The Light That Failed was the 129th episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H. The episode, which was the seventh episode of Season 6, was written by Burt Prelutsky and directed by Charles S. Dubin. It originally aired on October 25, 1977.

Storyline[edit | edit source]

Short on entertainment and supplies, a mystery novel that B.J. receives in the mail becomes quite popular at the camp as everyone follows the story with B.J. There is only one problem: the last page is missing, so nobody knows how the story ends. Everybody in the camp works together to solve the mystery or track down the author and call her so they can find out whodunnit.

Full episode summary[edit | edit source]

Supplies are running low at the 4077th - gel foam, sutures, winter clothing, even light bulbs are becoming scarce.

A supply truck arrives, carrying useless summer supplies - salt tablets, an ice cream churn, insect repellent, and the like, leaving the 4077th up a creek.

The one interesting item is a package for B.J. - "The Rooster Crowed at Midnight" - a mystery novel! Since everyone is so bored, a "spine-tingling" paperback is like pure gold. B.J. crawls into his cot, savoring every page. When Hawkeye grows frustrated that B.J. is taking so long, he tears out the first chapter and throws it to Hawkeye just to shut him up.

The book then starts to make its way around the camp - first to Winchester, then to Col. Potter, then Klinger, Nurse Bigelow (Enid Kent), and so on. It becomes the topic of discussion in the Mess Tent. The only problem is, the book is missing its last page, leaving the identity of the murder unknown. B.J. insists he knows who the killer is - the Reverend Butterfield!

In Post Op, Winchester, in the middle of complaining about the working conditions, gives a patient the wrong sedative - Curare instead of Morphine - causing the young man to go into shock. Hawkeye and B.J. pull him through, but Winchester (whom Hawkeye refers to as "Major Disaster") isn't even thankful for the help, and is unwilling to even take the blame for giving the patient the wrong drug.

Meanwhile, an argument over the identity of the novel's murderer breaks out, after B.J. concludes his first guess was wrong. He makes a second guess, but Nurse Bigelow points out that's wrong, too.

After numerous wrong guesses, they get so frustrated they place a call to the novel's author, who is a 97-year-old woman living in Australia. They call her, and she tells them the real murderer. After hanging up the phone, they realize...she's wrong, too!

Later, Hawkeye continued shunning of Winchester drives Winchester nuts, leading to an argument. While Hawkeye admits, technically, that Winchester is the best, his lack of actual feeling for his patients leaves a lot to be desired. Another supply truck arrives, carrying all the stuff the 4077th needs. With the tension eased, Winchester finds it in him to apologize to Hawkeye for his behavior, promising to think more about his patients from now on.

Research notes[edit | edit source]

  • Gary Burghoff receives billing, but does not appear in this episode. Oddly, Radar is not seen or mentioned, and Klinger fulfills the company clerk duties with no on-screen explanation or comment.
  • The episode title "The Light That Failed" references Rudyard Kipling's 1890 novel of the same title.
  • Fictional Australian mystery author Abigail Porterfield, author of The Rooster Crowed at Midnight, is perhaps meant to be reminiscent of Agatha Christie -- although Porterfield's corpse-ridden, kinky, bodice-ripping style in the passages we hear of the book is very unlike Dame Agatha's writing!
  • The missing last page plot is very similar to an episode of the British sitcom Hancock's Half Hour. In the 1960 episode "The Missing Page", Tony Hancock found the last page of the mystery novel he was reading was missing, which led to increasingly desperate attempts to solve the mystery.

Guest stars/Recurring cast[edit | edit source]

Uncredited appearances by

External links[edit | edit source]

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