Series: M*A*S*H

aka: MASH The Series
Seasons 1-3 cast. Left to right: Frank "Ferret Face" Burns, Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, Henry Blake, "Trapper" John McIntyre, John Patrick Francis Mulcahy, Walter "Radar" O’Reilly, and Maxwell Q. Klinger
"This is a movie about the Korean War, starring army doctors who deal with death every day, with a theme song about suicide ... and, against all odds, it's fucking hilarious. So hilarious, in fact, that a movie alone couldn't contain the hilarity, and it spawned a TV show that lasted more than twice longer than the war the characters were supposed to be serving in. Yes, they kept a war going for a decade because it was so funny."

One of the most commercially and critically successful series in television history, M*A*S*H (short for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, a type of Army field hospital first activated in the last month of World War II) is, in the words of its lead character Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda), "Finest kind."

The show ran on CBS from 1972 to 1983, seven years longer than The Korean War during which it takes place. The setting is the 4077th MASH, located just a few miles from the front line in the vicinity of Uijeongbu, where the doctors and nurses perform "meatball surgery" and otherwise do what they can to patch up the physical (and, occasionally, psychic) wounds of the conflict's casualties while staving off their own fear, stress, boredom and fatigue by fair means or foul.

At first seen as a wacky, slightly edgy sitcom based on Robert Altman's movie—and, indirectly, on Richard Hooker's novel—the series moved away from strictly comedic storylines early in its run (with Season 1's "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" being the first Tear Jerker), and began to incorporate dramatic plotlines in conjunction with comedic ones in the same episode. Consequently, M*A*S*H is often cited as TV's first true Dramedy.

"Abyssinia, Henry" was the final episode of the third season, and is seen as a turning point for the series. It was the final episode for both Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) and "Trapper" John McIntyre (Wayne Rogers), and its tragic ending (Henry's plane home is shot down; "there were no survivors") delineated the line between "Funny M*A*S*H" and "Dramatic M*A*S*H," as many fans would later divide the series. The fourth season was crucial to the show's long-term success — very few series, ensemble or otherwise, had ever lost such significant characters and kept its audience, but the creators' decision to replace Henry and Trapper with completely different character types in Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) and B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell) succeeded, and the show continued to enjoy high ratings and critical acclaim.

In the "Dramatic M*A*S*H" phase, character development was key, and even one-note characters such as "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit) became more sympathetic and complex (as seen in Season 5's "The Nurses," in which she asked her nurses, "When did one of you ever even offer me a lousy cup of coffee?"). This shift probably led to Frank Burns (Larry Linville) getting a psychiatric discharge, since he had been developed as an unlikeable character with no room for change (Larry Linville even stated dislike for the character being so unlikeable). He was replaced by Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers), a snooty Blue Blood doctor who was by contrast a real asset to the staff and even eventually becomes a nicer guy in his own way.

Other ways in which the series changed how the Sitcom was perceived was by its use (or disuse) of the Laugh Track, commonly imposed by the networks if a studio audience was not going to be present at the episodes' filming. The show's creators grudgingly accepted the laugh track, but soon imposed rules on when it was not to be used (during any of the operating room scenes), and dropped it entirely in certain nontypical episodes. Eventually they abandoned it entirely. The laugh track was never used when the series was broadcast by the BBC in the UK. (The DVDs of the series offer the option to watch the shows with or without the laugh track intact.)

M*A*S*H revolutionized the use of camera movements and editing styles on television — for example, in its use of long tracking shots moving with the action (usually of soldiers being moved from helicopter/bus/Jeep to the OR). Also, later in its run it experimented with unusual storylines married with different camera moves and screen devices.

The use of Boom Up and Over was new to television at the time. The use of this technique in sequences where camp announcements were shown from the 'perspective' of the loudspeaker was groundbreaking and memorable.

M*A*S*H was noted for doing Something Completely Different very well — keeping the tone of the show consistent while experimenting with unusual storylines or storytelling techniques. "Hawkeye" is a 25-minute monologue by Alan Alda. In "Point of View," the entire episode is literally seen through the eyes of a wounded soldier via P.O.V. Cam. "Life Time" is told in Real Time, with a clock in the corner ticking off the minutes as the doctors race to replace a soldier's crushed aorta. The series also has a Fever Dream Episode, the obligatory Clip Show, and a Documentary Episode told as a series of (largely improvised) television interviews with the characters.

Its final episode — "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (aired February 28, 1983) — was, for twenty-five years, the most-watched TV program in United States history, with a 60.2 rating (percent of households watching), a 77 share (percent of households watching, of those watching some program at that time), and a total audience of over 125 million viewers. It still holds the record for non-sports programming, although several Super Bowls have since surpassed it.

Considering that the original novel consisted mostly of young doctors boasting about how much sex they have and shows a truly awful degree of sexism, note  to produce such a long, successful and at times thoughtful series is a fine example of Pragmatic Adaptation, a very nice change in a world full of Adaptation Decay. Of course, Dr. Richard Hornberger, one-half of the writing team behind the pseudonymous author of the original book and allegedly the model for Hawkeye, didn't see it that way, and was known to rant about it at length (in a sequel, MASH Mania, he has his version of Hawkeye remark how he enjoys going down to the State University to "kick the shit out of a few liberals").

Has now both a character page and a recap file (under construction).

Editing note: If you intend to place a link to this page on other pages, you must type ''Series/{{MASH}}'' for the customized title to properly take effect.

M*A*S*H provides examples of:

