Tearjerker / M*A*S*H

  • "I have a message... Lieutenant Colonel... Henry Blake's plane... was shot down... over the Sea of Japan. It spun in... there were no survivors."
    • The absolutely poleaxed look on Radar's face when he comes into the room, by itself, is enough to have the Genre Savvy cringing, mentally pleading for him not to recite the halting line above.
    • Particularly shocking as he was on his way home - and more so again when you remember that his son was born while he was in Korea and they never got to see one another.
    • That was also a case of Enforced Method Acting, as none of the cast were told of Blake's death until shortly before that scene was filmed. Radar's choked voice as he reads the dispatch isn't an act. There's a double meaning behind the grief. McLean Stevenson (Henry) was something of a father figure for the cast, as well as an advocate for their needs as actors with the studio (which did not always treat the cast as well as it should). In a documentary that aired several years ago, several actors and production staffers told the story of how after Stevenson left the cast, the order came down in the form of a "studio note" to kill the character, so the actor could never come back to the show. The implied message came through to the remaining cast loud and clear. Thus why this moment is the Trope Namer for McLeaned.
    • Producer Larry Gelbart tells it slightly differently. When Stevenson wanted to leave, Gelbart said, "Fellow showrunner Gene (Reynolds) and I thought we should use the departure of the character in some meaningful fashion and that MASH was not about everybody having a good time. MASH was not about happy endings." Video here.
    • In the same episode, Henry's goodbye hug to Radar: "You behave yourself, or I'm gonna come back here and kick your butt." As a viewer, you're still drying your eyes from that when the final O.R. scene begins. Made all the better when you know that Radar saluting Henry was ad-libbed by Gary Burghoff, whereas Henry embracing Radar was ad-libbed by McLean Stevenson (who later said of that moment, "You can't write emotion").
  • "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler", in which the eponymous Captain Chandler has fallen into a trauma-induced belief that he is Jesus Christ. Especially this little scene:
    Sidney Freedman: Tell me, does God answer all prayers?
    Chandler: Yes. [through tears] But sometimes the answer is "No."
    • Some of what Sidney says to the surgical staff later on about him is almost as bad. We find out that Chandler flew fifty-seven bombing missions, and he finally couldn't take the knowledge of how much death he was causing anymore.
      Sidney: Finally something inside this kid from Idaho said, "Enough! You're Christ! You're not a killer! The next bomb you drop, you drop on yourself!"
  • In "Period of Adjustment", watching BJ completely come apart knowing that the first man his little girl called "Daddy" wasn't him.
    BJ: I've been away for a lifetime, Hawkeye. Erin's lifetime! Even if I go home tomorrow, I'll never get that back!
  • Winchester gets quite a few of these, most likely put in to help differentiate his character from that of Frank Burns, the guy he replaced. Among the most memorable is the plot in "Morale Victory" in which he convinces the concert pianist that his piano skill is not gone just because one of his hands is immobile. One of his best lines ever comes in the coda: "Each of us must dance to his own tune."
    Charles: I can play the notes, but I cannot make the music.
    • The episode where Winchester meets his soul mate, a woman he quickly, desperately loves, and at the end realizes that he can't bring himself to accept her because her values clash with his family's. And yet he still loves her...
    • His Heroic B.S.O.D. storyline in "The Life You Save", where he's desperate to know what it's like to die. All of it, damnit. Watching the usually supremely aloof Winchester shed a single tear while clutching the hand of a dying soldier and begging him, like a small child, to describe what he's feeling, all because he never got over his brother's death when he was a child was absolutely heartbreaking. This also marks a Crowning Moment of Acting for David Ogden Stiers.
    • Then there's his storyline in the series finale; see below.
  • Hell, even Frank Burns has a moment. It happens near the end of "Margaret's Engagement" where he loses his mind and everyone (except Margaret) is giving him a break. But then Radar gets Frank's mother on the phone:
    Frank: Nobody really likes me here. Well, there was one person but she was just... pretending to like me. You know, the way Dad used to?
