September 7, 2021

ER 9.9, Next of Kin: “Define ‘Family’”

Posted in TV tagged , , , , at 4:57 pm by Jenn

This is a good look for Tom Everett Scott

Summary: Abby’s asleep – drink! She wakes up when she hears glass breaking somewhere in her apartment. Maggie’s making breakfast and Eric’s watching TV, even though it’s not even 5 a.m. They’re about to take Eric to a psych treatment center, and he’s not happy about it. Abby reminds him that they agreed to this – aggressively treating his bipolar disorder now will help him more down the road. Eric regrets agreeing to that.

At County, Carter examines a kid named Timmy who complained of having a headache but says nothing happened to give him the headache. He and his brother are tight-lipped about what they were playing that led to this. Well, it turns out that the brothers like to play a game where the older boy holds Timmy up by the ankles and lets go to see how long it takes him to hit the ground. (Answer: Not very long.) Carter and Susan laugh over how Timmy has a concussion but still wouldn’t rat out his older brother. Susan notes that that would make him a squealer. Susan has a sister; she gets it.

Susan’s supposed to be done for the day after a night shift, but Jerry tells her that Weaver wants her to cover for her. Chen and Carter wonder why she keeps missing work. Chen’s disappointed because she and Susan were supposed to go salsa dancing that night. A teenager in the waiting room asks if Carter and Chen are doctors. When they confirm this, the girl says she can’t do this, then runs out. After a moment, a baby starts crying. The doctors realize that the girl has abandoned a baby in the ER. Carter runs outside to catch her, but she’s gone.

The Wyczenskis go to the treatment center and meet Eric’s new doctor (he doesn’t get a name; I’m calling him DeMunn, the actor’s last name). It’s an outpatient place where Eric will attend therapy sessions, but can also take field trips and art classes. Eric complains that there’s no playground for recess. While Maggie takes him to meet some other patients, Abby talks to DeMunn, who’s hesitant to prescribe any further medications for Eric until he’s reviewed Eric’s chart. Abby says she can give him any information he needs. DeMunn would prefer to talk to his patient instead.

Carter and Chen tend to the baby, who’s dehydrated but otherwise seems okay. He had to have been delivered recently, since his umbilical cord is still attached. It was clamped off with a Powerpuff Girls barrette. Carter tells Harkins that, under safe-haven laws, the mother won’t suffer any consequences for leaving the baby at the hospital. Chen thinks she made a responsible decision, though Harkins disagrees. Is she just going to go back to her life like nothing happened?

Carter leaves to help with a trauma – a man and his 12-year-old daughter were in a car accident. The father, Gil, is in bad shape, but his daughter, Morgan, just has an ankle injury. Harkins and Pratt tend to her while Carter, Chen, and Elizabeth treat Gil. He mumbles that Morgan’s mother isn’t in the picture because she “doesn’t understand.” Elizabeth determines that Gil will need surgery. Next door, Pratt assures Morgan that her dad will be okay, since the hospital’s second best doctor is helping him. Pratt is, of course, the best doctor at County.

Eric participates in an art class at the facility; the patients are supposed to cut pictures out of magazines that best describe how they feel during their manic phases. Eric asks for a Viagra ad. DeMunn tells Abby and Maggie that the exercise helps patients identify what’s seductive about their mania. The facility will help them move toward self-discipline and structure. He promises that Eric will adapt. After all, Maggie did.

Abby and Maggie head out, though Maggie isn’t sure this is the best place for Eric to receive treatment. Abby admits that it’s kind of dumb to have adults make collages, but emotionally, Eric is at the age where that might help. Maggie disagrees. She knows Eric feels like his mother and sister are trying to take away his personality – his bipolar disorder is part of what makes him…him. Abby says it’s also destroying him.

Maggie thinks he would be okay just seeing a psychologist on his own and trying to hold down a job. Abby asks how they’ll make sure he keeps taking his medication. Maggie reminds her that they can’t force Eric to go to therapy or take his medications. Abby doesn’t think Maggie knows what will work. Maggie calls her out for always criticizing how she handled her illness. Abby says Maggie isn’t an expert – she doesn’t know best. Maggie thinks that, in this case, she might. She’s also Eric’s mother. Abby says that after spending 30 years in and out of hospitals, Maggie isn’t anyone’s mother.

