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Headscratchers: M*A*S*H

The Movie

  • Is it just me, or does it seem like Hot Lips Took a Level in Dumbass after sleeping with Duke? Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like to me that after they engaged in some hanky panky, she pretty much turned into a Dumb Blonde (and I think Blake even called her such, I'd have to watch again) for the rest of the movie. What's up with that?

The Book

The TV Series

  • Something that's always bothered me about the episode "Patent 4077" that revolved around the construction of a new vascular clamp for leg surgeries. Why exactly was the modified clamp such a big deal? Is it really that difficult to apply just the necessary amount of pressure to clamp off an artery to stop the bleeding without crushing it?
    • That's the point. Usually, they could just apply a clamp and leave it. Unfortunately, the clamps they had weren't able to apply enough pressure to clamp off an artery without crushing the thing, and the nurses needed to actually hold the clamp instead of having one or both hands free to assist the surgeon.
    • Think of it as the difference between a crescent wrench and a torque wrench. While they will both tighten a bolt, the torque wrench will only tighten it so far.
  • Has anyone else wondered about the guy who's always making announcements about incoming wounded? Who is that guy, and why is he always making announcements when the PA system is in Radar's office?
    • Even though we never see the guy, it makes sense that Radar (and later Klinger) wouldn't be at the desk 24/7. Someone else would be operating the radio and PA system while they are off duty.
      • A real MASH unit would have an entire administrative staff, usually a non-medical officer and several clerks, rather than just the CO and a single clerk.
  • Where does Klinger get all those dresses, especially considering no one else seems to have many outfits beyond their fatigues?
    • It has been forever since I've watched the show, but wasn't it implied that he made at least a few of them himself? I imagine he bartered for or purchased the others outright. Everyone else seemed underdressed by comparison because Klinger was the only person who went out of his way to acquire that volume of clothing. The others either didn't care to dress differently or didn't want to put forth the effort. In one post-M*A*S*H interview, Jamie Farr talks about walking into Wardrobe and passing the other actors costumes. Ever actor had a rack apiece, which held their fatigues, bathrobes, and occasional Hawaiian shirt. He'd then arrive at his FIRST rack, which was full of dresses, frocks, skirts, togas.
      • He made a lot of them himself. It's noted that what Klinger didn't create himself, he altered to fit his measurements. Least he had a trade as a tailor after the war.
    • He also received a few of them from a relative who tried the same stunt to get out of World War II. I don't think he succeeded, either.
    • It was also mentioned that he ordered from Sears catalogs and the like.
    • Which also brings up the question: Why didn't he try something else?
      • He did. Remember his stunt where he tried to convince everyone he was Zoltan, king of the gypsies?
      • And the invisible camel. Who DID get a section 8.
      • He also stayed atop a pole for a while, trying to convince everyone he was crazy that way.
      • He also forged a letter from a relative or two, saying they were sick, or his sister was pregnant, or something.
      • Blake had a folder full of forged letters that had all kinds of excuses, including mother dying, father dying and sister pregnant and other variations, like father dead, sister dying, mother pregnant.
      • "Here's an oldie but a goodie. Half the family dying, other half pregnant. Klinger, aren't you ashamed of yourself?" "Yes sir... I don't deserve to be in the army."
      • There was one time he tried to convince Colonel Potter he was a serial killer that exclusively killed women motorcycle cops so he could be sent home to be tried.
      • And the time he ate a Jeep.
      • And that time he wore winter clothes and insisted it was freezing during the middle of a heat wave. That one almost worked.
      • Or the time he claimed he was actually in Toledo. If he hadn't screwed it up at the last minute, it would've worked.
      • Or applied to West Point with the express intention of failing quickly.
      • He also built that glider, which he tried to fly out of the camp.
      • "A big red bird with fuzzy pink feet."
      • And the time he threatened to set himself on fire with gasoline, which didn't work out like he planned when someone replaced the contents of his cans with real gasoline.
      • He also feigned severe depression. That one would have worked, too, if he hadn't whooped with glee when told he was going home.
      • He tried to eat his way out, as it were, by gaining so much weight that he would be too fat for the army. All he did was give himself a stomach ache and bad breath from the dozen salamis that he devoured.
      • Basically, Klinger was too competent to be fired or sent to the front.
      • Hawkeye himself said that Klinger was a good medic who never allowed his attempts to get kicked out interfere with his duties in helping save people's lives.
      • Such as the time he was pretending to have fainting spells. His final one was in the OR, right after informing Colonel Potter that there were no more wounded to bring in. He also explicitly reminds Margaret about this fact when she thinks he's malingering, and he's actually got anemia from the antimalarial drug he's been given.
      • Although Klinger may have been a good medic and a scrounger that would have made Radar envious (through tactics that Radar probably wouldn't have employed), Klinger didn't get his discharge not because of his competence, but because he actually wasn't crazy, like he pretended to be. If he'd been a soldier during peace time and wasn't a draftee, he might have been discharged as "unfit for military service," but despite all his attempts, he didn't fool anyone. Klinger wasn't even that serious about wanting to get out. Sidney Freedman gave him the chance, but Klinger didn't want to be known as a transvestite, so he refused.
      • It wasn't the transvestite thing that bothered him (hell, he already was that) it was being labeled a homosexual that made him refuse.
      • After Radar left Klinger ran the camp just as well as he did, so they really couldn't function without him.
    • The question becomes, not why Klinger didn't try anything else, but why he kept trying the transvestite routine? It wasn't getting him out, and in fact those in command became inured to it, blase even.
    • Speaking of Klinger, can anyone explain why the hell he was given a tent all to himself while captains and majors were sharing quarters in the Swamp?
      • Would you bunk with him if you didn't have to? The rest of the barracks probably complained until he got the boot.
      • Was that really his tent? Didn't he sleep in the stockroom.
      • Yeah, it's his tent alright. When he gets off-duty in "The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan," he enters the tent, takes off his helmet, and collapses onto a cot.
      • That's actually reality. Klinger was important to the camp's functioning, and a great wheeler-dealer in his own right. It would have made sense for the chain-of-command to give him his own tent; because he's crazy, because he's functions on a different level of reality than everyone else, because he's earned a few perks through his competence and devoted service to the mission. Among the regular or semi-regular cast - I say this as someone with military experience - Klinger was definitely the best soldier the 4077th had, and military leadership does look for ways to reward their best soldiers in whatever manner they can find, which can be as simple as giving an excellent soldier more walk-in closet space than his rank entitles him to. Frank was arguably being punished by having to room with two Captains, while Charles was just placed in whatever space was available when he arrived, and never demonstrated the right to have his own room within the limits of the 4077. That part is less realistic.
      • Important to the camp's functioning? When he became company clerk, sure, but up until then he just did guard duty and other grunt work. I don't see that he performed those duties better than any other corpsman, either.
  • Where did Hawkeye and Trapper get trained? Their lack of military professionalism is evident throughout the series, and sometimes it goes far beyond a simple defensive mechanism to cope with stitching up kids younger than themselves. And besides their brilliance in surgery, why didn't they ever get busted, or even a real reprimand? Henry couldn't have been THAT spineless.
    • It was (and still is) common for civilian professionals (lawyers, chaplains, nurses and doctors) to basically take the 90-day officers' course. Doctors start out as Captains, other professionals as 1st Lieutenants. This wasn't intended to make them proper military men, it was to get them used to military procedure and the system within which they were expected to work. Unsurprisingly, it didn't always take. In most cases (chaplains particularly) they are not expected to have any real command responsibility, which means the rest of the hierarchy can ignore them until needed.
