Nurse Jackie

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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lythe Danner, who is suffering abdominal pain, and who is Fitch Cooper's mother, and who was forced to go to the hospital by Leslie, and who believes she just needs a Tums before she can go on her way. She asks him to have a look, and he protests that it's against the rules to treat family. "I gave birth to you, put you through med school. At least have a look. Don't be such a baby, Fitch." He complains, noting that among the other illegalities and indignities, he hasn't seen her stomach since he was a child.

Coop hurries Elenor over, but squeals as she's palpating her: "You're hurting my mother!" Eleanor tells him to calm down and calls him a ninny, and of course Mrs. Cooper reacts to that, and then beckons him to her bed with a crooked finger as they wheel her away. Leslie Scheinhorn -- Swoozie Kurtz -- arrives in the ER, complaining that it was Mrs. Cooper who insisted on coming to All Saints in particular, and he comforts his mother. She follows after the gurney, and Elenor stares at him. "I have two moms, yeah," he says offhandedly, and she looks him up and down. "Bravo, Dr. Cooper."

Paula's arms are shot through and Jackie can't find a vein. She requests crushed ice, "with a hemlock chaser," and Zoey suggests calling the hospice so they know she's coming. "I'm not going to hospice, Pippi Longstocking," Paula hisses, "Like I need more sad shit in my life? Put me in a room full of death." She tells Zoey she's sweet for asking, and turns to Jackie: "Christ?" Jackie sends poor Zoey off to get ice, and poor Zoey wongles off into the ER as weirdly as ever.

Into the bed next door the EMTs wheel Cat Ball Guy from a couple weeks ago. This time it's his hands: the cat switched on the garbage disposal while he was fishing out a fork. "I'm waiting for a vascular surgeon, and 'someone from Plastics,' whatever the fuck that means," he groans angrily. Paula, from the next bed over, offers her theory that he's "Cat Ball Guy" because he was naked and the cat pounced on his junk. Jackie swears she didn't tell her, and Paula laughs. "Cats are cats!" She tells a story about how one time a guy came in with his nuts in a baggie -- "Cat went apeshit on him!" -- prompting CBG to wheeze, "Who is she?"

Jackie closes the curtains, and nods when Paula suggests he should just kill the cat. No, that's not what she says. What Paula says is, "He needs to kill that cat." What Paula says is that something only has to hurt you so many times before you're ready to say goodbye.

Then it's later, and as Jackie pulls morphine into a needle, Elenor stands against a bathroom stall door, breezily: "You better not care more about that old nurse than you do about me, by the way." Inside the stall, Jackie worries over it; she'll need five times that much to get it done. Zoey comes looking for Jackie, but spotting Elenor, immediately disappears again. Jackie's voice is a little shaky as she tells Elenor it's better for her to leave for this part. "Nonsense. Nothing's better if I leave."

(I'm fairly certain I would adore Elenor in real life, and I love Jackie in all universes, and Coop is a foregone conclusion, but the proof that this show has accomplished creating its own tone and universe is the fact that I find Zoey hilarious and adorable on TV, but would hate her blackly in real life. If ever you think Elenor and/or Jackie are ever being bitches to her, remember that I would do worse. Gleefully. With malice of forethought. Nothing brings out my inner bully like this type of creeping, flesh-crawling awkwardness and aggressively tone-deaf inability to relate to human beings. On TV, my God she's awesome, but as an object lesson in what not to actually do, ever, she's like a red flag waving in front of a bull.)

Coop explains every single detail of her gall bladder surgery to his mother, finally prodding Elenor to ask if the textbook point-by-point was really necessary, and both moms assure her that it is. Mrs. Cooper likes to know everything before it happens, she says, and Mrs. Scheinhorn rolls her eyes: "She's impossible to watch movies with." Mrs. Cooper asks Elenor to let her son "assist in the opening of [her] abdominal wall," and Elenor finally relents, "as long as he doesn't touch anything." Which is a funny line, but we don't know that yet. So Elenor removes it, and he asks to see it, and he asks for a jar to put it in, and then his mother's BP drops suddenly, and he responds by grabbing Elenor's breast. She stares him down, he notices (or "notices") and lets go: "There's a good boy."

(It is vertiginous, though, because he's such a fraud and because I think he honestly doesn't know when he's defrauding, but we know from this episode that he did grow up with OCD and Tourette's, in some form, and although it's doubtful that he would act out like this consciously during his mother's life-threatening moment on the table, he's still such a giant asterisk that I don't feel we can definitively say what's going on. I'm sticking with "And neither can he.")

Then it's later and Zoey approaches Elenor with that weird professional voice she puts on whenever she's about to do something truly dreadful: "Doctor, can I have a minute of your time please?" Elenor, without looking up, replies in the affirmative. "Walk with me," Zoey says, and wanders off by herself. Eventually she comes back, permitting Elenor to stay where she's at. "Um. I sense that Jackie is going through something. And as her protégé, I think it's my duty to be there to support her." Elenor's eyes flash with delight: "Darling, your instincts are spot on." Jackie arrives behind Zoey, listening quietly, and Elenor doesn't give the slightest indication.

"And not to take anything away from your friendship with Jackie," Zoey says, causing Elenor to sputter with laughter, quickly hidden: "Of course not?" Zoey levels. "You're a doctor. She and I are both nurses. In the trenches together. You know? I want her to know that I'm here for her."

And I know I just said she gave me the creeps but I feel really sympathetic to this, which is really if you think about it the most brazenly offensive thing she's ever said. But death is... The rules are for before death. After death, other rules would apply, if there were any.

And that's just normal death. Euthanasia-in-a-hospital death, obliquely black-widow/mercy-killer nurse-stereotype death, opposite-of-palliative-care death, that's just a question mark with a question mark appended. That's confusion to the power of confusion, especially for somebody like Zoey, who honestly understands that her job performance is about dealing with real-life, awful physical issues in a professional way. Who understands that every other job is about carrying on in spite of medical issues, but her job, nursing, is about carrying on in the face of those things. And she's completely without a role model here, because in this instance Jackie has nothing to offer, or at least nothing that makes sense.

The wary, respectful relationship healers have with death, that snake around the caduceus, is reflexive and relative, and that's not something Zoey is prepared to handle yet. There should be activity in the face of death. Swords drawn, fists flying, guns blazing, bare knuckles. That's the job. But in the face of this particular death, the action is inaction. You stand there at the door and instead of sending him away, you invite him in. Into your bed, like a lover. Zoey's not prepared for that yet. But the more death she sees, the more kinds of negotiations she brokers, the more fights she wins and loses, the more rules she'll learn, for every kind of death. There's not a rite for this, just ritual.

But she's not there yet, so all she's got is Jackie Peyton, who she knows -- can tell -- isn't working right, because if she were working right she'd do what she always does: stare death down until he limps away. So all she's got is her need to crawl inside Jackie, and her own natural need to help, to heal, and if those aren't the tools required this time -

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Nurse Jackie

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