M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit Never Felt Right About Margaret's Ending

The final episode of the hit sitcom "M*A*S*H" is a massive achievement in television, not only because it drew the largest number of viewers for a prime-time television episode ever, but because it managed to wrap up each of its characters' seasons-long emotional arcs with aplomb. Well, except for one.

Actor Loretta Swit sometimes had a tricky time on "M*A*S*H," as she really had to fight for her character, Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, to be taken seriously. The first few seasons can be frustrating with regards to Margaret, as she's having an affair with married officer Frank Burns (Larry Linville), but she eventually grows into a complex, fascinating character with as much depth as any of the men. (In some cases, she has quite a bit more!)

In an interview with Yahoo, Swit shared that she wasn't entirely happy with the choices made for Margaret in the finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen." While the finale wrapped up everyone else's stories with neat bows, Swit felt that Margaret's "happy ending" didn't make sense for the character at all.

The wrong choice for a military woman

In the finale, Margaret is trying to decide what to do now that her time in Korea has ended, and she eventually decides to go back to the United States to work in a hospital (something she says she always wanted to do). The problem, according to Swit, is that Margaret wouldn't have done that:

"I didn't think that was correct for my Margaret. For me, she was off to the next war. Margaret is military, just like Potter. I think her next move was Vietnam. So I didn't agree with that, but that's what they wanted her to do."

Swit thinks that it's possible that the series' creators were trying to set up some kind of spin-off show with Houlihan in the U.S., sort of like they did with "AfterMASH," but either way it didn't make sense for Margaret. After all, like she said, the character was career military and had even grown up on bases as a military brat, so it wouldn't make sense for her to just go back home when things were already escalating over in Vietnam. In the finale, her father tries to talk her into leaving nursing to take a higher-ranking military gig, but the truth is that Margaret is both a nurse and all military, and her future should contain both.

More for Margaret

If Swit had gotten it her way, Margaret would have ended up going to work as a nurse in Vietnam — and while that makes a lot of sense for the character, it would have made any potential spin-off with her very difficult. A lot of what happens in "M*A*S*H" is supposed to take place during the Korean War but is actually inspired by the war in Vietnam, which was ongoing when the series began in 1972. The Vietnam War was a very fresh and painful memory when "M*A*S*H" ended in 1983, so it's unlikely that any network would want to set a series there. Not only that, but it would feel like a rather depressing ending for Margaret, simply going into another brutal war when the series had been so clearly anti-war.

While going to Vietnam and serving as a nurse there would have been an appropriate next step for Margaret, the millions watching at home wanted to know that she would end up safe and sound in the end, and a tour in Vietnam definitely couldn't guarantee that. It's a shame that Swit didn't feel totally satisfied, but she managed to make a huge impact on the character and made her one of the most compelling people in the whole series. That has to count for something.