July 13, 2021

ER 9.1, Chaos Theory: A Pox on Our Hospital

Posted in TV tagged at 4:58 pm by Jenn

Not a lot of great photo options for this episode. It was this or… you know

Summary: Like I said last time, if you still have pandemic anxiety, you might want to sit this one out.

We kick off season 9 in the Congo Republic. No, it’s not time for all the African episodes yet. First we have to watch some random guy tranquilize a chimp. He takes the chimp to a makeshift clinic, where at least one patient is being treated for the same illness as the Turner kids. Everyone is speaking French, so I don’t know what’s going on. Someone at the clinic biopsies a patient and delivers the sample to someone on a boat.

Eventually the sample ends up in Hamburg, Germany. More dialogue in a language I don’t speak. An analysis of the sample is sent to Atlanta, where a doctor in Infectious Disease Control takes it to a couple of scientists. She reports that the sample is from an illness that’s shown up in both monkeys and children in the Congo. It matches the sample they got from the Turners in Chicago.

Finally, we’re back at County, where Abby and Carter are stuck in a room together. He’s bored and wonders if they can ask for a TV. He works on his shadow-puppet skills while Abby watches Luka, Susan, Malik, and Lutz through the window. When the group looks at Abby and Carter, Abby guesses they don’t have good news. Indeed, Susan tells them over the phone that the whole hospital needs to be evacuated, except for the people in quarantine.

This episode is very international, as next we visit the U.K. Elizabeth has moved back there after Mark’s death and is working with a team of surgeons (all men, by the way). Her boss, Dr. Whitehead, is a jerk. He doesn’t like how her vocabulary has changed since her time in the U.S. Elizabeth may be, for the first time in her life, missing Romano.

In Chicago, the staff lucky enough to not be quarantined is helping send patients to other hospitals. Kristen is anxious for news about Colin, but Weaver doesn’t have time to help her find him, so she passes Kristen off to Lily. Susan delivers a patient named Stella (we’ll see her again) to Zadro, then checks in with Weaver, who tells her the evacuation is going smoothly. Susan thinks everyone handled things really well in the midst of a disaster. Weaver tells her she did better than just “really well.”

In the ER, Gallant is giving vaccines to the angry patients who spent the last episode making everyone’s lives miserable. One guy objects to getting pricked a bunch of times with a smallpox vaccine when they’re not even sure they’re dealing with smallpox. Yeah, but now you’ll never have to worry about getting smallpox. A small price to pay. Susan tells him this is the closest thing they have to protection against the virus. If he doesn’t want the shots, she can get an Army sergeant to come in and change his mind.

While Abby gives Carter a vaccine, he watches as Lutz examines Adam. Adam gets to go upstairs to his own isolation room while Abby and Carter are stuck in a trauma room. Since the virus is still so unknown, there’s no way to know how long they’ll have to stay in quarantine. For now, they should plan on two weeks. There will be a public health nurse on duty around the clock. As the Turners leave the ER, Mr. Turner tells Carter he’s sorry about all this. Not your fault, my man.

Stan is coughing a lot in his, Chen, and Pratt’s isolation room, and Chen is annoyed, since she’s trying to sleep. Way to have compassion, Chen. Stan reveals that he’s coughing up blood, so the doctors try to figure out what’s wrong with him. Chen thinks it could be TB, so she starts to call someone to ask for a test. Pratt doesn’t want to start another round of exposure anxiety, so he suggests that they run some tests themselves before they say anything. Yeah, they’re not supposed to leave the room, but Pratt says they’re not contagious unless they have rashes.

Colin is still in the ER, since he can’t be transported to another hospital via ambulance. Susan tells Luka that a helicopter is coming to fly him to his next destination. Colin protests, since he hates flying, but they ignore him. He begs to stay at County, saying he has a bad feeling about this. Upstairs, Romano helps take another patient, Mr. Hersch, up to the roof for his own helicopter transport. He pauses to take a phone call from a hospital whining about taking the four patients County is sending over. He barely makes the elevator going up to the roof.

Colin is the first patient to the roof, but Romano tells Luka and Susan that the helicopter that’s just arriving is for Mr. Hersch. Susan says another helicopter will come right after this one, so it doesn’t really matter. Colin doesn’t want to go anyway, so Romano proceeds with taking Mr. Hersch out. Susan and Luka argue that Colin has injuries that make him a higher priority than Mr. Hersch. Romano waves away a news helicopter as he continues moving Mr. Hersch toward the medical transport. Something falls off the gurney and Romano leans over to pick it up.

