January 11, 2022

ER 10.5, Out of Africa: In Transition

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

Oh, Henry. If only you were a real wizard and could have used magic to stop what’s about to happen

Summary: Luka is on an El train, on his way to his first shift back at County after his ordeal in the Congo and recovering from malaria. Life in Chicago is a lot different from where he just was – no El trains, loud music, or people worrying about stocks in Kisangani or Matenda. Luka smiles at a poster advertising a stage production of The Lion King.

The ER is crazy, but at least most of the crazy is now contained to the triage area. “New furniture, same patients,” Chuny tells Luka. As soon as he steps out of the triage area, Frank tells him to call Weaver. Luka meets Morris (ick, sorry about him, Luka), then takes his time before having to check in with Weaver. Frank comments that everyone’s wild because it’s Halloween. Yeah, because normally, it’s really calm there.

A woman named Mrs. Martin bangs on the triage window until Luka opens the door for her. Her baby, Adam, fell out of a shopping cart, and Mrs. Martin isn’t sure if he hit his head. Her older son, Henry, who’s about 11, says he did hit his head, but he didn’t cry. Luka decides he should be examined ASAP. Me, realizing which episode this is: “Oh, no. Ohhhhhhhh, no.”

A woman named Sam Taggart arrives, looking for Abby. Frank tells her Abby’s off today, so she should come back tomorrow. Down the hall, an angry patient starts trashing an exam room he was locked inside until he could calm down. A security guard wants to pepper spray him, but Pratt notes that the spray will affect other people. He tells Chuny to give the guy some Haldol instead.

Pratt and Coop grab a mattress they can use to hold the guy down while Morris injects him. The holding-down part goes fine, but Morris hesitates to use the Haldol. Wandering down the hall, Sam grabs the syringe and does the job for him. Romano arrives and hopes Sam works there. Fortunately, she does – she’s a nurse.

Sometime later, Sam takes a turn as triage nurse, managing to calmly handle all the impatient patients (…heh), including one who calls her “little girl.” Romano asks what today’s excuse is for the waiting area being “a stinking, overpopulated cesspool of humanity.” Sam suggests it’s the health care system. He tells her that if she wants, she can stab a staff member in the neck, which will make all the patients head somewhere else. Sam asks Morris to examine someone, but he finds an excuse to do something else, as he constantly does.

Romano asks Frank which doctor he should be angry with today. Frank tells him Luka is back, and Romano calls him Colonel Kurtz. Susan admires Romano’s new arm, and he offers to give her a demonstration of what it can do. Susan smoothly says he’ll have to buy her a drink first. I get the feeling Susan has never let sexual harassment get to her in her life.

Luka works with Neela but dismisses Morris when he offers his help. Luka tells Mrs. Martin that they’ll get a CT of Adam’s head and then wait until he wakes up. Neela asks if she can draw Adam’s blood, but Morris says it’s not a good case for a student. He assures Mrs. Martin that while Neela’s a student, Morris himself is a doctor. Yeah, that doesn’t mean you want him around your baby, ma’am.

Back at the admit desk, Romano is showing off how his arm works. Pratt calls him Robo-Doc. Romano tells Pratt to do his job. They bicker about Pratt making doctors in other departments mad, but Pratt doesn’t let it get to him. Romano continues doing demonstrations, but he squeezes a vial of something too hard and it breaks. Susan quips that he shouldn’t use that arm to do a rectal exam.

Adam is having trouble breathing, so Morris decides they should intubate him. Neela thinks they should get Luka. Luka’s on the phone with Weaver, who’s annoyed that she’s had to wait to talk to him, like, he’s working, Kerry. Chill. Chuny pulls him back into the trauma room in time to stop Morris from intubating Adam. Susan checks in, but Luka has everything under control. He tells Morris why intubation would have been a bad idea, teaching him while also chastising him for moving too fast.

In the hallway, Mrs. Martin tells Susan that she was in a rush because she forgot to buy hot dogs for Henry’s school’s barbecue, and she must not have strapped Adam into the cart right. Susan sends Henry to get his mother a drink so she can talk to Mrs. Martin alone. Mrs. Martin admits that she’s been taking Zoloft, and maybe she’s having a bad reaction to it. She and her husband are going through a divorce, and he’s trying to take away their kids.

Susan reluctantly asks if Mrs. Martin has been drinking. Mrs. Martin says no, but Susan can smell alcohol on her. She asks Mrs. Martin to take a blood alcohol test to prove her claim that she’s not drunk. When Mrs. Martin asks if Susan can make her take it, Susan says that’s not a good reply. Mrs. Martin begs not to take the test, saying she just made a mistake.

