M*A*S*H’s third season comprises several benchmark episodes. In “Rainbow Bridge,” Hawkeye, Trapper, Radar, Klinger, and an opportunistic Frank Burns participate in a swap with the North Koreans of wounded POWs. In “The Consultant,” Robert Alda (Alan’s dad) guest stars as a visiting doctor who cracks under the pressure of operating so close to the front. And the shocking season finale, “Abyssinia, Henry,” killed off commanding officer Henry Blake, who was en route home.
By the show’s third year ratings were high enough to give the writers and creators more leverage with the network and thus a bit less trouble with the censors. In addition, the show’s writers were more experienced and had more in-depth knowledge of the characters. By this time they could also gauge how much serious material the audience would accept mixed in with their comedy.
Between the second and third seasons Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds visited Korea, a trip that they say affected the stories in the third season.
The General Flipped at Dawn
Original airdate: September 10, 1974
When crazy Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele (Harry Morgan, the future Col. Sherman T. Potter) pays a visit to the 4077th, he puts the 4077th on edge when he orders the unit to move the camp closer to the front.
Original airdate: September 17, 1974
Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank, Radar and Klinger take a bus deep into North Korea to an agreed-upon meeting place called “Rainbow Bridge” to swap POW prisoners, but Major Burns decides to bring a gun in violation of the agreement. Tensions are defused when the gun is only about as big as a cigarette lighter.
Officer of the Day
Original airdate: September 24, 1974
The bumbling Col. Flagg who orders Pierce to patch up a wounded prisoner of war so he will survive to his execution. He also treats five local Koreans, all named Kim Luck, as well as conducting a camp search for Radar’s missing teddy bear.
Iron Guts Kelly
Original airdate: October 1, 1974
Infamous Lieutenant General “Iron Guts” Kelly is visiting the 4077th, but dies of a heart attack while having a tryst with Hot Lips. The general’s aide decides to fake a more memorable and honorable death in the heat of battle.
Original airdate: October 8, 1974
With a huge number of wounded, Hawkeye massages a wounded soldier’s heart and a canceled poker game frees up Major Freedman (the psychiatrist) to reluctantly help with surgery.
Original airdate: October 15, 1974
It is spring, and a lull arises between waves of casualties. A Marine who Hawkeye operated on dedicates his life to repaying the debt, Klinger gets married over the ham radio to his girlfriend back home, and Radar falls for a nurse whom he believes does not know he exists, but soon finds out the opposite is true.
Original airdate: October 22, 1974
During a routine medical checkup of the camp, Trapper is diagnosed with an ulcer. He believes he will be sent home with a medical discharge but is told that the Army intends to treat him in Tokyo and reassign him back in-country, most likely with another unit. Faced with separation from his friends, Trapper decides to be treated at the 4077th.
Life With Father
Original airdate: October 29, 1974
Henry Blake worries that the contents of a letter he just received from his wife means she is committing adultery, Father Mulcahy receives a letter from his sister, a nun, in which she tells him she is considering leaving the convent. An infant son of a Korean woman and a Jewish soldier receives a bris with Father Mulcahy standing in for a rabbi with Hawkeye performing the circumcision to the dismay of Majors Burns and Houlihan.
Original airdate: November 12, 1974
While temporarily in command of the 4077th, Major Burns bans all alcohol on the post. Burns asks Father Mulcahy to deliver a sermon on temperance and forces the entire camp to attend.
There is Nothing Like a Nurse
Original airdate: November 19, 1974
With a North Korean air raid imminent, and the 4077th being unable to evacuate completely, female personnel are temporarily evacuated. This makes life hard both in and out of the operating room, and the doctors begin to realize what life without the nurses is like.
Original airdate: November 26, 1974
Sick and tired of being served the same meal choices (fish or liver) for 11 straight days, Hawkeye throws a fit and hatches an elaborate plan to get some ribs and barbecue sauce shipped in from a restaurant in Chicago.
