The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

The Husband:

Whenever Grey’s Anatomy is in doubt, it always returns to one theme — family. In a lot of ways it’s the basis of this show, and it’s incredibly smart as a backup in case things get a little too wild at Seattle Grace. Because, with very few exceptions, those who become doctors are usually either following in their parents’ footsteps or they’re pressured into the field by the same people, and especially in the case of these residents, they often cannot escape their parents’ shadows no matter how hard they try.

While Callie deals with last week’s visit from her dad and his ultimatum that she either leave Seattle and her gay lover and move back to Miami or lose her trust, that parent hole is filled not once, not twice but thrice this week in various forms.

You still get breast implants, even if youre dying of skin cancer!

You still get breast implants, even if you're dying of skin cancer!

First up is Sharon Lawrence, done ruining everybody’s life over on Privileged (I swear I’ll get to a wrap-up on that show one day, especially if it gets renewed), showing up in all her crazy glory as Izzie’s ignorant trailer park mother. She’s completely baffled that she had to come all the way up to metropolitan Washington just to hear that he daughter simply has skin cancer — which she mistakenly equates as “just a mole” and not at all fatal like breast cancer — until Izzie lets her in on a few pretty well-known facts about tumors, the fact that the skin is indeed an organ, and that cancer spreads. To get her off Izzie’s back, Bailey comes in and tells the both of them that the cancer is disappearing, but once Ms. Lawrence is gone, informs Izzie that no matter how hard they try, this cancer doesn’t seem to be going away. The show did a good job of making Sharon Lawrence just annoying enough so that we appreciated her appearance but probably never want to see her again.

Meredith and Lexi, meanwhile, have some major family damage control ahead of them as their father, now out of rehab and dealing with his alcoholism, is trying to ask their forgiveness for all the horrible things he has done to both of them and their respective dead mothers. But this is too tough for Meredith, and so she takes out her aggression on the Case of the Week.

But what is this case of the week? Well, imagine a three-person family. Now imagine the father continually beating the mother and sometimes the under-ten-years-of-age daughter. Now imagine the daughter getting cut on the face and also watching her father break her mother’s arm, and then proceeding to grab his gun and shooting him 17 times. At the hospital, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the shooting wasn’t an accident, but the wife is such a pushover that she tries to get the daughter to apologize to the [slowly] recovering dad for her reaction, when she was just defending herself. Meredith can’t have this, not another woman in her life getting bullied around, and so she berates the mother for not standing up to the abuse and setting a good example for her daughter. Finally, the mother gathers the courage to say goodbye to the father forever, and that they would be too far away once he recovered for him to find them.

But Meredith’s outburst has consequences, and the Chief gets on her case for being unprofessional and getting her feelings involved in something that doesn’t concern her. This nearly leads to Meredith’s firing, but Derek has a one-on-one with the Chief and makes him painfully aware that he is treating Meredith not like an employee but as a daughter, as the Chief had a decades-long affair with Meredith’s mother, one that didn’t really lead to anything but confusion and emotional messiness.

I like how this episode dealt with the old GA notion of family. Not that it was great, because it was just a-okay. But at least it wasn’t like season 3 when it seemed that everybody’s parent was dying, first Meredith’s crazy mother, then Lexi’s mother, then George’s father, until it just seemed like cheap soap opera tactics. Unfortunately, the familial focus pushed the Owen-Cristina drama to the side to a point where even their emotional conversation at episode’s end, where Owen reveals that he’s been seeing a shrink to get to a place where he could be the right man for Cristina, didn’t really hold a lot of weight. Oh well, only two episodes to go, and it’s pretty damn clear that it’s all going to be about the Meredith-Derek wedding and Izzie’s cancer. Who knows if anything will get solved other than those two things. And who knows if George is going to be given any figment of a story this season.

But it’s season finale time on Private Practice, and they’ve got a doozy of a Moral Quandary with which to contend. (My wife is right; this show should absolutely be renamed Moral Quandary.) When two women have their embryos planted, Naomi makes the horrible discovery that they’re carrying each other’s babies, which at the very least is no good for the struggling practice. But even worse is that the embryo that belongs in Robin Weigert’s belly is her last egg and the last bit of sperm from her dead husband, and the woman carrying this last effort baby wants to terminate it as it doesn’t feel right, and doesn’t want Robin Weigert carrying her baby. For once, I’m with the decision to actually keep the damn babies where they are and not terminate, because they’re both going to come out anyway, and they’ll still be the baby you, non-Robin Weigert, wanted as a result of your money and your effort with this in vitro fertilization. You’ll still get the experience, you’ll still get the genetic connection, and you won’t fuck with Robin Weigert’s poor brain. Fortunately, the non-Robin Weigert finally comes to her senses and realizes how ridiculous she and her husband are being.

