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Recap / M*A*S*H S11 E16: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen

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After eleven seasons, 250 episodes, multiple cast changes, three showrunners and three in-universe years elapsed, M*A*S*H is coming to an end.

It's July 1953 and the war is winding down at last. But as the armistice nears and the 4077th staff prepares to leave Korea behind for good, everything is not well for all of the members of the unit.

Tropes appearing in "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen":

  • Accidental Child-Killer Backstory: It's eventually revealed that, while on the bus trying to hide from an enemy patrol, a panicky Hawkeye had ordered a Korean woman to quiet her crying infant. When the noise stopped, he spun around, realizing to his horror that she had smothered the child. It was so traumatic and guilt-inducing he edited the memory in his own mind, remembering it as a chicken rather than a baby. Sidney Freedman forces him to confront the truth in an effort to try and salvage his sanity.
  • Ambiguously Bi: They get in one more non-gendered reference with Hawkeye impishly saying that he "loved as many of you as I could" at the farewell party, to which both female and male personnel laugh delightedly.
  • Answer to Prayers: After having his hearing damaged in an attack on the camp, Father Mulcahy agonizes over his future and asks God what good a deaf priest would be. Soon afterwards he is inspired to begin working with the deaf once he gets home.
  • Arc Words: "Goodbye". Hawkeye and B.J. spend much of the episode in conflict over Beej being unable to say goodbye. Then there's the second-to-last shot of the series...note 
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When going over the erratic behavior that landed Hawkeye in the psych ward, Sidney notes that the surgeon had withheld anesthesia from a patient (and accused the nurse of trying to "smother" him), then driven a jeep through the wall of the Officer's Club and ordered a double bourbon instead of his usual martini. It's the last one that Hawkeye admits was strange.
  • Batty Lip Burbling: Invoked by Hawkeye when Father Mulcahy asks on the phone whether there's anything they can send him while he's in the mental ward:
    Hawkeye: Yeah, how 'bout a Band-Aid for my finger? I got a blister from going [burbleburbleburble].
  • Beneath the Mask: Instead of making everything about himself crowd-pleasing and accessible like he's done for most of the series, Hawkeye lets the babbling, rants, and bitter jokes fly after his final breakdown. It makes everyone deeply uncomfortable, even when he's back to functioning.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Father Mulcahy, without hesitation, runs out to free the POWs from their cage when Potter mentions they are trapped in the line of fire.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Hawkeye and Margaret when they finally part ways. One of the longest ever shown on television. It runs so long that Charles begins reading from a book and is several pages in by the end.
  • Chain of Corrections: As Margaret dictates a telegram for Klinger to send:
    Margaret: This goes to Robert Harwell, Chairman of the Board, Mercy Hospital, Boston, Massachusettes. "Dear Uncle Bob..."
    Klinger: Gee, your uncle runs a hospital?
    Margaret: Well, he's not really my uncle.
    Klinger: Oh, that kind of "uncle". I get it.
    Margaret: [through clenched teeth] He's a friend of the family. I've been calling him that since I was a kid. Now be quiet.
  • Continuity Nod: Several, as befitting a series finale.
    • Hawkeye attempts to compose a letter to his father while in the psych hospital.
    • Hawkeye complains that B.J. left the 4077 without even leaving him a note – just like Trapper had.
    • In Season 4's "Hey Doc", Potter suggests parking a tank in the camp to chase off sniper fire. This time the tank that breaks down in the camp draws enemy fire. Likewise, one of the camp members decides to go on a rampage with the tank through the camp in each episode: In "Hey Doc", it was Frank showing off, in this episode, it was a manic Hawkeye clumsily getting the tank out of camp so that the North Koreans would stop shelling them.
    • Margaret and Charles argue again over whether Charles touched his nose during a surgical session.
      • Watch the MP who's by the door, as Charles is working with the POW musicians at the time. He's making a valiant attempt not to laugh.
