“Adam’s Ribs” is the eleventh episode of the third season of M*A*S*H, and fifty-ninth overall. The episode premiered Tuesday, November 26, 1974, on CBS.
It's nearing lunchtime one particular day at the 4077th and Captain 'Hawkeye' Pierce is starting to get restless. The camp has served a choice of either liver or fish for eleven days and Hawkeye remarks to Captain 'Trapper' John MacIntyre that he's going to go crazy if it happens again.
As they reach the front of the line Trapper reminds Hawkeye to stay in control while awaiting, Private Igor Starvinsky's revealing of his entree choices causes Hawkeye to snap. During the exchange he remarks; "I’ve eaten a river of liver and an ocean of fish. I’ve eaten so much fish, I’m ready to grow gills. I’ve eaten so much liver, I can only make love if I’m smothered in bacon & onions." Hawkeye then decides to fling the contents of his tray across the mess tent (which hits Corporals 'Radar' O'Reilly and Maxwell Klinger, who isn't happy about it) and then incites everyone in the mess tent to chant "we want something else" toward the kitchen staff.
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake is not happy about Hawkeye's shenanigans and asks him what he was thinking (to which Hawkeye responds "I broke under the pressure, warden"). However, he does agree that things have gotten a little repetitive in the mess tent and has taken measures to fix the problem, including ordering several turkeys to be shipped to the camp. Unfortunately, due to a mixup at I-Corps, Radar reveals that in their place the 4077th was sent 5,000 athletic supporters.
During the course of the conversation Hawkeye is looking at the skeleton hanging in Lt. Col. Blake's office and suddenly it hits him as to what he wants...barbecued spareribs. He then remembers a place in Chicago near the Dearborn Street train station called "Adam's Ribs" (although Hawkeye doesn't remember the name at this time) and tells Blake that he wants ribs from there. Blake is willing to help to a point, as he knows the Dearborn Street station well (he remarks that it's where he first met his wife and was the first place he was allowed to go to the men's room alone as a child) and gives Hawkeye the phone number for the station. However, they can't call due to the time difference.
Later that night Hawkeye wakes up Radar and tells him to get the station on the phone. The two then cook up a series of elaborate ruses to get through to the station (Radar declaring the call military business of the highest priority and Hawkeye pretending he's in a foxhole calling his family) so they can then call Adam's Ribs and place the order. After placing an order for forty pounds of ribs and a gallon of barbecue sauce Hawkeye celebrates, but his joy is quickly dashed when a quick realization hits him...he forgot to order coleslaw.
A few hours later, Hawkeye and Trapper are brainstorming as to how they're going to get the ribs from Chicago to the 4077th as Adam's Ribs doesn't deliver and Hawkeye called for a pickup order. An angry Klinger, who was wearing a stole that he prized when he became an unwilling target for Hawkeye's lunch, becomes a beacon of hope as he has an uncle in Chicago. However, Klinger refuses to help because he won't be able to get his Section 8 discharge papers signed (although both Hawkeye and Trapper are willing, none of the other three officers in the camp would do it as three signatures are required). Fortunately for Hawkeye, Trapper remembers a woman named Mildred Feeny with whom he had a "three-night stand" years ago and calls her to ask for help. Mildred comes through for Trapper and Hawkeye and the ribs are on their way to Korea from Chicago's Midway Airport in a box marked "RUSH MEDICAL SUPPLIES."
A few days later the ribs arrive but are stuck at supply. Hawkeye and Trapper go down to try to negotiate them from a stubborn supply sergeant, who is willing to help once he finds out where they're from (as he lives in Joliet, a Chicago suburb, and is a huge fan of Adam's Ribs). The supply sergeant offers to release the ribs in exchange for 20 pounds of ribs and a quart of sauce which Hawkeye counters with 10 pounds of ribs and a pint of sauce. After settling on 12 pounds of ribs and a pint and a half of the barbecue sauce going to the sergeant, Hawkeye and Trapper head back to the 4077th.
At the end of the episode, it seems that Hawkeye's quest will finally be complete as the ribs are cooked and ready to eat. However, just as he is about to dig in, wounded are brought to the camp and Hawkeye is foiled. The episode ends with Hawkeye stammering, as he is being pulled away from the table by Trapper and Lt. Col. Blake: "But the ribs...they're right there, and we have them...we called all the way to Chicago...we had to trick Mildred, one rib, a tiny rib, just one little riblet ..."
Behind the scenes
The rib restaurant discussed in the episode is not based on any specific Chicago restaurant. As Larry Gelbart explained, "Part of it had to do with the city's 'hog butcher for the world' reputation, but it principally was just a conceit, a loving homage, to a place that I can never forget." While the Dearborn Street station is a real place, the region surrounding it was primarily industrial during the 1950s.
One Chicago restaurant, Cy's Crabhouse, did rename itself Adam's Rib and Ale House in 2008 in order to help business.
The man at the station Hawkeye speaks to is Bernard Reznik. In Czech reznik means butcher.
- Douglas J. Gladstone. "In search of Adam's Ribs - 'Mash' fans keep looking for the Chicago restaurant Hawkeye called from Korea, and guess what they find?". Chicago Sun-Times. April 19, 2009. D1.