Discuss: How Would Trapper and Colonel Potter Interact?


Monday M*A*S*H Discussions offers fans the opportunity to offer their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to M*A*S*H. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. My hope is these discussion posts will continue to elicit comments in the weeks and months after they’re initially published. Have a suggestion about something you think might be worth discussing? Let me know and maybe it will become my next Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topic.

Ferret Face suggested today’s topic: How would Trapper and Colonel Potter interact?

The Joker and the Soldier

Way back when I asked readers to share ideas for potential Monday M*A*S*H Discussion topics, Ferret Face suggested discussing which main characters who never met would have the best interactions. I decided to split this interesting topic into multiple topics, each with a different paring. Back in March, we discussed how Colonel Blake and Charles would interact. In June, we talked about Trapper and Charles. Today, let’s ponder how Trapper and Colonel Potter would get along.

When Wayne Rogers left M*A*S*H, the producers wisely decided not to replace Trapper with a similiar character. Unlike Trapper, who regularly cheated on his wife, B.J. was a devoted husband. Both enjoyed drinking and pulling pranks, although Trapper likely drank more than B.J. while B.J. had more fun with practical jokes.

Of the two, B.J. clearly had more respect for military discipline. That helps explain why Colonel Potter and B.J. always seemed to get along so well. Would Trapper have been as blatantly disrespectful to Colonel Potter as he was to Henry? Doubtful, because Hawkeye never treated Colonel Potter the way he treated Henry.

How would Colonel Potter react to Trapper’s infidelity? With a career as long as his, I’m sure Colonel Potter commanded many men who cheated on their wives. He’d probably let Trapper know he didn’t approve but otherwise ignore it unless it interfered with Trapper’s duties. That said, Colonel Potter likely wouldn’t be as a close with Trapper as he was with B.J., simply because the two couldn’t bond over how much they missed their wives.

Hit the comments with your thoughts.

7 Replies to “Discuss: How Would Trapper and Colonel Potter Interact?”

  1. I think Trapper and Colonel Potter would have been fine. Yes, Trapper was a jokester and irreverent, but was still a skilled, dedicated surgeon. And Potter was a skilled, dedicated surgeon who was a career soldier. He could take a joke, too. Would he have listened when Potter told him to buddy up to Frank when Margaret was in Tokyo? Probably. A

    As for Trapper’s infidelity, if I were a writer, I’d have toned it down a lot. Still, Potter would probably not need to worry unless it affected Trapper’s work. As it never did in the first three seasons, I doubt it would have later.

    All in all, any difference would have been minor, in my opinion.

  2. I agree with everything here. Additionally, I believe that if Trapper had stayed, there would have been a different dynamic between Hawkeye and Potter. B.J.’s friendliness with Potter helped bridge the gap between womanizing, bachelor, chaotic Hawkeye and stable family man Potter. If Trapped had stayed, his distance from Potter would probably have kept Hawkeye from becoming close to Potter. Instead of a Hawkeye-B.J.-Potter alliance there would have been a truce with Potter on one side and Hawkeye and B.J. on the other. Would that have given Frank and Margaret opportunities to get Potter in their side? Frank would have thought so, but he also would have blown it with his irrational and petty agenda. Margaret, OTOH, might have been able to form her own alliance with Potter if she didn’t overplay her hand and if she focused on the good of the unit and not her personal antipathy toward Hawkeye and Trapper. Potter would not have been drawn into any of Margaret’s personal agenda, but he also might have been less lenient and indulgent with H & TJ’s shenanigans.

  3. Doug’s thoughts are pretty much the same as mine.

    I really can’t see there being much of a difference in relationship from what BJ and Potter had Potter came into the 4077th looking like he’d be strict regular army, but he showed himself to be more easygoing than first expected shortly thereafter.

    Maybe (maybe) there would have been a bit more tension before Potter truly warmed up to the Hawkeye / Trapper duo, as opposed Hawkeye and BJ, but even that I have a hard time seeing. Remember, in his early episodes Potter seems genuinely amused by Hawkeye; BJ had a good relationship with him, sure, but I don’t think he really made a difference in how Potter saw/reacted to Hawkeye one way or the other. Indeed, it’s mostly Hawkeye that brings out the softer side of Potter by the end of “Change of Command.” So, just like he did to Hawkeye, I think he’d react much the same way to Trapper.

    I do think that with Potter’s level head and stable marriage, he could have been an influence on Trapper and provided a catalyst for a toning down of that character’s habitual adultery, even if the influence was never explicitly stated outright. But really, unless Trapper’s drinking or womanizing became an issue that adversely affected his performance in the OR or the camp’s morale, I see Potter having the same warm-but-authoritative relationship with him as he did BJ.

    1. It’s worth remembering that Trapper’s behavior was still influenced by the character in the book and movie. By season 3, much less emphasis was put on those ties. Heck, by the end of season 1, the movie characters like Spearchucker, Knocko, Dish, etc were gone. The writers were putting their own stamp on the show. Having Trapper (had Wayne Rogers stayed) move beyond being a womanizer would probably have happened. The show would have been fine.

  4. Awkward. Potter the faithful family man and Trapper who behaved like a divorced father with the freedom to chase any woman he wanted. Potter would likely tell Trapper as long as it doesn’t affect the work than its none of his business. Otherwise i don’t know.

  5. One of the biggest differences between Henry and Potter is that Henry inspired loyalty while Potter inspired respect. Trapper was very loyal to Henry even knowing that he was incompetent as an administrator. If Trapper had interacted with Potter, he would have probably begun with skirt-chasing, but would have quickly reined it in because he would have wanted to earn Potter’s approval. Potter wouldn’t have curtailed the skirt chasing (unless it affected his work) but his disapproval would have been devastating to Trapper’s self-worth.

    I’m sure we all know someone whom we want to be proud of us and how painful it is to hear that we have disappointed them (which is actually *worse* than having them angry at us)

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