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The Bionic Wiki
“The Coward”

S1 E12

Production 40015
Original Airdate: April 19, 1974
SMDM 112 COWARD Steve salute
Steve salutes his dead father.
Produced by
Sam Strangis and Donald R. Boyle
Written by
Elroy Schwartz
Directed by
Reza Badiyi
Guest Cast
Guest Star(s)
George Montgomery as Garth
Ron Soble as Queng-Dri
France Nuyen as Mamu
Special Guest Star(s)
Martha Scott as Helen Elgin
George Takei as Chin-Ling
Fuji as Kai-Sing
Bennie Dobbins as 1st Bandit
Robert Herron as 2nd Bandit
Bill Lane as 3rd Bandit
Kim Kahana as Prokar
Kenny Endoso as Johra
Broadcast Order
Season 1
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"Burning Bright" "Run, Steve, Run"

Steve travels to Asia to find important documents in the wreckage of his father's downed World War II spy plane. In the process, Steve wants to prove, once and for all, if his father bailed out, leaving his crew to die.


Oscar Goldman briefs Steve Austin on an earthquake in the Himalayas which has uncovered a USAF DC-3 that was brought down by enemy fire during World War II, close to the Chinese border. The aircraft, nicknamed "My Little Girl," was carrying secret papers from Chinese Nationalists intended for the Russian government. Steve’s mission is to locate the aircraft and return the papers to the U.S. Oscar also informs Steve that the pilot of the DC-3 was Steve's late father, Captain Carl Austin, and that according to the official record, he had bailed out of the aircraft, abandoning the rest of the crew members to their fate.

Steve goes to visit his mother, Helen, at her home to tell her of his forthcoming mission and to ask why she had never told him much about his father. Previously, the only details Steve had known were that his father had been a pilot and that he had been killed in action when Steve was only two years old. Helen replies that she does not feel that her late husband would have abandoned his crew in the way the official report portrays. However, she concedes that if he had done so, he would have felt so ashamed of his actions that he would have been unable to return home to his family and look them in the eye.

The aircraft wreckage is located high on a mountain, and Steve, therefore, receives training from an experienced local climber named Chin-Ling before they both fly out to Asia. Over the target area, they parachute down, but, on landing, are immediately confronted by a local tribe of men on horseback. Chin-Ling informs Steve that, as a white man, Steve is considered by the tribe to be of value and that they intend to sell him to the Chinese. However, their intention is to kill Chin Ling. Steve runs off at bionic speed in a bid to create a diversion and allow Chin-Ling to escape, but Chin-Ling is shot dead as he runs away in the opposite direction. Having escaped the tribe, Steve is then held at gunpoint by an American man, called simply Garth, who is living in the area. Garth tells Steve that the leader of the tribe, Queng-Dri, allows him to live among them in return for selling stolen goods. He then takes Steve to his home and, much to the disapproval of his wife, offers to help Steve in his search for the DC-3.

Early next morning, Steve and Garth begin their climb of the mountain. During a break, Steve fully explains who he is and why finding the aircraft is so important to him personally. They resume climbing and finally they reach the ledge where the DC-3 is located. An emotional Steve finds the remains of one of the pilots still sitting in the cockpit; but to his profound disappointment, the man’s identification tag names him as Christopher Bell. No other crew can be located, and Steve therefore has to conclude that his father did, indeed, bail out after all. Bitterly disappointed, Steve helps bury the pilot and recovers the bag containing the secret papers.

Meanwhile, Queng-Dri and his men visit Garth’s wife, and she tells him that Steve forced Garth to climb the mountain at gunpoint. Having searched Steve when they first confronted him, the men know that he came on the mission unarmed. They therefore decide to wait for the two men to return down the mountain. Steve and Garth are subsequently attacked, and Steve has to use his bionic powers to defeat the tribe. Garth is seriously injured during the attack; as he lies on the ground, he tells Steve some devastating news: he is, in fact, the real Christopher Bell, and that it was he who had bailed out of the aircraft in disgrace all those years ago! He had later located and returned to the wreckage and swapped tags with the pilot who had died in the crash. This was Steve’s father, Carl Austin, whom Steve had just helped bury on the mountain.

Carl Austin is subsequently exhumed and buried in the U.S. with full military honors.



Steve: (to his mother) Say, what's that new perfume I smell? Chicken soup?

Helen: Are you all right, Steve?
Steve: Oh... sure, I'm fine.
Helen: Now, you know I can always tell when you're fibbing.

Steve: Well, I can't give you much of the details. It concerns an old World War II aircraft. It was nicknamed 'My Little Girl.'
Helen: 'My Little Girl'; that was your father's plane. He used to call me that.

Chin-Ling: See, I told you and Mr Goldman; those bionics of yours don't work when you're climbing a real mountain.

Chin-Ling: Your white skin's gonna save you, but I haven't got a chance. That's what he just said. You're worth cash to them; they're gonna sell you to the Chinese. But I'm just excess baggage; they're gonna kill me. So if you ever used your bionics, use it now.

Garth: Risking one's life for a countryman is a rare gift. Please, do not take it away from me.
Kai-Sing: Garth, who is he to you that you should risk your life for him?
Garth: We'll discuss this no further.

Garth: Who are you?
Steve: Oh, you mean my name?
Garth: No, no, names are only labels the outside world attaches meanings to. You outran horses. Your strength – your strength is incredible! Just who are you?
Steve: Well, I'm just a man.
Garth: Not an ordinary one.
Steve: In most ways I am.

Garth: Don't you underestimate Queng-Dri. You know, he's not an ignorant man. Why, he speaks and steals in five languages.

Garth: You know, your questions are much deeper than your search for a missing airplane. Just what are you looking for?
Steve My father.

Queng-Dri: I wonder if he can escape... a bullet.


  • This episode marks the first appearance of Steve's mother, Helen Elgin, played by Martha Scott.
  • This episode also establishes that Steve has a stepfather. Jim Elgin would be introduced onscreen in The Bionic Woman.
  • This is the second episode (in a row!) to feature a major member of the cast from the original Star Trek series. William Shatner (Captain Kirk) guest starred in "Burning Bright," and George Takei (Lt. Sulu) in this episode. France Nuyen is also a Trek veteran, having played Elaan of Troyius in the namesake 3rd season episode, just as well as Ron Soble, who played Wyatt Earp in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spectre of the Gun" in the same season.
Real World[]
  • The maneuver performed by the jet aircraft during Carl's funeral is an authentic military custom known as the "missing man" formation. It's used to honor deceased aircrew and astronauts.
  • Garth's home is the same building as the nuns' mission in the earlier episode, "Little Orphan Airplane."
  • Steve's attack on the horsemen late in the episode boasts an early first season use of the Bionic Sounds, and used for Steve's bionics this time, unlike other early uses by an adversary.


  • When Chin-Ling is teaching Steve about climbing, Steve suddenly slides down. During the fall, we can see that Steve has a knapsack on his shoulders. However, neither in the previous scene nor in the next frames does Steve have it.
  • Like Perkins in "Little Orphan Airplane," Steve wears a red suit in some scenes; it’s unlikely for a mission in a hostile territory.