A Full Rich Day
Original airdate: December 3, 1974
Hawkeye records an audiotape home on a tape recorder describing the events of the day before, including a berserk soldier from Turkey, the missing body of a dead lieutenant from Luxembourg, and a soldier coming from the front lines to demand (at gunpoint) that his wounded sergeant be patched up before anybody else.
Mad Dogs and Servicemen
Original airdate: December 10, 1974
A stray dog bites Radar, and the 4077th must find it soon to determine if it has rabies. If so, Radar must begin painful and dangerous vaccinations. Also, Hawkeye and Trapper try to administer “tough love” therapy to a shell-shocked soldier who exhibits no wounds but insists he cannot move his legs.
Private Charles Lamb
Original airdate: December 31, 1974
A Greek unit celebrates a traditional Easter feast with the 4077th in gratitude for their medical help. Radar cannot stand the idea of the lamb that was shipped in being slaughtered, so he secretly arranges to ship the lamb home to his family in Iowa by filling out a compassionate discharge form with the name “Charles Lamb.”
Original airdate: January 7, 1975
The 4077th is under heavy bombardment from one of their own artillery units with faulty orders. Everybody tries to survive until the orders are rescinded, but unfortunately the people who can call off the attack are attending a Bob Hope show.
Original airdate: January 14, 1975
The camp bulletin board announces various activities such as a barbecue, a mandatory sex education lecture and a movie night. The camp holds a goofy Olympics to blow off some steam as well as to help raise money for the local orphanage run by nuns.
Original airdate: January 21, 1975
A medical consultant, Dr. Anthony Borelli (played by Robert Alda, Alan Alda’s father), visits the 4077th with a new technique for arterial grafts. His technique can prevent the amputation of seriously damaged limbs, but when it comes time for him to demonstrate on an injured soldier, he gets nervous and gets drunk. An annoyed Hawkeye has to perform the surgery.
Original airdate: February 4, 1975
Frank Burns has Hawkeye placed under house arrest after Hawkeye punches him. It takes Frank being falsely accused of rape by a visiting female colonel and subsequently under house arrest himself to get the charges dropped.
Original airdate: February 11, 1975
Hawkeye, Margaret and Klinger are sent to an obliterated aid station on the front lines to temporarily fill in for a surgeon killed in action, where they get to see that no matter how bad things were at the 4077th, the situation on the front lines is much worse.
Love and Marriage
Original airdate: February 18, 1975
Hawkeye and Trapper perform required examinations of soldiers who are asking permission to marry locals. They help a soldier reunite with his pregnant Korean wife and attempt to break up a corrupt deal whereby a young soldier is paid to marry a prostitute so she can be sent to the United States to find new customers.
Original airdate: February 25, 1975
General Douglas MacArthur has scheduled an inspection of the 4077th because of its outstanding performance. The camp spends a large amount of time and effort to prepare for his visit, but is disappointed when General MacArthur drives through instead of paying the long visit the camp was led to believe was coming.
Original airdate: March 4, 1975
When Frank buys two sets of pearls a good strand and a cheap imitation, he gives one to Margaret; but she really wants the real strand for herself. After giving the orphanage a $3,000 overpayment Hawkeye faces arrest unless he can get the money back.
Original airdate: March 11, 1975
Thieves are stealing the camp’s supply of penicillin, and Lt. Col. Flagg arrives determined to investigate the thefts and steal penicillin himself to use as barter for North Korean informants.
Original airdate: March 18, 1975
The entire 4077th celebrates news of Blake’s discharge from the Army, with Hawkeye, Trapper, and Radar throwing him a party and giving him a new suit the night before his departure.
Season 3 Cast:
Alan Alda: Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce
Wayne Rogers: Captain John McIntyre
McLean Stevenson: Lt. Colonel Henry Blake
Loretta Swit: Major Margaret Houlihan
Larry Linville: Major Franklin Marion Burns
Gary Burghoff: Corporal Walter Eugene O’Reilly
Jamie Farr: Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger
William Christopher: Father Francis Mulcahy