It's night shift in the ER this week, and the absurd script massage to explain why the whole cast suddenly switched shifts is more absurd and noticeable than the fact that the whole cast suddenly switched shifts. Good thing the dialogue and guest stars -- not to mention Thor, and Zoey's many little moments -- are so hilarious this week, because otherwise, with the intense development in the Grace story, the heavy parallels between Jackie and her patients, and the networky insulting explanations of things, this might not have been the most enjoyable episode so far.
Instead, it is. Or at least since the third one. There's even a little slapstick, if you're into that: Mrs. Akalitus intervenes as Jackie tries to help a lupus patient's 10-year-old daughter bend the rules, and eventually tasers herself. It's hilarious, but the outcome -- a formal declaration of war, basically -- is a little chilling.
The rest of the episode is basically a series of unfortunate attempts to eat a midnight lunch. First, to get some afternoon delight with Eddie, Jackie begs off dinner with Eleanor, who responds by "replacing" her with Zoey, with predictably awesome results. But sadly, Eddie's now all tied up with cockblocking Coop, who has co-opted Eddie to be his new best friend. (You know, the kind of friend who calls bullshit on your inappropriate-touching disorder, causing you to give a cryptic smile that may or may not mean it's imaginary.) So Jackie finally tries using Thor's crush on Mo-Mo to get some pizza, which also fails.
The episode ends with two epiphanies: First, lupus daughter Stephanie's spelling test flashcards give Jackie a way to let a stroke patient tell his horrible family to fuck off. Second, as Jackie walks Stephanie through the valley of off-label pain management over the phone -- while downing her own drugs in tandem -- she realizes she's been spending all her compassion at work, while Gracie's still drowning at home.
Watching Jackie go from an immediate and respectful grasp of the situation, through her fierce protectiveness of the girl, to this last awful realization is really edifying, in terms of the way actors have to pace their emotional tone. It adds a very grounding note, which in turn, makes the whole thing ten times sadder, and realer, which is like the whole point of acting. If you're not watching this show, you should start. If you are, you should start watching, like, harder. Or more. Or something.
Next week: The meanest nurse of all time shows up looking to finish things up, and Coop's moms arrive at All Saints.
Discuss this episode in our Nurse Jackie forums, then see why vlogger Sean Crespo can relate to Jackie in No Prior Knowledge!
Jackie's unnerved once again by some Grace Peyton original art, this one a landscape stuck to the fridge showing a windy beach, trees almost bent back from wind, angry black clouds dominating. "Who draws Florida with no sun? It's the goddamn sunshine state," she thinks. About her daughter. Who is standing across the room, grunting with the attempt to open a bottle of kiddie vitamins, eventually so frustrated she throws them on the floor. Kevin twitches, but Jackie just says she'll get it, and picks them up, moving around her daughter, who is standing right there.
The girls want to know why she always has to work, and Jackie tells them to give her a break. Fiona pops some french fries up her nose, being awesome, and Kevin tries not to laugh. "Fi, that's gross." She asks Jackie to stay home like one time, and Jackie says she will, but not today. "It sucks for me, too," she says. To her daughters. Fiona reaches out with a fry, for Gracie's nose, and she storms away. Jackie sighs, the inordinate pressure of Grace, the weight of her, like an angry black cloud, and Kevin tells her to breathe. Alone with her daddy, Fiona sticks a fry up his nose, and he grins to himself. "Pass the ketchup?"
Then it's later, and Mo-Mo's rushing past Jackie in ER reception -- "You haven't seen me" -- and is quickly followed by Thor, who asks after Mo-Mo. (I always wanted to write a novel about a twink's adventures in community theatre, entitled Pursued By A Bear. Drawbacks, as I see them: I know nothing about community theatre, and even less about the inner workings of the fragile urban stage twink. And to be honest, I was only motivated at this time by the desire to become Grace Paley, and perhaps more so by a strange logic that somehow made this another step in my quest to meet Paul Gross, which is still I think a modest but admirable goal.)
So yeah, Mo-Mo exits, pursued by a bear, and Jackie turns to Zoey, who's training in triage tonight. "Whatever they tell you, type in their file. Whatever they don't tell you but you know to be true, type in their file." They discuss the differences between day and night shifts -- "More stab wounds, more drunks; less nut jobs, less children" -- and the degrees of severity -- gunshots, stabbings, cardiac arrest; bleeders and shallow breathers -- and Zoey asks about the ones that can't breathe at all. "They are already dead," Jackie jokes seriously. "They go to the waiting room."
From a sudden cloud of red poppy smoke, Gloria Akalitus appears, sonorous voice clanging: "Correction..." She quotes the book and Jackie quotes right along with her, explaining that she was obviously kidding and that Zoey would have figured it out. "I am actually pretty smart," Zoey says, looking at a corner of the ceiling. "But also very nervous," she says, the words dribbling out onto her scrubs. "Can't relate," Akalitus says, and turns to Jackie so they can have a meaningless discussion about how come the whole cast is working nights, well, the reason is that Jackie sets the schedule and works with the people she likes. Unnecessary and distracting, but then there are plenty of people who will sleep better knowing they even acknowledged it to that degree, even if it means they have less to complain endlessly about on the internet.