A Thought on M*A*S*H*

While at my computer, I have been listening to (not watching) the M*A*S*H marathon on TV. They were playing Lt. col. Blake’s final episode. As the episode came near to its end, I had to get up from the keyboard and watch.

If you know M*A*S*H, you probably know the episode. It’s the one where they spend the whole time being excited that blake’s being discharged at last and going home. Shortly after he leaves the 4077 in the helicopter comes the point where I had to rise.

The moment where everybody’s in the operating theater. Radar bursts in pale-faced and haltingly reads the notice that Lt. Col. Blake’s plane was shot down over the sea of Japan, leaving no survivors. It’s an incredibly poignant moment that in many ways defined the series: very rapidly shifting gears from cheerful to depressing.

Some years ago I saw a special on M*A*S*H that revealed a fascinating detail about that scene. The actors there thought the scene was going to be something entirely different (I think a pretty generic and brief shot of them at work in the OR), other than Radar. Their reactions were not scripted, but were their natural reaction to the news.

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