Henry Blake and Michael Scott: Thankfully not as intertwined as I (and many others) had feared

As The Office’s Michael Scott leaves the show forever, he boards a plane for Colorado and his new life. The final image before the scene ends is of his plane rising into the air. And in that instant, I thought about Henry Blake’s fate on M*A*S*H and was suddenly terrified that the writers of The Office might have decided upon a similar fate for Michael Scott.

Henry Blake was the commanding officer of the M*A*S*H unit featured in the long-running sitcom, and in season 3, he finally received his discharge papers. But the plane returning him to the States is shot down over the Sea of Japan with no survivors, thus killing off a beloved character at what should have been a moment of joy for the viewers.

The news of Blake’s demise shocked the viewing audience.

In fact, the very next night on The Carol Burnett Show, the opening shot was of Henry Blake actor McLean Stevenson in a smoking raft, waving his arms, hollering, "I’m OK! I’m OK!"

Even though I had seen Blake’s demise in reruns, it still saddened me beyond description. The thought that the same might be happening to Michael Scott sent a shiver down my spine.

I mentioned this to my wife, but she had never seen M*A*S*H. And then I wondered if anyone watching Michael Scott’s last episode of The Office had experienced a similar feeling of dread upon watching that plane take off.

M*A*S*H ran from 1972-1983, making it too old for me to have appreciated during it’s original airing and too old in syndication for my wife. But I watched the show in reruns on channel 38 out of Providence and loved every minute of it.

I’ve often said that it was the only good thing that my evil stepfather ever gave me.

Sadly, I tried to watch some M*A*S*H reruns a few years ago and discovered that the show didn’t survive the test of time. In comparison to today’s television, M*A*S*H is melodramatic, preachy and morally unambiguous. It also contains a laugh track, which makes it sound overly earnest and dated.

But I still love those characters and the memory of the show.

So I tweeted my thoughts of Henry Blake last night at the conclusion of The Office. I wrote:

Terrified that we were going to have another Henry Blake moment as Michael Scott's plane took off. Anyone understand the reference? Anyone?

Within a minute I received responses from four or five people who had experienced the same feelings of dread, and by the morning, more than a dozen people had expressed similar feelings.

This is the greatest of the Internet. Twenty years ago I would have been alone in these thoughts, wondering if anyone else in America was thinking like me.

Not anymore.

Before writing this post, I was responding to readers in Nebraska, California and Manchester, England. All contacted me today through the unifying force of the Internet.

And in the midst of writing this post, I received an email from someone in Minnesota who loved Henry Blake and also thought that Michael Scott might suffer a similar fate.

Amazing times we live in. Huh?