Shaun continues his stretch as Neil’s right-hand man at the surgical table while Claire scours the hospital to work out where a patient’s tissue specimen has gone before the patient has to make an incredibly difficult decision.
Shaun has half-heartedly taken on Aaron’s advise about looking for a life coach but it’s clear from the episode that he really doesn’t want to do it. Shaun wants to be completely independent or only get help from the people he knows and trusts like Aaron and – of recent episodes – Claire. It’s a tricky discussion point – at times it certainly seems like Aaron is being far too pushy and is patronising Shaun; on the other hand, there seems to be a deep history between Aaron and Shaun where Aaron has taken on a paternal role and knows Shaun very well – knowing the early warning signs that he isn’t coping. It falls apart a bit because you would hope that Aaron would have better strategies for communicating with Shaun after all these years.
The big plot-line in this episode is some kind of hospital outreach/benevolence/media ‘thing’ going on where a boy from the Congo has been selected to come to the US, to the hospital to receive life-changing treatment for a heart defect. Except the boy, Gabriel, was not one of the children from Neil’s original short-list of children suggested for treatment – he’s one selected by Chair and Vice President, Allegra Aoki, and his chances of successful surgery are very slim. Allegra admits to selecting Gabriel for a number of “intangibles”, including the fact that Gabriel is cute and media-friendly and that would bring a lot of positive attention to the hospital.
Claire is separate again from Jared and Shaun (a worrying point considering the point Neil made earlier in the series about the competitive nature of the residency) and working with Marcus (Chief of Surgery) and Isabel, a fellow doctor and married to Marcus. They are performing a routine specimen check of tissue samples from a podcaster, Elizabeth’s, throat to determine if she has cancer and needs surgery – which will result in her losing her voice. Thankfully, even though Claire is separate from the other two residents her and Shaun get some great scenes together, including discussing flirting rituals:
Shaun: Hair scuffing is used in both animals and humans Claire. Secreting glands are located in the scalp and fur scuffing sends hormones out into the environment to let a potential mate know they’re interested…or it could be ring worm.
Claire: Yeah…I suppose you have to factor for that possibility.
Claire and Shaun’s friendship is getting progressively better because their scenes together are becoming more natural and they are engaging in their own type of banter that just doesn’t exist between any of the other characters. They enjoy each other’s company and scenes where it’s just the two of them tend to steal the show when it comes to the more social scenes.
So while Neil and his team battle with their own views that surgery for Gabriel is too risky against a mother who believes that Neil is the savoir that she was told would come, Claire has to start scouring the hospital for the tissue specimen which has vanished. Claire and Carly, the lab tech, basically play Cluedo through the hospital up to and including interrogating people and drawing out convoluted route maps of specimens and where they go. Meanwhile, Shaun has an idea for something that might help Gabriel and, after a heart-felt speech from Gabriel’s mother, Neil agrees to go ahead.
Claire: (looking at Shaun’s “flirting spreadsheet”) That’s my name!
Shaun: You made flirting gestures.
Claire: No I didn’t.
Shaun: Yes, you did. You brushed your hair back, right hand, side sweeping.
Claire: At Dr Melendez? No I don’t think so… Shaun…no.
Shaun: (demonstrating her hair sweeping gesture) Yes.
So Gabriel goes into surgery with Shaun, once again, as Neil’s right hand man at the surgical table (after they practice over and over with the VR surgery which is pretty cool), and Claire lands herself in trouble when she apologises to Elizabeth for the hospital losing her sample.
Elizabeth now has to choose between having potentially unnecessary surgery which will cause her to lose her voice, or doing nothing and getting sicker because of cancer – at which point it could become terminal. Claire has been in and out of so many difficult situations in the last few episodes that there’s a certain dread for next week’s Christmas mid-point. Even though Jared and Shaun have arguably done things which are just as bad as Claire – they seem to have largely avoided repercussions. After all, regardless of the morality of the situation – Jared has been actively involved in a patient’s death and Shaun lied to a patient and his parents to try and pursue a theory that had very little chance of being right, yet seem to have avoided quite the same scrutiny as Claire has.
Gabriel’s surgery is a tense affair as they operate for nearly 7 hours and this is intermingled with Claire’s continual hunt as a new idea comes to her. Gabriel’s surgery looks set to fail when Neil makes a judgment call that at first seems to have condemned him to death. Except this is a happy episode and so in the final minutes Claire comes through for her patient – finding the wayward specimen and showing that Elizabeth is cancer free – and Neil locates a reattachment point that will make Gabriel’s surgery a success. Of course that means the next episode may be significantly less positive but it does make for good watching when you’re rooting for them to come through in the end.
I don’t know how I’ll cope with waiting it out over the Christmas period! Still – one more episode before I have to process that one.