M*A*S*H (television)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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

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, to quote 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. At first seen as a wacky, slightly edgy sitcom based on Robert Altman's 1970 movie, the series moved away from strictly comedic storylines early in its run (Season 1's "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" was the first Tear Jerker), and began to incorporate dramatic plotlines in conjunction with comedic ones in the same episode.

"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 its success -- very few series, ensemble or otherwise, had ever lost such significant characters and kept its audience. The creators' decision to replace Henry and Trapper with completely different character types in Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan) and BJ Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell) succeeded, and the show built on its high Ratings.

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 non-typical 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 POV 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. It also has the obligatory Fever Dream Episode, Clip Show and a (largely improvised) Documentary Episode told as a series of television interviews with the characters.

Its final episode -- "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (aired February 28, 1983) -- was, for twenty-five years, the highest-rated TV program in United States history, with a 60.2 rating (percent of households watching) and a 77 share (percent of households watching, of those watching some program at that time). It still holds that record for non-sports programming.

It produced three Spin-Offs/Sequels: one successful (Trapper John, M.D.), one short-lived (AfterMASH), and one failed Pilot (W*A*L*T*E*R).

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 [1] 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").

Fun fact: Alan Alda was inspired to take over creative control of the show because he desperately needed the money that came with more responsibility. A year before, his business manager "invested" his entire fortune in a Ponzi scheme without his knowledge or approval. Alda lost almost everything.

Has now a character page (under construction).

See also the page on the novel MASH.

M*A*S*H (television) is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in M*A*S*H (television) include:


