Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Interview: David Pollock

I knew I wanted this blog's last post (last regular post, at least) to feature something special, and I can't think of anything more special to me than an interview with one of the people who actually worked on M*A*S*H.

The interviewee in question is writer David Pollock, who, in tandem with his writing partner Elias Davis, first wrote for M*A*S*H in the ninth season and stayed with the show until its history-making conclusion, also serving as Executive Story Consultant.

I first got in touch with David back in 2007, when I wrote a piece called "Memories, M*A*S*H" for my Hey Kids, Comics! blog, concerning one of my favorites episodes of the show, the Eleventh Season "Run For The Money."

I asked David for some background info on that particular episode, and he was extremely generous with his time, making the piece a very special one for me. I kept in touch with him ever since, and when I was deciding whether or not to do interviews for this blog, he was the first one I contacted.

I ultimately decided against doing interviews as any sort of regular feature of this blog, but I knew I wanted to do at least one before I yelled "Timmmm-ber!" on this particular Swamp. So let's get to it:

Rob Kelly: How did you end up on M*A*S*H?

David Pollock: Elias Davis and I always wrote together, and we were sort of on the show twice. We wrote one in, maybe around 1974--it never got filmed, it was one of those ones that was set aside, because it never quite seemed to work.

In 1972 we did some Mary Tyler Moore episodes, and then we did an episode of a Don Rickles show. We had come off the Dick Van Dyke show, a later show he did from Arizona--we did from 1972 to 1973, then we did the Mary Tyler Moore shows freelance. We weren't on staff of the show, and we did about four of those.

Somebody recommended us, I guess, so we went in an pitched [for M*A*S*H] to Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks with about fifteen ideas. I'm not sure whether Gene Reynolds was there or not. And we pitched all these notions, and one of them we had, just to fill up the page, was about a bathtub arriving. I can't remember anything else about it other than the novelty of a bathtub, and that was the one Larry Gelbart picked.

That was the one we had the least research on, it was just the goofiest, so we just wrote a story, and blocked it all out. But it just didn't work--I can't tell you why, but it was never shot.

Then, around 1980, we wrote another episode called "Cementing Relationships", but I'm getting ahead of you.

RK: [Laughs] Yeah--well, around that time, were you guys still freelancing at that point, or had you come on staff? Because you're both credited as Executive Story Consultants, as well.

DP: We did a handful of episodes, just freelance, they kept hiring us to do more. I know we did a two-parter that they ended up slamming together as a one-hour show. Because of the writer's strike the seasons got all sort of wacky.
RK: That would be "That's Show Biz", where the USO troop shows up.

DP: Yeah, with Gwen Verdon, I think that's around the time we came on staff. We did 19 episodes total.

RK: You've always written with Elias Davis. How did that work? Did you write separately and compare notes, or did you write everything together?

DP: We would sit with two desks, just the way most teams would work, whether we were freelancing or on staff. When we were on staff, we were in the writer's building, with everybody else, and everybody had their own office. Thad Mumford and Dan Wilcox were downstairs. Two desks, shoved face to face--that's just the way ours worked.

We would just start on page one: "Fade In: Interior: Swamp--Day"

RK: [Laughs]

DP: By the time we were writing a script, we would have the story worked out in the room with all the guys: Burt Metcalfe, etc. Even when we were freelancing, we would work the story out with all the writers, or a good percentage of them: some of them might have been out writing something. There were no set rules.

RK: When coming up with stories, the natural inclination must have been to write a Hawkeye-centric story, since he was sort of the star--"First among equals" was the term I think I read once--so did you have trouble coming up with stories for particular characters or didn't it work that way?

DP: You're certainly right in that the Hawkeye character was central to the whole--the sort of drive shaft for the series--but, the Hawkeye issue aside--you wouldn't necessarily steer to one writer or another solely for the purpose of the character. The story itself would dictate, in any given scene, what characters needed to be there.

RK: Okay, so there wasn't a concentrated effort to say, write a Father Mulcahy episode. It was more story driven, and you worked from there.

DP: You're talking about Elias and I, no. You have to remember, there were two stages, two huge stages for the writing on episode--you can't just sit down and start on page one, because you don't even know what the story is yet.

You have the story first--just the story, what's going to happen--forgetting any dialogue, and forgetting who says what. Its just "What the heck is this thing going to be about?"

And its more collaborative at this point--its not only Elias and I, as I recall those days, it would be, in one room--which was Burt Metcalfe's office--Room 29, in the writer's building on the second floor--a rather functional, unglamorous room, it would be all of us sitting around on couches and chairs. It would be Elias and I, and Burt, with Burt sort of running the thing, John Rappaport, Dennis Koenig, Karen Hall, Dan and Thad...and you're starting with nothing, absolutely nothing.

But as you know, the show would do research--starting way back, Burt and Larry would interview doctors, doing research, getting any anecdote, and those interviews would be recorded, and they would be transcribed. And, as you can imagine, you'd get a lot of useless information--it might be interesting, but its not anything you could use to make a funny television episode.

So you might get a copy of these things, and in the course of the meeting, someojne might throw something in--somebody just threw in, one day, a MASH doctor remembered, in the course of telling a story about a big operation he just happened to mention, that they got a shipment of fresh eggs, and that was all we pulled out of there--eggs.
RK: Yeah, that's in "A Holy Mess"--while Father Mulcahy is dealing with a solider who wants sanctuary, the other story is about a shipment of eggs.

DP: Oh yeah, right. That just came out of an offhand comment, while relating what the MASH veteran, the doctor on the phone, thought was a bigger story, about an operation.

I know a story that we did was based on the fact that I just happened to read a 1953 almanac, that the Korean War was going badly, and back in the States--sort of like Afghanistan now, people were tired of it--Truman needed support, or maybe it was Eisenhower--that they had decided to offer a prize to any North Korean who surrendered.

RK: Wow, I didn't know that was a real thing!

DP: Yeah, it was a real thing--but it was just two sentences in an almanac, and we contrived a whole story around that. I remember the PR guy was played by Jeffrey Tambor. We ran into him years later on the street and we were talking about that. We exaggerated it, of course--we had him giving away a Philco radio or something.

RK: [Laughs] I'm stunned that had any reality behind it.

DP: Yeah, a guy actually flew his plane into South Korea. So, from that, you pull that fact out, and then we just sit around the room and try to come up with a story. Then you try and break it into little scenes. I think we then had a story about Winchester becoming involved with a French lady--and I think those two stories were a and B stories in the episode.

RK: Yes, "Foreign Affairs." [Laughs]--I know all these titles off the top of my head.

