Discuss: What Are the 11 Most Important Episodes of M*A*S*H?


Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.

Today’s topic is: What are the 11 most important episodes of M*A*S*H?

The Best of the Best

Any attempt to rank the “best” or the “funniest” M*A*S*H episodes is bound to be controversial because everyone has their own opinion about what the best episodes or the funniest episodes are. Today, I’m asking what the most important episodes are. What do I mean by important? Even I’m not sure. Are the most “important” episodes any different than the “best” episodes?

At first, this seems like an easy list to put together. Start with the series premiere and include every episode in which a character departs or arrives, plus the final episode. Those are the important episodes, right? They’re the ones that alter the trajectory of the show.

  1. “M*A*S*H — The Pilot”
  2. “Abyssinia, Henry”
  3. “Welcome to Korea”
  4. “Change of Command”
  5. “Margaret’s Marriage”
  6. “Fade Out, Fade In”
  7. “Good-Bye Radar (Part II)”
  8. “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

That’s only eight episodes. Okay, let’s add “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” and “The Interview,” two episodes from the Larry Gelbart years that are very important. “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” is the episode that proved M*A*S*H could mix comedy and drama. “The Interview” was Gelbart’s swan song.

  1. “M*A*S*H — The Pilot”
  2. “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet”
  3. “Abyssinia, Henry”
  4. “Welcome to Korea”
  5. “Change of Command”
  6. “The Interview”
  7. “Margaret’s Marriage”
  8. “Fade Out, Fade In”
  9. “Good-Bye Radar (Part II)”
  10. “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

Now we’ve got ten episodes. We just need one more. There are plenty of great episodes to consider, iconic episodes like “Tuttle” or “The General Flipped at Dawn” or “Movie Tonight” to “Point of View” or “Life Time.” But do any of these deserve to be included in a list of the most important episodes of M*A*S*H? Should the list include the first episode with Sidney Freedman? The first episode with Colonel Flagg? One of the episodes that showcased the transformation from Hot Lips to Margaret?

As you can see, picking the most important episodes is harder than it seems. There are multiple episodes involved in the evolution of Margaret, for instance. Is “Hot Lips and Empty Arms” more important than “The Nurses”? What about “Hot Lips is Back in Town”? Does this list need to include one or both parts of “Comrades in Arms”?

Because I need to wrap up this post, I’m adding “As Time Goes By” to the list. It’s the penultimate episode of M*A*S*H, one that builds toward the series finale.

  1. “M*A*S*H — The Pilot”
  2. “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet”
  3. “Abyssinia, Henry”
  4. “Welcome to Korea”
  5. “Change of Command”
  6. “The Interview”
  7. “Margaret’s Marriage”
  8. “Fade Out, Fade In”
  9. “Good-Bye Radar (Part II)”
  10. “As Time Goes By”
  11. “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

There you have it. The 11 most important episode of M*A*S*H. Right?

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

Monday M*A*S*H Discussions is going on hiatus. Starting Wednesday (September 26th), I’ll be reviewing an episode of AfterMASH every week. Also, look for the return of monthly polls in October. But don’t worry, Monday M*A*S*H Discussions will be back once I’m finished reviewing AfterMASH.

4 Replies to “Discuss: What Are the 11 Most Important Episodes of M*A*S*H?”

  1. I like this topic!

    It’s definitely not as easy as it first may seem; “best” and “important” can mean different things. An important episode may be one that advances or influences the series as a whole, but that doesn’t necessarily make it one of the best; I wouldn’t say “Tuttle” or “5 O’Clock Charlie” are as IMPORTANT as, say, “Good-Bye Radar” or something along those lines, but I personally would rank those as two of the best entries.

    So, I’m going to think of this list this way: if I were to be behind the production of a DVD compilation, one that covers the major high points/memorable moments (all the “biggies”) and gives a good overview of the series as a whole, what would I choose?

    Here’s what I came up with:

    (NOTE: I consider double-length episodes to be just that, a single-but-longer episode – provided they were aired all as one, as opposed to being split over two different weeks.)

