September 1, 2020

ER 6.22, May Day: Out of Options

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , at 4:58 pm by Jenn

Yeah, you walk into this, you know things aren’t good

Summary: Two empty swings are swaying back and forth on a playground as a helicopter lands nearby. Benton and Luka emerge and meet up with some police officers. Three people have been shot in a school, and one is dead. Luka seems surprised that someone opened fire in a school, because he’s not from America and because it’s only 2000, so this wasn’t happening that much yet.

Benton checks out a boy who was shot through the eye. He’s awake and alert, amazingly. Luka declares another shooting victim too far gone to help, then checks on a boy named Nicholas who begs Luka to call his father. A cop tells Luka that the school is being evacuated from the front of the building; they’ve arrested two suspects, but there might be another.

Benton comes to help Luka with Nicholas, who was shot in the leg. They’re discussing which boy to transfer to the hospital first when more shots are fired. A cop tells them the third suspect is coming out of the building. After a few more shots, a sniper takes down the shooter just outside the school door.

The police search the shooter for more weapons or explosives, then allow Benton and a couple of paramedics to come tend to him. Benton treats him like any other patient, managing to ignore the fact that this guy shot some kids. Luka asks if it’s okay for him to take Nicholas to the hospital in the helicopter. Benton wants to transport the shooter instead, but Luka doesn’t listen to him.

At County, Carter, Abby, Randi, and Connie are watching a news report about the situation. Dave’s jealous that Benton and Luka got to go to the scene, then jealous again when Carter says he’ll take a patient coming in. The shooter is bleeding out, so Benton tries to get Luka to leave the helicopter and let the shooter take Nicholas’ place. Luka refuses. Benton argues that his patient is more critical than Nicholas, but Luka points out that Benton’s patient killed people. Benton eventually has to back down because the helicopter is taking off.

Carter and Weaver examine a man who hit a parking structure with his car. Abby finds a goiter on his neck, making Weaver think that the patient has a thyroid problem. That could explain why he’s so combative. Carter gives the man some fentanyl, then pockets the vial it was in. Carter and Abby work together to fix the man’s dislocated hip, but the man kicks Carter across the room. Weaver calls for Dave to take Carter’s place, but Carter says he can keep working.

Once the patient has been taken for x-rays and the trauma room is empty, Carter injects himself with the rest of the fentanyl. Abby comes back in, and even though Carter’s back is to her, she can tell something’s going on. He pretends everything’s fine, but once Abby has left again, he kicks himself for taking such a big risk.

Luka gets Nicholas to the hospital and meets up with Elizabeth. Mark finds Dave using a screwdriver to remove a wood screw from a patient’s leg. The patient won’t accept any pain medication, saying it’ll interfere with his healing process. (Not seen: Carter calling dibs on that guy’s pain meds.) Mark tells Dave that the guy has to at least stop screaming and scaring other patients. He asks Carter if he’s okay after being kicked, then tries to talk about Carter’s therapy, since Carter told him he’d call a psychiatrist. Carter clearly hasn’t.

Carter joins Luka and Elizabeth to take care of Nicholas. Through the trauma-room window, Carter spots Abby talking to Mark and worries that they’re discussing him. They’re actually discussing a man named Mr. Tanner who got hurt playing rugby. He thinks he only hurt his clavicle, but his chest is blue. He blames the dye on his new jersey. Mark notices that Abby seems distracted, and she asks for a minute to talk.

Nicholas starts declining as Weaver discovers that the bullet that entered his leg has made it to his heart. He needs immediate surgery. Benton makes it to the hospital, having failed to save the shooter, as paramedics bring in an 18-year-old college student named Gloria who was stabbed in the abdomen.

Benton tells Luka that the shooter died after Luka abandoned him at the scene. Luka has no sympathy for the guy. Benton reminds him that they’re supposed to prioritize the most critical patient. Luka thinks he was justified in rushing Nicholas in first, since his condition could have gotten worse at any time (and, as we know, did). They yell at each other for a minute until Weaver tells them to cut it out.

Mark calls Weaver away as Luka tries to argue his side of the battle with Benton. She tells him to go help Cleo with Gloria. The police are questioning her about who stabbed her; she says the guy was “darker, maybe Mexican.” Luka examines Gloria and asks her how far along she is in her pregnancy. She denies that she’s pregnant, even though she looks almost full-term.

The baby’s heart rate seems fine, but the placenta has been damaged, which means Gloria might need a C-section to save the baby. Luka tries to reassure her that the baby will be fine, but Gloria only cares about what might happen to her. When Luka says her life isn’t at risk, Gloria tells him not to do a C-section.

Carter and Dave go to the lounge, where Mark, Weaver, and Abby are having a meeting. They stop talking while the guys are in the room. Mark asks Dave to leave, then tells Carter that Abby saw him inject himself in the trauma room. Abby confirms this. Carter lies that he was just cleaning up, but the patient’s chart shows that he didn’t receive the full vial of fentanyl, and the rest of it isn’t accounted for.