    • Margaret still has the copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese that Charles gave her in "Give and Take".
    • Charles reminds Margaret that she still owes him the Beethoven record she promised him for delivering a lecture in her place so she could go to Tokyo in "The Birthday Girls".
    • While saying goodbye to Hawkeye and B.J., Potter references their pantsing Charles in the OR in "Bottoms Up", which he now admits he only pretended to be angry about.
    • Hawkeye references B.J. nailing his boot to the floor in "The Joker Is Wild".
    • B.J.'s love of motorcycles comes up again.
    • Sidney leaves the episode, and series, with a bit of doggerel that he'd first uttered in the "O.R." episode from Season 3:
      Sidney: You know, I told you people something a long time ago, and it's just as pertinent today as it was then. Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.
    • Hawkeye asks B.J. if he would hold him while he was dying or just let him lie there and bleed, something Hawkeye was forced to do while his friend Tommy lay dying in "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet". B.J. has no clue what he's talking about.
    • Hawkeye had delivered a baby on a bus in "Love and Marriage". This time, in a twist of cruel irony, he's the cause of a baby dying on a bus.
    • When Hawkeye is in surgery, fresh off a breakdown and another best friend leaving him, he sarcasm modes that he's doing "swimmingly", going back to the watery analogies from the "Bless You, Hawkeye" trauma.
    • Margaret is assigned to assist Hawkeye during his first session back in the OR, continuing the tradition of her being assigned to doctors they have concerns over.
    • Sidney reminds Hawkeye that they don't send someone home over a temporary case of battle fatigue (as they called PTSD at the time). Instead, they are returned to their unit as soon as is feasible to prevent the symptoms from becoming permanent.
  • Cool Bike: B.J. commandeers one from a POW and paints it yellow.
  • Cool Car: Inverted. The only vehicle available for Charles to ride out of the 4077 is a filthy garbage truck. However, he notes with amusement that it's a fitting way to leave a garbage dump, and departs with his usual dignity completely intact.
    Charles: [bowing] Gentlemen.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Literally: while Hawkeye managed to drive the tank out of the camp to stop the bombing, this prompts Potter to call for Sidney, who later says that under the circumstances it was actually the sanest course of action anyone could take.
  • Death of a Child: This is what made Hawkeye completely break down. Not only did a woman smother her own baby to death, she did it to comply with Hawkeye's panicked demand for silence.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: During a party to celebrate the armistice, the main staff take turns stating what they're going to do once they get home:
    • Colonel Potter says he'll be a "semi-retired country doctor", but will mostly be "Mrs. Potter's Mr. Potter", after years of being away from home.
    • Hawkeye declares that instead of trying to get a job in the hustle and bustle of a big city, he intends to join his father's practice in Crabapple Cove.
    • Charles states that he's going to be named Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Boston Mercy Hospital, which was the job he'd lined up before being drafted, and that his life will go on "pretty much as I expected", before a haunted expression crosses his face as he admits that music, once his sole comfort from the horrors of Korea, will now instead always remind him of it.
    • B.J. jokes that while he was on his (unsuccessful) trip back to the States he hooked up with a beautiful nurse in Guam and decided to run off with her, before admitting he's lying and sitting back down.
    • Margaret pays tribute to her father's decisiveness by declaring that instead of taking a military position, she's going to return to the states and work in a civilian hospital, like she'd always wanted to.
    • Klinger reveals that he and Soon-Lee are going to get married, but since she refuses to leave Korea until learning the fate of her parents, he'll be staying in the place he's been desperately trying to leave since day one. Hearing this makes the entire tent burst into laughter.
    • Rizzo says he's going to go home and get rich breeding frogs for French restaurants. Hawkeye tosses him some start-up cash.
    • Igor plans to serve food to diners who won't complain about what he dishes up – by becoming a pig farmer.
      Rizzo: Whaddaya mean, "gonna be"?
    • Nurse Kellye has put in a transfer to an Army hospital in Honolulu so she can be with her family.
