July 12, 2022

ER 11.9, ‘Twas the Night: Chen’s Father Wants to Take a Long Winter’s Nap

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

No final Carter/Chen scenes? Tragic

Summary: Chen is cleaning out her father’s bedpan in her kitchen when he calls for her from the living room. She doesn’t come fast enough for his tastes so he breaks something to get her attention. They have a conversation in Mandarin, the only English coming from Chen when she says she can’t do something. He begs her until she changes her mind.

Carter goes with Wendall to buy a sofa bed her brother can sleep on when he comes to visit. Since the store doesn’t want to make a delivery on Christmas Eve, Carter suggests that they tie it to the roof of his car and take it themselves. As Wendall goes to finalize the sale, Carter notices a girl nearby who’s choking. He gives her the Heimlich and saves her, but her parents misinterpret what’s happening when they see him with his arms around her. Carter starts to explain that he’s a doctor, then decides to just flee the scene.

At County, Sam and Luka discuss Christmas traditions while waiting for an ambulance. She wants to let Alex open a present on Christmas Eve, which is what she did as a kid; Luka says no way. Sam notes that if Alex opens something tonight, he won’t be so eager to open more in the morning, which will give them a chance to sleep in. Plus, it’s fun. Luka teases that Sam just wants to open a gift tonight, too.

The ambulance they’re waiting for carries a man named Robert who fainted and hit his head. Abby joins Sam and Luka as they discuss how cold it’ll be that night. A number of homeless people are already gathered in the hospital, seeking warmth, and are waiting to be taken somewhere else for the night. Abby sees on Robert’s chart that he has lupus and hepatitis C, among other problems.

Luka tells Morris to stop eating and get to work. Susan wants Abby to get on it, too, before Abby can even take off her coat. Carter’s at work now, and Susan asks him to keep bugging the proper authorities to come get all the homeless people in the waiting area. She and Weaver talk about their holiday plans and make arrangements to get together. They’re friends now! Their kids are totally going to be best friends one day! Weaver gives Carter a Secret Santa gift, not bothering to hide that she’s regifting something.

Robert’s wife, Carol, arrives as Abby’s trying to get in touch with his regular doctor. Carol is super-involved in her husband’s care and thinks her personal files on his condition are more thorough than his medical records. Abby can’t get Robert’s doctor to come see him, since he thinks Robert’s problem is with his heart, not his kidneys. Carol provides the name of Robert’s cardiologist and wonders why no one’s writing things down. Maybe because you’ve already written everything down?

Ray helps shepherd some of the homeless people while Neela works with a fourth-year med student, Jake Scanlon, who just transferred to County. Ray tells the homeless people that they’re going to a Holiday Inn, courtesy of the mayor. He’s lying, but he thinks it’s okay because now all the people who aren’t really sick are leaving, and the staff can focus on the ones who actually need treatment.

Luka and Sam are off for the night, and before they leave, they check in with Abby on Robert’s care. She’s now trying to get his cardiologist to come see him. Chen is supposed to be working but when she comes by to pick up medication for her father, she asks Luka to cover for her. She offers to work New Year’s for him. Luka turns her down but Chen says it’s a family emergency. Though Luka clearly feels bad, he won’t take her shift.

Jerry introduces Chen to a woman named Margaret who will be filling in as a desk clerk for the night. Apparently she’s a Grinch. Robert’s cardiologist won’t even come in to examine him, so Abby’s in a bind now. She tells Jake he can go home, since med students don’t have to work on holidays, but he says he volunteered. Abby thinks that’s crazy. She’s even considering inventing a family next year so she can take Christmas off.

She tells Robert and Carol that the cardiologist thinks Robert’s kidneys are causing his problems, so he’s passing the buck like Robert’s regular doctor did. Maybe Robert should get new specialists. Jake must be pretty smart because he recognizes an acronym Abby uses, while Malik doesn’t. Chen asks Susan for one last shift switch after weeks of them, but Susan can’t cut her any more slack. Chen thinks that Carter, Abby, and Morris can handle everything, but Susan doubts it. Chen says she understands, then quits.

Ray’s done with his shift, which means we don’t have to see him anymore in this episode, yay! Paramedics bring in a boy named Harry who was hit by a car. Carter orders Ray to stay, ignoring the fact that he has a flight to catch. Nooooo, we were going to get a break from him! Harry’s mother, Mrs. Price, and her daughter Mattie tell the staff that Harry was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Harry sweetly reassures his little sister, who must be scared to see him in the hospital.