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    Tropes A-C 
  • '70s Hair: Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, and Loretta Swit all sported increasingly blatant (and therefore blatantly anachronistic) examples of this as the show went on.
  • Absentee Actor: Various cast members in various episodes. Alan Alda is the only one to appear in every episode, and in season 4's "Hawkeye" he's the only regular to appear.
    • Not to mention Tuttle.
  • Acronym Confusion: Invoked by Colonel Flagg.
    "I'm with the CIA, but I tell people I'm with the CIC, so they think I'm with the CID."
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie itself combined two characters from the book to create Major Burns. A number of book/movie characters (most notably Duke Forrest and Painless Pole) are eliminated from the series altogether, and Ugly John and Spearchucker Jones disappear without explanation even before the first season is over.
  • After-Action Healing Drama: The essence of the unit.
  • After Show: The show's spin-off AfterMASH is the trope namer.
  • All Are Equal in Death: The episode "Follies of the Living - Concerns of the Dead" is told from the POV of a dead soldier. At the end of the episode he walks down the road toward the afterlife along with all the other dead - U.S. soldiers of various ranks, North Korean soldiers, civilians, etc.
  • The Alleged Boss: Lt. Col. Henry Blake was supposed to be in charge of the 4077th but outside of the Operating Room most of his time was spent boozing, recreating, or philandering. His Hyper Competent Sidekick, Radar, was well understood to be the person actually running the camp. Also, the dueling doctor factions who were supposed to be Henry's subordinates were frequently overstepping or walking all over him in order to carry out their zany schemes. Blake's replacement, Col. Potter, was able to command a lot more respect and thus appear (and be) more in charge.
    • Henry was a bit of a mix between varieties 1 and 4 of this trope: He was a genuinely nice guy most of the time, and meant well, but had no idea how to run things, and would openly defer to his subordinates whenever any administrative decision had to be made. He was very competent and authoritative as a doctor, however, and several of his subordinates felt true affection and comradeship towards him, knowing that he was trying his best.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Spearchucker Jones. There were, in fact, black doctors in Korea, and Spearchucker was based on a doctor Richard Hooker heard about at the 8055. Too bad the executives didn't look into it first.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Sidney Freedman
  • Anachronism Stew: Although the show tends to be good about actual history, there are times that the research breaks down.
    • In one episode, both Godzilla and The Blob (1958) are referenced. Neither of those movies were released during the Korean War (Gojira: 1954/Godzilla, King of the Monsters: 1955, The Blob: 1958).
    • In the episode "Der Tag," Radar is shown sleeping with a copy of The Avengers comic book on his chest, with the 1970s logo. One shot later, it switches to another issue of the same comic with the '60s logo. Either way, the Avengers weren't around during the Korean War (in fact, none of the characters had even been created, other than Captain America).
    • The "points" system referenced in some episodes was no longer current for rotation of personnel, nor was it ever used for surgeons.
    • BJ's latter-seasons hairstyle was much longer than what any professional man in the 1950s, military or civilian, would have worn. (This may be excusable, since the whole point was that BJ was rebelling against the Army.)
    • Several times, Korean soldiers are shown with AK-47-type rifles (actually stand-ins) before any communist nation even issued them yet.
    • In one episode Klinger hands out Hershey bars with UPC symbols on the back wrapper to recovering patients.
    • A pinball machine from the 1970s appears in the Officers' Club, along with a poster on the wall with an illustration of a Vietnam-era helicopter.
    • In one episode Henry uses a bullhorn that wasn't invented until after the war.
    • In "Officer of the Day," Flagg appears wearing the branch insignia for military intelligence. This insignia wasn't used by the Army until 1962.
    • Medics are always shown wearing helmets with the Red Cross painted on the front. This practice was stopped in early 1951 because North Korean snipers were using them as targets.
    • General MacArthur is almost constantly referred to as the Allied Commander. MacArthur was relieved of command in Spring 1951 for insubordination.
    • Henry's home movies are in full color and with properties that match the type of color film used on the show. Full color film was not even available to studios until 1955 with Technicolor, and the look of Technicolor film is quite different to the Deluxe film used for the show.
    • In the episode "War of Nerves", Sidney Freedman asks Radar, "Do you know how many people...think I Love Lucy is real?" I Love Lucy premiered in June of 1951. Given when the characters were supposed to have been in Korea, there is no way that either of them would have ever seen the show.
      • Possibly justified in that Sidney was stationed in Seoul, where he enjoyed a considerably higher standard of living than those at the 4077 and may well have had access to a television. And even if they hadn't watched the show they probably would have still been aware of it from newspapers, letters from home, etc.
    • In one episode, Klinger, the surgeons, and Margaret are all playing poker. Margaret buys Klinger's hoop earrings off him so he can stay in the game, and Klinger mentions he'd wear hula hoops in his ears if he thought it'd get him out of the Army. Later in the series, he technically invents the hula hoop (or at least decides to patent it so he can make money). The hula hoop wouldn't be officially invented until 1958.
    • You know that wool cap that Radar always wears? It's called a Jeep Cap, and it's actually a uniform accessory from World War 2, not the Korean War; in fact, Patton and other American officers hated the Jeep Cap because it looked "sloppy" and "unmilitary" that it was eventually replaced with the standardized field cap before WW2 ended. It was only after Radar made the Jeep Cap famous that the U.S. Army started to issue them again as surplus, though they look nothing like they used to.
    • Perhaps his Uncle Ed fought in WW2 and gave him the cap when he joined up.
    • In one episode Hawkeye can be seen wearing bright blue '70s tennis shoes while walking through the compound.
    • Noted in MAD's parody "M*U*S*H" (not to be confused with the one mentioned below) when Luke-Warm Lips's appearance is commented on thusly: "This is 1950 and she's wearing a hairdo that won't even be invented until 1981!"
  • Animated Parody: Filmation's M*U*S*H, a segment of the Saturday Morning Kid's Show Uncle Croc's Block.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: Charles, in "Death Takes a Holiday".
  • The Anticipator: Radar has the uncanny ability to appear at the side of his commander before he even asks for him, as well as finish his sentences. A bevy of other sensing talents makes him this trope.
  • Anyone Can Die: Henry's death was as shattering and it was unexpected for all the deaths and injuries of one-shot characters.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: In one episode when they think that they are all about to be killed, several of the officers get together for a high-stakes poker game. Trapper asks, "So, what are the stakes again?" Hawkeye explains that the values are $5,000 for the white chips, $10,000 for the red, and $25,000 for the blue. He then clarifies, "And if we don't die, whites are 25¢, reds are 50¢, and blues are a dollar."
  • Apology Gift: Happens several times over the course of the series.
    • In one episode, Hawkeye and Trapper try to butter Frank up with a handful of wild flowers, after they secretly drew a pint of blood from him to give to a wounded POW; Frank is touched, but then they kill the moment when Hawkeye says, "Glad there's no hard feelings Frank, because there's a new heart procedure we'd like to try, and you're just the right type."
    • During a company picnic, Margaret gives Frank the cold shoulder since he won't loan her money to buy her sister a wedding present; Frank tries to butter her back up with a balloon, only for her to pop it with a hairpin.
    • In another episode, Frank tries to make peace with Margaret (this after she had gotten engaged earlier in the season), by presenting her with an American-made Japanese umbrella; of course, Frank isn't able to curb his lust, and Margaret throws it at him as he runs out of her tent.
    • In "The Winchester Tapes", Charles apparently had upset Radar, and insincerely brings him an entire case of grape nehi to butter him up in order to contact his former commanding officer to get him transfered back to Tokyo General Hospital. When Radar refuses, Winchester takes the case back. And then he takes the one bottle that Radar had opened.
    • In one Christmas episode, most of the staff have been giving Charles the cold shoulder for his unwillingness to donate to the Christmas potluck. When Klinger find out why—Charles had been carrying on a family tradition of anonymous charity by leaving expensive chocolates at the local orphanage—he brings Charles a plate of leftover food and they share a Hallmark Moment over it.
  • April Fools' Plot: The episode "April Fools."
  • Arc Words: Sidney Freeman's advice in his first appearance and the final episode: "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice."
  • An Arm and a Leg: Several episodes deal with patients who lost limbs in battle and are coming to grips with the results.
    • Happens to Hawkeye in a nightmare in which a Medical School Professor ordering the removal of his arms symbolizes his frustration at not being able to save every patient.
  • Armed Farces: It's a comedy set in a military camp, so it's to be expected.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "She killed the chicken?"
  • Artistic License – Awards: Several:
    • Frank once browbeats Henry into approving a Purple Heart citation and another time he receives a Purple Heart by mistake. Neither time was he eligible. The first, "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", he receives a Purple Heart for throwing out his back while dancing, which was not a direct result of combat and, more importantly, would cause him to be discharged; back problems were an automatic medical disqualification from service. The second (based on an incident in Vietnam), "The Kids", an administrative error awards him a Purple Heart for getting a bit of eggshell in his eye. Neither time does he send back the undeserved medal. In the first case, Hawkeye steals it and gives it to an underage Marine with appendicitis who lied about his age to enlist (which would put him in worse trouble, as he has been reported for identity theft and now has stolen property), in the second he Hawkeye steals it and gives it to a baby whose mother had a harrowing time getting to the hospital.
    • In "Change of Command", Potter reveals he received a Good Conduct Medal as an enlisted soldier. However, he served in the First World War, became a doctor in 1932 and served in the Second World War as a surgeon, while the GCM was established in 1941 and retroactive dates only go to 1940.
    • In "Bombshells", BJ receives a Bronze Star for helping a medivac chopper escape while under fire, but decides to hand it off to a patient for "getting out in one piece". However, every Bronze Star has the recipient's name engraved on the back and comes with a certificate. As with the Marine, this would put him in possession of an undeserved award that belonged to someone else.
  • Artistic License – Cars: In the season three finale, Henry gives Radar the keys to a Jeep, and in "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" Wendel tries to hotwire a Jeep. Because Jeeps would need to be operated by anyone at any time, all Jeeps had a simple ignition switch instead of a key, something shown somewhat extensively through the series' run.
    • In "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye asks Radar if a Jeep is olive drab and made in Detroit. Korean War-era Jeeps were made in Toledo, Ohio.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Several references to Korea being in South East Asia, and jungles in Korea.
    • In "Iron Guts Kelly", Radar finds a sector under fire and lists the position as, "North of Inchon, latitude 27, longitude 70." Those coordinates are in extreme western India, near the border with Pakistan, over 3000 miles west of Korea.
    • In ''Abyssinia Henry", Henry's plane is reported as shot down over the Sea of Japan, well beyond where any North Korean or Chinese fighter pilots operated, especially in 1952.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: see Juggling Loaded Guns.
    • Averted at least once in a deleted scene. In "It Happened One Night," Klinger has just introduced Hawkeye to a new private going on guard duty for the first time. After the discussion, Klinger stands. The private picks up his rifle and inadvertently points it in Klinger's face. Klinger is quick to nudge it away, having anticipated the eventuality upon seeing him pick it up. This trope gets played straight later on when (offscreen) the gun goes off, and Klinger is brought into Post-Op, trying to ham up being fatally shot when the bullet barely nicked him.
      Hawkeye: [as Klinger collapses onto the bed] Would you at least bleed?
    • Hawkeye in "Hawkeye Get Your Gun." The fact Potter cocks the hammer before Hawkeye starts firing means he must carry it loaded and hammer-down. This is the least safe way to carry a 1911. John Browning specifically designed it to be carried loaded with the hammer cocked (Situation One), and included a sear disconnect, a grip safety, and a manual safety (which can't be activated unless the hammer is cocked). This means for it to fire, the manual safety must be deactivated, the grip must be held, and the trigger must be pulled. This isn't that surprising, given Hawkeye's attitude to guns; see Doesn't Like Guns below.
    • Frank Burns is a walking example of how to not handle a firearm. Highlights include shooting BJ in the leg, shooting himself in the foot, and shooting out a light while chambering a round.
  • Artistic License – Military: Too many to count, but a few stand out above the others:
    • Frank demands and receives a Purple Heart for getting an eggshell in his eye during an artillery barrage (he claimed he was hit by shell fragments, and omitted the part about the shell in question being an eggshell). In real life, he would have been denied as the injury wasn't directly caused by enemy action. He earlier demanded a Purple Heart for "slipping" on the way to the "shower" (actually a back spasm while dancing with Margaret), but Henry refuses to enter the application.
    • Potter is correct in stating that the Army Good Conduct Medal is only for enlisted soldiers. He's wrong in insisting that his status as a prior-service enlisted soldier entitles him to wear the medal, which he is seen wearing from time to time and he has his medal framed on his wall. What he (or the writers) failed to realize is that the medal was awarded long after Potter was an enlisted soldier and that the retroactive dates don't go back to when he was enlisted and eligible for the award.
    • As a Chaplain, Mulcahy would have entered the military as a Captain, not a Lieutenant.
    • Doctors didn't automatically enter service as a captain. There were plenty of surgeons in the war that were lieutenants.
    • The Points system was never used for rotation of doctors. It was never used in the Korean War at all. Most of the doctors and nurses spent 12-16 months in Korea, then were sent to Japan or a Stateside Army hospital to finish up their military obligation.
      • Aside from Henry Blake earning enough Points to be discharged, the Point System was a plot point in a later episode, where the peace talks had failed again, but Potter reminds everyone if they receive enough Points, they would be rotated home. Although Hawkeye gripes the most, Charles points out he actually has the least amount of complaining to do as he has more Points than the rest of them. Later still, when Potter breaks the news that the Army upped the number of rotation Points to get transfered back to the states, Hawkeye loses it.
    • In one episode, the doctors think it's ridiculous that Frank has made them pack up the unit and move it across the road, and in another, General Steele makes them move 20 miles closer to the front. Part of the reason for the unit's existence was to follow the troops into battle so the wounded could be taken care of as quickly as possible. In the early part of the war, MASH units were quite mobile, and it was only in the latter part of the war, when the battle lines stabilized, that they tended to stay put. While Frank's reasoning was absurd, Steele's wasn't, and moving the entire unit quickly wasn't out of the question; in fact it was one of the functions of a MASH.
    • Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, just about every character could be charged with a plethora of very serious offenses, and being a doctor would not have saved anyone.
    • Somewhat Truth in Television, but only somewhat.
    • It's likely a case of The Main Characters Do Everything, but the administrative section of a MASH would have consisted of two Medical Service Corps officers (non-doctors), a warrant officer, a first sergeant, and numerous enlisted men ranging from master sergeant to private, not just one guy named "Radar". Granted, in any military organization there are "go to" guys like Radar that can get stuff done that no one else can, but a unit run by the hospital commander and one company clerk would have fallen apart fairly quickly.
      • It's implied in several episodes that Radar does have underlings, and his chief job is to negotiate and barter with other clerks, though we never see any.
  • Ascended Extra: Klinger started out as a one-shot guest character, and by the fourth season was a series regular.
    • Father Mulcahy, a minor character in the novel and film, initially only appeared every few episodes until he was made a regular.
  • Ascended Meme: The cast frequently had William Christopher sound-alike contests between takes. In "Movie Tonight" everyone takes turns impersonating Father Mulcahy.
    • This contest contains a bit of Beam Me Up, Scotty!, as several of the attempts include the word "jocularity" (and Potter's consists of just that word, twice). But Mulcahy had never used that word at any time in the series up to that point.
      • He did afterward, however. For instance, in the episode where Margaret and Donald get married, the men have a bachelor party to celebrate. Mulcahy, while quite intoxicated, exits the Swamp, saying "Even the jocularity is jocular!". Towards the end of the show's run, he used the term more frequently.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    • Klinger enters Henry's office:
      Klinger: Are you in, sir?
      Henry: No! No, Klinger, this is a film of me!
    • From "The Novocaine Mutiny":
      Frank: (cowering in fear after hearing an explosion) Was that a bomb!?
      Hawkeye: No, Frank. Someone's playing their World War II album.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign:
    • Though Charles is certainly not a foreign character, David Ogden Stiers took this mindset somewhat for Charles's accent, reasoning that the accent would distinguish the character's aristocratic demeanor and upbringing.
    • With the Korean characters, on the other hand, that's an entirely different story. There are a number of cases where the characters don't even speak actual Korean, but instead are speaking Chinese. In fact, in two different episodes, the word "Stop" has a completely different translation ("Kuchio" in one episode, "Chung-ji" in another). In another, a Chinese soldier pulls a grenade in the OR and speaks Japanese.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Done twice, once when a Luxembourg officer is presumed dead, and again when Hawkeye is mistakenly declared dead by the army. The latter was a wake thrown as a joke.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Averted with Klinger, although he had some fantastic legs.
  • Babies Make Everything Better:
    • Averted with Margaret, who at one point believes she's pregnant but knows that a baby will only exacerbate the problems she's already having with her husband, not to mention end her army career. It turns out she's not, but Margaret and Donald later divorce anyway.
    • Also averted in the finale, in one of the show's most memorable Tear Jerker moments.
  • Bad Dreams:
    • "Dreams", one of the most popular episodes.
      • Interestingly, the core of Hawkeye's and Winchester's dreams are the same: Both have a deep fear of being unable to help someone, Hawkeye because he cannot use the instruments, and Winchester because he just isn't good enough.
    • Hawkeye deals with both these and sleepwalking in "Hawk's Nightmare".
  • Badass Preacher: Father Mulcahy, who seemed rather quiet, unassuming, and largely ineffective, was credited by many in the unit as being the driving force behind any sense of sanity or morality in the camp, frequently dealt with the black market ("You'd be surprised what a priest can get away with"), disarmed a soldier who had a gun on him at point-blank range, talked Klinger out of using a live grenade on Frank Burns, performed an emergency tracheotomy under fire, ran to a POW compound under heavy shelling to free the prisoners who were sitting ducks ( which cost him his hearing), and had a right hook like a brick house.
  • Batman Gambit: Potter's April Fool's joke requires a visiting inspector, Col. Tucker, to enrage the doctors so much that they'd try to pull a major prank on him; then he'd lose his temper and fake a heart attack, making the doctors think they'd killed him. If they didn't try to prank Col. Tucker, the gag wouldn't work, but Potter knew they would.
  • Beef Bandage: Trapper sports one in one of the very first episodes, "Requiem for a Lightweight".
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't tell Hawkeye they're serving liver and fish in the mess tent yet again.
    • Don't even suggest that BJ would ever cheat on his wife.
    • Whatever you do, don't ever, ever ever insult the state of Iowa within earshot of Radar.
      • More importantly, never ever insult Radar's mother. He once comes within a hair of attacking Hawkeye for that!
    • Don't even think of telling latter-seasons Margaret that women aren't as tough/smart/worthy/whatever as men. Particularly don't suggest that she's somehow not a real Major.
    • Don't insult people who stutter in front of Charles.
    • Don't talk about people eating horses in front of Potter.
  • The Bet:
    • One episode features Hawkeye being wagered that he go an entire day without snarking. That day is filled with an absurd amount of things that a man can make wisecracks about. Finally, after keeping his mouth shut the entire day, Hawkeye finally lets it all out in a massive snark-fest over the PA at 12:01 AM the next day.
    • In another episode, Hawkeye bets that BJ can't prank the entire camp. He puts a snake in Charles' bed, hot sauce in Potter's toothpaste, cuts the back off of Margaret's bathrobe, poisons Mulcahy, and blows up Klinger's office. Hawkeye then spends the night outside in a barbwire enclosure. It's then revealed that everyone lied about the pranks/did it themselves, and it was all a Kansas City Shuffle, and Hawkeye was the real victim. Although he still didn't win the bet, because pranking just Hawkeye wasn't the bet, and even if the pranks had been real, he still wouldn't have gotten the entire camp.
  • Better Than Sex:
    • In the episode "Adam's Ribs", Hawkeye tries to get a case of barbecued pork ribs from a Chicago restaurant shipped to Korea. When Radar asks if these ribs are as good as Hawkeye says they are, Hawkeye answers, "Better than sex." Radar then grouses, "I wouldn't know how good that is, sir."
    • In "The Light That Failed", after BJ finally lets a bored Hawkeye start reading the mystery novel Peg sent, Hawkeye declares that reading just might be better than sex.
      Charles: It certainly takes longer around here.
      BJ: How would you know?
  • Big Eater:
    • Hawkeye reminisces about once eating twelve banana sandwiches (and spending a week in the bathroom afterwards).
    • Any time a real meal is to be had in camp, Trapper somehow finds a way to eat the whole thing himself.
    • Radar especially, his heaping portions in the Mess Tent are often the butt of a joke. Hawkeye even suggests that their side could possibly win the war if Radar would simply eat North Korea.
      Klinger: How can you eat this slop?
      Radar: My mouth is tone-deaf.
    • Then there was the time Klinger tried to eat his way out of the Army, by getting so fat and out-of-shape that they'd have to discharge him. It didn't work.
  • Big "NO!": Hawkeye upon waking from a nightmare in "Dreams."
  • Bit Character: Most of the show's nurses and corpsmen are this.
  • Black Comedy: Basically what the show is built on. Something as horrifying as war shouldn't be funny, but they make it so.
  • Blackmail: Occasionally employed by Hawkeye and co. For instance, in "George" he and Trapper get Frank to admit to having paid for the answers on his medical exams, and then use the info to keep him from sending a letter to the Pentagon outing a gay GI and demanding he be dishonorably discharged.
  • Black Market: Figures in several episodes.
  • Black Market Produce: The occasional real food is quite a treat. One time a farmer gives the unit a bunch of real eggs, not the reconstituted stuff they usually get. Another time Radar goes through a Chain of Deals in order to supply Col. Potter with fresh tomato juice after some accidentally got shipped to them and Potter liked it—but then after all that trouble, it turns out Potter is mildly allergic. He'd been without it for so long he forgot.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • In order to get a new foot locker, Margaret shoots it with Charles's shotgun and claims that it was destroyed by enemy fire.
    • Frank got his black eye when he slipped on a bar of soap and hit his face on the sink. Hawkeye most definitely had not gotten fed up with Frank and belted him before bursting out in song.
    • Hawkeye sedated Frank by force and unlawfully took command of the 4077. Frank most definitely didn't concuss himself walking into a door and leave the others to fend for themselves.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Hawkeye exposes a thief by tricking him into a revealing giveaway.
  • The Board Game: The show had one, made by Milton Bradley. Players would try to load a chopper with wounded and fly it to the pad via dice moves.
  • Book Burning: Done by Frank in preparation of Gen. MacArthur's visit in "Big Mac".
    Frank: One of the greatest living Americans is coming and I'm not going to let him see some of the trash that's read around here.
    Trapper: Plato's Republic? The Life of Red Grange?
    Hawkeye: Revolutionaries.
    Frank: Right!
    Trapper: Robinson Crusoe?
    Hawkeye: Everybody runs around half-naked.
    Trapper: Norman Mailer?
    Frank: It's got *that word* in it.
  • Book Ends: "A War for All Seasons" opens and closes with successive New Year's ceremonies at the 4077, complete with identical toasts given by Col. Potter.
  • Bottle Episode: "O.R.", "The Bus", "Hawkeye", "A Night at Rosie's"
  • The Boxing Episode:
    • "Requiem for a Lightweight" has Trapper John taking on the champ of the 8063rd, a heavyweight enlisted man.
    • In "End Run", Klinger and Zale are roped into a boxing match by Frank Burns.
  • Breakout Character: In Season 1, Klinger showed up in a few episodes as "the guy trying to get a Section 8 discharge"; by the end of the series, he was part of the main cast.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • When they first meet, Col. Flagg condescendingly attempts to browbeat Col. Potter. Potter puts him in his place, and fast. Flagg never treats Potter with anything less than respect again.
      Flagg: I want a medical decision, and I want it now! The last C.O. they had here couldn't make a decision without a month's warning.
      Potter: I'm not fond of personal abuse, Flagg. I was in this man's Army when the only thumb you cared about was the one in your mouth.
    • According to Hawkeye, Winchester never was broken. However, he was in the final episode by the death of his prized Chinese musicians.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The season 4 premiere "Welcome to Korea" ends with the P.A. announcer naming the new season's cast regulars as both actors and characters.
  • Brick Joke: In season 3 Henry Blake talks to Radar about having his tonsils removed, stating that they're "big as a baby's backside." In season 7 Radar's tonsils again come up and this time they are taken out.
    • The can of beans on the stove in season 4's "It Happened One Night".
    • Potter recounts how an old rival of his swallowed 23 goldfish to beat his record of 22. Later, it turns out Klinger is in reach of a pole-sitting record, but he's cold and wants to come down.
    Potter: I'll give you a choice. You can stay up there, or come down here and swallow 24 goldfish.
    Klinger: Did you say 24 goldfish, sir?
    Potter: The first 18 are easy.
  • Briefer Than They Think: As mentioned above, you could fit three Korean Wars into the show's run.
  • Broken Ace: Captain Newsome in "Heal Thyself". And Hawkeye in "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen". Also Captain Chandler in "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler".
  • Broken Aesop:
    • In the episode "Images," The Stinger has Radar setting up a weight bar on two chairs to start working out. Potter tells him not to, because he would have to keep working out basically for the rest of his life, lest the muscles atrophy. So, it's bad to want to be physically fit and get into shape, even in the Army as a corpsman/stretcher bearer?
      • The whole of the episode involves Radar wanting to get a tattoo and the others telling him not to—not because the local tattoo artists aren't sterile, but because they think tattoos look dumb.
    • Even worse is the next episode, "MASH Olympics," where Potter is appalled that everyone is in such poor shape that several can't right an ambulance, yet four MPs can with ease.
      • Not only does it break the Aesop, it doesn't even make sense. The characters are established to work absurdly hard at highly physical duties for extremely long hours. If they aren't up to righting an ambulance, it's because they're tired, not out of shape.
    • There's the episode "Souvenirs," in which Hawkeye and BJ force a chopper pilot to stop selling trinkets made out of junk found on battlefields. Granted that people, including little kids, are getting hurt and killed when they try to scavenge something that turns out to be booby-trapped, but this doesn't solve the problem. Fact #1: These people are dirt poor and desperate for every penny they can scrape up. Fact #2: Metal is valuable. Even if the souvenir industry dried up, the brass shells could be sold to someone who can use them, to melt down if nothing else. Fact #2 can't be changed. Fact #1 can, but Hawkeye and BJ don't do anything about it. In fact, they put a guy out of business who gives fifty bucks to the family of one of his suppliers who got hurt. Nice move. He even mentions that his predecessor used to just send flowers. Those families are certainly better off with him gone.
  • Bucket Booby-Trap: Frank rigs one for Hawkeye (yep, you read that right) in "Showtime", while Hawkeye himself does so for a visiting colonel in "April Fools".
  • Buffy Speak: In a cold snap episode, Henry asks Radar to requisition, "Those nice wooly caps with the ear muffs, but in military talk."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: No matter how madcap Hawkeye gets, his medical skills save him from court martial a few dozen times.
    • Klinger is trying to get a Section 8 discharge by crossdressing and generally acting insane. But he's too much of a professional to actually shirk his duty as a sentry or doing anything other than his utmost to help when the 4077 is inundated with wounded.
  • Burma Shave: The camp rigs up a homemade sign to welcome Hawkeye back from his psychiatric treatment in "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen".
    Hawk was gone
    Now he's here
    Dance 'til dawn
    Give a cheer
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Frank Burns, who frequently gets comeuppance for being a jerkass.
    • Igor, who only serves the food and is in no way responsible for its quality but nonetheless takes a steady stream of verbal abuse over it. This on top of being on permanent KP.
  • California Doubling:
    • As with the film, exteriors for the show were filmed at the Fox Ranch (now Malibu Creek State Park) near Malibu. California is about as mountainous as Korea, but the doubling is obvious in the winter episodes, where, aside from a lack of snow in any such episode, the surrounding plant life is green and alive.
    • Additionally, due to a limited shooting schedule at the ranch quite a lot of "outdoor" scenes (particularly those taking place at night, and/or in the immediate vicinity of the compound) were rather obviously shot on a soundstage. During season eleven, all scenes were shot on the soundstage because the ranch set burnt down in a wildfire during production of the finale (which was actually the first episode shot that season), and it was deemed pointless to build a new one so close to the end.
  • Calvin Ball: Double Cranko.
  • Camp Cook: Igor Straminsky, although he wasn't the actual cook and would often remind those complaining to him of such.
  • Canon Foreigner: A very large percentage of the regular and recurring characters on the show never appeared in the original novel or film, including the various replacements (BJ, Potter, Charles) as well as Klinger, Flagg, Sidney, Igor, Zale, Rizzo, etc.
  • The Casanova: Hawkeye, particularly in the earlier seasons.
    • It ultimately starts backfiring on him badly in the later seasons, when every advance either ends in a strikeout, getting humiliated, or a disastrous date.
    • And, in the season 11 episode "Who Knew", Millie Carpenter has such a crush on him that she ends up wandering into a minefield.
    • Carlye Walton, nee Breslin, from season 5, is Hawkeye's one true love that got away.
  • The Cast Showoff: Everyone gets to show off their many and varied talents: Harry Morgan, William Christopher, Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, and Loretta Swit are featured singing several times; William Christopher's piano skills are also shown off, as are Harry Morgan's painting abilities and Gary Burghoff's jazz drumming (and talent for impressions); Mike Farrell is also shown dancing in the episode "Dreams."
  • Celebrity Paradox: A minor case, but still noteworthy. One of the films shown to the camp on movie night was the 1945 musical State Fair while Potter was in command. The movie features Harry Morgan in a supporting role. Granted, he would have looked 30 years younger, but no one seems to note the similarity between their commanding officer and the character in the movie.
    • In season 3's "House Arrest" they watch Dragonwyck, which also features Harry Morgan, although at that point he hadn't yet joined the show as a regular.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The series began as a zany comedy much like the movie, and ended as a dramedy on the horror and pointlessness of war.
    • To elaborate more on this: the movie was a dark/black comedy and a biting antiwar satire that would have had to be toned down for television anyway. At the same time, however, co-creators/producers Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds wanted to avoid the show being, "Just another sitcom," from the get-go. A lot of the show's zany tone and almost Hogan's Heroes-esque war hijinks humor in its earliest seasons were mostly the case of Executive Meddling wanting the show to avoid becoming too gory or too dark. It wasn't until Wham Episodes such as "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" and "Abyssinia, Henry" went over well, and the show began to establish itself in the ratings, that Executive Meddling was toned down, and the producers and writers were given more freedom to do as they wish, such as give the show more of a dramatic undertone. Even with the eventual departures of Gelbart and later Reynolds, comedy was still the show's main focal point, with drama taking a back seat - though the humor itself was also toned down, and became more intelligent and cerebral, as opposed to silly and slapstick. Finally, by Season Eight, the entire writing and producing staff was overhauled by Alan Alda and Burt Metcalfe, causing the show to flip its priorities, and make drama the show's driving force with comedy shunted to the back burner.
    • Cerebus Rollercoaster: Especially in the later seasons, it wasn't unusual for a given episode to shift on a dime between comedic and dramatic moods.
  • Chain of Deals: Happens in "For Want of a Boot" and "The Price of Tomato Juice."
  • Character as Himself: "Tuttle" has its title character billed this way.
  • Characterization Marches On: Radar starts out in the first season as smart, hypercompetent, was often seen smoking Blake's cigars and drinking his booze, and is implied to have long ago lost his virginity. From season four on, he's incredibly naïve, doesn't smoke, doesn't drink much, and seems to have regained his virginity.
    • Lampshaded by Sidney as being Radar's defense mechanism for dealing with the war: reverting to more childish characteristics to escape the horrors forced on him everyday.
    • Frank fell victim to Flanderization (see below), however, one facet of his character was that Frank wasn't completely against Koreans to begin with. For one thing, he demeaned Hawkeye and Trapper's prejudice in "Corruption of Ho-Jon", and even seemed sympathetic towards Ho-Jon when it was revealed he was stealing everyone's belongings to sell for bribe money for the border guards to bring his family down from North Korea. He once even implies that he has his own personal Korean house boy, whom he pays six cigarettes on a daily basis to keep his boots shined at all times. With each passing season, however, Frank's contempt for Koreans (and all foreigners) increases more and more to the point that he doesn't even like a South Korean ping-pong player (who was actually assigned to the 4077th) simply for being oriental, and disapproves of his wedding to his fiancée because the army shouldn't be concerned and tries to attack a South Korean general, mistaking him for a North Korean.
    • Father Mulcahy goes back and forth a lot throughout the series. In certain episodes, such as "Mulcahy's War" (S5) or "Dear Sis" (S7), he feels like wasted space and completely useless in a camp where nobody seems to have any need for him (the former, he especially feels he would be more useful on the frontlines, where his spiritual comfort would really be needed); other episodes, such as "Hepatitis" (S5) or "An Eye for a Tooth" (S7), he actually does feel like he's of importance to the 4077th - in "Hepatitis", he becomes concerned at the thought of being quarantined from the rest of the camp when people may require Confession or, even more serious, Last Rites, while in "An Eye for a Tooth", he feels that he deserves a promotion for all he's done for the 4077th, and even demands Potter to get I-Corps to give him one, to no avail.
    • In spite of Henry's signature outfit consisting of a fishing hat and vest, he was really only a fishing afficianado throughout the first season; afterwards, golf was his activity of choice.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
  • Christmas Episode: Several. More, in fact, than there were actual Christmases during the war.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Spearchucker Jones (dropped from the series after the makers learned that there's no evidence that any black doctors served in Korea), Lt. Dish, Ugly John, Sgt. Zale.
      • The creators were mistaken on there being a lack of black doctors during the Korean War. From the memoirs of Harold Secor, an online memoir of a doctor from the 8055th MASH unit (the same one as Richard Hooker): "In Secor's quarters, there was...Captain Miles, a black doctor from Virginia...." Richard Hooker arrived near the end of Harold Secor's stay at the 8055th and based many of the stories that appear in the book off stories he heard from Secor and others. For more information search the Memoirs of Harold Secor.
    • Otto Apel, a surgeon at the 8076th MASH, talks about a black dentist in the book he wrote about his experiences.
      • M*A*S*H did have a black dentist in the season 10 episode "The Tooth Shall Set You Free".
  • Cigar Chomper: Blake, Potter, Klinger, Zale, and Rizzo could all be seen enjoying the occasional stogie. Not to mention various visiting generals, colonels, etc. Even Radar was seen enjoying Blake's cigars from time to time in the first season or two.
  • Claustrophobia: Hawkeye, in "C*A*V*E".
  • Clip Show: "Our Finest Hour".
    • The tag of "Abyssinia, Henry" features a Really Dead Montage of Henry clips, set to a bittersweet rendition of the theme entitled "Memories of Henry".
  • Clock Discrepancy: A soldier who they're trying to keep alive through December 25th (so his kids don't have to remember Christmas as "the day Daddy died") dies at about 11:35 pm. Hawkeye moves the hands of the clock so that it's 12:10 am, saying "Hey, look, he made it." They falsfy the death certificate.
  • Clown Car: Invoked in one episode, Hawkeye tries to break the record for the most people stuffed into a Jeep (16) after seeing a picture in Life magazine of a bunch of college kids doing it in a Volkswagen.
  • Color Me Black: In one episode, Hawkeye and Trapper gradually darken the skin of a white racist to make him think he's turning black after getting a blood transfusion from a black person, an in-universe exploitation of said soldier failing biology forever. The plot is somewhat inspired by a season one episode of All in the Family.
  • Comfort Food: In the episode "Adam's Ribs", Hawkeye goes out of his way to order and have delivered to the 4077th (which is in Korea, remember, in the middle of a war zone) 40 pounds of ribs (plus sauce) from a restaurant called Adam's Ribs in Chicago, Illinois. And why did he go to such trouble? Because he was sick of army food and Adam's Ribs was the best food he could think of.
    • In another episode the surgeons are attempting to build a makeshift dialysis machine, for which they need sausage casings as a filter. Klinger manages to hook them up via his favorite hot dog vendor in Toledo...then places an delivery order for the team to celebrate their success.
    • Averted when Father Mulcahy contributes fresh corn on the cob from his vegetable garden to the camp's 4th of July picnic, thinking the change of pace would be appreciated...only to learn that the cook prepared it as the usual creamed corn instead thinking the camp preferred creamed corn.
  • Completely Missing the Point: In the finale, Sidney reminds Hawkeye that the night before he was hospitalized, he drove a jeep though the wall of the Officer's Club and ordered a double bourbon. Hawkeye's reply?
    Hawkeye: That was strange. [beat] I drink martinis.
  • Communications Officer: Radar (later Klinger, after Radar is sent home) is usually called upon to operate the communications equipment. Almost everyone else has trouble getting the stuff to work properly.
  • Compressed Abstinence:
    • Hawkeye once takes a bet from BJ that he can go a whole 24 hours without making a joke. He barely makes it.
    • Hawkeye also once pledges to give up drinking for a week. After a rough session in the OR on the seventh day, he joins the rest of the staff in the Officers Club and orders a martini.
      Hawkeye: Yes! I admit it! I need a drink! [beat] I'll be back when I want one, not when I need one.
  • Confess in Confidence: There are at least three episodes where Father Mulcahy learns of an issue from a confessing soldier and has to figure out how to solve it without breaking the seal of the confessional. One involves a black marketer who has stolen critically needed medical supplies, one a soldier who swapped dog tags with a friend who died just before the end of his tour of duty, and one, a new doctor who confesses that he's been pretending to be a doctor to get officers' privileges and rank.
    • In one episode a solder who shot himself to get sent home confesses to Frank, mistaking him for a priest while he was in Father Mulcahy's tent to leave him a note.
    • Also note that in the case of the dogtags, Mulcahy was not technically bound by the seal of the confessional. As he says himself, the soldier is virtually unrepentant and has no intention of stopping his sin. Not simply turning him in and searching for another solution was more a matter of doing what was best for the soldier than breaking his own priest's vows.
  • Conservation of Competence: At least, until Colonel Potter shows up.
  • Contagious Laughter: Once Frank tried to join in when Blake was talking about what kidders the men were.
  • Continuity Drift: A fair amount in the early seasons. Hawkeye signs a letter "love to Mom" but it's later revealed that his mother is dead; the writers couldn't keep the name of Henry's wife straight; at one point Margaret states her father is dead, but he shows up alive and well on an episode years later. Granted, Margaret is very drunk when she says it, but one would still expect her to remember which of her parents are living. Frank earlier asked if her father had left her some money, implying that Frank thought he was dead before her drunk reference to his death.
    • Hawkeye initially has a sister, too. And he was originally from Vermont, but is later from Maine. In one episode, he says that his family lives in Vermont and has a summer home in Maine, but this is dropped in favor of making Hawkeye a Maine native.
      • And for some reason he went to a dentist in Detroit (which might be an oblique reference to Painless, who was from Detroit).
    • Potter originally has a son. Later, he has only a daughter. When his daughter gave birth, she originally had a daughter. Later, Potter has a grandson, but no granddaughter. Also, depending on the episode, Potter was 15 when he joined the Army. At other times, he was already married by the time he joined the Army.
      • Potter could conceiveably have been married at the age of 15; the legal age of consent didn't reach 16 in most states until 1920, and though a teenage marriage might have been unusual in the 1910s it wouldn't have been unheard of. He may even have joined the Army to support a young family at the time.
      • Potter mentions he joined when the US entered the First World War, but later gives his age as 62, putting his date of birth in 1889 or 1890, which would make him 27 when the US entered the war.
    • Potter arrived in September of 1952, but later episodes have him present in 1951. The timeline seems to be all over the place.
  • Continuity Nod: Despite the above, the show does make numerous references to previous episodes and seasons:
    • "The Late Captain Pierce" has Hawkeye reference how Trapper went home and Henry was killed. In "Depressing News" he again mentions these, as well as Frank's departure.
    • Frank is mentioned innumerable times after his departure, mainly in reference to Margaret's Character Development.
    • The time capsule episode mentioned several characters who had departed, including Henry and Radar (they included a fishing hook and teddy bear to symbolize both men) and Frank (they referenced his lack of surgical skill by claiming that his scalpel was a deadly weapon).
    • In "The Joker Is Wild", BJ's prank war against Hawkeye is inspired by the latter's reference to Trapper having been the best joker to ever be in the 4077.
    • The staff get a letter from Radar in Iowa (and Potter subsequently talks to his mother on the phone) in "The Foresight Saga".
    • The vascular clamps that the doctors develop are referenced in several other episodes.
    • Klinger's crossdressing is mentioned several times after he gives up the act, including him signing a portrait of himself dressed as Scarlett O'Hara for BJ in the finale.
    • The promotions for Klinger and Mulcahy (to Sergeant and Captain, respectively) maintain through the rest of the series.
    • The resolution of "Henry in Love" involves Henry talking to his wife on the phone, and her wanting him to balance her checkbook. A few episodes later there's a mail call episode, and the documents arrive for him to do it.
    • In season 3's "Checkup", Henry informs Radar that he's doing to have to have his tonsils removed eventually; it finally happens in season 7's "None Like It Hot".
    • While packing his things in preparation of going home in season 8, Radar finds the thermometer that Col. Blake had given him (in "Abyssinia, Henry"). He also finds his Purple Heart and comments on how Hawkeye had saluted him (in "Fallen Idol").
    • Radar, Henry, and Trapper are all mentioned in "Period of Adjustment".
    • The series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", has several of them:
      • Hawkeye attempts to compose a "Dear Dad" letter while at the psychiatric hospital.
      • Hawkeye laments that BJ went home without leaving him a note, just as Trapper had done.
      • Margaret and Charles re-hash an old argument (from season 6's "War of Nerves") over whether or not he touched his nose in surgery.
      • Sidney references an earlier comment he had made (in season 3's "O.R.") with his parting words to the group.
      • When saying goodbye to Hawkeye and BJ, Col. Potter mentions their pantsing of Winchester in the O.R. (from season 9's "Bottom's Up").
      • Saying goodbye to BJ, Hawkeye says he'll think of him "next time somebody nails my shoe to the floor" (something BJ did earlier that season, in "The Joker Is Wild").
  • Contrived Clumsiness:
    • On one episode where Hawkeye, BJ and Charles were on a promotion committee, they evaluated prospective promotees and gave their recommendations. In The Stinger, after commenting on wondering who was promoted, Private Igor, who works in the mess tent chow line and was not promoted, tosses a scoopful of mashed potatoes on BJ. "Oh, I'm sorry. But what do you expect from a dumb private?"
    • A flashback in one episode showed Father Mulcahy "accidentally" tucking a tablecloth into his belt and upstaging the meal of a visiting general who was causing a holdup in the mess tent.
  • Control Freak: Frank Burns, and to a lesser extent Hot Lips.
  • Corrupt Quartermaster: In "The Incubator", Hawkeye and Trapper John run into one of these, who is hoarding several of the incubators that they need, but refuses to release one. In another episode, Klinger gets a quartermaster to sell him an electrical generator because the camp's main generator is broken and the backup one is missing. Just before they complete the deal the Colonel of the unit which is supposed to get the generator shows up in person because several of their requests for generators have "mysteriously disappeared." The colonel even mentions that they're making do with a backup generator they stole from a M*A*S*H unit.
  • Cool Old Guy: You wish Colonel Potter was your grandfather, admit it.
  • Courtroom Episode: "The Trial of Henry Blake", "The Novocaine Mutiny", "Snappier Judgment", coupled with Court-Martialed
  • Court-Martialed:
    • "The Novocaine Mutiny": Pierce is on the receiving end of a trial instigated by Burns. The events of Burns' short tenure as a Commanding Officer are discussed making use of flashbacks. Burns' embellished version ultimately charges Pierce with assaulting the CO. After hearing both sides, the court finds Pierce innocent and otherwise preserves the status quo.
    • In "Snap Judgement", the 4077 suffers from elusive thieves and a Polaroid camera goes missing. Continuing in "Snappier Judgment," Klinger, who bought the camera back from black market peddlers, because he couldn't explain possessing it or why he delayed reporting it stolen, is arrested by military police and court-martialed for the theft instead. Winchester volunteers to be his legal counsel, while Hawkeye and BJ set out to catch the culprit. Because of Winchester's ineptitude in law and the unfortunate circumstances, Klinger is just about to be convicted when the real thief is brought into the court, absolving Klinger of the charges.
  • Covered in Mud: In the episode which introduces new doctor BJ Hunnicutt, before he even gets to the unit he, Hawkeye and Radar get caught in a bombing raid by the North Koreans along with some GIs. As he runs from one wounded soldier to another he slips and falls into some mud, ruining his dress uniform.
    • The "Bulletin Board" episode has a scene of everyone having a tug-of-war over a mud puddle during the camp picnic; needless to say, they all end up like this.
    • When the camp is pinned down by a sniper, one soldier ends up slipping on the mud and belly-flopping into a puddle of it.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage:
    • On a couple of occasions the nurses are all shipped off because of a potential bombing (or other) attack by North Koreans, so the doctors and enlisted personnel have to do all the stuff the nurses usually do. At one point even a civilian bartender gets roped into nurse duty during an operation.
    • Another time, due to a flu epidemic Hawkeye is the only doctor who isn't bedridden. He has to jump from operating table to operating table doing bits of surgeries while the nurses help much more than usual. Margaret pretty much performs an operation all by herself, but not without a lot of coaching and encouragement from Hawkeye.
  • Crossover: One of the odder examples. Larry Linville and Loretta Swit appear in character as Frank and Hot Lips in a 1975 Don Rickles variety special, helping perform a musical number called "I'm a Nice Guy."
    • McLean Stevenson famously did a cameo on The Carol Burnett Show as Henry Blake after "Abyssinia, Henry" aired, sitting in a smoking rubber raft and yelling, "I'm okay!"
  • Crushing Handshake:
    • During the M*A*S*H Olympics, Hawkeye and BJ make a wager with each other, but when they shake on it, BJ jokingly tries to crush Hawkeye's hand.
    • Trapper is afraid of this in the Boxing episode, after learning that his opponent once punched out a Jeep.
    • Frank tackles a visiting South Korean general in the mess tent, mistaking him for a North Korean. After learning what he's done, he apologetically offers his hand to the general...and gets one of these.
  • Cuckold: In an episode there's a threat of an air raid so the nurses are sent away. It turns out it's just a "propaganda bomb," with leaflets dropped including "Harry Truman is sleeping with your wife." In other episodes it's played more dramatically (if hypocritically) as Henry, Trapper and some of the other married personnel worry that their wife is cheating on them, even as they carry on dalliances at the 4077th.
  • Cue Card Pause: In "The Army-Navy Game."
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Hawkeye likes to sarcastically explain patients' "trivial" injuries.
    • Notably used by BJ in "The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan" when Flagg is asking about the bullet wound in his leg.