Susan leaves to examine a man named Ben whose neighbor called an ambulance when he didn’t answer his door. He’s a little imbalanced and his heart isn’t stable. He may have taken too much of his heart medicine. Luka joins Gallant to tend to a man with a knee injury. Gallant wants him to get an x-ray, but Luka determines that he doesn’t need one. He explains to Susan that without x-rays in the Congo, he learned different ways to diagnose.

Susan tells him that she thinks Mrs. Martin has been drinking, so they should call a social worker. Since Adam needs to be admitted overnight, Luka advises her to let another department handle the family so they can continue seeing patients. Susan notes that they’ll fall through the cracks. Luka wants to avoid a “bureaucratic mess,” but Susan doesn’t want the family to come back after another incident. Luka gives in.

Neela presents a patient to Luka, brushing off the patient’s comment that she speaks English “good” with, “Better than you, in fact.” I think Susan is rubbing off on her. As they’re talking, Romano asks if Pratt is in a trauma room with Susan. Neela tells him it’s Gallant, and Romano says he always gets Gallant and Pratt confused. “Must be the goatee,” he says. Sure. We believe you. Luka tells Neela she can discharge her patient; he can come back if his labs are abnormal, but there’s no point in him waiting around. Romano comments that he should send everyone to the Congo to learn how to work more efficiently.

He takes Pratt to a patient he needs to be discharged, but Pratt wants to wait for a surgical consult. Romano says he’ll do it, but Pratt would prefer someone who still has surgical privileges. Abby arrives wearing a white lab coat and says she’s the surgical consult. She’s gone back to med school and has started her surgical rotation. That explains the loan she wanted her ex to co-sign – she needed tuition money. “You waited three-and-a-half hours…for Abby?” Romano asks Pratt. Abby smiles to herself.

After the consult, Abby tells Susan that this seemed like the right time to go back to med school. She only has a year left anyway. As soon as she paid her tuition, she was put right back into rotation. Thanks to Elizabeth’s familiarity with Abby, she’s already being trusted to do consults. Abby will still take some nursing shifts for the money, so she’s going to be pretty stressed and tired. Susan teaches her a mnemonic, then happily tells Sam that Abby’s there from the OR when she needs a consult.

Luka admires how Abby looks in her coat as she tries to shift from nurse responsibilities to doctor responsibilities in a trauma setting. Romano calls Elizabeth for her so she can determine whether the patient needs surgery. Then he interrupts to tell Elizabeth that the patient will be going up to the OR, and Abby didn’t need to ask her first.

He tells her to do something nurse-like, but Sam says she’ll do it. Romano calls her “Miss Haldol” and tells her he finds mute girls covered in blood sexy, so she should keep her head down and her mouth shut. “You sound just like a guy I used to date,” Sam replies. “He’s dead.” Luka steps in, offering to show Abby how to do a procedure. Romano tells him to skip the mentoring, then gives Abby another nurse instruction. She struggles to keep her cool but manages to ignore him and keep doing her job.

Susan tells Mrs. Martin that Adam’s CT looks promising, but they still have to wait until he wakes up to know for sure that he’s okay. She warns that a social worker is coming to talk to Mrs. Martin. Mrs. Martin says that never helps, indicating that there have been other incidents. She insists that nothing was every that major.

Romano keeps overseeing Luka’s patient until he finally announces it’s time to stop working on him and take him to surgery. Fortunately, Frank calls Romano away, leaving the others in peace. Luka then leaves to talk to Weaver, like, talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. Abby’s the highest-ranking person in the trauma room now. Sam blows off Neela for knowing less than her, which is the opposite of how it usually is, with med students embarrassing themselves by thinking they know more than nurses.

Weaver wants Luka to commit to working 36 hours a week. While they’re talking, a woman named Athena is hoping to be seen next, and Morris is still slacking. Luka offers to do six 12-hour shifts a week, which would actually be a break from his seven 18-hour shifts in the Congo. Also, he needs the money. Weaver asks for a month’s notice the next time Luka wants to leave town for a long stretch. He gives her double that, saying he’ll be going back to the Congo in two months. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be gone. Weaver approves the arrangement.

Mrs. Martin talks to Susan and a social worker, Ken, about how Henry burned his hand two months ago while he was home alone. Mrs. Martin explains that she had a job interview and was only gone an hour. But no one picked Henry up from school one day, and a teacher had to take him home. Mrs. Martin says her husband dropped the ball.

Ken tells her that based on this pattern and Susan’s suspicions about Mrs. Martin’s drinking, Adam and Henry will be removed from Mrs. Martin’s home and sent to live with their father full-time until she can get herself together. Ken says the case will probably be resolved within six months. Mrs. Martin tells him and Susan that she had breakfast with her lawyer, and he ordered her a Bloody Mary. He told her everything would be okay.

