Evidently, the Holidays are near with the Christmas card competition going on, but none of the staff appear to be in that merry mood. A bit of agitation and distraction prevail in the preview. The only one that seems a bit on the jolly side is Miss Birdy (Ann Guilbert). Good for her! Let’s find out what has everyone worked up.
Episode # 4 – “The Seventh Annual Christmas Card Competition”
I touched on the film making style of this show before, but this episode is exemplary of the technique in action. It is master at taking a small moment form scene 01 and making a significant moment of it a few scenes later and taking what seems a major plot point and resolving it quickly. Let’s look at a few examples that, in the end, will complete this review. The first example can take us right to the title of the episode.
The staff of the ward makes and prints Christmas cards to disperse to the children’s ward at the hospital to spread cheer. Inadvertently one of Dr. James elderly vulva snapshots gets sent instead and Paula is called in as it is a major HIPPA (patient privacy) breach. The setup and conclusion to this problem bookends the episode and the crises seems to be resolved with an apology to the supposed victim (our Miss Birdy Lamb). Now this incident seems to be a big plot point as the last thing this unit needs is a HIPPA review sniffing out violations. But, more than likely, this incident is resolved by the episode’s end and will be forgotten by this time next week. What you think is a big point is quickly concluded. Here is a moment.
Another seemingly major point is our patient problem of the week. Here is an opportunity to delve into tricky medical and ethical matters, but it too is readily resolved. On the ward is patient named Denya. She is in the hospice program and confides to Jenna James that she wants to die and asks for the doctor’s help to do so. In a few awkward moments played through the episode Denya grips Jenna’s hand and gives her life story to Jenna’s discomfort. All this is sad yet funny, as we know Jenna’s bedside manner has something to be desired. We could see Jenna’s dilemma play out throughout the remainder of the season, but instead we have a shocking ending to the situation. Jenna offers to send Denya home to self-medicate herself with a morphine drip, but there is no room for error in the medication regimen. As she makes the option clear she has taken the initiative to hold the patients hand. And that last moment is a good case for our other story technique. While the earlier incidents of hand holding were small humor laden moments they proved significant when Jenna initiates it one last time as a sign of compassion not often seen from her.
Moving on, the Christmas card kerfuffle was just a small matter with all the other distractions the plot line addresses. Dawn and Patsy are on the outs; the Hospice program is still an issue and hardworking DiDi is even distracted. What has caught her off-guard is a hot-hunk doctor on the floor. Dawn catches DiDi eyeing Dr. Owens when he is showing hip movement exercises to a patient across the way. Dawn makes the situation uncomfortable to Nurse Ortley while making introductions. DiDi is a married woman and doesn’t want the distraction or so she says. Later on one of those background moments becomes important again as Dr. Owens shows those moves to Didi in the break room that turns into a slow dance. This distraction for DiDi isn’t good. Nor is the argument between Dawn Forchette and Patsy De La Serda. They are clearly both hurt from the pregnancy scare and it seems, after a major tiff in the stairwell escalates they are done with each other. There is plenty of agitation there.
Jenna is agitated also. She starts off happy when she is included on a Fecal Incontinence Study but that quickly is replaced by annoyance with the spending of funds that Patsy is doing. She feels the money he is spending on new TVs in the rooms is eating into the money she is making on the hospice program. Remember, any bodies in the Hospice Plan means more turn-around and more money for Jenna’s research. She even pulls Birdy Lamb into the program which makes our Miss Birdy happy because she is in a posh suite now! That actress got some nice screen time this week. Also quite funny was how this show can turn a medical procedure into a slapstick routine as is witnessed in the nasal tube insertion bit this week. There are many moments tucked away in this episode to make you laugh.
So episode four not only gave us interesting plot points but was also a study of how this show shapes those plot lines. Remember as you watch, that often times, the smaller moments are the important threads and the bigger moments are actually short term incidents.
If you missed episode three refer to this post and here is a look at Episode 5.