Chen checks on the baby, who’s still in the ER since there are no available beds in pediatrics. Connie appreciates having a healthy baby in the ER for once. She doesn’t know how anyone could give him up. Chen – who, as we know, placed her baby for adoption – keeps a poker face as she says that she’s sure his mother had her reasons.

Susan’s annoyed that Luka is missing, so she has to deal with med students in his place. Aren’t they Carter’s responsibility? Anyway, Gallant wants her to see his patient, Melody, who may have food poisoning. She doesn’t want to be admitted, but she’s a nurse, so she knows they can’t release her until they’ve gotten her vomiting under control. Her boyfriend, Bill, says she can’t come to his place since he just got new rugs. For some reason, Susan doesn’t recognize that as an obvious joke.

Elizabeth tells Gil that surgery may take him out of commission for a while. He doesn’t want them to call Morgan’s mother; Morgan barely remembers the woman who abandoned them. Luka finally shows up, telling Susan his alarm clock didn’t go off. She guesses he was actually in bed with someone. Luka comes in at the same time as an elderly woman named Matilda who fractured her hip. She was on the floor for two days, unable to reach her medication, which is especially bad because she has diabetes.

The ER needs Morgan’s bed, so Pratt and Harkins take her to an exam room. She asks to use the bathroom, so Pratt tells Harkins to give her a bedpan. They give her some privacy, but Harkins goes in when she hears Morgan drop the bedpan. Morgan yells for her to stay out, but it’s too late. Harkins walks in on her and realizes that Morgan has male anatomy. She shares the news with Pratt, switching to male pronouns, because this was 2002 and no one cared about misgendering trans people. Pratt tells her to find Morgan’s mother.

He goes to see Morgan, who’s impatient to see her father. He asks why she wears girls’ clothes. Morgan confidently says that she’s a girl; she just has the wrong body. Pratt thinks she’s too young to think that way. Morgan says she’s always known it. Her father obviously supports this, and even moved her to Chicago so she could start over at a school where no one knows she’s transgender. Pratt thinks they’ll find out eventually, but Morgan says they’ll just keep moving anytime people find out. When she’s old enough, she’ll have gender confirmation surgery.

Pratt asks how Morgan’s mother feels about this. Morgan sadly says that she has a new family now. Pratt tells her that someone needs to come get her, since her father will be in surgery for a while. A family friend won’t cut it; Morgan’s mother needs to come. Morgan says that her mother thinks she’s a freak, just like Pratt obviously does. She begs him not to call her mother. Pratt gives in, telling Harkins not to do anything yet.

Leon arrives, upset because he was just fired from his job. He claims he didn’t do anything wrong. Carter gets a call from an Anita Coffee, a fake name Abby gave Jerry, for some reason. He meets her in the ambulance bay so they can go to Doc Magoo’s together for a break. Luka chats with Matilda, who passes out while Susan is examining her. Oh, hey, Yosh! Where have you been? When Matilda revives, she complains that they woke her up from a nice nap.

Melody’s son, Jeremy, arrives to check on his mother. They had the same thing for dinner the night before, and he’s not sick, so she might not have food poisoning after all. He’s annoyed that Melody and Bill didn’t call to let him know Melody was in the hospital. Jeremy offers to stay with Melody so Bill can go to work, but Bill says he can stay. It’s clear that Jeremy doesn’t like him even before he tells Susan that Bill can be a jerk sometimes.

Abby tells Carter that she thinks things will be fine after Eric’s first day in treatment. They’ll get into a routine; she’ll work days and “keep an eye on him” at night. Carter obviously disagrees with her plan to basically babysit her brother. He thinks she and Maggie should share the responsibility. But Abby knows from history that Maggie isn’t reliable. After all, she’s abandoned her children many times before, back when they were too young to have to take care of themselves.

Gil declines in surgery, and Elizabeth isn’t able to save him. Matilda is facing surgery herself, and as she awaits it, she flirts with Luka a little. She’s been single her whole life, and though she has a few regrets about never getting married, she did have time to do other things, like become a great chess player. Yosh tells Susan that Weaver wants her to take her place at a finance meeting. Gallant tells her that Melody doesn’t have food poisoning – she overdosed on aspirin. Susan’s confused, since the dosage she took wouldn’t be lethal, but as a nurse, she would also know it was too high.