But this is the season finale, and you want to know how it ended, right? I’ll make it easy for you.

Dell: His baby mama comes back into town with their daughter demanding $10,000 for the child, but even when Sam gives Dell the money, Dell takes his child and shames the mother into not taking the money, something that would just wreck her drug-addled brain even more. And finally forgiven for his attitude over the past few weeks (and the mistake that led to the embryo switch), he is absolved and given back his patients and his midwivery.

Addison: Still trying not to get it on with Dr. Swingtown despite her attraction to him, she convinces him to stay with his wife, but right before his wife is to give birth, they have a near-fucking until both their pagers ring. As far as I could tell, their relationship is still up in the air, which is difficult especially now that his wife is starting to grow suspicious.

Pete: Finally wins Violet’s heart as she chooses him over Sheldon as her man, despite Sheldon’s marriage proposal.

Sam: Declares that he is still in love with Naomi.

Naomi: After much inner debating, she takes the job as director of Pacific Wellcare.

Charlotte: Is fired as director of Pacific Wellcare for, basically, not having a heart, which finally breaks this very strong woman.

Cooper: Is about to take care of a ready-to-burst Violet, when he gets the call from Charlotte that she desperately needs him now. He is unaware of the horror that is about to occur on the other side of that door to Violet’s house.

DOOM AWAITS YOU!!!!!

DOOM AWAITS YOU!!!!!

Violet: And what horror? It seems that that bit of insane psychology I bitched about a few weeks ago in re: Amanda Foreman’s character, the crazy lady who tried to continue on with her pregnancy despite the baby being dead inside of her, finally returned to bite everyone in the ass, as Ms. Foreman comes to Violet’s door, knocks her out with a quick syringe to the arm, and then proceeds to tell Violet that she stole her baby out of her and was gestating it herself. In short, Amanda Foreman gon’ cut that baby out of Violet. Violet, realizing that she is finally trapped at without question at the end of her life, tells Ms. Foreman how to give a C-section correctly, which while killing Violet, would save the child. And as the scalpel is about to cut into skin, the season ends.

Ahhhhh Private Practice. How shameless you are. And how shameless and fascinating and sad of a cliffhanger to go out on. We have at least four months to figure out what’s going to happen — I’m just gonna guess that come September, Pete or Sheldon is going to bust through that door and knock that bitch out, but it seems that you never know with Shonda Rhimes. I never grew tired of PP this year (while I did at least three times with GA), so that bodes well for this addictive trifle of a primetime soap. Do I realize that this show is pretty ridiculous and probably bad for my brain? Yes. But will I apologize for watching, nay, enjoying it? Hell naw.

Oh Shonda Rhimes, how will you try to hurt me next season?

The Husband:

We hit a hiatus, y’all, with this here Shonda Rhimes Land, a world of moral quandaries, career-threatening neuroses and, basically, patients behaving right on the edge between extreme human behavior and outright lunacy. Would we want it any other way?

I don’t know if it was the break, or the fact that I watched Grey’s Anatomy on a Friday night after a very long and confusing week at work, but I had an extremely tough time re-entering any of the various stories tossed my way. Every once in a while, something happens with a show like this or, say, Numb3rs or Criminal Minds or Castle, where things get so repetitive, in dialogue and/or stories, that I will catch myself near the end of a scene literally being unable to understand words that are coming out of the actors’ mouths, as if they aren’t saying words but are actually droning “manananananananabloobloobloo” on and on. At least with Criminal Minds, the show is so fast that if I come across one of these scenes, I only need to wait a few more seconds and the BAU team will be in a completely different location staring at some other unsub. But with this week’s GA, there were at least five scenes of brain gibberish, and I draw the line at three. The silly feud between Derek and Mark, especially, devolved into gibberish, as I stopped listening once they were bickering over an open body during surgery. Good one, guys.

And it’s not like the director was making sure I gave a shit, either, because he took a scene that could have been harrowing (a suicidal patient running amok in the hospital, and then running through a window and smashing the car below him) and made it the funniest scene of the week via godawful special effects, rendering what should have been a great stunt into a digital mess that clearly involved no actual human beings. Even the glass breaking was fake. Really? You can’t afford some goddamn candy glass? I can give you an actual address if you need some.

Haaaaaave . . . you met my lesbian lover?

Haaaaaave . . . you met my lesbian lover?

The only story that seemed to really be worth a damn this week was the reappearance of Hector Elizondo as Callie’s father. There to give George a piece of his mind for cheating on his daughter and thus ensuring their divorce, he is surprised to learn that while, yes, Callie has found a new partner, she is now a raging lesbian, going to town on Jessica Capshaw’s Arizona. This devolves into a Spanish language shouting match, as Hector gives his daughter an ultimatum – come home to Miami and do your practice there, or your gigantic trust fund is completely gone. Callie’s decision is tougher than one would expect, as her father has 100% paid for her entire education and has ensured that she would focus entirely on her career and never have to scrounge for cash. He even tries to bribe the Chief with a generous donation in order to remove Callie from Seattle Grace. But Callie’s a grown woman now, and no old-fashioned, archaic bigotry is going to let her give up somebody she truly loves.

