Study Guide

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Summary

By Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Summary

Meet Billy. Billy is a nineteen-year-old grunt who is a member of Bravo company. Bravo just got famous for kicking some major insurgent booty in a battle over in Iraq. A Fox News team that was travelling with them at the time caught it all on video, and it went viral faster than a tweet from Taylor Swift.

Meet America. America is a country still reeling from the attacks on 9/11, but is engulfed in a war that is experiencing flagging support. So now Billy and the Bravos are shipped back to America for a two-week victory tour during which they are going to be used as the ultimate pieces of patriotic propaganda. The Bravos' mission is to participate in the halftime show for the Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium.

Then, the Bravos get to go back to Iraq, because, well, they're in the Army, after all.

Billy is weirded out about the celebratory nature of the Bravos' visit home, partly because he and the Bravos are still reeling from the death of their sergeant, Shroom, who died in the now-famous battle aired on Fox News. The patriotic fanfare seems discordant with where their heads are at, which makes everything they experience on their victory tour kind of surreal.

Along for the ride with Bravo is a Hollywood movie producer, Albert Ratner, who is doing his darnedest to try and get a movie made about the Bravos—and who has essentially promised the guys a $100,000 advance each for selling the rights to their story. This would be some seriously welcome dough for everyone in Bravo—if they all manage to make it back from the rest of their tour alive, that is.

So, a hungover Billy and the rest of the Bravos (all in varying stages of hangovers—Shroom's funeral the previous day did not go well at all thanks to some nasty protesters) are limousined to Texas Stadium and given VIP status. They get behind-the-scenes tours, and their pictures are taken with the Cowboys Cheerleaders. During one of these meet-and-greets, Billy meets Faison, a cheerleader, and it's like love at first sight. They enjoy a particularly lusty encounter and agree that they have something special together that they can't quite put their fingers on.

The Bravos finally head to their seats, which are out in the freezing cold rain. Billy gets a few texts, and he flashes back a few days to his brief but satisfying visit home to Stovall, Texas. We learn that his family is pretty dysfunctional, and we also learn that his little sister Kathryn feels responsible for his whole predicament. You see, Billy's in the Army because he assaulted Kathryn's ex-fiancé (and his car) with a crowbar in order to avenge her honor, and he got caught.

In court, Billy was given a choice: jail or Iraq. Billy picked Iraq, and now Kathryn has some serious guilt, worrying that he's going to get killed and it'll all be her fault. So she's made arrangements with some lawyers in Austin to help Billy go AWOL, should he want to. Everything's all set up for him to retreat to a secret ranch in Texas while the lawyers use his newfound fame to further their anti-war agenda and keep him safely home.

Now Billy has quite a difficult choice to make: stay home and save his own butt, or go back to Iraq with his brothers-in-arms.

For most of the first half of the game, the Bravos are invited to spend their time up in the box that belongs to the owner of the Cowboys, Norm Oglesby. Norm is apparently so impressed with the guys that he gets the bright idea to produce their movie himself.

Meanwhile, the Bravos have been told that they are going to perform in some way in the halftime show, and they eagerly await news of what their role will be. It's sprung on them at the very last moment: they are going to drill on the field and then be on stage with Destiny's Child as they perform.

This turns out to be a problem. Have you ever seen a hyped-up halftime show? It's filled with flashing lights, fireworks, impressive displays of pyrotechnics, and stage wizardry. Oh, and thanks to Destiny's Child, there will also be a fair amount of half-naked women gyrating and dancing all over the place.

Keep in mind that the Bravos have, you know, just survived a harrowing firefight over in Iraq, and now they're forced to stoically endure what has to be one of the biggest PTSD triggers anyone could have choreographed. One guy, Sykes, just loses it and starts to sob uncontrollably. Another gets himself so blissfully drunk that he can't help but maniacally giggle the whole time. And Billy? Well, he just tries to go to his happy place and tune the chaos out.

After the traumatic halftime show is over, there's a major miscommunication, and the Bravos are left on the field with no instructions on where to go next. They get into a tussle with some roadies who want to hurry them off the field in order to clear the stages away, but then their liaison Josh finds them and apologizes profusely for the confusion.

When they return to their seats, the Bravos find that Norm has made them a movie offer that is terrible compared to the $100,000 they were promised. Also, the Cowboys are losing, the weather is even worse, and the guys are bored. They eke through to the end of the game, fight with Norm about his low-ball offer (and eventually reject it), and finally get up to leave when the game is over.

On the way to their limo, the Bravos get jumped by the roadies they'd tussled with, roadies who are now armed with various roadie-type weapons. Yeah, that's right. Some guys decide it's a great idea to assault some national heroes with wrenches and pipes (what is this, Clue?) all over some smarty-pants quips and tarnished egos.

The brawl is broken up when Major Mac—Bravo's mysterious deaf PA dude—picks up a dropped gun and fires it into the air. Police are summoned, the Bravos patch up their wounds, and they're ready to leave…but first, Billy has to have a romantic goodbye with his true love, Faison. Her promise to wait for him makes Billy decide to stick with his brothers-in-arms and reject Kathryn's lawyer's help to avoid redeploying.

So off Billy goes into the wild blue yonder, and we're left sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering whether he'll make it back home again alive.