July 6, 2021

ER 8.22, Lockdown: The Hot Zone

Posted in TV tagged , at 5:05 pm by Jenn

Carter to the rescue, once again

Summary: If you still have pandemic anxiety, you might want to skip this one.

It’s quieter than usual in the ER, even with some nurses out taking a training course. Weaver calls in and Abby, Susan, and Pratt discuss how she chipped a tooth while on vacation in Barbados (the implication being that she’ll be late to work because she has a dentist appointment). Abby asks for some extra help from Pratt and Gallant with tasks the nurses normally do. Guess which guy is willing to help and which isn’t. Go ahead, guess. Carter forces the issue by giving them assignments.

Paramedics bring in two lawyers who burned their feet walking on hot coals at a business retreat. They blame each other for the incident. Carter smells smoke and realizes that the male lawyer’s clothes are on fire. He and Abby quickly put out the flames, though when Abby deploys a fire extinguisher, she sprays Carter more than she does the fire. They’re just getting the wackiness out of the way early, since the rest of the episode is pretty bleak.

Stan is back, wanting a place to rest since he’s sick. Chen has no sympathy; she has the flu and can’t just crawl into bed and rest. Pratt makes a sexual-harassment-y comment about how he’d like to see her in bed. Stan asks the doctors to remember their “hippo oath” to be nice to people. Chen makes Pratt deal with him.

Abby and Carter tend to the lawyers, disagreeing over whether or not they should be able to take baths or showers while their feet heal. Malik speaks for the audience when he tells Abby and Carter to kiss and make up. Thank you, Malik. An accident brings in a bus full of senior citizens, along with their driver, Marge, and the driver of the car they collided with, Colin. Carter lets Pratt take the lead with Colin but tells him to get Susan to help him. The seniors all seem to have minor injuries, but now there’s a lot for the doctors to deal with.

A man in the waiting area tells Abby that he and his sick kids have been waiting for a long time and would really like to get treated. Abby has to brush him off to deal with emergencies. Luka tends to Marge while Susan joins Pratt to treat Colin. They make a paramedic stick around and help since the nurses aren’t back from their training course yet. Susan asks Abby to take Pratt’s place with Colin, since she knows what she’s doing and he doesn’t.

Carter and Gallant try to wrangle all the seniors so they can all be assessed. One of the seniors is Chinese and takes an interest in Chen, doing that motherly thing where you feel someone’s forehead to see if they’re sick. Another patient complains about foreigners (shut up, dude) and says Marge was mad while driving; she started twitching. Carter lets Pratt and Luka know that Marge may have had a seizure.

Gallant has finally gotten around to the sick kids in the waiting area, the Turners, and he thinks Carter should take their case. As soon as Carter sees them, he gets concerned. The kids have had little white spots all over their faces for three days. Carter tries to stay calm as he tells Gallant to put masks on the kids. He goes to the lounge to find the hospital’s collection of posters about different illnesses. The one he finds makes him even more concerned.

He tells Gallant to get Susan, then rushes the kids, Adam and Bree, to an exam room. He quietly tells Susan that he thinks they have smallpox. Susan is sure it’s something else, like chicken pox with a weird presentation. After all, no one’s seen a case of smallpox in the U.S. since the ’40s. Carter says that if that’s what it is, they’ll have to go into lockdown.

Susan calls the health department and is ordered to lock down the ER. The rest of the staff on duty has been informed of the possible danger, and they’re all calmly discussing the situation so none of the patients gets worried. Chen realizes that she saw the kids a few days ago but sent them home because she thought they just had the flu. The same flu she now thinks she has.

Carter tells Chen that she needs to be quarantined. Susan’s the highest-ranking doctor on duty, so she hands out assignments: Chen will quarantine, Jerry will look at activity logs to see who was around the Tuesday the kids were there, and Luka will determine which patients are really critical and need to stay in the ER. Susan tells everyone to stay calm and act like this is a routine thing. Luka notes that maintenance guys are locking the ER doors, so she’ll need to come up with something to explain that to the patients.

Carter’s upset that the Turners were in the waiting area for 45 minutes without anyone seeing them. Abby reminds him that they were dealing with a big trauma and are down three nurses. She wants to help him treat the kids, even if that means risking exposure. Meanwhile, the lawyers and seniors are getting antsy and want to know why they’re not allowed to leave. Susan uses the PA system to tell everyone they have a possible public health concern. Until they know more, no one can enter or leave the ER. No one’s happy with that.