At least on Private Practice, I was thrown some shameless ethical dilemmas. How big of a deal is it that a female high school teacher starts banging a 17-year-old student only a month away from becoming an adult? Hell, at least the dude wasn’t 14. What was the problem with this arrangement was that she was giving her lover some of the medication Sam prescribed for her, and said medication had a terrible effect on the boy/man, as he was allergic to sulfa. And as my wife is allergic to sulfa, I now have a general understanding of what external symptoms would arise if she was accidentally given it. Technically, she doesn’t have whatever disorder the dude had, but that was still a narsty enough rash all over his neck and chest that I will make sure to be very clear with any doctor in the future should my wife ever need to go to the emergency room, jeebus forbid.

(Wife’s note: Yes, I have had that nasty rash more than once as a child. It’s totally unfun. And, if I recall, the anti-rash medicine tastes like cat hair. Thanks for teaching my husband to inform the ER of drug allergies, Private Practice!)

But the major, central ethical dilemma arose when a woman, 20 weeks pregnant, came into St. Ambrose with a weak heart. Flanked on both sides by her diabetic husband and his brother (who is also the woman’s nurse), she refuses to listen to Addison’s suggestion to terminate the pregnancy, even though that would be the best solution. (Basically, at this point it’s either lose the baby and live to try again, or keep the baby and tempt fate with potentially dying later on if a new heart cannot come in on time.) But a day later, her husband turns up brain dead after overdosing on insulin, and just happens to have a heart and the proper blood type to save his wife. Now, let’s ignore the fact that, after Charlotte comes in with some CSI people and halts the transplant at least an hour to make sure that the husband did not commit suicide or that the nurse (who allegedly is in love with the woman) murdered him, it comes to light that the overdose was accidental. Because that’s too coincidental, and Addison knows it.

My issue is this: whether it was a suicide or a murder, having her dead husband’s heart inside of her body in order to save a fetus is just going to fuck with the woman’s brain even more, and will definitely affect the child as it grows into a mentally damaged teenager with abandonment issues. When I told my wife of this storyline, she had very strong words to say about the woman’s original choice to keep the child, so if she wants to write a follow-up after this post, that’ll take care of discussing this particular focus on the episode. But from a strictly psychological point, it pretty much seems like bad decisions all around.

(Wife’s note: All I’m going to say is to rehash something my husband said a few weeks ago in one of these Shonda Rhimes post. You can make another baby, but you can’t make another Jennifer Westfeldt.)

Yay!

Yay!

In other Oceanside Wellness news, Naomi is being tempted to leave the practice she started to work at a better funded practice with research teams and scientists by none other than actor James Morrison, having just blown up on 24 merely a couple months ago only to reconfigurate, T-1000 style, as somebody with the same goddamn first name (Bill), and Pete realizes that he has to break up with hot single mother Idina Menzel because Violet is soon to give birth, and no matter who the father turns out to be, Pete is going to have to be there both for Violet and the child. And so, unfortunately, Ms. Menzel’s stint on Private Practice comes to a close, but at least we Rentheads got to experience a little in-joke when Idina walks through Oceanside Wellness, and Taye Diggs turns and watches her, proclaiming, “I like her.”

The Husband:

So, here’s what went down: last Thursday, at some point during the work day, our power went out at our home briefly, coming back on some time during the afternoon. Our living room DVR handled the power failure admirably, getting back up to speed with all of our season passes and the TV grid. Our lower model bedroom DVR, however, I suppose needed to be actually turned on again (even though technically it can record when off), so it really screwed the pooch (oh noes! Pooch-screwing!) when it came to all those shows my wife does not watch. This would include Survivor, as well as ABC’s female-driven block of Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. So that’s why these reviews are going to come late, and perhaps in briefer form.

Sigh…the woes of technology.

But what’s been going down at Seattle Grace?

Cristina gets all responsible-like, even going against the wishes of some of her elders, when she learns of a patient that would have been getting out of the hospital just fine had the hospital’s oldest attending surgeon not made a careless mistake. But who is this surgeon? Why, it’s Faye Dunaway. Where the hell has she been all this time? Judging from her appearance, underground amidst the rock creatures in The Descent. Now, I’m not normally the type of person to really call out somebody’s appearance, but oh man has Faye Dunaway fallen, looking like whatever reanimated zombie the world has been trying to pass off as Peter O’Toole for the last decade. Going back into surgery, Cristina mouths off at Faye and gets tossed, but Cristina is able to present the case to the Chief that Faye is just too old-fashioned, unwilling and unable to use the newest medical technology, to continue working at Seattle Grace, and she’s right. A weird guest appearance that at least gave Cristina less whininess and more chutzpah.

