May 21, 2019

ER 4.1, Ambush: Live from Chicago, It’s Thursday Night!

Posted in TV tagged , at 4:56 pm by Jenn


Summary: We kick off this live-for-no-reason season premiere in darkness, with a film crew setting up to shoot a documentary. They’ll be following Mark as he works a shift in the ER. A P.A. tells Carol they’re also setting up cameras around the ER for extra footage; there’s now one in the lounge. It makes Carol awkward. Aggie, one of the directors, leads her cameraman to a trauma room, where Mark and Doug are tending to a guy with a broken leg. Carter and Benton arrive, and Benton is exactly as excited about being on camera as you would expect. Mark guesses that he’s also annoyed that Carter has left surgery.

The P.A. interrupts to tell Aggie that another doctor is saying she didn’t know about the shoot. The cameraman, Stuart, tells Carter he can speak at a normal volume, since there are enough microphones around to record him. “OKAY,” Carter says loudly. Mark teases that he’s just like that. At the admit desk, Weaver tries to convince Anna that the documentary is a good thing – the doctors will be shown in a positive light. A second cameraman, Luis, catches Jeanie taking a pill on camera.

Anna complains about her image being used “in perpetuity.” Doug wants to take the conversation off-camera, but Anna’s perfectly fine addressing Luis on the record. She’s not trying to say this is an ambush, but the release form the doctors are supposed to sign doesn’t outline where the footage will be used. Doug makes “she’s crazy” and “she’s drunk” gestures behind her. Aggie introduces herself to Anna to try to work things out, though she’s decided it’s not worth the trouble and they can just shoot around Anna. Malik is excited at the possibility of being on TV, but the documentary will only be on PBS.

In the lounge, Doug and Anna talk about whether Mark is up to the documentary. (It’s been a few weeks since his attack, judging by the fact that he has a brace on his arm now instead of a cast.) Anna thinks Mark is still shaky, but Doug insists that everything is fine. It’s a good sign that he wanted to do the documentary. When Mark comes in, he admits that he’s enjoying all the attention. But when he’s left in there alone, he has to take a moment to collect himself.

Jeanie presents a patient to him named Mr. Schoenberger, who had shortness of breath. Jeanie’s a little nervous on camera and trips over her words. Mr. S. spent the day smoking cigars and taking part in all-you-can-eat burrito night at his favorite Mexican restaurant. Jeanie wants to order a lot of tests, but Mark thinks that’s an overreaction. He blames the cigars, which are too cheap not to affect one’s health.

After a camera-shy Morgenstern comes by to encourage Mark a little, Anna turns in her release to be on camera. Aggie makes sure to record some of the nurses talking about one of Mark’s cases. She asks if any of the doctors and nurses date. Carol says they socialize as a group, and Mark hasn’t come much recently. Malik blurts out that he’s been keeping to himself since his attack.

As Doug passes by behind her, Carol says that it’s a myth that doctors and nurses hook up a lot. He stops to listen, then pulls her away to do nurse stuff. They end up behind a window, so it’s hard for the cameraman to film them, but their microphones are still on, and he catches them talking about meeting up later for sex. They think the cameraman can’t hear them, but soon remember that they’re wearing microphones.

Carter tells the camera that working in the ER requires staying on your toes. When he was in surgery, someone was always looking over his shoulder. In the ER, the residents get to be in charge of themselves. Well, until they have nurses yelling at them to take care of patients. Carter gets brought down a notch when a patient pukes on him.

Aggie does an interview with Mark, telling everyone else at the admit desk to keep working as usual. But the interview ends quickly when an ambulance arrives with a cancer patient in respiratory distress. Then Jeanie brings Mark some of Mr. S.’s tests, which may indicate a problem. Mark asks him to stick around while they run another test. Mark explains to Aggie that Mr. S. may have had a heart attack. He wants to give Mr. S. some time before he hears the news, and since Mark missed it, he needs to buy some time for himself.

The cancer patient, Boz, comes in accompanied by a friend named Rog. Rog is extremely unhelpful; he knows nothing about Boz’s end-of-life wishes, and he thinks he can smoke in the trauma room. Mark tries to ask Boz if he wants help breathing, since Mark isn’t sure if he has a DNR. Boz can’t speak or write an answer, so Mark decides to cut a hole in his neck.