    • The real kicker? There is no indication that she tries to correct him on this, meaning that even his mother acknowledges that Frank's father only pretended to like him.
    • There's another one for Frank. In an early episode, he's talking with Trapper and mentions that during his childhood no one was allowed to talk at the table, not even hum, without getting a punch in the throat. Trapper's stunned and says that's horrible. Frank then goes on to say that he thinks that's why he became a snitch, it was someone to talk to. He may be an unlikeable guy, but with a childhood like that, it's not surprising he ended up the way he was.
    • Another Frank moment comes in his very last episode, when they're all getting drunk at the Bachelor Party: "Stop laughing without me!" He just sounds so pitiful and desperate that you can't help but feel bad for the poor, ferret-faced man.
      • Not to mention his scene at the end of the same episode. After Margaret flies off for her honeymoon, he just stands there alone on the chopper pad and quietly says goodbye to her. The only moment in which he was afforded any dignity on the show.
  • Every other time a character is on the phone with a loved one back home. For example, "The Late Captain Pierce", when Hawkeye finally gets to tell his dad that yes, he is still alive. Most of the conversation comes across as a very real chat about nothing in particular, and it's still one of the most amazing bits of television ever.
  • Relatedly, any scene when they watch home movies sent to them by their families, especially that one scene where Blake's wife gets the little neighborhood kids to line up with a sign that says, "Miss you." (Hawkeye: "Henry, if you don't give the order to cry, I will.") Also when they're watching Radar's family and his mom mouths, "I love you", and Radar tearfully mouths back, "Mommy".
    • Anything involving Henry and his family back home is almost unbearable to watch once you've learned the character's ultimate fate. In his last episode, he's in the middle of discussing homecoming plans with his wife when the phone connection is prematurely cut off, a scene that in retrospect is one of the show's saddest moments in its own right.
      • Especially heartbreaking now is his storyline in "Showtime". It was pretty sad anyway, coupled with a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Radar gives him a Korean child to hold because he can't hold his own, but after "Abyssinia, Henry"? It's an effort just to keep it together.
      • Or how about his call to his family in "Henry In Love", where he tells his son that he has to be the man of the house, just until he gets back from Korea. Poor kid...
    • Even Frank's home movie is a tearjerker. The movie is that of his wedding to Louise and it's sad at just how pathetic it looks: there are hardly any guests (and a lot of empty chairs), Frank's boutonniere won't stay in place, he gets a fly strip stuck to his face while cutting the cake, nobody besides him looks happy (and even his smiles seem forced due to how much fail is going into the wedding), and, to top it off, his wife emasculates him by refusing to let him drive the honeymoon car. You may not feel sorry for Frank often, but when you do, you see just how bad his life really is.
  • The main plot of "Heal Thyself", in which a front-line doctor replacing the incapacitated Potter and Winchester goes completely insane. Just the helpless look he gives Dr. Pierce and that soft, unassuming voice: "The blood won't come off..."
    • It gets worse when BJ mentions that Newcombe (the surgeon in question) was "as strong as any of us." Then Pierce points out that that's what scares him: the fact that any of them could easily end up in that same spot once they hit their breaking point...
  • Henry's speech to Hawkeye in "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet".
    Henry: Pierce, is there anything I can do to help?
    Hawkeye: It's the first time I cried since I came to this crummy place. I don't understand that.
    Henry: Well, Gillis was your friend. I mean, it's only natural that you'd, uh, you know.
    Hawkeye: Henry, I know why I'm crying now. Tommy was my friend, and I watched him die, and I'm crying. I've watched guys die almost every day. Why didn't I ever cry for them?
    Henry: Because you're a doctor.
    Hawkeye: What the hell does that mean?
    Henry: I don't know. If I had the answer, I'd be at the Mayo Clinic. Does this place look like the Mayo Clinic? Look, all I know is what they taught me at command school: There are certain rules about a war. And rule number one is young men die. And rule number two is, doctors can't change rule number one.