Carter says he must have poured the rest down the sink, which is hospital procedure. Weaver reminds him that he’s supposed to have a witness for that. Carter brushes it off, saying they all do this sort of stuff. Just because he had meds left over doesn’t mean he took them himself. No one believes him. Carter asks Abby why she didn’t talk to him if she thought she saw him do something he shouldn’t have.

Mark asks if Carter’s still taking pain medication for his stabbing injuries. Carter says that’s between him and his doctor. Mark asks him straight out if he’s overmedicating. Carter challenges Mark to accuse him of being addicted to drugs, then tells the group that they’re ridiculous for thinking that. He gaslights Abby for making up a story about him, then asks if he can go back to work.

Coburn comes to the ER to examine Gloria, determining that she needs a C-section right away if they want to save the baby. Gloria refuses to consent. Coburn can’t operate without Gloria’s permission, which means if the baby dies, it dies. Luka’s shocked that Coburn has no power in this situation. He thinks he might be able to get Gloria declared incompetent to make her own medical decisions. He suspects that she stabbed herself. Coburn agrees to operate if psych says Gloria isn’t in her right mind.

Elizabeth and Benton operate on Nicholas, discussing how Luka bought the boy some extra time by putting him on the helicopter. Benton notes that Luka didn’t know that Nicholas’ condition was this bad. Elizabeth can sympathize with Luka’s difficulty in prioritizing a patient who hurt other people. Nicholas starts bleeding but the surgeons can’t figure out what’s wrong. Benton finds another injury from another bullet and works fast to fix it before Elizabeth has to shock Nicholas’ heart.

Tanner is disappointed to learn that he’ll have to miss an upcoming rugby tournament. Weaver pulls Mark away from him to tell him she had a hypothetical conversation with the legal department about Carter. Without more evidence that he’s using drugs, they can’t keep him from working with patients. Mark asks if they can have him take a drug test. Weaver points out that since Carter’s taking prescribed pain medication, he’ll test positive no matter what. Asking him to take the test will just make him madder.

Weaver wants to get him help, but since he hasn’t admitted to anything, that will be hard. Mark thinks Carter might open up to him if he doesn’t feel threatened. Weaver wonders how they all missed the signs that Carter was using drugs. Mark says that it’s Carter – he’s not the sort of person who would become an addict, so no one even considered it.

Deraad talks to Gloria while Cleo tries to stay optimistic that she’ll agree to the surgery. Nicholas’ father arrives, and Luka fills him in on Nicholas’ condition. Cleo takes him upstairs while Deraad tells Luka that Gloria understands her options and the potential consequences. She’s competent to make her own decisions. Luka disagrees, arguing that Gloria’s a danger to the baby. Deraad says Gloria can make decisions about her own body. Without a court order, they can’t do anything.

Mark finds Carter smoking in the ambulance bay, because on this show, psychological and physical trauma lead to smoking. Carter apologizes for getting so angry and insists that he’s okay. Mark calls him out for not seeing a psychiatrist after saying he would. Carter says his behavior is all justified because of his attack, and though he’s had to take more pain medication to get through the day at work, it’s all been prescribed. Mark tells Carter that he needs help. Carter asks to deal with it himself, but Mark assigns him to do chart work for the rest of his shift.

Benton and Elizabeth have finished Nicholas’ surgery and think the case would make a great write-up for a medical journal. They bicker over who gets to keep the bullet. Weren’t there two bullets? Cleo catches them acting friendly with each other and obviously isn’t pleased. Chill, Cleo. Abby apologizes to Carter for causing trouble for him but says she felt it was her responsibility to tell Mark and Weaver what was going on. Carter isn’t interested in hearing her excuses.

Abby checks on Tanner and finds him unconscious. Carter realizes he must have injured his lung and works to stabilize him. Mark tries to take over, but Carter’s far enough along in the procedure to argue that he can finish it. He remembers Mark banned him from working with patients and walks away, fishing for a “thank you.” Meanwhile, Luka’s impatient to get a court order for Gloria’s C-section and thinks he can get her to change her mind.

Mark, Weaver, Chen, and Benton gather in the lounge to plan an intervention for Carter. Chen worries that he’ll feel like they’re ganging up on him, but if the four of them don’t move now, they’ll need to pass things along to a committee. Weaver says they’ll leave Romano out of it. Benton warns that Carter will probably just walk out, but Weaver isn’t intimidated.

Anspaugh joins the group as Cleo and Luka determine that Gloria is out of options – if she doesn’t have the C-section now, the baby will die. Gloria asks for another doctor. Luka decides to move forward without legal rights, at the risk of losing his license. Cleo manages to convince him that he can’t violate Gloria’s rights, no matter what happens as a result.

Carter tells Weaver he’s done with the charts, so if he’s not allowed to see patients, he’s going home. She takes him to an exam room, where he immediately figures out that he’s facing an intervention. He tries to leave, but Anspaugh calmly tells him he needs to be quiet and listen. Mark tells Carter they’ve bought him a ticket to Atlanta and gotten him a spot in a rehab center in Atlanta that specializes in doctors with addictions. Carter insists again that he’s only taking what’s been prescribed for him and doesn’t have an addiction.

