McLean Stevenson appeared on Cher's variety show to reassure fans after ''Abyssinia, Henry''

The appearance was a rumor for years, until a clip resurfaced in the 2010s.

The third-season finale M*A*S*H episode "Abyssinia, Henry" was an absolute bombshell not only for M*A*S*H fans but for television audiences around the world.

The shocking ending to the episode — spoilers ahead — was unprecedented at the time. The 4077th crew wistfully wishes Henry goodbye after he gets an honorable discharge and see him off in his helicopter. Then, during the last moments of the episode, a visibly shaken Radar enters the operating room. In a choked voice, he delivers a line that still lives in TV history: "I have a message. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in. There were no survivors."

These days a shocking character death on TV is much more common — heck, The Walking Dead thrived on an "anyone can die" principle — but back then it just wasn't done. Viewers sent hundreds of letters expressing both outrage and gratitude for how the storyline played out. Gene Reynolds defended the decision, saying that "Not everybody, not every kid gets to go back to Bloomington, Illinois... the premise of our show was the wastefulness of the war."

A little under two months later, McLean Stevenson made an appearance on a variety show and made lighthearted fun of his character's demise.

"Our special guest," Cher said in the May 1975 episode of her CBS show Cher, "who we're all happy that he could be here with us tonight, he used to play Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H, and he was recently reported missing in action."

The camera then cut to Stevenson as Blake, wearing his classic fishing hat, rowing in a smoking raft. With a cheerful wave at the camera he yelled "Hey guys, I'm okay! I'm okay!" before continuing to row.

The clip itself was almost forgotten over time, becoming a piece of lost media. The appearance was a hotly debated rumor among M*A*S*H fans for years. Depending on who you heard it from, it aired on The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, or Tony Orlando & Dawn. Other rumors claimed it aired the day after "Abyssinia, Henry." 

A M*A*S*H fan blog that's been active since 1999 dug into the urban legend in the early 2010s and was unable to find proof. In 2016, a breakthrough: an anonymous fan had caught the Cher episode when it re-ran in the '90s and had a recording. They offered to send in the video to the blog, and now we can all chuckle at Stevenson's reassurances about Henry Blake. Check out the clip here.

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MadMadMadWorld 4 months ago
The funniest real-life event I read about relating to a fictional tv sitcom location was in "Gilligan's Island" early first year (1964), when a woman saw the show one night, and called the Coast Guard, claiming "there's 7 people stranded on a desert island! Please rescue them!" I never laughed so hard after reading that someone would be so out-of-it, to see a tv show, and think it was real life! Still cracks me up decades later!
Avie 15 months ago
"The 4077th crew wistfully wishes Henry goodbye after he gets an honorable discharge and see him off in his helicopter."

Officers in the U.S. military are NOT discharged, honorably or dishonorably; that is only for enlisted personnel. In Blkae's case, his tour of duty was over and he was simply sent home, a trip he was obviously never able to complete.
MadMadMadWorld Avie 4 months ago
THAT is not true! ALL military personnel, enlisted and officers ARE given a discharge paper (DD Form 214), showing the dates of service, and their discharge level, otherwise how would employers know how well they performed in the military. The 5 main discharge types are: Honorable, General, Other Than Honorable (from assault, security violations, trouble with authorities, possession of drugs), and the 2 lowest by a Court-martial: Bad Conduct, and Dishonorable.
Cougar90 15 months ago
McLean leaving M*A*S*H*. Big, big, BIG mistake.
Avie Cougar90 15 months ago
No, the show was MUCH improved by the arrival of Harry Morgan, whose Potter was a far more complex and believable character, and whose performance in the part was vastly better.

The problem with both Blake and Frank Burns is that the former was merely an affable nincompoop, and the latter a venal one.
timothys71 Avie 15 months ago
I thought the casting changes that occurred during seasons 3-5 ended up working well. The show was at its best during that period IMHO. The conclusion of the Abyssinia, Henry episode was groundbreaking for its time, especially for a comedy series.
Adamtwelvia Avie 4 months ago
I agree! I love Potter! He's my 2nd favorite, right behind Klinger
Patsy 15 months ago
I remember watching that.
gerardarcade 15 months ago
And then Col. Blake was kidnapped, brainwashed, and sent to Portland to host a call-in radio show....
CoreyC gerardarcade 15 months ago
He was brainwashed again and he was Dorothy Zbornak's brother in law on The Golden Girls.
cperrynaples CoreyC 15 months ago
Didn't remember that one! I remember the hardware store owner, the priest and the racist insurance salesman...LOL!
MrsPhilHarris 15 months ago
I actually remember that. I didn’t remember what show it was on, but remembered the sketch.
CoreyC MrsPhilHarris 15 months ago
I thought it was The Carol Burnett Show.
Cougar90 CoreyC 15 months ago
Same here.
Cougar90 CoreyC 4 months ago
Same here.
Deleted 15 months ago
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cperrynaples 15 months ago
Well, if you want to see a weird version of THAT song, check out Timothy Dalton & Mae West on YouTube! I'm sure you know that West & Welch didn't get along in Myra Breckenridge!
cperrynaples 15 months ago
Not the first time that happened! When The Edge Of Night killed Mike Karr's first wife, the actress came back to say she was still alive!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 15 months ago
PS Someone should have told Cher Blake WASN'T MIA! Guess she missed the scene where Radar read the message! "THERE WERE NO SURVIVORS!" Or maybe she was refering to Stevenson's show biz future! 2 words: "Hello Larry"...LOL!
justjeff 15 months ago
Yep... Blake was all right... if you consider pretending to row a rubber raft on top of a sheet of rippled plastic that's trying to simulate water...LOL!
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