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Recap / M*A*S*H S3 E2: Rainbow Bridge

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When Hawkeye and Trapper are preparing to go on leave to Tokyo, they are unexpectedly greeted with the revelation that more wounded are going to be coming in for surgery, which puts their holiday on hold. After hours in the OR, the officers gather in the mess tent to recover from the effects of their workload when Henry Blake comes in with an even more startling revelation: the enemy, in this case China, have contacted the unit in order to arrange a pick-up for the MASHers to collect captured wounded American soldiers the Chinese doctors are unable to treat.

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Now everyone must decide, and put their two cents worth into the debate, whether the arrangement is genuine or if it's a trap to kill them.


Attention, all hands! As part of the prisoner exchange, the Chinese have requested we provide the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Father Mulcahy makes a cross sign to assure good luck to Hawkeye and Trapper on their trip. Hawkeye thought he was doing something else.
    Hawkeye: Oh, I thought you were signalling a left and a right turn.
    Father Mulcahy: [laughs] I'll have to remember that.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Frank snaps at Hawkeye for implying he has a poor performance as a doctor judging medical cases in triage.
      Hawkeye: Frank, what are you doing?
      Frank: What do you mean, what am I doing? I'm doing my duty, that's what I'm doing.
      Hawkeye: Oh really? Got a good ingrown toenail case? Any body with adenoids? Diaper rash?
      Frank: Get off this bus, Captain.
      Hawkeye: The purpose of triage, Major, is to select patients for immediate surgery.
      Hawkeye: Why do you keep sending us cases that can wait?
      Frank: Now listen, hotshot! I'm a pretty fair doctor myself! Ask any of my patients!
      Hawkeye: We can't dig people up just for that.
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    • During the meeting to decide whether to go to Rainbow Bridge or not, Frank racially refers to the Chinese people as "the yellow horde". As before, this really ticks Hawkeye off.
      Hawkeye: Frank, if you say "yellow horde" one more time while the war is still in motion, I'm gonna cut out your tongue and use it for a pen wipe.
  • Black Comedy: Trapper is left aghast by the idea of a soldier raping a doctor. Hawkeye replies that he'd just hit the rapist with his purse.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • Racial tendencies aside, Margaret is correct that on a dangerous mission such as the one to Rainbow Bridge, one must consider the possibility of capture or worse.
    • When the pick-up starts going bad, Hawkeye pleads with Lin Tam to recognise the good thing he's trying to do. The thing is, he does recognise it, he's just hurt with how he's been treated for trying it when Frank goes against the agreement by bringing a gun.
      Hawkeye: You're doing something decent in the middle of a giant indecency. Don't endanger nine men because some idiot wants to do a General Custer impersonation.
      Trapper: Yeah, Doctor. Don't blow it now.
      Lin Tam: Is it not enough that your planes harass us day and night? It makes it impossible for me to treat my own people. We make a civilized gesture and you respond by coming here with a gun ready to shoot us down.
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    • Also, Jerkass that he is, Frank does make an implicit point in that even though they were asked to come unarmed, the Chinese do not seem willing to abide by their own agreement (coming armed — and with period-accurate PPSh submachine guns for one of the only times in the series at that) which did put Team 4077 at severe risk of being captured if the officer hadn't been as otherwise honorable as Lin Tam.
  • The Cast Showoff: Loudon Wainwright III's guitar and singing skills are showcased throughout the episode.
  • Censorship by Spelling: After Hawkeye tells Frank to surrender his handgun to the Chinese doctor during the prisoner/patient exchange:
    Frank: You gonna side with me or the R-E-D?
    Hawkeye: Frank, the R-E-D speaks English better than Y-O-U do.
  • Dehumanizing Insult: Margaret calls the Chinese "savages".
  • The Door Slams You: Henry Blake tries to enter the Swamp when Father Mulcahy is going out.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In his talk with Klinger at the start of the episode, Hawkeye refers to a time when his mother gave him a present for graduation. Later on in the series, it is established that his mother passed away when he was a child.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Henry requests that Hawkeye or Trapper go to a bookstore while they're in Tokyo to pick up an order for him, stating that they're just "old Japanese prints".
  • Got Volunteered: When they're first discussing the Rainbow Bridge mission in the mess tent:
    Henry: Radar, I'll need a driver and a corpsman.
    Radar: Volunteers, sir?
    Henry: Thank you, Radar. I knew I could count on you.
    Radar: [a bit later] Uh, sir? Excuse me, but I think you volunteered me a little quick there.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Frank Burns is watching Hawkeye and Trapper getting ready for their leave, stating that the only things on their mind there will be debauchery and lust. He turns around to see Margaret arousingly bushing through her hair.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Trapper humorously gives thanks to God for letting him and Hawkeye have some time off in Tokyo away from the war, never realising that Father Mulcahy is about to walk through the door.