  • Absentee Actor: None of the cast besides Alan Alda appeared in every episode. In fact, in season 4's "Hawkeye", Alda is the only regular to appear.
    • Gary Burghoff renegotiated his contract to limit his appearances (as Radar) beginning in the fourth season. These absences became more frequent in the ensuing seasons, until practically every episode in season 7 (Burghoff's last with the show) seemed to have Radar "away on R&R".
  • 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 to create Major Burns. The show removed the character Duke Forest altogether, and Ugly John and Spearchucker Jones disappear without explanation later on in the first season. Painless Pole, the camp dentist, seems to be an exception, since he shows up from time to time throughout the series.
    • Painless is more of an Unseen Character, being mentioned but rarely if ever actually appearing. The only dentist actually shown on screen who was stationed at the 4077 appears in one episode, completely paranoid about being injured in the last few hours before he goes home. (He does get injured, crashing the jeep as he's driving out of camp because he insisted on driving the jeep himself instead of allowing his assigned driver to do it.)
      • Painless shows up to put a crown on Blake's tooth in "Major Fred C. Dobbs".
  • A Day in the Limelight: Numerous times, generally at least once a season.
  • All Asians Are Alike
  • 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
  • An Arm and a Leg: Several episodes dealt with patients who lost limbs in battle and were 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.
  • Anachronism Stew: Although the show tended to be good about actual history, there were times that the research broke down.
    • In one episode, both Godzilla and The Blob are referenced. Neither of those movies were released during the Korean War (Gojira: 1954/Godzilla, King of the Monsters: 1955, The Blob: 1958).
    • In another episode, Radar is shown to have an Avengers comic book (of 1970s vintage, no less) among his collection.
    • Also, the "points" system referenced was no longer current for rotation of officers.
    • BJ's latter-seasons hairstyle was much longer than a professional man in the 1950s would have worn.
    • 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 Radar hands out Hershey bars with UPC symbols on the back wrapper to recovering patients.
  • 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".
  • April Fool's Plot: "April Fools"
  • Armed Farces
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: see Juggling Loaded Guns.
  • Ascended Extra: Klinger. Later, Zale.
  • Ascended Meme: The cast frequently had William Christopher sound-alike contests between takes. In "Movie Tonight" everyone takes turns impersonating Father Mulcahy.
  • 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.
  • Attractive Bent Gender: Subverted 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.
  • 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.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: Hawkeye never actually says "It wasn't a chicken!" in the finale.
  • Beef Bandage: Trapper sports one in one of the very first episodes, "Requiem for a Lightweight".
    • Visiting Colonel Reese recommended a "Number 3 steak" for the shiner Hawkeye gave Frank in "House Arrest".
  • Berserk Button: Don't tell Hawkeye they're serving liver and fish in the mess tent yet again.
    • And don't even suggest that BJ would ever cheat on his wife.
    • And, whatever you do, don't ever, ever ever insult the state of Iowa within earshot of Radar.
    • 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.
  • 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."
  • Big No: Hawkeye in "Dreams"
  • Black Comedy
  • 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, 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 Produce: The occasional real food was quite a treat. One time a farmer gave the unit a bunch of real eggs, not the reconstituted stuff they usually get. Another time Radar went 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: Numerous times for comedic effect, usually from Frank.
  • Blue Eyes: Most of the men have gorgeous Blue Eyes (even Frank) but Hawkeye's probably got the most love.
    • Loretta Swit (Margaret) is blue-eyed as well.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Hawkeye exposes a thief by tricking him into a revealing giveaway.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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".
  • Bucket Booby Trap: Frank rigs one for Hawkeye (yep, you read that right) in "Showtime".
  • Bug-Out: Amusingly averted for virtually the entire run of M*A*S*H; the "M" in "M*A*S*H" stands for "Mobile", but for obvious reasons of production logistics the camp was almost always in the same location. The only exceptions were the two-part episode "Bug Out" from 1976, and the 1979 episode "C*A*V*E". In the former, the camp's comfortable location had to be abandoned in the face of an enemy advance; in the latter, a seemingly endless barrage of friendly artillery fire forces the camp to relocate to a nearby cave.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: No matter how madcap Hawkeye gets, his medical skills save him from court martial a few dozen times.
  • Butt Monkey: Frank Burns
  • California Doubling: As with the film, exteriors for the show were filmed at the Fox Ranch (now Malibu Creek State Park) near Malibu. While California is about as mountainous as Korea, it's obvious in the winter episodes, where, aside from a lack of snow in any such episode, the surrounding plantlife is green and alive.
  • 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.
  • Casanova: Hawkeye, particularly in the earlier seasons.
    • It ultimately stars 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.
  • 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."
  • Cerebus Syndrome: And how.
  • Chain of Deals: "For Want of a Boot", "The Long-John Flap", "The Price of Tomato Juice"
  • Character as Himself: "Tuttle" has its title character billed this way.
  • 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 other doctors. For more information search "the Memoirs of Harold Secor".
  • Claustrophobia: Hawkeye, in "C*A*V*E"
  • Clip Show: "Our Finest Hour"
  • Color Me Black: In one episode, the staff of the 4077 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.
  • Communications Officer: Radar was usually called up on to operate the communications equipment.
  • Confess in Confidence: There have been at least three episodes where Father Mulcahy learned of an issue from a confessing soldier and had to figure out how to solve it without breaking the seal of the confessional. One involved a black marketer who had 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 dog tags, 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.
  • Continuity Drift: A fair amount in the early seasons. Hawkeye signed a letter "love to Mom" but it was later revealed that his mother was dead; the writers couldn't keep the name of Henry's wife straight; at one point Margaret stated her father was dead, but he showed up alive and well on an episode years later. Granted, Margaret was very drunk in that scene, but one would still expect her to remember which of her parents were living.
    • That wasn't the only time. Frank had earlier asked if her father hadn't left her some money, implying that Frank thought he was dead before her drunker reference to his death.
  • 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, 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: You wish Colonel Potter was your grandfather, admit it.
  • The Couch: The Swamp
  • Courtroom Episode: "The Trial of Henry Blake", "The Novocaine Mutiny", "Snappier Judgment"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Danza: Kellye Nakahara as Nurse Kellye.
    • Interestingly, her name in the show varies. She has been Nurse Kealani Kellye, Nurse Kellye Yamato, Nurse Abel, Nurse Charlie, and Nurse Baker. And a few times, characters have (apparently mistakenly) referred to her as Nurse Nakahara or Lieutenant Nakahara.
    • Also, Corpsman Roy Goldman, played by actor Roy Goldman.
    • Another instance, Frank asks Igor, played by Jeff Maxwell, his name, to which he responds "Maxwell". It appears to have been a mistake by actor Jeff Maxwell; Larry Linville didn't miss a beat.
  • Dartboard of Hate: BJ and Klinger make one with Radar's face in "Period of Adjustment".
  • Dawson Casting: Gary Burghoff played 18-year-old farmboy Radar well into his thirties.
  • Day in the Life: The letter home episodes
  • A Day in the Limelight
  • Dead Person Impersonation
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Margaret Houlihan.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "The Interview"
  • Determinator: A rare comedic example with Klinger, who in the early seasons was never in an episode that didn't feature him trying some way to get that elusive Section 8.

