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Recap / M*A*S*H S3 E11: Adam's Ribs

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After 11 days of being served the same food for every meal, Hawkeye leads a mutiny against the army's river of liver and its ocean of fish. Later, as Henry is chewing him out for the mess in the Mess, Hawkeye realizes what he needs: Barbecue spareribs, ones from a special place in Chicago. What follows are some of the most complex maneuvers in the Korean War, involving Hawkeye pretending to be a dying soldier, an old flame of Trapper's, fake medical supplies, and a supply sergeant from Illinois who demands a rib-shaped bribe.


Attention, all personnel! The menu for Adam's Ribs contains the following tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Neither Larry Linville (Frank) nor Loretta Swit (Hot Lips) appear in this episode.
  • Berserk Button: Being told that liver and fish are being served for mess again is enough to send Hawkeye over the edge.
    • That also extends to the scene when Klinger demands Hawkeye clean the stole Hawkeye flung food at; Hawkeye's contrite when he hears about the succotash, but he gets angry when Klinger mentions there's liver on it as well.
  • Better Than Sex: The titular ribs, according to Hawkeye. Not that Radar would understand the comparison.
    Radar: Are these ribs really that great?
    Hawkeye: Better than sex.
    Radar: I don't know how good sex is.
    Hawkeye: No women could follow them, especially the big ones.
    Radar looks at him in confusion
    Hawkeye: The ribs, not the women.
  • Big Eater: Klinger bewilderingly asks Radar how he could eat the slop the mess tent serves for food. Radar replies that his mouth is just tone-deaf.
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  • Black and Gray Morality: Hawkeye and Trapper are quite willing to sign Klinger's Section 8 discharge papers—a serious violation of medical ethics—in exchange for a favour from Klinger's uncle to have him pick up the ribs. The only catch is that the papers require signatures from three doctors but Hawkeye and Trapper are the only ones willing to go that far.
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: Unable to overcome an obstacle in getting the ribs to Korea, Hawkeye wonders how Radar would taste charcoaled. Luckily for Radar, Trapper suddenly remembers an old flame from Chicago.
  • Brick Joke: Klinger's uncle being of help.
  • The Casanova: Trapper suggests to Hawkeye that he should troll the nurses as a means of staving off boredom. Hawkeye refuses to on the grounds he's trolled all the nurses.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Alan Alda really cut loose with the "We Want Something Else!" scene.
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  • Comfort Food: The titular ribs, for Hawkeye.
  • Crowd Chant: Begun by Hawkeye after another day of liver and fish for lunch. The entire mess tent proceeds to join in.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Another idea Trapper has for killing Hawkeye's boredom is this trope. Hawkeye doesn't believe it'll work.
    Hawkeye: Won't do any good. My dull has learnt how to swim.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Hawkeye mentions that both his parents are alive. Later on, it's just his dad.
  • Food Porn: Hawkeye's continual descriptions of the ribs certainly sound like this.
  • Foreshadowing: Hawkeye tells Trapper that if the mess tent is serving liver or fish for lunch again, he'll throw a fit. Trapper thinks he won't.
  • Funny Background Event: Despite joining in the chanting during the riot, Radar is still eating everything on his tray.
    • In contrast to Hawkeye losing it in the mess tent and everybody else just joining in on the chant, Trapper just reacts to everything with Dull Surprise.
  • A Good, Old-Fashioned Paint Watching: Hawkeye starts off the episode feeling very bored to death.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Hawkeye's reaction to Radar bringing him a report that no member of the camp has a relative or a friend available in Chicago to pick up the ribs for him.
    Hawkeye: Rats. Double rats.
  • Its Pronounced Tro PAY: Sgt. Tarola is from Joliet (pronounced JOE-lee-ette), but pronounces it JOLLY-ette.Fun fact: 
  • Large Ham: Alan Alda as Hawkeye.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: When Sergeant Tarola finds out Hawkeye, in his rush to order, forgot to include coleslaw (which Hawkeye himself is upset about):
    Tarola: You sent all the way out to Chicago, and no coleslaw?
    Hawkeye: Forgive us; we're draftees.
  • New Old Flame: Trapper recalls a one- (no, two-; actually, three-) night stand with a girl in Chicago when Hawkeye is trying to find someone willing to pick up the order. When he finally gets her on the phone, she remembers him as "Big John".
  • Noodle Incident: Henry seems to have quite a few fond memories of the Dearborn Street Station in Chicago.
    Henry: The [phone] number's Dearborn Five Seven Five Hundred.
    Trapper: How the hell do you know that?
  • No-Sell: When Sergeant Tarola refuses to give Hawkeye and Trapper the package secretly containing the ribs, the two doctors threaten to report how much of an environmental hazard Tarola's workplace is. Tarola is quick to realize they're hiding something.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Major Pfeifer at Receiving.
    Pfeifer: You think because you save lives, it's important.
    • Averted with Sergeant Tarola, who incidentally is just as much a fan of Adam's Ribs food as Hawkeye is.
      Tarola: I'm from Joliet. I'd walk to Chicago on my knees in the snow for a takeout order.
      Trapper: [to Hawkeye] He's one of you.
  • Only Sane Man: He'll help solve it, but Trapper really struggles to endure Hawkeye's mania.
  • Prison Riot: Hawkeye's mess-tent rant, throwing his full tray at the wall (narrowly missing Radar and Klinger) and leading the "We want something else!" chant, evokes one of these, especially when Igor and his helper start banging the lids to the steam trays in rhythm. The followup in Blake's office, with Hawkeye's "I broke under the pressure, Warden," completes the reference.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Used for comedic effect by Trapper as he witnesses Hawkeye plotting to get the spare ribs he's ordered from the States.
    Trapper: What a picture you are of gluttony, greed, lust, oral sensation.
    Hawkeye: You're seeing the real me. As a child, I once ate twelve banana sandwiches. I slept in the bathroom for a week.
    Trapper: Charming.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Hawkeye cooks up some pretty believable lies in order for him to get a telephone connection from Korea to Adams Ribs in Chicago.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Henry Blake gets worried that Hawkeye's going over the edge as the latter is fanatically describing the food at Adam's Ribs.
    • Trapper also thinks this of Hawkeye as his friend actually embarks on a plot to get the spareribs.
      Hawkeye: The rest is downhill.
      Trapper: So is your head.
      Hawkeye: They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round. But he went on to write a great song.
      Trapper: You keep this up and the squirrels are gonna bury your head somewhere.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Hawkeye is of this mindset in getting an order of ribs and sauce from Chicago.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After Henry and Radar have left for an "inspection", Hawkeye continues to talk about how good the food is at Adam's Ribs. Trapper, tired of it, slurps down the last of his drink and leaves him alone.
  • Something We Forgot: It's not until after he hangs up that Hawkeye realises he neglected to add coleslaw to the order.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Trapper's old girlfriend from Chicago doesn't know that there's a war going on in Korea.
  • Troll: When Radar mentions the supply foul-up which resulted in there being another day of liver or fish, Trapper finds it a cause for laughter. Of course, Henry thinks otherwise.
    Henry: Radar. What happened to the frozen turkey I ordered you to order?
    Radar: Oh, I put it in the requisition, sir. Marked urgent.
    Henry: Well?
    Radar: They sent us five thousand athletic supporters.
    Trapper: Marked urgent! Hahaha.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Col. Blake rightfully chews Hawkeye out for starting the lunch riot.
    Henry: Just who do you think you are, Pierce?!
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The ending. After spending the entire episode working to have the ribs delivered, incoming wounded are brought into camp just as the group sits down to eat them.note 

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