DP: [Laughs] Yeah, and we wrote that--our French was so terrible, that we wrote it all in English and the had someone translate it into proper French.
RK: That's one of my favorite episodes, because Winchester didn't get many romantic storylines, so it was a nice insight into his character.

DP: Yeah.

RK: At the point you and Elias came on the show, in the ninth season, M*A*S*H was about as popular as any TV show has ever been. I'm wondering, was there a lot of network interference, or did CBS sit back and just accept as much M*A*S*H as you could produce?

DP: I think the latter--I don't remember any...the network representative for the show was Darrell Hickman, the actor who played Dobie Gillis, and he used to come around and see how things were going. If there was interference, it would never come to Elias and I, that would've been directed to Burt.

RK: So there was never any problem with plots? I've read about the early years, where Larry Gelbart had problems with certain stories or scenes. But that was when the show wasn't as popular.

DP: My sense of it was, they just stood back, and let it sail through.

RK: You would think. Did you follow M*A*S*H as a viewer, before you came on it?

DP: I didn't watch it every week, but I was pretty familiar with it.

RK: Do you have favorite episodes, either ones you didn't write or ones you did?

DP: In terms of ones we didn't write, a particular favorite of mine, and I sense it was a favorite of the other guys, since we talked about it a few times, was an episode from the first four had to do with an army general who arrives, a tough blood and guts kind of guy. And he sleeps with Margaret, and then dies...

RK: Yes, "Iron Guts Kelly."
DP: "Iron Guts Kelly"--that was great. They got James Gregory to play him. That was a great show. In fact, I go back and lecture to comedy writing classes and the University of Michigan, and I play that episode.

As for the ones I wrote, I don't know if I have any particular favorites. One of the ones we won a Humanitas Award, was "Where There's A Will, There's A War", that had to do with Hawkeye writing his will, but there we were using a format that Larry had hit upon years earlier, where Hawkeye would write a letter to his Dad, and using that as a framework, you'd see the scenes he was writing about.
In the later years, when we were really hard-pressed for new stories, we used that framework, that construction, so we just piggy-backed that device for that show. I always liked that one.

There was another one we won another Humanitas for, called "Who Knew?"

RK: Yes, the one where the nurse gets killed.

DP: Boy, you really do know these...

RK: [Laughs] Yeah, I can't tell you how many times I've seen these--I've pretty much been watching them non-stop since I was they went into syndication, and then the DVDs.

I've been trying to avoid asking you any uber-MASH Nerd-type of questions, but there's one thing I've always wondered about, and its related to an episode like "Where There's A Will..."--in a show like that, where you've got flashbacks to different time periods--you flash all the way back to when Col. Potter had just arrived at the 4077th--was there ever any consideration given to the idea of bringing back some of the old characters, like Henry or Trapper?

DP: [Pauses] The practicalities of pretty much have to deal with the hand you have. You could conceivably do it--other actors have reappeared in a show--but you're trying to find parts for all these characters--that's hard enough!

RK: [Laughs] Right.

DP: Then to go out and try and bring Henry Blake in, when you've got Jamie Farr sitting there at the table read, reading the script, thinking "Jesus, I've only got one line on page fifteen, two lines over here on page thirty-one, and they bring Henry Blake back?"

RK: [Big laughs] That's what I figured that's probably what it was.

DP: You've got a budget, a certain amount of money, and you're trying to keep all the actors happy--it was such a big cast it was tough to work everybody in as it is. You have to find something for all these people, so it would've been pretty hard to do that.

RK: I think maybe, because of the internet and the way TV has changed, there's much more of a vocal fanbase for any given show, you have more of that obsessive following than you did when M*A*S*H was on. Fans follow shows so much more closely now, and there's so much more feedback.

Joss Whedon, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, would bring back a character for one line--one line!--in a dream sequence or something, and that would be kind of a gift to the die-hard fans. But that wasn't something you saw on TV a lot in earlier years.

DP: We never were aware to catering to any fans. Nor were we aware of the idea of coming up with an anti-war message every week, we were just trying to come up with a good story for each show. The rest never really occurred to us.

RK: How did you make sure to get all the military and medical details right? Did you ever start a show with a military-specific premise then try and make sure you got it right?

DP: We had an Army guy that we would call with military questions. You'd always do the story first--you'd have a wacky thing. There was always supply screw-ups, so you'd call the Army and say "How could this happen?", and they'd tell you, to make it sound real.

And then medically--there was a doctor, Dr. Dishell--who you could always call say, "Walter, here's the thing--we need to have this happen", and we need to make the dialogue sound real. It didn't have to be real, but it had to sound real. So he would just say, "Here's what you gotta do--you'd need a sponge, you'd need this, you'd need that..." We'd leave all that stuff blank and fill it in later.

RK: [Laughs] Regarding the final episode, as it was that constructed? You had to end the war, obviously, and every character has their own final storyline, but were there things you all wanted to make sure you got in there?

DP: We all sat around--it was arrived at the same way--with all of us in a room, and as I recall, Burt had some pretty strong ideas, and there Alan [Alda] was present. It was started pretty early, and shot out of sequence, and Alan had a lot of input into it.
Alan was also one of the writers, Dan and Thad wrote as a team, Elias and I wrote as a team, Dennis wrote by himself, as did John, and Alan wrote with all of us. We all wrote independent of each other, and the final show was broken down into half-hour increments. Elias and I wrote the first half-hour--we had the outline by then, and it was just writing the script. Alan's way of working was just talking into a tape recorder, and then he'd move on to the next group, and that's how the writing was done.

[Later] There was sort of a feeling among some of the writers that, while it was a nice episode, the dramatic comedy quotient tilted too much in favor of the dramatic--it wasn't as funny as some of the other episodes. That was always how I felt about it, and I think Elias felt that way.

RK: That show set a record--that will surely never be topped--as the highest-rated single show in TV history.

DP: A 77 share.

RK: Yeah. I remember being in Sixth Grade when that aired, and every kid on the playground--every kid--was talking about watching the show that night.

DP: The show had a party [the night of the final episode airing] at a Moroccan restaurant, here in LA, on Westwood Boulevard, and I remember driving there, and there was nobody on the streets--no traffic--everyone was home watching it.

RK: In the intervening years, do you keep in touch with any of the people from the show?

DP: Yeah, over the years, we'll have lunch with Burt, or we'll run into Thad and Dan, you know, you bump into people--its a big town, but its a small town, too. Oddly enough, tonight there's a big memorial service everyone is going to for Larry Gelbart.

