Vicodin is extremely bitter. It may of course meant that he was not seasoning his potatoes but wanted to have the effects of Vicodin and was just fooling around.

But could it have been, bitter though the crushed pills would have been it was preferable to months of completely bland tubers for every meal? Was he out of other condiments, no salt or ketchup?

  • 1
    Watney specifically mentions in the scene in the movie that he run out of ketchup seven days prior. He was probably using vicodin not for the taste, but for the side effects. Oct 11, 2022 at 22:08
  • The taste itself is just horrible -- I had a tooth extracted and I tried swallowing a pill without enough water and gagged. So he would be better off taking the pill in the conventional way -- I can imagine no one deliberately tasting the stuff. It is no food or seasoning: it is a chemical that for all I know they make it taste bad on purpose so kids don't try to eat them or if they do, they would spit them out.
    – releseabe
    Oct 11, 2022 at 22:29
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    At this point he has eaten microwaved potatoes for several months. Probably everything is better than unseasoned potatoes after a while. Oct 11, 2022 at 23:07

1 Answer 1


The kindle edition has four mentions of vicodin, all about pain relief. The one in connection with potatoes does not mention any sprinkling, just says "after morning potato and vicodin I felt much better" (which I take to mean that Watney is both full and not in pain).

So this seems something added for the movie. I did presume when I saw the scene that it was supposed to be some sort of "in your face", as in, Watney is taking addictive drugs in the most obvious way possible and nobody can stop him. But it is not actually explained (and in the book he actually worries about becoming addicted).

  • It sounds like a Hollywood touch to add this to the story, I am glad the author did not come up with seasoning with it. But the idea of bitter being better than no flavor is possibly what the script writers were saying -- part of the solitude and monotony of his situation.
    – releseabe
    Oct 11, 2022 at 23:09
  • Our comments crossed -- we agree about bitter being better than nothing. He should have mentioned how bitter it is -- the average audience member would not know although I guess many people do know nowadays.
    – releseabe
    Oct 11, 2022 at 23:11
  • I think he was just being Mark Watney and showing his mischievous sense of humor.
    – Sotto Voce
    Oct 12, 2022 at 4:24
  • Perhaps the innocuous "vicodin and potato" got mutated into sprinkling during production design? Oct 12, 2022 at 5:03
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    @RossPresser - The screenplay is much the same, except that there's no talk of crushing; MARK (CONT'D) The point is, "Stretch the rations four more days" is a real dick-punch. [There are also two pills on the table. Mark crushes them.] MARK (CONT'D) I'm dipping this potato in Vicodin and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The very clear implication is that he's getting high.
    – Valorum
    Oct 12, 2022 at 5:45

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