Mark continues that Carter can’t work at the hospital if he doesn’t get treatment. He can either go to rehab and receive support from the hospital when he’s finished it, or he’ll be fired. Anspaugh tells Carter that everyone in the room cares about him and no one is judging him. Carter doesn’t believe that. He’s gone through a few horrible months since his attack, and he’s never complained or missed a shift. He hasn’t endangered patients or done his job any worse than before the attack.

Chen reminds him that he gave Mrs. Watts the wrong medication and put her into anaphylactic shock. Carter replies that Chen almost killed a patient, too. If they’re talking about mistakes, no one in the room is immune. Weaver says Carter has exhibited drug-seeking behavior, then demands to see his wrists. Carter shows that they’re clear, so Weaver requests that he take off his watch. He leaves the room, announcing that he quits.

Anspaugh asks if they’re done. Benton says no and follows Carter to the lounge. Carter says he doesn’t need this job and never has. He storms out, but Benton follows him again, telling him he’s getting in Mark’s van and going to Atlanta. Carter refuses over and over.

Benton asks where it will end – right now it’s fentanyl, but Carter could end up like Chase, unable to care for himself and living in a facility. That hits a nerve, and Carter punches him. Benton tells Carter that it’s fine if he wants to fight, but Carter’s still going to rehab. Carter starts crying, finally realizing how much of a mess he’s gotten into. Benton hugs him and tries to reassure him.

Luka, Cleo, and Lily deliver Gloria’s stillborn baby naturally in the ER. She doesn’t want to see him. Mark and Elizabeth check in with Weaver, who doesn’t know if Carter has gotten on the plane, though he did let Benton take him to the airport. Romano makes a pointless appearance in the episode to tell Elizabeth she needs to do an operation with him instead of going home with Mark. Mark nicely invites Weaver to get something to eat, but she wants to stay at the hospital and wait for word from Benton. The legal department finally calls to approve Gloria’s C-section. They’re almost as bad as psych!

Luka mopes at an El station, possibly thinking about how Gloria could have saved her child while Luka couldn’t save his. Or maybe he’s thinking about how Carol ran off with another man and now he’s alone. Don’t worry, Luka! Your life is about to get better! Then worse. Then better again. And on and on for seven or eight more years. And at least you’re not Carter, on a plane to Atlanta to check into drug rehab. Though Carter, unlike Luka, isn’t alone: Benton’s with him. He couldn’t save the shooter that morning, but he’s going to save someone else.

Thoughts: Poor Abby. Mark shouldn’t have confronted Carter while she was present. I mean, Carter would have known she was the one who went to Mark and Weaver, but they put her in a really bad position.

I understand Benton’s argument that the patient in worse condition should have priority, but would he want to be the one to tell Nicholas’ family, “Sorry we couldn’t save your kid, but hey, at least we saved the guy who killed him”?

Having Benton be the one to keep pushing Carter to admit his problems and get help is perfect. They haven’t interacted much in the past few seasons, but Benton is still the one person Carter never wants to cross.

Season 6 sped by. Next: Sally Field, bad times for Mark and Luka, and guess who’s gay?


  1. L said,

    Rewatching for the 1st time since original airing on cable and loving these recaps! Sadly, I’ve gotten ahead! Still checking back for your take on everything.

  2. evixir said,

    I remember the scene with Benton and Carter in the street arguing about rehab ever since I first saw it years ago. It was brilliant of the writers to have Benton be the one to convince Carter to go; he was always Carter’s true mentor in medicine, though I’d argue Mark was a close second in terms of how to be a good doctor. Watching Abby sit stoically as Carter rails at her for narcing him out, knowing as rewatchers what we know about Abby’s own background, makes it really effective that she’s the one who observed his habit spilling over into the workplace when nobody else around them did. If they wanted to keep Malucci around longer or give Cleo something interesting to do, they could have had either of those characters be the one to witness it, but Abby makes a lot of sense too. Deb, though, to her credit, noticed something was off with Carter way before anybody else did, even if she misdiagnosed him as bipolar.

    I liked how Kovac stood up to Benton about the kid vs the shooter. Benton had a point but it isn’t like they were negligent in their care. I was a little surprised the shooter wasn’t another kid, actually, which would have been a more interesting dilemma for them to argue about as opposed to just some asshole adult dude shooting up a school. Though I think the school wasn’t the actual target — it was the armored truck outside originally and just happened to be next to the school? Maybe I heard that wrong.

    Kovac and the pregnant girl, I’d forgotten that storyline. That was rough.

    Cleo being salty about Benton and Elizabeth getting along in the hallway… man that chick could be sour about pretty much anything. Does she think Elizabeth’s going to ditch Mark for Peter again? Doesn’t she read the tabloids?! No way Eriq La Salle was going to let that happen!

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