China Beach (1991): S04E14 – Rewind


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

In 1985, Karen begins a series of man-on-the-street interviews asking strangers their opinions of the Vietnam War. While filming her bedroom (including the Snoopy stuffed animal she received in the Saigon embassy, now missing his right leg like Boonie), she recalls sleeping on the floor on her first night with Boonie in 1975. Boonie watches one of Karen’s interviews and scoffs at the responses; put on the spot by Karen, he ends up talking to her about his experiences in Vietnam for hours. Knowing Karen seeks answers about K.C., he puts her in touch with many of his old friends from China Beach. She starts with Beckett, now a high school teacher, where he describes killing the Viet Cong soldier while on patrol with Dodger, shocking his students. Dodger discusses the long-lasting effects of war; Frankie thinks of her experience as a mistake, as the Army provided little clarity for her future and even less for her role in the military; Dr. Richard remembers the massive number of casualties that streamed through China Beach during the war; and Lila and Sarge Pepper talk about how the war is perceived as a loss and its effect on them. After asking Boonie about her real father, Karen seeks out Mac, now a general. Taken aback by the news that she is his daughter, he has little insight in the way of K.C., only commenting that she was “good in bed.” He offers her money to buy a car and apologises before she departs. While asking the China Beach regulars their recollections of K.C., they encourage Karen to seek out K.C.’s family in Kansas City. She tracks down K.C.’s younger sister, Maria (guest star Amy Steel), who reveals that from Vietnam, K.C. paid for her to attend a private school away from their abusive father – helping Maria avoid the sexual abuse that K.C. endured as a child. She visits Trieu Au, now living in the US and working as a hairdresser. Trieu Au initially refuses to talk about the war, but opens up to Karen and tells her she missed seeing Karen so much that she buried a jar with her picture in it to hide it from the Communist authorities. She also visits McMurphy, who struggles to tell Karen of the last time she saw K.C., in Santa Cruz watching Boonie pick up Karen. Boonie watches her interviews and is rendered speechless, but Karen tells him it is still missing something. She gives a final monologue, directed at K.C., who she envisions as the audience for her project. In it, she tells K.C. she made good on her promises for a lawn and ice cream during the fall of Saigon and hopes she has found the success she was searching for.

China Beach Series

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

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 09 July 1991.
  • Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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