  • From episode 17 of season 8, "Bless You, Hawkeye", watching Hawkeye as Sidney Freedman (who can somehow cause more Tear Jerkers than any other character) digs into his childhood and brings out the realization that Hawkeye's best friend pushed him off a boat when he was seven. Hawkeye falls apart fairly regularly, but seeing him wail and cry in the bed is heartrending.
    • Hell, Sidney gets one himself in "Dear Sigmund". Every other time that Sidney is onscreen, he's either working hard and helping someone piece their psyche back together or taking some time off to play poker with the staff of the 4077th, and constantly maintains dry, sardonic composure. But when he tells Hawkeye and BJ about how amongst a torrent of GIs who had cracked under the pressure, one particular soldier that he thought he'd saved who was hearing voices pushing him towards suicide "listened to the voices," it feels like a punch in the gut to find out that this man was just as vulnerable as the staff of the 4077th.
    • From "War of Nerves":
      Sidney: When Pierce and Hunnicutt lose one, he's out of his misery. When I lose one, I've lost a mind.
      Mulcahy: When I lose one, I've lost a soul. I guess it all depends on your point of view.
  • There was the episode where a soldier came to the 4077th with absolutely no memory of who he was or where he was at all, not even his name. Under hypnosis, it was revealed that he lost it because his younger brother had been killed in action and he felt responsible because he promised his parents he'd look out for him. The hypnosis scene is an all-time weeper. "Oh, Stevie...no, Stevie..."
    • Looking at Hawkeye, BJ, and Sidney at that moment when they find out what happened to the medic, you see a moment where they all look at each other in horror. You can tell that they briefly wonder whether making this poor kid remember was the right thing to do.
  • Radar's departure, as he has to say his rushed and confused goodbyes to the others as a load of wounded comes pouring in just as they're planning to get his going-away party underway. In particular, the scene where Hawkeye — who has to go to the O.R. before being able to say anything — glances up while operating, sees Radar peering through the window, shoots him an agonized look, and then fires him a salute.
    • Earlier in the episode, Radar is packing away his personal effects when he comes upon a familiar item:
      Radar: [to Klinger] It's my very own personal-type thermometer. Colonel Blake gave it to me just before he...
    • Col. Potter choking back tears as he says goodbye.
      Potter: Not exactly how I wanted to say goodbye, Radar.
      Radar: Me neither, sir.
      Potter: [voice audibly breaking] Godspeed, son. [They embrace, while the camera focuses on Potter's utterly heartbroken expression]
      • Interestingly, Potter's facial expressions and body language in that scene almost perfectly mirror Radar's own reactions when saying goodbye to Col. Blake five seasons earlier, making the scene both a Tear Jerker and a beautifully subtle Continuity Nod.
    • Not to mention the scene in The Tag of that episode, where Hawkeye, BJ and Potter return to the Swamp and find Radar's beloved teddy bear lying on Hawkeye's cot — indicating that Radar has left not only the 4077th, but his childhood behind forever.
  • The end of the penultimate episode. Margaret is putting together a time capsule to commemorate the 4077's presence in Korea. After expressing resistance for the whole episode BJ and Hawkeye come through at the end.
    Hawkeye: [hands over a teddy bear] This belonged to Radar; he left it for me. Let it stand for all the soldiers who came over as boys, and left as men.
    BJ: [hands over a fishing lure] Here, I fished with this a few times. Hawkeye told me it belonged to Colonel Blake. Let it stand for all the men who never came home.
  • "Dear Sis", the season 7 Christmas Episode (and Father Mulcahy's "Letter Episode"). From the Crowning Moment of Heartwarming ending (and then the truck with the wounded comes in...) from when Winchester saw his childhood winter hat to when everyone is singing "Dona Nobis Pacem", along with moments earlier in the episode of Margaret barely keeping it together in the scene at the Colonel's office and Mulcahy crying because he feels so guilty at punching the jackass soldier... one of the show's most emotional episodes.
