"John McIntyre! 'Trapper' John! Only man to find fulfillment in a Boston Maine Railway, in the- in the ladies can! Conductor opened the door, the girl looked out and yelled 'Oh, he trapped me! Omigod, he trapped me!"
~Hawkeye when he remembers Trapper John, talking about how he got his name (1970 film)
Captain "Trapper John" McIntyre (born John Francis Xavier McIntyre), is a character in Richard Hooker's M*A*S*H novels, as well as in the 1970 film and two TV series. McIntyre is portrayed by Elliott Gould in the 1970 film, by Wayne Rogers in the first three seasons of the television series, and then by Pernell Roberts in the 1979-86 series Trapper John, M.D.
About Trapper John[edit | edit source]
Boston born and raised, John McIntyre is a thoracic surgeon (chest cutter), and in the film is appointed the 4077th's Chief Surgeon. In the film he had a very dry and sardonic sense of humor, while in the TV series he was more of a clown. In the original novel he, Hawkeye and Duke were all married, while in the film there is no mention of Trapper's marital status, but they all lived a semi-hedonistic lifestyle with their drinking and carousing. In the TV series, while Hawkeye was depicted as a confirmed bachelor, Trapper was married, but still fraternized with the nurses while remaining devoted to his wife and children.
The nickname[edit | edit source]
John had a reputation for being a womanizer. He acquired the nickname "Trapper John" during an incident in which he was having sex with a woman in a Boston & Maine Railway washroom. The two were caught by a conductor, at which point the woman turned against John shouting, "He trapped me! He trapped me!", and the nickname "Trapper John" permanently stuck.
In the film[edit | edit source]
When Trapper first arrives at the 4077th, he is very ambiguous about himself; all Duke can get out of him is that he is from Boston and that he has been in the Army two months. Hawkeye starts asking him questions, swearing that he has seen him somewhere before. After an OR session and a brief game of pick-up football during which Hawkeye catches a long pass thrown by Trapper, Hawkeye, to his delight, finally remembers him from a crazy football game between Hawkeye's Androscoggin College and Trapper's Dartmouth College; Androscoggin won 6-0 during a blizzard when Hawkeye intercepted one of Trapper's passes and scored in the last few seconds of the game.
Once Trapper settles in at camp, he becomes the wild one of the group, drinking, carousing, and playing pranks on the others, especially Margaret. But he also stands up for others, particularly the enlisted, when they are thrown into indefensible situations. In Post Op, Frank Burns wrongly accuses an enlisted corpsman named Boone of killing his patient; Boone is crushed, but Trapper examines the patient's chart and then punches Frank in the presence of Margaret who had just arrived at camp moments earlier. This presents a problem for Colonel Blake as he intended to appoint Trapper Chief Surgeon, but Margaret is determined to see Trapper punished.
In the TV series[edit | edit source]
In the film, Trapper was purported to be single while Hawkeye was married, but in the series, their marital statuses were reversed, and while Trapper was still a womanizer he remained devoted to his wife and children and remained a family man at heart. In Mail Call, Trapper becomes overwhelmingly homesick. He gets drunk, packs his duffel bag and tries to go AWOL, even knocking Hawkeye down when he tries to stop him. But Frank then shows up and the drunken Trapper gets caught up in lampooning him and forgets all about deserting. At one point, Trapper was about to adopt a Korean orphan boy (Kim), and was crushed when the boy's actual mother came looking for him.
On two separate occasions, Margaret drunkenly professes her attraction to Trapper John. After the first incident (Hot Lips and Empty Arms) during which he and Hawkeye dragged her into the shower to sober her up, she said to Trapper, "You're built, you son of a gun". The next morning at breakfast, he teased her by telling her that "last night" meant a lot to him and he wanted to know she was not "playing games". He even made Frank panic when he said: "To think of all those years I wasted taking showers by myself."
Trapper also had a moral code, and though he was normally easygoing, he occasionally showed his dark side. In Radar’s Report, when Trapper's patient later dies after a wounded POW smashed an IV blood bottle connected to the patient, Trapper was so enraged that he confronted the bedridden POW in a threatening manner, with serious thoughts of retaliation for the loss of his patient. But Hawkeye stopped him before he did anything, gently reminding that as doctors, they were there to save lives, not take them.
The strain and stress of being apart from his family, plus his alcohol addiction, caused Trapper to suffer a severe case of stomach ulcers which almost got him transferred home (Check-Up), but when he finds out that the Army no longer discharges personnel for ulcers, Trapper is offered a transfer to another hospital for treatment, but decides to stay on at the 4077th.