    1. Pilot
    2. Cease-Fire
    3. Abysinnia, Henry
    4. Welcome to Korea
    5. Change of Command
    6. The Interview
    7. Margaret’s Engagement
    8. Margaret’s Marriage
    9. Fade Out, Fade In
    10. Good-Bye Radar: Part 2
    11. Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

    I took an “objectively important” approach to that list – with the exception of “Cease-Fire” in place of “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet,” which is a bit more subjective and I know may raise some eyebrows. Hear me out! I *do* think it’s a strong entry with a nice dose of seriousness (and I actually like it more than “Sometimes…”), but my main thought process with this inclusion was to not only showcase more Trapper but also to, in this hypothetical DVD comp, provide an interesting comparison to the actual ceasefire in the series finale. Maybe it’s not as overtly important as “Sometimes…,” but I think in the timeline of the series as a whole, it does hold some importance. (We didn’t really see this idea repeated until GFA, which adds a somewhat unique air to it.)

    That was the one exception I could make though; personally I’d have placed a few more ‘regular’ episodes that showcased the series at its best over “The Interview” and Radar’s farewell (“5 O’Clock Charlie” or “Adam’s Ribs,” probably), but that would lose the ‘series overview’ thing I was going for. Also, I think “Divided We Stand” is a MUCH better introduction to these characters but went with the original pilot instead because it was, you know, the actual first episode.

    Of course, there are also episodes that were important to television as a whole, that went beyond what was the norm: “Point of View,” “Life Time,” “Dreams,” but for various reasons still don’t seem to ‘fit’ in a list like this.

    If I were to name my personal favorite episodes or what I feel were the BEST (regardless of importance), those lists would be similar but also differ significantly in several spots.

    Important, best or favorite, one thing I can be sure of: with only 11 slots to fill, I’m not sure I’d ever be 100% satisfied with my choices!

  2. I’d agree with your first ten but I’d replace As Time Goes By with Quo Vadis Captain Chandler. We get to see Flagg and Sydney interact, we get to see that Potter is not a soft touch, and we find out Radar’s name.

  3. I guess. . . .

    1. “Pilot Episode”
    2. “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet”
    3. “Divided We Stand”
    4. “Abyssinia, Henry”
    5. Both parts of “Welcome to Korea”
    6. “Change of Command”
    7. “Margaret’s Engagement” or “Margaret’s Marriage”
    8. Both parts of “Fade Out, Fade In”
    9. “Peace on Us”
    10. Both parts of “Our Finest Hour”
    11. “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen”

  4. If we had to limit it to 11 episodes, I basically agree 100% with RJ. That’s probably the exact list I would make if I was limited to only 11 episodes, with the exception of “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet” being possibly swapped out with Adam’s Ribs or Tuttle.

    Either way, no matter how you do it, 11 episodes is just really not enough. Watching the 11 episodes mentioned would allow you to meet every character, and see both the beginnings and ends for each of them, but you would still miss so much more in between that is really important. Really at a bare minimum, you would need 40 episodes to cover the “important” episodes, and even that is just barely getting by.

    I was able to make the below list that I think you would need at a bare minimum to have any kind of grasp on M*A*S*H and its characters and themes. I kept it to 40 and only included episodes that I thought would be vitally important for someone going through the show. There were multiple episodes I really wanted to include, but had to skip to keep the list bare bones.

    Season 1 – Pilot
    Season 1 – Chief Surgeon Who?
    Season 1 – Dear Dad
    Season 1 – Tuttle
    Season 1 – Sometimes You Hear the Bullet
    Season 1 – Dead Dad…Again
    Season 2 – Divided We Stand
    Season 2 – Radar’s Report
    Season 2 – Dear Dad… Three
    Season 2 – Mail Call
    Season 2 – A Smattering of Intelligence
    Season 3 – O.R.
    Season 3 – Springtime
    Season 3 – Adam’s Ribs
    Season 3 – Abyssinia, Henry
    Season 4 – Welcome to Korea
    Season 4 – Change of Command
    Season 4 – Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?
    Season 4 – The Interview
    Season 5 – Margaret’s Engagement
    Season 5 – Dear Sigmund
    Season 5 – Movie Tonight
    Season 5 – Margaret’s Marriage
    Season 6 – Fade In, Fade Out
    Season 6 – Fallen Idol
    Season 6 – The Merchant of Korea
    Season 7 – Point of View
    Season 7 – Hot Lips is Back in Town
    Season 7 – Rally Round the Flagg, Boys
    Season 7 – The Party
    Season 8 – Good-Bye Radar: Parts 1 & 2
    Season 8 – Period of Adjustment
    Season 8 – Life Time
    Season 8 – Dreams
    Season 9 – Death Takes a Holiday
    Season 9 – A War for All Seasons
    Season 9 – No Sweat
    Season 10 – Sonsand Bowlers
    Season 11 – As Time Goes By
    Season 11 – Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

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