      • This is still a common practice. In the US Navy Reserves, doctors can enter military service as high as an O-5, which is a commander (equal to a lieutenant colonel), and almost never appear in uniform. Their Navy officer training can take as little as two weeks. There are Navy officers whose first (and sometimes only) time in uniform was to attend a two-week course. There is a full-bird Army colonel (a dentist) who knew absolutely nothing about military protocol to the point that I had to tell him, "They're talking to you, sir, and you should be angry at the tone they're taking..."
    • Apparently, drafted civilian doctors were automatically given officer ranks, so they were all but expected to be Bunny Ears Lawyers. And, yes, apparently Hawkeye and Trapper (and BJ to a lesser extent) were so brilliant that they had Ultimate Job Security (whether they liked it or not).
      • Realistically, this makes sense. Having an officer rank would give them greater freedom to issue orders and travel, both of which would be essential when issuing treatment, especially on the front lines.
      • Rank doesn't really play a part when you're the subject matter expert in a particular area or the person responsible for something. A senior person can't give you a direct order to go against standing orders or good medical practice. A good example of this appears in Band of Brothers when a sentry shoots one of the officers and the medic (an NCO) gives the other officers a hard time for not following their training.
    • Part of it's due to their skills, true. Far more likely is that, at least in the show's world, replacing two or three surgeons would have been quite the chore, and probably led to a number of otherwise-preventable casualties in the meantime. One of the scenarios used in the book, film AND TV show was to have Hawkeye and Trapper getting righteously busted for something, then the alarm for incoming casualties would sound. The guys look at each other, shrug, and say something along the lines of "Well, we don't really plan on working if we're under arrest".
    • Plus the whole concept is based on what actually happened in the Korean War. Civilian doctors who were drafted in really did get away with all that kind of stuff.
    • It's not hard to imagine them shrugging and saying, "What are you going to do, fire me?" Granted, a court-martial isn't something you just walk away from, but short of an offense that warrants a stint in Leavenworth, I imagine they'd even blow off a dishonorable discharge if it got them home. So basically, the army needed the surgeons a lot more than the surgeons needed the army.
      • That still doesn't explain how Hawkeye got away with punching Burns. Burns wasn't even doing anything out-of-the-ordinary for him, and Hawkeye just punches him right out of nowhere. Doctor or not, he should have at least been reprimanded for that.
      • He nearly was. Margaret changed her story to match the one that Hawkeye and Trapper told — that Burns got his black eye when he slipped on a bar of soap— and so the charges were dismissed.
    • Henry was a civilian drafted as well remember and Potter was an old enough dog to know that as long as your cutters are good you ignore their foibles (which is why Klinger remained on staff rather then be transferred, Radar could keep that menagerie etc).
      • Henry was a Lt. Colonel and commander of the unit. He has to have been in the army far longer than Hawkeye and Trapper John to get promoted twice and and to that level of responsibility. That suggests that he must have been started out at least in WWII. If he were only drafted, he would have been able to quit in the late '40s and never had to go to Korea. Unless he were in the Army Reserve and thus liable to be re-inducted, which in turn suggests his commitment to the Army is (or at least was, at some point) more than it looks.
      • In the movie, he makes repeated references (mostly in his idea of a pep talk) to having been in the army "since the dark days before Pearl Harbor". (Not an exaggeration, the pre-WWII period was a pretty bad one for the US Army. Since it offered regular meals, clothing, housing, medical care, the possibility of travel, and regular, if meager, pay, there were millions of unemployed people who would have liked nothing better than to get in and stay there until things got better, so the volunteers could hardly be processed, never mind accepted. There also wasn't money for equipment. The Army knew it needed tanks, but couldn't get the money, so training infantry for working with tanks involved trucks with 'tank' painted on the sides as stand ins.)
      • When Colonel Potter arrived, he was specifically described as being regular (career) army. However Henry was classified—drafted, reserves, whatever—he wasn't regular army.
    • Not necessarily, If Henry was in the reserves he might have only joined to pay for his medical schooling and then getting stuck when an actually war broke out. He was a half-decent administrator (plus he had Radar, who helped make him look good) and a damn good doctor, which is why he was promoted quickly when the 4077th needed a commander.
    • In the book and movie, Henry was regular army. It's likely the creators made him a reservist or draftee to make him a more sympathetic character in the regulars vs. draftees atmosphere of the series.
    • A better question would be how a bungler like Burns (who would have been a pastry chef if he wasn't drafted as a doctor) made Major.
      • Well, it was mostly for conflict, but in-universe, he mentions having taken ROTC in college. Unless I'm wrong about how ROTC, he could have been working in a VA hospital or something. Especially considering MASH's version of the army, he could have easily gotten promoted on zeal alone.
      • There's also the question of how the camp had such a high survival rate if one of the four doctors was so incompetent. If Burns was really as bad as they claimed he was while being one of the camp's few doctors, they could not have had a 97% success rate.
      • I'll agree with the "zeal" guess. Bit of an Epileptic Tree, but rule of thumb in MASH seems to be that generals are all but obsessed with appearances. Considering Frank is all about appearances (patriotic zeal and adherence to regulations) I always assumed he impressed a superior officer that knew nothing about medicine.
      • Mmmmmmmaybe. Even leaving aside his medical skills, Frank clearly shows himself to be an idiot of the highest order on every level. He has no interpersonal or leadership skills. Still, you can imagine him kissing ass and someone giving him a promotion based on that alone.
      • With Henry in the series, his medals show a WWII service medal but no campaign medals, which might indicate he was either drafted or called up in the last few months of WWII, and completed his training just before VJ Day, and remianed in the reserves long after, but in the movie, he mentions being on active duty before the Pearl Harbour attack, which would require a dedication to the army.
      • IIRC, Burns made mention once being in the Reserves and being activated for the Korean War. This could explain his higher rank and more gung-ho attitude.
    • I recently rewatched the series and have a theory about the various ranks of the doctors. It doesn't quite make sense from a military standpoint, but it's possible they were given ranks based on their experience. Hawkeye, Trapper, and BJ are mentioned as being relatively young, Hawkeye working in a hospital (I believe in Boston, which raises the question of how he never met Charles if it was Boston General like I remember), with BJ stated as fresh out of residency when he comes to the unit in "Welcome to Korea". Frank apparently is a bit older, having had a private practice for several years. Charles was also a practicing surgeon for quite some time and was apparently a high-profile surgeon, being in the running for chief of thorasic surgery at Boston General. Henry Blake apparently had been a practicing doctor and surgeon for decades, saying at one point that he doesn't think there's anyone in Bloomington, IL that he hasn't seen naked. Blake also seems to be getting on in years, with arthritis starting to affect his performance and the middle-age spread starting to come in. Potter obviously is regular army and made his way up through the ranks the old-fashioned way. It's hard to tell just by looking at the characters because of the various ages of the actors - BJ looks to be older than Hawkeye, even though later in the series Hawkeye's moved from black hair to salt-and-pepper, with more salt than pepper. Plus we never find out exactly how old most of the characters are, although with a bit of math you can figure out Potter's age.
      • At least in the book, Frank is supposed to be the same age, and this is obliquely hinted at in the series. In the book, Frank skipped doing a proper surgical residency to go into practice with his father. Sure enough, in "Chief Surgeon Who?" Frank says he was in private practice for three years, during which time Hawkeye and Trapper would have been in residency. He mocks Hawkeye for having worked in a hospital, suggesting that this version also did not do his residency. Also, Frank mentions in "The Sniper" that he took twice as long as usual to finish med school, which would make him older even if they graduated at the same time.
