MASH is undoubtedly one of the greatest television shows of all time, and as such, it contains some of the greatest episodes to ever grace a television screen. Airing from 1972 to 1983, MASH helped revolutionize serialized television and became one of the most popular shows in history.
Picking five of the best episodes is insanely hard, considering the quality of the series. That said, there’s no denying that the show also produced a few clunkers as well. But then again, no one remembers those! Well, we’re here to remind you!
These are the five greatest episodes of M*A*S*H, and the five worst.
10Best: Sometimes You Hear The Bullet
M*A*S*H struggled throughout its first season, but it finally found its voice with the seventeenth episode, “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet.” This is one of the first episodes to seriously mix intense drama with comedy, and it portrayed both Hawkeye and Henry Blake as far more sympathetic and caring than they were in previous episodes. It added incredible depth to their respective characters, and it was the first episode to feature both a failure resulting in death AND a grieving character. It was also one of the first episodes to receive critical acclaim, having been nominated for a Writer’s Guild of America Award. With this episode, M*A*S*H had truly begun.
Season four’s “Hawkeye” is certainly an…interesting episode. And not in a particularly good way. This episode sees Hawkeye sustaining a serious head injury in a car accident and taking shelter on a Korean family’s farm. To keep awake and conscious, he spouts random gibberish and continues to talk…and talk…and talk. We get that that’s the joke, but an entire episode centered around Hawkeye incessantly babbling is just grossly uninteresting and annoying. The rest of the cast is also painfully absent from this episode, meaning we are stuck with nothing but Hawkeye’s irritating prattling. It’s not necessarily Alan Alda’s fault, as he does a fine job with what he was given. We’re just flabbergasted that he was given this material in the first place.
8Best: The Interview
The Interview” is a unique episode of M*A*S*H, and unlike Hawkeye, it utilizes its distinctive style to magnificent effect. In this episode, a war correspondent named Clete Roberts interviews the 4077th. Immediately, we are given two different and drastic changes in style. For one thing, there’s the concept of the “interview,” which requires the show to adopt a style akin to a documentary.
The second is that the episode was aired entirely in black and white, presumably to make the footage look more realistic. It was a magnificent decision, as it helps give the show a purpose and a sense of topicality. We love it when long-running shows take a risk and do something original, and unlike “Hawkeye,” this was a risk that paid off.
7Worst: That’s Show Biz
By season ten, M*A*S*H was starting to show its age. But then again, so do most shows (those lucky enough to survive ten seasons, that is)! And one of the worst offenders of the tenth season is the premiere, “That’s Show Biz.” In this episode, a touring USO troupe performs for the 4077th, who are suddenly spurred into action when the leading lady requires emergency surgery. It’s a dull story filled with dull subplots, and it’s needlessly, and horribly, expanded into two parts, which greatly impacts the pacing of the story. There’s nothing offensive about the story or anything – it’s just utterly forgettable in the greater span of M*A*S*H.
There is no episode quite like Tuttle. Tuttle was the series’ fifteen episode overall, and it established M*A*S*H as an incredibly wacky, and hilarious, program that was well worth watching. In this episode, Hawkeye and Trapper invent Captain Tuttle, a fictional captain born out of Hawkeye’s imaginary friend from childhood. What starts as a simple white lie soon snowballs into a massive charade once Clayton decides to give Tuttle a medal for his efforts. It’s absurd, it’s hilarious, and it’s absolutely brilliant. While Sometimes You Hear the Bullet was arguably the show’s first truly mature and nuanced episode, Tuttle was the first of the greats.
5Worst: Hanky Panky
Unlike a lot of the “worst” episodes of the show, “Hanky Panky” didn’t resort to a weird gimmick that unfortunately veered off the rails. It’s just…not very good. It centers around B.J. as he makes friends with Nurse Carrie Donovan. After finding out that Carrie is depressed following a recent divorce, he tenderly consoles her before making a move and committing infidelity. It kind of came out of nowhere, and many M*A*S*H fans have trouble conceiving of the idea that the loving and ever-faithful B.J. would cheat on his wife. It was a little contrived and slightly out of left field, like the show needed a reason to cheapen the character or make him more conflicting. Regardless of the reasons, it didn’t really work, and it just came across as cheap and unwarranted.
4Best: Abyssinia, Henry
By now, “Abyssinia, Henry” is a piece of television history. This is the famous episode where Radar announces the death of Henry Blake, leaving the 4077th, and the audience, in utter devastation. It also served as the season three finale, making this one of the most emotional season finales in history. The episode was enormously controversial, as thousands of angry fans sent letters to the producers condemning the death of Henry, stating that such a devastating scene didn’t belong in a silly comedy like M*A*S*H. Even CBS, the network that aired the show, and 20th Century Fox made their dissatisfied feelings known to the producers. Regardless, the episode was enormously influential for the direction of the show, as it subsequently became far more dramatic and personal in the preceding seasons.
3Worst: Our Finest Hour
Let’s just say it – clip shows are stupid. They are nothing but a major time waste, a means for the show to fill an episode slot and put in as little effort as possible. We’re sure there’s a production-related reason for the infamous and dreaded clip show, but regardless, they do not, and never have, made for good television. We hoped that M*A*S*H would be better than a clip show, but alas, here is “Our Finest Hour.”
The episode sees Clete Roberts interviewing the characters, all of whom reminiscence on times gone by – “times gone by” being previous scenes of the show. It serves as a decent little love letter to the series, and it’s definitely nice to watch some of the better moments of the show again, but there’s just no getting over the fact that clip shows are nonsense. Put simply, there’s no reason for this episode to exist.
2Best: Goodbye, Farewell And Amen
When it comes to satisfying series finales, few, if any, can compare to the sheer brilliance that is “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” The impact of this episode is simply mindboggling to comprehend – it was watched by a total audience of 121.6 million people, making this the most watched series finale and the most watched episode in television history! But it’s not just the numbers that make this episode a standout, as it is a genuinely brilliant piece of television. This episode features many iconic moments, including Hawkeye’s telling of the famous “chicken” story and the final shot of Hawkeye looking at B.J.’s “goodbye” message. It also beautifully wrapped up the overall story of the show and gave commendable endings to its many characters. It’s a bonafide classic, and undeniably one of the greatest series finales of all time.
1Worst: Strange Bedfellows
Well, we hate to follow up such an iconic episode with something as mediocre and cliché as “Strange Bedfellows,” but here we are. “Strange Bedfellows” was the eleventh episode of the eleventh season, and it was at this time that M*A*S*H was REALLY starting to run out of ideas. This episode centers around Charles, whose incessant snoring is keeping his bedfellows awake. Really, M*A*S*H? An episode about snoring keeping people awake? We’re pretty sure the cavemen were making jokes about this. M*A*S*H was so much better than pedestrian storylines like this, and it hurts us to see such a beloved and intelligent show resorting to cheap jokes and storylines such as this. Ah, well. Such is what you get after 200 episodes, we suppose.