June 29, 2021

ER 8.21, On the Beach: I Will Try to Fix You

Posted in TV tagged , , , at 5:02 pm by Jenn

If you need to grab some tissues, I won’t make fun of you

Summary: We last saw Mark passing the torch to Carter, and we know he died sometime after that, but what happened in the time between? Let’s find out! We go with Mark as he leaves County for the last time and endures a crowded El ride home. He watches a father with his young daughter in his lap. At home, he checks in on Rachel, who’s already asleep.

He himself can’t sleep, and Elizabeth finds him in the kitchen in the middle of the night. He’s making a list of things he always wanted to do (sail around the world, play third base for the Cubs and win the World Series, start a rock band). The only thing on the list he could reasonably do right now is have noisy sex in a public place. (Elizabeth is willing to participate.)

Mark gets a little down as the list runs to things he’d like to do with his daughters as they grow up. He says he hasn’t been a very good father. When Rachel needed him growing up, he was hundreds of miles away. The last item on his bucket list is “fix Rachel.” Well, she’s probably halfway to fixed after what happened with Ella, but I don’t think he can finish the job now.

The next day, Mark picks Rachel up after school, offering her a mint since she was totally smoking a cigarette and NOT holding it for a friend. Rachel, no one in the history of parents has ever believed that lie. He tells her they’re going somewhere, but he doesn’t know where. They end up in Hawaii, where Mark sky-dives while Rachel watches from the ground. A local guy asks her if her father’s having a midlife crisis. “Something like that,” she replies.

Mark is up early the next morning for a swim. Then he wakes Rachel up for what he calls a history lesson – a lesson about his history. In their rental Jeep, she complains about the music he’s playing, and he seems surprised that she doesn’t like Todd Rundgren. She’s probably never even heard of him, Mark. He points out places he used to see all the time growing up, like the Arizona memorial. He loved living in Hawaii.

They visit the Naval base where Mark lived as he talks about what he and his friends did. The Greenes lived there for three years, the longest time they ever stayed in one place. His first job was at the pool, as a junior janitor. He only made $1.25 an hour, but it was enough to buy records and weed. Rachel’s surprised that her father smoked pot as a teenager.

Next they go see the Missouri and Mark talks about being allowed to visit his father’s warship sometimes. David would introduce Mark to all the other sailors and show him the helm. He was about Rachel’s age. She wonders why Mark didn’t join the Navy. Mark admits that he was mad at David for never being around. They fought a lot, about everything – Mark’s clothes and friends and haircut (yes, he had hair). David resented Mark’s politics, and Mark hated David’s, so he would provoke him. Mark didn’t like the idea of devoting his life to patriotism and honor, like David did. He wishes he could take it all back.

Mark thinks David was hard on him because he was worried. He thought Mark was making bad choices. Mark was more into girls and Bruce Lee movies and surfing than the things David thought were important. Rachel’s surprised again by one of her father’s childhood interests. They go to the beach so he can give her a surfing lesson. She does pretty well for a first-timer.

That night, the reality of the situation hits Rachel and she gets emotional. She goes to talk to Mark, who’s asleep outside their hotel room. (Is that a lanai? I think it’s called a lanai.) She sneaks a pill from one of his prescriptions and a mini-bottle of booze. Oh, Rachel. She doesn’t realize that Mark has woken up and sees her take a drink.

The next day, the two head to a rental house. Rachel’s annoyed with her father and refuses to listen to his music choice, “Imagine.” She’s also annoyed with the new accommodations, specifically the lack of TV in her room or a swimming pool. He tells her they had to move to a new place because the hotel was getting too expensive – especially the mini-bar charges. Busted! Rachel asks what they’re supposed to do in this new place without all the fancy hotel amenities. I don’t know, Rachel – what is there to do in Hawaii, a place many people would love to visit? Forget what I said about her being halfway fixed.

Rachel gives Mark the silent treatment at dinner that night, but the next day, she’s a little more reasonable. Mark had teaching her to drive on his bucket list, even though she’s too young, so he takes her out in the Jeep. She struggles with the stick shift and wants to try an automatic instead, but Mark thinks it’s better to start with the harder method. He won’t let her quit just because it’s hard.

