November 13, 2018

ER 2.18, A Shift in the Night: Skeleton Crew

Posted in TV at 5:03 pm by Jenn

Imagine having “lapdancer getting stitches in her butt” on your résumé

Summary: Mark’s trying to get home in the rain, and he’s not happy about it. It’s daylight out, but he goes to bed…for about three seconds, before Weaver calls and asks him to come to work. He refuses, since he’s worked three nights in a row. Mark suggests that Doug take the shift, but Doug was in a car accident and has whiplash, which means he’s in a neck brace.

Mark borrows Doug’s shoes since his own were soaked in the rain. He complains that he drove all the way to Milwaukee to see Rachel, only to learn that he had the wrong date. He drove back in the pouring rain, and now he has to work his fourth graveyard shift in a row. Doug doesn’t envy Carol, who will have to put up with Mark’s attitude all night.

Susan’s meeting with a lawyer to try to fight Chloe over Susie, so she can’t stick around to help Mark with a chaotic shift. Weaver does some quick rounds with him to pass off her patients. Though the exam rooms and waiting area are full, no one’s in horrible shape. Unfortunately, there are barely any doctors around other than Mark and Carter. Mark tells him, Carol, Haleh, and Lydia that their goal is to move everyone along in a timely fashion.

A teenager named Omar is brought in drunk and yelling that he doesn’t want to be touched. Mark tries to tend to him while giving instructions to nurses about other patients. He also assigns Jerry to basically be the bouncer of the waiting room. Mark examines a woman named Mrs. Votey, a senior citizen who teaches self-defense to other seniors. He thinks she’s showing signs of an impending stroke, but he has to pass her off to another department, since he doesn’t have time to do any tests.

Benton’s on call for traumas, but Mark doesn’t want to deal with him, so when Jerry tells him the victim of a drive-by shooting is coming in, Mark says to call another doctor. He and Carol think Omar may have drunk antifreeze. Carter has been taken off the surgical service, thanks to his stupid stunt of drinking while on call, but at least he hasn’t been suspended (and he gets how badly he screwed up). Mark helps him get a bead out of a man’s ear.

Paramedics bring in the drive-by victim, a toddler. Pam the paramedic reveals that the shooter was a 14-year-old kid, whom the cops shot dead at the scene. Pam doesn’t have much of a problem with that. Malik comments that of course the cops had no problem shooting a black kid. Haleh remarks that the kid didn’t have a problem shooting this one. (For the record, all three adults speaking here are black. Pam never mentioned the race of the shooter, but considering the cops killed him, Malik is probably right that he was also black.) The girl was shot in the leg, so her condition isn’t as bad as it could be, but she’s sobbing, and it’s hard to watch.

Carol tells Mark that they have to get an antifreeze counteragent for Omar from another hospital. Mark tells her to take a bottle of bourbon from a homeless patient instead. Malik tells Mark that Mrs. Votey’s new doctor wants her to be discharged. Mark may not want to have to take care of her, but he’s not about to let her go without medical attention.

Morgenstern has come in, and though he won’t close the hospital to more trauma cases, he’ll at least help by answering phones. He tells Mark that every time they close to trauma, they risk being closed for good. They’re sending a message that they’re not capable of providing care. Mark says that’s because they aren’t – he has more patients than they have beds or staff. Morgenstern agrees to move some patients around, but not close.

Benton complains that Mark didn’t page him for a patient. The doctor who was called instead isn’t doing what’s best for the patient. Morgenstern takes over, ending the fight. Chloe has come by looking for Susan and is instead hanging out with Carter. She wants her sister to see that Chloe’s changed her life. She talks about her fiancé, the first person besides Susan who’s taken the time to get to know her and see who she is. Mark pretty much stays out of the situation.

Omar is being taken care of medically, but psych can’t do anything for him for a week. Typical psych. A teen named Corky brings in his father, Louis, who appears to be having a heart attack. A doctor named Randolph interrupts as Mark is trying to get Corky to tell him and Carol what’s really going on. He just says his father is sick. Randolph has come down to tell Mark that he can’t admit Mrs. Votey because her HMO won’t approve it. He’s discharging her.

Carol gets Corky to tell her that Louis is an alcoholic, but his wife has been putting Antabuse in his drinks. It has a bad interaction with alcohol, causing Louis’ illness. Mark is furious that Corky has known all this time. A woman named Mrs. Huggins (whose nagging inspired Mark to use Jerry as a bouncer) bugs Mark about seeing her son, who has a cut on his hand. Mark tells her again that she’ll have to wait. He tries to go across the street to get a sandwich, since he’s been waiting to have dinner for hours, but he’s sidelined by a car accident right outside the hospital.

Shep and Riley try to pry one of the car doors open while Mark and Chuny talk to a girl inside. Mark thinks he can grab the girl’s hand and pull her out. He ignores Shep when he tells Mark to leave, and eventually Shep physically moves Mark away from the car, not being very gentle. Mark goes back inside, where there are so many people waiting that they’ve had to bring in folding chairs.

To make matters worse, there are no more coffee filters in the lounge. Mark shows Carter a trick with a used filter. Carter wonders how Mark is able to handle taking care of so many patients at once. Mark says it was a lot easier when he was younger. When Rachel was a baby, Jen would bring her to the hospital with a picnic, and the three Greenes would have dinner together between patients.