Izzie finds out that the newly fired Sadie may have accidentally mixed up Izzie’s medical reports, giving her the anemia diagnosis and a poor woman a death note of cancer. And so the Izzie mystery continues. Until some real news comes through about Katherine Heigl and whether or not she’s actually leaving the show, I’m going to ignore all that hubbub and just say that while this is-Izzie-sick storyline has been going on for a very long time, I don’t consider it boring by any means. What happens when a talented doctor becomes ill herself, and how does it affect her work? This are good questions to ask, and spending a season dealing with the answers is definitely compelling.

Dr. Bailey continues her interest in pediatrics, and so she spends the entire episode obsessing about letters of recommendation, becoming quite pissed that, when pressed for time, the Chief merely gives Dr. Bailey a form letter, describing her as a “fine doctor.”

“I am Dr. Bailey. I am better than ‘fine.'” — Bailey

When she finally goes head-to-head with the Chief, who is already embroiled with both the Faye Dunaway situation and the scalpel Mexican standoff (more on that later), he admonishes her for not going along with his plans for Dr. Bailey to replace him as Chief somewhere down the line, and asking for his help for her to get a job in a field he does not want for her. Every single bit of Bailey’s story is wonderful and wonderfully acted, and it’s still the biggest crime ever that Katherine Heigl has an Emmy over the outstanding Chandra Wilson.

Seriously, yall, wheres my damn Emmy?

Seriously, ya'll, where's my damn Emmy?

Derek and Sloan get into a fistfight about Lexie-banging.

Okay, so the big three-episode story finishes here, as Jennifer Westfeldt went into seizures last we saw her, mixed with mirror syndrome and her unborn baby’s health and all the stuff that was going wrong in her brain. (I’m just going to say this now. I think losing one’s ability to make sense as far as language is concerned may be the most terrifying thing I can think of to happen to a brain. It may not be the worst, but goddamn is it scary for somebody like me who relies on words.) (The Wife seconds this opinion.) As she is to go into surgery once again, her husband Ben Shenkman gives them very specific instructions to save his wife over his baby.

“We can make another baby. We can’t make another her.”

During the surgery, Westfeldt keeps having small strokes, so Derek has to make the harrowing decision to take out her temporal lobe to keep her alive. When this doesn’t work, he decides that he wants to take out the frontal lobe, too, but Addison (yes, she’s still up in Seattle) says that would be creating a monster and not a human, and that she needs to do an emergency C-section and take out the premature baby right now. Doing this surgery, however, would take away the blood in the body needed to power the brain, which would kill Westfeldt. As Addy and Derek both stand over the body holding scalpels and telling each other to stand down, Karev has to bring the Chief in, who of course goes with Addy’s plan. Westfeldt dead, Shenkman takes his grief out on Derek, calling him a murderer for all he had done, and for the entire staff choosing the baby over his wife. At least the baby is alive, douche.

[catching breath] This show has been getting wilder and more complicated by the week (I didn’t even mention much about Lexie, or Callie’s continued lesbo-confusion), but I will agree that this was one of the best episodes in a long time. Previously I’ve complained that the show hasn’t been honest with us about their three-episode arcs, but that does not mean I don’t like them. I’d just prefer to know when they are happening, so I can prepare by brain for them. It’s frustrating when you think you’re at the end of the story, only to have something drastic happen and the episode ending with a “to be continued…” so I can understand people’s problems with these arcs, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t quite good.

Lesson: Never trust Melissa George.

After all that madness, nothing on Private Practice could even come close to something as gripping down at Oceanside Wellness, so let’s just get through them quickly.

  • Sam accidentally calls his new girlfriend Naomi.
  • Archer, now recovered from his brain parasites, goes back to being a complete man-whore and cheats on Naomi, who is technically his girlfriend. Addison finds out and tells Naomi, and it’s sadness abound.
  • Violet and Sheldon decide to co-run a group therapy session of married couples, and in dealing with all the lunacy of the various couples (with varied success), they grow closer while also learning of some of their major differences, information that will be useful when she gives birth to her own child. No word on whose baby it is yet. Or I missed something. I didn’t, did I?
  • Charlotte is still angry about boyfriend Cooper moving in with Violet to help her take her of her unborn child, and Cooper is still right to support his friend. No progress is made.
  • Anyanka from Buffy and Sgt. Scream from Over There give birth to a baby who is genetically both male and female, and although they are informed that in these cases, only 30% of the children affected by this end up identifying as male, Sgt. Scream’s machismo gets in the way, and he is certain that the baby must become his beloved Matthew that he has been dreaming about for so long. Addy and Naomi argue over this, but Addy makes the final decision, in the OR, to not make the baby male, for it would just be wrong to make the decision so early. Sgt. Scream leaves Oceanside Wellness in a huff, not wanting to deal with a “freak baby,” but Naomi, now pissed and on the warpath after hearing that Archer is cheating on her, goes to his workplace (he’s a cook) and chews him out for being so myopic. Sgt. Scream comes back and loves on the baby as much as he can, for he knows that had he not, he would suffer at the hands of the vengeance demon Anyanka. Had they gone with assigning the child to being a male, just fast-forward 13 years and you have this week’s episode of House.
  • Continuing my plea for ABC to be honest with us viewers, I can’t help but point out that this Private Practice episode was not a crossover, but just a regular episode. So we had more like a 2.5-week crossover, and I can’t help but think that people who were watching PP over the last couple weeks may have been very let down by this episode.

