An effort to both promote and clean up China Beach results in the arrival of Airman Wayloo Marie Holmes, a former TV weather girl from the Armed Forces Service in Saigon to handle her first journalism assignment, and K.C. being ordered by Lila to leave the base. Meanwhile, McMurphy sets herself up for a fall when she goes to Da Nang in order to work out of her relationship with Natch, who is revealed to be married, and Dodger returns to the bush to fight. Also, Cherry shows around the new Red Cross volunteers and accompanies them to a fire base outpost.
Frankie Bunsen, a black female army private, arrives at China Beach looking for an assignment while K.C. gets ready to leave. Meanwhile, McMurphy gets a double dose of grief when she learns that Natch has become an MIA when his jet is shot down, and Dodger returns from a patrol critically wounded by a VC booby trap. Also, Wayloo becomes smitten with Dr. Richard after she's slightly wounded during a mortar attack as she continues filming her journalism assignment.
McMurphy maintains a bedside vigil for Dodger while smuggled crates of penicillin create a shortage of antibiotics which could be fatal to him. K.C. agrees to get Boonie some black market penicillin for Dodger in exchange for his help in building her a beauty salon on the base. Meanwhile, Lila goes on a hunt to find a certain 'Karen Koloski' among the service personnel to deliver bad news of her father's death, not realizing that it's K.C.
While most of the staff is on leave during Christmas Eve, McMurphy, Dr. Richard, Lila and others left behind become deluged with scores of casualties, both military and civilian, including a machine-gun toting St. Nick. Dr. Richard becomes understandably grumpy when he learns that his wife is dating another man back home. Meanwhile, Frankie helps Beckett in the morgue where he meets a grief-stricken Vietnamese woman, named Mai, who's cousin, an officer in the ARVN, has just been killed.
Dodger is turned out to be paralyzed by a shell fragment in his spine and visiting neurosurgeon, named Dr. Joan Friedman, is his only chance of recovery while McMurphy fights jealousy and fear over the doctor taking over Dr. Richard's case and time. Meanwhile, Wayloo gets to be a TV correspondent and films a documentary of the women of China Beach. Also, Frankie gets to be the disk jockey of China Beach radio.
A legendary war hero, named Colonel Edward E. Vincent, parachutes into China Beach for some R&R and captures the attentions of Lila for romance, K.C. for money, and Wayloo for his life story. McMurphy and Dr. Richard play a game of sexual brinkmanship during a luau. Meanwhile, Frankie gets a chance to appear in the limelight when a crazy white solder, under the delusion that he's Chuck Berry, asks her to sing with him at a show.
January 30-31, 1968. During the first night of the Tet Offensive, Beckett becomes a prisoner of Mai's Viet Cong brother at a small hamlet. McMurphy is trapped at the deserted I Corps Headquarters dinning room with K.C. who goes through a drug withdrawal. At China Beach, Dr. Richard is trapped in the hospital with an unusually talkative Dodger. Wayloo follows Boonie and other troops into battle and helps fight the VC attempting to overrun China Beach. Meanwhile, Cherry comforts another Red Cross volunteer trapped with her at a besieged fire base.
In the aftermath of Cherry's death, Wayloo becomes intimidated by the war as its reality finally sinks in. McMurphy tries to fight the bureaucracy to keep Dodger from going to Japan for more medical help. Meanwhile, K.C. fights her heroin addition as she locates Cherry's brother, Rick, to break the bad news to him of his sister's death and reluctantly prepares to accompany Cherry's body to her home town in Iowa for burial. But Rick tries to tempt K.C. to sell her passport to him in exchange for more heroin. Beckett visits Mai who saved his life during Tet and they get...
Dr. Richard confronts his limitations when he finds himself doctoring some local villagers after receiving divorce papers from his wife back home. Meanwhile, Beckett helps Mai pay her taxes by gambling on ping pong games and as a result, they get even more closer. McMurphy stays close to Dodger while he waits to be transported to Japan to recover from his injuries. Also, Wayloo falls for a Naval officer.
McMurphy is on a short fuse when an army psychiatrist comes to China Beach to gather material for a research project about stress on non-combatants, and irritates her with the matter in which he encourages some of the grunts to go back out into the jungle. But it proves to be wrapped up in her coming to terms with Natch's fate which is causing her insomnia and her increased alcoholism. Meanwhile, Frankie finds love with a black platoon leader who turns out to be just another womanizer. Beckett thinks of proposing to Mai, and K.C. returns to China Beach from Cherry's ...
McMurphy, overworking herself into exhaustion and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, is forced to take R&R until she has enough rest. She then finds herself caught up against an unrelenting, good-natured Jeff Hyers, a young combat medic. Disturbed by the fact that so many of the men killed in action weren't old enough to attend their senior prom in high school, she inspires Boonie and Hyers to put one on for the GIs of China Beach. Meanwhile, Wayloo's pursuit of Boonie's story of his combat history results in unforeseen and unfortunate consequences. Also, an Army ...
Boonie's story comes out after Wayloo presses to get him awarded a medal for bravery when her congressman father comes for a visit. Unfortunately, it also brings a board of inquiry to find out what really went on in the bush: a covert operation in Laos headed by a CIA man whose indiscriminate killing of enemy locals prompted Boonie to kill him, and Dodger and Sweetness covered for him. Meanwhile, McMurphy sees Dodger again when he returns to China Beach as he prepares to go back into action. Also, Frankie befriends Sweetness, who's now a captured deserter.
After McMurphy manages to deal with the death of Natch, he suddenly shows up after escaping from the Viet Cong along with a fellow colleague and comes to a crossroads on what to do with his life. Meanwhile, Boonie gets replaced as manager of the Jet Set Club by a pot-skimming sergeant connected with a less-than-legal local entrepreneur, named Turner, whom K.C. used to work for. Also, Lila offers to arrange the shipping home of a GI's "stuff," not realizing that it's a baby leopard cub.
April, 1968. Beckett's tour of duty ends, but he finds it difficult to leave Mai behind in Vietnam and decides to stay. But things take a turn when racial violence breaks out in the camp after news of Martin Luther King's assassination hits China Beach, in which Beckett and Frankie are caught in the middle of it all when all the black servicemen form their own living quarters off the base, and are faced off against a racist, redneck grunt named Whitlow. Meanwhile, Dr. Richard reaches out to Wayloo to comfort him over his recent divorce and she's happy to oblige.
Wayloo's tour of duty ends and she goes home to a newscasting job in New York, while McMurphy goes home on emergency leave to her hometown in Kansas to visit her family when her father suffers a heart attack. After McMurphy accompanies Wayloo to Travis Air Force base in California where they bid each other goodbye, McMurphy arrives in her hometown of Lawrence, Kansas where the tries to come to terms with her mother, and one of her brothers, named Brandon.
After her father's funeral, McMurphy finds the decision to go back to China Beach very hard and instead goes to San Francisco to visit a colleague from Army nursing school, named Jan Wyatt, who works with disabled vets in an army hospital, who takes McMurphy out for a night on the town with her two hippie roommates and a group of wheelchair bound vets.