  • "Dear John" Letter:
    • The eponymous chopper pilot in "Cowboy" gets one of these addressed from Reno (at the time Nevada processed almost half the country's divorces). Subverted in that although it's a "Dear John" letter from Reno, his name actually is John and he actually lives in Reno back home. The letter tells him how his wife was tempted to an affair, but didn't go through with it and loves him even more.
    • Radar gets a "Dear John" record from his hometown girlfriend in "Love Story".
    • Klinger's "Dear John" letter from his wife launches his Character Development from comedy relief into a more serious (and more reliable) member of the team. When the rest of the camp thinks it's another Section 8 attempt, he has a Heroic BSOD where (among other things) he tears off his dress publicly. The crossdressing act ends permanently shortly thereafter.
  • Death of the Author: In-Universe, during the "Dramatic M*A*S*H" phase; in one episode, the whole camp becomes infatuated when a mystery novel, "The Rooster Crowed At Midnight", is accidentally shipped to their camp. But it's damaged, and missing the last few pages (BJ ripping out pages so others could read probably didn't help). So, they finally resort to phoning the author and hearing her answer for the answer to Who Dunnit. Minutes before the episode ends, Colonel Potter gets on the loudspeaker and announces to the whole camp that the person that the author named as the culprit couldn't be responsible, because he had an alibi, leaving the whole camp no better off than they were before.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Margaret Houlihan.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "The Interview" episode, and the new footage in "Our Finest Hour". Also, the various home movies (save for Henry's).
  • Delivery Not Desired: In the episode "Dear Sigmund", Sidney Freedman feels down in the dumps after a psychiatrict patient of his commits suicide because of voices in his head. Wanting a "vacation", Sidney retreats to the 4077th for a couple of weeks; while there, he writes a letter about the people and the hijinks of the 4077th to none other than Sigmund Freud.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Radar speaks like this, particularly in his waning years on the show; on more than one occasion he talks about someone being, "naked with no clothes on."
    • Henry has a number of these from time to time: "Radar, hand me this here clipboard that I have right here in my hand here."
      • Sometimes, as in the specific example given, it's the result of Radar anticipating him and handing him the item he wants before he's finished asking for it.
    • Frank also has his moments, particularly in his last two seasons when he de-evolves into a one-dimensional, psychopathic character.
  • Determinator: A rare comedic example with Klinger, who in the early seasons is never in an episode that doesn't feature him trying some way to get that elusive Section 8 or otherwise get out of the Army.
    Henry: [pulls out binder of Klinger's past hardship-discharge requests] Father dying, last year. Mother dying, last year. Mother and father dying. Mother, father, and older sister dying. Mother dying and older sister pregnant. Older sister dying and mother pregnant. Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying. Here's an oldie but a goodie: half of the family dying, other half pregnant. [puts file down] Klinger, aren't you ashamed of yourself?
    Klinger: Yes sir. [beat] I don't deserve to be in the Army.
  • Digital Destruction: Due to the series' popularity, and the constant reprinting of episodes for syndicated markets, the video presentation on DVD isn't exactly impressive. While the picture quality is certainly an improvement over syndicated prints, earlier seasons on DVD show evidence of digital imperfections on occasion, such as pixelization and bad interlacing. Seasons 4 and 5 are probably the worst for this, but luckily things improve greatly afterwards, to the point that the last few seasons look wonderful on DVD.
  • Do You Want to Haggle?: In "Dear Mildred", Frank and Margaret are commissioning a local Korean artist to make a wooden bust of Col. Potter's head for his birthday:
    Artist: Six bucks.
    Margaret: Well, Frank?
    Frank: Huh?
    Margaret: ["sotto voce, through a clenched smile]'' These people have no espect-ray unless you aggle-hay over the ice-pray.
    Frank: [after mentally translating] Five dollars.
    Artist: Seven-fifty.
    Frank: Sold.
    Margaret: [glaring at Frank] UMB-day!
  • Documentary Episode: "The Interview", "Our Finest Hour"
  • Doorstop Baby: The episode "Yessir, That's Our Baby"
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Hawkeye
    "I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to old Virginny, I'll even hari-kari if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!"
    • Invoked and played with a few seasons later when Hawkeye and Potter are away from the camp, stuck in a foxhole, pinned down by enemy fire, and drunk off their asses. After getting upbraided by Potter for being so mule-headed about his distaste for firearms, Potter convinces Hawkeye to just fire it in the air to scare away the enemy.
  • Downer Ending:
  • "Preventive Medicine". Hawkeye removes a healthy appendix of a colonel to try to stop him from provoking an attack against his own troops so that he would have an excuse to seize a particular hill (for pride, apparently) and callously throw away the lives of the troops under his command (completely against orders, hence the previous provoked attack serving as a loophole). Hawkeye removes his appendix, but sadly, even without said colonel, the gears of war churn onward.
    • Also an example of Real Life Writes the Plot as the original script didn't deal with the implications of Hawkeye's actions (as in an earlier episode in which Hawkeye and Trapper do the exact same thing to Colonel Flagg just to get back the penicillin he stole, without any kind of hand-wringing). Mike Farrell complained that BJ wouldn't stand for that, and his objections became BJ's.
  • "Period of Adjustment" deals with BJ's growing despair due to being separated from his family and ends with him broken and sobbing against Hawkeye on the floor.
  • The Finale has its share of them as well:
    • Potter leaving Sophie behind when he returns to the States.
    • Hawkeye seemingly giving up surgery to instead become a general practitioner due to his PTSD.
    • The musicians that Charles had been training getting killed on their way home.
    • Mulcahy going deaf.
  • Dramedy: A Trope Codifier, if not Ur Example.
  • Dream Sequence: The aptly titled "Dreams" features one.
  • Drink Order: General Clayton is apparently partial to sherry and ginger ale.
    • Hawkeye generally prefers martinis, the drier the better.
      Hawkeye: Right now, my manservant Trapper is mixing me a martini. He makes them beautifully. He made me an especially dry one last night, but it blew away.
      • Played for Black Humor in the Finale, when Sidney reminds Hawkeye that the night before he ended up in the hospital, he drove a jeep through the wall of the Officer's Club and ordered a double bourbon. Hawkeye points out that he drinks martinis.
    • Radar's grape Nehi, Charles' cognac, Frank's Shirley Temples.
    • From the "Officers Only" episode:
      Henry: I've been dying for a banana daiquiri.
      Bartender: Is that a drink, sir?
      Henry: Oh, yeah. You just take some bananas and some rum and some cream and some crushed ice, and just put it in a blender.
      Bartender: We've got no bananas, no rum, and no blender, sir. And only powdered cream.
      Henry: Okay, gimme a beer.
  • Dr. Jerk: Burns as an incompetent version and Winchester as a highly competent one.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Or, as Margaret once puts it, "taking them for a swim."
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde". Winchester gets addicted to amphetamines, and pays the price as the addictive qualities and side effects take their toll.
  • Dry Crusader: Frank Burns, in "Alcoholics Unanimous"; a visiting general who's recovering from surgery, in "The Moon Is Not Blue".
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Watching the early seasons (and Season 1 in particular) can be a disorienting experience if you're more accustomed to the later ones, due to the turnover in the cast as well as the Cerebus Syndrome mentioned above.
    • A prime example of this: in the early seasons, the laugh track will sometimes play in the OR, something the producers objected to and which was excised in the later seasons.
      • That only happened three times, one of which was justifiable, as it was during Frank's Rashomon Style flashback making himself out as being a super surgeon during a particularly heavy deluge — we all know not to take Ferret Face seriously.
  • Eat the Evidence: Done by the entire unit to an illicitly acquired side of beef. When an MP shows up looking for the beef, he's invited to sit down and have a plate, which he happily accepts.
  • Economy Cast: The 4077th as depicted on the show had a much smaller staff than a real-life MASH unit would have had.
    • The point is made on the show that there are around 200 people in the unit, yet no more than two dozen are ever seen at one time, even when there are formations that require everyone to be present.
    • Also, when Colonel Potter says he wants to see all the officers, the only people who show up are the members of the main cast and not the other officers in the unit, including all the nurses (except Margaret).
  • El Spanish O:
    • Radar, while trying to communicate with some Greeks:
      Radar: Uh... put-em here-o. (Not even "os", which would be the real equivalent of el Spanish-o in Greek.)
    • A family of Koreans set up housekeeping in the middle of the camp. Henry tries to tell them to leave: "Go-ee home-ee!" When that doesn't work, he tells Radar to tell them to leave. Radar then tells the family, "Go-ee home-ee!"
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: When an optometrist visits the camp, Houlihan comes in for a checkup, but everyone thinks she's there to hit on him; when everyone else leaves, she reveals that she'd rather they think "Hot Lips" was on the move than let on to her vision problems.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Hawkeye and Trapper crack up when they learn Frank's is "Marion".
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, Frank "Ferret Face" Burns.
    • In "The Foresight Saga" we (and Klinger) learn that Potter's wife calls him "Pudd'nhead", a Shout-Out to Mark Twain.
  • Episode Title Card: Used in "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen", and "Our Finest Hour" (the second interview show).
  • Escalating War: A staple, an example being "The Smell of Music".
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Frank is a mild, and subtle example of this when it comes to Colonel Flagg.
  • Every Helicopter Is A Huey: Mostly and rightly averted in favor of the historically-accurate Bell 47. However, some early episodes have a model Huey hanging from the ceiling of Col. Blake's office, and later on the O Club has a sign on the wall reading "4077th Med. Co. Air Ambulance" and featuring an illustration of either a Huey or another Vietnam-era chopper.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In "Abyssinia, Henry", Frank is seen crying when Henry's death is announced.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Occurs in the episode "Life Time". They run over the timer, but since they induced hypothermia the patient still recovers.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Klinger trying to get a Section 8, Burns trying to instill military discipline, Winchester trying to get transferred back to Tokyo.
    • Winchester seems to play on his awareness that his exile to the 4077th was permanent at the end of the episode where the staff members' families meet at a party back in the States. On hearing that his parents and Radar's hit it off so well that they're planning another get-together after the war, he asserts that for all he cares, they "...can bring your goat. Makes no difference to me, for I shan't be there; I'm turning myself in to the Chinese."
  • Fake Aristocrat: In order to get Radar into the Officers' Club at the Kimpo airport in "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye appends BJ's captain's bars to the corporal's uniform. When questioned about this, Pierce explains that the Army is field-testing a new intermediate rank: corporal captain.
  • Fake Pregnancy: This is the subject of an episode that was ultimately never filmed, as at the time it was considered too risqué. The episode, entitled "Hawkeye on the Double," had Hawkeye seeing two different nurses behind each of their backs, and when the two found out about each other, they planned on getting back at him by both pretending to be pregnant with his child, and pressuring him into choosing which one of them to marry. The script for the episode is available as a special feature on DVD.
  • A Father to His Men: Colonel Blake, to Radar; Colonel Potter, to everyone.
  • Faux Yay: In "Bananas, Crackers and Nuts", Hawkeye tries to get leave by (among other things) pretending to be romantically interested in Burns.
  • The Fifties: Ostensibly. As the seasons roll on, it's increasingly apparent that the show is The Seventies disguised as The Fifties.
  • Finger Poke of Doom:
    Col. Flagg: Do you believe that I can break your leg with this finger?
    Charles: Strangely enough, I, I... I do.
  • Finger Twitching Revival: In one episode, a soldier's "corpse" is shipped to the 4077th along with a bunch of wounded. For most of the episode, the viewers are the only ones who see the soldier try to move enough to call for help.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Hawkeye and JB often do this.
  • Fixing The Game:
    • The craps game in the back of Rosie's bar is rigged.
    • Frank runs a bookie operation for baseball games that are broadcast to the camp during the day. Turns out he's listening to previous, late-night broadcasts of the same games to get the outcomes before taking anyone's bets.
    • Charles giving uppers to Radar's mouse Daisy before she races a Marine's champion rodent.
    • Hawkeye and Trapper rig a boxing match by putting ether on Trapper's glove, but Frank realizes the fix is in and replaces the ether with water.
    • During the bowling match against the Marines, Charles and BJ drug their ringer with a pill that turns his urine blue, tricking him into thinking he had a disease that his bowling would aggrivate.
  • Flanderization: Radar's naïveté, Col. Potter's crankiness, and Frank Burns's jerk-assedness (and flakiness, and paranoia) all grew more and more pronounced as the show progressed.
    • In early seasons, Frank showed occasional flashes of human decency. For instance, in season 1's "Sticky Wicket", when Hawkeye re-opens a patient who's failing to get better and discovers he'd overlooked a tiny bit of shrapnel damage, Frank quietly says "Anyone could have missed that." In season 2's "Kim" he tries to help when a little boy runs into a minefield, and in season 3's "O.R." he's horrified to learn he nearly removed a patient's sole kidney. Even as late as season 3 when Henry's death was announced, Frank has tears in his eyes as the camera pans over the OR. In all these instances Linville played Frank's emotions as genuine, not faked or selfishly motivated.
    • Frank's incompetence as a doctor was Flanderized too. In early episodes he simply wasn't as talented as the other surgeons but had the reasonable excuse of being the one with the least experience. Later episodes portrayed him as being totally inept in medicine, to the point where he had to cheat to graduate med school. The original back story for Burns is that he went to medical school, but didn't study surgery, rather being one of the last surgeons who could become one by taking an apprenticeship (from his father).
      • This is especially bad when you consider that in one episode it's established that Frank had been in practice for 12 years, which means he was actually more experienced than Hawkeye, Trapper, or BJ when they first arrived. Combine this with his statement that he took twice as long to graduate medical school and become a doctor as normal and a typical surgical residency period, and he would have been the same age as Henry (who gave his age as 42 near the end of Season 3).
    • All of which eventually drove Larry Linville from the show, as he felt that Burns had devolved so badly there was nowhere else to go with the character as they were writing him.
  • Flipping Helpless: In one episode, an ambulance-truck flipped on its back demonstrated to Colonel Potter the general unfitness of his camp: after everyone pushing together can't get it rightside up, a group of 4 MPs happens by and rights it all by themselves.
  • Foil: All of Hawkeye's Swampmates were this to him, to a certain extent. Trapper occasionally exhibited a world-weary pragmatism in contrast to Hawkeye's passionate idealism. B.J. was a devoted family man in contrast with Hawkeye's womanizing. Frank Burns was a jingoistic lover off all things military in contrast with Hawkeye's staunch liberal pacifism. And Charles was an aristocratic Boston Brahmin in contrast with Hawkeye's small-town unpretentiousness.
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: Happens to Charles and Margaret in "The Grim Reaper", and nearly the entire camp in "The Yalu Brick Road".
  • Foreshadowing: "Over hill, over dale, our love will ever fail"
  • Forged Message: Klinger occasionally would forge letters, particularly in mail call episodes, in further attempts to get a discharge; Henry kept many of Klinger's letters on record and uses them against him to point out how ridiculous the claims in the letters are, leading up to one letter that reads, "Half of the family dying, other half pregnant." Potter, on the other hand, dug a little deeper when Klinger tried to pull a similar stunt on him. Incidentally, Klinger has no brothers.
    Potter: Klinger, this letter is in your handwriting.
    Klinger: I translated my mother's letter, it was in Lebanese.
    Potter: Let me see it.
    Klinger: I burned it.
    Potter: Uh-huh.
    Klinger: It's part of a religious ceremony.
    Potter: Held when two brothers die in a harmonica factory?
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: Which were used in the original movie but not the series.
    Through early morning fog I see / Visions of the things to be / The pains that are witheld for me / I realize and I can see / That suicide is painless / It brings on many changes / And I can take or leave it if I please.
    • The movie version of the theme, written by Johnny Mandel and then-14-year-old Mike Altman, was a huge hit on college and community radio stations. The lyrics were probably Mistaken for Profound; at best, they're an Ice-Cream Koan; Robert Altman, who directed the film, asked for "the stupidest lyrics ever written" and his son turned them out in five minutes.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Hawkeye (constantly sanguine), Blake/Potter (choleric), Burns/Winchester (melancholic), and Trapper/BJ (phlegmatic). Despite the replacement characters all being vastly different than their predecessors, they still fill the spots left open.
  • Fox News Liberal: Winchester is a conservative version.
    Charles: (to a HUAC shill) I come from a family that would make you look like a New Dealer.
    • An insult that Hawkeye purposefully throws at Charles to make him talk visibly angers him:
      Hawkeye: Charles - your parents voted for Roosevelt (beat) four times!
  • Freudian Excuse: Frank Burns apparently had an absolutely miserable childhood.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Radar has quite the menagerie.
  • Frozen in Time: The series went 11 seasons while the shooting part of the Korean War only lasted three. Not only that, but the date given in the season 4 opener (September 19, 1952) means that the last eight seasons of the show take place over only ten months. In fact, later episodes tend to give earlier dates than earlier episodes. So we have Henry at the 4077th in 1952 and "later" Potter is there and it's 1950. Clearly they were stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop — probably why everyone complained so much about the war never ending.
    • Some explain the change in times with a theory of two M*A*S*H universes, one of which (for example) keeps Henry Blake in charge of the 4077th well into 1952 while the other has him die early in the war. (Some even go as far as to say there is a third M*A*S*H universe where Henry Blake never died and Trapper John left a note saying goodbye.)
  • Funny Background Event: Maybe not entirely in the background, but if you watch Trapper John in "Private Charles Lamb" while the Greeks are bringing food in the mess tent, he tries to open three or four jars of food while chatting with Radar using his shirt to get a grip on the tight lids. He fails to open even one.
    • In one episode, a Colonel is talking to one of his wounded soldiers who is in a full body cast, with only his eyes, mouth, and one hand visible. When the Colonel leaves, the man waves his hand goodbye.
    • In "Cowboy," as Radar helps Henry to the hospital following the jeep crashing through his tent, Mulcahy moonwalks out of the shot; even the nurse who was standing next to him turns and looks on with a bemused look on her face.
    • In "Operation Noselift", Hawkeye stops to talk to Father Mulcahy in the compound. Behind them is a parked jeep in which two soldiers sit, one reading a hard-bound medical reference and the other a comic book, comparing notes.
      • The same episode has a scene where Hawkeye is making a phone call from Henry's office, and Trapper can be seen in the background playing with a Japanese doll on Henry's desk, breaking it, and hurriedly hiding the pieces. (Later, when Hawkeye and Trapper are out in the compound, an angry Henry comes up demanding to know who broke the doll.)
    • Anytime Hawkeye and Trapper watch Frank walk right into one of their pranks, Trapper cannot keep a straight face.
    • There's a recurring stock footage shot of the 4077th compound that has four corpsman doing the Can-Can on the wooden platform near the camp entrance.
    • In, "Adam's Ribs," during Hawkeye's tirade in the Mess Tent regarding the poor selection and quality of Army chow, Radar continues to eat, even swiping food off other people's trays.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Hawkeye had a tendancy to reply to any mention of CINCOMPAC with NINCOMPOOP.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: In "Communication Breakdown," Winchester is forced to wear a shortie kimono he'd bought for his sister, after his bathrobe is stolen. He runs into Nurse Kelly, who tells him he "looks very Japanese", then asks if he speaks the language. When he replies that he does not, she bows and tells him (via subtitles), "Boy, you really look ridiculous." To which he returns the bow and thanks her.
    • In the "Dear Sigmund" episode, Klinger claims to have been hit in the head with a chopper blade and only able to speak in Arabic. Via subtitles, he tells Col. Potter things like, "My olive has no pit and there is no yolk in my egg"; "Grandfather, may your pomegranates grow as big as the Queen's fanny"; and (after Potter informs him the ploy won't work) "May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in your armpit."