Lesson: All babies need love, even if your stupid male pride is telling you otherwise.

The Husband:

There’s a pattern, much like the one on Fringe, here on Private Practice that has a strong influence on all the show’s characters, one that seems designed to wreak havoc on the good doctors on Oceanside Wellness. No, it’s not scientific anomalies fabricated in order to cover up vast conglomerate conspiracies such as time travel and the literal breakdown of physical space. No. It’s that the clients of Oceanside Wellness are fucking idiots.

I think this is a major factor of what makes Grey’s Anatomy work so well and Private Practice kind of hit the middle of the road. On Grey’s, all the stupid shit the patients have done were before they were received at Seattle Grace, where the doctors will do everything they can to treat your presumably fatal illness/dismemberment before it’s too late. On PP, it’s a clinic with expertise in fertility, psychology and new age medicine, created to suggest medical procedures to their predicament, pressing or not, before the worst is yet to happen. (Another major difference is that GA usually takes place over one or two days, while PP, with few exceptions, spreads out its episode timelines through several days.)

So what am I talking about? Well, in the last three episodes, the patients/clients of Oceanside Wellness have made some very stupid decisions, and it’s those decisions that have been driving the medical drama on the show. Me? I find it highly problematic, because I would rather see the doctors have to deal with inevitable consequences despite a great deal of intelligence and know-how instead of stupid-ass blunders.

How is it that every patient we see is a complete and total moron?

How is it that every patient we see is a complete and total moron?

Two weeks ago, a highly religious couple came in because, after experimenting with some fertility drugs (good!), they have been experiencing issues during their pregnancy. Specifically, they have triplets, two of which (the identical twins) suffer from TTTS Syndrome, wherein they share the same placenta and blood vessels and will die unless surgery is performed (bad!). Unfortunately, the religious couple believe that this affliction is God’s way of punishing them for using fertility drugs, so after telling Addison they need help, they refuse any surgery and hope that it will all be sorted out by the Almighty. When it nearly becomes too late, Addison has no choice but to do surgery (after the non-afflicted baby has died) to snip the vessel connection between the twins. I forget if one of the twins died in the process, but I know at least one lived. But hey, maybe that baby wouldn’t have died if you just listened to your doctor who you went to in the first place.

In last week’s episode, we met a man whose pregnant wife was in an irreversible coma due to kidney failure and Wegener’s Granulomatosis. The baby is nearing birth, so Addison suggests (rightfully so) that  they perform a C-section so the baby will be born without complications (good!), because if they do it the natural way the baby could easy suffocate on the way out (because the mother is in a coma!). However, because the man had heard of one (read it: one) case of a comatose woman waking up while giving birth, he refuses the C-section and demands that his wife gives birth naturally (bad!). This leads to major complications in both mother and baby, and so the surgery happens too late (also after finding out that the man wasn’t married yet to the woman, so he had no say over her parents’ decision). The baby is born, but due to medical issues the comatose woman dies! Yeah, that’s a major fail.

This week we have two blunders. The first, a famed but retired bicyclist goes to the fourth floor practice (where Charlotte has set up a competing clinic), but is stolen away by Sam and Pete. The bicyclist has a SoCal race that weekend and would like to stage a comeback to make big bucks to support him and his wife (Ione Skye still as beautiful as ever). Sam and Pete work on helping his knee recover in time, but then it comes to their attention that he retired not because of a bum knee but because he was suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the muscle of the heart contracts under extreme pressure (see: hardcore bicycling). The doctors don’t want the bicyclist to compete, but he says that it’s his choice once they fix his knee. So they fix his knee, he wins the race and dies at the finish line. Great job, asshole.