    • Potter gave his age as 62 in one episode, which puts his birth date in 1890 (give or take, depending upon what year of the war the episode was in).
  • Did the characters' attitudes have to be so anachronistic? I could stand them being a bit ahead of their time, but it's just so blatant, especially in the latter seasons, how everyone acts like the social movements of the 1960s have already happened. And the 1950s were twenty years before the show was made, so there's no way the cast and crew didn't live through the time period they were portraying.
    • Here's a justification for ya - the Korean War began 25th of June, 1950. Let's suppose in the M*A*S*H* Verse, the Korean War actually did go for the time period shown. The show went for 11 seasons. One episode took place over the course of a year, so we see 12 years pass by in M*A*S*H*, so the show ends in 1962. Presumably, a 12 year war would have some effect on the psyche of a nation, and even if it didn't we certainly see it affect the characters, as they gradually become dependent on the few forms of escape they have, and also the whole "Little contact with home" thing, meaning they perceive what they have as normal. I kinda lost my train of thought here, but I think you know what I mean.
      • I don't think that timeline works for the series. There was another episode that consumes a long timeline. I forget which episode it was, but Klinger convinces Potter to bet on baseball, beginning around the all-star break and ending around the time of the World Series. Even though these two episodes take up long spans of time, there are later episodes that give the date as being earlier than prior episodes. They also have a Christmas episode each season, but they don't keep incrementing the years up to the 1960s. The series is supposed to take place in the actual Korean War timeline despite the problems they have with having had 12 or 13 Christmases and things happening out of order.
      • That episode is "A War for All Seasons" and it is Winchester and Klinger who are betting on the Dodgers but the Giants Win the Pennant! This is also the episode that does the most to mess with the timeline - the episode begins New Year's Day 1951 and included Col. Potter as Father Time. Henry Blake was killed in August or Sept 1952 since Col. Potter reported for duty at the 4077 on September 19, 1952. Did Potter step back in time?
      • In Season 3's "Life with Father", Hawkeye talks about a guy who "left here over two years ago." That would put that episode in at least mid-1952.
      • At the beginning of Season 4, when Trapper leaves, Hawkeye says he was room-mates with Trapper for over a year.
      • In a Season 4 episode, the PA announcer says Ralph Kiner has just hit his 47th homerun of the season. The only time that happened (during the Korean War) was in 1950.
      • Another problem with the timeline is the skill the unit has at bugging out. MASH units were quite good at this in 1950 and 1951 (when they had had to do it a lot), but the last time the 4077 does it (still with commendable skill) is in the final episode, which was clearly set in 1953. By that time, even practice bug outs had been ended due to how badly they went.
      • There's also season four's "Deluge", which can only take place in fall of 1950, because it details the Chinese intervention in the war, which occured on November 3, 1950, and General MacArthur's statement of "We now face an entirely new war", which he made on November 28, 1950. This was after Potter became CO on September 19, 1952, and previous episodes with China as one of the combatants, such as "Rainbow Bridge" (the 4077 is offered to make a prisoner exchange with the Chinese).
    • The reason the attitudes seem so anachronistic is that the series, like the film, isn't really about the Korean war. It's about the Vietnam war. Neither the movie nor the series would have been green-lighted if they were explicitly about Vietnam. So yeah, this is a form of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • This show made Korea look so backwards. I'm no expert on Korea, but I know South Korea is now one of the Four Asian Tigers. Was it really Amish-Land in the early '50s?
    • I'm told Koreans hate the show because of how the country was portrayed.
      • Koreans don't like how Korean characters were portrayed, not the country. In the early seasons, almost every Korean was a virtual caricature. Later seasons were a bit better in this regard, but from time to time there were still characters that were near parodies.
    • The series is supposed to take place around Uijongbu, which is an actual city. During the Korean War, Uijongbu was only a small village, so the portrayal may be justified.
      • The only place shown to be "backwards" (i.e. poor, farming communities) was the immediate area surrounding the 4077th and the Korean countryside. Seoul was never shown, but sounded like a large metropolitan city (because it is) and the place you want to go to when you go on leave if you can't get to Tokyo (which is the Las Vegas of the east).
      • At that time, most of Korea was pretty backwards. Up till about five years before the war started, Korea was a Japanese colony, and from what I've heard from people who were there, it was in pretty sad shape—-along with most of East Asia. The era of the "tigers" did not come until decades later.
      • Also, when Korea was divided into Soviet and American occupation zones (which fairly quickly became North Korea and South Korea) upon the Japanese surrender in 1945, the country's economy was seriously disrupted. In 1945, the north was primarily industrial (largely powered by hydroelectric power generated in the mountains) while the (generally less mountainous) south was primarily agricultural. As is normally the case, the agricultural area was more backward. South Korea didn't really become a developed economy for years.
  • Were we really meant to feel sympathetic during Margaret Houlihan's whole 'lousy cup of coffee' rant? Each season she mistreated her nurses, went out of her way to make things difficult for others. At the very least her rant seemed like a very left field thing, at the very most it seemed like a very thin justification for basically stomping all over the people she was supposed to be responsible for.
    • She never really mistreated her nurses. Not in the way that Burns, for example, mistreated his subordinates. She was just very Rules and Regulations, and she resented the fact that she was vilified because of it. Moreover, Characterization Marches On: the Houlihan of later seasons is a very different person from the Houlihan of earlier seasons.
      • But until that episode there never was any indication that she would say yes if they offered as before then Houlihan was shown to be very conscious of rank and tried not to associate with the enlisted men if she didn't have to. The nurse's actions are largely justified as her character didn't start to really soften until after this episode.
      • And if you look at the early seasons she was willing to drop the hammer heavily on her nurses if they so much as sneezed. In one episode she said that unless Blake dropped the hammer she was going to go over his head, at which point he responded that she had gone over his head so many times that he had boot marks on his forehead. Not to mention that she pretty much ignored rules and regs when they applied to her and Frank's relationship. Her complaint that the nurses had treated her badly is like a schoolyard bully complaining that no one wants to play with them.
      • Again, Characterization Marches On. We can assume that her worst actions in the earlier seasons had been Ret Conned out of existence by that point.
      • Moreover, by this point in the series Houlihan had broken up with Frank and was engaged to Penobscot. That's as good a time as any to re-evaluate how people look at you.
      • I think that Frank and Margaret were mutually bad influences on each other. Frank's view of class and the proper order of things made Margaret distant with her nurses (and everyone else), while Margaret's army background and what she wanted in a man made Frank army-obsessed and somewhat violent. Once Margaret started seeing Donald, Frank became a lot less obsessed with army rules, and a lot more snarky and desperate for attention. When Margaret married Donald, Frank went round the bend, but didn't revert to his army obsession. After the marriage, Margaret was able to start to progress as a character, and became more willing to socialize and mingle with those "under" her. The episode in question was just part of that process of growth - indeed, once she married Donald, I think she'd have been open to the offer of a "lousy cup of coffee", if asked in the right context.
      • She did. In a later episode, she comes into Rosie's Bar, finding two of her nurses (and half the rest of the camp) drinking in there.
    Margaret: Why didn't you two invite me?
    Kellye: We didn't think you'd accept.
    Margaret: Well that's gonna cost you both a drink!