Mrs. Turner tells Abby and Carter that her husband works for the State Department and the family just returned to the States after living in Central Africa. The parents aren’t sick, but Carter guesses that they’re incubating the virus, so they need to be isolated for 10 to 14 days. They also need to tell the doctors everyone they’ve been in contact with since Mr. Turner got back. Since their kids are in school, that’s…a lot of people they might have spread the virus to. Abby tries to keep the Turners calm by saying these are just precautions; nothing’s been confirmed yet. She tells Carter to remember to stay calm so the parents don’t freak out.

Gallant checks on Chen, who’s not so much worried about having smallpox as she is about having to sit out a possibly major case. Stan claims he was at the hospital on Tuesday, so he joins Chen in quarantine. She still thinks she just has the flu. Stan starts singing “Fever,” which really doesn’t help. Gallant lets Susan know that none of the seniors has major injuries, so at least that trauma has been dealt with. But now the police are outside to maintain order.

Luka wants to take Marge to get a head CT, but Susan reminds him that no one’s supposed to leave the ER. Marge doesn’t seem altered, so Susan thinks she can wait. David Torres arrives from the public health department and tells Susan he’ll take over the situation. The CDC is on their way from Atlanta. Torres’ first instruction is for the hospital to turn off the air-conditioning, even though it’s 80 degrees outside. “Welcome to the hot zone,” he tells a protesting Susan.

Carter tries to assure the Turners that the kids are doing okay, but Mrs. Turner is too upset about the situation to listen. She wishes they hadn’t moved to Africa. She thinks they were the targets of a bioweapon. Stop watching Fox News, Mrs. Turner. While his parents are bickering, Adam tries to get their attention – something’s wrong with Bree. She’s not getting enough oxygen, so Carter decides to intubate her.

They don’t have a pediatric intubation tray in the room, so Abby starts to go get one, but she’ll have to go through a trauma room to get it. They determine that they need a decontamination room for everyone who leaves the Turners’ room. Carter tells Pratt they need to move Colin so they can put Bree in his trauma room. Pratt thinks they’re making too big a deal out of things – they don’t even know if they’re really dealing with smallpox.

Weaver arrives at the hospital with no idea that there’s a lockdown. Haleh and Lily join her outside, having left their training course, and the three try to find out what’s happening. No one bothered to shut down the ER to paramedics, so when Doris brings in a gunshot victim named Marta, she’s a little annoyed not to be able to drop off her patient. A cop at the door refuses to let them in, and also ignores a woman (I think her name is Kristen) who’s there to see her fiancé, who we later learn is Colin.

In the new decontaminatiom room, Abby asks Carter how long he thinks they’ll be stuck there. He says maybe a day or two. Everyone who thought we would just have two or three weeks of school shutdowns and social distancing laughs for five minutes straight so they don’t cry. Carter says they’ll probably have to spend the night together. He asks if Abby’s scared, and she questions whether he means scared of smallpox or of waking up next to him.

They return to Adam’s room, where he’s still stable, but Bree is declining in her new trauma room. Carter tells Abby to get Susan, but Pratt’s right outside, so Abby brings him in instead. Out in the ambulance bay, Weaver, Lily, Haleh, and Doris try to treat Marta with limited medical supplies. They’ve managed to get Romano on the phone to request more supplies, and he tosses something down to Doris. He reports that security is waiting by the hospital’s freight elevator so they can transport Marta to the OR without going through the ER.

The media has heard about the lockdown, and a reporter asks Weaver what’s going on. She still doesn’t know, and she’s too busy trying to save Marta to talk to them. They’re broadcasting live, so everyone in the ER watches as Weaver tries to ignore the reporter’s questions. Dude, she’s trying to save someone’s life. Your scoop isn’t important.

When the reporter asks what kind of disease can shut down a hospital, Susan begs Weaver to watch her words. She’s not the problem, though: The reporter knows that a smallpox response team has been contacted. The second he says “smallpox,” the patients in the ER freak out. Meanwhile, Carter, Abby, and Pratt can’t get Bree’s heart to restart. Her mother demands someone with more experience, but they tell her no one else is available. Next door, Mr. Turner sits with Adam, trying not to panic.

Luka, Susan, and Torres work on calming the now-angry ER patients, who don’t think they need to listen to the doctors telling them to stay put. The normally calm, level-headed Gallant erupts, telling the patients that the hospital is surrounded by police, so if they try to leave, they’ll be arrested. Malik grabs Susan and tells her Carter needs help, but it’s too late – Bree has been down for 40 minutes, and they can’t get her heart to restart. Bree’s dead, and the possible epidemic has its first casualty.