Luis interviews a janitor named Nat as he cleans up Carter’s patient’s puke. He says this is no big deal; he’s seen much worse. The job can be gross, but you get used to it. The blood and gore, however, never get easier to see. Nat’s religious, and he believes people were created in God’s image, “so whatever I’m cleaning up must be just fine.” He doesn’t think you could be a janitor if you didn’t believe in God. Aggie pulls Luis away to come back and record Boz, who’s stopped breathing. Luis says he’ll come back to finish the conversation, but Nat doesn’t think he will.

Mark tells Aggie that one of his early patients was the sister of one of his med-school classmates. It hit him that traumas don’t just happen to strangers. Aggie asks if it changes things when doctors go through traumas. Mark gets defensive, not wanting to talk about his own experiences. He asks if he was chosen for the documentary because of his attack. Aggie and Luis promise that he doesn’t have to talk about anything he doesn’t want to.

Weaver and Carter discuss Boz, whose wife Petra has arrived. She’s much younger than Boz, and Weaver thinks Haleh might be the person to talk to her about Boz’s options. Carter volunteers to try, and Weaver explains to the camera that this isn’t usually an intern’s job, but Carter’s been there a while. Carter says he’s a second-year anyway, but Weaver corrects him. By moving to a new specialty, he has to start his internship over.

Carter goes over options with Petra, but she knows from experience what will and won’t work. She presents a DNR, which Rog was too panicked to remember. Petra’s been taking care of Boz for a long time and is both upset that things are going this way and jaded about everything they’ve been through. Carter asks if there’s anything else he can do for her. She asks him to refill one of her prescriptions, since she’s already at the hospital.

Doug and Anna examine a baby (who cries throughout the scene, as well as other scenes, but it’s live, so what can you do?) whose parents think she was bitten by their dog. For some reason, she’s been put in the curtained exam area with an angry woman named Doris, who’s unhappy to be near a crier. Doug quickly determines that the bite isn’t from a dog – it’s from the girl’s preschool-age brother.

Mark examines Doris, who has burns on her face that she claims are from hot popcorn. Mark advises her to stop doing crack. His bedside manner here is about a 2 on a scale from 1 to 10. Aggie asks Doug how Mark is able to handle these kinds of difficult situations every day. Doug tells her to talk to Mark about that.

After a shot of the crowded waiting area, Weaver wakes Benton from a nap in a hallway to alert him to a trauma. A teenager was being beaten by a gang, and he and a man who tried to break up the fight are being brought in. In the lounge, Doug wonders how the film crew found out about Mark’s attack. He warns Mark not to get mad at the crew on camera. He also thinks Aggie is into Mark. Mark tells him Aggie’s married to one of the other crew members. Carol lets them know that their conversation has been on camera.

The two trauma victims come in as a bored patient in the waiting area provides a soundtrack with a makeshift drum. Mark, Benton, and Anna take the innocent bystander, Theo Williams, who may have a spinal injury. Mark yells for someone to shut up the drummer. He determines that Theo isn’t in any immediate danger, but he seems to be paralyzed.

Some gang members have followed the ambulance to the ER, and Chuny has trouble keeping them calm and out of the trauma area. She tells Benton, Weaver, and Jeanie not to take the beating victim, Chico, to CT yet, since his “homies” are there. Chico’s sister (who only gets credited as Ms. Cruz) goes to the waiting area to tell the gang members to stay away from him. She’s angry both because they hurt her brother and because they injured an innocent man. A fight starts, and the camera gets shoved to the ground.

Weaver explains to Stuart that Theo’s condition is currently stable, but it’s possibly that, as swelling increases, he could lose the ability to breathe on his own. Stuart starts ignoring Weaver, choosing instead to spy on a hot woman in the hallway. He snaps back to attention, only to focus on Weaver’s limp. She laments that Theo tried to help a teen he didn’t even know, and was rewarded with paralysis.

Morgenstern wanders in, looking ill, and Weaver realizes he’s having a heart attack. She kicks Stuart out of the room, but he films through the window as Weaver and Linda try to save their boss. Mark tells Theo that he may need to go on a ventilator. Connie tries to get in touch with Mrs. Williams, who’s at a night class. Malik steals some sort of monitor from Jeanie, who’s annoyed until she learns that it’s for Morgenstern.

