To tell the story of MASH is to tell the story of two different shows. The beginning of the show was a hokey comedy from the early 1970s with a lot of slapstick and silly humor. However, by the end of the show, it was different altogether. MASH was primarily a drama by season eleven with seemingly endless stories of heartbreak and pain.
Still, the eleventh season of the show is a remarkable feat and it remains one of the most watched seasons in the history of television. With the amount of care that went into the show behind the scenes, M*A*S*H‘s eleventh arc had plenty of hidden details.
In the closing moments of the M*A*S*H finale, Charles Winchester gives a book to Margaret Houlihan with a message inscribed that prompts the nurse to tear up. But it was Loretta Swit who was tearing up, as well.
In the book, David Ogden Stiers had written a personal message to Swit that proved to be an emotional goodbye. An introverted and shy man, Stiers typically kept to himself on the set of the show and none of his co-stars had his phone number. As a farewell gesture, his note provided his number to Swit.
9 Time For A Capsule
In the penultimate episode of M*A*S*H, “As Time Goes By,” the crew at the 4077th buries a time capsule to be opened one hundred years after the Korean War. Many mementos from the show’s history are included in the capsule.
However, the team behind M*A*S*H buried a time capsule for real on the lot where the show was filmed. It didn’t take one hundred years, though, for it to be dug up. Within months, the capsule had been unearthed and when Alan Alda was called to ask what he wanted to do with it, he was baffled and invoked the law of finders keepers.
8 Brush Fire
Even though it was the penultimate episode, “As Time Goes By” was actually the last episode filmed, not “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.” Therefore, the filming of it might seem a bit more constrained than fans were used to, as the episode was filmed in an indoor studio.
Why did it have to film indoors? A large brush fire had actually destroyed much of the ranch that M*A*S*H had been accustomed to filming on. This story is incorporated into the finale, but it had to be glossed over and ignored in “As Time Goes By.”
7 Slide On The Ice
The finale of M*A*S*H did not bring back every beloved side character from the show’s run, but from the opening scene, it was apparent the war psychologist, Dr. Sidney Freedman, was making one last turn on the show with Hawkeye. At the very least, he was a fan favorite recurring character.
His last line in the show, “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice,” was uttered twice before, in seasons three and five. The character and the quote were favorites of Alda’s and it was only fitting to bring this catchphrase back one last time.
6 Burns’ Mother
In the season eleven episode, “Give and Take,” Father Mulcahy and Charles Winchester get into another one of their classic spats when their strong moral codes get the better of them. However, there is a hidden background detail that only eagle-eyed fans could spot.
A framed picture on the wall is visible behind Mulcahy and Winchester in their scene, but it’s a picture that’s been seen before on the show. It is the same photograph that was used to portray the mother of Frank Burns, a man who had long since departed from the show by season eleven.
5 Women’s Shoes
In a twist of cruel irony at the end of season eleven, Klinger becomes the only character who voluntarily stays in Korea after the Korean War. This is a result of his getting married to Soon-Lee as the couple plans to look for her missing family.
When they ride off into the sunset, though, there is a fun slew of Easter eggs dedicated to Klinger’s time in Korea. The ox cart that takes away the newlyweds is festooned with women’s shoes from Klinger’s days dressing in drag as an attempt to be deemed crazy enough to receive a discharge. Oh, how far he came.
4 Addison Collins
Over the years, M*A*S*H had myriad characters and each of them had to have a name. To come up with some names for the endless cavalcade of guest appearances, the writers of the show would turn to some of their favorite hobbies, like naming people after baseball players.
One name, however, came from the music scene in the season eleven episode, “Say No More.” Addison Collins, a general played on the show by John Anderson, is a name that comes from a remarkable jazz musician. Also named Addison Collins, the jazz expert was known for his excellence on the French horn.
3 The Vietnam War
M*A*S*H is infamous for its run on CBS that lasted many years longer than the actual Korean War did. Of course, it was set during the Korean War, but that did not stop the writing team behind the show for orchestrating anti-war commentaries during the heat of the Vietnam War.
There is also a bit of morbid foreshadowing in the series finale of the show. As the Korean War comes to an end, the radio that the 4077th listens to alludes to the fact that the Vietnamese fighting against communism are in need of American assistance. Klinger asks where Vietnam was in a chilling, sobering moment.
2 Double Dugan
For the most part, actors who appeared solely for an episode or two of M*A*S*H never double dipped to come back for another installment. However, one particular actor showed up twice and as two different characters, muddling the show’s canon ever so slightly.
Back in season three, Dennis Dugan played Private McShane, a soldier who ends up in a Korean marriage scam of his own orchestrating. But in season eleven, Dugan pops up as Colonel Potter’s son-in-law. When he has an affair, it’s clear that Dugan is destined to be the cause of his own romantic demise. The actor would later go on to become a popular Adam Sandler movie director.
1 Radar’s Teddy Bear
One of the items buried in the time capsule in “As Time Goes By” is the iconic teddy bear from Radar. He left it for Hawkeye when he was sent home from the war and it became a treasured possession in the 4077th.
However, the teddy bear that gets buried in the time capsule is not the original teddy bear left by Radar. Perhaps the actors could not bear to part with the real bear. It was still nice to reminisce about Radar in the episode, as the penultimate show made a callback to characters gone by, like Henry Blake and Frank Burns, too.