Henry: *pulls out binder of Klinger's forged letters* 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.

  • Did Not Do the Research: Colonel Potter has a Good Conduct medal, which (as he points out to Radar at one point), only an enlisted man can receive. He also stated he started performing surgery in 1932. If he was still in the Army, he should have automatically been made a Captain at that point, a full 10 years before Good Conduct medals were instituted.
    • Another is Henry's death. No allied transport plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. For virtually the entirety of the Korean War, allied air forces controlled the skies. For all intents and purposes, the moment Henry stepped on the plane, he was safe. This was more intentional by the writers than anything, if only to prevent McLean Stevenson from returning to the role after leaving by killing off his character in the most dramatic way possible, and show that war could take anyone at any time.
      • The notion that Henry was killed off as he was to underscore the inherently hazardous environment is supported by the next episode (at the beginning of season 4) introducing BJ. Just on the way from the airport at Kimpo back to the 4077, the three are shown coming under fire twice (once from infiltrators, and once from mortars) and encounter a family checking for mines in a could-be field.
    • Well, that's not true: the first US plane shot down in the war was a transport plane.
      • Word of God has it that Henry did not die; "reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated".
  • Documentary Episode: "The Interview", "Our Finest Hour"
  • Door Step Baby: "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, and pinned down by an enemy soldier. After getting upbraided by Potter for being so mule-headed about his distaste for firearms, Hawkeye wastes the entire clip into the air and hands it back to his annoyed commanding officer... only to find the sudden fusillade had scared off the enemy.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "Abyssinia Henry", obviously.
    • "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 same thing to Col. Flagg). Mike Farrell complained that B.J. wouldn't stand for that, and his objections became B.J.'s.
    • "Period of Adjustment" Deals with BJ's growing despair due to being separated from his family and ends with BJ broken and sobbing against Hawkeye on the floor.
  • Dramedy: A Trope Codifier, if not Ur Example.
  • Dream Sequence: The aptly titled "Dreams".
  • Drink Order: General Clayton is apparently partial to sherry and ginger ale.
    • Hawkeye generally prefers martinis, the drier the better.
    • Radar's grape Nehi, Charles' cognac, Frank's Shirley Temples.

