Discuss: Imagine an Episode With Only Henry


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: Imagine an episode with only Henry

Another Henry Lecture

We’re in the 10th and final week of our “Imagine an Episode with Only…” journey. We’ve already imagined episodes with only Margaret, Colonel Potter, Trapper, Father Mulcahy, Frank, Radar, Charles, B.J., and Klinger. Today, let’s share our ideas for an episode featuring Henry. He doesn’t have to be literally the only character but he should be the primary focus and any other characters probably shouldn’t be speaking English. That’s how “Hawkeye” worked and we’re trying to think of similiar experimental episodes for the rest of the characters.

I’ll be honest. I saved Henry until the very end because I could not think of an idea for an episode in which he’s the focus. It’s not that I don’t think McLean Stevenson could’ve pulled off being the only actor (or the only actor speaking English) in an episode of M*A*S*H. Nor do I think Henry is a weak character. I just couldn’t come up with any possible scenarios.

Then it hit me. Henry’s lectures. It’s the perfect way to make Henry the focus of an episode. He’s in the Mess Tent, which is filled to the brim with officers and/or enlisted personnel, and he has to deliver a lecture about something he doesn’t understand. To make it even more difficult for him, Radar is either on leave or otherwise occupied. Henry doesn’t have his company clerk to help out.

Do I think this is a brilliant idea? No. Do I think McLean Stevenson could’ve made it work? Absolutely. Would it have been a good episode? Probably not. If we’re generous and assume Henry needed a few minutes to awkwardly introduce the lecture and another few minutes to wrap things up, we’re left with roughly 20 minutes to fill. That’s a long time to listen to Henry lecture, regardless of the topic.

However, it’s the only idea I’ve come up with for Henry.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

3 Replies to “Discuss: Imagine an Episode With Only Henry”

  1. Well, Henry was already gone by that point, so we would never get an episode like this.

    Now, if they had done an episode like this during Season 3, that would have been great, because Henry was really showing shades of actually growing a backbone, and taking his position as Commanding Officer seriously (“Aid Station” being an excellent example). What would make for a great Henry episode is if he found himself being “tested” in a way . . . similar to “Aid Station,” he finds himself in a situation where he really needs to exercize his command, because a lot of lives depend on him coming through on making a difficult decision which may be the lives of his own people on the line. If executed well, it could really make for a good seriocomical episode – similar to “O.R.” Henry could certainly have moments where he’s flustered and tries to relieve himself by doing some of his silly and goofy antics, but realizing that it’s useless and doing him no good, and he has to make a decision no matter what.

  2. I would suggest an episode with Henry on the phone with his wife. She might be complaining about the kids, asking for some help in some mundane but distracting minutiae (like balancing the checkbook in Henry In Love) or, perhaps, badgering him about how alone she feels. I admit that this is not very original, but it would be hard for me to advance much more for his character. Part of the problem is that Henry has his entire character arc displayed for all to see — there are few (if any) character subtleties until late in the third season. This is not a criticism of the character, just an observation

  3. This might be an idea only Father Mulcahy could love.
    It would be more of an idea for a standalone episode like those from the ’80s, especially “Follies of the Living – Concerns of the Dead”, but with the tone and structure of the Gelbart era. A definite departure.

    An episode with Henry Blake – right after the crash that killed him.

    He’s in the afterlife, like in a waiting room covered in clouds. Seems there is a vast bureaucracy in heaven that’s just as malfunctioning as in the army, and they’re having a surprising difficulty determining Henry’s fate. This is relayed to him via a functionary that communicates through telepathy. Henry being Henry, he can’t answer without speaking out loud, thus a one-way conversation for the viewers, two-way for the characters in-universe.

    The functionary is going over the facts of Henry’s life as background and mutual understanding (more or less). The subject of Radar comes up…
    HENRY: “Yeah, Radar… couldn’t run the ol’ ship without him. (pause) …Really? Walter? Well, whaddaya know, the son of a gun DID have a first name!”, replying that he didn’t see the files, letting Radar do all that stuff.

    The Gelbartian (to coin a word) structure would come in flashbacks indicating Col. Blake’s worthiness. Not clips from existing episodes. We’d see scenes not requiring other characters on camera – Henry on the phone to show conversations with Radar, reacting to things off camera, etc. There may even be an excuse that the spirits are less concerned with the other people at the 4077th. In the waiting room, though, he pries the likely fates of in comrades in scalpels, confirming a long Purgatory for Frank, and Hell for Col. Flagg – and all those besides himself making it out of the war alive.

    Some of Henry’s flashbacks show his difficulty running a MASH unit, but others show his humanity, especially as a surgeon. Still not sure, they decide to look into the present, with Henry able to see it like the rest of the scenes. The scene shows people trying to get the bodies out of the wreckage. When it gets to his own, he hides his eyes, muttering, “Why couldn’t they just let me wash up on a beach somewhere, alive and well?” A young man who turns out to be Korean helps recover the lt. colonel. He’s shocked, and insists others he knows pay attention to that particular corpse. The dialogue is all in Korean. The young man points to Henry, then rips open his own shirt to show a surgical scar, then points to Henry again. The others nod as the young Korean smiles through a tear or two. By now, afterlife Henry Blake is looking at the scene. As it’s over, he says, “Yep. That was one of mine, alright.”

    Henry is then escorted to his eternity, passing with flying colors. He can’t keep from exclaiming, “Hot dog!”, apologizing meekly for the happy outburst. As they go, and the scene starts to fade, he makes sure they’ll treat Lorraine the best possible. Pause. “You better!” Then trailing off, “I know, I know, I won’t do that again”, then going into the fade with small talk about what it’ll be like, to familiar M*A*S*H scene-ending music (NOT the season 6+ freeze frame sting!).

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