Episode Spotlight: Good-Bye Radar (Part 2)

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“Good-Bye Radar (Part 2)” (#174, 8×05)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, October 15th, 1979
Written by Ken Levine & David Isaacs
Directed by Charles S. Dubin

Capsule Summary: Radar decides he doesn’t want to go home, leading to a confrontation with Hawkeye. Eventually, he decides to leave, and the 4077th plans a going away party.

Thanks to the random number generator that decides which episodes I review each Monday, it’s been over 11 months since I reviewed “Good-Bye Radar (Part 1)” back in December 2013. Much of that review and the ensuing comments focused on Gary Burghoff’s performance as Radar: not wearing his jeep cap, his unruly hair, and his voice sounding different. All of those factors are present in Part 2 as well, so I won’t be rehashing them here. He did actually wear the jeep cap in scenes in both episodes, but with the hair it didn’t fit quite right.

You have to give Burghoff credit for agreeing to return to M*A*S*H for his farewell episodes, considering he wanted to leave so badly at the end of Season 7. It’s too bad we’re saying goodbye to this particular version of Radar but at least we got to say goodbye. I think I prefer these episodes to no farewell at all, which is what we got with Trapper (and Frank, but his departure actually worked for the character). But it certainly would have been nice to see a less bitter, less tired Radar leave the 4077th one last time.

As was the case with Part 1, there’s not much to the plot. It’s odd that there’s next to no mention of Uncle Ed and how Radar is dealing with his death. The 4077th is still without a generator as Radar begins to pack for home. His decision to stay paradoxically seems both in and out of character. It’s not believable that this bitter, tired version of Radar would refuse the opportunity to leave Korea but I can see the other Radar (the “true” Radar, so to speak) being very conflicted about leaving.

Likewise, Klinger saving the day is both a nice bit of character growth as well as a plot point necessary to get Radar to leave. Klinger needed to come through for the 4077th in order to believe he could ever hope to fill Radar’s shoes as company clerk and it’s believable enough that a call could come in while Radar was unavailable, forcing Klinger to act. His scam to get the generator is pure Klinger.

Hawkeye confronting Radar about his decision to stay is a bit over-the-top. On the other hand, Colonel Potter telling Radar it’s time to go home later in the episode is very poignant:

Listen, Radar. I guess you realize I’m kinda fond of you. Lord knows, I’ve never met a soul I could depend on more. But above all that, you’ve been a damn good friend. Well, friend, it’s time we said goodbye. Time you got on with your life. You’ve come as far as you can go here. You’ve earned your wings. Now you’ve gotta fly.

The line “you’ve come as far as you can go here” could be referring to Burghoff as much as Radar.

Hawkeye’s salute is a nice farewell, as is Potter’s hug, Klinger promising to make Radar proud of him, Father Mulcahy giving him a blessing, and Charles calling him Walter. B.J. seemed more concerned about his family than Radar leaving. Margaret’s rushed goodbye (“You know, you’re okay”) is just bizarre. I guess she said everything she needed to when she randomly kissed him earlier in the episode.

The bear he left behind

The opening scene to this episode featured some nice references to earlier episodes: the thermometer Colonel Blake gave Radar in “Abyssinia, Henry” (Season Three) and the purple heart he earned in “Fallen Idol” (Season Six). Continuity between episodes is always nice, particularly in pivotal episodes like this one.

B.J. and Radar’s farewell scene, in which B.J. explains that everything is confirmed for Radar to meet Peg and Erin in San Francisco, must have been written intentionally to set up “Period of Adjustment,” making it a rare example of foreshadowing in the series. “Period of Adjustment” was produced prior to this episode, so presumably at some point the scriptwriters all got together to ensure everything was set in motion.

Radar’s teddy bear makes its second-to-last appearance on M*A*S*H in this episode. When it is seen again in “As Time Goes By” (Season 11) it is a different bear.

When Margaret and Charles are chatting in post-op, and later when Radar is talking with Charles, there are Christmas cards on the bulletin board in the background.

9 Comments

  • Seoul City Sue says:

    Ken Levine, in his excellent blog, talked about how difficult it was to work with Gary on this episode. Gary absolutely refused to wear the jeep cap and was irritable and surly on set (which totally came across in his performance). It was sad to see Radar leave but I think the cast members were glad to see Gary leave.

    I will admit to shedding a few tears when Radar gets into the jeep and says “I’m ready. Let’s go” and the episode still makes me sad when I watch it but knowing the details behind the making of the episode makes it a little less upsetting on subsequent viewings.

    • I know the rest of the cast had some pretty negative things to say about Gary on the set, such as him always being late and making up excuses, to acting like a diva, to being just downright irritable; Gary, on the other hand, while he doesn’t deny that these things happened, has said that he never meant to show anybody any disrespect they didn’t deserve. In fact, burn-out wasn’t officially diagnosed back then, so even he didn’t understand why he was feeling the way he was until years later: he loved playing Radar, and he loved what Radar stood for as far as innocence and naivete on television goes, but after a few years, he just didn’t have it in him to keep going anymore – he was a man in his thirties and forties in the 70s playing a barely 18 farmboy in the 50s. I think I read he said it was around Season Five when he felt he finally reached his capacity of playing Radar and decided that once his contract was up after Season Seven, he would not renew it.

      I think, perhaps, the reason he comes off as irritable as he does in these episodes was because it was essentially prolonging this moment in his life: “Good-bye Radar” was intended to be the Season Seven finale, until the network decided it might hurt the ratings, and instead, reordered it as a two-parter for November sweeps the following season… so I guess Gary felt it was more of an obligation than anything to keep playing Radar a little while longer.

      As for Trapper, I insist he did receive a proper farewell, just not when he really did leave: “Check-up,” has the entire camp believe he’s going home because of his ulcer, and they even throw him a big going away party in the Mess Tent before he breaks the news to everyone the army won’t let him go home with an ulcer…

  • Benjamin says:

    Just wanted to let RJ know that Fallen Idol was in season six, not five. I’m sure you already know this RJ but I would like to let you know of this error in your review.

  • The first cast member to be hired for the M*A*S*H TV series, Gary Burghoff was the last to leave, following the departures of McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers in 1975 and Larry Linville in 1977. He would later reprise his role as Radar twice; one was in a 2-part episode of AfterMASH, and the other was in an unsold TV pilot W*A*L*T*E*R, which featured Radar as a rookie police officer in St. Louis.

    Radar O’Reilly’s departure left Hawkeye Pierce, Margaret Houlihan, and Father Mulcahy as the only three characters left on the series with any connections to the 1968 novel and 1970 film from which M*A*S*H was adapted (with Henry Blake being killed off at the end of season 3, Trapper John McIntyre discharged between seasons 3 and 4, and Frank Burns being transferred and promoted, at the start of season 6).

  • Sandra says:

    I agree that the Episode is not much. I like the last scene with Radar having left his teddybear on Hawkeyes cot, the Person he had always looked up to most. I though that was really sweet with a lot of symbolism implied.

  • doc funnypants says:

    IMO, one of the most poignant episodes in the series. I agree that Gary Burghoff was feeling burned out after playing Radar for so long. Still, Hawkeye was over the top when he yelled at Radar to go home to Iowa.
    Hawkeye: And now, from the “Wish I were in his shoes department” Corporal Radar “I can see the old homestead from here” O’Reilly.

  • Lady you ARE a Piece of Cornbread says:

    What was the item Radar gave Klinger, and Klinger says “That really got me.”?

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