  • Why certain people had their own tents when others had to share. For example, Burns (later Winchester) had to share a tent with two to three other doctors (in the beginning, Spearchucker Jones was in the tent with Trapper, Hawkeye, and Burns). The dentist (in early episodes), Hot Lips, Sergeant Zale, a supply sergeant, Lieutenant Simmons, and Klinger all had their own tents. That's six people of lower rank than Major Burns who have their own tents. Blake, then Potter had his own tent, too, but that's understandable.
    • Some of that can be easily explained: Blake and Potter would have had their own tents as unit commanders, Hot Lips as the only female of rank (Can't bunk her with the men or with the enlisted nurses), Zale was a supply sergeant and could have bartered his way to privacy (there are several instances on the show of the supply personnel bartering to other goals) and Klinger spent most of his time trying to convince people he was crazy; I speak from experience in saying that being weird enough will win you a private college dorm, I imagine it's rather the same: no one WANTED to bunk with him.
      • The nurses aren't enlisted. They're officers. If Frank, the second-in-command, can share a tent with two or more doctors, why does Margaret get her own tent, or even worse, Lieutenant Simmons? As for not wanting to bunk with Klinger, it's the Army. If you don't want to bunk with someone, you don't always get the luxury of saying you won't do it.
      • After Klinger takes over as company clerk he also has to give up his tent and bunk in the office like Radar did.
      • Plus in the episode where they actually had a legitimate Section 8 Klinger was shown to bunk with him.
      • Hawkeye, Trapper/BJ, and Frank/Charles had to share since, as the surgical team, they had to be accessible at once for emergencies. Zale, as the supply sergeant, was also possibly the highest ranking NCO around, and would therefore get his own tent. Margaret, as the highest ranking female officer AND the Head Nurse, would be entitled to her own tent. Klinger might have been able to make a few deals to get his own tent from someone who was higher ranking than himself.
    • Those are all reasonable explanations for how someone could get his/her own tent and even if those are true, there don't seem to be enough tents in the camp to house all the personnel, especially with so many people having their own tents.
      • For all we know, some of those people did have tent-mates, we just didn't get to see them because the show's cast was already pretty big.
      • Posted above, but the military isn't as uniform as it's always been presented in movies and tv. Some lower-ranking people can win better privileges because they've earned or negotiated them, and some higher-ranking people are denied otherwise-normal privileges. More to the point, I wonder why the 4077 never had a First Sergeant or a Sergeant-Major as ranking NCOIC, who would have been closer to COL Potter than Radar, Hawkeye, Mildred and Sophie combined. That's one of the NCOIC's jobs, protecting the damnfool officer from his own ignorance, or putting out his orders and ensuring that they are obeyed at every level. The 4077 would have had a First Sergeant pulling Major Burns aside and privately telling him that he was destroying everything they were trying to accomplish. You don't barge into the Colonel's office and tell him you've got a problem, even if you are wearing a dress and openly trying to get out of the Army with your latest zany scheme. I shudder to think what NCO's of the 1950s would do to such a soldier.

