China Beach (1990): S04E07 – One Giant Leap


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.


With hours to spare before the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, Sarge Pepper leads China Beach’s effort to witness it. Elsewhere, Boonie has lost his affable demeanor and is now tired of war. He frequently uses marijuana and provides soldiers recuperating and on R&R with drugs. McMurphy is approached by an injured soldier, Everett Jr. (guest star Morgan Weisser), who asks her to lie about the extent of his injury to avoid going back into combat. She also finds herself jealous of new nurse Gloria Dawn (guest star Kathy Molter), who has caught the eye of Dr. Richard. Beckett also catches the attention of Sweet Hula (guest star Vanessa Bell Calloway), the USO singer visiting the base, and the two sleep together. McMurphy confronts Gloria Dawn about falsifying records to send soldiers home, but she checks Everett’s records and discovers he had previously been injured and sent to China Beach twice. He tells McMurphy the truth about his injury: He was shot by a child in the Viet Cong and has lost the stomach for war. Gloria Dawn expresses an interest in an open relationship with Richard. Sweet Hula and Beckett discuss the war’s outsized impact on African-American troops and Sweet Hula asks if he has ever considered the white McMurphy as a romantic partner. Gloria Dawn allows a raucous party in the hospital ward, fueled by Boonie’s drug connections. The party is broken up by a pistol-wielding Everett, who threatens to shoot McMurphy and then shoot himself in the foot to end his military service. He hands over the gun and tells her it was not loaded. McMurphy angrily confronts Boonie about the incident, but he tells her the war has changed and he is no longer interested in cheering up soldiers only for them to die in war. In the morgue, Beckett asks McMurphy to dance – and if she has ever been interested in him before. She struggles for an answer, saying they are just friends and that she has never thought of them that way before, and the two share a kiss. As a rainstorm begins, the Apollo 11 astronauts begin their descent to the Moon. While driving a truck outside China Beach to return with astronaut-themed party supplies, Boonie strikes an explosive device in the road, launching the truck into a rapidly filling pond and pinning his leg beneath the truck. Sarge Pepper leads the effort to try and lift the waterlogged truck while Richard and McMurphy treat his leg injury, but both efforts are futile. Knowing Boonie’s injury is too serious to treat at China Beach, Richard calls for an evac helicopter. When an attempt to remove the truck sends Boonie below the water, Richard makes the split-second decision to amputate his leg with a knife underwater while McMurphy performs rescue breathing. Boonie is airlifted away for treatment, abruptly departing China Beach for good. Back at the hospital ward, McMurphy gives Everett the pistol to shoot himself in the foot and turns away, flinching at the sound of a gunshot.

China Beach Series

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

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 17 November 1990.
  • Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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