China Beach (1990): S03E21 – The Gift


Introduction

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.

Outline

Lila is surprised when an old colleague from London and Korea, Lieutenant Colonel Libby Heiss (guest star Barbara Babcock), visits China Beach to make a recruitment film about nurses. Libby quickly gets on Lila’s nerves, talking about her role in the Pentagon and repeatedly calling Lila “Scooter,” an old nickname from their World War II days; Lila and the nurses are also unimpressed by Libby’s clunky, reality-ignoring script for the film. McMurphy receives a $10,000 check when she is made the beneficiary of a dead soldier’s insurance policy. An Army investigator, Capt. Soubra (guest star Gerrit Graham), brings her a $20,000 check from a second life insurance policy. After questioning her (and receiving a brutal assessment of McMurphy from a drunk Dr. Richard), Soubra tells her the investigation will proceed to a full inquiry. He suggests to Lila that McMurphy be suspended until the inquiry is complete, but when she refuses, he goes over Lila’s head to do it. Lila asks Libby for help with McMurphy and is denied by Libby, obsessed with being promoted to colonel before her retirement in two years. When the base is bombed, the old colleagues are pressed into service as nurses. Libby faints, seemingly from the graphic injuries being treated, but Richard informs Lila of an untreated heart condition and Lila confronts Libby about it. Libby refuses to treat it, worried she’ll be medically retired before reaching colonel. The argument brings long-simmering tensions to the surface; Lila covered for Libby when she went AWOL in Korea to get married and took the fall for it, curtailing her opportunities for advancement over the years. At McMurphy’s inquiry, Soubra and another investigator question her about the soldiers who named her beneficiary. She cannot remember either soldier, but describes a night in triage in vivid detail – then reveals that she wasn’t talking about a specific day and that every night is virtually the same. The investigator closes the inquiry and lets McMurphy leave. Libby submits to the physical and agrees to see a specialist in Tokyo. Libby gives Lila a recommendation for Lila to succeed her at the Pentagon, but Lila tears it up, understanding her priorities now lie in commanding China Beach and being with Sarge Pepper. In the ward that night, she finally admits to the origin of her nickname: while stationed in London, she used a scooter to zip around the city and meet her male suitors.

China Beach Series

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

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 23 April 1990.
  • Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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