Saturday, May 23, 2009

Episode 72 - Abyssinia, Henry

Season 3, Episode 72: Abyssinia, Henry
Original Air Date: 3/18/75
Written by: Jim Fritzell & Everett Greenbaum

Directed by: Larry Gelbart

While in O.R., Radar comes in with some amazing news: Henry is going home. He's got all his "points", and he's being discharged.

Everyone is happy for Henry, if a little worried what the 4077th will be like after Henry's gone. Frank and Hot Lips, though, are overjoyed--Frank will now be in command!

Henry calls his family, telling them he's coming home. Henry and Radar pack up Henry's things, and they have a moment where Radar partially admits to looking at Henry like a father. Henry gives Radar a present--a thermometer that was his father's. ("It isn't oral, is it?" Radar asks nervously)

Later that night, Hawkeye and Trapper throw Henry a goodbye party at Rosie's Bar, where they all get plastered, even Radar. Their goodbye gift is a brand new suit, handmade in Seoul.

The next morning, everyone is in formation to see Henry off. He comes out wearing the suit--a pin-striped, three-piece suit, complete with snap brim fedora. He gives personal goodbyes to Hawkeye, Trapper, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy. Hawkeye whispers something in Henry's ear, leading him to throw caution to the wind by planting a big, long, passionate kiss on Hot Lips, to the hooting of the camp.

Up on the chopper pad, some wounded arrive, and Henry starts to take a look. Hawkeye and Trapper insist Henry's been fired, and they tell him to get on the chopper.

Just as he's about to take off, he sees Radar, on the edge of the chopper pad, standing at attention, with a teary-eyed salute. Henry comes back, says goodbye to Radar, and hugs him. He then boards the chopper, and leaves.

Later, we find the the 4077th in surgery. Radar walks in, looking dazed. He announces, in a flat, rote manner, "I have a message. Lt. Col. Henry Blake's plane...was shot down...over the Sea of Japan. It spun in...there were no survivors."

The camera pans across the O.R.: Frank is wide-eyed, Hot Lips is crying, Father Mulcahy is clutching his crucifix. Someone drops an instrument on the floor, and in the silence the bang echoes loudly. Klinger, assisting the doctors, seems focused on his job, while Hawkeye and Trapper continue working, pausing only for a moment to look up in disbelief.

Fun Facts: Other than the very last episode, this is probably the most famous single show of the entire series. The final scene of the second act is so pitch-perfect, in acting, writing, and direction, that it still delivers a chill down the spine.

This is the final episode of the third season. When M*A*S*H returned for its fourth season, it would be a very different show.

The syndicated edit of this episode omits the final sequence, which is the series of clips from previous shows, featuring short shots of McLean Stevenson as Henry. That means the edited version goes from Radar's grim announcement in O.R. right to the credits, making the episode's ending even more brutal than the producers had ever intended.

Favorite Line: In an exemplary episode, there are many funny lines. But I think my favorite is when Henry says goodbye to Radar, admonishing him with: "You behave yourself or I'll come back and kick your butt." Funny and sad at the same time.


Russell said...

I remember watching this, either first-run or on second repeat before the beginning of season four. Henry's death was as powerful to me as a budding writer/creator as the death of Ferro Lad over in LSH was. I think this is another good reason I hate the "dead people come back" stuff in comics. If you're dead, it's serious stuff.
Definitely a classic TV episode.

Plaidstallions said...

I was young but this had a huge impact on me. Looking back on it, it's kind of when the show died for me as well, I followed it loyally to the end but that I always preferred the zanier days...

Rick L. Phillips said...

The last scene when Radar announces that Henry died was not told to the actors in advance. They just handed Gary the script and sent him onto the set. The reactions of the actors and the dropping the instrument on the floor were their true reaction when they realize that Mac Stevenson won't even come back for even one more episode as a visitor.

What the Parrot Saw said...

Really enjoying your synopses and critiques so far . MASH is my favorite show, and it is obvious that you know it backwards and forwards (as do I)- excellent commentary throughout.

In fact, I share with you some of the same favorite moments (things I thought only I had picked up on)

Time permitting, I may add more comments. Keep up the great work!!

Anonymous said...

..."The last scene when Radar announces that Henry died was not told to the actors in advance. They just handed Gary the script and sent him onto the set. The reactions of the actors and the dropping the instrument on the floor were their true reaction"
Urban legend.

The cast was told the story's ending shortly before the scene was shot. In fact, they shot the scene twice and the second take is the one used in the show.

Anonymous said...

Sorry-antoher Fantasy MASH material.
Points for discahrge were World War II not Korean War;
also-Blake would still be part of the Army even if he is getting out of Korea-so in civilian Mufti-would have landed him under arrest by the MPs -for appearing out of unifrom!

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