China Beach (1990): S03E12 – Nightfall


China Beach is an American dramatic television series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War.

The title refers to My Khe beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, nicknamed “China Beach” in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The ABC TV drama aired for four seasons, from 1988 to 1991.


Boonie discovers the battered body of a buxom Vietnamese prostitute in a black sparkling gown that was washed upon the seashore, he rushes her to McMurphy’s stretcher so she can revive the victim, but no avail. During her autopsy, McMurphy recognises an earring she was wearing matching a pair she had borrowed from K.C. Beckett finds that someone has carved “diem,” the Vietnamese word for prostitute, on her stomach. McMurphy asks K.C. if she recognises the earring or the woman, but she denies any knowledge. However, flashbacks show K.C. helped dress the woman for a night with officers. K.C. asks Otis about the woman’s death, which he refers to as an “extremely unfortunate accident” and says that an investigation is unlikely to happen. K.C. vows to investigate it on her own, starting with Sarge Pepper, who drove the woman to the party. He tells her that he left the woman behind with the officers, more concerned about possible damage to his Jeep, and gives her loose pearls he had found in the vehicle. She continues with Lila, asking her to intervene, but Lila declines to get involved. The woman’s teenage daughter shows up and asks to work for K.C., believing her mother has found an American soldier. Together, they visit the madame of a Da Nang brothel, who acts unconcerned about the woman’s death and refuses to give K.C. any information. Lila has a change of heart and gives K.C. the list of officers at the party, relating to being the lone woman at officers’ parties. K.C. confronts Otis and threatens to elevate the investigation, but he urges her to drop it. On a visit back to the brothel, K.C. discovers the woman’s daughter with an American soldier and intervenes, but suffers a cut on her face when the soldier strikes her back. Sarge Pepper returns an engraved lighter to K.C., a gift she had rejected from Otis, and she realises that he was at the party and knows more than he has told her – potentially even the officer who murdered the woman. She confronts him with it and he denies killing the woman, then reveals he is transferring back to Saigon. K.C. pays the madame for the freedom of the woman’s daughter and sends her off with a nun. Shaken by the events, she gives a confessional in the church ruins. In it, she compares her life as a prostitute to the cattle slaughtered in her rough first job stateside in a meatpacking plant; while she had built up a hardened exterior, she now worries of something that could “pierce her heart.”

China Beach Series

You can find a full index and overview of China Beach here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 10 January 1990.
  • Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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