August 31, 2021

ER 9.8, First Snowfall: The New Normal

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

Poor Gallant

Summary: Gallant is on the phone with someone from Eric’s base, trying to get Abby some information, since she doesn’t even know where he was taken. Abby has to step away to end a fight between a babbling homeless man and another patient. Carter tells her that he was able to find out that Eric was in the brig for a few days, but has now been sent back to his base in Nebraska. Gallant can’t get any more news than that, so Abby decides to just go to the base.

Carter wants to tag along (sound familiar?), but he has a shift. Abby insists that she can handle this by herself. He tells her she can’t just walk onto an Air Force base; she needs a sponsor. She should take Gallant with her. Abby still thinks she can handle this alone, but Carter gets Gallant to agree to go with her anyway. Carter plans to join Abby later. As he sends them off to the airport in a cab, snow starts falling. It snows all night, and by the end of Carter’s shift, it’s blocking the ambulance bay.

As Nathan tries to get himself going, Carter tries to get an update on his flight, which has been delayed. The homeless man is still hanging around and talking to himself about math. Carter tells Nathan that the snow stopped, but they’re pretty much stuck in the hospital. Nathan still has 12 hours left on his shift, though with the snow paralyzing the city, it might be quiet.

Abby calls Carter from the base and he tells her that with three feet of snow on the ground and the El shut down, he’s not going anywhere for a while. He notices Nathan studying his hands, which are shaking. Eric’s commanding officer makes Abby get off her phone, since she’s a civilian. He doesn’t know where Eric is; if Eric had been arrested, he would have been brought to the base, but he’s not there. He tells Abby to go back to her hotel and wait for more information. Abby tells him that Eric needs a psych evaluation and medication ASAP.

Elizabeth manages to make it to County for her shift, though her nanny couldn’t get out of her house, so Elizabeth had to bring Ella to work with her. The good news is that the El is up and running again. Abby takes a smoke break, ignoring Gallant’s warnings not to, not just because they’re on a military base but because there’s a truck full of jet fuel nearby. They finally get in touch with a Lt. Ottenson, Eric’s attorney. Eric has been taken to a hospital on base.

Back in Chicago, Luka wisely uses cross-country skis to get to work. Carter’s on his way to the El station, planning to take a train to the airport and wait for a flight to Nebraska. Luka’s surprised that Carter didn’t go with Abby. Susan asks Carter to stick around, since Weaver can’t get to work and multiple trauma cases are coming in. Carter reluctantly agrees to stay.

On the way to see Eric, Abby learns that he’s being medicated and is now coherent. He’s facing a hearing to determine whether he was mentally competent when he went AWOL, in which case they can punish him for his actions. If he wasn’t, he won’t have to worry about being court martialed. He’ll just get a medical discharge, and if he’s stable, they’ll probably release him from the hospital right away.

Abby’s annoyed that no one called her. Eric shouldn’t be released before she can determine the best treatment options for him. Ottenson says that if they asked Eric if he wanted his family to be contacted, he probably would have told them to call Abby. But it looks like he named someone else as a contact, because Maggie’s already at the hospital.

At County, Susan, Elizabeth, and Nathan tend to one of the new trauma patients – two boys and their mother were hit by a drunk driver while building a snowman on their lawn. The dad was spared simply because he went inside to get a carrot for the snowman’s nose. One boy, Toby, is unable to be saved, so Elizabeth moves on to the other, Matt, while Luka tends to the mother. Matt is in bad shape but is alive and conscious. Elizabeth tells Carter that if his mother hadn’t jumped in front of him, Matt would be dead.

In Nebraska, Maggie tells Abby that she was able to talk to Eric on the phone. Abby says that he has bipolar disorder; she could feel it right away. She regrets not telling Maggie, and instead interfering to the point where she got Eric arrested. Maggie tells her not to blame herself. It turns out Maggie knew about Eric’s mental-health issues all along. She just thought he had situational depression from PTSD.

Abby can’t believe that Maggie didn’t connect the dots between Eric’s symptoms and her own bipolar disorder. Does she know anything about her disease? Maggie’s like, “You mean the mental illness I’ve been dealing with for decades? Do I know anything about the disorder I manage on a daily basis? No, I’m in no way familiar with this illness. What was it called again?” Abby asks why Maggie didn’t tell her what was going on. Maggie admits that Eric didn’t want Abby to know.

Elizabeth thinks Matt and Toby’s mother, Sylvia, is too far gone to save, but Luka wants to keep working on her. The boys’ father has arrived (he doesn’t get a name; I’ll call him Jeff after the actor playing him), and Elizabeth tells Nathan to keep him out of his wife’s trauma room. Jeff refuses, even though the sight of what Elizabeth and Luka are doing to save her makes him throw up.