  • Why is it that so many people that are known to the main characters happen to come to this MASH unit at various times? Hawkeye's childhood friend visits, so does a girl he went to college with, though this one makes a little sense as she was a nurse who was drafted, too. Also, a doctor Hawkeye did residency with comes to do a nose job on a soldier. Trapper's old friend also visits, and so does a writer friend. BJ's old college chum drops by. Potter's son-in-law visits and so does Margaret's dad (who was not as dead as he seemed to be in earlier episodes).
    • Nurses weren't drafted, at least not female ones.
    • Margaret's dad could be justified by some sort because he was a soldier of high rank so he probably had enough clout to check out her MASH unit.
    • Which would also work in getting Potter's son-in-law into camp. Potter has clout and connections, furthermore the hospital is a relatively "safe" area for civilians as it's protected from direct attack due to the conventions of war. Also depending on the person's occupation (journalists, writers, filmmakers, newsmen, other medical professionals, or businesspersons with military connections) they might have an easier time being allowed to visit the camp.
      • Those are good explanations. You probably wouldn't even need to be that high in rank to get someone to be able to visit you in the war zone. I don't think I would actually call the unit all that safe, at least at times. Sometimes, they get artillery fire, snipers, kidnappings, guerrilla soldiers in the area, and North Korean and Chinese soldiers infiltrating the camp. And, although that's a good job of explaining how Hot Lips' father would be able to get there, it doesn't explain how he became alive after being dead. Assuming he was retconned to be alive again, I buy the explanation.
    • Margaret's dad was said to be dead in the beginning of the series, before they had all of the characters' backstories worked out. If you remember, Hawkeye had a living mother and a sister, and Radar smoked and drank. Certain facts changed as the series progressed.
      • Also, Radar had a brother early on.
      • And Hawkeye had a sister early on (she knitted him a huge sweater), and a living mom and a brother in a few episodes, then it was established that he was an only child and that his mother was dead.
    • There were only 5 MAS Hes in Korea, so if you had a friend who was stationed at one and you ended up getting wounded enough to go to MASH, you had a 1 in 5 chance of seeing them.

  • Are not viewers kinda discomforted by this little exchange (in the episode "Dear Ma") between Margaret, Radar, and a silent Potter?
    Margaret: Make sure no one goes into my tent.
    Radar: I wouldn't do that, Ma'am.
    Margaret: SOMEBODY does.
    Radar: Maybe it's rats.
    Margaret: You think RATS have been trying on my undies?
    Radar: Some of them rats are weird.
    • Margaret's accusatory tone, Radar's sheepish delivery of the last line, and Potter's eye-rolling distinct discomfort at the whole conversation seem to imply that it is Radar that has been trying on the undies. Could it be that Klinger is not the only crossdresser in camp? (Of course, it wouldn't be unthinkable, as many boys and young men at some point will try on some femme finery out of mere curiosity, without necessarily becoming a full-fledged transvestite. But this is our beloved Radar, and it seems just a little squicky...)
      • Radar had an on-and-off relationship with innocence. at times, he'd be seen smoking a cigar. Sometimes, Hawkeye would mention how Radar looked at his nudie magazines. There were times when he discussed how he had put the hole in the shower tent so he could peep. Then, there would be other times when he seemed to be shocked that a man and a woman could share the same bath with their clothes off.
      • One Word: Flanderization.
    • This is probably not how it was intended, but the way I interpreted it originally was not that Radar was the one who'd done it, but that he knew who it was and didn't want to say.
    • I always saw it as Margaret knew that Radar was going through her underwear, but took it as a boy with a harmless crush on her, since a career Major in the medical field would likely be in her mid to late 30s, while an enlisted farmboy from Iowa was likely to only be about 20 at the most. She was taking the chance to rib him about it and let him knew that he wasn't as slick as he thought he was.
      • And more to the point, she states this in front of Potter, who is essentially a father figure to Radar, knowing that Potter will have a fatherly talk with Radar about the inappropriateness of his actions (and, if necessary, a more severe colonel-to-corporal talk if the behavior persists). Potter is understandably uncomfortable with what he has to do, but knows it's part of the job.

  • Why is Hawkeye portrayed to be so sympathetic? He is basically a creep. I remember when he had to give Margaret a shot, and somehow lusting over her ass and humiliating her was okay. He is also condescending and cruel. He basically tortured a severely mentally ill man (Frank). Why didn't he make the completely reasonable recommendation that Frank was unstable and should be sent home, instead?
    • That always bugged me, too. If he liked you, he was very loyal to you. If he didn't like you, look out! There was also a time where he drugged Frank, bandaged him up, and hid him in the OR just so he could have a party.
      • It wasn't about whether Hawkeye "liked you," though. His stunts often crossed a line, but the people he targeted were nearly always ones he perceived as bullies, either standing in the way of some planned altruism, or actually putting others in danger, eg., getting their men killed just to boost their own glory and status. The "party" you mention, for example, was raising money for Ho-Jon's schooling, and Frank wanted to stop to what he saw as an immoral and frivolous breach of protocol. (Frank didn't know Hawkeye had plotted to make sure Father Mulcahy won the raffle for the weekend with Lt. Dish, so that she could help the cause without compromising her fidelity.) Yes, it was still an over-the-top way to sideline Frank, but it was certainly not "just so he could have a party."

    • 1) In that episode where he gave Margaret a shot, they ended up talking about respect and he said how fantastic she really was. 2) Remember a little episode called "The Novocaine Mutiny"? Because his command was challenged, Frank was willing to see him killed "or worse". 3) Oh, I don't know, getting steadily crazier until he was in a mental hospital at the start of the finale tends to make a guy sympathetic.
      • So talking about respect makes it okay to be totally unprofessional and lurid? Of course Frank was horrible in doing that, but does that excuse Hawkeye, magically of everything he has done to him in the past? Is Hawkeye somehow psychic and gets revenge on a future event? The guy was crazy, he SHOULDN'T have been there in the first place. Instead of adding to the stress of an unstable man he should have done everything he could to get him sent home. And in that episode as far as I can remember, Frank showed many signs of "not being all there in the head. I'm not saying Frank was nice or even a good person but since when does that excuse torturing someone? Should you only treat the people whose moral code corresponds with yours with respect(or simply respect enough not to physically assault them)?
      • I have to agree with this somewhat. The only reason Hawkeye said anything about respect was to fool Margaret into pulling her pants down. As soon as she gets her butt cheeks hanging out, Hawkeye says something like lurid and offensive. His moral code of professionalism only extended to those he liked. Frank was no saint. Hawkeye was a serious jerkass. Both of them were completely bonkers. In that episode, Frank tried to get Hawkeye convicted of mutiny, which has a death sentence as a possible outcome. Somehow, they can still work together afterward and continue to be roommates.
    • Simple. At the start of the show, Hawkeye was an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist/Jerk with a Heart of Gold type of character. He always expressed the writers' anti-war viewpoint, but early episodes don't really try to portray him as a great human being. Then he started to turn into Alan Alda and act like he was some sort of moral paragon. But his skirt-chasing, martini-drinking, Frank-abusing shticks lingered (where else would the comedy come from?), so for much of the show he was essentially a self-righteous hypocrite. Not the writers' intent, of course, but you can see how it happened.
    • I'm not sure if he's meant to be a hero.
      • Seconded. Closer to Anti-Hero, definitely. And not so much "creep" as Chivalrous Pervert. :) I'd argue Hawkeye manages to stay a sympathetic character because, as deeply flawed as he is, (and ain't he just), he remains at heart compassionate, warm, giving, honest, idealistic, and loyal. His first priority at all times is the welfare of his patients, and he won't hesitate to risk his life trying to save them. He longs to make the world better, and keeps trying even though it's hopeless; when he sees an injustice, he'll go to any lengths, (including some pretty absurd ones!), trying to set it right — and quixotry in a war zone is no small feat. He cares too deeply for his own good, even though he usually hides that in snark. And he hates the horrors of war so desperately, it eventually breaks him. Yes, he can also be a real ass, and irritatingly self-righteous, and seriously pervy. But if those (rather glaring) flaws were the core of his character, he'd never have the respect of people like Potter and Father Mulcahy, and eventually Margaret — who see past the Snarky Casanova exterior, to the good and selfless, thoughtful man underneath.
      • Also, the respect talk came after giving Margaret the shot.

