July 2, 2019

ER 4.7, Fathers and Sons: Each Unhappy Family Is Unhappy in Its Own Way

Posted in TV tagged , at 5:08 pm by Jenn

Thanks for showing up for two scenes, Julianna

Summary: Doug and Mark are driving somewhere in California, and Mark is demonstrating that he’s not a good companion for a road trip. They’re basically in the middle of nowhere, at the place where Doug’s father died. Doug is ready to meet with the authorities and get everything squared away so they can go home. They meet with someone from Highway Patrol and learn that Ray had a woman in the car when he crashed. He was also extremely drunk, and he killed another driver.

They go to the scene of the crash, where someone has set up a roadside cross as a memorial for the other driver. Doug says that his father never planned to hurt anyone, but then again, he never planned to do anything. If Doug had killed his father himself, he would have saved others a lot of trouble. Next the guys go to the motel room where Ray was staying with a woman the manager thinks was his wife. She says they were a nice couple. Doug doubts they were married, though.

Mark finds some photos of Doug and his mom, which makes him think Ray still cared about them. He also finds a box containing pawn tickets and some home movies. Doug laments that everything in the room is his inheritance. The manager tells them that Ray’s car is still parked at the motel; he must have been driving his girlfriend’s car at the time of the crash. To Doug’s surprise, Ray’s is a convertible he’s had since the ’70s. He gets behind the wheel and turns on some jazz.

The guys swap out their rental car for the convertible, which Doug tells Mark he learned to drive in. Ray would show up after months away and take Doug on long road trips. He’d wake Doug up in the middle of the night and let him drive on empty roads. Doug admits that his father had some good moments. Then the car breaks down, which is a fitting metaphor for Doug and Ray’s relationship. The guys check the trunk for a gas can and find a ton of baby stuff.

The guys spend the night in the car and get some help from a passing driver in the morning. They go to a rundown neighborhood to try to find the family of Pedro Lopez, the man Ray killed in the crash. A kid tells them everyone’s at Lopez’s funeral. The guys go to the church where the funeral is taking place and sit in the back. Lopez’s young son sees them and innocently waves to Doug. Afterward, Mark tries to remind Doug that the accident wasn’t his fault. The priest comes to chat with them, and Doug blurts that his father killed Lopez. The priest thinks that coming to the funeral shows that he loved his father.

The guys take Ray’s pawn tickets to the shop they came from to find out what he pawned. Mark talks about how he’s always wanted a pocketwatch to hand down to a child. Instead, he buys a necklace for Cynthia. The shop owner gives them the things Ray pawned – a video projector, a Rolex, and a ring Ray made his girlfriend pawned. Or maybe she was his wife after all, because the shop owner says she and Ray kept their wedding rings.

Doug calls Carol from the motel to tell her he wishes she were with him. Mark overhears the end of the conversation, and Doug tells him he called someone he’s been seeing for a few months. He won’t tell Mark who it is. Mark asks if it’s Jen, then Cynthia, then Chuny, then Anna. Finally, Doug tells him it’s Carol. Mark is stunned but happy for the couple. He asks if Carol makes Doug take a lie-detector test every week. Doug gets revenge by spraying him with beer.

Mark sets up the movie projector while Doug looks through Ray and his girlfriend’s things, trying to find out more about their movements. There are a bunch of pictures of her holding a baby, which means Doug could have a little brother or sister out there somewhere. He tells Mark that Ray had so much power over him – he would tell himself not to get excited over his father’s visits, but when Ray showed up, Doug would be happy. He could pretend that he had a normal family. Ray had so much control, he even ended their relationship without Doug’s consent.

Mark confides that he doesn’t have a good relationship with his father, either. His father put in 30 years in the Navy and was never promoted or given the recognition he deserved. They start up the projector and watch home movies from Doug’s childhood. Doug gets one last look at what started out as a normal childhood.

The next day, the guys visit Lopez’s grave, where Doug announces that he loves Carol. He’s never felt like this about anyone. They complain about the heat in California, even though it’s November, and Mark mentions that he lived there for a while as a kid. His parents are in San Diego, just four hours away. Doug decides that they’ll skip their meeting with a guy from the funeral home and go see Mark’s parents.