In the decontamination room, Carter chastises Pratt for fighting him when he said they needed to stop working on Bree. Pratt thinks they could have done more. Carter disagrees and tells Pratt he doesn’t know enough about the treatment he wanted to try; it wouldn’t have helped. Pratt notes that it’s Carter’s job to teach him. Yeah, maybe not in the middle of a situation like this, Pratt. He needs to keep quiet and follow Carter’s lead. “Then lead!” Pratt yells. Dude, he is! And he’s not even the person in charge!

Abby interrupts to announce that the CDC has told them to double-shroud Bree’s body so whatever she has can’t spread. Pratt offers to do it, but Carter wants him off the Turners’ case. He thinks Pratt’s sick, so he asks Abby to take his temperature, which is 101.4. Pratt’s annoyed that Carter always has to be right. Pratt, go quarantine with your crush.

As one of the lawyers surveys people in the waiting area to find out how long they’ve been there, someone catches Malik removing all the fans from the ER. Susan is on the phone, demanding food for the angry patients. The other lawyer takes down people’s names, threatening the ER with a class-action lawsuit alleging false imprisonment and emotional distress. Susan tells him the public health department has the right to lock the place down.

She gets distracted when she hears a familiar voice on the TV. It’s Jerry, who’s called into a live news broadcast to talk about the lockdown. He must have read up on smallpox, because he sounds like an expert on the subject. He assures the public that only people who have been in close contact with the infected are at risk. Susan pulls him off the phone and Malik gives Jerry a high five.

Carter and Abby let the Turners say goodbye to Bree before they double-shroud her body. Mrs. Turner is still upset with Mr. Turner, and he now blames himself for the kids’ illness. Torres is overseeing as two women take a biopsy from Adam; the sample will go to Atlanta for the CDC to analyze. Adam’s having more trouble breathing, and he’s worried that he might die like his sister. Carter assures him that she wasn’t scared, since she was asleep when she died. He promises that they won’t let Adam die, too.

Chen needs to use the bathroom, but no one’s responding to her call button. Stan offers her his portable urinal. Luka brushes off some annoyed patients as he goes to check on Marge. He asks how she was able to get a commercial driver’s license, since he’s discovered that she has epilepsy. She claims she hasn’t had a seizure in years. Luka thinks she’s getting her medication through back channels. She put all the seniors in danger, and Colin is still in critical condition. Just then, Colin starts declining, so Luka joins Susan and Gallant to work on him.

Carter has decided to intubate Adam, since he has lesions in his throat that are making it harder for him to breathe. He has trouble with the intubation, so Abby goes to get Luka to help him. Luka’s working on Colin, so he can’t help. Where’s Susan? Carter tells Abby to get Romano instead, since Adam needs a surgical procedure, but since Romano’s in the surgical wing, he can’t come to the ER. He tells Carter he’s on his own for now. Carter decides he had enough training in his brief time as a surgical intern to be able to do this.

The patients are demanding food, and Susan has left Jerry to deal with them. He’s not as good at this as he was on the news. Carter and Abby struggle with Adam’s procedure and have to ask Mr. Turner to squeeze the oxygen pump that will help Adam breathe. Okay, seriously, why isn’t Susan helping? Outside, a woman named Dr. Lutz arrives from the CDC and tells Weaver she’s taking over the ER.

Carter and Abby still can’t secure Adam’s airway, and Carter finds it too hard to work with a mask on his face. He asks Abby to take it off, fully exposing himself to the virus as he finally finishes the procedure successfully. Someone should really turn off the TV in the ER, since the news is showing pictures of smallpox victims from the past, and that’s not going to make anyone feel better. Jerry thinks has has “a pox,” but Susan tells him it’s just a cold sore. SUSAN. THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING. While they’re doing absolutely nothing useful, the lawyers are breaking into a vending machine to feed the masses.

Chen has finally gotten up the nerve to pee in the quarantine room. She asks Stan and Pratt to talk to cover the noise. Pratt says they don’t have anything in common, but he probably said the same about Pablo and they ended up hitting it off. Stan doesn’t feel like singing, but when Pratt starts up “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” Stan joins in.

Carter tells Mrs. Turner that Adam is stable but is still at risk for organ failure. Abby’s in the decontamination room, reading up on smallpox. She tells Carter that if they were dealing with the hemorrhagic form, they’d be in a lot more trouble, since it’s 98% fatal. She asks if he thinks it would have made a difference if she’d sent the Turners back for treatment sooner. Carter says it probably wouldn’t have.