  • Gas Lighting: Done to the titular character from "The Ringbanger" when Hawkeye and Trapper note how many casualties happen under his command and conspire to get him sent home.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, in his better moments.
  • Gentlemen Rankers: Nurses usually start at 2nd Lieutenant, but male nurse Barney Hutchinson was forced to start at Private. He has to pull enlisted man duty (KP, patrolling, etc.) in addition to his nursing assignments. Three weeks before he is discharged Col. Potter gives him an honorary field promotion to Lieutenant for the remainder of his tour. ("Your Retention Please")
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The Section 8 discharge that Klinger so desperately sought was intended for mental illness discharges. However in practice, it was most often used to remove personnel from the military due to overt or strongly suspected homosexuality. And Klinger was crossdressing...
    • Averted, as Freedman initially offers Klinger a discharge for being a homosexual and transvestite. Klinger angrily turns him down, saying "All I am is nuts!"
    • In the Season 2 episode "The Sniper", Radar's bare butt is shown briefly when a sniper opens fire on him as he runs back into the showers tent; however, depending on the network, some syndicated prints have a different version where he doesn't drop his towel.
    • More generally, the show had a lot of Double Entendre gags in the early years. For example:
    Frank: Oh Margaret, you're my snug harbor, I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have you to sail into.
    • In one episode, Hawkeye sees Margaret using a scalp massager on Frank. Hawkeye's response is, "Behind every great man is a woman with a vibrator."
    • How did they explain the name "Hot Lips?"
      • In the film, Margaret tells Frank to kiss her "hot lips."
    • The Tag of the pilot, with Hawkeye and Trapper handcuffed together (they were being arrested by General Hammond) was considered controversial at the time. For some reason.
    • We're actually treated to some brief side-boobage in, "The Merchant of Korea," after Margaret finishes her angry phone call to Penobscott, as she leaves Radar's office, she swings her arm far enough to reveal a little side-boob under her summer shirt.
    • Two radar moments in "Some 38th Parallel": an entire subplot focuses on a nurse wanting to get it on with Hawkeye, but he can't because he's suffering from a case of impotency. Secondly, Frank holds a garbage auction, and tries to wish the Korean bidders prosperity, but he looked up the wrong word, and instead, wishes each of them a prostitute.
    • In "Goodbye Radar pt. 2", Klinger is wheeling and dealing for a new generator when theirs is stolen. At the depot, an enormous major shows up announcing he's here to pick up HIS generator — the one that was supposed to go to the 4077 — and Max mutters Ya ibn kalb! This is "son of a dog", and considered mild enough to say to a misbehaving child, but still. (To make matters worse, the major's outfit was the one that stole the 4077's original generator.)

  • Gilligan Cut: In "Too Many Cooks", Potter is acting unusually testy and irritable. At one point, the others are trying to decide whether one of them should confront him about what's bothering him.
    Margaret: Colonel Potter is a sensible, mature man. He can work it out himself. Leave him alone if he doesn't want to talk!
    Potter: Leave me alone. I don't want to talk.
    Margaret: Sir, you have to talk to me.
  • Girl of the Week: Or, in Hawkeye's case, a Nurse of the Week.
    • Which was usually subverted in Seasons Two and Three, where he almost exclusively was paired up with Nurse Gage.
  • Glory Hound: Some of the commanding officers, like those who were determined to take some hill or other no matter what it cost in casualties.
  • Gold Fever: Deliberately inculcated in Frank by Hawkeye and Trapper, in "Major Fred C. Dobbs".
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In one episode, Margaret steals Hawkeye's and BJ's clothes while they are showering.
    • Radar did it to Hawkeye and Trapper once, when they made the mistake of making fun of him while showering.
    Hawkeye: You know without your glasses you could almost pass for offensive?
    Trapper: Hey, why don't you leave the little fellow alone.
    Radar: It's okay, I can take a joke. *steals their clothes and towels off the rack and leaves*
    Hawkeye and Trapper: Hey! Wait a minute! Where are you going? I was kidding! He was kidding! You're beautiful!
    • In "Communications Breakdown" an anonymous prankster does this to Charles (all Charles and the viewer sees is an arm reaching into the shower and stealing his bathrobe), leaving behind a only a newspaper. Its later taken Up to Eleven when the prankster steals all of Winchester's clothing and furniture from his tent.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Mulcahy.
  • Grand Finale
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Col. Potter loves this trope. Father Mulcahy attracts a little of this as Potter calls him "Padre" (Father), which is moderately common US Army slang; the rest of the cast uses "Father," but some Korean characters picked it up. Potter is not even close to being a native speaker; his pronunciation is horrendous, e.g. he pronounces "Padre" and "comprende" with an "ee" sound at the end.
    • At one point, he conducts a phone call with a Canadian unit with some very gratuitous French sprinkled in, also terribly pronounced. The viewers are collectively embarrassed for him.
  • Greater Need Than Mine
  • G-Rated Drug: Averted in "Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde". Winchester gets addicted to amphetamines, which are hardly G-Rated.
    • And in "Tea and Empathy", a wounded man is hooked on morphine and BJ helps him quit.
  • Gung Holier Than Thou: Col. Flagg is literally described as such.
    • Burns & Houlihan also qualify until they stopped going over the CO's head to General Clayton.
  • Hahvahd Yahd In My Cah: Charles Emerson Winchester III.
  • Halloween Episode: "Trick or Treatment".
  • Hand or Object Underwear: Employed by BJ in "Bottoms Up" (pillow) and Charles in "Communication Breakdown" (newspapers).
  • Handshake Refusal: Winchester's dental woes coupled with his fear of dentists. In the end of the episode, Winchester is about to shake the hand of the man who Hawkeye and BJ brought on to handle the episode's A-plot only for them to reveal he's a dentist; Winchester immediately retracts his hand, but due to his fear of dentists, not an attempt at being insulting.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Hawkeye and Trapper in particular wore a lot of Hawaiian print shirts when not in something resembling uniform.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Sparky, the telephone operator at I Corps, was a constant fixture on the other end of Radar’s calls, but was only shown on screen once, in the "Tuttle" episode. He was shown sitting at a switchboard, eating an apple and reading a Captain Marvel comic. He only got two lines of dialog, but judging from that, Sparky seemed to have a southern drawl.
    • O'Brien, the chopper pilot. Like Sparky, he is refered to many times throughout the series (particularly the first three seasons), but was only shown on screen once, in "Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde", where a sleep-deprived Hawkeye tries to convince him not to fly around in his chopper anymore, figuring that if doesn't go up with empty stretchers, he won't come back down with them occupied by bloody bodies.
    • Also, the camp's unnamed P.A. announcer, voiced at different times by Sal Viscuso or Todd Susman.
      • An interesting point with this is that sometimes it sounds like either Jamie Farr (Klinger) or Gary Burghoff (Radar) is providing that voice.
    • The episode "Who Knew?" centers around a never-seen nurse who died stepping on a landmine while going for a late-night stroll following a tryst with Hawkeye, for whom she had serious feelings (unbeknownst to him). We do hear her voice narrating her diary, as Hawkeye reads it while preparing to eulogize her.
    • Captain Tuttle. Justified in that he never actually existed in the first place.
  • Heat Wave: "The Nurses" (Season Five), "The Merchant of Korea" (Season Six), "None Like It Hot" (Season Seven), "No Sweat" (Season Nine), "The Moon Is Not Blue" (Season Eleven).
    • Season Two's "A Smattering of Intelligence" is a subtler example: there's no actual discussion about the heat in the episode (which centers around a visit from Col. Flagg), but throughout there are visual cues including Hawkeye wearing cutoff shorts, Trapper in a tank-style basketball jersey, Henry trying to fix an electric fan in his office, etc.
    • Inverted by Cold Snap episodes such as "The Long-John Flap" (Season One) "Crisis" (Season Two), "It Happened One Night" (Season Four), "Dear Sigmund" (Season Five), "The Light that Failed" (Season Six), "Baby It's Cold Outside", and "Out of Gas" (both Season Seven).
  • Heroic BSOD: Hawkeye gets one in the finale when he witnesses a mother smother her child when they're all hiding from an enemy patrol. Even worse, he feels that it's his fault; she did it after he told her they'd all get captured if she didn't keep the baby quiet.
    • A visiting surgeon (who had seemed cheerful and "as [sane] as any of us" - "that's what scares me," Hawkeye replies) suffers one in the middle of OR, walking out and wandering into a tent where he's found softly complaining that the blood won't come off.
    • Charles has an episode-long one when he is almost shot in the head by a sniper (he enters it upon seeing the twin bullet holes in his cap.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Margaret's foot locker, at least, according to her report in one episode where she's trying to replace it.
    • Mulcahy's actions in the finale can be seen as a (barely) averted one, since he left shelter during a bombardment to rescue a group of prisoners who had been left out in the open. He survived, but he lost his hearing from a near-miss artillery shell.
  • Hero of Another Story: Sidney Freedman (who works mostly at the EVAC hospital in Seoul) and the staffs of the 8055th and 8063rd (Real Life MASH units, which would be mentioned and occasionally seen, and the members of which were supposed to be at least as crazy as the members of the 4077th). And the front-line aid station personnel.
    • Several of the patients, who are recognized as such by the doctors and/or their peers. Examples include the former football player who lost his leg, the Chinese-American soldier who had been wounded several times, and the homosexual soldier who had 3 Purple Hearts.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Hawkeye and Trapper, and later Hawkeye and BJ.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Charles Winchester.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: See here, and here. The Martinis and Medicine DVD box set also includes a blooper reel as a bonus feature.
  • Historical In-Joke: In one episode Winchester mentions his family having a summer place in Hyannisport, where a large "nouveau riche" family moved in next door and got on their nerves by playing "a perpetual game of touch football on their lawn". This is clearly a reference to the Kennedy clan.
    • During the final episode, a radio announcer mentions increasing hostilities in Vietnam, prompting Klinger to ask, "Where's that?"
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: In "The Long-John Flap", Henry has a water pitcher in his office that not only doesn't belong in 1950, it doesn't even look like something from 1972... 2002, maybe...
  • Holiday Volunteering: During several Christmases the 4077th hosts the children from nearby orphanages instead of getting blind stinking drunk as they would've done otherwise.
  • Hollywood Darkness: The "Major Fred C. Dobbs" episode has some outdoor "night" scenes that were clearly shot in the daytime with a dark filter over the camera.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • Any time Frank brings charges against Hawkeye and crew, when Hawkeye is found not-guilty of whatever it is Frank was setting him up for, Frank is never brought up on any charges for falsifying statements, even when his actions could have led to Hawkeye's death.
    • When Flagg visits the camp in "Officer of the Day," he insists that Hawkeye prepare his patient so Flagg can take him to Seoul, where he intends to execute him for being a spy. Although spies may have been executed, it wouldn't have been for Flagg to do on his own.
    • Many of the stunts and hijinks pulled were incredibly illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and would have brought serious consequences.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Numerous, such as:
    • Jeeps being shot at with artillery (virtually impossible against moving targets with immobile artillery pieces) when shooting the occupants would suffice;
    • Hawkeye attempting to surrender the entire camp to a lone sniper, against orders, so they can attend to the wounded (without even trying to explain how this makes any sense);
    • Hawkeye climbing down a rope to treat a wounded soldier in a foxhole, dressed as Santa, while under direct fire, rather than the chopper landing and taking off (as was developed in Korea before its extensive use in Vietnam).
  • Hospital Hottie: Hot Lips, as well as many of the various guest nurses Hawkeye tries to bed.
    • As for the men: Hawkeye himself, BJ (especially when he didn't have that mustache), Trapper, Father Mulcahy when he was only wearing that tight, black t-shirt and Winchester in his nicer moments.
  • Huddle Shot: Two in the opening credits, and one occurred in the "Point of View" episode.
  • Humiliating Wager: In "The Joker is Wild", Hawkeye bets BJ that he can't pull a prank on each of the major characters. When BJ succeeds (sort of), Hawkeye has to stand on a table in the mess hall with his pants down and sing "You're the Top" to him.
  • Hurricane of Puns
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Radar, at least until season six or so. In fact, he was the Trope Namer at one point.
  • Hypocrite: Invoked in "Rally Round the Flagg, Boys." A patient named Basgall is enraged that Hawkeye tended to a wounded North Korean before his injured friend (as far as Hawkeye was concerned, the North Korean was wounded far worse than Baskall's buddy). During surgery Basgall hurls epiphets at Hawkeye for being a communist sympathizer, to which Hawkeye snaps back and yells at him. For much of the rest of the episode, BJ keeps telling Hawkeye about how he needs to control his temper and retain his sense of compassion and professionalism, but later when Basgall attacks Hawkeye, BJ snaps and nearly strangles him.
    BJ: (Sighs) I notice I don't practice what I preach.
    Hawkeye: Yeah. And thank you.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Majors Burns and Houlihan often displayed this in the early seasons.
    • In spite of his rank, Potter hates colonels, on the grounds that all they do is try to make as many points as they can to make general, so they can kick back and relax on their big fat rear echelons. Justified in that Potter is a medical officer and has no plans or expectation of being promoted before he retires.
  • I Choose to Stay: Of all people, Klinger in the finale.
    • Also an I Can't Believe I'm Saying This when he makes the announcement about this.
    • Margaret does this when the nurses are ordered to the rear when the line is pushed far enough south that the unit is in enemy territory.
    • Hawkeye and Margaret in "Bug Out" when they need to tend to a wounded patient.
    • Frank, after having a transfer approved and then being tricked into thinking that the area around the 4077 is filthy with gold.
  • Identical-Looking Asians:
    • In a season two episode, the Korean liaison officer semi-sarcastically explains the difficulty in finding the father of a half-American baby as, "You all look alike to us." There are also several episodes that deal with or make reference to the difficulty in people being able to tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Korean people. An Asian blackmarket salesmen posing as a general even uses the trope to deflect suspicion away from himself, claiming, "We all look the same."
      Frank Burns: [They're] clever, boy. They don't all look alike by accident, you know!
    • In the finale, Klinger's Korean fiancee (played by Rosalind Chao, Chinese-American) is looking for her family, whom she describes several times as "Short, dark hair?"
      • Perhaps a meta casting gag in that there were plenty of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese actors cast to play Koreans.
    • Humorously invoked in "To Market, To Market". Hawkeye and Trapper arrange a deal with Charlie Lee, a black marketeer, to give him Henry Blake's newly-acquired antique oak desk — without Henry's knowledge — in exchange for some Hydrocortisone. As a prelude to the deal, he shows up at Henry's office disguised as a South Korean general to examine said desk. Then, at the end of the episode after the exchange has been made, Henry sees Charlie again without the disguise:
      Henry: [suspiciously] Hey, have you got a relative who's a general?
      Charlie: [shrugging] You know how it is, Colonel. We all look alike.
  • Identity Amnesia / Napoleon Delusion: In "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?", a bomber pilot claims to be Jesus Christ. Everyone thinks he's pulling a scam at first, but it turns out losing his identity was the only way he could escape his guilt about being a long-term bombardier.
    • "The Billfold Syndrome" involves an amnesiac soldier whose condition turns out to stem from guilt over his failure to prevent his younger brother's death while they served in combat together.
    • Used by Klinger as a dodge one time. He attempted to convince everyone that he believed the 4077 was Toledo (he played off the wounded as him helping out the victims of a traffic accident). This almost worked, but, as always, he blew it at the last second.
  • I Have This Friend: Klinger tries to use this with Potter once. Potter sees through it immediately (probably because Klinger claims the "friend" is serving in a MASH unit in Cleveland) and tells him to spit it out. Klinger admits that he's found evidence that the camp's newest nurse has a serious drinking problem.
    • Another episode has Sidney Freedman visiting the 4077 and Father Mulcahy coming to him, saying he has a friend who he's kind of worried about, because "things aren't going so well for him, and he's feeling a little low". When Sidney smiles and asks who the friend is, Mulcahy tells him it's him, Sidney (who has, in fact, been feeling depressed over an uncooperative patient). They then have a nice little therapy-for-the-therapist chat.
  • I Know Karate: When administering inncolations, Major Burns, thinking a Korean boy stole his Purple Heart, warns him with "I've had two judo lessons". A few episodes later, though, he mistakes judo for a religion.
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: In "Divided We Stand", Henry offers a drink to a visiting psychiatrist who's evaluating the camp. The man declines, and Henry nervously hastens to add that he's not ordinarily much of a drinker. Then Radar enters with a couple glasses of brandy:
    Henry: Captain Hildrebrand doesn't care for any.
    Radar: Oh, then I won't bring his glass in.
  • Imperial Storm Trooper Marksmanship Academy: North Korean and Chinese soldiers could never seem to hit any of the main characters when shot at on camera.
    • Another notable example is a sniper who took several shots at two bottles of high-class scotch, eventually destroying both, then an ambulance's tire, and not actually hitting anyone.
    • And a bombing version ... Five O'Clock Charlie. The episode 'featuring' him had everyone in the camp betting on how badly he'd miss. And judging by quality of equipment and pilot, his target (a nearby ammo dump) was very low on the DPRK target priority list.
    • A sniper shooting at Klinger and Father Mulcahy continuously hit the bell behind them, but never manages to actually hit them.
    • Even the tactics the North Koreans used failed miserably. When the North Koreans were shelling the unit, they never seemed to hit anything.
      • The shells would often drop into the center of camp or, on occassion, blow up boxes and such sitting around (and sometimes the latrine). How they missed the large central building with the big red 'X' on top is anyone's guess.
    • Any time someone drove a Jeep somewhere, the North Koreans would attack it with artillery, not the best weapon to use against a single, moving target.
    • In the episode with General Stone, a sniper starts shooting at General Stone and doesn't seem to hit anything, not even the Jeep.
    • General Steele, after inspecting a swamp he wants to move the 4077 to, insists on being saluted despite the danger of tipping off any snipers. A sniper starts shooting at him, but never even gets close.
      General Steele: We can stand and fight...or we can have lunch.
      Blake and Burns: Lunch!
  • Incessant Music Madness: In "The Smell of Music", Winchester's French horn aggravates BJ and Hawkeye to the point where they refuse to bathe until he gives it up.
    • In "Your Hit Parade", Potter's insistence on repeatedly hearing "Sentimental Journey" nearly drives the rest of the unit over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: BJ was the master.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Averted in one episode when Hawkeye, having sworn off alcohol for a week, orders a drink in the Officers' Club after a long, grueling session in OR. He is just a few inches from drinking it when he decides that he would prefer to want the drink instead of need it, puts the glass back down, and leaves the club.
    • Colonel Blake frequently went straight to his liquor cabinet whenever he heard that trouble (usually in the form of a general) was coming his way. Come to think of it, he usually did the same thing even when it was good news, too.
    • Used subtly in "What's Up Doc?" upon Radar realizing that they have to kill his rabbit in order to do a pregnancy test on Margaret. While Radar loses it, a clearly exasperated Margaret grabs a bottle of liquor that Potter and Hawkeye had just been drinking from and pours herself a shot.
  • Initialism Title
  • Insane Troll Logic: In "The Novocaine Mutiny," Frank (who's temporarily in command) hears Zale complain about losing 300 dollars and he starts searching the entire camp to find the "stolen" money. Hawkeye and BJ tell him that Zale's money wasn't stolen, he just lost it in a poker game. Frank says that's impossible because he has prohibited gambling, therefore there is no gambling in the camp, therefore the money was stolen.
  • Insomnia Episode: This happened with Hawkeye a few times. He was even ordered to go to bed and responded with "not now, I need a little sleep."
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: "Suicide Is Painless", originally used (with lyrics) in the feature film.
    • The theme was rearranged several times during the show's run, albeit so subtly for the most part that the changes are hard to notice if you're not listening for them.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Frank: Pierce, you're the most unmilitary man in this man's army.
    Hawkeye: Thank you!
    • In "The Joker Is Wild", Hawkeye is reminiscing about the long-departed Trapper John and his talent at practical jokes:
      Hawkeye: Trapper was a man ahead of his time. Right, Margaret?
      Margaret: He was a ridiculous, juvenile child.
      Hawkeye: See?
  • Internal Retcon: In one of the Christmas episodes, a mortally wounded soldier is brought in, and BJ tries his best to help him. He knows it's hopeless, but BJ tries to delay the man's death because he doesn't want his kids to think of Christmas as the day their daddy died. In the end, he fails, coming up minutes short of midnight, so Hawkeye walks over to the clock and moves it ahead, telling him he died on December 26th. Hawkeye, BJ, Houlihan and Mulcahy know it's illegal, but they falsify the record and keep it secret.
  • Invented Individual: Tuttle
  • I Owe You My Life: Figures as a subplot in "Springtime" and "Operation Friendship".
  • Ironic Echo: At one point in the Grand Finale, Klinger asks Potter's advice on his being in love with Soon-Lee and how it's giving him trouble, Potter tells him, "When you're in love, you're always in trouble, so there's two things you can do: either stop lovin' 'em, or love 'em a whole lot more." Towards the end, when Klinger announces he and Soon-Lee are getting married, and that he's staying in Korea to help her find her family, he concludes with:
    Klinger: The way I see it, when you love somebody, you've got nothing but trouble, so you either stop lovin' 'em, or love 'em a whole lot more.
    • In "The Incubator", following a hard night of partying, a severely hung over Hawkeye tells Radar, "There were no survivors". This is the same thing Radar announces in "Abyssinia Henry" (though it may have been unintentional).
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: In "The Kids", Radar sings a lullaby to one of the Korean orphans, and we catch a look of sudden shock on his face as he realizes what he's singing:
    "By-low, baby, by
    By-low, baby, by
    Daddy still loves you
    Though he's gone to war."
  • I Take Offense to That Last One:
    Hot Lips: (to Henry Blake) Why don't you stop masquerading as a commanding officer? You're nothing but a spineless, mealymouthed, fly-fishing impostor!
    Trapper: He's not an impostor!
    Hawkeye: Right. He's a genuine spineless, mealymouthed fly-fisherman.
    Henry: (chuckling) Pierce, you're the limit.
  • It Has Been an Honor: In the finale Hawkeye and BJ give Col Potter a silent one by standing at attention and saluting him, something that they did very rarely throughout the course of the series.
    • Hawkeye salutes Radar in "Good-bye Radar Part 2", while in the operating room to top it off, as well as when presenting him his Purple Heart at the end of "Fallen Idol".
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Charles pronouncing "cretin" and "Iowa" as "creh-tin" and "Io-way"; Radar pronouncing zwiebac as "z-why-back"; Potter pronouncing "kudo" as "cue-do"; among others.
    • Kudo is a word?
    • We have this exchange between Frank and Klinger in "It Happened One Night:"
    Klinger: Halt!
    Frank: It's me, Major Burns!
    Klinger: What's the password?
    Frank: Uh, "ca-rib-bean."
    Klinger: I thought it was "carri-be-an."
    Frank: It's the same thing, you simp!
  • It's Always Spring: While several episodes take place in winter, due to California Doubling none of them contain any snow and feature completely green plantlife.
    • In the early seasons, the green plantlife is averted by having all exterior scenes in winter episodes taking place at night. In later seasons, this was not always done (and wouldn't have made sense for some of them anyway).
    • Although one of the Christmas episodes, "Dear Sis", does end with it beginning to snow in camp, naturally.
    • In any episode where the weather is supposed to be cold, the actors who are trying to pretend to be cold by bundling up and huddling around heaters and burning barrels, are obviously uncomfortable and sweating profusely, making it difficult to believe they're cold.
      • This was done as a Take That from the writing staff. Whenever the writers got upset with comments and complaints from the cast about scripts, they would write a winter episode to make the actors miserable.
  • It Was Here, I Swear: Little Chicago, in the "Snap Judgment" episode.
  • It Will Never Catch On: One episode has Klinger trying unsuccessfully to convince Winchester to invest in his invention - the hula hoop. (The stinger to the same episode has Winchester himself inadvertantly inventing the frisbee while discarding a pie plate.)
    • Hawkeye and BJ spent months improvising a dialysis machine, determined to provide a superior alternative to peritoneal lavage for patients with kidney problems. Peritoneal dialysis is now the preferred treatment for kidney patients who are capable of performing the procedure; all it took was the invention of a plastic bag that could safely and cheaply hold dialysate fluid, so people could do it at home.
    • Charles dismisses television as a passing fad in a later episode.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Charles graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and Trapper attended Dartmouth. BJ went to Stanford (non-Ivy, but of comparable prestige). According to "Adam's Ribs" Hawkeye seems to have graduated from the University of Chicago, a rather prestigious research school.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Jamie Farr was suggested for the (originally one-shot) part of Klinger after producer/director Gene Reynolds worked with him on F Troop, in which one episode, he played an Indian comedian named Stand-Up Bull, whose riff was basically ripping one Incredibly Lame Indian-Based Pun after another.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: In "The Trial of Henry Blake", after the elderly Nurse Cratty testifies on Henry's behalf, an admiring Hawkeye leans over and tells her, "You're beautiful." She answers, "I used to be, sonny."
  • Invented Invalid: Klinger tries many times to get out of the army, including presenting the Colonel with a letter from home saying his mother is dying. The Colonel pulls out Klinger's file filled with letters from home saying his mother is dying, father is dying, sister is dying, sister is pregnant, sister is dying and mother pregnant, etc.