Addison’s case this week involved a woman who was dying of stage 2 ovarian cancer, but she wouldn’t let Addison remove her ovaries and uterus (or, you know, the things that were killing her) because she was dead set on having a baby the natural way, even if she was going to be a single mother. The issue was that a hotshot doctor on the fourth floor had an experimental trial that could potentially remove the tumor without surgery, but by the end of that very day parts of her reproductive track had collapsed on her colon, so surgery was needed anyway. Fail.

So there you have it. Oceanside Wellness gets its business from morons.

Hello, Audra. It is I, Grant Show. Ive come to ask you to join me and Lana Perilla at a key party. Jack Davenport and Molly Parker will be there. Maybe even Miriam Shor. Wont you join us?

Hello, Audra. It is I, Grant Show. I've come to ask you to join me and Lana Perilla at a key party. Jack Davenport and Molly Parker will be there. Maybe even Miriam Shor. Won't you join us?

So what’s been going on other than idiotic clients? Pete’s former and now regained lover (Jayne Brook) started working at a free clinic, but had some of her clients come to Oceanside (because it’s awesome), where she started allowing abortions. Naomi, being the owner of the fertility clinic, refused the procedure to be done under her roof (which I think is actually an offense worthy of a steep fine in California), but then relented. Violet started dating fourth floor psychiatrist (Brian Benben from HBO’s gloriously filthy comedy Dream On, an actor who once told Letterman in the early 90s that Brian Benben was just his stage name, and his real name was Brian Benbenbenbenben…), but then he couldn’t get it up so they broke up. Violet then made out with Pete, leading to presumed bitchin’ sex. Addison’s brother (Grant Show from Swingtown, which you should buy on DVD right now) came into town and banged Naomi, and then Sam punched him in the face. Cooper and Charlotte broke up because she lied to him about starting up the fourth floor competing practice, and then had a false pregnancy scare. Addison is still taking care of her injured S.W.A.T. boyfriend. Dell loves his young daughter.

That’s about it.

And Cooper uttered one of the most unique sentences I’ve heard in a good long while:

“Oooooh…unlimited spanikopita!”

The Husband:

This week on Private Practice, they finally decided to deal with my favorite character personality trait on the show. While I like the irony of Violet, a psychiatrist who can barely keep herself together, and Addison is a neonatal surgeon who is physically incapable of bearing children, most of the rest of the characters just don’t have much special going for them. Naomi is destructively impulsive, Sam is too concerned with money, Dell just has a major crush on Naomi and Pete is just…Pete.

Ah, but Cooper is something I find quite brilliant. He’s a pediatrician and a sex addict. My biggest complaint about this show is that they simply don’t explore this hilarious, harrowing and very interesting bit of competing forces, instead simply giving him a hyper-sexual partner in the form of Dr. Charlotte King which seemingly lets him off the hook. This week, he is given a story worthy of his character quirks. Finally!

A very interesting case comes through his office, as a mother is worried about her son Braden, who was a very vocal kid until he turned four, at which time he became completely silent and detached. It’s not autism, and she’s gone to so many other doctors that any explanation Cooper could ruminate on is shot down quickly with “we already tried that.” Then the mother cocks her head to the side and says that Cooper seems very familiar to her. But from where?

Just because youve seen my penis doesnt mean Im not a good doctor.

Just because you've seen my penis doesn't mean I'm not a good doctor.

The adult dating Internet sites! Apparently Cooper has – on over ten different sites apparently – posted nude pictures of himself for the world to see, and while his lover Charlotte admits to having some, too, she took hers down after realizing it could affect her career. Cooper? Not so smart, so the mother takes her son away from him and vows to never return. But hey, at least Cooper knows that, since the mother was at the same sites he was at, she was being a bit hypocritical.

“Just so you know, you’re the pot calling the kettle pervert!” – Cooper

He does a bit more research and asks Sam for his advice, suddenly happening upon Braden’s problem – he has been having seizures while he is sleeping, something the mother wouldn’t have known, and that is affecting him so much during the day that he is completely unable to communicate. He goes to the mother’s house and is turned away, but he yells through the door that he finally has the answer. The next day, Braden is treated with some prednisone and almost immediately begins healing.

Sadly, we will be doing a hymenoplasty story this week. And yes, it will be as lame as you think it will be.

Sadly, we will be doing a hymenoplasty story this week. And yes, it will be as lame as you think it will be.

Addison was left with the lamer story, something that I think would be more interesting if it was on television about five years ago, but in 2008 it just feels like it’s been done so many times. Sharbat, an Afghan woman, comes into the practice with her mother, claiming that she has been raped, and since she has an impending arranged marriage back in her home country, she’ll need a hymenoplasty, stat! Addison sees right through her, though, noticing that the vagina has had plenty of play since the day Sharbat was claimed to be raped, leading her to admit that she had a boyfriend, one she was simply having fun with but couldn’t see herself marrying. After much ethnical dilemma consideration – just do it, Addison, since it apparently poses no actual health risks – she goes through with the procedure despite her Western feminist opposition.