That afternoon, Rachel invites Mark to go to the beach with her, but he’s taking a nap. When he wakes up, he keeps his face turned from her so she doesn’t see the patch he has to wear over one eye, since it won’t stay closed. It looks like one of his arms isn’t working as well as the other, too. He meets her on the beach and asks what kind of music she’s listening to through her headphones. She says he wouldn’t like it.

Mark turns off her music and asks her when she started getting high. Rachel lies that she doesn’t use drugs, but Mark, who was stoned for most of the eighth grade, knows the signs. He asks if she knows what happened to three of his Vicodin. She suggests that he forgot he took them. GIRL. NO. Mark asks what else she’s using. Rachel gets huffy because her father doesn’t believe that she doesn’t use drugs, even though she once brought ecstasy into his house. Take her home, Mark. She doesn’t deserve a Hawaiian vacation.

Rachel runs away, but Mark chases after her and admits that he doesn’t know what to do with her. He doesn’t have time to work out everything that’s gone wrong with them. He feels horrible that Rachel had to grow up without her father, who then got remarried and had a new baby. She was also stuck with Jen as a mom, which…enough said. It makes sense that Rachel would want to get high. But when Mark’s gone, what will she do? Who will keep her from killing herself? Mark admits that he’s scared about what will happen to Rachel after he dies. He gets that it sucks for her – it sucks for him, too. Rachel still won’t talk to him.

Walking home after some more surfing, Mark suddenly collapses and starts seizing. This is what sparks Rachel to call Elizabeth, as we saw in “Brothers and Sisters.” Elizabeth brings Ella to Hawaii, where Mark and Rachel have moved into a big rental house with a beautiful view of the beach. He spotted a rental sign while driving around and decided to shell out the money for it, since…you know, he’s going to die anyway. Might as well live it up first.

Elizabeth tells Mark that Rachel was terrified when she witnessed his seizure. He hasn’t seen a doctor; he just started taking more of his anti-seizure medication. Elizabeth thinks he should have a CAT scan and a full workup. Mark doesn’t see the point. She tries to talk him into going back to Chicago, but Mark says he doesn’t want to go home. He knows his time is limited, and he wants to die somewhere beautiful.

Mark agrees to buy Rachel a surfboard she’s never going to use since there’s no ocean in Missouri. Elizabeth asks if Rachel, who has her headphones on and is ignoring them, has been distant the whole trip. Yes, Elizabeth, she’s been her normal self. When they go into a surf shop to get a board, it becomes clear that that’s not really the purpose of the visit. Rachel has a crush on a guy who works there, Kai, and just wanted an excuse to see him.

Back at home, Rachel listens in as Mark sings Ella to sleep with “Over the Rainbow.” He needs Rachel’s help to get up from his rocking chair. He tells Rachel she made him sing that song to her for years when she was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz and The Little Mermaid. Rachel doesn’t remember that, or at least pretends not to. She doesn’t think it’s important anyway. Things from her childhood and Mark’s family are just boring and useless. She doesn’t care about them and doesn’t want to hear about them.

Rachel’s tantrum and slamming of the door on her way out of the house wake Ella, so Mark volunteers to put her back down for her nap. Meanwhile, Elizabeth follows Rachel to the beach and asks her how long she plans on acting like a brat. Mark isn’t perfect, but he’s trying to make things up to her. Rachel will have to grow up fast; she can’t act like a child anymore. If she keeps being a brat, she’ll miss the last little bit of time she has with her father. This is her last chance. If she blows it, she’ll hate herself for the rest of her life.

Mark takes a nap, and when he wakes up, he finds that the weakness in his limbs is getting worse. He’s barely able to stand up, and when he tries to take a step, he falls on the floor. He slams the ground and says a word that starts with S that isn’t usually allowed on network TV, which means the show either paid off Standards and Practices or paid a big FCC fine to let that get through. (It must be a lifetime allowance, because I watched this on Pop and they allow the word, too.)