  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Frank was right when he warned Margaret that Donald might not be all that he seems. Yes, he said this in an attempt at getting into her pants, but in the end, Donald was revealed to be cheating on Margaret, stealing her money, and finally requested a transfer behind her back, leading to their divorce.
    • Frank is also perhaps the only one to acknowledge the hospital is only three miles from the front line, while everyone else seems to act like it's a vacation between OR sessions.
    • Hawkeye reluctantly points out that Frank is correct in that Trapper needs a physical to diagnose what's wrong with him, which turns out to be an ulcer.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Gun fanatic Frank Burns. He frequently shot himself, and at one point, he accidentally shot BJ, for which he was relentlessly mocked.
    Frank: Sir, I think the Chinese have captured Major Houlihan.
    Col. Potter: I see. So, naturally, you shot Captain Hunnicutt.
    • One incident involved him shooting himself in the foot after stealing a high-ranking officer's beautiful revolver, which leads to the Fridge Logic that not only did Frank assume it was unloaded, but that Radar had left it loaded. He also had a particularly entertaining scene where he pulled the pin on a grenade for no good reason, and about six seconds later realized he was waving around a live grenade. Cue frantic search for the dropped pin and fumbling attempt to return it to the grenade (he found the pin and managed to get it back in the grenade).
    • When a sniper takes a shot at Hawkeye and his date in one episode, he initially assumes it was Frank being an idiot nearby with his target practice, then another shot comes in.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: BJ gaslights Hawkeye into believing he was trying to outdo Trapper's antics and was out to get him and the rest of the camp, culminating in Hawkeye sleeping outdoors in a barb wire enclosure. BJ and his "victims" reveal that they were all in on it and made up their pranks, and the real victim was Hawkeye.
    • BJ does this to Charles in another episode (in which everyone was exchanging ghost stories) by rigging a tent flap over Charles's cot to flap violently on command.
  • Kick the Dog: In, "38 Across," Frank receives a B.B. game for his birthday, and spends three days trying to get all of the B.B.s in the holes. During The Tag, he finally gets the last B.B. in, which Hawkeye intentionally slaps Frank on the back, causing him to knock all of the B.B.s loose. This is certainly one of those few times where one can't help but actually feel sorry for Frank.
    Frank: You did it on purpose! Everytime I do something special, you always ruin it!
    Hawkeye: So do it again.
  • Killing For A Tissue Sample: In one episode, Margaret thinks she might be pregnant. She asks Hawkeye to do a Rabbit Test on her (where they inject a rabbit with a urine sample from a possible mother and then dissect the rabbit to examine its ovaries). The only female rabbit available is Radar's, who refuses to allow them to kill his pet, but he will let them do the test if they promise that the rabbit won't be killed. So the doctors do an ovarectomy on Radar's rabbit.
  • The Klutz: Nurse Edwina Ferguson in "Edwina", Private Paul 'Look out below' Conway in "Too Many Cooks".
  • "Knock Knock" Joke: Hawkeye tells a couple truly awful ones in "Dear Dad...Again".
  • The Lancer: Trapper, and later BJ, were basically this for Hawkeye.
  • Language Barrier:
    • There was a language barrier between Americans who didn't speak Korean and some Korean common people didn't speak English either, though lot of them did at least to some degree.
    • It happened several times that one of the doctors was sent away to help some Koreans and got lost. They were nearly unable to communicate with people who tried to help them.
      • The amount of Korean that the various personnel speak seems to vary. In one episode, Radar is able to speak at least conversational Korean, and in another (later in the series, mind you!) is completely unable to speak any of the language. Margaret of all people seems to be the most fluent. Hawkeye is later shown to be able to read the language best of all the surgeons, although this is Justified since he has been there longest.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: Although the subject of Seasonal Rot has always been up for debate, it's often agreed that the show's ultimate turn for the worse began with Season Eight: by that time, Alan Alda and Burt Metcalfe had completely overhauled the production staff and replaced almost all of the writers, shifting the tone of the show from a sitcom with dramatic undertones to a drama with comedic undertones; with Cerebus Syndrome set in, as well the loss of Radar and an end to Klinger's Section 8 schemes - including running around in dresses (even Harry Morgan once remarked, "When we lost Radar, we essentially lost Klinger as well"), the last four seasons are much regarded as an almost entirely different show altogether.
  • Laugh Track: Employed over the objections of the producers and at the insistence of the network, though averted in the O.R. scenes (and averted entirely for certain episodes). Also not used in foreign syndication. The DVDs allow the viewer the option of turning the laugh track off if so desired.
  • Leader Wannabe: Frank Burns often would covet being the CO, and would thus relish the times when (as 2nd in command) he would be temporarily put into command (his underlings, not so much).
  • Left the Background Music On: The earliest episodes of the series actually contained music scoring throughout the whole show, as other sitcoms had a tendency to do. Starting in the second season and onward, music scoring was slowly, yet progressively, toned back; for at least a couple of seasons, background music would usually be heard in particularly lengthy comic sequences (Klinger hang-gliding out of camp, Flagg tearing apart a tent, etc.), though music buttons would be heard coming in and out of commercial breaks; for the next few seasons, those buttons were pretty much the only background music you heard; finally, by Season Eight, the show had no background music whatsoever. Burt Metcalfe's reasonings for eliminating the background music were similar to that of Larry Gelbart's reasonings for wanting to forgo the laugh track altogther: "Just like the actual Korean War".
  • Let The Past Burn: Psychiatrist Sidney Freeman convinces Col. Potter to let the camp make a bonfire, burning many non-essential items which represent the stifling Army lifestyle. "You have to let them go crazy once in a while to keep from going crazy." Freeman himself tosses his fatigues into the blaze.
    • Coincidentally, just before the final episode was filmed the show's outdoor set burned down in a wildfire.
  • Life or Limb Decision: Done in an unusual way in Season 8's "Heal Thyself". Potter and Charles are down with the mumps, and the one replacement surgeon that's shown up has been showing signs of instability. When they get a large batch of wounded, at one point Hawkeye's forced to amputate a soldier's leg because other patients don't have time for him to do anything else.
    Hawkeye: If I save this leg I lose that life!
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Only Klinger and Father Mulcahy get promoted in the show (though Burns makes Lieutenant Colonel after his departure, and Flagg goes from Lt. Col. to full Col. between appearances). Radar also received a temporary promotion (as well as a fake one to "Corporal Captain").
  • Limited Wardrobe: It's played straight when you consider that most of the people in camp are army personnel, and therefore, pretty much wear their uniforms all the time, however, it's curiously averted whenever we see a character leave for R&R, and they start packing a whole bunch of different clothes we never see them wear at all, even when they're out of uniform in camp. Hawkeye and Trapper seem to pack a lot of Hawaiian shirts, despite only wearing the same ones over and over again, and similarly, when Radar is unpacking his to stay at the 4077th rather than go home, he seems to have a lot of clothes he's pulling out of his suitcase and duffle bag.
  • Loan Shark: Winchester to BJ in "The Merchant of Korea", Rizzo to Winchester in "That Darn Kid".
  • Local Hangout: Rosie's. Also, the Officers' Club.
  • Locked in a Room: Happens to Trapper and Margaret in an early episode.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Hawkeye experiences this in "Some 38th Parallels".
    • "U.N., the Night and the Music" has Margaret falling for a Swedish soldier who suffers from this due to a war injury.
  • Long List:
    • Hawkeye seems to like to utilize this trope whenever he can, usually in describing things he will or won't do in any given situation.
    • A few characters (mostly Radar) will go into detail of all the specific paper, forms, requisitions, and such that are needed in order to obtain something that is needed.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The series had a significant cast turnover during its eleven seasons. Alan Alda (Hawkeye) and Loretta Swit (Margaret) were the only main cast present for the entire run from pilot to finale. Jamie Farr (Klinger) was introduced early in the first season, but he started off as an extra. William Christopher played Father Mulcahy beginning early in the first season, but the role was played by a different actor in the pilot. The military hospital setting made it easy to write characters in and out with the excuse of them getting drafted, transferred, and discharged.
  • Loud of War: In one episode, Hawkeye and BJ got in a showdown with Charles — they didn't like him playing the French horn, so they refused to shower until he stopped. He refused to stop.
  • Lower Deck Episode: "The Nurses"
  • Lucky Charms Title
  • Lysistrata Gambit: The "Edwina" episode has the nurses cutting the doctors off in this manner until one of them "dates" Edwina.