  • Hawkeye's phone call with his Dad at the end of "Sons and Bowlers". He's saying "I love you. I love you. I'll be home as soon as I can," with this really choked up, happy-tears voice.
    • Hell, any time Hawkeye's dad comes up for more than a few moments, you can tell just how badly Hawkeye misses him and how close the poor guy is to coming unglued.
  • Hawkeye in "Dr. Pierce and Dr. Hyde". He's exhausted, he's telling chopper pilots not to go up anymore because they always bring mangled kids back down with them and he's so ridiculously vulnerable that you just want to hold him and say it will all be okay.
    • Also of note is the scene where, late at night while its raining, he heads to Radar to send a telegram to President Truman (to find out who's responsible for the war). In particular, when he sings "I'll Be Home For Christmas", increasingly near tears... and Radar is just stunned.
  • In "Peace on Us", there is a scene with Margaret and Hawkeye, where she's found out that Donald's run out on her and Hawkeye is pissed because they've changed the point system again. He asks her what she's going to do and she angrily says she'll get a divorce. But then it starts to sink in and she says it a second time while starting to cry.
    • Doubled when Hawkeye immediately drops his rant when she starts crying, decides he's had enough, and charges all the way to the peace talks to try and get them to end the war.
  • The Christmas episode where Hawkeye, BJ, and Margaret are desperately trying to save a mortally wounded soldier all day Christmas day, then just trying to keep him alive long enough so that he won't die on Christmas, and not break down. The man finally dies about an hour before midnight, but the doctors turn the clock forward so the time of death will be 12:01, December 26, so that for the man's children, Christmas won't have to be the day their daddy died. It's beyond heartbreaking, especially when one thinks of all the men and women who did die on Christmas, whether in Vietnam, Korea, or any other war, and how painful that loss would be for their families. The scene with the doctors and Margaret silently looking at the pictures of the soldier's children and the letter from his wife just rips your heart out and stomps on it.
  • Trapper, at the end of the "Kim" episode.
  • The ending to the episode "Yessir, That's Our Baby". A Korean-American infant girl is abandoned at the camp. The unit quickly adores her but learns as well that because she is of mixed race there is nothing but a grim future ahead of her in Korea. So they attempt to find a new safe placement for the child in the U.S. but for all their effort everything falls through and they must leave the baby at a monastery, a place that will give her a safe but narrow future. Hawkeye's final comment to the baby is a tear bringer.
    Hawkeye: You brought a little light to a dark and dismal place. And you’ll never know what you meant to a group of tired people stuck in a very strange time. Be happy.
    • The note left with the baby, halting English written in a hand that Charles and Hawkeye have to work together to decipher, is worth a few tissues too. In full: "This is my baby. She is good baby. Strong. Beautiful. Father American GI. Gone now. Baby American too. Please, doctors, care for her. I cannot, but I love her."
    • The note is even sadder when you realize that the mother had probably hoped that the 4077 staff would be in position to get the child placement in the U.S. so that it wouldn't have to be left at a monastery, and after you've seen all the effort the characters went through to try and spare it that very fate.
    • Subtly sad is that of all the 4077 staff, Father Mulcahy is the one unmoved by her plight, because he's already seen it dozens of times — and also what happens to mixed race children if they don't find refuge.note 
  • In "The Late Captain Pierce", after Hawkeye realizes that his dad has been informed of his "death" and there's a communications blackout so he can't contact him to say it was a paperwork error, he has a breakdown and gives up on everything, going so far as to find a morgue bus and try to desert as a corpse. BJ tracks him down to convince him to come back, and as they talk the sound of approaching choppers suddenly comes up.
    Hawkeye: Wounded.
    BJ: Klinger says a lot.
    Hawkeye: I don't care. I really don't. They'll keep coming whether I'm here or not. Trapper went home; they're still coming. Henry got killed and they're still coming. Wherever they come from... they'll never run out.