RK: Well, I want to thank you for talking to me for the blog, David. I really appreciate it and thanks for all your wonderful work on M*A*S*H.

DP: You're welcome, Rob, my pleasure.

It was a huge thrill for this M*A*S*H fan to get to talk to the David Pollock and learn a little bit about what it was like to work on the show. David was very generous with his time and a total delight to talk to, and I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up this blog.

...and that does wrap up AfterM*A*S*, for now at least. I was hesitant for a long time to even start this, realizing I had to make sure I had the time to do it right--the show deserved no less than my full effort.

I thank all of you who discovered the blog early on and stuck with it as we worked our way through all eleven seasons and assorted M*A*S*H bric-a-brac. It's been a lot of fun reading everyone's thoughts about any given episode.

And who knows? Maybe I'll have the chance to talk to some of the other people who made M*A*S*H. And if I do, rest assured you'll see those interviews here. (That's one of the things I love about blogs...they're never really quite finished, if you don't want them to be!)

In the meantime, I highly endorse the all-encompassing M*A*S*H blog Finest Kind for your daily online M*A*S*H fix. Its a great site, as obsessive about the show as I am.

So, until we meet again, thanks again everyone and be sure to watch the M*A*S*H assured, they're on somewhere, on some channel, right now!
That was how I intended to wrap up the blog, but some of you M*A*S*H fans just won't let me do that. In fact, the regular commenter known as What The Parrot Saw, in a very Klinger-esque move, generously sent me a bootleg(shhhh!) disc of all but two episodes of AfterM*A*S*H, shows I have not seen since they aired over twenty-five years ago!

I've had fun watching these shows over again, so I decided that, yes, this blog will keep going for a little while longer--I'll be doing posts focusing on AfterM*A*S*H!

Not knowing these shows backwards and forwards like I do M*A*S*H, I need some time to watch and absorb them all. So this blog will be taking a little break while I do that, and will return February 28--the blog's one-year anniversary--where we'll talk about AfterM*A*S*H and the further adventures of Col. Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crossword Puzzle - 2/24/09

Back in February 2009, I was contemplating whether to officially start my long-considered idea for a M*A*S*H blog. I knew it would be a ton of work, and even though I knew I would enjoy immersing myself so deeply in the show, I was still nervous about getting into what would be at least a year-long project.

I was mulling it over one day, a day that I dropped my car off at my local garage to get an oil change. I sat in the waiting room and picked up a local newspaper that is published expressly for the High Speed Line (a train running from NJ into Philly).

I absent-mindedly leafed through the pages, hitting the crossword puzzle in the back:
...what were the odds?

It felt like fate, so as soon as I got home I started getting everything ready to, and here we are, a little less than a year and a whole lot of episodes later.

I have one more item for the blog, which we'll get to tomorrow. Its something really special to me, so I figured it was the best way to go out. Be here tomorrow, M*A*S*H-fans!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Toughest Ticket - 1984

This ad (drawn by my former instructor Joe Kubert!) appeared in issues of DC Comics, starting with books cover-dated April 1984. This particular one came from my copy of Justice League of America #225.

Aside from the numerous unusual aspects of the ad (Sgt. Rock talking to the real-life Ed McMahon, an appeal clearly meant for adults running in comic books), its the fifth panel that's really intriguing for any M*A*S*H fan:
sg let me get this straight: there were radio show-style productions of M*A*S*H episodes broadcast in V.A. hospitals? Wow!

I have to think that somewhere, somehow, tapes of at least one or two of these shows (assuming they did more than one M*A*S*H, which is a big assumption) must still exist. I'd absolutely kill for the chance to hear one of them (Btw--for completion's sake: the above dialog is from Season Five's "Last Laugh")--I bet they're amazing things to behold.

I have absolutely no idea where I'd start looking for such recordings, but every time I look through an old comic that has this ad, I think about it all over again...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Simon Pegg in Time Magazine - 2009

Time magazine runs a feature where a famous person answers questions sent in by readers.

One issue from early 2009 featured Simon Pegg, who I'm a big fan of (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek), so I was of course interested in the piece.

But the above question and answer surprised me--who knew Simon Pegg was such a big M*A*S*H fan? Now I like him even more than I did before!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

IBM Commercials - 1986/1987

In 1986, IBM hired most of the cast of M*A*S*H to appear in a series of commercials for their home and business computers.

I remember seeing these when they first ran, and in the days when VCRs were still pretty new (in our house, anyway) it was a thrill for this M*A*S*H fan to catch these mini-reunions!

The commercial pictured at the very top featured Alan Alda, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, even Kellye Nakahara! The one below that starred Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff, and William Christopher. You can see them (and another, just starring Jamie Farr) here.

I hate to repeat myself (wait, no I don't), but man it would've been a wonderful treat for 20th Century Fox to assemble all these and put them on the Martinis & Medicine box set!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

M*U*S*H - 1975

I bet, if asked, most of you would answer "No" to the question, "Was there ever a cartoon parody of M*A*S*H starring anthropomorphic police dogs?"

And you'd be wrong!

Yes, if you can believe it, M*U*S*H debuted on ABC in 1975 and was about a group of police dogs, with characters named General Upheaval, Col. Flake, Coldlips, and Major Sideburns. It ran for 30 episodes, into 1976, giving it a longer run than AfterM*A*S*H!

One volume of M*U*S*H was released on video tape, and you can still find the opening credits on Youtube. If I still had a VCR, I'd buy a beat-up old copy of the show just to see what in the holy hell went on.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Carol Burnett Show - 3/22/75

One bizarre bit of M*A*S*H trivia centers around the March 22, 1975 episode of The Carol Burnett Show.

Apparently this episode, which aired only days after M*A*S*H's Season Three groundbreaking episode "Abyssinia, Henry", opens with guest-star McLean Stevenson, dressed as Henry Blake,
in a raft, waving his arms, hollering, "I'm OK! I'm OK!"

I had never heard of this until I started doing research for the blog. The Carol Burnett Show isn't yet available on DVD in anything other than "Best of" compilations, so there was no way for me to find a copy of the show and watch it for myself.

From just reading about it, part of me thinks its brilliant. Another part of me thinks, considering the pitch-perfect, emotionally wrenching episode its spoofing, it seems ghoulish and just plain weird.

Nevertheless, I'm dying to see it someday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trapper John, M.D.

I guess no listing of M*A*S*H's spin-offs would exactly be complete without mentioning Trapper John, M.D.

The funny thing is, the makers of the show themselves insisted at the time that the show was not a spin-off of M*A*S*H the TV show; rather, it was a spin-off of the movie, thereby sidestepping certain legal issues.