    • Nurse Bigelow announces that, after having served as an Army nurse in both World War II and now Korea, she's "had it" with the job.
    • An unnamed enlisted man says that he's going to stay in the Army and apply to Officer school.
    • Corpsman Goldman laughingly admits that he doesn't know what he's going to do.
  • Finale Movie: A movie-length episode that wraps up the series.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Sidney notes that, during Hawkeye's initial breakdown, Hawkeye accused a nurse of trying to smother a patient.
    • B.J. pays Hawkeye a visit in the mental ward. Everything starts out fine, but the second B.J. mentions his child, Hawkeye starts raving so badly that B.J. calls Sidney back into the room for help.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Klinger and Soon Lee.
  • Freudian Slip: Played for Drama. In his ramblings while under Sidney Freedman's care, Hawkeye frequently uses idioms or other phrases containing the word "bus" or "chicken". Sidney always notices.
  • Gaslighting: Hawkeye accuses Sidney and others of doing this to him, even referencing the movie Gaslight to B.J. They're not. He really has had a mental breakdown.
  • Grand Finale: The Trope Codifier. The finale. One so beloved that it broke records and stood at the top of the ratings and garnered the highest percentage of America's viewing audience in history when it aired (over 60% of all households with a television at the time watched it). This was the first enormously influential series finale since The Fugitive, and was also so impactful that it helped to diminish the number of shows that would unceremoniously just stop running and never wrap up in full when they didn't want to make any more episodes. To this day it remains the most-watched single episode of scripted television in US broadcast history, only being surpassed in total amount of viewers by a few Super Bowls... and even then it took until 2010 for one of those to do so.
  • Gut Punch: Tons, with the biggest ones being Hawkeye's psychotic break (and the eventual reveal of what caused it), Father Mulcahy's hearing damage, the deaths of the Chinese musicians, and the slow and sad packing up of the 4077 for good.
  • Here We Go Again!: During the last operating session, the radio announcer mentions the possibility of funding being dedicated to supporting forces in South Vietnam.
  • Heroic RRoD: Hawkeye has already spent much of Season 11 talking about how his usual coping methods (getting angry at Army brass, joking about everything, sleeping around, drinking) aren't working anymore, and a Death of a Child is the final push to break a Sad Clown. His jokes become angrier and alienating, and he admits in the Now What? scene that he's going to take it easy for a while before never being a surgeon again.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The bus incident that sends Hawkeye to the psych ward takes place on the way back from a Fourth of July beach outing.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: "...I'm staying in Korea." – Maxwell Q. Klinger
    Hawkeye: You don't have to act crazy anymore! We're all getting out!
  • Inelegant Blubbering: When Hawkeye finally remembers the true account of what happened on the bus.
  • It Has Been an Honor:
    • Margaret tells this to her nurses during her speech at the goodbye party.
    • Hawkeye and B.J. give Potter a sincere military salute when bidding him goodbye.
  • Karmic Death: Inverted. The soldiers who surrendered to Charles were nothing more than harmless and friendly musicians, and Charles spent the last few days of the war helping them refine their skills. Their deaths en route to a prisoner exchange leave Charles absolutely devastated.
    Charles: For me, music was always a refuge from this miserable experience. And now it will always be a reminder.
  • Laugh Track: One of the rare episodes to omit it entirely.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: B.J.'s goodbye to Hawkeye was aimed at the audience as much as it was Hawkeye.
  • Long List: Hawkeye, as per usual, and he does it three times: Twice while under Sidney's care, and once to Colonel Potter.
  • Manly Tears: Hawkeye, B.J., and Potter especially, while saying their goodbyes.