  • "Pressure Points" has a visiting doctor flown in to explain the newly invented phosphorus-tipped bullet and how to deal with the grotesque burning damage it leaves in the body. Pierce and Hunnicutt lay on the jokes, much to Houlihan's consternation, but to their surprise it's Potter who blows his top at them, but the end of his tirade lets on that there's more than just frustration at their wisecracking:
    Potter: Now you tell me this — if people can invent new and better ways of killing each other, why can't someone invent a way to end this... stupid war?!"
    • Potter himself is practically in tears at this point. The man is tired, angry, and at the end of his rope, and he just wants out.
    • Let us not forget what helped drive him to that outburst, and the rest of Potter's OOC behavior that episode. He and Hawkeye each had a patient who were near-identical in wounds and surgical complexity, but Potter's patient had to be operated on again due to some shrapnel he missed. This creates incredible angst, as he fears he's losing his touch and won't be able to practice surgery ever again. The story he tells Sidney of how he was inspired to go into medicine is also quite moving, as well.
  • In "Depressing News," the unit gets a massive shipment of tongue depressors. When BJ laughs it off as a simple snafu, Hawkeye's awareness of the larger implications behind it (and his disgust and weariness with the same) come bubbling out:
    Hawkeye: Snafu, phooey. We wouldn't have this supply if they didn't think there would be a demand. Tongue depressors, doctors, soldiers... we're all the same. [grabs a depressor] Trapper John goes. No problem, there's plenty more where he came from. [tosses it and grabs another] BJ Hunnicutt. Same size, same shape. [grabs two more] Frank Burns out, Winchester in. Only a hair's difference. [grabs another] Henry Blake... [snaps it in two] Rest in peace, Henry. Incoming, Sherman Potter. My God. Hasn't this elimination tournament gone on long enough? Do they have to stock up so that it can last another five years?
    • Not to mention that after laughing at seeing the tongue depressors for the first time, BJ jokes that they have enough to last five years. He and Hawkeye then immediately stop laughing and realize the horror of it.
  • Potter's storyline in "Old Soldiers", culminating in his toast to his buddies who have passed on at the end of the episode. Perhaps the most striking thing is the sight of Winchester moved to tears.
  • Father Mulcahy's sermon in "Blood Brothers", comparing the selflessness of Patrick Swayze's character in the face of learning he has a terminal disease to Mulcahy's own selfish desires in wanting everything to be perfect in the hopes of gaining acknowledgement from a visiting cardinal. By the end of the sermon he's using "I" instead of "he" to identify himself in the sermon and on the verge of tears.
  • In "Hey Look Me Over", Nurse Kelleye, sitting up with a patient who is terminal, comforts him by indulging his belief that she is his girlfriend back home, and in his dying moments they plan a picnic date and talk about the plans they had for a life together.
    • In "Letters", Houlihan does the same with another patient whose liver is completely gone. He doesn't know he's going to die in a few hours, so she just keeps talking to him about what he plans to do when he gets home.
  • Radar sobbing after seeing his mother mouth "I love you" on a silent home movie sent to him.
  • Another for Radar, in "Some 38th Parallels": After he alerts BJ that one patient's IV drip has fallen out, BJ credits Radar for saving the guy's life. Radar begins to feel the satisfaction of saving someone's life and even begins to befriend and bond with the man, but he ends up dying of his injuries anyway. Radar's still in complete and utter shock up through the end of The Tag.
    • This conversation outside the O.R. sums up whole the situation:
      Radar: Gee, I hope I don't cry.
      BJ: It's no sin, Radar.
      Radar: When was the last time you felt like crying, sir?
      BJ: What time is it?
  • "Follies of the Living - Concerns of the Dead" is one long Tearjerker, which is from the perspective of a dead GI named Weston only Klinger can see (because he's sick.) The final kicker is during The Stinger, when Klinger asks what happened to Weston. There is also an All Are Equal in Death in which Weston, other American GIs, North Korean soldiers and civilians Go Into the Light.