  • Macgyvering: In "A War for All Seasons" Hawkeye and BJ rig a primitive dialysis machine out of odds and ends, including casings from a Toledo sausage company and a washtub ordered from Sears & Roebuck.
  • Mad Brass: "The General Flipped at Dawn"
  • MAD: One of the few shows to get satirised twicenote , with "M*A*S*H*UGA" (printed during the Blake/Trapper John years), and "M*U*S*H" (printed around the time of the final episode).
  • The Magic Poker Equation
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: GI's with Korean girlfriends/wives (and sometimes children) occasionally appear often struggling to get through red tape to either get married or bring their new families back to the States with them.
  • Manly Tears: Several times, but especially in "Abyssinia, Henry". Even Frank is seen crying on hearing the news of Henry's death.
  • Mattress Tag Gag: Variant: In "The General Flipped at Dawn", Henry dons a new set of fatigues in anticipation of Gen. Steele's arrival. He asks Radar if there are any tags visible, and Radar tears one off from the back of the pants before reading: "Do not remove this tag under penalty of Federal Code 764-J."
    Henry: Boy, you get me in trouble and I'm gonna have your keister.
  • Meaningful Echo: Provided by Sidney Freedman in the finale.
    "You know, I told you people something a long time ago, and it's just as pertinent today as it was then. Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: Pull down your pants and slide on the ice."
  • Meaningful Name: Back home, the O'Reilly's have a goat named Randy, who apparently like to try and mate with other animals on the farm. In fact, in a letter from home, Randy had tried to kiss a turkey.
  • Medal of Dishonor: BJ in "Bombshells".
  • The Medic
  • Meganekko: Lt. Simmons, a nurse Radar pursues in "Springtime".
  • The Men First
  • Mildly Military: Justified somewhat by the Real Life Army practices of drafting civilian doctors in wartime, and automatically giving all M.D.s the rank of Captain.
    • Very few of the non-draftees wear the appropriate uniform or haircut.
    • No main character in the entire series ever seems to wear a unit patch on the left sleeve to identify his division as was (and still is) the common practice at the time. One-shot characters will sometimes have a patch on, like the Colonel with V.D. who wore a 1st Cavalry patch.
    • It's extremely unlikely someone dressing and behaving like Klinger would have been tolerated in any military unit in the early fifties. More than likely he would have gotten a dishonorable discharge just to get him the heck out of there.
      • Lampshaded by Blake and Potter; they are willing to put up with his shenanigans because he is a highly competant corpsman despite his crossdressing and stunts.
  • Military Moonshiner: There's always been a distillery in the Swamp, but it's been three different stills. The first (which looked radically different) was destroyed by Frank Burns in the pilot episode and rebuilt in the design that was seen for the rest of the show. The second was totaled by BJ in the episode after Radar's departure. The third iteration of the still survived to the end of the show, but it's not clear what exactly happened to it; presumably it was discarded, as Hawkeye and BJ would have no need for it at home.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: In "The Joker Is Wild", a hyena can be heard in the background when Hawkeye is sleeping outside. Hyenas are indigenous to Africa.
    • Radar's menagerie of pets includes a skunk. Those don't exist in Asia.
  • Mix and Match: In the finale Klinger marries a Korean woman and in a act that surprises everyone (including himself) decides to stay in Korea temporarily to help locate her family.
    • One the flip side are Korean women abandoned by the GI father of their child. Both mother and child suffer from ostracism from society and rejection from their families. Sadly this is Truth in Television for many mixed race children born in countries at war.
      • And further exacerbated by the fact, mentioned on the show, that while most countries with troops in Korea offered assistance to the children of their service personnel and Korean women, no such support was forthcoming from the US.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: Radar (spying on Hawkeye) in "I Hate a Mystery"; Klinger (attempting to escape the 4077) in "Dear Peggy".
    • Colonel Flagg hides inside a garbage can for a meeting with Charles in "Rally 'Round the Flagg, Boys".
  • Modern Major General: Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake is a top-notch surgeon, but is clearly out of his depth as commanding officer of a M*A*S*H unit.
  • The Mole: The "Dear Comrade" episode involves a North Korean spy who infiltrates the 4077 posing as Winchester's houseboy.
  • Momma's Boy: Frank. He became a doctor as per her wishes, he keeps her picture by his cot, and when he flips his lid over Margaret's engagement, Radar places a call to his mother.
  • Mood Whiplash: Too many to list, but "Yankee Doodle Doctor" in particular stands out, both In-Universe and out. After doing Groucho Marx-esque gags throughout the film, Hawkeye ends it by sitting next to a critically injured patient and explaining that despite doing all they could, he has a 50/50 chance of surviving his wounds, and that they just can't save everyone.
  • My Nayme Is: Sidney Freedman. It's actually brought up in one episode, where Hawkeye spells it out to Flagg: "Two 'E's, as in "Freedom". Flagg even later confronts Sidney; "I've done a lot of reading about you, Dr. Freedman with two 'E's."
  • Naked People Are Funny: Done to great effect.
  • Narrator: In the "Dear ______ " episodes.
  • Near Death Clairvoyance: "Follies of the Living - Concerns of the Dead" is a combination of this and Fever Dream Episode.
  • Never Lend to a Friend:
    • "The Merchant of Korea" has Winchester loaning money to BJ and then proceeding to treat him like a servant, expecting him to do everything he wants. For some reason BJ grudgingly complies, even though he already has the money and these conditions were never discussed when he asked for the loan.
    • Another episode has Frank and Hot Lips arguing over this, including the obligatory mention of the "neither a borrower nor a lender be" quote from Hamlet.
  • New Year Has Come: "A War for All Seasons"
  • Nice Hat: Henry's bucket-style fishing hat; Colonel Potter's WW1 campaign hat; Klinger's Toledo Mud Hens cap (and, in the earlier seasons, his impressive collection of feminine millinery); Father Mulcahy's panama hat; Radar's wool knit cap; Trapper and BJ's straw hats; Winchester's childhood wool toboggan cap.
    • Though he doesn't wear them often, Hawkeye has a few nifty-looking hats: a floppy camo hat that he wears in a few first-season episodes (it turns up in the opening credits), a straw cowboy hat, a propeller beanie, etc.
    • Also Frank's wool knit cap, worn only in the TV interview show, for the rather obvious reason that it allows him to display his rank insignia prominently at all times when on camera (even in the OR, as he wears it under his surgical cap with the front pulled down to show the insignia).
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Both North and South Koreans are called "gooks" by unsympathetic guest characters.
    • Truth in Television, regrettably. The tern "gook" was coined during the Korean War and was later used more famously in Vietnam. It's derived from "Miguk", the Korean word for the United States. Apparently, American soldiers thought the Koreans were identifying themselves as "gooks" in Hulk Speak ("Miguk" sounds like "me gook"). And yes, all too many American soldiers didn't even bother to make a distinction between the South Koreans they were defending and the North Koreans they were fighting, viewing them all as "just gooks".
    • The North Koreans are also referred to as "unfriendlies" on a couple occasions.
  • No Name Given: In the episode "Lil" when Hawkeye tries to figure out what "BJ" stands for. Every record Hawkeye can find (even BJ's official personnel file) lists the name as simply BJ, much to Hawkeye's chagrin. As revealed in the end of that episode, BJ was named after his parents: his mother Bea and his father Jay. Thus there shouldn't be any periods after the letters. He's not B.J., he's BJ.
    • Radar's first name (Walter) was not revealed until "Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler".
    • Maxwell Q. Klinger's middle name was never revealed.
  • Noodle Incident: The origin of Margaret's nickname, "Hot Lips," is this in the series. Hawkeye uses it in the pilot episode, but when General Hammond arrives later in the episode and uses it, they react like they've never heard it before; Hawkeye simply stumbled onto an embarrassing nickname she already had. The origin is known to the audience and all of the characters in the novel and movie.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: When Hawkeye and Potter are pinned in a foxhole and Hawkeye must actually fire his pistol, Potter cocks the hammer first. Which means Hawkeye carries it hammer down, which on a 1911note  is actually the least safest way to carry it (John Browning designed it this way, so no matter how much you drop a cocked 1911, it will never accidentally discharge).
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Parodied by Father Mulcahy, of all people.
    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    A bag of peanuts at my feet.
    If I die before I wake,
    Give them to my brother Jake.
    • Followed by a full fifteen seconds of the other cast members in the tent laughing uncontrollably. It's unclear whether they just lost it, or they were scripted to laugh.
  • Obfuscating Disability:
    • In "Deal Me Out", Radar apparently hits an elderly Korean villager with a jeep. When the man demands $50 not to report Radar to the MPs, a visiting officer susses out that he's a notorious con man known as "Whiplash Wang".
      • Reprised in "Exorcism" with a twist. Frank warns that this too may be a scam, until the man's granddaughter explains that the old man was trying to frighten away a demon he believes has possessed him.
    • Klinger employs this (and/or Playing Sick) in some of his dodges. Once he faked fainting spells, and another time he pretended to have crippling depression. Averted, however, in the one time that he was actually ill (he had anemia) but everyone else assumed he was faking. His response to their claims for faking points out that while he may play a scam or obfuscate to try and get out, he has never done it when peoples lives are on the line and he is needed in surgery.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted by Klinger.
    • Also tried unsuccessfully by Hawkeye to get leave in the episode "Bananas, Crackers and Nuts."
    • In "Fade Out, Fade In", Klinger enlists the services of a "lawyer" who turns out to be using this.
    • Subverted by a one-off character, Corporal Miller, in the episode "Major Topper," whom Klinger is convinced is faking. After Miller returns to the states and makes a fortune off of the toys he was able to make based on his experiences in Korea, Klinger is convinced Miller was a fake until Klinger reads part of Miller's letter where Miller asks Klinger if anyone could describe the glider Miller claims to have seen.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: They're in the Army, after all, so the 4077th occasionally find themselves dealing with one or more of these.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: When some of the characters are riding in a chopper, and it's clear it's not the actual actors.
  • Office Golf: Henry.
  • An Officer and a Gentleman: Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, as his Boston Blue Blood accent would suggest, tries to affect this trope most of the time.
  • Oh, Cisco!
  • Old Soldier: Colonel Potter.
  • Once a Season:
    • Up until Cerebus Syndrome set in, the writers and producers made it a point to have at least one episode each season that was far more serious in tone, or subject matter (such as "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" from Season 1, or "George" from Season 2).
    • Beginning with Season 3's "O.R.", there would also be at least one or two episodes per season where the laugh track would be omitted entirely.
  • The Oner: "Point Of View" has several, including an Epic Tracking Shot that begins over the hill and ends on the helipad.
  • One Steve Limit:
    • Trapper John McIntyre, Francis John Patrick Mulcahy, Ugly John Black, Ho-Jon.
    • Henry's wife's name was originally Mildred (later Lorraine), while Potter's wife was also named Mildred (as well as a girl Trapper had a one-night stand with in Chicago).
    • Both Trapper and Frank's wives names were Louise.
    • Played straight in an episode where the hospital had to examine and treat five different locals, all named Kim Luck. (It was their Kim Lucky day.)
      • In addition to them, Trapper almost adopted a presumed orphaned boy whose name was Kim, and Hawkeye also helped one of the medics marry his Korean baby-mama, whose name was also Kim. Mind you, "Kim" is a family name in Korea, not a personal name; and it is more common than Smith in English speaking countries. So it's actually more surprising that even more characters weren't named Kim.
    • Various different nurses went through the names Able, Baker, Gage, Mitchell, Anderson, Simmons, among others.
    • Radar had two different pets (one was a bunny, the other was a guinea pig) that were named Bongo.
    • In "Mail Call Three", we learn there's at least one other Capt. Benjamin Pierce serving in Korea, and having his letters mixed up with Hawkeye's.
    • Peggy Hunnicutt and Peggy Bigelow.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: On one occasion, Dr. Freedman was asked to help out in O.R.; as a psychiatrist he is a qualified medical doctor, but he's not a surgeon, and as Sidney put it: "medical school was a long time ago".
    • Spearchucker as well. He commented once that "anything outside of the head, and I'm lost" while performing surgery on a patient's abdomen.
    • Margaret Houlihan is also taught by Hawkeye to perform emergency surgery note . Despite her protestations that as a nurse she is not trained and legally cannot perform surgery, she performs very capably.
    • And even the Padre can perform basic surgical procedures when assisting in the OR.
  • And one gifted doctor, temporarily with the 4077th, turns out not to be a qualified doctor at all - he is a Walter Mitty who is pretending to be a doctor. Hawkeye notes that for a guy with no medical training he's still ten times better than Frank Burns and never lost a patient.
  • Open Secret: Frank and Margaret's relationship in seasons 1-4. Father Mulcahy was the only one who didn't know officially but did suspect.
  • Operation Blank: "Operation Noselift", "Operation Friendship"
  • Opposites Attract: Laid-back Hawkeye and hard-nosed Margaret had quite a few Foe Yay and Tsundere-type moments throughout the series, especially in times when Margaret expressed disappointment in her marriage to Donald Penobscot. Perhaps as a result of this, she became more laid-back herself, and started showing a rapport with the snobbish Charles in the last three seasons or so.
  • Or So I Heard: In "Adam's Ribs":
    Hawkeye: Don't you come from Chicago, Klinger?
    Radar: No, he's from Toledo.
    Klinger: But I get my lingerie from Chicago.
    Trapper: And it's beautiful. (after the others turn and look at him) I hear.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Captain Newsome in "Heal Thyself."
  • Out with a Bang: "Iron Guts Kelly" combines this with a bit of Of Corpse He's Alive.
  • Paranoia Gambit: "The Joker is Wild". BJ bets Hawkeye he can prank eveyone in the camp, and as his pranks intensify and everyone but Hawkeye gets pranked, he sleeps outside within a barb wire enclosure. Then at the end, BJ and his "victims" reveal that no one was pranked, and Hawkeye was the only one pranked. So technically, BJ lost the bet.
    • In another escalating prank war initiated by Charles, after they drop a dummy on her while in bed, Margaret tells BJ she sent a letter to his wife detailing their year long affair, and that Hawkeye set them up. It's actually another Kansas City Shuffle, on Charles.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Frequently displayed by Frank Burns and (especially) Colonel Flagg.
  • Pie in the Face: Father Mulcahy gets one (thrown by Margaret and meant for Hawkeye and BJ) in "An Eye for a Tooth".
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: In a moment of ill-considered "manliness", Frank pulls the pin out of a grenade with his teeth and spits it away. Then he realizes what he's done and starts desperately searching for it.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Colonel Blake, much of the time.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Hawkeye's nudist magazines, and Radar's reference to looking at National Geographic when his Uncle Ed wasn't around.
    • Additionally, Radar's holes drilled in the nurses' shower tent.
    • And Hawkeye was prone to bribing Radar by offering him to look at the nurses' x-rays.
    • Henry's movies from Cuba and his Japanese prints.
  • Porn Stache: Donned by BJ beginning in season 7.
    • Ugly John also sported one.
  • P.O.V. Cam: "Point of View"
  • The Prankster: BJ especially, but other characters (Hawkeye, Trapper, Charles) take on this role in various episodes as well. Even Frank Burns gets to try his hand at this in "Showtime".
    • The season 11 episode "The Joker Is Wild" turns the entire camp into Pranksters. Although they're eventually revealed to have all been collaborating on a master pranking of Hawkeye by BJ.
  • Precision F-Strike: The usually timid and soft-spoken Radar once lets loose an exasperated "Hell!"
  • Pregnancy Scare: A subplot of "What's Up Doc?" has Margaret believing she's pregnant after having spent R&R in Tokyo with Penobscott, and worries that giving birth will result in an automatic discharge. For confirmation, Hawkeye borrows Radar's female bunny for Margaret's pregnancy test, which turns up negative. Apparently, Margaret was simply having gallbladder problems.
  • Present Day Past
  • Pretty in Mink: Klinger, although one was used as a plot point before he stopped cross-dressing.
  • Promotion Not Punishment: Klinger is threatened with this. In his continued efforts of trying to get a discharge from the Army by running around in dresses, among other things, Frank, at one point, says to him, "I've warned you, that crazy stuff's not gonna wash with me! The next time I find you in a floppy hat, or a brassiere... I'll promote you!"
    • On one occasion, Klinger recalls trying to convince his draft board he was crazy. He was told, "Keep this up and we'll make you an officer."
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Jamie Farr (season 4), William Christopher (season 5).
  • Pungeon Master: Most of the characters at times, but Hawkeye and BJ in particular.
  • Punished for Sympathy: "The Trial of Henry Blake" puts this into perspective: in an attempt to have Henry relieved of duty as commanding officer of the 4077th, Margaret and Frank have him charged with a number of misdemeanors, including giving aid and comfort to North Koreans. In actuality, Henry had been contributing penicillin, among other drugs, to an elderly American nurse who runs a clinic in enemy territory dedicated to aiding poverty-stricken civilians.
  • Put on a Bus: Henry, Trapper, Frank, and Radar are all Put on a Plane and sent back to the States. (In Henry's case, the plane crashes, literally and figuratively.)
    • Each of these people get a mention in the final two episodes: Hawkeye and BJ contribute items once belonging to Radar and Henry for the time capsule, they explain to Charles that nothing of Frank's would be included due to his incompetence, and when BJ leaves for home in the series finale without leaving Hawkeye a farewell note, Hawkeye laments that Trapper did the same thing.