Chen and Connie are brainstorming names for the baby. Susan tells them not to ask for her input – she named her dog Puddles. “Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she quips. Carter suggests Rudyard. “Hasn’t he suffered enough?” Chen asks. Elizabeth tells Carter that Gil died, so they’ll need to inform Morgan. Harkins doesn’t know if Pratt has contacted her mother. She tells Carter and Elizabeth about Morgan’s situation, still insisting that Morgan’s a boy. Shut up, Harkins. Carter tells her to call Morgan’s mother, since she’s Morgan’s next of kin.

Abby returns to the treatment center to get Eric, but DeMunn tells her he withdrew from the program and left. Maggie came to get him an hour ago. Pratt pays a visit to Leon’s boss to find out why Leon was fired. The boss accuses Leon of letting people into his store after hours so they could rob the place. Pratt insists that Leon wouldn’t knowingly participate in a crime. Even if the robbers were his friends, they must have tricked Leon into helping him. The boss calls Leon dumb, which really makes Pratt mad. Leon was shot in the head; he’s not dumb. Pratt tells the boss to leave Leon out of his reports about the robbery.

Morgan’s mother, Mrs. Garding, arrives and learns that her ex-husband is dead. (Carter also misgenders Morgan. Bad Carter!) Mrs. Garding is aware that Morgan lives as a girl; she and Gil split up because they disagreed about letting her do that. Carter wants Mrs. Garding to be there when Morgan learns that Gil died. Uh, maybe they should ask Morgan what she wants? She’s not happy to see her mother, and she’s much less happy to learn that Gil didn’t survive.

Harkins flirts with Luka, who checks on Matilda again. She notes that he doesn’t even have to try with women. Well…have you seen his face? She pulls out a checkbook and tells him she’s giving him a tip. He’s not allowed to take her money, but Matilda’s 82 and frugal, so she doesn’t see the point in hoarding it. She basically forces Luka to take her check.

At the admit desk, Harkins asks Luka if that’s ever happened to him before. He’s very casual about the whole thing and hasn’t even looked at the check to see how much Matilda gave him. Susan overhears the conversation and reminds Luka that it’s unethical to take a patient’s money. Luka brushes this off, saying the check will probably bounce anyway. Harkins reports that it’s for $10,000.

Gallant looked up Melody’s records and tells Susan she’s been to County a few times for various injuries. They guess that Bill is abusing her. Abby confronts Maggie for taking Eric out of the facility, but Maggie reminds her that people with bipolar disorder only get better if they want to. Abby asks if they’re supposed to just wait until Eric feels like getting treatment. Does Maggie have a plan? She does: She’s taking Eric to Minnesota with her tomorrow. He’ll stay with her and Maggie will try to help him get treatment.

Abby thinks the facility in Chicago is the best thing for Eric right now, especially when Maggie can’t be sure she can keep Eric on the path he needs to be on. Maggie says that she knows Abby feels like she’s the only one who has ever been there for both Maggie and Eric. But Maggie’s here now, and she’s going to help.

Melody and the baby have been sharing a room for a while, but there’s room for the baby in pediatrics now. Melody asks to see him before he goes. She tells Chen she loves babies at this age, when they really need their parents. Chen sends him off, feeling bittersweet. Susan checks on Melody, asking if she’s felt depressed recently. Was Melody trying to get sympathy or trying to get away from her boyfriend? It’s obvious that someone is hurting her, and she needs to turn him in. Melody says she can’t. She needs a few days; he’s joining the Navy, and then she’ll be free. Susan’s surprised to learn that Melody’s abuser is Jeremy, not Bill.

Pratt returns to County and learns that Gil died and Mrs. Garding has arrived. He’s upset that Harkins ignored him and follows Carter’s instructions instead. He finds Mrs. Garding cutting Morgan’s hair so she’ll look like a boy. Pratt can’t talk her out of doing what she thinks is right for her child, who will no doubt be miserable as she adjusts to living with her unsupportivemother and a stepfather who probably doesn’t know she’s transgender.

