For you “M*A*S*H” aficionados, do you remember back at the end of season 3 (Abyssinia, Henry – aired March 18, 1975) when everyone’s favorite Company Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, finally got his discharge papers and was sent home?
Well, 40 year spoiler alert. For what should have been a happy ending to a fan favorite character ended up turning tragic at the last few moments of the episode when word came that Henry Blake’s plane was shot down as he was headed stateside. There were no survivors. It was the one and only death of a major character on the show. And to think, this was a comedy at the time (before it turned into a dramedy as the years rolled on).
So why did the creators of the show choose this dreary path? They could have just simply let Henry Blake fly off into the sunset. Well, first off, McLean Stevenson wanted to leave the show. He wanted to pursue greener pastures (which never happened). Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) left at the same time for the same reason – with the same results. His departure happened off screen, though. In retrospect, they would have had better careers if they stayed with the show.
Producer Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbart felt that with Stevenson’s departure, they had an opportunity to make a statement about war (especially since the Vietnam War was still a hot topic). They wanted to show the audience that even in a comedy about war there is not always going to be a happy ending. For the show to really matter, there had to be some tragedy. And that tragedy came in the form of Henry Blake’s death.
I remember when I first watched this episode many years back how those last few moments really shocked me (as I’m sure it did everyone else). I couldn’t believe they would kill off such a beloved character. Yes, it was only a TV show, but the impact of that moment was no less heartbreaking than as if it was real. Like everyone else, I just wanted Henry Blake to get home safely.
And so that now brings me to the reason I choose to write about this 40+ year old episode. It’s taken me this long to realize that it was time to give Henry Blake a happier and more satisfying ending to his story – through the magic of editing. Watch below!
All is right in the “M*A*S*H” universe once again.
If you would like to check out the scripts for the Pilot and the Final episode of the series, CLICK HERE! The script for the Final episode (entitled “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”) is a set-used copy (wardrobe department) and contains handwritten notes, call sheets, shooting schedule, etc.