Although McLean Stephenson’s departure as M*A*S*H’s commander Lt. Col. Henry Blake had been announced prior to the airing of the third season finale, “Abyssinia, Henry,” nobody expected his character to be killed off—in fact, no main character had ever died on a half-hour show on television before this episode. At the top of the episode, Blake receives orders that he has received an honorary discharge and is going home. The episode focuses mainly on his division saying goodbye, and in the second-to-last scene, Blake tells Hawkeye (Alan Alda), “You behave yourself or I’m gonna come back and kick your butt,” before boarding a helicopter home. In the next scene, Radar (Gary Burghoff) enters the OR and tells the surgeons, “I have a message … Lt. Col. … Henry Blake’s plane … was shot down … over the Sea of Japan. It spun in … there were no survivors.” Why did the show take such a huge risk in taking the unheard-of measure of killing off a main character? “We resolved that instead of doing an episode in which another actor leaves yet another series, we would try to have Mac/Henry’s departure make a point, one that was consistent with the series’ attitude regarding the wastefulness of war; we would have that character die as a result of the conflict,” director Larry Gelbart wrote in his memoir. “After three years of showing faceless bit players and extras portraying dying or dead servicemen, here was an opportunity to have a character die that our audience knew and loved, one whose death would mean something to them.” Viewers were shocked—it is estimated that 1,000 letters were written to the show’s producers—and CBS was so displeased that they cut the OR scene from rerun airings.