Abby tries again to reach Robert’s doctor, sympathizing with him for not appreciating how pushy Carol can be. Carol hears her but doesn’t say anything about Abby’s comments. Pratt’s on his way out to some party or concert or something – he’s looking forward to seeing a just-becoming-famous-at-the-time Kanye West. He delays his departure when a pretty woman named Raphaella shows up asking for a doctor. She specifies that she’s there for Morris, who appears to be her boyfriend.

Susan tells Abby, Neela, and Pratt that Chen just quit. Susan thinks she’s just burned out. Neela gives Abby a present she found in the lounge with her name on it. Someone thought her Secret Santa gift should be a book about rats and lice. At least that person spent a decent amount of money, unlike Neela’s Secret Santa, who gave her a Pez dispenser. Still, I’d rather have Pez than that book.

Pratt leaves as Malik escorts in a man named Beidermeier, who needs detox for an IV drug addiction. Abby catches Margaret removing all the angels from the admit desk’s collection of Christmas decorations; she wants to keep religious artifacts out of the public hospital. Abby, who isn’t even religious, tells her to put them back. Susan tells Carter that Chen quit, but he’s barely listening, since he’s taking care of Harry. Susan decides that they should close to trauma. Ray complains about how much the homeless people in the waiting area smell. Shut up, Ray. Especially since patients are listening, including Mrs. Price.

Susan seems to have decided to stick around, but Ray still wants to leave. He says he promised his mother he’d come visit for Christmas. No one cares, Ray. While Harry’s stable and they’re waiting for him to be taken to surgery, Carter goes to help Abby with Robert. Susan wants to go home for a couple of hours, then come back to lend a hand, but Carter tells her to take the whole night off; he’ll call her if they get busy.

Robert’s declining and having more trouble breathing because of fluid in his lungs. Abby tells Carter that no one will come give him dialysis to help with the fluid since he just had dialysis yesterday; they insist that the fluid is from some other problem. Abby thinks they rushed him through dialysis because they were busy due to the holidays. She’s waiting to hear back from the renal attending.

A new surgeon, Agbo, comes to examine Harry, so Carter goes back to him. He tells Abby that no one knows what her patients need better than she does. She ducks out of Robert’s room to apologize to Carol, who isn’t too broken up about being called pushy (I assume she’s been called that before). She’s brought down Robert’s extensive medical records from wherever they’re stored so Abby doesn’t have to wait for them. Compared to the hospital’s records, Carol’s are much faster to get through, so Abby agrees to look at them.

Pratt goes to Chen’s house, and though she tries to send him away, he follows her in when her father calls for her. Pratt determines that he’s sundowning, getting worse at the end of the day. He notices that Chen has a large supply of Ativan and potassium. He guesses she’s planning something and demands to know what’s going on.

Harry’s getting worse, and Agbo realizes he may have nicked a blood vessel while doing a procedure on him. Mrs. Price prays for her son while the staff works on him. Mattie blurts on that this is her fault. Mrs. Price yells for her to be quiet, so Carter snaps at them both to leave. Mrs. Price won’t go, and Carter’s too busy to follow up. Once Harry’s stable, Carter tells Neela to take Mattie to the family room and page a social worker.

Abby checks on Robert, who’s stable now. She wants him to have his head scanned to be sure he doesn’t have any brain injuries from his fall (plus, he had a brain infection in the past). Jake offers to take him since Abby needs to discharge another patient. Neela hangs out with Mattie, asking if she’s excited for Santa to come tonight. Mattie sadly says that Santa isn’t coming for her.

Ray joins them and tries to connect with Mattie by saying that he and his brother fought a lot as kids. Sometimes kids get hurt by accident. Mattie admits that she was mad at Harry and threw his book out of the car. When he went to get it, a car hit him. Ray assures her that it’s not her fault that Harry was hurt. Mattie’s upset that she couldn’t help her brother and had to get her mother. This negates the story Mrs. Price told about being in the car with the kids. Mattie says she was at work, and the kids were alone in the car – they live there.

