In the MAS*H Thanksgiving episode “Yalu Brick Road,” Klinger gets the whole camp sick with his poorly prepared turkey.
Hawkeye and B.J. miss the sickly feast, not because they knew better, but because they were stranded in enemy territory.
While trying to make their way back to camp, B.J. helps an old man with a hurt ankle, carrying the man home. To say thanks, the old man gives B.J. a motorcycle with a side car that helps the lost soldiers get home, too.
This wouldn’t be the only time on MAS*H where we see B.J. on a bike.
Two seasons later in an episode called “Blood and Guts,” B.J. gets a motorcycle that he fixes up, only to have it stolen.
Then, in the finale, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” B.J. gets a motorcycle from a group of musicians, and it’s this bike that he paints yellow and rides in the series’ final scene, as Hawkeye rises overhead in a helicopter to read B.J.’s final “note.”
Through these episodes, motorcycles become to B.J. what horses are to Sherman T. Potter, a deep passion.
And while Mike Farrell often says he’s not much like the character he played, it’s possible that Farrell loves motorcycles even more than B.J. does.
In a 2009 interview with The Press and Sun Bulletin, Farrell said that he and his wife Shelley Fabares loved to go on cross-country trips together, often by motorcycle. He said their trips have taken them across the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.
Farrell’s passion for motorcycles started after he was discharged from the Marines in the late 1950s and it didn’t stop when his new hobby got a little dangerous.
Shortly after picking up the hobby, he ended up in the hospital after an accident that required surgery.
In his memoir Just Call Me Mike, Farrell asked his friend Martin Sheen to write the foreword, and by his account, Sheen cites at least one other time that Farrell had trouble with his love of motorcycles.
Sheen recalled once seeing Farrell hobbling on crutches after breaking his ankle in a motorcycle accident decades later in life.
Between those two rough patches was a lot of open road for Farrell, who reminisces in Just Call Me Mike about his first cross-country road trip. After finishing shooting on a 1980s movie he produced, he decided to jump on his motorcycle and ride until he got home.
“It was my first true cross-country motorcycle ride and the beginning of what had become a series of such adventures in different parts of the world,” Farrell recalled.
Each time he got a chance to plot a cross-country trip, Farrell felt he was realizing a “dream.”
On MAS*H, B.J.’s love of bikes became a central aspect of his character, and now we know we have Mike Farrell to thank for each motorcycle scene, right up to the very end of the series.