China Beach (“Somewhere Over the Radio”)

Season 1, Episode 4
Date of airing: May 11, 1988 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 14.0/24 in Households

You can notice how the writers were trying to get some focus on the storytelling and put a framing device around it, so the episodes look like an experience with a beginning, a middle and an end. The episode began and ended with Laurette talking about Boonie from the off, and the episode was bookended with the two scenes, so maybe this episode was supposed to be more about Boonie than everyone else, so the viewers can finally learn (after five hours) why Boonie is the way he is, and this even though Boonie probably had the least amount of screentime of all the central characters who appeared in this episode (maybe the character with the second-lowest amount of screentime, because the red lantern should belong to K.C.). But alas, the episode didn’t go into it, the writers lost the storytelling device of developing Boonie’s character through Laurette’s point of view, and at the end of the day this episode seemed like waiting a few hours in the night for something to happen. On the base, K.C. and McMurphy were pretty much waiting for news, and at the crash site, the women were waiting for news of their rescue. And in the meantime, the events at both sites were kind of weird. It was all a waiting game. Sometimes something exciting happened — the chopper crash and the live ammunition in Dick’s hands, but there can be something said about the dull excitement the characters were going through.

The women are getting the ride of their lives.

A lot of things can be said about the soldiers in the jungle as well. They were weird, because they have seen some shit and probably can’t get over it, getting lost in this country in the process. They were weird, because their emotions have been messed with, and as soon as they get home, if they ever get home, they won’t be the people they were when they left, which means their families and friends will be shocked to see that the boys they once knew before going into the battlefield have died already, and what would come home is only a shell of their former boys. It’s a simple premise for a story filled with war and death, and I am wondering whether CHINA BEACH will go into it again in the future, as my assumption of what Captain Osborne’s men have become was given to me via Dee Jay’s behavior, as well as the one soldier who gave Cherry the necklace of fingers (that was one hell of a brutal scene, and nothing happened except a necklace of finger changed ownership). Anyway, one can only hope that this story will open Laurette’s eyes a little bit, and she will finally be direct with her questions to Boonie, as it is time for him to face his fears and stuff. He already loaded his pistols, he suited up, got on a chopper and went back into the field, and that might have cost some courage. From here on, Boonie should learn about some character development, and either it enriches his relationship with Laurette or it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, the events at the base could have been elaborated more on. The emergency operation on the dude with the live round in his body was certainly interesting, but shows like ER and GREY’S ANATOMY made spectacles out of it and are therefore more entertaining for my easily impressionistic mind — hell, the latter show even created a two-parter and evacuated the entire hospital for a grenade that at best could have only blown up a tiny wing of a huge hospital (which it did). Dick’s run to the grenade pit was interesting though, despite my rolling the eyes, because he apparently didn’t know whether to just drop on the ground to protect himself from the shockwave of the explosion, or run back into the hospital, which would have cost more time. He is a little lucky that he survived.

Get your arm in there to reach the explosive!

By the way, is Dick only having an R&R, which means a return is inevitable, or did the writers really want to get rid of the character for a few episodes, and maybe forever? I get that an R&R can be life-saving for a soldier here and there, because smelling the air of peace and family way back home, and far away from the war zone as possible, can be a reminder that the good still exist (Captain Osborn’s soldiers obviously didn’t have an R&R ever since they got there), but Dick’s words to McMurphy to make life hell for the new guy seemed like he won’t be coming back so soon, and maybe opens up the possibility of a major character being absent for the rest of the already shortened season. And you know what, knowing that there are only three episodes left in the season, if I would have been the writer, I would not have brought him back in that time, and only got back to using the character with the new season. It would be realistic to show that a base goes through soldiers, and there aren’t always the same ones keeping the guest characters busy. The revolving door is continuously circling around, removing characters and adding new ones.CHINA BEACH shouldn’t be different just because it is a television show.

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