Chen has told Pratt that her father has asked her to help him commit suicide. He no longer wants the treatments and equipment that are the only things keeping him alive. He asks her every day to help him die. Chen doesn’t want to just remove the support methods and let him die naturally; it would take days and he would suffer. Pratt suggests putting him in a nursing home, but Chen tells him that as a Chinese woman, she has to respect her elders.

After a short break where they both calm down, Pratt presses Chen again to at least put her father in a nursing home for a month so she can have a break. As doctors, they do everything they can every day to save people, even if they only get a few more hours. Chen can’t just take someone’s life away. She says that quality of life is what matters. She can’t let her father keep living the way he is. Since she can provide him with what he needs, she’s going to. Pratt asks why she hasn’t done it already. He thinks she knows it would haunt her for the rest of her life. She admits that she hasn’t worked up the courage yet.

When midnight strikes, Margaret makes a deadpan declaration: “Christ is born.” Abby catches her unplugging Christmas lights and threatens to beat her to death with a fruitcake if she does it again. I think Santa’s skipping Abby this year. Neela complains that they’re having a “loser’s Christmas.” She should speak for herself, since Raphaella’s visit has made Morris’ night a lot more fun.

Abby examines a little boy named Rudolfo, and I can’t believe she doesn’t make a Rudolfo/Rudolph comment. Neela thanks Ray for trying to help with Mattie. He admits that he’s an only child. Just leave, Ray. Something happened to Robert’s central line when he was getting scanned, and now he’s bleeding. Because of a lupus complication, he can’t clot properly. Carol worries that this will be what kills him. She says she’s not ready for him to die. Abby sends Jake to get blood so she can fix Robert’s central line. Carol wants a surgical attending to do it instead.

Harry’s still stable, and Carter tells Mrs. Price that they’ll keep him in the ER overnight before sending him to the ICU. Neela gets her to tell the full story about the family’s situation. She left her husband three weeks ago and didn’t have any place to stay with the kids. It was fine while they were in school, but the kids had nowhere to go when Christmas vacation started. She had to leave them in the car while she worked. Taking them back to their father is out of the question – he’s abusive, and while Mrs. Price was willing to put up with it herself, she left when he turned on Harry.

Carter gently says that they’re concerned about everything Mrs. Price has gone through. Wendall comes in with Mattie, and Mrs. Price says she told the kids not to say anything about their situation because she was afraid they would be taken away. She has a job, so their living conditions are just temporary. She won’t call them homeless. Wendall knows of a house they can stay in with other people fleeing domestic violence. She promises it’s safe. Mrs. Price apologizes to Mattie for yelling and asks her daughter not to be scared of her. Mattie apologizes, too, but Mrs. Price says she didn’t do anything wrong.

Carter confers with Wendall, who says the only bad guy here is the hit-and-run driver (well, and Mr. Price). They shouldn’t punish Mrs. Price. They pass Morris and Raphaella, who got food from the cafeteria’s “holiday feast” that doesn’t actually look edible. Carter invites Wendall to get dinner with him but she says she just lost her appetite. Just then, Margaret tells Carter that Kem is on the phone for him. Ohhhhhh! Carter can’t take his eyes off of Wendall as he talks to Kem.

While Chen sleeps, Pratt gets up to tend to her father. He gets agitated, so Chen gives him a sedative and tells him she’s sorry for what he’s going through. Pratt finally sees just how bad his condition has gotten. Back at County, Morris lets Raphaella give staples to an unconscious Santa. Neela calls him out for violating HIPAA, among other policies. Then she has to run to help Carter break up a fight between Margaret and Beidermeier, whom she caught stealing from drug lock-up. She wants to have him arrested but Carter just tells her they’ll handle things without her.

Dubenko is in the ER to do Robert’s central line, though he’s decided to let Abby do it herself. He trusts her skills and doesn’t care what Carol wants. Abby thanks him for coming in and he says it’s his job, like he’s surprised she would expect him not to come in on Christmas Eve. He tells Abby that legally, the attendings she called have to come in or they could lose staff privileges. They’re taking advantage of the fact that she didn’t stand up to them. Abby, like many interns and other female doctors, wants to be popular instead of an advocate for her patients. He offers to finish up with Robert while she deals with the attendings. P.S. He’s her Secret Santa.

Jake goes with Abby as she gets back on the phone. He takes responsibility for the hiccup with Robert’s central line, but she says the tech is at fault. Plus, she shouldn’t have sent a student with Robert. Jake promises that the complication won’t happen again. Abby asks what he’s learned and he replies that he should always go home when she tells him to.