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
  • Drunk with Power
  • Dueling Shows: Hogan's Heroes
  • 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.
  • Eat the Evidence: Done by the entire unit to an illicitly acquired side of beef. When two MPs show up looking for the beef, they were invited to sit down and have a slice.
    • Crossed over into Loophole Abuse, since they persuaded the MPs that they couldn't arrest them for stealing the beef unless they tasted it to know for sure that it was beef, and then told them that since they had eaten the evidence, there was no beef left to prove they had taken it.
  • 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, rather than let on to her vision problems.
  • El Spanish-O: A family of Koreans set up housekeeping in the middle of the camp. Henry tries to tell them to leave: "Go-ee home-ee!"
  • 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
  • Enforced Method Acting: Used (though not to the extreme that is sometimes claimed) for the final scene in "Abyssinia, Henry". The cast were not given the script for the scene until just before they went to film it, the better to capture their shocked reactions. Unfortunately, a technical glitch forced the scene to be shot a second time. The second take featured another mishap, but it was one that actually improved the scene; Somebody accidentally dropped an instrument on the floor, which further enhanced the emotion of the scene.
    • One of the few moments we see Frank actually does have some good in him. As the camera passes by him, he has tears in his eyes.
  • 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".
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Occasionally, most commonly in the early seasons.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Occurs in the episode "Life Time". They ran over the timer, but since they induced hypothermia the patient still recovered.
  • Executive Veto: One early season episode would have dealt with Hawkeye getting two different nurses pregnant simultaneously, and not wanting to marry either. After the script had been finished, CBS rejected it, feeling it would be a Moral Event Horizon for Hawkeye.
  • Extreme Omni Goat: "That Darn Kid"


  • Facecam
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Klinger trying to get a Section 8, Burns trying to instill military discipline, Winchester trying to get a transfer.
    • Winchester seems to play on his awareness that his exile to the 4077th was permanent at the end of the episode where his and Radar's families got together. On hearing they were planning another one, he asserted that it didn't matter, they "...can invite the goat. It doesn't matter, for I shan't be here; I'm turning myself in to the Chinese."
  • Fake Nationality: Due to a dearth of Korean actors in Hollywood at the time, most of the featured native Korean speaking parts were played by Asians of different ethnicities. Klinger's girlfriend/wife Soon-Li was played by actress Rosalind Chao (second-generation Chinese-American); Japanese-born actor Mako Iwamatsu played a Chinese Army officer, a South Korean Army surgeon, and a North Korean soldier; and Japanese-American actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita played South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak.
  • A Father to His Men: Colonel Blake, to Radar; Colonel Potter, to everyone.
  • Faux Yay: Hawkeye tries to get leave by pretending to be romantically interested in Burns.
  • The Fifties
  • Finger-Poke of Doom:

Colonel Flagg: Do you believe that I can break your leg with this finger?

  • 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.
  • First-Name Basis
  • 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.
  • Flanderization: Radar's naïveté and Frank Burns's jerk-assedness both grew more and more pronounced as the show progressed.
    • In early episodes, Frank cared about people. He tried to help when a little boy runs into a minefield. Linville played his distress as genuine, not faked or selfishly motivated. And he was occasionally able to hold his own against Hawkeye and Trapper, particularly in the prank war that involved the Bucket Booby Trap mentioned above.
    • The early Radar was sly, far from naïve, and a fully functioning telepath. (In one of the first episodes featuring Hawkeye writing a letter home, Radar reacts angrily to an insult that Hawkeye makes in his mental monologue/narration.) He did not own a teddy bear.
  • Fox News Liberal: Winchester is a conservative version.

(to a HUAC shill): I come from a family that would make you look like a New Dealer.