    • Could be a form of Fridge Brilliance, since the show was set in The Fifties, when even your more liberal types would have less enlightened attitudes towards women ("girls" well into their 30s) and the concept of sexual harassment barely existed.
      • The show was set in The Fifties and filmed in The Seventies, when sexual harassment was only just starting to emerge on the public radar screen. Values Dissonance for a modern viewer; crude humor at worst for a contemporary viewer.
    • I always thought that both Frank and Hawkeye were playing fast and loose with sanity and decency, playing into the whole War Is Hell theme of the show. It's just Hawkeye didn't let it interfere with his work or being able to associate with people, unlike Burns, who was so hypocritically focused on proper values and the social order that it affected his surgical skills and isolated him in the camp.

  • Radar, as we all know, is so-named because of his ability to anticipate the needs, words, and actions of his C/O Lt. Col. Henry Blake. Once Col. Potter took over the operation, Radar was able to anticipate him just as easily, and also to anticipate Hawkeye on the rare occasions that Hawkeye found himself in command. So why is it that Radar was entirely unable to anticipate Frank Burns when he was in command?
    • Burns was not fit to command, he was also making his own rules on the spot, unlike Potter and Henry who talked it over with someone before making a decision, Radar was able to predict what they wanted by conversation and paperwork. Burns was making giant changes that Radar wouldn't dream someone would do.
    • Maybe Radar's apparent psychic ability doesn't work on someone with Frank's mental instability or relative lack of intelligence (he might be normal or slightly higher in intelligence, but that's pretty low for a doctor. One wonders about a medical school that would graduate Frank).
    • Except he could:
    Radar: (handing him a file) Fitness reports.
    Frank: Not the fitness reports. You can't anticipate what I'm thinking. I'm not Henry Blake.
    Radar: Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir.
    Frank: I want...
    Radar: (handing him another file) The efficiency reports.
    Frank: ...the efficiency reports.
    • Radar wasn't necessarily psychic. It's just pattern recognition. Burns being nuttier than squirrel poo in a peanut farm just threw him off. Radar's probably brilliant, just uneducated. Now that I think about it, Radar's also got some Genre Savvy to him. He knows what people are going to want to ask and talk about and even think to a degree, because as the company clerk he's interacted with so many different people.
      • Except he didn't throw him off.
      • Momentarily, I mean. Normally Radar gets it on the first prediction, but Burns wanted something else. Whether that's a testament to how mental Frank was is debatable.
      • It can be assumed Frank actually had wanted the fitness reports at first, then lied and said he didn't really want them because having Radar anticipate his wishes creeped him out. Plus, Frank didn't want to think of himself as merely taking up Blake's role, but as making the position his own: denying that Radar was anticipating him was Frank's egotistical attempt to convince himself that he's a superior, fast-thinking camp commander, not just a predictable substitute routinely slotted into Henry's place.

  • It bugs me how motive-driven the characters can be to drive the plot along in several of the episodes.
    • Also, how the characters will go out of character to drive the plot along, like the episode where Burns has a sudden spark of bravery long enough to attack a Korean General because he thinks the general is Chinese. This goes against Frank's cowardice, but serves the purpose of making him look stupid.
      • Frank is more than willing to be "brave"... when he thinks the "enemy" won't be able to fight back and Frank's got heaps of people around him to help. In Frank's mind, the "North Korean" person is unarmed and surrounded by Americans, which gives Frank the perfect chance to be the "Hero", because he isn't putting himself in any sort of risk.
      • In early episodes, Frank cared about people, even joining the others in trying to help when a little Korean boy was found running through a minefield.
      • Frank also had some real warm, human moments in the first couple of seasons. For instance, at the end of Carry On Hawkeye (where everyone gets a bad strain of the flu, with Hawkeye succumbing last, and continuing to work because he's the only one who can still stand), Frank congratulates him on how well he did and seems genuinely happy (and not just because Hawkeye is confined to a bed). Another episode has Trapper stopping Frank from removing the only kidney a wounded soldier has, and later Frank privately thanks him for it, and later we see the end of a conversation between them about why nobody likes Frank.
      • He was also one of the first to try and help the Korean boy that wandered into the minefield.
      • Mainly because he was necking with Margaret when the kid wandered off while he was supposed to be watching him...

  • Knowing that both the movie and the television program were allegories about America in Vietnam, why didn't the writers even bother to TRY being somewhat historically accurate in its portrayal? The racial, gender, and sexual values presented in the show weren't even commonplace when the show aired in the 1970's, much less 20+ years earlier.
    • The writers/cast probably thought their views were more widely held than they actually were.
    • More likely the writers wanted their viewpoints to be widespread. The show is a vehicle to do just that. A show originally at night is now TV-G and reruns air in the afternoon. The reason a TV program is called a program is because it is just that; PROGRAMMING. It is programming your brain with the what you are being presented. Your guard is down with no time to critical think or debate. the sounds the music and emotions all play upon your psyche. Over time the decades roll by and you look back and realize the society has been transformed as commonplace into what was originally in 1950 abhorred.
    • When you watch the show now, it doesn't look like a period piece for the setting in the 1950s. It looks like it's taking place in the 1970s.

  • Why doesn't anyone call Hawkeye or Trapper out on their bullshit? A few examples:
    • There are times when Trapper and Hawkeye start something with Frank, but no one seems to notice these things. In the episode, L.I.P., Frank is finishing up with a patient. Trapper comes over to him and tells him his stitching is good, then asks him if he practices on baseball mitts. Later in the episode, they treat Frank like crap to try to get him to sign some papers reporting a friendly-fire incident. Frank refuses. Sure, Frank is the bad guy, but they could have treated him better to begin with.
      • "To begin with," Frank's pretty hard to get along with, though. His introduction, in the pilot episode, is this:
      Frank: "I don't want a kelly clamp, Lieutenant."
      Nurse Ginger: "But that's what you asked for."
      Frank: (angrily) "well give me what I want, not what I ask for!"
      • In the next few scenes, he shows off his self-importance and pomposity repeatedly, breaks the still, and tries to cancel the fundraising party that would send Ho-Jon to college. None of that excuses what Hawkeye and Trapper do in the same episode, but their actions are trying to improve the life of a boy who has nothing, while Frank is just too full of himself and sanctimonious to let them do it. It seems clear that by the time we meet these guys, they've been putting up with Frank's special blend of ineptitude, selfishness, and pomposity for a while.