As absurd as that argument seems, apparently they got away with it. What's even more amazing is that, in the opening minutes of the very first episode (which you can see on YouTube), there is a long tracking shot of Trapper (now played by Pernell Roberts).

The camera pans by some framed photos hanging on Trapper's wall:
...its hard to tell, but these look like stills from the TV show, not the movie! And that's pretty clearly Wayne Rogers and Alan Alda up top, there. How the heck did the producers get away with that?

Trapper John, M.D., had a solid run on CBS from 1979 to 1986. I remember watching the show pretty regularly, and I would be delighted when the show made the occasional reference to Trapper's experiences at the 4077th.

Sadly(?), we never did get to see any of his 4077th colleagues show up to visit ol' Trap.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

AfterM*A*S*H and W*A*L*T*E*R

AfterM*A*S*H debuted on September 26, 1983, and starred Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher returning in their familiar roles. The show also starred Rosalind Chao as Soon-Lee, and Barbara Townsend as Mildred Potter.

The show ran for (almost) two seasons and 29 episodes, although the last show (last as in last filmed, not a series finale) was never aired.

The show apparently started off well, ratings-wise, but when those started to dip the dreaded "re-tooling" began--characters were dumped, new ones brought on, and some roles were re-cast (a second actress, Anne Pitoniak, took over the role of Mildred Potter--ah yes, that will turn it all around!).

The show's ratings continued to decline, and CBS essentially dumped the show unceremoniously, airing the last two episodes a full two months after the previous one.

In many circles, AfterM*A*S*H is considered synonymous with bad spin-offs, but from what I remember (admittedly, I haven't seen the show since it aired, and back then I enjoyed the Friday the 13th movies, too) the show wasn't that bad. Indeed, the premise--dealing with veterans after they've come back from a war--is extremely fertile ground for the kind of tough, no-nonsense comedy/drama combo that M*A*S*H was famous for.

Two other M*A*S*H veterans made guest appearances on the show--the late Edward Winter as Col. Flagg, and Gary Burghoff as Radar, which leads us to...

W*A*L*T*E*R was a pilot for a proposed series, starring Gary Burghoff once again as Walter "Radar" O'Reilly. Apparently rejected as a series, it aired as a one-off "special" on July 17, 1984. In it, Radar has become a police officer. I remember watching the show, still interested in all things M*A*S*H, even a year after the show went off the air.

July 17, 1984 was the same night that CBS was covering the 1984 Democratic National Convention, so W*A*L*T*E*R didn't even air in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Considering how badly the Deomcrats would lose in 1984, I'd say everyone would've been better off with W*A*L*T*E*R.

Like AfterM*A*S*H, W*A*L*T*E*R (boy, that's annoying, typing all those asterisks) has essentially never been heard or seen from since (although you can find pieces of the W*A*L*T*E*R pilot on Youtube).

Obviously there might--mostly likely were--be other issues involved, but I think it would've been nice for 20th Century Fox to include at least the two show pilots as part of the big M*A*S*H boxed set, if only for curiosity's sake.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

M*A*S*H Video Game by Atari - 1983

Definitely one of the odder pieces of M*A*S*H merchandise (and that's saying something), this Atari game features nothing related to the show--you don't play as any of the characters (the 1983-era graphics wouldn't be able to represent them even if you could), and none of the people on the game box bear any resemblance to the cast.

I somehow missed his game during my Atari-playing years, then I saw it sitting in a musty old box of other games at a comic con last year. For a mere $10, I couldn't pass it up--even if I can't play it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Mysterious M*A*S*H Figures"

Hey, M*A*S*H fans! I just posted my first article for Toy, called "Mysterious M*A*S*H Figures." Check it out!

Super Mag #6 - 1983

I never heard of this magazine before until I saw this issue for sale on eBay. Judging by its contents, Super Mag seems like a Dynamite-ish magazine for kids. Was it sold on newsstands? Like I said, I never saw it before, and I spent a lot of time at newsstands as a kid.

The main article is a little strange, because the writer ponders whether M*A*S*H will be cancelled. Didn't everyone know going into the 11th season that it was the planned end, and it wasn't being cancelled by the network? Jeez, I knew that, and I was only 12!

More interesting are these pages featuring shots of the cast outside of their M*A*S*H roles:
That shot of Harry Morgan and Jean Stapleton inspires more questions than it answers!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

TV Guide - 2/12/83

My pal Russell Burbage sent me two different M*A*S*H-centric issues of TV Guide, one from 1978 and this one, celebrating the show's final episode.

This issue featured three separate articles on the show: "My Favorite Episodes" by Alan Alda, "M*A*S*H Was One of a Kind" by Alistair Cooke, and "The Troops Scatter--But The Memories Linger" by M*A*S*H writer Burt Prelutsky (who dishes a surprising amount of dirt). Click each link to read the entire piece.

I wonder how many variations of the "cast waves goodbye" photo the cast had to sit for during the last year?

Thanks again Russell!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cracked Magazine M*A*S*H Fun Book - Sept. 1983

This oddly-timed issue of Cracked magazine features nothing but M*A*S*H features, which in this case mostly means collecting the various show parodies that ran in the magazine over the years:

...all drawn by the incomparable John Severin, these parodies certainly look nice, but the jokes are so inoffensive they barely exist. (That said, I loved Cracked as a kid!)

There's also a "M*A*S*H Flip Book" featuring caricatures of the cast bifurcated into three strips, so you can cut them along the lines and make different faces. Minutes of fun, and all you have to do is ruin your magazine!

Mad, of course, did M*A*S*H parodies too, but as far as I know they never got a cover. And they certainly never did an all-M*A*S*H issue like this. I guess the staff of Cracked were big M*A*S*H fans!

Friday, January 8, 2010

M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Reunion - 2002

Ah, now this is more like it!

Eleven years after the first reunion show, and nineteen years after it went off the air, there was the M*A*S*H 30th Anniversary Reunion, featuring Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Wayne Rogers, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Gary Burghoff, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, Allan Arbus, plus Larry Gelbart, Gene Reynolds, and Burt Metcalfe.

The entire group sat around a facsimile of the old set, and talked about the show:
Interspersed with old clips plus appearances by some of the other writers, this was to me a far more fitting tribute to show. Seeing everyone (well, almost everyone) together again is enormous fun, and extra rotation points to whomever's idea it was include Allan Arbus. Growing up, I always thought of him an unofficial cast member, and this reunion special confirms that.

There's a part of me that's always been fascinated with the idea of an actual reunion show, featuring the characters later in life after the war--seeing what became of Hawkeye, B.J., etc.