  • 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.)
  • Gaslighting
  • 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!"
    • More broadly, the show had a lot of Double Entendre gags in the early years.
  • Girl of the Week: Or, in Hawkeye's case, a Nurse of the Week.
  • Glory Hound
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In on episode, Margaret steals Hawkeye's and B.J.'s clothes while they are showering.
  • Good-Looking Privates: Hawkeye doesn't wear his dress uniform very often, but when he does...
  • Good Shepherd: Father Mulcahy.
  • Grand Finale
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Col. Potter loves this trope. Father Mulcahy attracts a little of this as most of the cast call him Padre (Father).
    • Although calling a military chaplain Padre is common US Army slang, which even some Korean characters picked up.
  • Greater Need Than Mine
  • G-Rated Drug: Averted in "Dr. Winchester and Mr. Hyde". Winchester gets addicted to amphetamines, which are hardly G-Rated.
  • Gung-Holier Than Thou: Col. Flagg
  • Hahvahd Yahd in My Cah: Charles Emerson Winchester III
  • Halloween Episode: "Trick or Treatment"
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist
  • 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.
    • 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 character, a nurse named Millie Carpenter who dies 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.
  • Heat Wave: "None Like It Hot", "No Sweat"
  • Heroic BSOD: Hawkeye gets one in the finale when he witnesses a mother strangle her child at a checkpoint. Even worse, it turns out 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.
  • Hero of Another Story: Sidney Freedman who works mostly at the EVAC Hospital in Seoul and the 8063rd M*A*S*H, members of which would be mentioned and occasionally seen who are supposed to be at least as crazy as the members of the 4077th.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Hawkeye and Trapper, and later Hawkeye and BJ.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Numerous actors who would go on to bigger and better fame appeared on the show.
    • Patrick Swayze appeared as a soldier diagnosed with leukemia.
    • Lawrence Fishbourne was a wounded soldier.
    • George Wendt was a Marine with a pool ball stuck in his mouth.
    • Shelly Long was a nurse who was the object of Hawkeye's attentions.
  • 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.
  • 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. what, no mention of Klinger?
  • Huddle Shot: Two in the opening, and occurred in the episode P.O.V.
  • Hurricane of Puns
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Radar, at least until season six or so. In fact, he was the Trope Namer at one point.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Majors Burns and Houlihan often displayed this in the early seasons.
  • I Choose to Stay: Of all people, Klinger in the finale.
  • 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 (he'd been bombing civilian villages).
    • It was a completely different man who was the pilot who dropped bombs on what might have been a civilian village (we never find out what he hit that day, and neither did he, which was the whole point). Chandler was a bombardier who, after dozens of missions, couldn't cope with dropping any more bombs on ANYONE.
  • I Have This Friend: Klinger tries to use this with Potter once. Potter sees through it immediately (Probably because Klinger said the friend was serving in a MASH unit in Cleveland) and tells him to spit it out. Klinger admits that he'd found evidence that the camp's newest nurse had a serious drinking problem.
  • 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 Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: North Korean and Chinese soldiers could never seem to hit any of the main characters when shot at on camera. A particularly jarring example was Hawkeye being air dropped to a pinned-down foxhole to perform surgery on a wounded soldier, on Christmas, dressed as Santa, slowly climbing down a rope to the foxhole, rather than the chopper landing then taking off, thus being exposed to enemy fire that much less.
    • Hawkeye was actually in a sort of sling hanging from the chopper, which was thus able to deposit him on the ground without having to land itself, saving time over that option. BJ once attempted to descend by rope from a hovering helicopter under fire to get to a wounded soldier in an area where there was no landing place, but was stopped by the pilot (and was forced to cut the rope and abandon the wounded man, as they didn't have enough power to lift him out to a location where they could land).
    • Another notable example is a sniper (later revealed to be a very scared, and even more confused, kid barely old enough to draft) who took several shots at two bottles of high-class scotch, eventually destroying both, and never being known to have actually shot any people.
  • 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.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: BJ was the master.
  • Initialism Title
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: "Suicide Is Painless", originally used (with lyrics) in the feature film.
  • Invented Individual: Tuttle, the former Trope Namer.
  • I Owe You My Life: "Operation Friendship".
  • 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.
  • 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 plant life.
    • In the early seasons, the green plant life 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.
  • 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 inadvertently inventing the frisbee while discarding a pie plate.)
  • 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.
  • 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: Colonel, Margaret is missing!
Col. Potter: 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 (it worked).