Leaving the 4077th[edit | edit source]
Early on, Trapper and Hawkeye were partners, both partaking in hedonistic pursuits and playing practical jokes on Majors Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan. But by the end of the third season, Trapper was often treated more as a sidekick, which did not go unnoticed by Wayne Rogers; when he accepted the role of Trapper John for the TV series he was told that Trapper and Hawkeye would be almost interchangeable equals, but this turned out to not be the case when Alan Alda was cast as Hawkeye. To make matters worse, Trapper's TV portrayal was compromised even more when it was decided that Hawkeye, not Trapper, was to be the chest cutter and therefore Chief Surgeon.
By the third season, Rogers had grown weary of playing second banana, and even though Trapper's character was fleshed out more during the latter half of the third season, Rogers decided to depart at season's end, and his character had to be written out of the series. Consequently, unbeknownst to viewers at the time, Abyssinia, Henry would be Trapper John's final M*A*S*H episode as well as Henry's.
At the beginning of Season 4 (after the dramatic season 3 finale in which Henry is discharged but killed on the way home), Hawkeye returns from R & R in Tokyo to find that Trapper has also been discharged. According to Radar, after hearing the news, an ecstatic Trapper went streaking through the mess tent. Radar had tried unsuccessfully to reach Hawkeye in Tokyo to alert him of Trapper's departure. Trapper left no goodbye note but did "give" Radar a kiss on the cheek to pass on to Hawkeye, which he very reluctantly does. Hawkeye and Radar rush to Kimpo airport to attempt to see him one last time before he departs stateside, but while they miss Trapper by a mere ten minutes, they meet his replacement, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt.
After Trapper[edit | edit source]
Trapper John was referred to a few times in the series after his departure, most notably in The Joker is Wild, in which B.J. Hunnicutt, hearing of the pranks played by Trapper John, attempts to show that he in fact is "the number one scamp". Trapper was also referenced in Period of Adjustment, during which B.J. is overcome with envy over Radar's discharge, and says he almost hates Radar because he is home while B.J. is still in Korea, then mentioning that he feels the same way about Trapper even though the two have never met. In the series finale, B.J. receives his discharge while Hawkeye is in Seoul undergoing psychiatric treatment. But B.J. is so pressed for time after hearing the news that he is unable to even to leave a note, echoing Trapper's failure to do so at his own departure. But immediately after Hunnicutt departs, his orders are rescinded, and he only gets as far as Guam before being sent back to the 4077th, by which time Hawkeye has returned.
Despite his friendship with Hawkeye, it is implied that Trapper never bothered to contact him for the remainder of the war to apologize for his awkward departure; even though that was completely selfish and out of character on his part, it was probably the writers' intent to not let his departed character cast a negative shadow on his replacement, B.J.
Incorrectly regarded as a goof in the series is him being shown as a Captain. The series is correct in having him be a Captain. Once the degree of MD is conferred on a member of the military, they are given the rank of Captain in both the Army and the Air Force. The rank of Captain is achieved after 7 years of active duty service or a field promotion for officers on the line side (fighting). The rank of Major is attained for members of the AMEDD after serving as a Captain for 6 years.
Trapper John, M.D.[edit | edit source]
Trapper John, MD is a series that showed the character in a contemporary setting (approximately 25 years after the Korean War ended). It ran from 1979 to 1986, and thus overlapped with M*A*S*H, which ended in 1983, but did not overlap with Trapper's time on M*A*S*H.
In the time between his Korea experience and his tenure at San Francisco Memorial Hospital, Trapper had matured considerably, becoming a more sedate part of the medical establishment. Much of the story line of Trapper John, M.D. revolved around the relationship between the Korean War veteran Trapper John and Dr. George "Gonzo" Gates, who had served in a MASH unit in Vietnam and exhibited some of the same character traits Trapper himself once had.
It has been conceded by both fans, critics and the producers of Trapper John M.D. that Pernell Roberts' character was modeled after Elliot Gould's film portrayal rather than Wayne Rogers' depiction in the TV series. In the later drama, Trapper John is divorced, there is no mention of his two daughters (from the TV series), but he has a son who is also a physician.
Ironically, Wayne Rogers starred in a hospital sitcom House Calls which aired from 1979-1982. Rogers played Dr. Charley Michaels, a character similar to Trapper John, and similar in comedic tone to the earlier seasons of M*A*S*H.