Obviously, that will never happen--Alda and some of the others said as soon as the show ended they didn't want their characters to be seen past M*A*S*H's final show, and I'm sure if they had wanted to do a show like that in the intervening three decades, they would have.

So this special will probably have to do--which is fine, since its such a nice, warm, funny look back at the show.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Memories of M*A*S*H - 1991

The first M*A*S*H reunion show aired in 1991, hosted by Shelley Long (who appeared as a nurse in the Season Eight episode, "Bottle Fatigue").

The show consists of clips from the show (of course), as well as new interviews from the entire cast and some of the producers, writers, and crew.

Each cast member was interviewed individually, which doesn't make it a "reunion" exactly, but in retrospect its nice to see McLean Stevenson and Larry Linville talking about the show, one last time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Episode 251 - Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

Season 11, Episode 251: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen
Original Air Date: 2/28/83
Written by: Alan Alda, Burt Metcalfe, John Rappaport, Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford, Elias Davis & David Pollock
, Karen Hall
Directed by: Alan Alda

This episode opens in a location we've never seen--the Army psychiatric hospital where Sidney Freedman works. We find him in the middle of a session with a patient, except the patient is...Hawkeye.

Sidney is trying to get to the bottom of something that happened involving a trip most of the camp took to the beach. But Hawkeye is in no mood to talk--all he's interested in is getting out, pronto. When everyone back at the 4077th calls him to lift his spirits, that's all he talks about to them, as well.

There's rumors of the peace talks progressing, to the point of ending the war once and for all. Margaret seems so confident that she starts planning what she's going to be doing after the war, which initially involves her working at an administrative post in Tokyo.

She tries to share her good news with Winchester, who is less than interested--partly because he's learned that his application to be Chief of Thoracic Surgery in Boston may be turned down, but mostly because he's suffering from a stomach ailment, causing an acute bout of intestinal distress.

All this is tabled when a tank comes tearing onto the compound, flailing wildly, eventually crashing into the Latrine, causing Winchester to wander off, panicked.

Margaret begins to berate the tank driver, but when he emerges from it, she sees he's severely wounded. Soon, she is assisting Col. Potter in OR working on the young man.

Meanwhile, the construction of the new Latrine is going so slowly (what would you expect, with Igor in charge?) that Winchester is forced to use, as Col. Potter so delicately puts it, "The ravine latrine."

Left with no other options, Winchester heads out into the woods, where he runs into five North Korean soldiers. He begs for mercy, until he sees what they are carrying aren't guns, but...musical instruments. "By God, they're musicians", he says to himself, astonished. They follow Winchester back to the 4077th, looking to turn themselves in.

Back at the hospital, Sidney and Hawkeye continue to talk, and Hawkeye admits that on the bus they took home, there was a wounded solider. Sidney wonders why Hawkeye didn't mention this before, but Hawkeye has no answers.

Meanwhile, Margaret has Klinger write a telegram to an old friend back at Boston Hospital, looking to help Winchester land his dream job. She's interrupted by Soon Lee, who needs Klinger's help in finding her still-missing parents. They are both interrupted by Col. Potter, who demands Klinger call I-Corps to get help removing the giant tank, still in the middle of the compound.

Winchester, back at the Swamp, tries to listen to some classical music. Its drowned out by the North Korean musicians, and when he demands they stop, they surprise him by playing some Mozart. They're so good it stops Winchester in his tracks, stunned, unable to move even as wounded arrive.

A few days later, B.J. gets a surprise letter from I-Corps--orders to head home! He tells Col. Potter, who thinks it must be some sort of snafu. B.J., afraid to ask I-Corps any further questions, begs to let go. Potter makes him a deal--if B.J. can find a replacement, then he's free to go.

Suddenly, artillery starts to fall, and everyone hides under the tables in the Mess Tent. Unfortunately, all the P.O.W.s imprisoned in the makeshift cell in the compound are sitting ducks. As the bombs get closer, Father Mulcahy runs outside to free them.

He succeeds, but he's too close when one bomb hits, knocking Mulcahy to the ground. Later, B.J. examines him, and Mulcahy learns he's damaged a part of his inner ear. Which, B.J. warns, might lead to Mulcahy losing his hearing completely. Mulcahy, scared to be sent home (and unwilling to leave the orphans "in the lurch"), makes B.J. promise not to tell anyone else.

Meanwhile, Hawkeye starts to slowly reveal what happened that night on the bus--he tells Sidney they came across a North Korean patrol, so they had to turn off the lights and be completely quiet until they pass. Everyone does so, except for a squawking chicken sitting on the lap of a Korean woman. She unable to keep it quiet, endangering everyone's lives.

Back at the 4077th, Soon Lee is determined to keep searching for her parents, even in dangerous areas. Klinger tries to talk her out of it, but she won't listen. Meanwhile, B.J. keeps pestering him to find a replacement surgeon so he can go home.

A day or so later, B.J. comes to visit Hawkeye, but its tense and awkward. B.J. obliquely mentions going home, but when it sets Hawkeye off he clams up about his orders home. When B.J. mentions his daughter Erin, it sends Hawkeye into a raving talking jag, which unnerves B.J. so much he gets Sidney.

Sidney starts an impromptu session, and B.J. departs, but not before awkwardly saying goodbye--realizing it might be the last time he ever sees him.

Sidney and Hawkeye talk, and it eventually comes back to talking about the bus and the chicken. Hawkeye reveals that the woman smothered the chicken to keep it quiet, reducing Hawkeye to anguished tears.

Sidney at first can't understand why this upsets Hawkeye so, until he reveals it wasn't a chicken the woman was her own baby. The woman smothered her own baby to save everyone else's life.

Hawkeye is angry and disgusted that Sidney drew that memory out of him, but Sidney says this is good news: "Now we're halfway home."

A couple of days later, Hawkeye assumes he's heading home, but Sidney has disappointing news: he's going back to the 4077th. Hawkeye crumples up the letter to his father telling him he's coming home, tossing it away.

Back at the 4077th, Klinger arranges a flight for B.J. home, having scheduled a replacement surgeon--a Dr. Arnie Jacobsen--to arrive the next day. A chopper arrives, delivering mail. When he mentions he's headed to Kimpo, B.J. bums a ride with him--even though that means he has to leave in five minutes.

With so little time, B.J. only has the chance to give everyone a cursory goodbye. He tries to write a letter to Hawkeye, but can't think of what to say. He finally asks Margaret to talk to Hawkeye for him. Margaret tearfully hugs B.J. goodbye.