  • Mood Whiplash: Starts once the war is officially declared over, and continues as the reality sets in. Sidney's early departure kicks it off, being witty and poetic and a bookend to his debut. The last few moments the whole 4077th have together as a group are a mixture of cheer and pain, where they all reflect on their time in the camp in both positive and negative ways and try to look forward with hopeful hearts. For the most part, the joy is in full effect when Klinger gets married to Soon Li, but as the wedding procession leaves, with some taking with them the names of their hometowns from the signpost in camp. Most of the group leaves in batches of Army vehicles, suddenly reducing the cast down to its last stragglers and leaving a once-lively camp down to scant traces, and now the reality is painfully clear that the end is nigh for this close-knit 4077th family. Then, as more people say goodbye, the partings get increasingly emotional, until we get to Father Mulcahy leaving on a bittersweet note (which AfterMASH will uplift), Margaret sharing a passionate farewell kiss with Hawkeye, a moderately stoic/pithy farewell from Charles and Rizzo intermixed with dry humor, and then one very emotional farewell where Potter says goodbye to Hawkeye and B.J. and admits he's going to be riding Sophie out of camp because he can't take her with him and will be donating her to a place where she can be happy and children will get to ride her. Then, we come to the very last and most emotional goodbye of all: the signature final scene, in which Hawkeye and B.J. bid each other farewell in their own unique ways.
  • Motor Mouth: B.J. says Hawkeye was talking a mile a minute before he was taken to the psych hospital, and comments on how much calmer he's gotten. Of course, as soon as B.J. mentions his baby daughter, he starts up again.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Hawkeye's worst fear happens when B.J. leaves without saying goodbye; Trapper left without saying goodbye too. B.J. memorably gets a second chance to give Hawkeye a "goodbye".
  • Now What?: At their final dinner together, the staff of the 4077 all talk about their post-war plans. Most are joyful, but some are so traumatized by their experiences that they can barely cope with the idea of an after.
  • The Oner:
    • A long tracking shot follows Hawkeye and Sidney during their conversation at the bug-out site.
    • The final O.R. scene leading up to the announcement of the ceasefire is done in a single, continuous arc shot, showing the surgeons operating and the other characters in support roles.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: While oddball behavior certainly wouldn't be out-of-character for Hawkeye in and of itself, the nature of his antics after the day on the beach told the 4077 staff that he was going dangerously insane.
    Hawkeye: There is nothing wrong with me!
    Sidney: That's what you said the night they brought you here. You'd just driven your jeep through the wall of the Officers' Club and ordered a double bourbon.
    Hawkeye: Okay, that was strange. I drink martinis.
  • Precision F-Strike: Hawkeye viciously calls Sidney a "son of a bitch" for making him remember what happened on the bus.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: By one storyteller. As Hawkeye tells and retells the accounts of the day at the beach and the bus ride back, the story changes each time. Turns out that it's a mental defense mechanism, as his mind is suppressing the real story. Sidney slowly extracts the truth.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The bug out scene where the 4077 had to move due to a fire caused by incendiary bombs was the result of an actual wildfire. The outdoor set was almost completely destroyed, resulting in the use of stock footage for the bug out scene itself.
  • Really Gets Around: Hawkeye teases that he loved as many of the camp as he could, and it's not just women reacting, implying he's slept with a fair amount of the male staff too.
  • The Reveal: Hawkeye is describing the woman at the back of the bus smothering her noisy chicken to help keep the bus hidden from an enemy patrol, when he suddenly remembers that it wasn't a chicken at all – the woman killed her own crying baby, and she did it because Hawkeye demanded that she do something about the noise.
  • Running Gag: The latrine is repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt throughout the episode. This is notably troubling to Charles, who is suffering from diarrhea.
  • Secret-Keeper: Father Mulcahy implores B.J. not to let anyone else know about his tinnitus, lest he get sent home and leave Sister Theresa's orphans without his care. B.J. promises he won't – and doesn't.
  • Self-Serving Memory: Played for drama: Hawkeye was so emotionally devastated by causing a mother to smother her baby that he rewrote the scene in his mind to replace the baby with a chicken. When Sidney makes him remember the truth, he breaks.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: While a heroic gesture, Mulcahy running out to the POW compound serves no practical benefit, as the M.P.s are already getting them to safety by the time he arrives and he ends up being the only one wounded during the mortar attack.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The first half of the episode has Hawkeye in a mental ward under Sidney Freedman's care. As the story unfolds, we find out how and why Hawkeye finally flipped so badly that he needed confinement and intensive treatment.