The baby’s mother returns to the ER and tells Chen she changed her mind – she wants her baby back. Harkins snottily asks when she’ll change her mind again. The mother, Romy, tells Chen that she’s not scared anymore. She thinks her mother will help her raise the baby. Chen sends Romy up to see the baby, telling Harkins that she’s going to at least try to be a mother. Harkins asks how that works when Romy originally abandoned the child.

Matilda declines, and since she has a DNR, Susan and Haleh have to let her go. Luka’s disappointed that no one told him she was dying. Susan tells Jeremy that Melody needs to stay for observation. Coincidentally, she’ll be in the hospital the exact amount of time remaining before Jeremy ships out. Gallant’s confused, so Susan fills him in. Luka overhears and remarks that her “stretching” of Melody’s diagnosis sounds unethical.

Abby and Maggie track Eric down in a hotel, but Eric doesn’t want his sister in his life right now. She tells him he needs help and can’t do this by himself. He needs someone he can trust and rely on. Eric says Abby isn’t that person anymore. She doesn’t really understand what he’s going through. She’s not like Eric and Maggie, and she never will be. Maggie tells Abby she’ll call when they get settled back in Minnesota, but Abby says she shouldn’t bother.

Pratt’s annoyed that he has to work after his shift was supposed to have ended, since he left during his shift. He’s also obviously annoyed that Carter overrode his instructions about Morgan, but Carter says he couldn’t just wait until Pratt came back. Pratt chastises him for not listening to what Morgan wanted. Carter says he followed procedure. Whether Pratt likes it or not, Mrs. Garding is Morgan’s only family. “Define ‘family,'” Pratt replies. As he leaves the lounge, he sees Morgan leaving with her mother, looking betrayed because Pratt wasn’t there to help her advocate for what she wanted.

Romy and her mother leave with the baby, stopping to talk to Chen. Romy’s mother didn’t know her daughter was pregnant, but now that she knows about the baby, it looks like she’s going to help raise him. Chen is sad to see another baby leave her life. Susan tries to talk her into going out for a drink, but Chen isn’t in the mood. Luke probably is, as he’s cashing Matilda’s check and now has thousands of dollars to spend however he wants.

Pratt tells Leon he couldn’t get his job back, though Leon’s already looking in the want ads for a new one. Pratt calls him out for buying an Xbox. Leon says his friends gave it to him – they must have won it. Pratt helps him realize that his friends stole it. Carter goes to Abby’s apartment, where she’s smoking outside. She tells him she’s going to let Maggie and Eric leave, and she doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s done trying to take care of her family.

Thoughts: Romy is played by Jurnee Smollett.

Paul McCrane (Romano) directed this episode.

I don’t like angsty Abby. I want to go back to fun Abby.

Pratt is, again, really good with patients. If I were Morgan, I would feel really comfortable around him. I would even go so far as to stay he would make a good pediatrician. Harkins, on the other hand, can stuff it.

I think the show handles Morgan’s storyline well (I mean, other than the sad ending). The way she talks about herself, like having the wrong body, is in line with what other trans people say. She’s not ashamed and her father doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with her.

’00s music alert: Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe”

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    This was an interesting episode for how they handled Morgan’s situation. I was surprised that yet again ER was kind of ahead of the times on this one, especially in how the different doctors handled her gender identity. It was nice that the writers had Pratt be the one who was most sensitive to her dilemma; I wish he’d had a chance to tell her something like “They can’t change what’s inside of you, and you are a beautiful girl” before she left. Maybe he did? I took a hiatus from my rewatch so I’ll have to check the episode again. Harkins being kind of dismissive about it was a weird choice for her character. It would have been nice to see what Lucy Knight could have done with her and her mother. But yeah, I like seeing Pratt with these patients as he’s definitely got a good bedside manner with so many of them.

    I like that this is how the Eric storyline ends (for now? I can’t remember if it gets picked back up again later), basically telling Abby that she can’t understand what it feels like to be in their situation, but Maggie can. And Maggie stepping up to the plate once and for all when she’s needed. I get why Abby is super dubious about it all, but Maggie put her foot down (and Eric too) so she doesn’t have a choice anymore. It was an exhausting storyline to watch.


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