Potter watches as B.J.'s boards the chopper, just as Klinger finds him, telling him that I-Corps has rescinded B.J.'s orders. Potter pretends not to hear this, and watches B.J. depart.

As Hawkeye makes his way back to the 4077th, we watch Winchester train his North Korean musicians in the art of classical music, Klinger continue to try and help Soon Lee find her parents, and Margaret accept another offer as to what she's going to do after the war is over.

Wounded arrive just as Hawkeye returns, and he is floored to hear B.J. has left for home. His replacement, Capt. Jacobsen, hasn't arrived either, meaning the 4077th is short handed.

Hawkeye is slow to get back to the old routine. Margaret asks what's wrong, and Hawkeye asks "What could be wrong? I'm about to stick my hands into a kid whose insides look like raw meat loaf, I found out my best friend went home without leaving me so much as a damn note..."

Margaret interrupts, apologizing for B.J., saying how bad he felt about doing that, but Hawkeye cuts her off: "Trapper left without leaving a note, it the war that stinks, or me?"

After the long session in OR, bombs start to fall again. After hiding in a sandbag-fortified Post Op, Hawkeye has had enough--he bolts out onto the compound, ducking artillery blasts. He jumps into the tank, and drives it off into the camp garbage dump, a mile or two away. He returns to the compound to a round of applause...except from Col. Potter and Margaret, who think they need to put in a call to Sidney.

Meanwhile, Soon Lee has taken off to search for her parents, into dangerous areas. Klinger finds her, and promises he will help her find her parents, no matter what. Soon Lee agrees, and heads back to the 4077th with him.

That night, Col. Potter and Klinger spy a fiery glow coming from the hills. Klinger thinks its the sunset, but Potter realizes they're looking east, not west--its a massive forest fire, started by all the falling artillery.

This causes the 4077th to bug out, and move the whole camp down the road. Once they get there, they are met by their new surgeon--B.J.

Turns out that once I-Corps realized their error, they found B.J. in an airport in Guam, and sent him right back to Korea. As frustrated as he is, he's happy to see Hawkeye back. He apologizes to Hawkeye for not leaving a note, but Hawkeye gives him a sarcastic reply.

That night, Klinger reveals his deep feelings for Soon Lee, and asks her to marry him. She accepts, but mentions that she can't leave Korea until she finds her parents. Even after Klinger responds "that could be months...years", she remains adamant. At an impasse, Klinger departs.

The next day, the camp has a picnic for the kids in the local orphanage, and Sidney arrives to talk to Hawkeye. Hawkeye admits to being terrified to perform surgery again.

A few days later, Winchester's North Korean musicians are shipped out, over his protestations. With a truce seemingly near, all the POWs are being shipped out. Winchester, sad but accepting, watches the truck they're in depart down the road, as the five musicians play Mozart, the sound getting quieter and quieter.

Heading back to the Swamp, Winchester is stopped in his tracks when the P.A. makes an announcement: the truce has been signed, hostilities will end in 12 hours: "The war is over!"
Just as everyone breaks into hysterical cheers, wounded arrive, snapping the 4077th back to work. Amid the chaos, Potter announces I-Corps wants them back to their original location, with the bug out commencing after the session in OR.

Making their way back, everyone is sad to see their former home burnt to a crisp, with the metal hospital left charred and stained. Potter takes a look around, and then announces, "Okay, boys and girls...let's go to work."

The next day, everyone goes through their last OR session, where they talk about what the first thing is they want when they get home. They are discouraged as they listen to reporter Robert Pierpoint give the sad totals of the war--how many dead, how many wounded, how many left homeless, how much money spent.

During a break, Hawkeye and B.J. talk in the Mess Tent, where Hawkeye admits the only thing he's going to miss about the 4077th is B.J. B.J. promises to keep in contact, "One year Peg and I will come east", but his tone underlines the uncertainty they both feel about ever seeing each other again.

Hawkeye mocks B.J. a bit over this, trying to get him to actually say the word "goodbye." B.J. refuses, and walks off.

More wounded arrive, and Winchester does triage. He is stunned when he sees one of the wounded--who is inevitably going to die from his injuries--is one of the North Korean musicians. He asks what happened to the rest, but is grimly told the one lying before him, "Is the only one that made it this far."

Crushed, he wanders into the Swamp and puts on some Mozart. He listens to it for a few seconds, then angrily grabs the record, smashing it into pieces.

As the session in OR continues, Sidney quietly follows asks how Hawkeye is doing. When Hawkeye feels confident enough to work on a small wounded child, Sidney knows Hawkeye will be fine.

As he makes his exit, he says goodbye to everyone. He stops at the door, turns, and says, "You know I told you people something a long time ago, and its just as pertinent today as it was then: ladies and gentlemen, take my advice--pull down your pants, and slide on the ice." With that, Sidney Freedman departs.
Moments later, the official end of the war is heard when the guns go silent. Robert Pierpoint announces: "There it is--that's the sound of Peace." Everyone pauses for a moment, then goes back to work.

The next night--the last night they'll have together--the 4077th holds a huge dinner in the Mess Tent to announce what each of them will be doing once they get home.

Col. Potter goes first, saying he'll be a semi-retired country doctor, but most of the time, he'll be "Mrs. Potter's Mr. Potter." Kellye follows, saying she's found a position in a hospital back home in Honolulu.

Rizzo announces his plans to breed frogs for french restaurants, much to everyone's hysterics. Hawkeye follows, planning to return to Crabapple Cove, and having the time to talk to his patients, and "get to know them." Igor plans to be a pig farmer, to which Rizzo asks, "What do you mean, 'gonna be'?"

Nurse Bigelow, after being a nurse at the tail end of WWII, and then Korea, quietly admits, "You know something? I've had it."

Potter asks Winchester, who initially gives a bloodless answer about being Chief of Thoracic Surgery, so his life "Will go on pretty much as I expected." He begins to sit down, but then stops, admitting, "For me, music was always a refuge from this miserable it will always be a...reminder."

Margaret announces she's worked through a number of offers, but has decided to work in the States, in a hospital. She tearfully thanks her nurses for their superb work.

Klinger is last, and he announces that he and Soon Lee are getting married! He then points out the one problem is that she won't leave until she finds her parents. So, he admits, "I don't believe I'm saying this...I'm staying in Korea." Everyone erupts into stunned laughter. The evening ends with a toast to the new couple, everyone clinking their glasses in succession.

The next morning, Father Mulcahy performs the marriage ceremony, with Col. Potter as Best Man. As Klinger and Soon Lee climb into their "limo" (a horse-drawn cart), Klinger says goodbye to all his friends. B.J. has him sign a picture of himself in his Scarlett O'Hara gown, because, when he tells Erin about his experiences, "There's just some things she's just not going to believe."