  • Quietly Performing Sister Show: Roll Out!. Airing for only one season in 1973, it too was created by Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, as CBS decided to try and have another military sitcom with M*A*S*H's success to bolster it. It didn't work out that way though, and today is virtually all but forgotten.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat/Quoting Myself: Margaret asks Frank for a loan.
    Frank: "Neither a lender nor a borrower be." Polonius.
    Margaret: "To give and not count the cost." St. Ignatius Loyola.
    Frank: "The holy passion of friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last throughout a whole lifetime if not asked to lend money." Mark Twain.
    Margaret: "Blow it out your ear." Margaret Houlihan.
  • Radish Cure: Father Mulcahy cures a dog of its liquor-stealing habits by giving the dog all the whiskey it can drink. One massive hangover later, and the dog refused to touch alcohol ever again.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: "The Novocaine Mutiny" has Hawkeye and Frank narrating very different versions of the same events during a court-martial hearing.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Used basically the same way twice.
    • In one episode the insufferable and obnoxious Major Frank Burns slips and injures his back in a "normal" accident on the base which requires routine intervention. He browbeats Colonel Henry into accepting the logic that as the 4077 M*A*S*H* is officially a front-line military hospital which shares front-line perils like occasional shelling and sniping, his "wound" was sustained in the front lines, and therefore merits a Purple Heart. Henry, grudgingly, gives in and writes the citation. Meanwhile Hawkeye and Trapper are dealing with a real American hero: a fifteen year old boy who lied about his age to enlist in the Marines. Hawkeye wrestles with the ethical dilemma about breaching a patient's confidence, but exposes the youth to the Military Police. He is to be discharged from the Marines and sent home to his parents. Hawkeye and Trapper sweeten the pill by stealing Frank's medal and re-presenting it to a soldier who really was wounded in combat.
    • Frank claims a Purple Heart because when he cracked open his breakfast egg some of the eggshell got in his eye. The official medical records read "shell fragment" and since they're a frontline unit, it counts as a war wound. Hawkeye & BJ steal Frank's Purple Heart medal and give it to a Korean baby born at the hospital whose mother had a harrowing time getting to the unit before she gave birth.
    • In "Bombshells", Potter has BJ awarded the Bronze Star after hearing that BJ had helped a chopper escape while under fire - he likely did not hear that BJ was forced to cut a rope to wounded soldiers, abandoning one to either death or capture. BJ gives it to a wounded soldier for "getting out in one piece".
    • In his introductory episode Colonel Potter reveals he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal during the First World War. Though he is correct that it is unavailable to officers, he served before the medal was established and the retroactive dates only go to 1940.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The show started out playing the theme music throughout each episode like most sitcoms of the era, but starting in season two it was reserved for extended comedy sequences. By season eight was gone entirely, though the bugout footage from season five did include the marching version of the theme song. This was done because, as Burt Metcalf put it, it was done to be "just like the actual Korean War." The Canned Laughter forced on the show by CBS was phased out as the show progressed, being removed from certain episodes and absent completely in the finale.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • "Preventive Medicine" was originally scripted to have Hawkeye and BJ falsely diagnose a gung-ho Colonel with appendicitis and then remove his (healthy) appendix, to keep him from resuming his command and getting more soldiers needlessly killed. However, Mike Farrell objected, believing the removal of a healthy organ was wrong and could never be justified and also because he felt BJ would never do such a thing, even if it was for the best possible reasons. Alan Alda felt that removing a reckless, dangerous man from command in order to save lives was worth it. Their argument was actually written into the episode. As was the reconciliation at the end, as apparently the actors had been at odds with each other over the matter.
    • The various instances of main characters being Put on a Bus probably counts as well as those actors all wanted out for one reason or another - Wayne Rogers and MacLean Stevenson resented being treated as sidekicks to Alan Alda (additionally Rogers had been at odds with the producers over his contract while Stevenson couldn't cope with the tough working conditions of the Fox Ranch), Larry Linville was tired of playing Frank and his contract was up, and Gary Burghoff had personal problems as well as a thinning hairline to deal with (by the time he left he looked like George Costanza).
  • Really Dead Montage: "Abyssinia, Henry"
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Hawkeye, obviously, though surprisingly he is portrayed as more or less monogamous with Nurse Gage during the second and third season. During the Dramatic Mash phase, his womanizing slowly cuts back as he becomes more generally respectable, and he gets a couple of episodes where his attitude is called into question by himself.
    • Trapper John is as bad as Hawkeye when it comes to chasing, and unlike him is actually married back home.
    • Hot Lips Houlihan is this during the Comedic Mash phase, as she not only tends to have had intimate relationships with the visiting officers (her promiscuity is her worst-kept secret, and alongside her passionate love affair with Frank Burns is why she has her nickname), but also tends to make use of these relationships to further various schemes she and/or Frank make. This aspect pretty much gets cut completely during the Dramatic Mash phase.
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: In "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", there's a wounded kid (played by Ron Howard) who lied about his age to get into the army and impress a girl back home. Hawkeye discovers this and initially agrees to keep his secret, but after seeing a buddy die on the operating table from wounds received in combat, he changes his mind and turns the kid in.
    Kid: I'll hate you for the rest of my life!
    Hawkeye: Let's hope it's a long and happy hate.
  • Real Time: "Life Time"
  • Reassigned To Korea: How Henry Blake ended up in the 4077th. He was in Honolulu when he responded to an order for a coffee enema by asking, "With cream and sugar?"
    • Also applies to Charles, who happened to be beating his CO at cribbage (to the tune of several hundred dollars) when the request for Frank's replacement came.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Frank Burns, who seems dangerously unaware of basic firearm safety for a military officer. He has both wounded a fellow officer (BJ) and shot himself in the foot.
    • Not to mention the time that he blew up an Army ammo dump (though it was technically Hawkeye that made it happen - Burns' crew was about to refuse the order).
  • Recurring Character:
    • Colonel Sam Flagg - the overzealous Intelligence officer.
    • Major Sidney Theodore Freedman - the divisional psychiatrist.
    • Private Igor Stramensky - the 4077th's mess tent server.
    • Sergeant Zelmo Zale - the 4077th's supply sergeant.
    • Sergeant Luther Rizzo - the 4077th motor pool sergeant.
    • Cho Man Chin - the swindling Korean peddler.
    • Rosie - the proprietor of the Local Hangout just outside of camp.
    • Klinger and Father Mulcahy started out as this before eventually becoming regulars.
    • The numerous nurses and the handful of generals as well.
  • Retirony: the soldiers who died often suffered from this, as did Henry Blake.
    • BJ takes extreme measures to negate some of the irony in "Death Takes a Holiday".
  • Red Wire Blue Wire: In an episode where an unexploded bomb lands in the compound and the doctors are given instructions on how to disarm it.
  • Reunion Show: Memories of M*A*S*H (1991) featured clips and pre-recorded interviews with the cast members; 30th Anniversary Reunion (2002) had the producers and surviving cast members getting together for a roundtable discussion.
    • Done in an episode by having the families of the 4077 personnel gather in New York for a weekend together to bond and lament missing their loved ones.
  • Right Behind Me: Invoked a few times in earlier seasons, whenever Frank and/or Margaret would barge in to register complaints with Henry, while Henry is preoccupied with reading sports magazines, or even sleeping, and casually mentioning to Radar what pains they are.
    Henry: Frank Burns has got to be the biggest horse's patoot in this man's army.
    Frank: You think so?
    Henry: *Hums innocently while turning around to find Frank in his office*
  • Right on the Tick: Five O'Clock Charlie
  • Road Trip Episode: The two-part Season 4 premiere "Welcome to Korea" (BJ's debut) was one of these.
    • Also, "Rainbow Bridge" and "Aid Station" (Season 3); "The Bus" (Season 4); "Bug Out" (Season 5); "Comrades in Arms" (Season 6); "C*A*V*E" (Season 7); "The Yalu Brick Road" (Season 8).
    • A significant chunk of the series finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", takes place away from Uijeongbu: the beach party in Incheon, the mental hospital where Hawkeye is treated by Sidney, and the temporary camp where the 4077th relocates after the wildfire forces them to bug out.
  • Running Gag:
    • For no readily apparent reason, every episode that features Colonel Flagg also features someone named Perkins - usually with the rank of Captain, and usually not their actual name. Also, not actually a gag.
    • Throughout the first season:
    Henry: Folks, could I have your attention, please?
    (Everyone ignores him and keeps talking)
    Radar: (Stands up) QUIET!!!
    (Everyone shuts up)
    Henry: Thank you, Radar.
    • A group of characters introducing each other by rank: "General, captain." "Major, general." "Colonel, major." "Captain, colonel." And so forth.
    • Tried out in a couple of episodes:
    Henry: (To a visitor) These are Captains Pierce...
    Hawkeye: (Interrupting and gesturing to Trapper) And these are Captains McIntyre.
    • In the early seasons, the majors going to Henry's office to complain about something and Margaret doing all the talking for Frank, usually leading to a snarky comment from Henry.
    • Henry's awkward sex lectures.
    • Frank and Margaret exchanging secret knocks prior to his entering her tent. Subverted on at least one occasion by having Radar enter instead.
      • Subverted on another occasion where Hawkeye and Trapper enter... then later, when Margaret lets Frank in without knocking, he mentions it, to which she replies, "Frank, EVERYBODY knows our secret knock."
    • Hawkeye/Trapper/BJ greeting Frank with "Hello", "Good morning", etc. and Frank automatically taking it as an insult.
    • Various characters waking Radar up in the middle of the night to make a stateside phone call, since he's the only one who knows how to operate the telephone system; we even have this exchange on one occasion:
      Radar: Why can't anybody ever use this darn phone during the day time?!
      BJ: I'm sorry Radar, I can't wait that long, look, I owe you one...
      Radar: Boy, if I had an hour sleep for everytime somebody ever said that to me!
      • Ironically, Radar explained to Frank in an earlier episode that it's no use trying to phone the States in the middle of the (Korean) afternoon, because it's last night there. "By this time, everybody's gone to bed and already said, 'See you tomorrow'."
    • Hawkeye spends much of the first couple seasons kidding Radar mercilessly about his short stature.
    • The latrine has an odd habit of bad things happening to it, i.e. getting hit by mortar fire, run over by tanks, towed away to North Korea...
    • The PA announcer making disparaging comments about the Mess Tent food and/or the movie that's going to be shown later. For example, "Tonight's movie is a holdover from last week and will be shown right after supper, which is also a holdover from last week."
    • An episode-specific instance: In the episode "Bottle Fatigue", Charles is upset about a letter his sister sent him with news of her engagement to an Italian. His attempts at making contact with her include him specifying that he's trying to get a hold of someone in Boston. Each time, whoever he is speaking to asks him to clarify, which is followed by him angrily declaring, "Yes! Boston, Massachusetts!"
  • Sad Clown: Hawkeye. But don't tell him that.
  • Sarcasm Failure
  • Scenery Censor: Hawkeye's naked stroll through the compound in "Dear Dad...Again". They even moved the signpost to just beside the door of the Swamp to complete the effect. (It normally stands in an open area in the middle of camp.)
    • Also done with Hawkeye and BJ after Margaret steals their robes from the shower in "An Eye for a Tooth", and with Winchester after Hawkeye pulls down his pants in the O.R. in "Bottoms Up".
  • Scrabble Babble: In "Mad Dogs and Servicemen".
    Hawkeye: "Vailness". A quality of "vail". The act of "vailing". To be full of "vaily".
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!: Subverted actually, as most of the personnel in camp were simply "acting crazy to keep their sanity". After all, the instant the wounded arrive, the staff drop their hijinks and get to work with the utmost professionalism beyond their usual snarky banter.
    • Most of the Season 2 premiere, in which a psychiatrist is sent to the 4077th to determine if the personnel have begun to succumb the stress of operating so close to the front and that the unit should be disbanded and everyone reassigned. He's completely certain that they should be, until a batch of wounded show up and suddenly this bunch of total nutbars turn into the most efficient medical operation he's ever seen. He gets drunk and gives his report to the general while drunk.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: Father Mulcahy's nickname of "Dago Red", used once in the pilot and then never again in the series. In a way, this inverts the movie, where he was initially introduced by his name, and then always addressed by his nickname after that.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage:
    • Played straight by BJ Hunnicutt, who is (almost) completely faithful to his wife because of this. The one or two times he does get seduced he feels awful about it afterwards.
    • Played with between Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan. The former is married but is having an ongoing relationship with Margaret. When Margaret gets engaged he thinks they can still fool around but she shoots him down.
  • Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl: Nancy Sue Parker, in "Henry in Love".
  • Series Continuity Error: The show had quite a few of these.
    • Early on, Hawkeye is said to be from Vermont, have a sister and his mom still alive; later he's from Maine, an only child and his mother died when he was ten.
      • In the novel, his mother is dead but he has a brother.
    • Colonel Potter's hometown is Hannibal, MO, but for some reason, in one episode, it's changed to Nebraska, and in another it's Montana.
      • Possibly Justified by his time in the Army. Moving from place to place usually prevents one from setting down roots, which became a plot point when he mentions that Mildred had demanded they buy a house in Hannibal so that they would have a permanent home instead of constantly changing military housing.
    • During BJ's earlier appearances, he mentions that his daughter, Erin, is two years old, however, in the finale, he's upset at the prospect of missing her second birthday.
      • He also says he and his wife went out for the first time after Erin was born and returned home to find his orders to ship out to Korea had come through.
    • In "Last Laugh", BJ claims that his friend Bardonaro played a practical joke at BJ's wedding and that they both gave up practical joking "ten years ago" (Presumably after they both graduated from Medical School and after BJ's wedding). 1953-10=1943-both BJ and Bardonaro would have been drafted in World War II; yet Bardonaro wears only Korean War medals on his dress jacket. In "Welcome to Korea" BJ's age is given as 28, which means BJ went to Medical School at 14 and graduated at 18.
    • Radar's virginity. It's established in the original novel and movie that he's lost his virginity, as an example of being corrupted by wartime impulses; when the series begins, Radar is a virgin (and the fact is even played with on occasion); in an early Season Three episode, it is heavily implied that he loses his virginity to a nurse of the week; afterwards, he's back to being a virgin, and seemingly stays that way.
      • Radar is more than happy to smoke Colonel Blake's cigars and sneak his whiskey when he isn't around, but is introduced to them for apparently the first time by Colonel Potter.
      • In one early episode Colonel Blake discovers Radar has a tattoo while giving him a physical. A much later episode has a subplot about Radar contemplating getting a tattoo for the very first time.
    • Within the same season, Frank mentions having taken two Judo lessons, then, just a few episodes later, Frank confuses Judo for a religion.
    • The 4077 staff's ability to speak Korean. At times Radar can speak it conversationally, other times it's like he's unaware Korean is even a language. Hawkeye is seen practicing Korean a couple of times, but doesn't seem to have picked it up. Father Mulcahy speaks a few words, but Margaret is the only one that is particularly fluent.
      • And even that wasn't entirely consistent: in the episode where the 4077th adopts a seemingly orphaned boy, Margaret tries to read him a bedtime story, but is constantly checking with an English-to-Korean dictionary throughout the story in an attempt to translate for him.
    • The year the show is supposed to take place changes repeatedly, from 1950 in the pilot to (reasonably) 1953 by "Rainbow Bridge" in season three (based on a real incident), then Potter's arrival in September 1952 and a passing reference several episodes later to General Eisenhower's visit to Korea in 1952 in "The Late Hawkeye Pierce", then New Year's Day 1951 and 1952 in "A War for All Seasons" (which did the most damage) note , an episode covering China's entrance to the war in October 1950 with MacArthur's statement of "This is an entirely new war" announced on the PA, and a near constant reference to General MacArthur being in command throughout the show's run (MacArthur was relieved of command in spring 1951 for insubordination).
    • Before Radar's discharge, Klinger was a reasonably competent substitute clerk. One episode after Radar leaves, Klinger has trouble doing even the most basic duties until he gets help from Potter and Mulcahy.
    • In "Comrades in Arms Part 2", while demonstrating a new vascular surgery at the 8063, Margaret mentions the clamp they use was invented at the 4077, yet three episodes later in "Patient 4077", they actually make the clamp.
    • In "For Want of a Boot" in Season Two, it's the dead of winter, and it's Frank's birthday, however, later in "The Most Unforgettable Characters", it's Frank's birthday again, yet it's the middle of June.
    • Potter's age and service in the First World War. He mentions he lied about his age to join in "Change of Command", and in "Foreign Affairs" he mentions he fell in love with a French woman named Danielle twenty years his senior. But, in "Pressure Points", he says he's 62, which would put his date of birth in 1889 or 1890, making him at least 27 by the time the US entered the war. He also mentions he was inspired to join the cavalry by Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, so while it could be possible he joined before the war, he also states he joined in 1917.
    • At the end of "Smilin' Jack", the PA announcer makes a reference to the battle of Solma-Ri, also known as "Gloucesters Hill" or the battle of the Imjin River, in which 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment held off overwhelming Chinese forces for four days, from 22 to 25 April 1951. note  However, two episodes later in "Deluge", China has intervened in the war, entering Korea with 30 divisions, totalling 300,000 troops, which occured on 3 November 1950, and a reference is made to General MacArthur's statement of "we now face an entirely new war", which he made to the Joints Chiefs of Staff on 28 November 1950.
    • In "Mail Call", Hawkeye says this is his second war. But then mentions that he was drafted. If he had served in WW II he would have had a 4A classification for prior service, making him exempt.
      • In "The Novocaine Mutiny", Burns is stated to have been drafted as a doctor, but other episodes state he was a reservist who was activated when the war broke out.
    • Mulcahy's piano playing skills, or lack thereof, seem to change all the time. On some occasions, he can actually play the piano quite well, especially when it comes to ragtimes or waltzes, but most of the time, his playing leaves a lot to be desired, either rendering the tune unrecognizable, or having trouble finding where the music ends.
  • Serious Business: In "Sons and Bowlers", the 4077 has a bowling match against a Marine unit, and Col. Potter makes it abundantly clear that winning it is very, very important to him.
  • Shameful Source Of Knowledge: In "Tea and Empathy", a passing soldier confesses to Father Mulcahy that he was involved with the Black Market, and reveals that stolen penicillin is kept under an old bell at a burn-out school house. As it turns out, the 4077th is having a dire penicillin shortage and can't obtain any new supply, leaving Mulcahy conflicted about what he should do about what he knows about the whereabouts of some penicillin.
  • She's Got Legs: Those rare moments when Margaret wears a skirt, or shorts, or a short nightgown, or runs out of the shower wearing only a towel (and curiously, pantyhose).
    • Anytime a nurse is forced out of the shower, the will be wearing only a towel that barely covers their lower body enough to be shown on television.
  • Ship Tease: A few episodes hint at the fact that Margaret and Hawkeye actually have feelings for each other... some do more than just hint it... and their last interaction is a decent length, passionate kiss in the series finale.
    • "Decent length" doesn't begin to cover it. It's at least a half a minute long, during which Col. Potter, BJ, and Charles are standing on looking uncomfortable and trying to find something else to look at.
    • The season 6 two-parter "Comrades in Arms" has them making out while spending the night in an abandoned hut behind enemy lines. In the morning it's clear that Margaret takes things a lot more seriously than Hawkeye does, leading to a serious falling-out between them before they finally decide they're Better as Friends.
    • Some early episodes show Margaret also having a barely-suppressed attraction to Trapper John. One episode has her openly, albeit drunkenly, coming on to him when everyone thinks he's going home and throws him a farewell party.
    • Early Winchester episodes suggested that he'd become Frank's replacement in more way than one by hinting at an upcoming Relationship Upgrade between him and Margaret, but that never came to fruition.
    • An early season episode has Hawkeye grab Margaret and give her a long, passionate kiss in front of Trapper, Henry, and Frank. Frank's increasingly angry protests eventually result in Henry telling Hawkeye to stop already. Afterwards, a blissed-out looking Margaret makes an appreciative comment in response to Frank's insult of Hawkeye, and Hawkeye makes an appreciative comment to Trapper in response to asking how it was.
  • Shirtless Scene: Any scene in the showers. Depending on the actor, this was either fanservice or Squick.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Henry Blake and Frank Burns are probably the most broadly comedic characters in the ensemble during the early seasons, and their departures — and their replacement with the more grounded Potter and Winchester, respectively — mark a definite sea change in the show's shift in emphasis from comedy to drama.
    • Part of the reason for Colonel Flagg getting written out of the later seasons was that his characterization didn't mesh with the show's tone by then.
  • Shout-Out: Folksinger Loudon Wainwright III appeared in a couple Season 3 episodes as a "Captain Spaulding", a clear Shout Out to Groucho Marx's Animal Crackers character.
    • For a short while in S4, they had a really big thing for referencing The Shadow in almost every episode.
      • More generally, many other classic programs, films, and songs of the era are referenced, either in-universe or in episode titles or both.
    • Charles Emerson Winchester III was possibly named after a fellow Bostonian, founder of Emerson College, Charles Wesley Emerson.
    • Sherman Tecumseh Potter is one for William Tecumseh Sherman.
    • Klinger's early Running Gag of wearing womens' clothing in an unsuccessful bid to be declared insane and win a Section 8 discharge is loosely based on stories about Lenny Bruce attempting to get thrown out of the Navy by dressing up as a WAVE (or women's naval auxillary) during World War II (in truth, he only wore a WAVES uniform once for a comedy show, then lied to the psychiatrist to spite his commander for ordering an evaluation).
      • Klinger even obliquely lampshades this with a reference to an uncle in the Navy using the same trick in WWII (and his family periodically sending him things from his uncle's WWII wardrobe).
    • Klinger often expressed his support of two real-life institutions in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio: the Mud Hens (minor-league baseball team) and Tony Packo's Cafe (hot-dog restaurant). These references were added due to Klinger's actor (Jamie Farr) being from Toledo and being familiar with both of those institutions.
  • The Shrink: Sidney Freedman
  • Sick and Wrong: In "Period of Adjustment", Hawkeye and Margaret discover that a drunken BJ and Klinger made a Dartboard of Hate with a picture of Radar's face (It Makes Sense in Context), leading Margaret to exclaim, "Now that's sick!"
  • Sick Episode: Most of the characters come down with the flu in "Carry On, Hawkeye" and get food poisoning in "The Yalu Brick Road".
    • Hawkeye starts sneezing uncontrollably in "Bless You, Hawkeye" and has chronic back pain in "Hepatitis". Both turn out to be psychosomatic in nature, however.
    • Frank develops a hernia in "As You Were".
    • Radar gets tonsillitis in "None Like It Hot".
    • Col. Potter and Charles get the mumps in "Heal Thyself".
    • "Follies of the Living, Concerns of the Dead" has Klinger getting a severe fever and seeing the ghost of a dead soldier.
  • Significant Reference Date: During the PA announcement at the end of "Welcome to Korea".
  • Sitcom
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Frank Burns
  • Snowball Lie: "Tuttle" and "Bombshells", among others.
  • Solemn Ending Theme: A slow, sad trumpet version of "Suicide Is Painless" is played at the end of the closing tag in a few episodes such as "Good Bye, Radar" and "Dreams".
  • Something Completely Different: Several episodes; see the trope page for examples.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Compared to the movie version, the show's version of "Suicide is Painless" is very upbeat-sounding, the closing theme even more so. Worse, several episodes have the closing theme played over the opening credits.
  • Source Music: In a carryover from the film, the P.A. occasionally plays music in camp. This actually becomes a plot point in "Your Hit Parade", where Potter tasks Radar with keeping up morale during one grueling O.R. session by spinning popular tunes of the day. (Particularly "Sentimental Journey".)
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Played with in "Margaret's Marriage"; at the line in question, everyone present turns to Frank, but he demurs.
  • Speech Impediment: Winchester counsels a soldier who is cruelly bullied as "stupid" because he stammers. Revealing that he's looked into the man's service record and knows of his actual high intelligence, he gives him Moby-Dick to read. Returning to his tent, he listens happily to a taped letter from his beloved sister Honoria... who also stammers.
  • Spider-Sense: Radar had this (hence his nickname), although it was downplayed over time.
    • Although the man Radar was based on (in the book) says he did it just by really paying attention (so he'd hear things like incoming choppers before other people would).
  • Spinoff: AfterMASH and W*A*L*T*E*R, neither was very successful.
    • There was, however, one spinoff which was successful: Trapper John, M.D., which features the onetime 4077th surgeon some 25 years later.
      • Though legally, no. When Trapper started, this series' producers sued to claim royalties they thought they were owed due to the use of Trapper's character. The court battle, however, ended with Trapper being legally considered a spin-off of the movie and not of the show.
  • Spy Speak: Col. Flagg
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Usually attempted unsuccessfully by Flagg.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted, when Father Mulcahy is deafened by an artillery shell.
    • Happened to Klinger once too, except he regained his hearing by the end of the episode. Mulcahy didn't.
      • He did in the spinoff.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Explored: In one episode, the 4077th is treating wounded from a British unit. Their Major walks around, telling the men how they'll soon be back in action, after handing out cups of tea to the wounded in the field. Hawkeye asks him how he can be so callous about his men's lives, even risking killing some of them by giving tea to those with abdominal wounds. The British major explains that he is speaking about going back into battle soon to give the men the impression that things aren't as bad as they seem (by downplaying their injuries, he is keeping up their morale by not letting them dwell on the severity of their wounds), and that it wasn't known on the frontlines that giving tea to treat abdominal wounds could cause complications, and promises to stop the practice immediately.
  • Stock Footage: Aside from the opening sequence (which sometimes still featured Radar years after his departure), all the bugout footage of the camp being torn down was filmed in season one. In the finale, you can even see Radar!
  • Strawman Political: Frank Burns, but that's okay since he was damn funny that way.
  • Strip Poker: An early episode has a gag where Hawkeye and Trapper are down to their underwear while playing this with - and losing badly to - a nurse. When Hawkeye loses another hand, he takes off... his dogtags.
    • A later episode has several characters playing this...however, since it's the dead of winter, even the losers are still donning several layers of clothing when the game's interrupted by arriving wounded.
    • In another early episode, a visiting general looking for Henry walks in on Spearchucker and Nurse Ginger playing strip dominoes (albeit not too far into the game).
  • Stress Vomit: After BJ first arrives in Korea, he faces a young Korean girl injured in a minefield, pinned down by guerilla sniper fire, and having to assist foot soldiers under mortar fire, all before he even got to camp; at one point, when he sees how badly a soldier had been wounded (and killed) by mortar fire, and the situation finally sinks in, he crawls over to a thicket of tall grass to vomit, while Hawkeye holds his head for him.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: One episode had the camp experience weather so cold that it was freezing the ground so much that it was contracting around the surrounding land mines enough to trip their detonators and explode seemingly on their own. Though the explosions occur in the middle of the camp, where mines simply would not be located (and are much larger and fiery than actual landmines).
  • Stylistic Suck: Radar, having recently enrolled in the Famous Las Vegas Writers' School, narrating the staff duty log (via voiceover) in "The Most Unforgettable Characters".
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Margaret Houlihan, Justified in that she took her job as head nurse seriously (and that she was an Army brat). Frank Burns was too immature, and Donald Penobscot treated her poorly behind the scenes, but the likes of BJ, Col. Potter, and especially Hawkeye helped soften her up.
  • Suicide Is Painless: The show's (and film's) theme song is the Trope Namer.
    • One episode has an example of the trope, where a soldier, injured when his rifle backfired and the bolt struck him in the face, would rather die than go home disfigured. Colonel Potter eventually gets him to give up when he tries to overdose on anesthetic by opening the valves to make the dosage lethal, and explains that the part of the body that wants to live is stronger than the part that wants to die.
  • Summation Gathering: Hawkeye holds one in the mess tent in "I Hate a Mystery".
  • Superstition Episode: In season 5's "Exorcism", Potter makes Radar remove a Korean spirit post from the middle of the compound because it's blocking traffic (on Friday the 13th, no less), after which a bunch of bad things happen — from a lighter not working to an ambulance crash. Radar puts a horseshoe up in Potter's office to ward off the bad luck, and a shamanic priestess is brought in to exorcise any evil spirits from the camp.
    • The season 11 Halloween Episode "Trick or Treatment" has the group telling ghost stories to each other in the O.R. with varying degrees of credulity from the listeners.
  • Surprise Party: In one episode, BJ tries to organize a surprise birthday party for Hawkeye, despite the fact that it isn't Hawkeye's birthday, in order to get some camp morale going. Hawkeye learns of this and counters by "accidentally" letting it slip that the same day is BJ's wedding anniversary. In the end BJ drafts a random extra to be the Birthday Boy.
    • In "For Want of a Boot", Hawkeye organizes a surprise birthday party for Frank Burns as part of his attempted Chain of Deals for a new pair of boots.
    • In another episode, Mildred Potter (Col. Potter's wife) enlists Hawkeye to throw a surprise "the Mortgage is Paid Off" party for the Colonel.
    • Still another episode ("Peace On Us") has the staff throwing Hawkeye a surprise party in the mess tent...where everyone is dressed completely in red, Hawkeye having said that he's sick of seeing green Army stuff everywhere he looks.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: "Hawkeye"
  • Suspiciously Small Army: A real MASH unit usually had around 200 personnel, at least 10 medical officers, 12 nurses, 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, such as an anesthesiologist, and a dentist. The 4077 had, at most, 70 personnel, an administrative staff of just the CO and his clerk, and four doctors (five in season one, but Spearchucker Jones was written out without explanation), Ugly John (the anesthesiologist) shows up in the first few episodes on season one, but is also written out without an explanation, and Dr. Kaplan (the dentist) is Put on a Bus in the first season finale. After Ugly John's disappearance, a nurse usually administers the anesthetic, something that isn't even done today. note 
    • While occasional references are made to other doctors being present ("All surgical personnel report to the O.R.! Both shifts!") we never see any of them.
    • All of which makes the season 4 episode "The Bus" especially problematic, as it depicts all four of the 4077th's regular surgeons (Hawkeye, BJ, Frank, Col. Potter) spending an extended period away from camp for a medical convention. Who was operating on the wounded in their absence?
    • The proper total number of people in this type of unit was known to the show's creators, at least for a time. In "Dear Ma", Radar mentions the unit has about 200 people in it when he's helping Hawkeye with the regular foot inspection (and then gets the math wrong and says that 200 people times 10 toes each makes 20 000 toes to check).
    • On rare ocassions, other doctors are addressed just offscreen or shown in the background (one episode has Hawkeye ask for "Don" to help him with an operation, and in that same shot a never-before-seen man with glasses is seen helping Trapper; in the episode where Frank ends up at Battalion Aid with a toe tag, wounded come in and are treated without any of the main cast being woken up for it), but other times they are simply referenced as though they are in camp but offscreen for some unknown reason.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: One of Frank Burns' specialties.