When he stands up, the helicopter’s tail rotor cuts off his arm.

As soon as Luka and Susan see Romano on the ground, they rush over to help him. His vision starts to distort as he watches the two of them and the nurse who was with him try to stop his bleeding. Two flight medics join them and report that they can’t shut off the helicopter’s blades while people are under it, so the doctors will have to deal with heavy wind on top of everything else. They have to clamp an artery, despite Romano’s protests, to keep him from bleeding to death. There’s a nice, graphic shot of the severed arm that will haunt my dreams forever.

Downstairs, Chen and Pratt do some good, old-fashioned lab testing to discover that Stan has pneumonia, not TB. Pratt figures it’s okay to take off his mask and gown so they can go get something to eat. Chen thinks he’s an idiot. Back on the roof, Susan, Luka, the flight medics, and the nurse struggle to monitor three patients at a time. The helicopter pilot isn’t sure he can fly safely (the rotor could be damaged), so they can’t transport anyone yet. They make quick decisions about treatments.

Abby and Carter are blissfully unaware that anything is wrong outside. They’re lying in side-by-side gurneys, talking about how ridiculous the phrase “monkey pox” sounds. Abby scratches her back, making Carter wonder if she’s developed the rash that indicates she has the pox. She asks if he thinks this was a biological weapon. Carter says viruses mutate, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. He examines her back but doesn’t find a rash. He kisses her neck, and the camera politely moves away to give them some privacy.

The three patients on the roof have to go back inside, but there’s only room for two on the elevator at a time. Colin and Romano are sent first, and Susan stays back on the roof with Mr. Hersch, who’s pretty stable. He talks to Susan about his son, whom he hopes has been called so he doesn’t worry about his father. Mrs. Hersch wanted their son, Alan, to be a doctor, and now Mr. Hersch wishes the same. Susan asks what Alan does instead, but Mr. Hersch passes out before he can answer.

Chen and Pratt wander the halls of the nearly empty hospital as he asks if this sort of thing happens all the time. She teases that things have only gotten chaotic since he got there. He brings up the concept of yin and yang, only he calls it “ying” and yang, and thinks it means that when something good happens, something bad also has to happen. Chen says she’s not sure what the good thing is supposed to be. I think Pratt believes the good thing is them being stuck there together.

She chastises him for not wearing his mask, but Pratt notes that the hospital is abandoned, so there’s no one there to infect. Just then, they hear other people. Luka and the nurse have arrived in the ER with Romano, so it’s good that there are two other doctors there to help them. Luka sends Pratt to the blood bank and tells Chen to get lots of ice.

Up on the roof, Susan has to try to stabilize Mr. Hersch by herself. She doesn’t have the supplies she needs, so she goes inside, leaving a medical bag in the doorway to prop it open. As she gets what needs, she calls out for help, but no one hears her. She runs back up to the roof and shocks Mr. Hersch, but his heart doesn’t stabilize. The elevator finally returns and the doors open. Susan looks toward them, hoping someone is there to help.

Pratt can’t get into the locked blood bank, so he uses an IV stand to break a window. Meanwhile, Weaver tries to get Lutz to let surgeons into the hospital to try to reattach Romano’s arm. Gallant reports that local hospitals have refused to accept any more patients from County, and the next closest hospital available is in Indiana.

The helicopter pilot brings Colin outside, and Weaver lets Kristen know he’s there. Colin, however, doesn’t want to see her. She’s not his fiancée after all. She’s a psycho stalker who caused his accident in the first place. Plot twist! Also, I guess Marge’s epilepsy was a red herring. Anyway, Weaver asks the pilot how Romano is. The pilot simply replies, “Bad.”

Pratt brings a bunch of blood bags back to the ER, where Romano is declining. Susan has gotten Mr. Hersch into the elevator, and she’s been giving in CPR for so long that she’s had to give herself oxygen. When the elevator doors open, she calls out for help again, but still gets no response. She pulls the emergency alarm on the elevator so she can run off and get more machinery. She’s tiring out as she keeps trying to save Mr. Hersch.

Anspaugh arrives at the hospital with a surgical team for Romano. Susan has finally been able to contact help, having used the phone on the elevator. Gallant relays a message to Weaver about her situation. The surgical team goes to Romano’s trauma room, where Lutz tells everyone to put on masks. I think they’ve all forgotten about the virus at this point. Romano regains consciousness in time to hear that there’s a possibility his arm can be reattached. “Unnngh, I’m at County,” he moans. Meanwhile, Gallant races up to the floor where Susan has stopped the elevator, but he’s too late – Susan couldn’t save Mr. Hersch.