After tearfully saying goodbye to Col. Potter, Soon Lee throws her bouquet, right into the arms of...Margaret.

The nurses head off to the 8063rd, but not before Kellye and some of the others grab their hometown markers from the camp signpost.

Father Mulcahy then leaves, still trying to keep his hearing loss a secret. Hawkeye tells him a joke, but he can't hear it, so after B.J. giving him silent instructions, he fakes a laugh. As he climbs into his ambulance, he waves and says, "Goodbye everybody...I'll pray for you."

Winchester, originally scheduled to depart with Margaret in a jeep, finds there is no room left since she has filled it with her belongings. Winchester kisses her hand goodbye, and Col. Potter kisses her on the head, just as a father would do. She and Hawkeye stare at one another for a moment, awkwardly trying to figure out what to say.

They finally embrace, and share a long--really long--passionate kiss. After they finish, Hawkeye simply says, "Well, so long", to which Margaret replies, "See ya." She watches them all as her jeep leaves the camp.

Just before Winchester leaves in--of all things--a garbage truck, they watch the Swamp be collapsed, forever. Hawkeye expresses sympathy for all the homeless rats, but Winchester assures him "Don't worry, you'll find somewhere to go."

He compliments Col. Potter's skills as a commander, and sarcastically says goodbye to Hawkeye and B.J. Climbing into the junky garbage truck, he bows slightly, and says, "Gentlemen." With that, he departs.

Before Col. Potter climbs on Sophie, he thanks Hawkeye and B.J. for always making him laugh, telling them there were times when, as commander, he had to pretend he was mad at them, but "Inside, I was laughing to beat all hell."

Hawkeye and B.J., teary-eyed, tell their former commander they have a gift for him--a honest, no-nonsense military salute. Col. Potter tearfully returns the gesture of respect, and rides off on his steed.

Hawkeye and B.J. begin an awkward goodbye on the compound, but when they hear Hawkeye's chopper arrive B.J. offers him a ride up to the chopper pad.

Once they make it there, they say goodbye, admitting how much they will miss one another. After recalling some great times together, they hug. Hawkeye climbs into the chopper, and B.J. starts his motorcycle.

He yells to Hawkeye, saying "I'll see you back in the States--I promise! But just in case, I left you a note", pointing to something off in the distance.

Hawkeye, confused, yells, "What?!?" but B.J. doesn't answer. He simply waves goodbye, and drives off.

Hawkeye's chopper begins to lift off, and he looks around for what his friend was talking about. He smiles when he sees, on one of the lower chopper pads, a note B.J. has left for him, spelled out in stones: "Goodbye."

Cracking a grin, Hawkeye looks out one last time over the camp, now mostly deserted and consisting of empty building frames. He then leans back into his seat, looking at peace.

The last shot we see is of Hawkeye's chopper, headed off into the distance:

Fun Facts: This episode still holds the record, almost 27 years later, as the most watched series episode TV history, with over 106 million viewers. Considering how fragmented TV is now, its a safe bet that's a record that will never be broken.

This is the series' longest episode, and the only one to feature an on-screen title.

I have so many comments and/or questions relating to this episode, I hardly know where to begin, and we don't have room for them all here. So here's a few:

Question: Why can't Col. Potter take Sophie with him? He lives in Missouri, not Manhattan. As an animal lover since I was small, the idea that Col. Potter left Sophie behind was really heartbreaking to me. Maybe it was to give Harry Morgan some bit of a storyline, since, of all the characters, he undergoes the least change in this episode?

Comment: I love Hawkeye bringing up Trapper not leaving a note when he left, even after all this time. Hawkeye as a character was always more insecure than B.J., so that line really gives you the sense that Hawkeye is still smarting from that perceived slight.

Question: All the characters get to say goodbye to each other in the final scene, except for Margaret and Father Mulcahy, who will see each other again at the 8063rd. Why was this? Just one goodbye moment too many?

Comment: I love the moment with Enid Kent as Nurse Bigelow in the banquet scene. Most everyone is chipper and happy now that the war's over, and looking forward to the next chapter of their lives. But Nurse Bigelow is just sick of war, sick of the death. This was the character's finest moment in the series.

Comment: This episode was filmed at the beginning of the year, before most of the other Season Eleven episodes. How weird must have that been for the actors, to play these heartfelt, tearful goodbye scenes, and then go and film more shows?

Favorite Line: How do I pick a favorite line from this monumental, literally historic episode?

There aren't that many funny lines, which is to be expected, since this episode is so inherently dramatic. So I'm going to pick two lines, one funny, one serious.

The laugh line: When, after Hawkeye finishes another rant mentioning a bus, Sidney repeats back to him: "Chickens take the bus?"

Hawkeye, aggravated to no end: "Again with the bus? Why don't you subscribe to Arizona Highways and leave me alone?"

Now for the serious: during Hawkeye and B.J.'s final scene, there are many great, heartfelt lines, but I think B.J.'s line "I can't imagine what this place would have been like if I hadn't found you here" hits me the most.

As a kid, I was, as you might imagine from someone who spends so much time blogging about comic book superheroes, horror magazines, and TV shows, not a very "macho" kid. I didn't like to play sports, and when I did I was awful. I felt like I didn't fit in and so many of the things that boys my age were into I was completely indifferent to.

I was a sensitive kid, and of course any kid who was interested in anything less than punching another kid in the face was called "gay", or a host of other terms meant to wound.

Not to over-dramatize this, but I clearly remember watching the final episode, as it aired. I was in the 6th grade, and it was revelatory to me, to watch two men express their fondness--oh hell, love--for one another so openly. Hawkeye and B.J. were two people I aspired to be like--they were smart, confident, compassionate, funny--and if they could be so open with who they were, maybe I could be, too. this the end of the blog? Well, yes and no. I have a bunch of other related posts to get to in the next week or two, so please join me for those.

But after that, yes, my look back at M*A*S*H will end and this blog will cease. Had any episodes of After M*A*S*H been available, in any format, I might have considered taking a look at that series, too--I haven't seen any of them since they first aired, and I'd love to revisit the show and see how it plays now (I really can't believe, with all the TV shows that have been put on DVD, that After M*A*S*H is still languishing in limbo).

Be back tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Episode 250 - As Time Goes By

Season 11, Episode 250: As Time Goes By
Original Air Date: 2/21/83
Written by: Dan Wilcox & Thad Mumford

Directed by: Burt Metcalfe

In the O Club, Winchester reads a newspaper article mentioning a time capsule being buried in Los Angeles. He thinks its a useless gesture, but Margaret likes the idea, and starts an effort to create one for the 4077th.

