‘M*A*S*H’: 1 Steamy Plotline Involving Hawkeye Was Rejected

Based on the comedic feature film directed by Robert Altman, MASH was a sitcom set during the Korean War. It followed the lives of those involved in an operating unit overseas, struggling with the pressures of war but meeting it with zany hijinks and a sharp wit.

The main character was Hawkeye Pierce, portrayed by Alan Alda. The show’s cast fluctuated somewhat throughout the years, but Alda remained a constant presence on the hit show. 

During the show’s run, it had several storylines revolving around love and relationships. There was one steamy plotline involving Hawkeye, however, the show ultimately rejected. Let’s take a closer look at what that storyline was. 

‘MASH’ was a popular series

The TV version of M*A*S*H differed from its movie counterpart in a few significant ways. One was that it featured a mainly new cast. The other was that it was significantly more family-friendly than the film. To air on network television, this was something of a necessity. 

M*A*S*H dealt with a touchy subject — the horrors of war — as successfully as it could. It attempted to maintain a patriotic, pro-U.S. perspective while still delving into the realities of combat.

It’s alternately comedic and dramatic tones inspired many shows over the years. There were certainly serious storylines throughout its run, but the show found plenty of opportunities to inject lighter themes like humor and romance into the proceedings. 

The romances of MASH

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M*A*S*H was far from a love story, but it did attempt to provide a mostly realistic portrayal. In any situation where men and women are working around the clock under the most stressful of circumstances, relationships and love affairs are bound to spring up.

MASH had plenty of those. Screen Rant compiled a list of some of the most loved (and unloved) relationships based on fan feedback. Some of them were: 

  • Hawkeye and Margaret: The male and female lead of the show, Hawkeye and Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan did sleep together in one episode. The two never really gelled as a couple, however, and their relationship remained mostly positive, but also platonic. 
  • Frank and Margaret: Matching up with the plot of the film, Margaret hooks up early in the show’s run with the show’s antagonist, Frank. Frank is seen less as a villain and more as bumbling comic relief. The coupling ends up dissolving eventually. 
  • Hawkeye and Carlyle: This plotline focused on the failure of Hawkeye’s relationship with his common-law wife, portrayed by Blythe Danner. 
  • B.J. and Peg: Hawkeye’s best friend and fellow surgeon B.J. Hunnicut had a wife back home he adored. She wasn’t featured on the show very often seeing as how she was in the U.S., but her character loomed large over B.J.’s every action. 

For a show that didn’t feature many female characters, the show had a decent amount of male-female relationship storylines. There was one they shied away from, however.

The 1 steamy plotline rejected on ‘MASH’

Alan Alda In 'MASH'
Alan Alda as Capt. Benjamin Franklin Pierce (Hawkeye) in ‘MASH.’ | CBS Photo Archive

The standards of what can and can’t air on network television have shifted radically in recent years. A realistic comedy-drama such as MASH made today would likely appear on cable (or, more likely, streaming on an app).

It wouldn’t be encumbered by the restraints of network executives — and even those executives today maintain more lax standards than they had in years past. Still, as a victim of its time, MASH had only one episode the network outright rejected.

According to Ranker, there was only one episode of MASH over the years that the network nixed. It was one in which Hawkeye, the show’s hero and moral center, had concurrent affairs with two nurses. It makes sense: it was a morally questionable move by the man the audience was supposed to root for. For all the sensitive subjects MASH tackled, this is one they wouldn’t touch.