Benton kicks Carter out of the elevator as he takes Chico to surgery – switching to emergency medicine means Carter stays in the ER. Doug and Carter meet Elizabeth Corday, a British doctor looking for “casualty,” by which she means trauma. Carter wants to talk to Weaver about his intern status, but she’s kind of busy. Carter approaches Mark next, but he’s even busier. He gets the Williamses’ babysitter on the phone and tells her to run to Mrs. Williams’ school to get her. Theo will need intubation soon, and Mark wants his wife to be able to talk to him while he can still speak.

Elizabeth goes looking for Chico, not realizing he’s already been taken to surgery. She mentions to Carol that in England, surgeons aren’t addressed as Doctor; they’re called Mr. and Ms. Theo’s disappointed to hear that Chico isn’t doing well. Weaver, Jeanie, and Lydia send Morgenstern up to surgery, and Stuart invites himself along in the elevator. He asks why Morgenstern is being taken straight up while other patients have to wait. Weaver angrily schools him on priority patients.

Mark runs to a trauma room where Carter’s trying to revive an 82-year-old man. Stuart’s battery starts dying, and his picture gets fuzzy as he loses power. Carter saves the patient, but before he can tell Aggie how great it feels, the battery dies. Elizabeth introduces herself to Benton, who’s been on call for 36 hours and can finally leave now that she’s there. Benton tells Ms. Cruz that Chico is still in surgery, and they don’t know yet how bad his condition is.

Carter’s patient is pleased that he’ll be able to return to his retirement home and continue being a stud. The patient wants to make sure the camera crew keeps this in the documentary. Anna and Jeanie try to treat a man who appears to have fallen through a glass window. He’s covered in blood, and when Anna and Jeanie try to help him, he warns them to stay away because he has HIV. Jeanie comforts him and promises to help him.

Aggie interviews Elizabeth, who tries to explain the hierarchy of surgeons in England. She pulls Benton into the conversation, but he dodges the camera while looking for Ms. Cruz. Mrs. Williams arrives and Weaver tells Carol and Doug that she wouldn’t want to be in either Mrs. Williams or Mark’s shoes. The three of them talk about how difficult it is to give bad news to families.

Theo’s in good spirits, and his wife is trying to be optimistic about his condition. Mark can’t wait any longer and has to intubate him. Benton stops by to tell Theo that Chico’s going to be okay, and Ms. Cruz thanks Theo for saving her brother’s life. As Mark finishes Theo’s intubation, Malik sends him to help Carter, whose heart patient has flatlined again. Mark’s annoyed that Carter didn’t call him, though Malik did try to pull him away earlier, and Mark ignored him. He slams Carter for trying to run his own code; it was allowed in surgery, but not in the ER. Carter’s upset about the loss.

Mark tells Aggie that he’ll give an interview about his attack as long as she agrees not to use the footage of Carter’s failed code in the film. He says that the best part of his job is repairing some of the violence that happens to people. While they can’t fix Theo, they at least saved Chico, so Theo’s actions weren’t in vain.

Mark admits that he was attacked, and the culprit hasn’t been found. The worst part is that some of the violence in the world has leaked into the ER. The hospital is supposed to be safe, and now it’s vulnerable. It’s hard to accept. Aggie asks if Mark is scared. He says he fears losing control, both of what’s outside and of what’s inside him. Once Mark is sure that Aggie’s gotten what she needs, he tells the cameraman to stop filming.

Thoughts: There are five before-they-were-famous guest stars in this episode:

I love that they include Nat in the documentary. It’s a little bit of recognition for someone with a very thankless job, who I’m sure gets ignored all the time.

If I went all the way through med school, became a surgeon, and was still called Ms., I’d be ticked. Get it together, U.K.

Since it mainly happens in the background, it doesn’t get addressed, but Benton is very Carter-like in this episode. He wants to keep Ms. Cruz updated on her brother’s condition, and he stays even after his shift is over so he can keep her informed. I hope Carter teased him later about softening up.

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    Gloria Reuben’s moment with the HIV+ patient was heartbreakingly good here. I’ll have to go look up to see if she was ever nominated for anything for this show; she was really underrated but consistently good. Anthony Edwards was excellent in this one as well. When Carter laughs at his 82yo patient’s wisecrack, that was the most genuine laugh we’ve ever heard from Noah Wyle on the show. I remember this being a big deal because it was the first time they were doing this kind of show live, and having to remember all that jargon was always tricky for the actors. They did a great job with it.

    John Hawkes didn’t even get a credit on this! He’s such an underrated, excellent actor.

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