  • In "Letters", Hawkeye has a teacher friend send letters from her fourth-grade class. Two of these generate Tearjerker moments.
    • Margaret's letter comes from a kid got to know the staff of a hospital he had to stay at (tonsillectomy). He asks the letter's recipient if they ever really get to know the patients as well. Margaret has a flashback to a patient who was in really good spirits and talking about things back home. She finds out that the soldiers kidneys have shut down. This is on top of knowing the man has a severed spine and lying to him about why he has no feeling in his legs. After Hawkeye and BJ tell her he probably only has a matter of hours left, Margaret returns to the soldier's bedside and continues to talk with him as if nothing's happening. Margaret's final words seals just how much it affected her.
    • Charles manages to garner a little sympathy for himself. His patronizing remarks and pompous attitude to the whole idea comes to an end with one letter from a girl who sent along a bright red maple leaf. Being from New England himself, Charles is so moved by the gesture (although he tries to hide it from the other Swamp Rats) that he sets aside his tape recorder, picks up his pen, and begins writing a very heartfelt response.
  • Then there's "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen". Forget a kleenex, you're going to need an IV for the dehydration from crying.
    • One of the big ones is The Reveal of what got Hawkeye sent to the crazy house before the beginning of the final episode: that a Korean woman killed a chicken she was holding because Hawkeye was hissing at her to keep it quiet so they wouldn't be caught by nearby enemy soldiers. It is then revealed that it wasn't a chicken but a baby. Hawkeye replaced the baby with a chicken because he couldn't deal with the truth.
      Hawkeye: You son of a bitch, why did you make me remember that?
      • According to the actors in one of the "making of" documentaries, this was Truth in Television many times over. Alan Alda said he had heard of this happening in two different wars, and the cast and crew had spoken to many people who had either witnessed such a thing or knew about it happening.
    • A near-tearjerker is the look on Hawkeye's face when he gets back to the camp and finds out that B.J. left in the same way Trapper did - no note, no goodbye, and while he was gone. Thankfully BJ comes back, but the look of devastation on Hawkeye's face...
    • And speaking of Hawkeye and BJ, their conversation in the tent where Hawkeye acknowledges that they will probably never see each other again after the war. BJ tries to mutter something about staying in touch or getting together, but he can't even look at his friend. Even if they do see each other again after the war, the relationship that they have with each other now will effectively be gone.
    • As Hawkeye's helicopter takes off, he sees BJ's final message to him, spelled out in white stones: "GOODBYE".
    • While the finale was a heartbreaker, the moment where peace is declared is a moment of such pure joy. The look of relief on Winchester's face and the happiness afterwards is incredibly uplifting.
    • Winchester's reaction to the Chinese musicians being killed. "Those men weren't soldiers... they were musicians!" The heartbreak in that line, and his subsequent smashing of the record of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet...wow.note 
    • When everyone is saying where and what they are going to next, most of the stories are humorous (such as Rizzo planning on selling frog's legs to French restaurants or BJ pretending that he was going to leave Peg on the spur of the moment). Then, Bigelow stands up and says that, between World War II and Korea, she's had enough of the army and just wants to go home.
    • BJ almost getting home. He had made several legs of the journey and, while on a layover waiting for his next trip, gets the message that he has to go back to the 4077 instead of home to his family.
    • The fact that most of them would never see each other again, ever, is very sad even if the entire reason they were lumped together in the first place (most of them unwillingly) was because of a war. It was especially hard even for people like Winchester to say a final goodbye and leave. Chances are, the majority of them lived out their lives and died without ever knowing what happened to the others, as the technology we have today for instantaneous contact wouldn't come until many decades later.
      • Other than the telephone and telegraph. Most likely, those who did stay in touch were using those plus letters and postcards. Given BJ's enthusiasm for the idea of reunion parties, he quite likely staged some.