Mark next gives stitches to a woman with an angry little dog, which he calls “a small, furry object suitable for punting.” He chats with a lapdancer who’s in the ER to get stitches in her butt. Mark has neither the patience nor the time to be turned on. He complains to Lydia that things are taking too long tonight, and he wasn’t even able to do something heroic by helping the girl in the car.

Jen calls to ask for medical advice since Rachel seems to have altitude sickness from a camping trip. They end up fighting. Mark runs off to take care of the girl from the car, which he does while ignoring Shep’s attempts to apologize for his rough treatment. Carter confidently runs a trauma next door, allowing Mark to move back and forth between patients.

He pages Benton for one patient, but Benton takes too long to arrive, so Mark guides Carter through a procedure on his own. By the time Benton arrives, he’s no longer needed, so Mark has time to yell at him for taking so long. He tells Benton that when they’re working in the ER, everything else in their lives has to be ignored. He’d better not pull something like this again.

Carol, Lydia, and Haleh watch as the clock hits 2:00, which means the bars are now closed and victims of drunk-driving crashes will be coming in. That means the people still in the waiting room will have an even longer wait. Someone’s so impatient that he called 911 from the waiting room, thinking that would get him moved up in line. Mark tells Jerry that they just have to make it through the next four hours until new doctors come on shift.

Carter stitches up the lapdancer, freeing up Mark to finally tend to Mrs. Huggins’ son, Danny. Of course, that’s when Carol comes to get Mark so he can talk to Louis’ wife. She takes responsibility for Corky’s silence, saying she asked him not to say anything about the Antabuse. She admits that her husband is abusive, and Corky has to get in the middle. Mark suggests that she and her son go to a shelter. She doesn’t seem ready, but she knows things are about to get serious, because Mark is required by law to call the police.

Danny cut his hand when he dropped a mirror he was helping his mother hang. On top of his seven years of bad luck, he can’t have stitches because it’s been more than six hours since he was injured. He’ll have to take antibiotics, then come back (and wait again) for more treatment. Mark moves on to another patient, who happens to be Loretta’s son, Jimmy. He’s not too sick, and Loretta is pretty understanding about the long wait.

Mark decides to take a different approach to all the waiting patients. He loads up a cart with supplies and rounds up Carter and some nurses to announce his plan. They each take a chart, treat as many conditions as they can in the waiting area, and send people on their way. Jerry thinks Mark has snapped and lost his hold on reality. Carol’s pretty sure he’s having fun.

Carter runs down a list of possible diagnoses for a woman named Lois who suddenly went blind. Mark thinks she’s faking and gives him a test to find out. He treats a girl’s arm injury without an x-ray, and gives Carter a metal detector to find the location of a magnet a boy swallowed. The test with Lois works, proving that she was faking (but at least that means she’ll be fine). A patient throws up on Mark’s shoes, but they’re Doug’s, so he doesn’t care. Carter has trouble talking to a patient with hearing problems, so Mark has him use a stethoscope as a hearing aid.

Once the chaos has died down, Mark calls Rachel for a quick chat. He shares a vending-machine breakfast with Carol and Lydia, and thanks Carol for her hard work. Then he tells Benton that they’ll need to find a way to work together. Susan comes in with Susie and tells Mark that she needs to get a better lawyer; hers said that Chloe could have a case for getting her daughter back. Susan knows her sister well enough to know that getting a job doesn’t mean she’s stable.

Doug and Weaver take over, allowing Mark to finally go home. Carter thinks Mark’s idea to treat in the waiting area was terrific. It’s how he thought medicine would be when he was in school. Mark says it’s how it’s supposed to be. Both head off to figure out what to do with the day ahead of them, because apparently sleeping for 12 hours until their next shift isn’t good enough.

Thoughts: Lois is played by the late, great Kathryn Joosten.

I would last five minutes working this shift before I had to go sit in a corner and rock back and forth while singing a lullaby.

Somehow, Loretta looks better now than she did before she had cancer.

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    I just rewatched this episode and Pam did say that it was a black kid. I thought this was a good little exchange though perhaps if it had been Benton, Malik, Pam, and Haleh it might have had an interesting debate angle — black men’s perspective vs black women’s perspective, all in the healthcare field. Just… don’t invite Shep.

    Speaking of Shep, I thought he handled Mark well at the crash scene; Mark was obviously not listening and he was not trained in removing someone from a crashed vehicle and the situation could have resulted in two people Shep had to save. He was right to yank him away. No need to apologize. He was doing what he was trained to do. He would have done the same to any other dude trying to help who wasn’t trained as an EMT.

    I just realized in this episode that Loretta’s son was played by Jake Lloyd from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace! I just looked him up to confirm and it turns out his younger sister died in her sleep at age 26 a couple years ago, he himself has had some problems with the law in the last decade, and he’s recently been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. So sad. He was such an adorable kid and he was a really good actor especially for his age.

    This is probably one of my all-time favourite ER eps, aside from the blizzard one which I liked quite a bit too. Anytime there’s a mass casualty event they have to deal with, I love watching how they handle it. Greene working his way through the waiting room showed what a brilliant doctor he has and really exhibited his breadth of experience and super-creative problem-solving skills. Loved it. Emergency management stuff is fascinating to me so naturally this is the kind of episode I love.

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