"Trapper" John Francis Xavier McIntyre, is a character in Richard Hooker's M*A*S*H novels, as well as a film and two TV series (M*A*S*H and Trapper John, M.D.) that followed them.
"The only man who ever took a piece in the ladies' can of a Boston & Maine train", McIntyre was depicted by Elliott Gould in the film M*A*S*H, Wayne Rogers in the television series M*A*S*H, and Pernell Roberts in the television series Trapper John, M.D. In the book and the film, Trapper John is a thoracic surgeon and the 4077th's Chief Surgeon. In the film, he had a very dry, sardonic deadpan sense of humor, while in the M*A*S*H TV series he was something of a class clown. Trapper spent much of his time on the series playing "Ethel" to Hawkeye Pierce's "Lucy", and partaking in playing practical jokes on the two majors, Frank Burns and Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. Trapper did spend considerable time fraternizing with the nurses, even though he apparently did love his wife and two daughters.
Experiences In The T.V ShowEdit
In "Mail Call" [2/23/74], Trapper is attacked by homesickness and a longing to see his family. After getting drunk, he packs his duffle bag and tries to go AWOL, even knocking Hawkeye to the ground with his duffle bag. Frank then shows up and the drunken Trapper gets caught up in lampooning him and forgets about desertion.
At one point, Trapper tried to adopt a Korean orphan ("Kim" [10/20/73]), and was crushed when he found out that the boy’s mother was still alive.
On two separate occasions, Major Houlihan drunkenly professed how Trapper's sturdy frame, crooked smile, and curly hair appealed to her. After the first incident ("Hot Lips and Empty Arms" [12/15/73]), he teased her at breakfast by telling her that "last night" (when he and Hawkeye were sobering her up in the shower) 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 apparently played football at Dartmouth College. In one episode he refers to a hemorrhoid as a "football injury" caused by sitting on the bench. When he tosses a football in careless play, Hawkeye teases him about having an "arm like a rifle" and he replies "Hall of Famer!"
Though he was typically easygoing and a jokester, he also had a dark side. This was demonstrated in "Radar’s Report" [10/29/73] when a patient he was trying to save died in part because a wounded POW destroyed the last bottle of blood the patient desperately needed. Trapper was so enraged that he confronted the bedridden POW in a threatening manner, with serious thoughts of murdering him in retaliation for the loss of his patient. Hawkeye was able to stop him before he did anything, though, gently reminding that as a physician, he was there to save lives, not take them.
Wayne Rogers was told when he accepted the role of Trapper for the TV series that Trapper and Hawkeye would be equally important, almost interchangeable. However, that changed radically when Alan Alda was cast as Hawkeye. By the end of the third season, Rogers was fed up with the fact that Trapper was being treated as a sidekick instead of an equal. Even though the latter half of the third season started to flesh Trapper out a bit, Rogers departed, and his character was written out of the series.
At the beginning of the fourth season, Hawkeye returns from "R & R" in Tokyo to find that Trapper has been discharged. Upon hearing the news, Hawkeye learns, an ecstatic Trapper ran through the mess tent naked. Radar had tried to reach Hawkeye in Tokyo to alert him of Trapper's departure, but without success. Trapper left no goodbye note but did "give" Radar a kiss on the cheek to pass on to Hawkeye, which he very reluctantly does.
Trapper John was referred to a few times in the series after his departure, most notably in an episode 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". In the final episode, B.J. is discharged from the army and leaves while Hawkeye is under psychiatric treatment. He must leave so quickly after hearing the news that he has no time even to leave a note, echoing Trapper's failure to do so at his departure. (Hunnicutt's orders are rescinded, however, and he gets only as far as Guam before being sent back, by which time Hawkeye has been released.)
Despite his friendship with Hawkeye, it is suggested that Trapper never bothered to contact him for the duration of the war (perhaps 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 upon his successor, B.J.
Trapper John, M.DEdit
'Trapper John, MD was a series that showed the character about thirty years after the Korean War. It ran from 1979 to 1986, and thus overlapped with M*A*S*H, which ended in 1983, but not with Trapper's time on M*A*S*H.
In the period between his Korea experience and his tenure at San Francisco Memorial Hospital, the character 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 personality traits Trapper John had had when he was younger.