leaves, with most heading to the 8063rd before going home, those whose hometowns were on the signpost in camp take the signs off. Father Mulcahy leaves for the 8063rd first, with B.J. continuing to protect his secret up until the time he leaves, keeping his word. 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 the way she has been treated, decides to disembark but Winchester tells her to stay and orders Sgt. Rizzo, in charge of the camp motor pool, to find him another ride. Winchester makes peace with Margaret and even 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 passionate kiss that he holds for a few seconds.

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 truck, which he considers "no better way to leave a garbage dump", and leaves.

The next to leave is the colonel, who is going to 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 he 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 picking on B.J. for his apparent inability to say "goodbye" to him much to B.J.'s annoyance. 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, just in case he does not get to see his friend again, he left him a note. The chopper takes off, and Hawkeye sees what B.J. is talking about. As the chopper gains altitude, Hawkeye sees that B.J. has arranged a bunch of large stones to read "GOODBYE" on the helipad. Upon seeing that he smiles, knowing that B.J. was capable of saying goodbye after all. Hawkeye then is overcome with emotion from the fact that his role in the war is over and that he is going home as 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 has also shown the episode sporadically.

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]