We also find out that Pete used to work in Doctors Without Borders, but all that really comes of this plot is seeing Jayne Brook twice on ABC in one week, having played Scotty’s mother in Sunday’s episode of Brothers & Sisters and this time being a Nigeria-based humanitarian doctor and Pete’s former flame. I always dug her from Chicago Hope, despite my mother’s weekly complaints that she had a “chipmunk face,” and I’m happy to see her getting some good work again.

In the world of ex-spouses Naomi and Sam, they have been fighting so much about how the practice should be run that they ask the rest of the main staff to vote for who should be the head administrator, and spend the rest of the episode campaigning for their position. Sick of listening to the Naomi-Sam bickering (so much that Addison refuses to vote) and just wanting them to get back together as a couple, the staff does the unexpected – when the votes are tallied, the numbers are:

Sam – 1 vote (himself)

Naomi – 1 vote (herself)

Addison – 4 votes

Oh noes! Addison is now the reluctant administrator of the practice, and while this could definitely hurt her relationship with the S.W.A.T. guy and put her under even more pressure than she can handle, I should remind you that Addison was in the running to take over as chief at Seattle Grace, so if anything she was once prepared for a much harder job. Please return to us, the Addison we know from Grey’s Anatomy, and teach this Addison from Private Practice how to act like a real and interesting character.

Fun little note: If I’m watching a show after my wife has fallen asleep (which is about half the stuff I write about), I tend to keep the volume down and turn on closed-captioning at the same time so as not to wake her. I actually enjoy watching many shows like this as it gives me an added appreciation for a show’s writing, but I am far more amused at the sporadic sounds described in brackets. My favorite from last night was the discovery that when hooked up to a heart monitor, closed-captioning likes to describe it as “[Monitor Beeping Rhythmically].” How completely understated and cold. That’s someone’s heart you’re talking about, closed-captioning!

The Husband:

Right now, Private Practice seems to be completely fine with merely coasting by and not sucking, and while this is technically, in the world of television ratings, not a necessarily bad thing to be, it makes it hard for people like me with jobs like mine to really give a crap about doing write-ups. I will not let you down, though, so here we go into the world of Shonda Rhimes and the Oceanside Wellness Clinic.

“Equal & Opposite”

Taking place in the direct aftermath of the Oceanside uprising – where Sam usurped ex-wife Naomi and took over the lead at the clinic due to her poor fiscal management – Sam puts up a dry erase board of cases both opened and closed (looking a lot like the similar board on Homicide: Life on the Streets) and all our friendly doctors do their best to bring in more new clients at a greater speed, resulting in Peter buying a cellulite reduction machine. This is not met with much approval – the other doctors refer to it as the “defatilator” – and soon Peter finds out that the rich women of Los Angeles tend to be a little on the vain and stupid side (gee, just figuring this out now?) and would rather come in to see him everyday than to put any kind of effort into taking care of their own bodies via exercise and diet. He gives Violet a free go-round with the machine, but they both end up realizing that it’s not worth selling their souls simply to pull the company out of the red, leading to the only line of the night I felt like writing down.

“Life is not assfat!” – Violet

Sam, meanwhile, is faced with a case of conflicting ethics (this show seems very good at doing that) when presented with a case of a single father and his ill son, who has for five years been dying slowly of Bronchiolitis obliterans, a terrible, painful and non-reversible lung disease. The father wants the son to hold on no matter what the cost, but the 17-year-old is simply sick of suffering and intentionally pulls out his intubation, hoping to die. The son only has one month before turning 18 and thus having the ability to make his own life-and-death decisions, but the father will have none of it. After doing some soul-searching and realizing how much he is hurting the son by keeping him alive, Sam convinces the father to do what’s right and let his son have his way. The plot itself is basic level medical drama without much of the PP personality, but I’d be lying if I said the ending didn’t affect me.

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You know, I'm going to have to put my foot down on you guys inserting your concepts of morality into my ethical decision making.

In Addison’s big honking central story, though, the show’s tone shone through in big ways, with Addison making some very big decisions and laying down the law in the way she does best – by being better than you. A young married couple (Fran Kranz, who I can’t take seriously on television as he was so convincing playing a douchebag TV actor in Jake Kasdan’s film The TV Set, and Zoe Perry, an actress to whom I have two degrees of separation as she is the very good friend of an acquaintance) comes in to see her as they cannot seem to be able to conceive. After doing some genetic testing, Addison discovers the horrible truth – they are siblings. (Incest oh noes!) Turns out, both of their mothers used the same sperm donor clinic and just happened to be impregnated from the same source (heheh…source), leaving the young couple, who have been together since junior high, in a bit of a predicament to say the least. They decide to still go forward with their lives together, as they consider themselves Soul Mates, but Addison quickly points out that the child they would potentially have would be highly at risk for birth defects, and that technically, it’s illegal for them to have sex in the first place. It is soon discovered that the man knew about this all along but kept it secret, leading to the couple’s ultimate break-up.