Chuny comes over to tell Elizabeth that Matt isn’t getting enough oxygen. Carter thinks one of his broken ribs punctured his heart. Elizabeth goes over to help him and Harkins, but she thinks Matt’s heart muscle is too damaged to fix. She glances up just as Susan is taking Toby’s gurney through the hallway. Susan gives her a slight shake of the head to indicate that Toby is beyond help.

This gives Elizabeth an idea: Toby is brain dead, but his organs are fine. She tells Jeff that Matt needs heart and lung transplants in the next six hours or he’ll die. With Jeff’s permission, they can transplant Toby’s organs into his brother. One of Jeff’s sons is dead, but they can still save the other. Jeff desperately asks Elizabeth to save both boys. Can’t they wait a couple days to see if Toby wakes up?

Susan needs Elizabeth’s help, and Weaver wants her to assist in taking care of the drunk driver (a request Elizabeth firmly turns down), so Elizabeth assigns Nathan to talk Jeff into consenting to the transplant. They only have one shot at saving Matt. Jeff isn’t in the right state of mind to make this decision, so Nathan needs to get him to understand how important this is.

Abby’s impatient to see Eric, who’s talking to Ottenson. Gallant wants to stick around and help, but Abby thinks he’s accomplished what she needed him to do, so he can leave. Plus, he has a test coming up and should use this time to study, not play phone tag for Abby and Maggie. Ottenson comes to get Maggie so she can see Eric; he still doesn’t want to see Abby.

Luka, Susan, and Elizabeth try their hardest to revive Sylvia while Nathan talks to Jeff about the transplant. Susan thinks he’ll succeed, since he’s good at talking patients into stuff. Matt is declining, so Elizabeth helps Carter and Chuny try to keep him alive for the transplant. Nathan announces that Jeff has given his consent, so Elizabeth tells him to take Toby up to the OR.

The second Matt is stable, Elizabeth says they’re taking him up, too. Carter thinks it’s too soon, since he could decline again at any moment, but Elizabeth wants to take advantage of this window and do the transplant. Jeff goes up with Toby, promising him that he won’t feel any pain. Sadly, despite Luka’s best efforts, Sylvia doesn’t survive.

As Elizabeth and Carter take Matt up to the OR, Jeff asks Elizabeth to promise that this will all work out. Elizabeth can only say they’ll do their best. Jeff again comforts Toby (even though the boy can’t hear him), saying that he’s going to help his brother. He tells Nathan he’d like to take Toby to Sylvia’s room so she can say goodbye. Nathan doesn’t want to have to tell him that his wife is dead.

Carter keeps Matt’s heart beating while Elizabeth scrubs in, impatiently waiting for the transplant team. Elizabeth and Carter get Matt on bypass and remove his damaged heart as quickly as possible. When the surgeon arrives to take over, Elizabeth and Carter step aside. All Carter can say is, “Wow.”

Maggie tells Abby that Eric is having trouble accepting that his sister saw him in a manic state. He’s medicated now, but he’s emotionally exhausted and ashamed. Maggie warns Abby not to be confrontational. Abby finally gets to see Eric, who’s in uniform and ready for his hearing. She notes that he wanted to leave the Air Force anyway, so…hey, it all worked out!

Abby justifies her actions by saying she loves Eric and was worried about him. He thinks she believes he’s crazy and unstable. He was actually enjoying himself. (Yeah, that’s the mania. You would have felt different if you’d been in the depression part of the cycle.) She wants him to come back to Chicago with her, but Eric has no interest in that. Abby points out that without medication, Eric is likely to go down the same route as their mother, struggling for years to keep her life together. She urges Maggie to confirm that she’s right. Instead, Maggie leaves the room.

Abby’s upset that Eric called Maggie instead of her. Maggie’s unreliable and undependable; meanwhile, Abby spent three days trying to find Eric so she could help him. Eric doesn’t feel sorry for her. He’s the one whose career is over. He thinks Abby’s just mad that she didn’t get to be his savior. Abby argues that Eric needs help, and Maggie screwed up the first time he turned to her. Eric corrects her: He doesn’t need help, and he didn’t go to Maggie. She sent him to a doctor because she saw that something was wrong. Abby says Maggie wasn’t wrong. Eric asks why he’s not allowed to call her, then.

Nathan has the unfortunate job of taking care of the drunk driver. His dyskinesia is getting worse, and the driver asks if he has Tourette’s. Elizabeth joins them as the driver continues badgering Nathan. He’s surprised Nathan’s allowed to treat patients while in this condition. Nathan says they let him work on patients they don’t care about. He asks if the driver has any idea what he did. The driver thinks he just hit a snowman – he doesn’t realize that he ran over three people, killing two of them.

Maggie urges Abby to give Eric time to adjust. They don’t want him to feel like they’re ganging up on him. Maggie doesn’t think Eric needs to be hospitalized after he’s discharged. Abby says that’s not her decision. Maggie tells her that Eric has to accept that he has bipolar disorder and figure out how to accommodate it. Abby argues that until then, he needs to be supervised so he keeps taking his medication. Maggie tells her that he might decide to stop taking it sometimes, but this is like AA: It has to be his decision. Right now, it’s too early for him to want to be healthy.