We skip forward in time to day 7 of quarantine. They five unlucky quarantinies are still stuck in the hospital, but they’re now hanging out together. Chen helps Abby put some blond highlights in her hair while Carter and Pratt play soccer in a hallway. They’re playing a version of Would You Rather? to determine whether they’d rather lose an arm or leg, or be deaf or blind. Pratt stumps Carter by asking if he’d rather lose both arms or his penis. Pratt says some dumb, gross stuff, then accidentally kicks the ball through a window. The guys run away like Stan is a cranky neighbor who might yell at them. When Abby arrives, he compliments her hair.

Weaver visits Romano, who’s undergone reattachment surgery and is being treated in some hospital that isn’t County. He’s experiencing some complications, but his surgeon is hesitant to take him in for more surgery. The surgeon asks if Romano has any family to contact, but Weaver doesn’t know. He asks Weaver for her opinion on Romano’s treatment – what would he want? Weaver says he’s aggressive and would be adamant that they save his arm. But she also wants the surgeon to wait until Romano is more lucid so he can make the decision himself.

Day 9 of quarantine: Abby and Carter are sleeping together, and he wonders if the others know. Abby says that Chen does, but Pratt is clueless. (She knows Chen knows because that’s who Abby asked for condoms. Also, Carter was kind of loud.) They’re monitoring themselves for pustules and rashes, but so far, no one has developed anything to worry about.

One of the benefits of being back in the U.K. is that Elizabeth gets to spend time with her father. She tells him that when she was in the U.S., she got homesick for London. Now that she’s back there, she gets homesick for Chicago. Charles has heard that Elizabeth had a run-in with a cardiologist who wasn’t cooperating (the two Cordays work at the same hospital). He tells her she may have to adjust her approach to her colleagues. Elizabeth says her approach is always to do what’s best for her patients. Charles delivers her to her mother so they can have lunch together.

The quarantinies are having trouble finding ways to pass the time. Pratt managed to get a friend to bring them some pizza, which is the highlight of the day. Carter shares the news that Adam’s fever broke, so the group toasts to his health. They figure they’re all home free as long as no one develops a rash in the next 48 hours.

Stan starts talking about the Black Death, which spread in 1347 and killed 25 million people. Cheery! Turns out Stan used to be a philosophy professor. Abby asked what happened to send his life on a different path. “Things,” he replies. The doctors note that they can get him into rehab and he can get his life back together, but Stan doesn’t think anything will help. He killed his daughter while drunk driving, and rehab won’t bring her back.

Everyone splits up to go enjoy their pizza alone, except Abby and Carter. They talk about the elephant in the room, Stan’s alcoholism, and Carter says that he wants to help Abby. She thinks he wants to fix her so she’s good enough to live up to his standards for a girlfriend. He just says he wants things to work. Abby tells him she’s not broken, so there’s no need to fix her.

Whitehead update: Still a jerk. He comments that Elizabeth isn’t wearing mourning clothes, and wears pants like an American woman doctor. She replies that his tie makes him look like a “boorish, virulent ponce,” or maybe that’s just who he is no matter what he wears. Whitehead says she seems out of place on two continents. An admin lets Elizabeth know that her house in Chicago has just sold, officially cutting her ties to the U.S.

Day 13: Romano still has his arm, but that doesn’t exactly put him in a good mood. Weaver has been coming by to check in every day. He guesses she’s going to make a move to take his job as chief of staff, but she doesn’t address that. She tells him he was lucky – his people worked together to save him in his own hospital. Romano isn’t ready to see the bright side, like the fact that he’s still alive. In the U.K., Whitehead sends Charles to help Elizabeth with an operation. When he takes over, she gets annoyed and walks out.

Day 14: County is anticlimatically back open for business, and the ER is about to open. The quarantinies have been cleared and are allowed to leave. Susan and Weaver are there for the first shift, which Susan grumbles about starting at 6 a.m. Hey, you just got a two-week vacation. Weaver notes that she’s actually been there since midnight. As Pratt starts to leave, Weaver tells him that Gallant called in sick, so Pratt needs to cover for him. Pratt starts to protest, but she says she was kidding. Ha! Abby gets her back by asking for overtime pay for her two weeks at the hospital.