I don’t think it really needs to be said, but that’s without question an interesting case, and I felt the show dealt with it in perhaps the best way it could. Addison is slowly becoming the Addison we fell in love with on Grey’s Anatomy and is moving away from the slapstick romantic hijinks this show gave us least season, as I think she’s far more interesting as an ethics-juggling doctor than as any kind of truly loveable person.

“Nothing To Talk About”

This week, however, none of the cases really grabbed me, as the show decided to narratively spin its wheels, dealing with Sam and Naomi finally having sex again (which occurred during the final minute of the previous episode) as well as Dell (the guy I keep calling Piz as a result of Veronica Mars) and his decision to quit Oceanside and become a nurse at St. Ambrose Hospital where Charlotte works.

After suffering a knee injury due to a very unfunny treadmill one-upping Peter, Addison stops by St. Ambrose for some treatment and is wooed into performing several surgeries – six in 24 hours – at Charlotte’s request, recapturing the positive spirit she finds in cutting people open and fixing their problems. Soon, however, she realizes that she is not connecting with the patients on any personal level – when the husband of a potentially dying expectant mother asks Addison if she even knows the patient’s name, she breaks down and realizes her impersonal bedside manner is potentially dangerous to both the patients and herself – and makes the correct decision and return to Oceanside and those that truly need her special kind of consultation.

Cooper, meanwhile, is still having hate-fuck sex with Charlotte, but that is thrown for a loop when his mind gets preoccupied with his current case. A mother (the redheaded Audrey Wasilewski from Big Love and Mad Men) has brought in her young baby who seems perfectly healthy except for one major thing – his head is huge. “Mount Rushmore huge” according to Cooper, and as he cannot find anything wrong with the baby on any medical level, he has to deal with his own childhood memories of being an outcast. (Hey, I may know why your child has been cursed with a giant head that will be with him the rest of his life – maybe you shouldn’t have tried outing your neighbor Nikki as a polygamist, huh? Mormons or not, the Henricksons don’t like being fucked with.)

The sandwiches from Craft Services arent half bad today.

The sandwiches from Craft Services aren't half bad today.

In Violet’s story, Sam has asked her to do quick 15-minute consultations in order to bring in more money to the clinic, but all that stops when she finds particular interest in one case. Leslie Hope (Jack’s dead wife on 24) is having issues sleeping and would simply like some pills to make that easier, but Violet is more interested in, you know, being a thorough psychiatrist and gets some more information out of her. Turns out that the woman has recently lost her husband to cancer, and feels that as a result her son has turned into a sociopath (she’s so scared she hides a hammer under her pillow), maybe even having killed the dog (who was found in a blanket in the garage with its neck broken). Violet decides to bring the son in, but can’t get one word out of him and decides instead to have him take a test that would prove whether or not, clinically, if he was indeed a sociopath.

No go. He seems fine, just being all introverted and emo, really. She pursues him further to his high school where he threatens her with a baseball bat – which would be a very interesting path to take on this show, if Violet was beaten to a pulp with an aluminum bat and having to completely rethink her success rate as a therapist – but then relents and admits that killing the dog was a coup de grace, as the dog was suffering from cancer, the family had been financially wiped clean by the husband/father’s death and this was the best solution he could come up with. In the end, the mother and son embrace (awwwkward) and Violet feels better about herself.

I really don’t know what would make this show better other than to exploit their plethora of ensemble talent, but I don’t want to feel that in the show’s first actual full season (complete with 24 episodes) that they’re already running out of good ideas for cases and the effects they have on the doctors of Oceanside. (I honestly don’t care about Addison and her romance with the S.W.A.T. guy.) I don’t want this to feel like 1998’s L.A. Doctors, which posed a few very good moral dilemmas to a respectable cast of characters, but when it was canceled I didn’t miss it one bit. I want this to feel more like 2000’s Gideon’s Crossing, where Andre Braugher, Ruben Blades, Rhona Mitra and Russell Hornsby (an actor from my high school alma mater) had to deal with hard-hitting life-and-death and later reap the personal ramifications of their career choices. (There I go, bringing up two medical dramas nobody remembers, just to make a point.) With PP, I don’t think I’d miss it if it disappeared forever, but I also like Kate Walsh too much to give up on her. Mediocrity has its place in the television landscape too, dontchaknow? It’s usually everywhere on the Neilsen Top 20.

Post-posting note: Speaking of dumb stories, the Sam-centered story about firefighter Ernie Hudson dealing with his obsession with wearing bras and panties was so stupid I completely forgot it even happened.