Abby says that she’s been living with this disease her entire life and doesn’t want a lecture about it. Of course, Maggie’s the one who’s actually living with it, so she has a different perspective on it. Abby angrily asks if Maggie and Eric have some bond now that they both have the same disorder. Maggie tells her to focus on the fact that her brother is struggling. There’s no quick fix – Eric will be dealing with this for the rest of his life.

Nathan tries to ignore the drunk driver while he examines a girl named Kiley. His dyskinesia causes him to accidentally jam a scope in Kiley’s ear. She isn’t hurt, but she’s spooked, so Nathan decides to call it quits. He doesn’t listen when Weaver tells him to keep working.

Elizabeth finds Jeff sitting on the floor of Sylvia’s trauma room, so now he knows that he’s lost both his wife and one of his sons. She tells him that Matt is undergoing the transplant. She invites him to wait in a waiting room near the OR, but Jeff can’t bring himself to leave the room. He tells her what a normal day would be like right now for his family. Elizabeth says he made the right decision. Jeff tells her that everything was white this morning, and the boys were excited to stay home with their parents.

Elizabeth confides that she knows what Jeff is feeling. He doesn’t believe that, since he doesn’t even know what he’s feeling. She tells him that her husband died just six months ago. This is the first time we’ve heard her talk about him since then. She says she tried to continue on with her life like everything was normal, but that’s impossible.

You can’t run away from your grief. Life after losing a loved one is “like this big, relentless wave.” You have no choice but to ride it. You try to hold on to what you’ve lost and carry on without shutting yourself off from everything. Elizabeth knows that in the future, when Jeff looks into Matt’s eyes, he’ll see “the beautiful things that live on in him.” Jeff says he needs Matt to be okay. Elizabeth promises that he will be, then embraces him.

The board overseeing Eric’s hearing hasn’t seen enough evidence to prove that Eric was mentally incompetent when he went AWOL, so they won’t let him go. Eric is demanding due process. Abby tells Ottenson that he needs psychiatric treatment, which he’s not going to get while he’s in confinement. Eric tells Abby that since he was gone less than 30 days, he shouldn’t have to face any serious consequences. He didn’t hurt anyone or act irresponsibly. He just wanted a change. Abby points out that he went AWOL, which is serious in the military. Eric eggs her on to call him crazy. He knows he’s not like Maggie, no matter what Abby thinks.

Elizabeth finds Nathan on the roof, his medication having finally kicked in and calmed his dyskinesia. She gives him his evaluation for his surgical rotation, but Nathan doesn’t see the point in reading it. Elizabeth notes that he only has two modes: blind optimism and self-pity. Nathan figures it’s better to just face the facts. Parkinson’s is eventually going to overcome him. He just thought he would have more time.

Elizabeth asks if that means he’s just going to give in. Nathan thinks that’s what she wanted. She says she wanted him to recognize his limitations. He saved Matt today because he was able to connect with Jeff and help him make the right decision. Anyone can stitch up a patient or insert a chest tube. Nathan has a gift, and he needs to find a way to share it. As Elizabeth leaves, she says she kept her promise to fail him.

Abby and Maggie reconnect, and Abby asks her mother to back her up on her decision to get Eric committed so he doesn’t stay in military jail. Maggie agrees. Abby apologizes for her behavior; she’s angry about the situation and, surprisingly, angry at Maggie for having to go through this again, even though it’s not her fault. Maggie thinks Abby is really angry that Maggie passed her bipolar disorder on to Eric. She gets that Abby feels like a mother to her brother, but Maggie’s the one responsible here. Now she needs to be his mother for once.

Carter calls Abby to check in, pretending he’s still in Chicago when he’s actually just now arriving at the base. Weaver has taken over Kiley’s care, but Nathan wants to finish her ear examination. This time he has Kiley hold the scope herself. Once he’s again made a connection with someone and shared his gifts, Elizabeth takes him up to Matt’s OR. Matt’s transplant is done, and Elizabeth wants Nathan to be the one to shock his heart – formerly Toby’s heart – into rhythm. Elizabeth comments that now, Matt’s brother will always be with him.

Thoughts: Matt is played by Josh Hutcherson.

I have to give a shoutout to Jeff Kober, who plays Jeff. He usually plays villains (and is really good at it), so it’s interesting to see him as just a normal guy. He always gets typecast, but here he shows that he can be subtle and loving.

The sequences where Carter and Elizabeth rush the boys to the OR and then try to calm down afterward are so good. It’s like watching an action movie without the explosions or violence.

Maggie should have continued her AA metaphor by telling Abby that the best help for someone who’s struggling comes from someone who’s been there.

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