Neela hangs out with Henry, who carries a drumstick around with him as kind of a magic wand. Not that he really believes in magic. Mrs. Martin comes in to say goodbye just as the boys’ father arrives. Henry tells him what happened, and Susan and Neela tells him that Adam’s awake and showing signs of a good prognosis. Mr. Martin tells his ex that she’s free to screw up her own life, but not their children’s. Mrs. Martin says it was an accident – she was upset. Mr. Martin points out that nothing is ever her fault. She storms out.

Elizabeth is upstairs, operating with Dorset, when the reason they’ll never make it as a couple (and the reason this is his last episode) comes out via a nurse relaying a phone message: He’s married. Abby’s there, and we know she knows Elizabeth and Dorset have been dating, so that’s some gossip she can share with Susan later.

Back in the ER, Susan checks in with Ben, who has vision problems thanks to macular degeneration. She busts him for overdosing on his heart medication and asks if he’s suicidal. He’s 71 and going blind – he doesn’t think suicidal thoughts are abnormal. Susan wants him to talk to a psychiatrist, and he determines that if he volunteers to do so, she won’t keep him there involuntarily (basically, do this or I’ll make you). She tells him he’ll only be there a few hours, but if she has him put on a psych hold, he’ll be there for days. Kind of an easy choice, huh?

Mrs. Martin could also use a psychiatrist, but instead, she’s being left alone while Mr. Martin and Henry stay with Adam. Henry goes looking for his mother to let her know his brother’s waking up. She leaves the ER, passing Susan and Luka in the ambulance bay and telling them she forgot something in her car. That something is a bottle wrapped in brown paper.

Morris and Coop come back from a break, Morris complaining that he hates County. Yeah, well, County hates you, too. Go away. They pass Mrs. Martin’s car, where she’s locking the doors. Instead of a bottle of alcohol, the brown paper holds a bottle of lighter fluid. She pours it on herself and then lights a match. Henry runs out into the ambulance bay just in time to see his mother lighting herself on fire. And now you know why I said “oh, no” when I realized which episode this was.

Luka races to the car as Susan tells a nurse to take Henry back inside. Luka breaks a window with a gurney, and Susan grabs a blanket from an ambulance so he can open the car door without burning himself. Mrs. Martin is still alive and able to get out of the car, but she’s completely on fire. Luka and Coop smother the flames with the blanket until Susan puts them out with a fire extinguisher. Morris, as usual, does nothing.

They get Mrs. Martin to a trauma room, but she looks really bad. Like, super-bad. Horrific. Catastrophic. Hold on, let me grab a thesaurus. Horrendous. Okay, you get it. Luka tells her they need to put a tube down her throat, so she won’t be able to talk. When she asks how long she’ll be intubated, he doesn’t answer. She guesses she’s going to die. Luka asks if she wants to be intubated, and she says she wants to talk to Henry first.

Morris is, as usual, completely useless, and even throws up while Luka, Susan, and Sam are doing their jobs. Coop determines that Mrs. Martin only has a 10 percent chance of survival. Even then, she’ll probably get an infection and die from that. Coop thinks she deserves the right to refuse care, but Susan says that since she’s suicidal, she doesn’t get a say.

Dorset slams the nurse who outed him as married, like, she’s not the one who’s having an affair. Don’t be a child. He tries to talk to Elizabeth, starting off with the excuse that his wife is currently in Boston. That doesn’t help, and neither does the news that she’s still in med school. Elizabeth asks if he hid pictures of his wife when he had her over. He asks if Elizabeth is going to call her and rat him out.

She goes to the lounge, looking for coffee, and Abby offers her a cup. She tries to strike up a conversation about their patient, indicating that she’s not going to say anything about Elizabeth and Dorset. Elizabeth can’t believe she worried that she was dating too soon after Mark’s death when the real problem was the person she was dating. Abby brainstorms names to call Dorset, finally cracking Elizabeth up when she suggests “wanker.” Elizabeth says she knew he was a bad guy. Abby tells her there’s no shame in that.

Luka, Susan, and Sam keep working on Mrs. Martin, deciding not to intubate her until she’s seen her kids. Luka offers to talk to Mr. Martin, but Susan says she’ll do it. She’s distressed about the whole situation and doesn’t like the thought of Henry seeing his mother like this. Luka thinks he could also be traumatized by never seeing her again. He tells Susan that she was right to look out for the kids. Susan can’t agree with her own actions, since things are turning out like this.

She goes to talk to Mr. Martin, who’s shocked that his wife would do something like this. He says that Mrs. Martin told Henry to lie – they went to buy beer, not hot dogs. Susan assures Mr. Martin that Adam will be okay, so at least there’s some good news. He regrets filing for custody instead of just grabbing the kids and running.