    Trapper: For your divine help in granting us this sabbatical, we give thanks, oh Lord.
    Father Mulcahy: You rang?
  • Insistent Terminology: Margaret Houlihan gets upset when Hawkeye and Trapper start insulting Frank's personality.
    Margaret: Colonel. I protest this attack on Major Burns' character in his absence.
    Hawkeye: Actually, we're attacking his absence of character.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: This nearly happens when Frank, upon Margaret's insistence, brings a gun to Rainbow Bridge. Because of this, Lin Tam recognises the agreement to be violated and maintains the wounded Americans will remain with him. Hawkeye and Trapper then step in, trying to make things right.
  • Noodle Incident: Henry asks Hawkeye and Trapper if they were going to be staying at the Dai-Ichi Hotel. They're not, because the management told the two not to come back after a previous stay.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Radar, when Henry volunteers him to go on the mission to Rainbow Bridge.
    • How Hawkeye and Trapper react to finding out Frank brought a gun to the pick-up point.
      Trapper: Are you out of what's left of your mind?
    • When Frank mistakenly thinks he, Hawkeye and Trapper are about to be fired upon, he goes for his gun.
    • He makes a joke because that's just what he does, but for a second Hawkeye looks genuinely worried at the possibility of being raped.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Klinger volunteers not only to go on the dangerous mission, but to do so in full military uniform.
  • Overused Running Gag: Give a warm welcome back to the "signing of papers" one between Henry and Radar.
    Henry: Radar, I spent the entire morning signing my name. Now why didn't you have me sign this while I was signing all those other things I was signing my name to which I don't why I was signing them either?
    Hawkeye: Signing.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Henry asks Hawkeye and Trapper to pick up a package he ordered—under an assumed name—from a certain bookshop while they're in Tokyo.
    Hawkeye: What's in the package, Henry?
    Henry: Japanese prints. Old ones. I mean, some things never change, if you get my drift.
    Hawkeye: Henry, you have all the subtlety of a community bedpan.
  • Red Scare: Everything about this trope comes into play with Frank and Margaret.
    Margaret: I'm not unfamiliar with the Chinese approach to war. Ambush to one side, we must consider the possibility of capture, torture, brainwashing and, yes, even rape.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When Hawkeye orders for a severely wounded Chinese patient (one of the enemy in Frank's eyes) to be given first priority, Frank Burns angrily informs him that the army standard triage procedure is as follows: Americans first, allies second and enemies last, repeat, last. Hawkeye doesn't care; emergency priority is emergency priority.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Margaret insists that Frank take a gun along with him to Rainbow Bridge anyway, despite the Chinese laying out a condition for the MASHers not to be armed.
    Frank: But they said not to. Not even a sidearm.
    Margaret: Who said, Frank? The Chinese, Frank. Are we taking orders from the Chinese now, Frank?
  • Shout-Out: In going to Tokyo, Trapper mentions "We're off to see the wizard"
  • Ship Tease: Trapper gets a kiss from Margaret.
  • Skewed Priorities: Frank Burns (surprise, surprise) messes up in triage and keeps giving the other doctors wounded patients of a lower injury grade rather than the emergency cases that are still waiting on the bus, citing the at-the-time protocol that American wounded were treated first, even if others were more serioisly wounded.
  • Stock Footage: Of the chopper arriving with wounded.
  • The Tag: A heartwarming moment where Radar considers Hawkeye and Trapper to be like supermen, after going through two session of operating consisting of 52 hours and the trip to the bridge and back. He turns around and finds them both asleep in their cots. With a smile, he covers the two of them with blankets and tucks them in.
    Radar: Good night, supermen.
  • Travel Montage: Loudon Wainwright III sings "North Korean Blues" as the bus travels on to Rainbow Bridge.
  • Wham Line:
    • After 36 hours in the OR, Henry makes the announcement that the 4077th has received a radioed message from the enemy.
      Trapper: The Chinese called us?
    • Two for the price of one. The Rainbow Bridge pick-up point is not only 50 miles past enemy lines, but also only twenty miles away from China's border.
  • What an Idiot!: Frank thinks China was the nation that attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Subverted. Frank and Margaret readily and instantaneously believe that the message from the Chinese is a set-up for a trap. Because the pick-up point is 50 miles past enemy lines, it is not hard to blame them for it, but it shouldn't hurt to have just a little hope that the message is genuine.
    • Frank pushes forward with his belief about Rainbow Bridge being a trap when Hawkeye and Trapper both valiantly defend the possibility of the enemy's offer being genuine.
      Frank: You just won't face reality, will you? Perfect ambush country. Knock a few MASH doctors off. And break down the morale of our brave freckle-faced kids at the front.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Dr. Lin Tam is deeply offended and angered that Frank would bring a sidearm to the exchange. But when Frank is convinced to hand the gun over, Lin Tam sees that it's a very tiny, very unimposing automatic. He laughs incredulously and asks, "What the hell is that?"
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