This is the moment that changed what the stakes could be on a television show forever. Up until the third season of MASH, your main characters were safe. Oh, they’d get into trouble, but they weren’t going to die on you. MASH was the right show to shatter this illusion. For three years they’d been killing off nameless soldiers, and pretending that death was something that happens to other people; never your dearest and closest.
I’ve included an excerpt from MASH show runner Larry Gelbart’s autobiography where he goes into detail about the scene and debunks the rumor that no one knew what was going on until the crushing final scene of the finale for season 3. Radar, in a stupor, clutching a telegram in his fist, walks into the operation room and informs everyone that Lt. Col. Henry Blake, the show’s clueless and affable chief for the first three seasons, who had gotten his discharge earlier in the episode, that Lt. Col. Blake’s plane had gone down over the Sea of Japan. There were no survivors. The operating room just goes stone cold quiet for a moment, but then they have to turn off that part of their humanity and go back to work; they’ve got open bodies on the table. It was shocking. It was brilliant. No character ever felt safe again. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: M*A*S*H Season 3 (1975) “Abyssinia, Henry”