(These are my continuing thoughts of where the MASH characters ended up, after the war.)
CAPT. JOHN “TRAPPER” MCINTYRE
What we know: He settled in the Bay Area, and became the chief of surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. At some point before then, he divorced his wife. He became calmer and less womanizing in his maturity—although he never re-married. Eventually his son, JT, graduated medical school and joined his father’s hospital for his internship.
What I think: Trapper spent a lot of time drinking after he left Korea. The death of Henry Blake hit him especially hard. Trapper became an alcoholic who still functioned at work, but the disease (and his wartime affairs) cost him his marriage. He entered recovery in the 1970s. He never contacted Hawkeye—or really, anybody else from the 4077. During the remains of the war, this reticence stemmed from his remorse about getting away, while the rest of them stayed over there—or worse, died in a chopper crash. After the war, Trapper felt shame for not doing well, even though he’d been one of the first to leave. At the same time, he became aware that part of him didn’t escape the war at all—and that confronting someone like Hawkeye would summon too many ghosts.
A ghost found Trapper at a medical convention in 1961, when a Dr. Hunnicutt recognized Trapper’s name. As they talked, Trapper became enraged by Frank’s promotion; bemused by Margaret’s transformation; amazed at Klinger’s willingness to stay in Korea; and dismayed (and even guilty) about how Hawkeye’s final days in Korea found him in a mental hospital. BJ said that if anyone could ever understand Trapper for his reticence, Hawkeye’s own withdrawal would make him a perfect candidate. Trapper said that maybe he and Hawkeye were too much alike—drinkers, womanizers, ace rebel doctors who did their best work with people when those people were asleep. Trapper wondered if Hawkeye’s difficulties came in part because Trapper wouldn’t stay in touch. BJ shrugged and finished his drink. He said there was still time.
LT. COL. FRANK BURNS
What we know: After suffering a meltdown over Margaret marrying Donald, Frank received a transfer to a VA hospital in Indiana. This was so he could run the hospital. For all we know, the army never saw fit to treat him. They did, however, promote him to Lt. Colonel.
What I think: Upon his return, Louise stayed married to Frank just long enough to get the best alimony she could. Frank did little to contest the arrangements. He served as the head of the VA for five years. (He hired on his former secretary—and erstwhile lover—to serve as his administrative assistant.) He eventually married this secretary—because he needed somebody to take care of him, and because he needed a wife so he could look better as a senate candidate. In the early ‘60s, Frank won election as the arch-conservative Senator Frank (All Communism) Burns. He’d keep that post until his retirement in the mid 1980s.
Soon after his election, Frank prevailed upon Margaret to have a drink with him in DC. (It’s possible that he wanted to show her how he’d finally surpassed Lt. Col. Penobscott.) Margaret was cordial during the meeting, but she brooked no joking at any MASHers’ expense. She especially defended Potter and BJ as the finest soldier and civilian she’d ever met, respectively. She and Frank had little to say after that.
“Margaret,” said Frank, “flare your nostrils for me, just once for old times.”
“Senator,” said Margaret, “as a veteran, I have a hard time making faces at a man with no lips.”
Margaret did ask for Frank’s help when Erin Hunnicutt faced riot charges: “I know we’ve fallen out of touch, Senator, but from your time in Korea and the VA, you must understand how when war asks so much of our youth that they eventually must say no. War is so old, and we keep feeding them the young, until war either makes them old too, or uses them to bolster its own longevity by feasting on the banquet of their unspent youth.” Charles Winchester wrote Margaret that last line in a Christmas letter, and she used it with permission. Frank would later use it, without attribution, at a campaign rally in South Bend. He would, however, pull the strings for Erin Hunnicutt. Frank never divulged why he did such a thing. Maybe he liked the power of removing a stranger from her life’s trajectory. Maybe he enjoyed how BJ might now feel indebted to him. Perhaps he had indeed changed since his work in the VA. Or it’s possible that after all these years, he still couldn’t say no to (almost) any request from Margaret.