  • Killed Off for Real. Bye, Henry Blake.
    • Nurse Miller dies after stepping on a landmine, without ever having been on screen.
  • The Klutz: Private Paul 'Look out below' Conway.
  • The Lancer: Trapper, and later BJ, were basically this for Hawkeye.
  • Last Rites: Father Mulcahy is frequently seen administering the last rites to dying and dead soldiers. We rarely get to see him do more than begin the process, though, but it's clear that it's the Anointing that he's performing, not the Viaticum -- if only because he's usually performing it on an unconscious soldier.
  • 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 DVD allows the viewer the option of having the laugh track turned off if they so choose.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Only Klinger and Father Mulcahy get promoted (though Burns makes Lieutenant Colonel after his departure). Radar also received a temporary promotion.
  • 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, in "Some 38th Parallels"
  • Loud of War: In one episode, Hawkeye and BJ got in a showdown with Charles -- he had a french horn they didn't like him playing, so they refused to shower until he stopped; he refused to stop.
  • Lucky Charms Title
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Compared to the movie version, the show's version of Suicide is Painless is very upbeat.
  • Mad Brass: "The General Flipped at Dawn"
  • Mad Magazine: M*A*S*H*UGA, M*U*S*H
  • 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.
  • 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.

"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."

  • Medal of Dishonor: BJ in "Bombshells".
  • 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.
  • Military Moonshiner
  • 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.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Done to great effect.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance: "Follies of the Living, Concerns of the Dead" is a combination of this and Fever Dream Episode.
  • New Year Has Come: "A War for All Seasons"
  • Nice Hat: Henry's bucket-style fishing hat; Col. 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.
    • 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 occasionally called "Gooks" by unsympathetic guest characters.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Obfuscating Disability: In one episode, Radar apparently hit an elderly Korean villager with a jeep. When the uninjured man demands $50 not to report Radar to the MPs, a visiting officer susses out that he's a well-known con man known as "Whiplash Wang".
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted by Klinger.
    • Also tried unsuccessfully by Hawkeye to get leave in the episode "Crackers, Bananas, 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 in the episode "Major Topper," whom Klinger is convinced is faking, but who turns out to be actually crazy.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: They're in the Army, after all, so the 4077th occasionally find themselves dealing with one or more of these.
  • Office Golf: Henry.
  • Oh, Cisco
  • Old Soldier: Colonel Potter.
  • 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".
  • Operation Blank: "Operation Noselift"
  • 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.
  • The Other Darrin: Father Mulcahy was played by George Morgan in the pilot episode before William Christopher took over the role.
    • Margaret Houlihan's fiancé, Lt. Donald Penobscot, was played by a different actor in each of his two appearances on the show.
    • Three different actresses played Rosie, the proprietress of Rosie's Bar, during the course of the show.
    • There were also several different actresses playing "Nurse Able" or "Nurse Baker" in various episodes. And two different guys voiced the camp P.A. announcer.
      • The nurses may be an example of They Just Didn't Care and were simply placeholder names used instead of creating names for unimportant background characters, much as the location of the battle the casualties are coming from is very often given as just "hill 403' (although the stagnation of the front on the later part of the war might be the cause of that).
    • A vehicle example: in the finale, a tank is driven into the compound by a wounded tanker. After it starts drawing enemy mortar fire, Hawkeye drives it out of the camp. The tank driven into the camp is an M24 Chaffee light tank; the tank Hawkeye drives out is an M4 Sherman medium tank. The two look nothing alike.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Captain Newsome in "Heal Thyself."
  • Out with a Bang: "Iron Guts Kelly"