Mark’s mother, Ruth, is thrilled to see him. Doug listens to Mark’s advice about admiring Ruth’s Hummels, but ignores his warning not to drink her iced tea. She invites the guys to spend the night. Mark notices an oxygen tank in the living room, which Ruth says belongs to Mark’s father, David. She tries to downplay his condition, but Mark guesses that he has emphysema.

Doug quickly decides to bail and run some errands so Mark can be alone with his parents. Mark goes to the garage to see his father, who’s doing some woodworking. He’s neither overly surprised nor excited to see his only child. Their stilted conversation soon turns to a small argument when Mark chastises David for smoking (even though Mark has recently taken it up himself). David doesn’t want his advice, or really, any conversation whatsoever.

Mark sneaks a peek in the bathroom medicine cabinet, finding stacks of unopened nicotine gum. He talks to Ruth about David’s failure to take good care of himself, revealing that he saw David’s blood-pressure medication. Ruth says it’s hers, and she has her blood pressure checked regularly at the base commissary. Mark nags her about her and David’s health until she tells him to stop.

Doug isn’t back in time for dinner, so the Greenes have an awkward meal together. David smokes and coughs through it. Mark suggests that they get ice cream together, but David wants to keep his weekly club night with his friends. Ruth tries to make him change the night, then tells Mark to go to the club with him. Doug doesn’t realize that he’s missing an extremely uncomfortable family dinner. After his parents leave the room, Mark takes a drag off his father’s cigarette, because he’s a hypocrite.

David falls asleep in front of the TV, using his oxygen tank. Ruth finds Mark smoking outside, and he lies that he’s quitting soon. She reminds him that he used to flush her cigarettes down the toilet when he was a kid. Mark mentions that David’s going to miss his club meeting, but Ruth admits that he only makes it to them half the time. When he does go, he doesn’t stay long, since most of his friends don’t go. But they still like their life near the base.

Ruth tells Mark that David really does miss having him close by, no matter how he acts. Mark doesn’t believe that, noting that David has never shown his love. Why should Mark have to work harder on their relationship when David doesn’t? Ruth tells him he always assumes he knows more about people than he actually does.

Doug finally returns, having confirmed that the baby wasn’t Ray’s. Mark tells him what he missed and turns down Doug’s suggestion that he stay a little longer while Doug finishes up the stuff with his father. Mark says that Doug didn’t miss much by not having his father around as a kid. Doug doesn’t get how Mark can’t see how good he has it. David was always around, and he’s still with Ruth. Whether or not it’s what Mark would have wanted, it was love. Compared to Doug’s life, Mark grew up in a ’50s sitcom.

Doug’s next stop is Flagstaff, to talk to Ray’s wife’s family. He gives Mark a note to give to Carol when he gets back to Chicago. Doug apologizes for their fight, but Mark says he was right. He’s tired of pitying himself and acting like a victim. He’s spent his whole life fearing that something would spin out of control. Becoming a doctor helped him get some power over the chaos. When he was attacked, the chaos won out. Now Mark doesn’t know who he is: “The person I was died in that bathroom, and I don’t know what’s going to take his place.”

When the guys return to their motel in the morning, they’re surprised to see Carol there. The three of them go out to the desert and find a spot to spread Ray’s ashes. Doug doesn’t know what to say to mark the occasion, so he just says he both hated and loved his father. The three of them drink a toast to Ray and enjoy the view together.

Thoughts: This show is so much easier to recap without all the medical stuff. I mean…imagine that.

How YOU doin’, black-T-shirted George Clooney?

Isn’t it a little in poor taste to use alcohol for a toast to a guy who died (and killed two others) driving drunk?


  1. Nick Rivers said,

    I did appreciate how even though Mark changes shirts like three times, Doug’s wearing the same black tee/blue jeans/boots combo the entire time. Mm hmm.

    I would have given Carol a black tee too. The tank top was a little out of character for her though to be fair it was the desert and all.

    Altogether I remembered this episode being pretty boring, but upon rewatch, it’s actually really good.

  2. Emmy said,

    Yeah I felt the alcoholic toast was a little awkward too. I thought for a minute they might pour them out, which seems slightly more fitting to me.

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