Susan tells him that Mrs. Martin wants to see Henry. She gets that Mr. Martin is angry, but his ex is going to die, and he needs to decide what’s best for the kids in the long run, even if that means seeing their horrendously burned mother so she can say goodbye. Henry speaks up, saying he doesn’t want to see her. Susan assures him that they won’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to.

At the admit desk, Sam, Coop, and Morris discuss Mrs. Martin’s actions. Morris and Coop think she’s nuts for doing what she did, but Sam gets how the threat of losing your children could make you crazy. Pratt flirts with her, so it’s a good thing Chen isn’t in this episode. Morris’ shift is over, but he doesn’t want to leave and be branded a wuss. Pratt tells him it’s too late for that.

Romano proves that he can still do some stuff with his prosthetic arm, though Pratt wants to make the stitches he just gave someone a little cleaner. Ben asks to talk to Susan, since he’s still waiting for his psych consult. We get a shot from his point of view, which shows that things are blurry in his periphery, and the middle of his visual field is just one big blob. He decides to discharge himself.

Athena finally gets to see a doctor when she’s brought back in by paramedics. Morris doesn’t want to admit to not seeing her hours ago for what he thought was a hangover and cut on her head. She waited 11 hours and left without being seen. It turns out she has a massive head injury and is now critical. Morris, to his credit, steps up to try to fix his mistake, but he’s not great at being a doctor, so Luka takes over.

Susan and Neela bring Adam into Mrs. Martin’s trauma room so she can see him for probably the last time. Good thing he’s a baby and will never remember this. Neela tells Mrs. Martin that he’s going to be fine. Mrs. Martin asks about Henry, then guesses he’s not going to come see her. She decides it’s better that way. She asks Neela to help her write her older son a letter. She asks him to try to forget what happened and just remember that his mother loved him.

Morris does all he can for Athena, but Luka decides they can’t save her. Just a five-minute exam would have picked up that she had a brain bleed, and they could have gotten her to the OR. Luka tells Morris that Athena had nowhere else to go. “If we can’t find a way to take care of people like her, nobody will,” he says.

Morris flees the ER as a patient in the hallway yells for help. He comes back and wheels the patient’s gurney out to the ambulance bay. Coop follows, and Morris announces that he’s quitting. Coop says they didn’t come this far for Morris to just walk away. Morris replies that he only got this far because Coop carried him. Pratt comes outside and tells Coop to let Morris go. Coop thinks Pratt is just testing Morris, but he’s not. Pratt tells Coop that not everyone is cut out to be a doctor.

Susan tries to call Ben, and when he doesn’t answer, she calls the police to report a possible suicide. Some paramedics are leaving after bringing in a patient, so she asks them for a ride to Ben’s house. He’s there, completely fine – he probably didn’t answer the phone because he’s listening to loud music while painting some miniatures.

Outside the hospital, Abby and Elizabeth chat with Sam, who tells them working at County is different from her last few jobs, but nothing she can’t handle. Here, she gets more pauses in the action. She confirms that Abby’s “in transition” between nurse and doctor, and says it’s a good place to be. Abby and Elizabeth invite her to get something to eat with them, but Sam’s shift isn’t over, and she’s waiting for her “guy.” That would be her son, Alex, not a boyfriend or husband. Alex is about ten and really annoying.

Inside, Luka pulls a Mark, mobilizing Neela, Coop, and Gallant to help him clear out the waiting area. He promises that by 10:00, everyone will have been seen. At Ben’s, he tells Susan he kept his promise to wait to see a psychiatrist, but no one ever showed up. He used to make architectural models, but he had to stop when his vision started worsening. Now he makes miniatures as a hobby. Susan offers to arrange help for Ben around the house, but he doesn’t seem interested. She makes him promise not to kill himself in the next 72 hours. “But Monday would be okay?” he replies. He promises to stay alive.

Luka does fast rounds with Coop, Neela, and Gallant’s patients, and though Romano thinks they’re a little crazy, he can’t argue with the results. Luka may be back in Chicago, but he’s brought his Congo experiences back with them and is proving that you don’t need expensive tests and supplies to practice medicine.

Thoughts: Ben is played by TV legend Bob Newhart, who got an Emmy nomination for this role. Ken is played by Daniel Dae Kim.

I find Sam pretty annoying in her early days, but after that I warm up to her, and eventually kind of like her. My feelings for Linda Cardellini never change, though – I love her.

I like how Susan handles checking in with Luka. As soon as she’s sure he has his trauma case under control, she deals with the family. It’s like she’s letting Luka know she trusts him to handle things and is ready to be back at work without actually saying it.

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