  • Take That: In universe example - when Frank Burns is not returning following his nervous breakdown after Margaret's marriage, the happiness and euphoria that is felt over him not returning is soured when it's revealed that the charges against him were dropped, he's being shipped home and promoted to Lt. Colonel to top it all off, much to the anger of Hawkeye and BJ. In a weird sense, it really does feel like Frank's parting shot at Hawkeye and the camp as a whole.
  • Taking the Bullet: Margaret's foot locker. She's trying to replace it in one episode, and she can only do so if it's been damaged in combat.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: An interesting example. In the finale, a wounded tanker drives an M24 Chaffee light tank into the compound, destroying the latrine in the process. The tank begins drawing enemy mortar fire, so Klinger erects a tent to hide it. It doesn't work, and the mortar crew resumes firing on the camp, and Hawkeye drives it out of the camp. The tank he drives out is an M4 Sherman, destroying the newly built latrine. While both were used Korea, the two tanks look nothing alike, not even the running gear (possibly foreshadowed when Klinger holds up a tent flap to show Potter), and the Sherman is missing its bow machine gun.
    • Another episode averts it when they borrow a tank (at Colonel Potter's suggestion) to scare off a sniper.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: In the "M*A*S*H Olympics" episode, Potter goes on the PA to announce daily calisthenics. Knowing what kind of reaction his announcement would get, he waited a beat and added "Same to you."
  • Team Dad: Colonel Potter, and to a lesser extent Henry Blake.
  • Technical Pacifist: Father Mulcahy, as a priest, chaplain, and medic, is forbidden from engaging in combat. That doesn't stop him from dropping a few folks with that right hook of his when the need arises.
  • Telegraph Gag STOP: Used when Hawkeye sends a telegram to his family to let them know he is alive and safe. He even recites his intended message to Klinger, using TELEGRAM SPEAK STOP He also integrates the STOP directions into his message, "Thinking of selling my clubs STOP!"
  • Temporary Blindness: Hawkeye (and, in another episode, Temporary Deafness for Klinger).
    • Which leads to one of Klinger's CMOAs.
    • In "The Bus", Col. Potter mentions experiencing this after being gassed in World War I.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "The Yalu Brick Road"
  • That Came Out Wrong: Invoked when Trapper calls up a girl he had a one-night (more like three-night) stand with in Chicago:
    Trapper: (On the phone) Hello, Mildred? This is John McIntyre... yeah... that's right, "Big John".
    Hawkeye: (Raises eyebrow) "Big John"? (Whistles)
    Radar: Luc-ky!
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Trapper whistles the theme tune while entering the Mess Tent in "Dear Dad... Again".
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, with Sidney Freedman.
    • Sidney admits that he himself could use one sometimes.
      • Sidney actually comes up to the 4077 in "Dear Sigmund" to take a bit of a 'rest cure' after a patient commits suicide.
      BJ: We couldn't help but notice that you came for the poker game and stayed two weeks.
  • Time Capsule: "As Time Goes By"
  • To Absent Friends: Most especially when Potter is the last survivor of his World War One unit.
    • Played with in Frank's departure episode:
    "So long, Ferret Face."
  • Tontine: Potter is part of one, though it's for a bottle of brandy rather than an investment. He drinks a solo toast To Absent Friends for the rest of his first outfit, listing when each of them died.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Radar, sort of.
    • Leading to Characterization Marches On when you go back and watch the early episodes.
    • Even William Christopher thinks this of Father Mulcahy when we have this little exchange at the beginning of "Fade Out, Fade In, Part 1":
    Mulcahy: You know... I didn't want to bring this up before... but, I have a suspicion that Major Burns and Major Houlihan were... somewhat... "attached".
    Hawkeye: [Has the look of "Are you kidding me?" written on his face] They knew each other in the Biblical sense.
    BJ: Both Testaments.
    Mulcahy: Oh dear, oh dear. And he's a married man. [Sighs] My worst fears are confirmed.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Charles deals with this in "The Tooth Shall Set You Free".
  • Tracking Shot
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Hawkeye seems to like bananas, he once mentions to Trapper how as a child he once ate twelve banana sandwiches, and also says one of the first things he's looking forward to when he gets home is a banana (with chocolate cake).
    • Potter says he loves really fresh corn.
      • Inverted with regards to tomato juice; Potter loves it, but he's allergic to it (a detail he neglected to mention before Radar began a series of trades and favors to acquire it for Potter).
    • Frank's favorite dessert must be pudding, if he actually prays for chocolate pudding at lunch, and requires tapioca on his birthday.
  • Translation By Volume: Lampshaded when Hawkeye tends to a wounded Korean.
    Hawkeye: How's that, bet-ter? "Bet-ter". I've been here all this time, and I still can't speak the language.
    B.J.: Well, you Americans figure everybody understands English, provided you speak-it-slow-ly-e-nough.
    Hawkeye: Huh?
    • Lampshaded by Hawkeye again when, running Rosie's bar while Rosie is recovering, he tries to talk to one of the waitresses for Rosie's cut of the tip money. When both this and Hulk Speak fail to get his point across, he remarks,
    "Why am I suddenly talking like some guy named Milton who's lost in Barcelona?"
    • Frank and Margaret do this a few times when conversing with locals.
  • Trash of the Titans: A relatively mild example, but there's a reason Hawkeye's tent is known as "The Swamp".
    • As shown, the Swamp is untidy, but not actually dirty. Character dialog, however, indicates it's supposed to be filthy.
  • Trespassing to Talk:
    • In the episode "Cowboy", Henry - who is in a really bad mood - enters his office to find Hawkeye waiting for him behind his desk, wanting to discuss giving chopper pilot Cowboy a temporary medical discharge. Henry even remarks, "Uh-uh-uh! Don't get up... let me just pretend YOU'RE the one in charge of this nuthouse."
    • In "Rally 'Round the Flagg, Boys", Potter walks into his office, with Father Mulcahy in tow, to find Colonel Flagg waiting for them at his desk, and neither of them (nor Radar, who was in his outer office the whole time) can even figure out how Flagg got in there in the first place.
  • Triage Tyrant: Frank Burns plays this role at one point, prioritizing Americans over Koreans regardless of the severity of their injuries.
    • Strangely enough, this was actually Truth in Television on Frank's part; he correctly cites the triage procedures of the time period (1st Americans, 2nd Allies, 3rd Enemy troops).
  • Tricksters:
    • Hawkeye, Trapper, BJ, and on occasion, Winchester.
    • Father Mulcahy can be one from time to time, engaging in the camp poker games and pools to raise money for the local orphanage, and usually walking away with the other trickster's money.
  • Troll: Charles, when treating a Marine with a pool ball stuck in his mouth.
  • True Companions: Near the end of the series, when Winchester and Margaret had developed into jerks with hearts of gold, the main cast were a slightly vitriolic version of this.
  • Tsundere: Margaret, especially toward Hawkeye. Her dere-dere side was revealed in "Comrades In Arms, Part 1", and then Double-Subverted in "Comrades In Arms, Part 2"— she began and ended the latter episode with a friendly chat with Hawkeye, but they had quite a few disagreements in between.
  • Tuckerization: A number of the characters on the series were named after people the writers and producers knew:
    • Really, the only in-universe example is Hawkeye being given his nickname after the Indian character in the book The Last of the Mohicans, which was his father's favorite book. His real name, Benjamin Franklin Pierce, is supposedly a combination of an Indian, a president, and a stove.
    • BJ Hunnicutt was named after the series' original cinematographer, William "B.J." Jurgenson.
    • Legend has it that Sherman T. Potter was named after Larry Gelbart's old doctor. Another has it he was named after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.
    • Writer Ken Levine was perhaps the most frequent user of this trope, as a number of the one-shot and guest characters were named after people he knew (something he does frequently in his writing), including two of Radar's love interests - Linda Nugent, and Patty Haven (both named for two of Levine's former girlfriends).
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Frequently, especially in later seasons.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Frank Burns, whenever he's given temporary command of the camp. Col. Potter could be considered something of a Bait-and-Switch Tyrant.
    • Ironically, even Hawkeye falls prey to this when he is put in command for an episode, insisting on silence in the OR (amongst other things) as an indication of how much it's getting to him.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Played with with Margaret and Donald Penobscott, Margaret is so infatuated with Donald, that his physical traits that are pointed by other characters, or even herself, seem to only entice her even more (such as him being stocky, having no neck, one eyebrow, etc). In fact, both of Donald's appearances (played by two different actors) really don't help matters much.
  • Ultimate Job Security: No matter what zany scheme Hawkeye pulls off or what general he offends, they need him as a doctor.
    • Also somewhat Truth in Television - surgeons could get away with some ridiculous things, due to the sheer need for them, though there were limits even for doctors.
    • Klinger, no matter how hard he tries to avert this.
    • Although undeniably a force for good, Father Mulcahy gets away with some rather un-priestly things for the sake of greater charity, such as gambling and black market dealings.
      • He's Catholic, they have ways around that.
    • Some of Hawkeye's stunts would, in Real Life, land him a court martial, such as "The Sniper", where he defies an order not to surrender, even though it could put the nurses in physical danger.
      • Hawkeye makes an impassioned case for surrender, but what he actually does is go out to bring the wounded in from the ambulance under a flag of truce (which gets fired on). While surrender would also commonly be arranged under a flag of truce, that would involve communicating directly with the enemy, which he does not attempt.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: One episode has the gang watching a home movie sent by Radar's mother...who, like Radar himself, is played by Gary Burghoff.
    • Lampshaded when one person jokes that Radar bears a striking resemblance to his dog Ranger.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Invoked by Trapper when a Luxembourg soldier is misplaced and presumed dead, then shows up for his own memorial.
    Hawkeye: I thought he died?
    Trapper: (shrugs) He got better.
  • Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The pilot starts with the title "Korea 1950 - 100 Years Ago" as Hawkeye and Trapper John play golf with "My Blue Heaven" playing in the background. Radar gets tossed a football and stops as he hears the choppers coming, which then leads into an extended version of the standard opening.
    • Just imagine what a whole new meaning it'll take on when we're still watching reruns of this show in 2050.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Klinger's dresses. In fact, Real Life subverted this trope. He eventually dropped the cross dressing act because the studio ran out of dresses that would fit him.
    • Jamie Farr has stated in interviews that he asked to stop wearing dresses on the show because he didn't want his children to see him wearing dresses. (Although one would think that ship had already sailed, given the early seasons' omnipresence in syndicated reruns even before the show's network run ended.)
    • The size of Klinger's wardrobe is explained in-universe by a combination of him regularly ordering things from catalogs, packages of clothing sent by his family (from his uncle's wardrobe from using the same trick in WWII), and him frequently making things (both shown and spoken of, and they even raided his sewing supplies once when they ran out of sutures). Klinger, it seems, is quite accomplished with needle and thread.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Hawkeye and Margret. It was briefly resolved in "Comrades in Arms", but it was undone midway through Part 2 and stayed that way.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Col. Potter, often horse-related.
    • More along the lines of sectional euphemism, most of his euphemisms were actual (albeit he used the more family friendly ones) euphemisms used in West Texas.
    • Subverted in the episode "Dear Peggy", when Father Mulcahy mentions Hawkeye is sharing a "spicy sausage" with an Italian nurse. Judging by his breath while scrubbing for surgery, he was sharing an actual spicy sausage.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: One episode has Hawkeye, Radar and the newly arrived BJ in Rosie's bar. No one in the bar seems to notice the brawl between two other patrons except BJ even when it goes literally though their table.
    • Klinger and his dresses have this effect.
    • Hawkeye bets Trapper that he could go into the mess tent naked and no one would notice. No one does, until a startled soldier drops his tray and whistles, drawing everyone's attention.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Frank Burns
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: BJ suffers from this in "Welcome to Korea" when he sees firsthand the savagery of war injuries. Being fresh out of residency at the time he's drafted doesn't help matters any.
  • Vinyl Shatters: In the finale, Major Winchester breaks the classical record he was listening to after he finds out the band of prisoner-musicians he had formed got killed in an ambush. This may or may not be an example of the trope; in 1953, when the Korean War ended, large-diameter shellac records were still quite common.
    • In the episode where the cast are awaiting an expected deluge of casualties, BJ and Hawkeye start shattering Charles's records on their heads when they snap from the pressure.
  • The Voice: The camp P.A. announcer.
    • In the episode "Run for the Money", Winchester plays a tape recording from his sister, Honoria.
    • In "Springtime", Laverne Esposito can be heard when Klinger marries her via radio.
    • Pvt. Rich, in the "Point of View" episode.
  • War Is Hell: Pretty much the defining trait of the final seasons.
  • War Refugees: Many Korean characters
  • Warts and All
  • Way Past the Expiration Date: A frequent topic of complaining is the food, some of which (it is claimed, mostly by Hawkeye) came from WWII or even WWI.
  • Wedding Day: The season 5 finale, "Margaret's Marriage", has the Major tying the knot with Donald Penobscott (with a heartbroken Frank Burns serving as best man). Klinger weds childhood sweetheart Laverne Esposito (via radio) in season 3's "Springtime", then gets married a second time to Soon-Lee in the season 11 (and series) finale "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen".
    • We see a film of Frank's wedding day in Season 3's "There's Nothing Like a Nurse". It looks absolutely terrible, from a near total lack of guests to a fly strip getting stuck to Frank's face while cutting the cake to his wife not smiling and refusing to let him drive the honeymoon car.
  • Wedding Ring Defense: Hawkeye is fooled by one of these, worn by the episode's visting guest nurse.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back
  • Wham Episode: "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet", also the first Downer Ending episode. More would follow, most notably "Abyssinia, Henry".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Hawkeye takes up a collection to send his house-boy to the states to go to medical school, but then we never hear from him again.
    • Until he robs most of the regular cast to get money to bribe border guards to allow his family to cross the border.
    • Radar always had a large menagerie of different animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and even a turtle, each having their own cages. Then, in his very last episode, when he says goodbye to his animals, all that are left are one turtle, one rabbit, and one guinea pig. He tells them the rest of the camp will take care of them in his absence, although we see them only once after that, in "The Red White Blues".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "Preventive Medicine", where BJ argues with Hawkeye that removing a healthy organ is immoral (see Real Life Writes the Plot above).
    • Hey Hawkeye, I don't like Frank Burns anymore than you do, but did you really need to punch him in "House Arrest"? Granted there have been plenty of times Frank could use a good pop, but given the circumstances, this wasn't one of them.
    • Hawkeye got one from Radar after he (Hawkeye) showed up for surgery too drunk to operate. He got another one from everyone - including himself - after he laid into Radar for it.
    • Frank is on the receiving end of several, ranging from comments about his casual racism towards Koreans to his demand for a Purple Heart due to getting an egg shell in his eye.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: BJ Hunnicutt's given name is, apparently, BJ. Leads to this exchange:
    Hawkeye: What kind of parents would name their kid "BJ"?
    BJ: My mother, Bea Hunnicutt, and my father, Jay Hunnicutt.
  • Whole Costume Reference: Many of Klinger's dresses were from the studio's stock from other shows and films.
    • Klinger even lampshades it himself a few times when he's intentionally copying a movie character's garb.
  • Whole Episode Flashback
  • Wholesome Cross Dresser: Klinger, of course. It was his plan to get home - they'd think he was crazy and hence unfit for duty if he wore women's clothing. He was otherwise portrayed as a good soldier. This was based on a story about Lenny Bruce wearing a WAVES uniform to get discharged from the Navy during World War II.
  • Wildlife Commentary Spoof: Hawkeye describes an encounter between Frank and Margaret in this fashion:
    "Observe the female of the species. Seemingly calm and detached, her tiny GI bosom is beating wildly, because she senses the presence of her frequent partner, the notorious red-necked nose-breather. Uh-oh, the signaling process has begun. Eyeballs are exchanged, and our khaki lovers do their famous 'Where'll we meet today?' ritual. It is almost impossible for the uninitiated to discern any connection between these two US Army majors. Yet, the trained observer will see that what these two officers have in mind is to arrange a bit of brass rubbing."
  • Wire Dilemma: "The Army-Navy Game"
  • World's Smallest Violin: Possibly the Trope Maker: Margaret does this in 1978 when Charles complains that an overflow of post-op patients has kicked him out of his tent.
    Margaret: Charles, do you know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin, and it's playing just for you.
  • Worthy Opponent: Winchester, for Hawkeye and BJ.
    • Occasionally moved into the realm of Vitriolic Best Buds, whenever Hawkeye or BJ would have an actual problem and Winchester's empathy would kick in, and likewise Hawkeye and BJ both admitted a respect and care for Charles they never displayed for his predecessor Frank.
      • If Winchester hadn't had total disdain for pretty much everyone in camp, he'd probably have been very close friends with the other two. The boys probably respected him more because he was capable of taking their pranks and pranking them back, and his surgical skills were impressive (which is more than could be said for Frank's, especially post-Flanderization).
    • Then there were those times when one of them (usually BJ) would form a temporary alliance with Charles, either against the remaining Swampmate (usually Hawkeye) or some other character.
    • Margaret actually has hints of this with Hawkeye. They might have clashed over matters of discipline and regulation (especially early on in the series) but it's quite clear that both of them never had anything but the highest respect for each other's skills and professional ability. If Margaret hadn't been so uptight (or if Hawkeye hadn't been so nuts) that Ship Tease probably would have become more than just teasing.
    • One time, Frank managed to continually one-up Hawkeye with pranks (trick showerheads, a bucket of water over the door, etc). In the end, Hawkeye wins the prank war by rolling up the wall of the latrine tent while Frank is occupied therein, finishing with a genuine looking salute.
  • Writer on Board: Became increasingly pronounced in the later seasons of the show, particularly in the episodes that Alan Alda scripted (where this approached Author Filibuster or even Author Tract status).
  • Written-In Absence: During the first part of Season 8, Radar was constantly said to be on R&R in Tokyo, explaining his absence during those episodesnote . This was often written into the episodes, with Klinger calling Radar to ask for advice on how to be a clerk, deal with Potter, etc. Radar's first 'real' appearance in Season 8 focused on him trying to get back from Tokyo, explaining that he was overdue and stranded because of a travel snafu.
  • Wrote the Book: Hawkeye wrote the book on the appendix. (He even wrote the appendix, but they took that out.)
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • The first season has an episode where everyone comes to believe that there's been a ceasefire and the war is over. During their "farewell" party they learn the sad news: the war isn't over, and the wounded are arriving.
    • Another early episode has Trapper thinking he'll get to go home due to a stomach ulcer, and even getting a farewell party, before being told by HQ that he'll have to stay in Korea and be operated on there.
      • Trapper gets put through the wringer again in "Kim", deciding to adopt a seemingly-orphaned Korean boy with his wife back in the States, then having to rescue the kid after he wanders into a minefield...then having to watch as the kid's mother turns up and whisks him away.
    • Season three's finale has Henry Blake getting discharged and finally getting to go home. What happened next was a trope-naming moment.invoked
    • In "Welcome to Korea", Hawkeye races to an airport to try and say goodbye to Trapper, who was discharged while Hawkeye was away on leave and couldn't stay any longer. Naturally, despite his best efforts, Hawkeye misses him by minutes.
    • In a more humorous example, Klinger comes tantalizingly close to actually getting a Section 8 discharge in "None Like It Hot". He dons a fur coat and other warm-weather gear in the middle of a blistering Heat Wave, and Col. Potter is so impressed with his determination that he promises to approve a Section 8 if he can keep it up for 24 hours. When Klinger finally breaks down and gives up toward the end of the episode, a sincerely disappointed Potter notes that he only had an hour left to go.
    • In the show's final episode, BJ receives discharge papers, though they are quickly rescinded. Col. Potter is informed of this, but doesn't say anything - hoping BJ will be stateside before anyone finds out. Unfortunately, he only makes it as far as Guam before he's yanked back to the 4077th. (However, he does ultimately get to go home - along with everybody else - when the war ends shortly thereafter.)
      BJ: I'm sitting there in this crummy officers club, and this guy comes up to me, and says, "You Hunnicutt the doctor?" Now, I didn't like the sound of that, so I said, "No, not me, pal, I'm Hunnicutt the chaplain." He says, "Well, chaplain, you'd better start praying for a miracle, because you're going back to Korea to do surgery."
  • You Are in Command Now: "Carry On, Hawkeye" was a funny example; "Commander Pierce" much less so.
    • The one time that Winchester was left in command, he simply allowed everyone to go about their routine and instead focused on pampering himself (having Klinger acquire silk sheets, fine food, etc).
    • Anytime Blake or Potter said this to Burns, the unit prepared for a journey across the Despair Event Horizon.
  • You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Despite their disdain for military protocol, Hawkeye and BJ on regularly address Col. Potter by his rank out of respect for his competent, compassionate, thoughtful approach to command. Only once, when Potter has been badly upset by another soldier snitching on him to his superiors and is contemplating leaving the Army, does Hawkeye call him "Sherm," urging him to stay.
    • Winchester only ever refers to Hawkeye as "Pierce" except for when they are waiting by the phone to hear word about Hawkeye's father (who is having a surgery done). He calls him "Hawkeye" while telling him that he envies the relationship Pierce and his father have. It's the only time that Winchester drops his walls around his fellow surgeons. Similarly, when Klinger and Winchester call each other Max and Charles at Christmas when Klinger lets on that he knows about Winchester secretly donating sweets to the orphans.
    • One more example in the finale: Col. Potter calls Father Mulcahey "Francis" for the first time as they say goodbye. Made heartbreaking by the fact that the Father couldn't hear him due to his deafness.
  • You Look Familiar: Harry Morgan played a one-shot role as a visiting general before becoming Col. Potter. A handful of Asian (Or sometimes only Asian-looking) actors tended to be various villagers as well. Even former supporting actor John Orchard (Ugly John) returned years later in a different role as a visiting Australian MP.
    • Tim Brown and Corey Fischer, who'd appeared in the 1970 film, turned up on the series as completely different characters.
    • Jamie Farr and William Christopher had appeared together as hippies in the 1968 Doris Day film With Six You Get Eggroll.
    • Also, the two main actors who provided the voice of the P.A. announcer during the show's run each had an episode where they appeared onscreen, but as different characters. Call it You Sound Familiar.invoked
    • Done with a few of the guest actors over the years. For instance, Mako appears in four episodes between seasons 3 and 9, each time as a completely different character.
    • Played in-character a couple of times, including "The Army Navy Game" from Radar to Klinger (who was wearing the suit he was drafted in).
  • You No Take Candle: Korean characters sometimes talk like this, much to the disdain of actual Korean viewers.
  • Your Cheating Heart: The episode "Hanky Panky" has Happily Married BJ "falling off the fidelity wagon" while comforting a lovelorn nurse, while in "War Co-Repondent" he nearly embarks on a more serious affair with a visiting reporter.
    • Hawkeye gets re-involved with an old college girlfriend (who's now married) in "The More I See You".
      • Subverted in the earlier episode "Radar's Report", when he falls hard for a new nurse until he notices a wedding ring on her finger...which she eventually reveals to be a phony, used to discourage would-be seducers.
    • Trapper and Henry were more or less casually adulterous in the early years, and of course Frank had a long term extramarital dalliance with Margaret. Probably Truth in Television for a lot of people away at war.
      • In "Henry in Love", Blake falls hard for a fresh-faced former cheerleader, to the point where he's pondering whether to tell his wife about her. Fortunately Radar intervenes to save his marriage. Well, until he dies, anyway.
      • Trapper was not only casually adulterous but almost arrogantly so through his entire run on the show, which might cause one to react to scenes of him pining for his family back in the states and how much he missed them with a derisive snort of laughter rather than the heartstring-tugging that was intended. Likely one of the reasons his replacement, BJ, was so serious about the sanctity of his marriage... it made his longing for his wife and child seem much more sincere.
      • Margaret herself ends up on the other end of this after marrying Donald Penobscot, who turns out to be a philanderer. Ditto Henry, who discovers his wife had a fling with an orthodontist in his absence; and Klinger, who marries his high school sweetheart (via telephone) only to later have her throw him over for a butcher back in Toledo (and later, after they've divorced, get involved with his best friend from childhood).
      • An unmade episode - "Father Hawkeye Knows Best" - reveals Frank's wife was cheating on him with a Congressman. Since it was never made, it's unknown how canon this is.
    • Averted in "Lil". Potter gets friendly with a visiting female colonel, but ultimately resists temptation.
      • Also averted with Potter and Brandy Doyle. She was coming onto him strong, but he seemed to be mostly oblivious and drank himself to sleep before she could make her move.
      • Subverted with Potter and Doris Day. She never met him, but he was deeply in love with her.
      • Potter did confess to cheating on one occasion though, after he found out his son-in-law had been unfaithful to his daughter.

Alternative Title(s):

MASH The Series