Trapper’s MASH Exit Is So Much Sadder Than You Think

Wayne Rogers' Trapper John was among the original cast of MASH who left early on despite its success, but his departure is the saddest of them all.

MASH featured a lot of character departures, but nothing is as sad as Trapper John McIntyre’s (Wayne Rogers). The medical show from the ’70s is iconic for several reasons. Regarded as one of, if not the best sitcoms of all time, MASH pushed the boundaries of storytelling by toeing the fine line between comedy and drama. Despite its success, there was a time that it had a series of actor departures, which left the 4077 without half of its original personnel. Amid a slew of exits, however, the way Trapper was written out is arguably the most tragic of them all.

As part of the original MASH cast member, Trapper was bunkmate and partner-in-crime of Alan Alda’s Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce. Known for their playful antics, they were the primary source of ruckus and havoc around 4077. Despite their rowdy behavior, however, they were great surgeons, making it impossible to really sanction them. Beyond their work and mischiefs, Trapper and Hawkeye were great friends, so it was devastating when the former left Korea. However, there’s a deeper reason why his departure is the saddest exit in MASH.

RELATED:MASH’s Cast Exodus Was What Made The Show So Great

Trapper Was The Only MASH Character That Didn’t Have A Send-Off

mash trapper wayne rogers

Through the years, MASH was able to come up with a variety of ways to write out a character. Despite exiting after season 3, Trapper wasn’t the first one from the original crew to leave 4077. Previously, McLean Stevenson, Lt. Colonel Henry Blake bid the gang goodbye as he got the go-ahead to return home. What was supposed to be a happy trip, however, ended in tragedy after the plane he was on was shot down, effectively killing him. However, despite his tragic fate, Trapper’s farewell was still sadder because he never got the chance to say goodbye to Hawkeye.

RELATED:Why Henry Blake Was Really Killed Off In MASH Season 3

MASH made a big deal setting up Blake’s departure, giving him time with every member of the unit. Sadly, because Trapper’s departure was sudden (as was with Rogers), the show was unable to set up a much better swan song. The MASH season 4 premiere tried to make a deal out of it by showing Hawkeye rushing to the airfield to say goodbye, but it only made their separation sadder as he ultimately missed his friend’s plane. If MASH was able to stage one final telephone conversation between Pierce and Frank Burns when he left in season 6, they certainly could have done a better job with Trapper’s exit.

What Happened To Trapper After MASH

Trapper John, M.D. cast photo

Trapper’s departure from MASH effectively ended Rogers’ stint as the character. However, the surgeon’s post-Korea life was tackled in a semi-spin-off titled Trapper John M.D. Technically an offshoot of the MASH film, Trapper was played by Pernell Roberts who went on to inhabit the role for seven years. In the sitcom, the Korean War veteran returned home and became the Chief of Surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. Roberts played a mellower version of Trapper. He was less mischievous than Rogers’ iteration but was equally caring and empathetic towards his patients.

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