Carter asks Lutz if the virus was natural or engineered. Lutz says it doesn’t matter – everyone did their jobs and protected the community. Carter guesses that they’ll never know details about the virus. He catches up with Susan, who reveals that she spent her vacation in Barbados. Hey, Weaver just went there. Why is that a popular destination all of a sudden? At 6 a.m., Weaver waits for the chaos to begin. Outside, Abby sees off the Turners, including Adam, who’s doing a lot better. Carter admits that even after two weeks stuck at the hospital, he doesn’t want to go home. He invites Abby to go get breakfast with him.

Charles finds Elizabeth on the roof of their hospital, which isn’t as popular a place for contemplation as County’s roof is. He thinks she’s having a hard time letting go of her life in America. But Elizabeth had trouble adjusting to new circumstances as a child, too, and has always been a little rebellious. She admits to her father that she doesn’t know what to do. But when she makes a decision, she moves quickly: She packs up her life in London and takes Ella to Heathrow so they can go home to Chicago.

Carter and Abby head to the beach, talking about chaos theory, AKA the butterfly effect. For example, the virus mutated in the Congo, and the result was Romano losing his arm. A small event on one side of the world, like a butterfly flapping its wings, can have big consequences on the other side, like a tornado. Everything is unpredictable. Abby wonders if she’s the butterfly or the tornado. Carter says she’s “chaos in general,” but he’s also chaos to her.

There’s risk to everything; why not stack the odds in their favor? They’ve been drawn to each other for two years. There will probably be chaos in their future, and Carter would like to know where it’ll take him. Abby, who’s complained of being hot, ignores him and takes off her clothes so she can jump in the water. Oh, we can just run away when Carter talks? I didn’t know that was an option. Thanks, Abby! Carter says she’s definitely the tornado. And that’s pretty much all the foreshadowing we need for their next chapter.

Thoughts: I usually have a strong stomach when it comes to TV and movies, but this episode… man. This episode. You would not believe how much I was dreading it.

The sequences with Susan trying to save Mr. Hersch are so good. They’re as tense as an action movie. And once again, she demonstrates how well-suited she is as an ER doctor. She keeps her cool and focuses on her task.

I know I talk about my love for Gallant a lot, but… he’s just so awesome! He can’t really do much in this episode medicine-wise, but he helps with communication and organization. He clearly wants to be useful however he can. His military background really helps here.

I’m surprised the four staff members quarantined together don’t become closer later on. I mean, Abby develops a better friendship with Susan than with Chen. You’d think they would have all bonded more. Or maybe they got so sick of each other after two weeks that they never wanted to see each other again.

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    I liked that they showed how staid and aloof physicians and surgeons in the UK (apparently) are… whether that’s realistic or not, I have no experience or knowledge, but it definitely makes working at a US hospital much more appealing. I don’t remember Elizabeth being quite so stuffy when she arrived, and in fact she was pretty forward, trying to befriend Doug Ross (who wouldn’t?) and then the fun times with Benton.

    The frost between Weaver and Susan is thawing nicely since their last professional partnership years ago. I’m not sure what the catalyst was, exactly, but they seem much more respectful of each other’s skillsets and that’s a relief. Watching them battle was never any fun but was completely understandable the first time around.

    I felt so bad for Mr. Turner. Here he’s lost his daughter and is just shellshocked and still feels responsible for the whole thing, plus his wife certainly wasn’t helping mitigate any of that misplaced guilt. What a nightmare life he has to look forward to, knowing his career basically inadvertently resulted in the death of his kid.

    The scene of Romano’s arm getting cut off was a little triggering for me back to the Robocop scene where the bad guys (McCrane included!) torture then blow Murphy’s hand off before they eventually kill him. Ugh. As much of a prick as Romano is, it’s impossible not to feel terrible for him when you know this is pretty much all he’s got and the entire driving force behind his massive ego.

    The Chen/Pratt storyline has been oddly entertaining this go-around. I think I forgot about it on the first watch of the show, or else I just didn’t pay attention. But they’re growing on me, as they grow on each other.

    Weaver checking in on Romano is touching and it’s too bad that everybody (Romano, Corday) saw it more as her angling for his job somehow instead of genuine concern over a colleague. He didn’t have anybody else visiting. You’d think there’d be some gratitude instead of presumption of ulterior motives. I did like her nervous look as they waited for the phones to start ringing off the hook again… like she thought there was a chance they wouldn’t, somehow.

    I agree it’s interesting that Abby and Chen didn’t grow closer as a result of their quarantine, or Carter and Pratt for that matter. They all seemed to go back to their same level of relationship as before. But if you’re quarantined with someone for two weeks, you’re going to become much better acquainted with them whether you want to or not. So for that all to be dropped was kind of unrealistic.


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