Man, this middle third has been fucking fantastic, hasn't it? The last three or four have just been the best this show has done. I'm so proud. A girl who works for Allure winds up in the ER with a bullet in the head, and Jackie promises her she'll be around after the surgery. If you know Jackie, you know that didn't happen; what you might not expect is how roundly and effectively she calls Jackie on it. I don't know what it is about the character, but she's phenomenal and I hope we see her again.
The other case, a gay couple with a DNR situation, is just as powerful -- funny, touching, intriguing -- with the added firepower of Harvey Fierstein, who's so known for being such a great actor and performer that you forget what a good actor he actually is. His exasperation at being treated -- by everybody from Coop to Thor -- as a walking sandwich board for GAYNESS is especially sour and well-tuned. I mean, not that playing a heartbroken lonely old gay near-widower is the freshest territory for him, and not that his tics aren't just as visible now as they've always been, but he still managed to wring tears out of it.
Which is sort of a thing with this whole episode, which: This is not the show you go to for crying. It's too bright and acidic for that, which has always been its greatest strength given the subject matter. But man, this episode just tugged every heartstring. Like, Jackie's talking to Eleanor about the breakup with Sarah, and tries to explain how you can love two people at once, and Eleanor's response -- "I'd rather be dead than be Kevin or Eddie" -- is as true and breathtakingly awful as it is funny. And when Jackie sweetly replies that she liked Sarah but won't miss her -- "I like being your girl" -- it's like you're called upon shed the tears Eleanor can't. Gorgeous stuff.
In actual story terms, Jackie and Eleanor crash Fiona's Show & Tell -- removing the fake cast in front of the teacher and proving Fi's not being abused -- while Kevin takes Grace to her first psych appointment. Grace isn't talking to Jackie, still, and for the record Eleanor acts even more insane around multiple kids than she does in front of just a few.
Coop meets up with an old school chum, the lovely Georgia (through whom we learn that the compulsive boob-grabbing started long ago, which I always wondered about) and -- riding high on the Face Of All Saints thing, and having mercifully given up tweeting for good -- decides to set her up with Eddie. Good idea, right? Except for how he brings his date to Kevin's bar, where Eleanor has requested a night of drinking with her favorite couple in Queens.
Once Eddie starts daring everybody to connect the dots, referencing All Saints staff in front of Kevin and the like, Eleanor grabs Jackie and jerks her out of there faster than the hook on The Gong Show -- but not before they can have that same threatening conversation again they have every week. Dying to find out what happens in the last act? Me too!
So between the fake cast, the Real Blood, and her stitched-up lip, all of which are completely making her day, Fiona is no match for her well-meaning teacher, who assumes -- especially once she explains excitedly about how all of these procedures were done at home -- that something truly dreadful is going on at home. Of course, there is something dreadful going on at home, but not this particular thing he thinks. Thank God they sent Gracie to the special school, or else he could just take one look at her hooded living-bummer eyes and assume they were being kept in cardboard boxes labeled Sylvia Likens & A Boy Called It.
Teach calls Kevin with a quickness, and he gets very itchy and sounds, if rational, a bit on the defensive. Which is exactly what you would be, if somebody called about your daughter's fake broken arm and asked for a sensible explanation. She wanted the cast for Show & Tell, her mother is in fact a nurse, and how about we all sit down for a confab before anybody starts throwing government-agency words around. Firstly, that's good, because my reaction would have been to laugh weirdly and then start talking in a crazy British accent, because horrible possibilities are way worse than horrible certainties and I'm only good under certain kinds of stress. But honestly, you would think that being Fiona's teacher you would've at least learned the basics of Fiona, which is: Whatever the weirdest most morbid reasoning might be, bingo that's your answer.
Lots going on in this episode. For an act-break it's fairly nice, the busy-bee calm before whatever storm is coming, but frankly it's the power of the guest stars and not their roles that makes the difference here. Because all I'm getting from where I'm sitting is a rather hackneyed Patients Are People Too sort of parallel structure, in which both major cases exist to make a point that doesn't really need to be made. And in pursuit of that, you have one story that works -- by relating to the actual people of the show, namely Jackie -- and one story that works only because Harvey Fierstein is a national treasure, but gets there by pulling out every single hoary cliché in the book to do so, from Terms Of Endearment screeching to the kind of strident morality you'd expect from a Hallmark Hall Of Fame Blue Ribbon Special Presentation. Nobody even really does anything bad or inexplicable to him, but there's not a moment he's not squealing like Ronald Reagan himself just threw Ed Koch at his head.