Monster M*A*S*H

Rainbow Bridge was the second episode of Season 3 of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, also the 50th overall series episode. Written by Laurence Marks and Larry Gelbart, also directed by Hy Averback, it first aired on  September 17, 1974.


As Hawkeye and Trapper are planning to leave for Tokyo, an unusual offer to swap POW patients between the Chinese and the 4077th comes in. Henry, after much debate, agrees to send Hawkeye, Trapper, Burns, Radar, and Klinger into enemy territory. Burns almost botches the swap when he brings a real gun (a real small gun) to the exchange. Fortunately, the Chinese Dr. Lin Tam has a sense of humor (he went to U. of Illinois, after all).

Full episode summary[]

Hawkeye and Trapper are off for three days of R&R in Tokyo. Before they leave, Father Mulcahy gives them a list of supplies to purchase and Henry wants a package picked up from an illicit bookstore under the name “Orville Carver.” Naturally, wounded arrive, delaying their trip. Frank is in charge of triage and keeps sending patients who can wait for treatment. Hawkeye goes outside to confront Frank, who is keeping badly wounded Chinese patients on the bus, allowing all Allied soldiers to go before them. Hawkeye overrules Frank and takes the pressing Chinese cases immediately. In 36 hours, the 4077th handles 473 cases, but what's most alarming is a communication received during surgery. The Chinese contacted the 4077th directly by radio, stating they have nine wounded Americans that need more medical attention than they can provide. They ask the 4077th to send a team of doctors and corpsmen to Rainbow Bridge, which is fifty miles deep in enemy territory and twenty miles from the Chinese border. No weapons of any kind are permitted, else the exchange is off. At first, only Trapper thinks they should go pick up the wounded. Frank thinks the Chinese are too clever and Margaret fears an ambush. Hawkeye thinks it's a real offer, reasoning the Chinese are more rational than the North Koreans and know the Americans treat Chinese wounded well. Henry breaks the deadlock by asking Radar to arrange a driver and corpsmen to accompany the doctors to Rainbow Bridge. Initially, Frank decides not to go, but changes his mind at Margaret's insistence it could lead to a medal or promotion. Margaret gives Frank an antique sidearm to conceal on his body just in case. Radar gets volunteered by Henry to drive the bus and Klinger volunteers to be the corpsman, so the three of them join Hawkeye and Trapper on a long bus ride deep inside Communist territory.

Hawkeye, Trapper and Frank meet Dr. Lin Tan (Mako) at Rainbow Bridge along with three heavily armed Chinese soldiers, guns aimed and ready to fire. Dr. Tan speaks fluent English, for he attended the University of Illinois, the same university as Henry. Dr. Tan gives them explicit directions to retrieve their wounded as the Chinese soldiers cock their guns in anticipation of trouble.

Trouble comes when Frank panics and goes for his sidearm, alarming Hawkeye and Trapper, and causing Dr. Tan to explode in anger and call off the exchange. Hawkeye and Trapper stop Dr. Tan and try to reason with him and order Frank to give up his gun. When Dr. Tan sees the gun is a tiny antique, much like a toy, he bursts into laughter and orders the American wounded brought forward.

The casualties are brought back to the 4077th resulting in another 16 hours of surgery. Radar packs the suitcases for Trapper and Hawkeye, who are set to resume their Tokyo holiday, but the exhausted Captains pass out dead asleep. Radar tucks them in with a gentle “Good night, supermen.”

Research notes/Fun facts[]

  • The debut of Loudon Wainwright III as Captain Calvin Spalding. The character is named in the credits, but not in dialogue -- in fact, Spalding himself has no spoken dialogue, and does not interact with any other character. Instead, Spalding appears as sort of a wandering troubadour ironically commenting directly to the audience as the story unfolds. Spalding plays guitar and sings a song about Tokyo at various junctures, and is not acknowledged by any character on screen.
  • Bobbie Mitchell has several lines in both The Swamp and in O.R., but is omitted from the credits.
  • Kellye Nakahara and Gwen Farrell are seen as extras.
  • A character named Mr. Kwang assists Hawkeye with surgery in the O.R. Hawkeye addresses him by name twice (once as Kwang, once as Mr. Kwang) and Kwang has a few short lines in reply. The actor portraying the character is not credited, and remains unknown.
  • Margaret's pistol is a Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket, designed as a small concealable firearm of 0.25 caliber. It was carried, for example, by policemen as an off-duty weapon.
  • Although the mass exchange of wounded POWs only occurred near the end of the Korean Conflict in 1953, there were numerous contemporary accounts of Chinese troops at the local unit level releasing wounded prisoners, leaving wounded prisoners to be collected or even inviting UN forces to send personnel to collect their wounded.[1]

Guest stars/Recurring cast[]


  1. Arther H. Mitchell, Understanding the Korean War: The Participants, the Tactics, and the Course of the Conflict (Jefferson N.C.: McFarland, 2013), 96-97.

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