    • In another episode, Hawkeye wants to surrender. Margaret already pointed out that if they surrender, the nurses would have their bodies violated over and over again. Hawkeye tries to surrender anyway, even though Henry said he couldn't. When it doesn't work out, nobody says anything to Hawkeye, not even Frank and Margaret, both of whom want to get rid of him. This would be a legitimate chance. He disobeyed orders and tried to surrender when he still had the means to resist. This would be a court-martial offense, one that would likely land him in prison, yet no one says anything.
      • Except, a) Hawkeye has enough sense to see one guy with a rifle is hardly going to drop that rifle to start trying to rape the nursing staff in the few hours before those choppers arrive, and b), Hawkeye DIDN'T actually disobey! He convinces Henry, and Henry gives the order:
      Henry: "Radar..."
      Radar: "Get a white flag. Yes sir."
      • Weak as it is, Hawkeye's plan is just supposed to get the shooting to stop long enough to bring in the wounded waiting outside. It's that, or just wait around for backup while patients die, and so Henry agrees to try. As far as it goes, the plan works, too:
      Frank: "The sniper's still outside; the generator's shot!"
      Trapper: "Yeah, but the wounded are in."
      • Honestly, my impression was that this was never meant to be a "real" surrender. They've been told "there's a push on," and so backup's likely to be there soon, making their surrender irrelevant even if the sniper had actually accepted it, (and that was never likely: the moment the sniper showed himself he'd lose control of the situation). Waving a white flag wasn't much of a plan, but bought them the time they needed to save a few lives, without putting the camp in any more real danger than it was in already.

      • As a hospital, the doctors weren't able to resist. Medical officers are not permitted to fire or even carry weapons. Normally, the hospital would have had the real soldiers armed and hunting for the sniper.
      • Technically, it would be a task for the camp's enlisted men, who aren't medical personnel and are there for the express purpose of defending the camp (i.e., Radar, Klinger, Igor, Zale, etc) to hunt down the sniper. However, Fridge Brilliance for the Colonel Blake would be unlikely to give any such order and, from what we know of these enlisted men, they wouldn't do such a thing on their own initiative.
      • WRONG. Medical staff (i.e. doctors, nurses, medics) ARE issued weapons, with the expectation that they may, at some point, need to defend their patient and themselves (see: The Thin Red Line for an example). There is no regulation that forbids, in any way, shape or form, medical staff from carrying sidearms (which they are entitled to as officers), rifles, or even grenades.
        *** Chaplains, however, are officially prohibited from carrying a weapon TODAY, but in a 'last stand' kind of situation, nobody is going to give a chaplain a hard time for defending himself. BUT, this ban only dates back to the late '70/early '80s - in Korea, chaplains were encouraged to carry a sidearm, because they were often singled out for execution by the NKPA.
        *** So, Hawkeye did disobey an order, with an absolutely insane plan (just how, exactly, were they supposed to surrender to a single sniper??), which would put the nurses in physical danger. In Real Life, doctor or not, he would have been court-martialed in a heartbeat.
      • There are times when an officer is morally and ethically bound to disobey an order. If the order is itself illegal, for example. For a medical unit to abandon wounded soldiers to a sniper arguably would be a violation of Article 93 of the UCMJ. Raising a white flag to retrieve the patients is not an unreasonable act (it happens all the time). Further, someone has to file the charge in order for a court-martial to take place. As much of a douchebag as Frank Burns is, he's still a doctor and he recognizes his duty.
      • Didn't we cover this above? Hawkeye disobeyed no order. Henry made the decision to "surrender." This is very much in quotes; how is one guy going to hold the entire camp prisoner, even if he's got a gun?
      • It's also noted later on that the hospital has "three guns in camp, one of which is a reading lamp." Sidearms aren't going to do much against a sniper, especially when it's a bunch of doctors firing them.
      • BJ was joking when he said that. The camp had way more than four (not three) rifles; they were, after all, a frontline unit. For instance, here's a still taken from "Officer of the Day", where the entire (visible) front row is holding Garands. Here's a closeup of Klinger with a Garand. So it's safe to say, in a conservative estimate, the camp has at least forty Garands and as many Carbines, likely more. My previous comment was actually aimed at the statement that medical officers were/are not allowed to carry weapons, which is flat out wrong.
    • Another time, Hawkeye drugs Frank and puts him in a bed in Post-Op so he can have a party.
      • . . . which was a fundraiser to get the money needed to send Ho-Jon to college. Still a pretty mean trick, but well-intentioned!
      • We covered this already. Really....
    • Another time, when Frank is passed out, Hawkeye puts a toe tag on him and ships him off like he's dead.
      • To be fair, Frank was so drunk that he passed out in the back of a truck, accidentally shipping himself off like he's dead. Hawkeye and Trapper were only responsible for the toe tag part. They had no idea he would leave.
      Potter: "You two pull a fast one - put a toe tag on Burns last night?"
      Hawkeye: "We addressed him, but we didn't mail him."
      • Not Trapper. BJ.
      • I didn't think he'd even passed out in the truck in the episode you're referring to (It's called "Der Tag"). He passed out, Hawkeye and BJ got him home and into his bunk, and tagged him. Two medics came in looking for them, noticed the tag, and apparently figured that the hospital (then flooded with casualties) had stuck the corpse in there for lack of a better place to put it.
      • Not quite. Hawkeye and BJ tag Frank when they get back to the Swamp. After the others fall asleep, Frank wakes up (still drunk) and makes a mad dash for the latrine. On the way back, he passes out in the back of an ambulance. The drivers close the doors (not noticing him inside) and drive back up to Battalion Aid.
    • In Crisis, for no reason, Hawkeye and Trapper attack Frank and steal his heated socks. This is during a supply shortage and everyone is cold, but for some reason, it's bad for Frank to have his own heated socks? This is played as if it's okay because it's Frank.
      • It's played for laughs. They didn't actually harm him, and it's implied that Burns has been making life intolerable for literally everyone in camp while offscreen.
      • "He has an odious personality! Let's take his personal property for ourselves!" Yeah, no, Hawkeye and Trapper are still assholes, there.
    • In For Want of a Boot, Hawkeye takes Frank's birthday card from Frank's wife and puts it on the bottom of his boot to cover the hole in it. Then, he shows Frank that he's done it.
    • In George, Hawkeye and Trapper blackmail Frank into tearing up a report where he was outing a homosexual soldier (common treatment for homosexuals in the military until the 1990s). To blackmail Frank, they threaten to tell Frank's wife about Margaret. At the same time, Trapper is a womanizing cheat himself. Unlike Frank, Trapper sleeps with several women.
      • I can see the point in some of the above (and would add that Trapper and Hawkeye should have been on assault charges that time they forcibly took a pint of blood from Frank and gave him anemia) but he got what he deserved in George; that Trapper's an adulterer too makes no difference to the hypocrisy of Frank trying to ruin someone's life over a moral code he doesn't live up to himself.
      • At that time, homosexuality was considered far, far worse than heterosexual adultery. You could be thrown into prison for it in many states.
      • You could get prison time for heterosexual adultery in some states, too, but it was much less likely to be brought to trial or result in conviction.
      • Fraternization and adultery was (and is) against regulations and strictly enforced. Hawkeye, Frank, Trapper and Henry could face serious charges up to and including discharge and imprisonment (at best a neither-honorable-nor-dishonorable discharge, at worst dishonorable discharge and jail time). Even Radar and the nurse he sleeps with would have faced an undesirable discharge and jail time.
      • A correction to the OP: in George they threatened to reveal that Frank had cheated on his first year medical school exams (Trapper tricks him into admitting this while pretending to agree with him about reporting the soldier).
  • It bugs me that cheating is bad for some, but okay for others. Burns is portrayed as being immoral because he's cheating on his wife with Margaret. Potter's son-in-law visits and it's known that he's had an affair while he was in Korea and that's bad. When BJ thinks about having an affair, that's bad. When Donald cheats on Margaret, that's bad. Henry and Trapper have affairs and it's fine.
    • I would hypothesize that the different levels of morality portrayed with characters' infidelity reflects their different levels of conscience; at least, about adultery.
    • Burns did a lot more than simply cheating with Margaret based on a number of things he's said over the course of his stay on the show. He actively and continually carried on an affair with Margaret, tried to talk her into becoming his mistress once he made money, and admitted to cheating on his taxes and getting medical kickbacks to build the Burns fortune.
      • Also, he apparently cheated on his wife regularly, when he was home, with his receptionist and I don't know who else.
    • I think when Henry learned that Lorraine, too, had been unfaithful to him, that seemed to really put him in his place, having the shoe on the other foot; notice how after learning of this, he pretty much stopped horsing around with other women. He definitely got a taste of his own medicine.
      • Also, I really don't think it was Margaret's place to get upset to learn that Penobscott had been fooling around with other women, as well as trying to sneak out of their marriage, considering SHE did the same thing with Frank... not only that, she practically slept with just about any higher ranking officer that would do so with her, I don't think there was a single General in the earlier seasons whom she wasn't already "friendly" with (and I believe those Generals were supposed to be married as well, like Frank). Like with Henry, I think this was some pretty good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) karma for her. Like the old saying goes, what goes around comes around.
      • I don't recall Donald cheating on her. What he did was lie to her, be very insecure around her, not stand up to his mother for her.
      • The letter that Margaret got from Donald that was supposed to go to another girl referenced an intimate night spent together. Donald was having a long-term affair on the side.
      • And he was stealing all her paychecks.
    • Seems more like it's the way that they go about their adultery that's the issue. Trapper and Henry make no disguise of the fact that they are sleeping with these women entirely because of the stressful situation they are in, with no intimations about any long-term relations to come from it. Frank, however, promised Margaret that he would leave his wife, and then offered to set her up as his mistress when they got back to the states. Donald was not only cheating on Margaret, but was also taking most of her money for himself, which IIRC was the final straw that lead to their divorce. Potter's son-in-law had only been in Korea for a few weeks at most, and had not been in a combat zone (he was a civilian there for business reasons) so he didn't have any reason to have been cheating on his wife. BJ had drawn a line in the sand for himself, stating that he would not cheat no matter what. When he did, it had a serious impact on him because he had convinced himself that he would never do that.
    • Adultery and fraternization were (and are) both against regulations, and could result in jail time to one or both parties, and very often a discharge.
  • It bugs me how the good characters must be opposed to the war. Even Colonel Potter starts to act this way. By Season 7, he's even allowing Hawkeye to openly sabotage the war:
    • In one episode, he steals a Jeep, drives to Panmunjom, berates the peace delegates, then drives back to the camp. Potter not only lets this slide, but approves of the stunt. When a major comes to confront Hawkeye about his actions, the major tells him the general said to stay at least 20 miles away from Panmunjom, but he relays the message that if the general could get away with it, he'd do the same thing.
      • In Real Life, anybody at all who tried that on would have been lucky to spend the rest of his life in Leavenworth.
      • Granting it could absolutely never have happened in Real Life, Hawkeye wasn't "sabotaging the war" at the peace talks. He was venting frustrations, yes, that the talks were still dragging on and on, making zero progress, talking and talking while more men died — but in doing so he was essentially begging them to do their jobs: make peace. And he got away with only a warning because his frustration was shared by nearly everyone, up to and including the gastritic General Tomlin.
    • In the episode where Hawkeye wins a Howitzer in a poker game. Potter tells him he has to move it out of the camp. Hawkeye says it's his and he's going to find something to do with it. After Potter tells Hawkeye he's found an artillery unit that will take it, Potter lets Hawkeye do what he wants with it (sabotage it), which still doesn't get it out of the camp. And this is portrayed as being okay and the right thing to do.
      • Kind of supports the communist sympathizer theory. The howitzer can no longer be used to kill communist soldiers, yet still puts American lives at risk by being in a non-combat unit.
      • He just doesn't like weapons in general, which, HELLO, are used to hurt the people that Hawkeye has to then operate on.
    • In Five O'Clock Charlie, Hawkeye sabotages Frank's attempts to shoot down an enemy plane bombing their camp, replaces Frank's gun with various items which could potentially get him killed, and decides to destroy a nearby munitions dump, using rather vital supplies - dozens of bedsheets and gallons of antibiotics - in the process, with little regard to what that lost ammunition would mean to US troops in the sector.
      • The visiting general mentions that the munitions dump is barely legal under international law, and that it was put there to keep the ammo safe from being attacked, since the hospital is a non-target. Since it was getting the hospital attacked (legitimately, since the ammo dump stripped the hospital of its non-combatant status), Hawkeye took steps to protect the patients. Also, Charlie wasn't an enemy plane; he was a civilian vigilante who was targeting only the munitions, but kept hitting the camp instead.
      • Actually, the legality of the munitions dump never comes up (nobody says it's barely legal), and it was put there because placing it near a non-combatant base would mean it could not be bombed without also bombing a protected unit under the Geneva Conventions, since it was only adjacent to the camp and in no way actually connected to the camp, not unlike the minefield that was periodically located almost on top of the camp. Charlie's status is also not never mentioned, but a civilian attacking an enemy military unit would constitute a guerilla, and therefore a legal enemy combatant. The camp's executive officer personally commanding an AA gun is an exaggeration, but it would have been perfectly legal for an independent squad to man a gun near the camp without stripping the camp of its non-combatant status, much like when a British platoon is put on patrol to flush out a sniper, and later (in that episode) an unmanned tank is placed in the compound to scare away the sniper (or in that vein, in the finale, when a tank is driven in by a wounded tanker, and draws enemy fire despite not being used - think the weapons check for a comparison), yet neither changes the camp's status.