  • Patriotic Fervor: Frequently displayed by Frank Burns and (especially) Colonel Flagg.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Frank pulls a pin out of a grenade with his teeth and spits it away before panicking and desperately searching for the pin.
  • 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.
  • Porn Stache: Donned by BJ beginning in season 7.
  • POV Cam: "Point of View"
  • Present Day Past
  • Pretty in Mink: Klinger, although one was used as a plot point before he stopped cross dressing.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Jamie Farr (season 4), William Christopher (season 5).
  • Psychic Powers: Radar had these (hence his nickname), although they were 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).
  • Pungeon Master: Most of the characters at times, but Hawkeye and BJ in particular.
  • Put on a Bus: Henry, Trapper, Frank, Radar. (In Henry's case, the bus crashed.)
    • 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".
  • Put on a Bus to Hell: Trapper in a minor example, at least from Haweye's point of view. His not leaving a note (only a goodbye peck on the cheek) clearly upset Hawkeye and has been picked up on by many a fanfic.
    • Of course, in real life, it was a "Take That" against actor Wayne Rogers, who had acrimoniously left the show because he was fed up with the fact that Trapper was being treated as a sidekick instead of an equal. In addition, he was also greatly frustrated with a "morals clause" in his contract, which stated he could be suspended or fired if he did anything the producers found objectionable. When Rogers left, in fact, the producers actually sued him for breach of contract, but their case fell apart when it was discovered that Rogers didn't even sign the contract in the first place, due to the clause issue.
  • The Rabbit Died: In the sixth-season episode "What's Up, Doc?", the only way for Margaret to find out if she's pregnant (by her now-estranged husband) is to use one of Radar's rabbits for a rabbit test. Subverted, actually, in that Radar insists that they not kill his pet rabbit, and Hawkeye and Margaret perform surgery on the rabbit to remove its ovaries non-fatally – leading to the rabbit surviving, in both senses of the term.
  • Rashomon Style: "The Novocaine Mutiny" has Hawkeye and Frank narrating very different versions of the same events during a court-martial hearing.
  • Real Life Relative: Robert Alda (Alan's dad) appeared in two episodes as visiting surgeon Anthony Borelli. The second of these also featured Antony Alda (Robert's other son and Alan's half-brother) as a medic.
    • Mike Farrell's then-wife Judy occasionally played a nurse in the later seasons.
    • The picture of Mildred on Potter's desk was actually a photo of Harry Morgan's real-life wife, Eileen Detchon.
  • 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. 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.
  • Really Dead Montage: "Abyssinia, Henry"
  • Really Gets Around: Hot-Lips, Hawkeye, Trapper.
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: There's a kid (played by Ron Howard) who lies about his age to get into the army; Hawkeye catches him and sends him home.

Kid: I'll hate you for the rest of my life!
Hawkeye: Let's hope it's a long and happy hate.

    • Ironically, Ron Howard was actually 18 at the time of filming.
  • 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.
  • Recurring Character: Col. Flagg, Sidney Freedman
  • Recycled: the Series
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Right on the Tick: Five O'clock Charlie
  • 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.

    • 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.
  • 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.)
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: Subverted actually, as most of the personnel in camp were simply "acting crazy to keep their sanity".
  • 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.
  • Series Continuity Error: The show had quite a few of these. To give just one example: 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.
    • Actually more of a Did Not Do the Research followed up by a Hand Wave. Hawkeye was from Maine and an only child in both the novel and the movie, and it was an error on the part of the early writers. When they discovered their mistake, they just blithely started using the existing backstory hoping nobody would notice... A better example of a Series Continuity Error would be Col. Potter stated to be from Montana before the writers settled on him hailing from Hannibal, MO.
  • Ship Tease: A few episode 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 women's clothing in an unsuccessful bid to be declared insane and win a Section 8 discharge is loosely based on a similar scheme by Lenny Bruce to get thrown out of the Navy by dressing up as a WAVE (or women's naval auxiliary) during World War Two.
      • Klinger even obliquely lampshades this with a reference to an uncle 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 (a minor-league baseball team) and Tony Packo's Cafe (a hot dog restaurant).
  • The Shrink: Sidney Freedman
  • Shirtless Scene: Any scene in the showers. Depending on the actor, this was either Fan Service or Squick.
  • 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.
  • Something Completely Different
  • 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.
  • Spin-Off: 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 Ear Drums: 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 Captain 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 captain 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, and that it wasn't known on the front lines that giving tea to treat abdominal wounds could cause complications, and promises to stop the practice immediately.
  • Stock Footage: Aside from the opening sequence, all the bugout footage of the camp being torn down. In the finale, you can even see Radar!
  • Strawman Political: Frank Burns, but that's okay since he was damn funny that way.
    • While the show never particularly lacked these, it became positively riddled with them in later years as Alan Alda seized more creative control and turned every other episode (at least) into an Author Tract.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Surgery Under Fire: Naturally M*A*S*H had multiple instances of this. In numerous episodes members of the 4077th were required to perform surgery at the front or under fire, including an episode where the entire camp was being shelled by friendly fire, and another where Father Mulcahy had to perform a tracheotomy on a wounded soldier in the back of a parked jeep at the side of a road while North Korean shells were falling all around him.
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: "Hawkeye"
  • 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. The two tanks look nothing alike, not even the treads (possibly foreshadowed when Klinger holds up a tent flap to show Potter).
  • 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: Potter and 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 golf clubs? STOP!"
  • Temporary Blindness: Hawkeye (and, in another episode, Temporary Deafness for Klinger).
    • Which leads to one of Klinger's CMOA's.
  • 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.
  • Throw It In: When a wildfire destroyed most of the show's outdoor set in Malibu during shooting for the final episode, a storyline involving a fire was added to the script.
    • During the second and final take of the scene where Henry's death is announced in "Abyssinia, Henry", somebody accidentally (and noisily) dropped a prop surgical tool during the long, shocked silence. Director Larry Gelbart decided to use it anyway, and later wrote that it worked so perfectly for the scene he wished he'd written it that way.
    • Much of the dialogue in "The Interview" is ad-libbed, with the cast improvising in-character responses to Clete Roberts's questions.
  • Time Capsule: "As Time Goes By"
  • To Absent Friends: Most especially when Potter is the last survivor of his World War I unit.
  • Tontine: Potter is part of one, though it's for a bottle of brandy rather than an investment.
  • Took a Level In Dumbass: Radar, sort of.
  • Tracking Shot
  • Triage Tyrant: Frank Burns plays this role at one point, prioritizing Americans over Koreans regardless of the severity of their injuries.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Ultimate Job Security: No matter what zany scheme Hawkeye pulls off or what general he offends, they need him as a doctor.
    • Also Truth in Television -- surgeons could get away with some ridiculous things, due to the sheer need for them.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Col. Potter, often horse-related.
    • More along the lines of regional euphemism, most of his euphemisms were actual (albeit he used the more family friendly ones) euphemisms used in West Texas.
    • Except that Potter was from Missouri...
      • But Texas has a lot of army bases, and Potter states several times that he lived the oft-transferred Army life.
    • 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.
  • Upper Class Twit: Frank Burns
  • 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.
  • 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 had been 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.
  • The Voice: The camp P.A. announcer.
    • In the episode "Run for the Money", Winchester plays a tape recording from his sister, Honoria.
  • War Is Hell: Pretty much the defining trait of the final seasons.
  • Warts and All
  • 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 the Hell, Hero??: "Preventive Medicine"
    • Hey Hawkeye, I don't like Frank Burns any more 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 after he laid into Radar for it.
  • 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.

"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."

  • Will: Hawkeye makes one out while at an aid station under heavy shelling in "Where There's a Will, There's a War".
  • Wire Dilemma: "The Army-Navy Game"
  • Worlds 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: (rubbing thumb and forefinger together) 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.
    • 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.
  • 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: "Ceasefire"
  • You Are in Command Now: "Carry On, Hawkeye"
  • You Imagined It
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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).
  • 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 Hot Lips. 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.
    • Averted in "Lil". Potter gets friendly with a visiting female colonel, but ultimately resists temptation.
      • 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.
  1. "Trapper" got his nickname for using a train toilet to take advantage of his prom date and nobody seems to care that this may have been rape as long as he 'got some'; 'Me Lay' is famous for using his absurdly crass pick-up line - "Me lay, you lay" - to acquire a stupendous 'batting average'; the doctors‍'‍ only interest in the epileptic whore down at the local brothel is in how much fun it is to have your penis inside her when she has a seizure; the reputation of the unit depends in part on the size of the dentist's male organ; the list goes on and on.