Elizabeth helps Mark down to the beach, still bugging him about seeing a doctor. He still doesn’t see the point. Rachel’s off somewhere with Kai, and Mark is okay with it, since Kai’s a nice kid. Elizabeth is surprised he’s not worried about what the two might be doing together. Mark tells her he wants to write letters to Rachel and Ella. He tried to do it himself, but his handwriting has gotten bad because of his limb problems, so he needs Elizabeth’s help.

He’ll write letters the girls can open on special occasions, like graduations and wedding days. He wonders if it’ll be cruel to remind them of his death on what should be happy days, but Elizabeth is sure they’ll love the messages. She’s fighting back tears, but she wants to help him with the letters, no matter how hard they might be to write.

Rachel gets home after Mark’s asleep and addresses her father’s decline in health for the first time. Elizabeth tells her he doesn’t have much time left. Rachel goes up to Mark’s room, and he wakes up and tells her he was just dreaming about her. He remembers how she used to love balloons. When he bought them for her, she would let them go. He asks her to sit with him.

Mark says he was trying to figure out the things he should have told Rachel already – the things fathers should say to their daughters. He finally decided to tell her to be generous in everything. Her time, her love, her life. He asks her not to cry for him after he dies. Rachel says she won’t. Mark says again that she should always be generous. As he falls asleep, she tells him she remembers him singing “Over the Rainbow” to her. She puts her headphones on him and plays him Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s beautiful version of the song.

The next morning, Elizabeth is up early, playing on the beach with Ella. Mark is still listening to the song, imagining himself in the empty ER. Elizabeth watches Rachel and Kai in the water together. Mark imagines approaching them under a tree, then sees Elizabeth and Ella smiling together. When Elizabeth goes to check on him, he’s dead.

Mark’s family and friends hold his funeral back in Chicago. All his ER co-workers are in attendance, as well as some former colleagues like Benton, Cleo, and Swift. Jen’s there, too, but who cares about Jen? After the service, riding off in a limo, Rachel asks Elizabeth if she can visit Ella at Christmas and on summer break. Elizabeth tells her that of course she can. Rachel asks the driver to pull over at a house with balloons tied to a for-sale sign. She gets out of the limo, unties one of the balloons, and lets it go.

Thoughts: Ella is played (I think just in this episode) by Alex Kingston’s (Elizabeth) real daughter, Salome.

George Clooney declined to appear at the funeral because he didn’t want to distract from the point of the episode, which was Anthony Edwards’ farewell (the same reason he didn’t want his return in “Such Sweet Sorrow” to distract from Julianna Margulies’ goodbye episode). We’ll pretend Doug and Carol were there and we just didn’t see them.

Confession time: When I first watched this episode during the original run, I teared up a little at the end, when Rachel releases the balloon. When I’ve watched it since then, I’ve been fine. This time, for some reason, I started crying around when Mark asked Elizabeth to help him with the letters, and I didn’t stop until the end. So if you cried watching this episode, you’re not alone.

’00s music alert: “Crawling in the Dark” by Hoobastank

Goodbye, Anthony Edwards. You must have left a loooooot of money on the table by leaving.

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    I put off watching this episode for like two weeks. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but still pretty sad. I did like hearing about Mark’s youth and him sharing that with Rachel even if she was a bit ungrateful and sullen about it all. It sucks that it took a seizure from him for her to wake the fuck up and realize this is the last time she’ll have with her father, like, *ever*. I know 14yo’s are difficult by design, but christ, girl, get a clue. I was glad Elizabeth read her the riot act quietly out on the beach. For whatever reason I distinctly remembered Mark laying in the big bed listening to the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole version of the song as he watched everybody but that just proves how unreliable memory is. I did remember Clooney and Margulies not showing up for the funeral and thinking that was pretty shitty. In hindsight it wasn’t that they would have distracted from the point of the episode — it would have proven how solid their friendship was all this time just to see them there. If Michael Ironside can show up so can you! (I think Anspaugh was there, but I don’t remember if Morgenstern was, and he should have been too. Plus all of the nursing staff he ever worked with. And Jeanie and Kerry too.)


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