After eleven seasons on CBS, M*A*S*H finally came to an end on Monday, February 28, 1983. The two-and-a-half hour series finale,"Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" was directed by Alan Alda and opens with Hawkeye Pierce in an Army Psychiatric hospital. Throughout the episode Hawkeye fights hospitalization, but Dr. Sidney Freedman continually forces Hawkeye to confront the reasons for his breakdown. Little by little, Hawkeye recalls pieces of the incident that sent him over the edge, culminating in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes of all time: Hawkeye reveals that he believes he's responsible for a mother smothering her own child. Once he brings this memory to the surface, he begins to deal with its consequences and is released back to the 4077.
The episode also brings rumors of impending peace, and a blast that costs Father Mulcahy much of his hearing - a fact he keeps secret from everyone but B.J. Hunnicut. The latter is set to return to California (with a little help from Colonel Potter), but is quickly called back to active duty. Charles Winchester teaches refugee musicians to play Mozart, and is genuinely distraught when all but one are later killed. And after years of trying to scheme his way out of Korea, Klinger marries a Korean refugee and decides to stay put when peace is finally declared. Goodbyes are said all around (Hawkeye's and Houlihan's involves a very lengthy kiss), and in a scene that mirrors the show's opener, the finale ends with Hawkeye flying away in a helicopter. But when he looks down, he sees that Hunnicut has spelled out "G-O-O-D-B-Y-E" on the ground below, a moving gesture from the man who struggled with how to part ways with his friend.
Over 100 million viewers tuned in to watch "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" -- the episode received a 60.3 rating and 77 share. It remains the most-watched series finale in TV history.
- by Adrienne Faillace