        Also, Charlie's plane has Communist markings, something a civilian plane would decidedly not have. And judging by the quality of equipment and pilot, that target was very low on the DPRK target priority list.
      • Another thing. Allied medics stopped painting the Red Cross on their helmets by 1951 because North Korean snipers used them to aim.
      • Putting Frank in danger by replacing his gun with gag items? Give me a break. That idiot didn't need a gun and really ought not to have one, especially considering he shot BJ once by accident. He also shot himself with a stolen gun.
    • Well, Potter's been through three wars, so I doubt he's crazy about it at that point. This being a show about a hospital that sees only the human cost of the war, it's no surprise that everyone would be sick of seeing the human suffering.
    • Charlie's plane wasn't even a combat plane — he just tossed the bombs out of the cockpit by hand and hoped for the best. Not to mention his strange tic of attacking exactly once, at the same time every day, which suggests he wasn't a proper soldier.

  • Why doesn't Klinger just shoot himself in the foot?
    • Because self-inflicted wounds of that sort would get him out of the Army—-and straight into Leavenworth, where he does not want to go.
    • Also, even if he could get away with it, he has a strong aversion to grievous and possibly permanent bodily harm (which is part of why he wants out).
    • Besides, Klinger has stated that his goal is to leave the Army the honorable way: with a psycho discharge.
  • In one episode, Potter and Houlihan are discussing television's new prominence back home, and she expresses a desire to see what Jack Benny really looks like. This makes it sound like Benny was primarily a radio star, and he was, but he had appeared in enough movies that it seems unlikely Margaret would have never seen him on the big screen.
  • In "The Bus", the surrendering North Korean soldier had an MP40. How does a North Korean soldier get a German submachine gun?
    • A: It went from Germany to the KMT in some way- either sent over during the sizable amount of time when the Germans and Nationalist Chinese were allied, being stolen, or being a locally produced copy- and when the PLA started shattering the KMT's military force on the mainland in the aftermath of WWII, it fell into their hands. B: It was an actual German MP40 that was captured by the Soviets. Either way, it gets sent by them to the KPA to kit it out in the leadup to Kim Il Sung's invasion of South Korea.
      • So something like how Korean soldiers ended up defending Utah Beach (they were then sent back to Korea after the war, but likely ended up conscripted into one of the two armies).
  • The Korean War is actually pretty well justified from the American and South Korean point of view. North Korea started the war and, if the U.S. and U.N. hadn't stepped in, the entire Korean peninsula would be ruled by the Kim dynasty today. Consider what a sickening totalitarian police state North Korea is. Standing around in South Korea in 1950 and saying we shouldn't be fighting the North Koreans because war is bad is like standing around in the U.K. in 1940 and saying we shouldn't be fighting the Nazis because war is bad. Yes, I went there, but just look at what North Korea is like.
    • M*A*S*H was set in Korea, but wasn't about Korea (the movie didn't even specify where it was taking place; Executive Meddling forced an opening text crawl).
    • For that matter, the movie doesn't seem to have a message other than "war is bad because people get hurt".
      • Did the series really have much more of a message than that? Based on the show, you'd think the Korean War was started by American racists waking up one morning and deciding they'd like to kill "gooks".
      • In all honesty, that sums up the series perfectly.
  • How on earth did the doctors stay fit to operate putting away that much alcohol? It's established that wounded come in at random times, but pretty much every time we see the doctors, they're drinking. How could they be fit to operate while they've got alcohol in their system?
    • Most of the time that they are drinking, they are only seen having once or two drinks. Values Dissonance sets in when you remember that, at the time, it was not only common but almost expected that gentlemen and professionals would have a 2-drink lunch, it makes more sense that the doctors would be fit to operate after a bit of drink. It is also implied that the main cast aren't the only doctors at the 4077, as they make references to dentists, proctologists, and even a dermatologist that have been stationed there. Henry even references this in the episode where he appoints a chief surgeon: the chief would have to assist shifts other than his own in surgery if things got bad. The show never showed us those other shifts, instead focusing on the shift that featured the main cast.
      • I understand all but the last part. The entire surgical staff seems to consist of those four - when they're buried in wounded to the point that one of the nurses or Father Mulcahy has to do triage, all four of them are working on patients, sometimes for as much as 24 hours at a time. The sheer impossibility of sustaining that aside, most of those references (besides the dentists) are for jokes, and no other doctor is shown to be permanently assigned to the 4077th. Otherwise, in "Commander Pierce" when BJ heads out to the aid station to pick up the wounded soldier, Hawkeye could have just had another surgeon from the other shift fill in.
      • A Real Life MASH unit would have around 200 personnel, at least 10 doctors/surgeons and 12 nurses, an anesthesiologist, a dentist, at least 89 enlisted soldiers of assorted medical and non-medical specialties, one Medical Service Corps officer, one Warrant Officer and other commissioned officers of assorted specialties, and a dedicated administative staff. Here's, it's four doctors (Spearchucker was written out was written out after a few episodes), Ugly John was written out after five episodes, the dentist, Painless Pole, was discharged at the end of season one, however many nurses a given episode needs, and just the CO and his clerk, who is also an orderly, plus some unseen person that makes announcements.
      • The shows often implies that there are other doctors, while rarely showing them (such as Der Tag, when Hawkeye are BJ are too drunk to operate while Frank is off at Battalion Aid. Someone had to treat those wounded that came in). It just as often, however, implies that there are only 4 surgeons (Carry On, Hawkeye). There's never really any consistency to it.
  • Aside from his position as the camp Butt Monkey, why is it that Frank was considered to be out of line in Sticky Wicket when he was giving Hawkeye a hard time about a patient who wasn't recovering? Only a short time before, Hawkeye and Trapper were making cracks about Frank killing his patients. Honestly, this comes across more like Hawkeye not being able to take his own medicine than Frank being a Jerkass about it.
    • Yes.
    • Frank screws up a lot more than any of the surgical staff and everyone (including himself) knows it. He is an incompetent doctor while Hawkeye simply missed a hard-to-find piece of shrapnel.
  • Since this series was way before my time, I'm curious about a reference that pops up in two different episodes: "Do you like Chinese food? Do you like walking in the rain?" Hawkeye once asked a nurse he was making out with this question, and responds to both with an enthusiastic, "Uh huh!", to which Hawkeye then asks, "How about we eat Chinese food in the rain?" Later still, BJ asked Radar the same question while he ate melted ice cream, to which he then adds with a straight face, "You could've been my wife", receiving only a look of confusion from Radar. So, what exactly is this reference too?
  • Why did the army assign a catholic chaplain to the 4077th? there's almost no catholics there, at least among the main cast. Trapper specified that he wasn't, Blake belongs to a country club that bans catholics, Klinger says he's an atheist, Radar said he was "protestant", Potter mentioned he was a methodist and Burns pointed to the fact that there was a catholic in his neighbourhood as evidence that it wasn't "restricted", inferring he wasn't one. The only ambiguous ones are Hawkeye and Houlihan. There are also several hints that Mulcahy is the only catholic in the camp: No one turns up to his services except Klinger,who only wants a chance to show off his white gloves (although this might be due to apathy from the catholics) and once when there was a catholics v protestants football game, mulcahy was tackled by a group of men and seemed to be the only person on the team. What gives?
    • They probably don't have a lot of chaplains to go around. Mulcahy is established as handling rites and services for all denominations, such as performing a bris for a Jewish baby. So while he himself is Catholic, he's first and foremost a nondenominational spiritual adviser and facilitator for everyone who wants one.
    • This could be a reference/joke about how the army makes decisions based on what they want or what is convenient instead of making decisions based on the facts on the ground.
    • ^This. Chaplains are trained to handle numerous religious rites, so as to accomodate different faiths found within the military.
  • One minor one: in Change of Command, Potter says he wants to see his officers. Radar calls for all officers to report to Potter's office. And yet we see just Hawkeye, BJ, Mulcahy, and Houlihan (Burns having gone AWOL) meeting him. Even leaving aside the disappearing anesthesiologists and such, there were a bunch of nurses at least who are officers. What gives?
    • Since it cuts from Radar making the announcement to the main cast in Potter's office, he could have worked his way up through the other officers before getting to the senior staff (surgeons, head nurse, chaplain, XO, etc.).
  • In, "Cowboy," the jeep crashing through Henry's tent is apparently loud enough to wake much of the camp out of their sleep and rush to the scene, but later, Henry confronts Trapper in the Swamp, and he and Hawkeye both had been awake the whole time playing chess, yet they didn't hear the crash? Not only that, but when Hawkeye and Trapper go after Henry wandering off in a daze, we see down the Compound that his tent is all back to normal. The latter of which is probably a continuity error in filming, but how is it Hawkeye and Trapper apparently never heard the crash and they were awake when it happened?
    • That still makes a mean martini.
  • In "The Late Captain Pierce," when Hawkeye gets on Digger's bus, one of the cadavars is breathing, you can see the stomach moving, which begs the question... why didn't the prop department or the producers not just get dummies to put in those body bags? Wouldn't there be concern about anybody suffocating inside those things, not to mention possible claustrophobia?
  • In "Hey Doc," Radar and Klinger both take steaming hot showers, while complaining about how muggy the weather's been lately, and therefore, the water felt especially good. Did muggy have a different meaning in the time the show was set? Otherwise, why would a hot shower feel good in humid weather?
  • When Margaret has her pregnancy scare, why does everybody believe that it's not Penobscott's baby? She clearly tells Hawkeye that she believes she's pregnant after spending time with Donald about three weeks prior, and when she realizes that her possibly pregnancy would mean an automatic discharge and end to her military career, she blames Donald for it — so why does everyone think it wouldn't be Donald's baby? I know Margaret slept around with Frank and countless Generals before she got together with Donald, but if that were the case, wouldn't she have had a pregnancy scare long before Donald?
    • Condoms were around in the 1950's, and a child out of wedlock with another officer would have hurt those other officers' marriages (and probably their careers) as well. Even Frank isn't a complete idiot. As Donald and Margaret are married, protection is less of a priority.
  • As a commanding officer, shouldn't Potter be one of the first ones up in camp? There's a few episodes that implies that he doesn't get up at six, despite that's when Radar starts taking care of business and such. One episode Potter says he doesn't get up till nine (not specifically, but Father Mulcahy woke him at three in the morning, and he said, "That's okay, I have to get up in another six hours anyway."), and in another, Potter and Charles are quarantined with the mumps, and Potter is pissed that Charles woke him up gargling at six, to which Charles says, "I never took you for an early riser," (which is odd for an old person). I'm going to assume maybe Potter isn't exactly a morning person, but again, with him being C.O., wouldn't he have to get up early to, y'know, command? I can't imagine things carrying on in camp, like surgery, or other activities, while Potter is still snoozing.

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