I awoke on January 1st 2016, to a bright new year, but also to the death of Wayne Rogers. Wayne Rogers played Trapper John Mcintyre on M*A*S*H, a show which early on helped to define my sense of humor, and made me realize that I could never practice medicine. M*A*S*H is my go to show. It is what I watch when I am sick, it is what I watch when I am homesick or nostalgic.
I was first introduced to the show’s later seasons, and so was raised on BJ Hunnicut and Charles Emerson Winchester. It would be years before I encountered Frank Burns, Colonel Blake and trusty Trapper John. Watching the two eras of this show, is almost like watching two different shows, and I have a hard time deciding which I prefer. The character of Trapper John was a defining factor of those early years. He was only in three of the show’s eleven seasons, and it was his departure, along with MacLean Stevenson, that started the changing of the guard. Trapper had a touch of the Fonz about him, a touch of his cohort Alan Alda, and something else that was uniquely Wayne Rogers.
So, for the uninitiated, here is a list of ten classic episodes, designed to introduce you to Trapper John, “champion of the oppressed and molester of registered nurses.”
Season 1, episode 3, “Requiem for a Lightweight.” In this episode, Trapper is persuaded to compete in a boxing match in exchange for getting a coveted nurse back on base.
Season 1, episode 23 “Cease-Fire.” Rumors of a ceasefire spread fast, and everyone but Trapper believes them and starts preparing for home. “I’ll drink to it, but I don’t believe it.” At the end of the day, Trapper gets the last laugh.
Season 1, episode 12. “Dear Dad.” A Hawkeye-centered episode with a sweet storyline involving Trapper and the local children.
Season 2, episode 3. “Radar’s Report.” In this episode, we get to see the darker side of the usually easygoing Trapper when a patient of his dies because of the actions of an enemy POW
Season 2, episode 23. “Mail Call.” One of the few episodes in which Trapper really talks about his kids, instead of the women he’s chasing, lots of adultery to overlook in those early years. “20,000 miles from home not to have them around.”
Season 3, episode 3. “Officer of the Day.” Not an especially Trapper intensive story, but he gets the best gag of the entire season in the last few minutes of the episode. Wayne Rogers plays the long game, and gets the win.
Season 3, episode 7. “Check Up.” Trapper gets an ulcer, but also gets done over by the army. One of the best moments between Trapper and Margaret, “I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you something Captain Trapper Johnintyre”.
Season 3, episode 15. “Bombed.” Margaret and Trapper get trapped in the supply closet during heavy shelling. Wonderful simply for the building chemistry between Wayne Rogers and Loretta Swit.
Season 3, episode 16. “Bulletin Board.” Alan Alda received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for directing this episode, but it is Trapper’s letter to his children that really steals the show. “Well now that you’re all of seven, I’ll try to describe what it’s like over here. First of all, I live in a tent which is old and smelly with two other doctors, who are young and smelly.” Hawkeye was increasingly given the dramatic OR saves, but this episode, it’s all about Trapper.
Season 4, episode 1. “Welcome to Korea.” This episode doesn’t actually have Wayne Rogers in it, and he might not want this episode on a list of his. The last episode of season three was to be the last episode Rogers was in, but no one knew that at the time it was shot. Essentially the first episode without him is his goodbye. Hawkeye returns from R and R and races to the airport to try and see Trapper before he leaves Korea. It is Trapper seen through the eyes of Hawkeye, that we really see in this episode.
M*A*S*H is available on Netflix, but you will have to put up with the rather dated laugh track.