  • Talkative Loon: During his time at the mental ward, Hawkeye's usual sarcastic ramblings are notably angrier and more troubling.
  • Telegraph Gag STOP: Margaret is dictating a telegram for Klinger to send to her "Uncle Bob" in Boston on Charles's behalf, while Col. Potter is waiting for him to phone I Corps to take the abandoned tank away.
    Margaret: Have worked with Major Winchester two years STOP One of the finest surgeons I've ever known STOP
    Potter: Stop! Tell I Corps that tank is still sitting out there, and this is not a parking lot!
  • Trash the Set: Not intentional, but a case when real life had its say. Mother Nature herself caused havoc when they went to shoot the exterior scenes in Malibu. A wildfire swept in and burned up a lot of the set that the crews couldn't get hauled away to safety. This necessitated the bug-out plot development. (As this was the first episode of Season 11 to be shot, the set was quickly rebuilt to complete it, while most of the remaining episodes were shot at the interior soundstage in Century City.)
  • Unreliable Narrator: As Hawkeye keeps retelling about the bus ride, the picture changes as to accommodate how his memory of the event slowly clears.
  • Verbal Tic: Sidney soon catches on that Hawkeye keeps inserting "bus" and "chicken" references into his comments.
  • Wham Line: Several, but a few highlights:
    Hawkeye: It was-It was a baby! She-She smothered her own baby!
    • Klinger winds up taking a look at the sky at one point, and takes notice of the warm glow.
      Klinger: Colonel, look at that sunset. What a beautiful ending for a beautiful day.
      Potter: Yeah, it'd be a nice sunset if [points in the other direction] it was setting over there.
      Klinger: What do you mean?
      Potter: Ever since I've been around, the sun's always set in the west.
      Klinger: Then what's that?
      Potter: Once saw that same kind of glow in the Ardennes forest. Next day there wasn't any forest left.
    • Everyone is milling around at the new campsite after the bugout when the PA announcer comes on.
      Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, five minutes ago, at 10:01 this morning, the truce was signed in Panmunjom. The hostilities will end twelve hours from now at ten o'clock. THE WAR IS OVER!
  • Wham Shot:
    • When explaining the incident on the bus to Sidney, he mentions how he had to tell a woman to make her chicken stop making noise. It suddenly goes quiet as the woman becomes distressed, confusing (and then shocking) Hawkeye as he turns back around... while Hawkeye begins to freak out in reality upon remembering she killed "it". Back in the flashback, the camera then pans down. She wasn't holding a chicken.
      Hawkeye: Oh, my God! OH, MY GOD!
      [cut back to flashback; the woman is starting to cry]
      [camera pans down; she's holding a now-dead baby ]
    • When they return to the camp site after the bugout, we see the charred remnants of the tents and the damaged building they use as HQ/O.R. Doubles as Enforced Method Acting, as this was the first time the cast had been back following the real-life wildfire that had destroyed the outdoor set.
    • Winchester finds that listening to classical music, previously his refuge from the war's horrors, has become a grim reminder of them after one of the casualties brought in turns out to be a member of the Chinese quintet that followed him back to the camp, who he subsequently taught to play a Mozart piece before they were taken away for a prisoner swap. Furthermore, the rest of the quintet didn't survive either.
      Winchester: Half his chest is gone, does he even have a pulse? [he looks at the face of the victim] Oh, God, no! [to another soldier] What happened to the other people in the truck with him?
      Soldier: He's the only one that made it this far.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: B.J. gets his discharge orders and leaves for home, only to get intercepted en route and pulled back to the 4077 when the orders are rescinded.

Alternative Title(s): MASH Goodbye Farewell And Amen