Susan sends Gallant to get Abby so they can set up a vaccine clinic. Chen tells Gallant to get some medication – Stan’s having seizures. Pratt thinks he’s in alcohol withdrawal. He and Chen are able to stabilize him, but the effort tires them out. Abby, Torres, and Lutz watch a video showing them how to administer smallpox vaccines, which involves lots of little pokes. I’m sure everyone’s going to love that. The patients demand the vaccines, but Lutz notes that they haven’t even confirmed that they’re dealing with smallpox yet.

Susan tries to calm the patients as they start getting aggressive, but they’re fed up with being detained without being told anything. One of them grabs a gurney, and he and some other guys run down a hallway with it to use it as a battering ram on the ER doors. Luka and Jerry are unable to stop them. (There’s a great shot in here of the lawyers tied up with police tape so they stop bugging people. Probably not legal, but a smart move.)

Carter hears the commotion and goes to check on things. Jerry has basically given up on everything and is hiding by the admit desk. A cop tells everyone outside that they need to go across the street – they want to increase the perimeter around the hospital. Weaver asks to talk to someone with more seniority. The cop tells her to go home and be glad she didn’t make it in to work today.

The gurney/battering ram has made it through one set of ER doors, and as the guys ramming it try to get through the next set, Carter steps in. He sends feedback through the PA system, which quiets everyone down. Then he announces that a girl has died from a mystery illness and her brother is still sick. The doctors don’t know what it is or how they got it, but they need to contain it. They’re not trying to deny anyone their civil rights – they’re trying to protect everyone. If the patients are…well, patient, everyone will get through this. And if not, there are armed cops outside to make them.

Lutz learns that Adam’s biopsy showed some sort of orthopox; it may not be smallpox, but it’s something. Everyone just needs to sit tight and wait for more information. Luka tries to look on the bright side by pointing out that they only have two critical patients; since they’ve closed to paramedics, no more will be coming. Okay, but if everyone else gets sick and starts dying, you’re in a lot of trouble.

Torres tells Carter and Abby that they’ve handled things great so far, but since they’ve been exposed, they’ll have to be quarantined with Pratt, Chen, and Stan. This is an outbreak with unknown origins, so they need to be extra-cautious. Abby and Carter can’t just get vaccines and go home. Torres promises that it won’t be much longer.

Carter’s hot and sweaty, so Abby makes him check his temperature, but it’s normal. She puts an ice pack on his neck, which, let’s be honest, is just a way for the writers to get them in close contact with each other. She hopes the worst of this is over and asks Carter to tell her they’ll be okay. Instead, he kisses her. I know that when I’ve been exposed to a deadly illness, I like to kiss people who might not have had my same level of exposure. Carter says everything will be fine. Okay, well, call me when you’re on month 16 of a pandemic.

Thoughts: You may recognize Heidi Swedberg (Mrs. Turner) as George’s doomed fiancée on Seinfeld.

I’m really impressed with all the staff and Torres’ ability to pretend to be calm in the face of a possible catastrophe. I’d be crying and rocking back and forth in a corner.

Say goodbye to season 8! Next up: Abby’s family saga continues, Luka gets really weird, the Africa stuff begins, and something with a helicopter.


  1. Nick Rivers said,

    Ooh, a crisis management episode, my favorite! And coming on the heels of our own pandemic, it was fascinating to watch. We all know by now that every single person in the ER should have been masked at that point. In fact, a lot of this episode is kind of ironic in hindsight. The patients being restless, angry, frustrated, and violent. Cops being utilized to enforce quarantines. Contact tracing. The CDC being vilified. Intubation and ventilators. I didn’t see a lot of hand sanitizer being used, though, so that was a missed opportunity. And I feel like maybe bringing security inside the building to bar people in exam rooms might have been safer for the staff. Jerry should have lost his job for speaking as if he was any sort of authority on the subject — Weaver should have shitcanned his ass.

    I loved your recap of this one with all the hindsight we’ve all accumulated over the past year and a half. It’s definitely made watching this episode a little different than upon my first watch. I suspect I’ll feel the same way when I sit down to watch Outbreak or Contagion again. And I totally missed that that was Susan from Seinfeld!

    • Nick Rivers said,

      Also, all that buildup for Abby and Carter and that’s the kiss we get from it? How disappointing.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: