38th Anniversary of Abyssinia, Henry


Today marks the 38th anniversary of the original broadcast of “Abyssinia, Henry” on CBS. The Season Three finale aired on Tuesday, March 18th, 1975 and marked the final appearance of both McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers. Back in 2011, I investigated whether the ending to the episode was spoiled by the media prior to broadcast (it was) as well as whether McLean Stevenson made a cameo appearance on The Carol Burnett Show shortly after “Abyssinia, Henry” was aired.

Also, you can find a breakdown of the music used in “Abyssinia, Henry” here. The version of “Suicide is Painless” used at the end of the episode during the tribute to Henry Blake is my favorite piece of music from the series.

8 Replies to “38th Anniversary of Abyssinia, Henry”

  1. This is an episode I alternatively love and hate. I have seen this episode maybe twice in the entirety of my M*A*S*H viewing. I love it because it was so gutsy and bold. Killing off a beloved character took enormous courage and was a gamble which Larry and Gene were willing to take. It could have backfired spectacularly with viewers leaving the show in huge numbers but I think the opposite happened. I still grieve for Henry Blake at the end of Season Three and the shocking announcement of his death resonates with me every time I come towards the end of the run of the season. I avoid this episode. I refuse to watch it and yet it stays with me every time I watch ‘Welcome to Korea’

  2. A great, truly historic episode. The announcement of Henry’s death doesn’t get any easier to take with repeated viewings, either. If anything, it gets worse, because after all the warm wishes and goodbyes prior to his flying off, you still know it’s coming. Definitely gut wrenching, each and every time.

    Certainly one of the defining episodes of the series.

  3. It really is. I wrote a fan fic about them finding him after the war – held prisoner for many years by Korean’s who didn’t realize the war was over. But it is lost forever – when Andy discontinued his 4077 web site, we had no warning, and I didn’t rescue it. 🙁 I thought I did an entirely believable job on it.

    Anyway – for some reason I remember seeing Henry in the Life Raft on Carol Burnett – they zoomed in on him, he stands up and waves his arms and yells “I’m o.k!! I’m Ohhhhh Kay!” – is it possible it is an “acquired” memory? One we hear so often we believe we remember it?

    My favorite Henry Line “If I knew the answer to that… I’d be at the Mayo Clinic. Does this look like the Mayo Clinic??”

  4. Everytime I look up “McLean Stevenson – Carol Burnett Show” episode 8.22 comes up. On IMDB there is a listing of what happens in that episode – including a “cameo appearance by McLean Stevenson as Henry Blake” however if you look up this episode on Carol Burnett’s website, McLean does not appear in any credits as a guest star.

    This episode aired March 22, 1975 – two days after Absynnia Henry aired – and I didn’t enter the date on the search, just the terms above.

    My thoughts are that this clip was recorded and added as a quickie after the ending of MASH by some brilliant director/producer or by Carol Burnett – was never included in the annals of the guest stars because he was not actually in the pre-taped production. BUT, since IMDB includes him as a cameo guest – and does not mention anything about the reason he appeared, I totally believe that this is the missing shot you are looking for.

    It would have been a simple procedure, much like a news clip or an advertisement of a new product – it might have even been McLeans idea.

    I shall endeavor to perservere – but I swear I remember this.

    1. The problem with using IMDb as a source (this goes for TV.com and Wikipedia as well) it that anyone can submit information. So someone who read about Stevenson’s rumored cameo elsewhere could have added it to IMDb.

      The search for confirmation continues.

  5. I can’t believe nowadays, there’s actually a small number of fans out there who actually diss this episode… all because of Radar. Seriously, there’s like a small outcry from some people who say it was very stupid and inappropriate for Radar to deliver the message when he did, while everybody was busy in O.R.

    Larry and Gene BOTH said THAT was the point: Radar delivering the message of Henry’s death when he did, and we see that they’re so busy in O.R. that while they couldn’t bring Henry back to life, there was a chance they could still save the life of whoever it was they were operating on at the time.

    1. http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/mash.asp

      There is a remarkable interview with Larry Gelbart, and another with Jaime Farr, at this link. Though lengthy, they are very interesting, and also detail in great length how and when the cast was informed, how there had to be a second take, that Larry thought would ruin everything, and of course the fateful dropping of an instrument that was not written in – but was wonderful. Larry Linville and Gary Burghoff had reall great quotes upon reading the ending. It is worth the time to read it. Nothing on Snopes about the Carol Burnett appearance – another reason I think it happened.

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