The question of how Shaun would cope under pressure has been raised multiple times so far and this episode gives viewers their first glimpse of that. As the three residents all face their first multi-casualty incident on the night shift, each faces their own problems.
First I would like to address that there was no mention of Shaun’s conduct in the previous episode, despite the fact that it should have at least been referenced. I wonder if it’s being stored up to be used as an argument against him completing his residency later in the series or whether it is another instance of each episode being a little too self-contained and lacking continuity.
This episode centres on the three residents and the patient assigned to them from a bus crash. What I think is nicely done is showing that all the residents struggle when put under pressure – Shaun is not singled out in this regard. Jared panics and wants to perform a procedure on a patient which would not help, luckily for him the chief of surgery, Marcus, steps in to stop him and perform the correct procedure. Claire freezes up completely when faced with a patient and has to be brought back on track by Neil – although his behaviour regarding Claire for the rest of the episode counteracts his assistance there. Finally, Shaun is on the verge of becoming overwhelmed and has to be directly instructed to go to a patient.
Having been the target of Neil’s criticism so far, Shaun finds himself somewhat elevated in this episode whilst Claire replaces him. Despite it being Claire’s idea to attempt a titanium, 3D printed femur replacement for a patient who otherwise faces an amputation, Neil does not believe the idea came from her. He makes what seems to be a loaded comment about knowing it’s not her idea because he’s worked with her. Claire’s shift then goes from bad to worse when she accidentally kills a patient.
The acting from Antonia Thomas in this part of the episode is really well done in my opinion. Claire is racing under pressure to find someone who has been left out near the scene of the accident, she performs an in-the-field burr hole to relieve the build up of pressure in the brain of the patient and races back to hospital with her. They cannot save the patient and it comes to light that the reason the patient died is because Claire messed up doing the intubation. When this news is broken to her – the understated but devastated response played by Thomas is perfect. There’s no grand outcry, just this moment of utter dismay that permeates Claire’s whole character. It will be a shame if they go the same way as the inconsistencies in Shaun’s character development and never mention this again as it should be a pivotal moment for her.
Shaun’s character shines during this episode and it is good to finally see Neil appreciating the value of Shaun’s strengths and knowledge. There’s still doubts about his ability to cope with the social demands of the job and that’s fine because it is true – his social/communication difficulties do interfere with his ability to do parts of his job and they do need to be discussed. What’s a shame so far if that there seems to be nothing to support him in developing in these areas of difficulty.