Chen has another conversation with her father in Mandarin, and from the tone, it’s clear even to non-Mandarin-speakers that they’re saying goodbye. She tells Pratt that he thanked her and said she was a good daughter. Pratt assures her that she is. She fills a syringe with potassium, and though Pratt offers to inject her father, she decides to do it herself. He’s barely conscious, so he dies peacefully. Chen says something to him in Mandarin and kisses him goodbye.

A drunk Santa asks for a cab voucher in the ER. Instead of asking where his sleigh is, Jake just says they’re not ready to discharge him. A dialysis tech finally arrives for Robert, happy to make double overtime for a holiday job but confused about why he’s treating someone he just treated yesterday. Abby pretends that Robert’s doctor gave orders for dialysis, but the tech guesses that he never came in to see his patient. The tech isn’t surprised, since the doctor is a jerk, but he needs official orders. Abby asks him to get started and then call the doctor. Carol finds out that Abby went behind the attending’s back and thanks her.

Wendall pulls Carter away from a patient to give him a Christmas present (another regift). He lies that he has something for her but didn’t bring it. She tells him to give it to her on her birthday in a few weeks. She casually asks about his phone call, apparently knowing exactly who Carter was talking to. He just says Kem is good. He’s amused by Wendall’s gift, a head lamp. He thanks her with a kiss, and she leaves as soon as she can.

Morris and Raphaella bring a bunch of sliders to the night staff. Abby and Neela determine that Rudolfo only needs antibiotics, but they decide to get him admitted to pediatrics so he can spend the night in a warm bed. Rudolfo worries that Santa won’t find him since the hospital doesn’t have a chimney. They tell him Santa can find anyone, since he sees everything, but Rudolfo will have to go to sleep before he comes. Abby and Neela guess that Rudolfo’s father doesn’t have any presents for him, so they decide to get him something from the mini-mart across the street.

Chen sits with her father’s body for an hour or so, then tells Pratt she’ll call the mortuary in the morning. She’ll then have to take her father to China to be buried next to her mother. After that, she’ll probably visit their hometown and see some relatives, but now that she’s quit her job, she has no plans beyond that. Pratt offers to help with anything she needs. Chen thanks him for what he’s already done and cries in his arms.

Though Neela is Sikh and her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she’s used to England’s holiday traditions, as well as her family’s affection for “anonymous kindness.” She takes Abby to the child-life center so they can take all the toys and books there and give them to the homeless kids in the ER. (Wendall kindly provided a key.) Tomorrow they can shop the post-Christmas sales to replace everything they take. They don’t have wrapping paper but Neela says they can steal bows from the cafeteria’s decorations.

A homeless woman sings “O Holy Night” as Abby and Neela play Santa. Margaret decides to shut up for once and not tell the woman to keep her religious music to herself. Carter and Wendall distribute blankets to the homeless adults, who I hope get presents, too. Ray comes back with a story about not getting a flight out and a hint that he might not really have been going to see his mother. He reports that it’s snowing. Abby tells Neela that Ray was going to see a girlfriend, not his mother. He tricked Neela into taking his shift with a family-related sob story. Grr!

The staff goes outside to look at the snow. Robert’s doctor arrives, furious that Abby approved his dialysis without his agreement. Abby stands up for herself and says she actually did him a favor since he didn’t come in when he was supposed to. If he reports her for going behind his back, she’ll report him for not doing his job. Everyone heads back inside as Neela gets revenge on Ray with a snowball to the back. Chen calls a mortuary to report that her father died in his sleep overnight. She gets permission for Pratt to sign the death certificate, since he’s already there. And with that, Chen’s secret is safe.

Thoughts: Jake is played by Eion Bailey. Mrs. Price is played by Dale Dickey.

Farewell to Ming-Na, who stayed on the show a lot longer than I would have, considering how little she got to do and how much the writers disrespected Chen.

Why is everyone so against working on Christmas Eve? If it’s between then and Christmas, choose Christmas Eve. Then you won’t miss out on seeing your kids open their presents.

I had Harry’s plotline confused with one from a different episode, so I wasn’t expecting a happy ending (which is sad, since I shouldn’t expect a sad ending in a Christmas episode).

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