Hawkeye, also initially skeptical, changes his mind and wants to be included in the selection process, much to Margaret's distrust.

B.J. pulls a mild joke on Rizzo, passed out in the O Club. Even though its just a joke, Rizzo promises revenge.

The time capsule effort is interrupted when wounded arrive, including a sniper who is alleged to have shot a G.I. Klinger is put in charge of incarcerating the prisoner, and its a beautiful young Korean woman named Soon-Lee (Rosalind Chao). She protests her innocence, but Klinger won't listen.

Later, Margaret and Hawkeye resume their search, and Margaret wants something military. Potter demurs, but thinks Hawkeye's suggestion of a bunyon pad (of great use to Potter after so many long sessions in OR) is a great idea. Margaret is aghast.

The G.I. shot by the sniper is missing--he and the chopper flying to the 4077th never having arrived. Soon-Lee protests her innocence, saying that she got separated from her family and if she doesn't find them soon, she may never see them again. Klinger, at least partly sympathetic, says he can't let Soon-Lee go until I-Corps tells him to. He tries to make Soon-Lee understand, but she hurls her tray of food at him in fury.

The missing chopper arrives the next morning, with the pilot explaining that the chopper's fan belt busted, forcing them to land. A sniper's bullet hit their radio, leaving him unable to call anyone. The chopper pilot (Michael Swan) quietly picks up a new fan belt, and leaves.

Rizzo gets revenge on B.J. by using a dud grenade to force him out of the showers onto the compound, sans clothes. B.J. now also swears revenge, which he gets with the help of Winchester.

B.J. then operates on the wounded man, and Klinger takes possession of the bullet. He determines that it doesn't fit the gun Soon-Lee was holding when she was picked up, proving she's innocent. Klinger frees her, and he and Father Mulcahy driver her to a refugee camp where Mulcahy thinks her parents might be.

Meanwhile, the time capsule effort continues on its parallel tracks--Margaret collects the usual items, with Hawkeye's being a little more informal: a bottle of cognac from Winchester, a stale piece of toast from Igor, and Klinger's Scarlett O'Hara dress. Margaret is sure Hawkeye is doing this to mock the time capsule.

In Post Op, they talk to the wounded solider, and he tells an amazing story: the chopper pilot, with a shot-up chopper, could only fly fifty feet at a time, so he would walk that far ahead, all alone, finding a place to land. He'd then walk back, fly to the new location with his wounded cargo, and then start all over again. This went on all night, and the young man is sorry that the pilot left so unceremoniously before he could thank him.

Klinger, Father Mulcahy, and Soon-Lee make it to the refugee camp, only to be cruelly disappointed, when its obvious that these are not Soon-Lee's parents.

Later that night, Margaret and a bunch of the others break ground and prepare to bury the time capsule. Rizzo donates some spark plugs, Kellye donates some combat boots, and Col. Potter donates one of his favorite Zane Grey novels.

At last minute, Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester show up with a trunk full of their own items, planning to bury an alternate time capsule. Margaret protests, but then Hawkeye shows what's inside: the broken fan belt from the chopper, Father Mulcahy's boxing gloves, Winchester's bottle of cognac--as well Radar's teddy bear, representing "All the soldiers who came over here as boys and went home as men."

B.J. offers up a favorite fishing lure, one that Hawkeye told him belonged to Henry Blake--it stands for "All the men that never made it home."

Margaret accepts these items gracefully, but draws the line at Klinger's Scarlett O'Hara dress. After everyone protests, she relents, but insists it be his basic black dress, not "that awful get-up." Klinger, happy to be contributing, runs off to get it.

Margaret thanks Hawkeye for his contributions, and he says that as long as they're burying things, "Why not the hatchet?"

Later, Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester head to the O Club, where on the way they discuss the long-gone Frank Burns. They meet up with Klinger, who is taking Soon-Lee to the O Club as well. The place is packed, and Klinger is sure they'll nevr get a table.

Winchester is confident a few tables will open up shortly, producing the dud grenade he took from Rizzo.

Fun Facts: This was the series' final episode, in terms of filming (the final episode, confusingly, was shot at the beginning of the season).

The scene pictured above was the last scene shot for the show and the series. There's video of a massive phalanx of press swooping in, cameras flashing, as soon as director Burt Metcalfe yelled something to the effect of "That's a wrap!"

This episode features the first appearance of Rosalind Chao as Soon-Lee, who would of course play a major role in the final show. Outside of specific two-part episodes, this is the only time a sub-plot of any kind was continued over multiple episodes.

This episode manages to get in mentions of Henry, Frank, and Radar, but not Trapper. Also, most of the supporting actors--Jeff Maxwell as Igor, G.W. Bailey as Rizzo, and Kellye Nakahara as Nurse Kellye--all get a couple of lines each in this (almost) final show.

This episode has an on-screen dedication, the only time any M*A*S*H episode featured this. Its dedicated to the memory of Connie Izay, R.N., the show's Technical Advisor from 1977-1982. Ms. Izay died in 1982.

One question I have regarding the time capsule--it seems like Margaret and the rest plan to bury it immediately, but Hawkeye and the others manage to get some stuff in at the last minute. Regarding the fan belt in particular, Hawkeye remarks "It would be nice if people remembered him a hundred years from now."

That sounds nice, would anyone a hundred years from now know what any of those items mean? Maybe Margaret included a letter explaining everything, but there's clearly no explanation for the last-minute additions like the teddy bear, the fishing lure, etc.

Take a look at Loretta Swit's face in the wide-shot after B.J. hands her the fishing lure that belonged to Henry Blake. Even though the focus of the scene isn't on her (at the same moment, Winchester is pulling out his cognac), look how sad Margaret looks, once again thinking about her departed comrade. Its a very sweet moment, easy to miss if you happen to be looking somewhere else during the shot.

In the book The Last Days of M*A*S*H (by Alan and Arlene Alda) its revealed that the cast actually did bury a time capsule, filled with props and other mementos of their time on the show. There's even a photo of them lowering it into the ground!

Favorite Line: Hawkeye, B.J., and Winchester walking towards the O Club:

Winchester: "Oh, by the way, you realize you didn't include anything in the time capsule from the infamous Major Burns."

Hawkeye: "I was thinking about putting in his scalpel but I didn't want to include any deadly weapons."

Not only is this just a good, funny line, but it feels a little meta, too--like the show wanted to get in one last swipe in at Frank Burns before it all ended.

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