Nurse Jackie: “Steak Knife”
Posted by therebelprince on July 30, 2009
This week, God speaks to the staff of All Saints Hospital. If only he’d tell the writers what to do with Mrs. Akalitus…
“Steak Knife“ is a great episode, which plays around with the wonderfully ambiguous character relationships and gives a good amount of screentime to just about everyone.
At the centre, I guess, is Jackie’s relationship with Eddie. It’s their one-year anniversary and he buys her a Cartier bracelet, but when she rejects it – out of surprise and uncomfortableness – he turns against her, making an offhand comment about her drug abuse, and then giving the bracelet to Coop, who hilariously flaunts it around the hospital. Peter Facinelli is great (and about the only thing to be stomached in the Twilight films). His friendship with Eddie is wonderful, since it seems to be Coop trying really hard and Eddie simply not saying no.
Jackie continues to alternately help and hate her patients: the former, through a new couple (Yetta Gottesman and Zak Orth) whose first date is unfortunately ruined by a stabbing. Jackie’s scenes with Gottesman‘s character are sweet even in their broader comic moments, and contrast nicely with her brusque treatment of a pedophile (James Georgiades).
It’s probably time to mention Jackie’s “ethics”, since they’ve been the subject of much press. You know, from my own experience working in a hospital I’ll give credit to Coop, Zoey, Mo-Mo and O’Hara, but Jackie certainly isn’t like anyone I know. I don’t think she’s a letdown in terms of clinical competency, but I accept that her methods of treatment would hardly be board certified. Her ripping of the pedophile’s catheter this week; her ear-flushing exploits in the pilot, and so on seem to take away from her overall healing vibe, since judgement is the main thing health workers should leave at home. Let’s be honest, though: first, this is television. And I think I enjoy the fact that she’s somewhat controversial. No, Jackie is no saint but she’s no more cruel than, say, House – and despite Hugh Laurie‘s performance, that curmudgeon is much more annoying and much less realistic in his tenacious ability to stay employed. I certainly hope this show never reaches the point where Jackie’s treatment truly adversely affects a patient (although the ear thing could come close) but so far, the show seems to believe in consequences for actions, and that’s what is important. I know I seem to be hedging my bets on this argument, but I’m seasoned enough to know that we’re going to have to give the show some time before we can fully discuss its views and implications.
While I’m really enjoying watching Jackie, I’m regretting every minute we spend on Mrs. Akalitus. This week, she “hilariously” finds a baby in the hospital and spends the entire episode (which apparently takes place over the better part of a shift) carrying it around. Even putting aside the question of why the baby’s parents are absent for so many hours, what the frak is going on? Not one moment of this is funny, and – to be honest – you could remove every Mrs. Akalitus scene since the pilot and the plot and character development would be no worse for wear. I don’t understand how these great writers can make such a horrible mistake in this instance: are they TRYING to get Anna Deavere Smith to leave the show? Did they sign her contract first, and then realise they had nothing for her character? My only assumption can be that Mrs. A will play a major role in the season’s denouement, and so they’re trying to seed the character as much as possible in the lead-up to this event. (And what kind of nurse accidentally lets a baby put a paperclip in their mouth? Puh-lease.)
But enough about the pain she has caused me, the rest of the episode is very enjoyable. It’s good to see Paul Schulze well used as Eddie, and Eve Best again gets some of the best moments. It appears I have to take back my comment last week: if O’Hara does know about Jackie’s drug use, she’s hiding it pretty well. There’s something in her eyes suggesting she knows Jackie is lying about being a “lightweight” when it comes to popping pills, but it’s not definitive.
After offering to pay for the girls’ tuition (an offer politely refused), O’Hara ends up consoling her loneliness by spending a night with the Peytons. There’s a slight animosity between her and Kevin which stems partly from her snootiness, and partly from his feelings of financial inadequacy. I really look forward to what is going to happen with Jackie’s relationship with her family. Grace, Fiona and Kevin are all incredibly likeable, and have a very natural family vibe. This is not your typical television broken relationship, and I appreciate the fact that what we’re witnessing is an honestly-portrayed case of infidelity. Jackie’s affair will greatly hurt her family, and they’re people that we care about, but so far we don’t know all the details. As I’ve said before, great television isn’t about judging the characters. It’s about watching their actions and trying to understand, or at least comprehend, why they do what they do. I’m not sure that Jackie will ever join Tony Soprano in the pantheon of television’s elite characters, but I’ll give her time. If anyone can pull off this feat, it is Edie Falco. She’s a wonderfully external actress who can’t fail to impress, yet every character she plays possesses such brilliant internal touches. It seems sycophantic, but I consider it a privilege to see her on screen every week, and working with such material.
In a gorgeous subplot, a crazy dude in the building opposite the hospital (“He’s like a homeless guy with an apartment”) hurls abuse at everyone, notably Zoey, throughout the day. The show goes a bit overboard punning on the fact that he’s been nicknamed “God” by the staff, but it’s a humorous running gag which adds to the overall atmosphere of a day on the job.
* The non-homeless homeless guy is played by Michael Buscemi, whose brother Steve directed the episode.
* The show’s most visually interesting moments thus far have been the slow-motion shots accompanying much of the drug use, here depicted when Jackie gives her patient morphine.
* Will Jackie giving away Eddie’s bracelet come back to haunt her? Probably, but more to the point: what a stupid present. I mean, it’s not something she can wear at work, but if she wears it at home wouldn’t it raise questions? Next time, get her a day at a spa, dude.
Next week: Someone calls Jackie on her drug problem. Well, it was bound to happen really…
And this week’s shoutout goes to the show’s mid-season spot check at The Ninth Dragon King