Nurse Jackie: “Daffodil” and “Tiny Bubbles”
Posted by therebelprince on July 29, 2009
“What about people who can’t breathe at all?”
“They are already dead. They go to the waiting room.”
– Zoey and Jackie
This week, we get the best episode so far, and an average episode bolstered by some fabulous performances. Both episodes strongly let us know why the show is called “Nurse Jackie“: it’s all Edie, all the time.
“Daffodil“ is my favourite episode from the first six, with only one tiny misstep in its hilarious scope. Jackie spends all her time with patients this week, first an stroke victim’s abrasive wife (Adinah Alexander), and then a young girl (Tomorrow Montgomery) who is the sole carer for her lupus-stricken mother (Darlesia Cearcy). I’ve finally figured out the answer to my question posed last week, about what makes Showtime’s medical drama a horse of a different colour: it lacks the sentiment. Sure, Jackie always gives the right advice, and it’s not that the patients are treated without compassion, but none of the other medical drama cliches remain. Neither of the patients in “Daffodil” in anyway echo the lives of those around them (at least not deliberately). Jackie’s farewell to young Stephanie is played with minimal sentiment, and there is no non-diagetic music to make sure we understand the mood the show is trying to make.
Meanwhile, “Daffodil” is filled with great character moments. At home, Kevin is adorable with Grace and Fiona (Daisy Tahan). He’s a great dad and it’s a relief that the show isn’t throwing us any cheap reasons for Jackie cheating. In a throwaway moment, Mo-Mo mentions that he wants to set Jackie up. I’m really intrigued by this. On the one hand, we’ll learn next week in “Steak Knife” that he doesn’t know about her affair. But on the other hand, clearly he thinks nothing of her marriage. Why is she with Kevin, then? Is it the kids? Clearly she feels close to him, but their sexual problems are bubbling beneath the surface and will undoubtedly boil by season’s end. I can’t wait to see who breaks first in this relationship, or if by some chance these two will make it work. (I doubt it.)
In other stories, Mo-Mo tries to avoid the attentions of Thor (Stephen Wallem) – in this workplace where no-one seems to be aware that anyone else is in a relationship; Coop’s freakish Tourettes’ style touching of others continues, as does his awkwardness as he forces Eddie to have takeout with him, disturbing Jackie’s delicate sex schedule; and Zoey and O’Hara dine together after Jackie turns down the doctor’s invitation. It’s probably the most hilarious scene of the episode. I am completely in love with Eve Best, and Merritt Wever expertly tackles Zoey’s thought-through but simplistic psychological analysis of O’Hara.
If there’s one thing that is a detriment to this episode, it’s the “wacky” “physical comedy” side of Mrs. Akalitus’ character. She’s beginning to develop slightly (here she tells Jackie that she’s screwed the system more times than anyone can count) and lord knows I’m happy to have Anna Deavere Smith back on my television screen, but thise periodic moments – here, Mrs. Akalitus accidentally tasers herself – seem like they belong on Grey’s Anatomy. It’s not Deavere Smith‘s fault, but the more natural comic moments, particularly with Best and Wever, feel more atune to this show.
On a sidenote, I wonder why Deavere Smith is only a guest star. She’s appeared pretty frequently, and has been as important overall as, say, Mo-Mo. I’ll be interested to see if it’s just a budget/contract thing, or if we’re going to lose her character by season’s end.
“Tiny Bubbles” focusses itself on two storylines, both involving veteran theatre actresses. In the first, nurse Paula (Judith Ivey) checks in. She’s severely cancer-stricken and wants nothing more than to die with dignity, a task which all of the nurses pitch in to provide. Paula’s stay provides us with some insight into the processes of the hospital: Eddie assures us that this kind of thing never happens, but in this situation everyone stands together. (Mrs. Akalitus shows a brusque exterior but she doesn’t seem to be asking too many questions).
Ivey is grand as Paula, and her death scene is sad but beautiful as the nurses gather round including Zoey, who after a moral dilemma has chosen to stand by them. It’s refreshing (that word again!) that Zoey’s dilemma is not over the death itself, but over whether not standing with them will make her an outcast.
I know I should talk more about the ethics of euthanasia, but to be honest that’s neither here nor there. Watching HBO or Showtime is deliberately not about judging the characters, it’s about understanding them. If I can give myself over to a mobster and a brutish saloon keeper, I think I can stomach some tough nurses.
After all is said and done, Jackie ends up in Paula’s empty apartment, full of boxes and devoid of life. Is this why Jackie is with Kevin? Because the recklessness is more exciting when you can crawl back into a comfortable, loving bed at day’s end?
In the second storyline of “Tiny Bubbles”, Cooper’s two mothers (Blythe Danner and Swoosie Kurtz, naturally) check in when the former’s gall bladder needs removing. Both of these women are looking remarkable – particularly Danner – but it’s a pretty low-key subplot for two such grande dames. I hope we see them back at some point, because I’m loving every moment of introspection into Cooper’s life.
* I haven’t talked about the opening sequence yet. I don’t find it as interesting as, say, True Blood‘s (possibly the hallmark) but I like its clinical slyness.
* Grace will be moving to a private school by the looks of it. Her drawing of Florida without any sun (Jackie: “It’s the Sunshine state!”) was a crack-up.
* It seems that O’Hara knows about Jackie’s drug use, from their scene in the bathroom together. I’m sure she’s not enough of an idiot to not recognise the sniffing sounds. Interesting…
* And we have our first recurring patient in Mr. Batali (Daniel London), whose cat is slowly taking him down.
Next week: I’ll catch up to the series’ real time schedule, so I can hopefully go week-to-week from then on. And check out this article: Is Nursing Really Ready For Super Stardom?