|"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 two-hour episode first aired on CBS on February 28, 1983, ending the series' original run. The episode was written by eight 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; it 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.
As peace negotiations continue during the Korean War, Hawkeye Pierce undergoes treatment at a psychiatric hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown in the OR. Prompted by Sidney Freedman, he gradually recalls an incident that occurred while the personnel of the 4077th were returning to camp from an outing. Their bus had stopped to pick up some refugees and wounded soldiers, but was forced to pull off the road in order to avoid being spotted by an enemy patrol. Hawkeye had told a woman to keep her baby ("baby" played by actor Thuy Tong) quiet, which she did by smothering it to death. He resents Sidney for making him remember the baby's death, but Sidney explains it as a necessary part of the recovery process. He sends Hawkeye back to the 4077th and promises to check in on him.
Meanwhile, a runaway tank destroys the camp latrine and crashes nearby. Leaving the camp to relieve himself in a creek, Charles Winchester is surprised to find five Chinese soldiers ready to surrender to him. He brings them back to camp and, after discovering that they are musicians, calls for Mozart, and one of them spontaneously plays a theme from Mozart's Clarinet Quintet. Winchester begins to teach them the entire piece. When he is turned down for a staff position at a prestigious Boston hospital, Margaret Houlihan secretly uses her father's connections to get it for him. Charles becomes angry with Margaret after learning from Klinger that he only won the position through her intervention.
Klinger has fallen in love with Soon-Lee Han, a local Korean refugee, and he persuades her not to look for her missing parents in an area of heavy fighting. B.J. Hunnicutt receives his discharge orders and promises Colonel Potter that he can arrange for a surgeon to take his place. During a sudden mortar attack prompted by the presence of the crashed tank, Father Mulcahy rushes to free several POWs from a makeshift holding pen and is knocked to the ground by a shell explosion that causes him to lose most of his hearing. He demands that B.J. - the only one who knows about the loss - keep it a secret so that he will not be discharged and lose his opportunity to care for the local orphans.
Shortly after B.J. leaves to begin his journey home, Potter receives a notice rescinding his discharge but decides not to act on it. Hawkeye returns to camp and learns to his dismay that B.J. did not leave him a goodbye note. As the shelling continues, he impulsively jumps into the tank and drives it into the camp garbage dump, diverting the enemy fire away from the OR. Potter becomes concerned and calls Sidney for a follow-up visit with Hawkeye.
The camp is forced to relocate due to an incendiary bomb attack and resulting forest fire. Once the unit has set up a new site, the replacement surgeon arrives - B.J. himself, who had made it as far as Guam before word of the rescinded discharge reached him. During a party to celebrate the second birthday of B.J.'s daughter, Hawkeye at first believes Sidney is there to confront him about the tank incident, but Sidney reassures him that his actions were sensible in caring for his fellow soldiers. Hawkeye then confides to Sidney his fear that the incident on the bus may have made him scared to be near children or do his job. Sidney brushes off these fears, telling Hawkeye that his failures may make him a better doctor. Hawkeye later hesitates briefly before operating on a young girl, but is able to go ahead with the procedure; Sidney leaves the 4077th with his thanks.
Charles reluctantly says goodbye to the Chinese musicians during a prisoner exchange, and they play the Mozart Clarinet Quintet for him while being driven away in a truck. A final ceasefire is announced, to take effect at 10:00 that night and mark the end of hostilities in the war. Wounded soldiers continue to arrive as the surgeons operate and the camp moves back to its original site on orders from headquarters. While performing triage, Charles is horrified to discover that one of the musicians has been brought in dead and that the others were killed when their truck was attacked. Dazed, he returns to the Swamp and tries to listen to the record with Clarinet Quintet he taught them, but pulls it off the turntable and smashes it in sudden anger.
Once the surgical shift is finished, the camp personnel throw a final party in the mess tent and talk about their plans for after the war. Klinger surprises everyone by announcing that he wants to marry Soon-Lee and stay in Korea to help her find her parents. The next morning, Mulcahy officiates at their wedding before the camp is dismantled and everyone says their goodbyes, leaving via assorted modes of transportation. Charles apologizes to Margaret for his earlier poor treatment of her and gives her a book of poetry as a going-away present.
Just before Hawkeye leaves in a chopper, B.J. shouts that he left a note this time. As he lifts off, Hawkeye looks down and sees it: the word GOODBYE spelled out with rocks across the landing pad. He smiles to himself as the chopper carries him away from the 4077th.
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, re-aired the episode.
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.
"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" was not the final show filmed, as the final season was filmed out of order. The final scene filmed for the series was the time capsule burial scene from "As Time Goes By".
The wildfire story line was written into the show after a real wildfire destroyed most of the outdoor set, in October 1982. The scene was filmed less than 12 hours after the fire had ravaged the set.
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.
In 2011, the TV Guide Network special TV's Most Unforgettable Finales ranked this finale as the best.