‘Saving Hope’ has been improving with each episode and last week’s captivating installment continues to raise the stakes for Alex and Charlie. Alex’s enigmatic case of the week presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for Charlie to connect with her from the other side and the fate of their supernatural reunion rests in the hands of a self-serving hypnotist. This serendipitous chance also finds Alex when she needs it most as she struggles to face a life-changing prospect. Meanwhile, Maggie enlists Gavin’s help with a volatile psych patient and she forces Joel to reconsider his position on their relationship.
“The Great Randall” opens with a shocking question that looms over the entire episode: Is Alex pregnant with Charlie’s child? Judging by the look on Charlie’s face, this clearly gives him some much needed incentive to fight his way back to the real world, but Alex is too afraid to face the music so quickly. While she puts her potential pregnancy on the back burner, she shifts her focus onto Hope-Zion’s newest bizarre patient.
Paramedics wheel in an amnesiac man with a rebar sticking out of his chest, but there is a catch. He is deliriously happy and feels no pain. Joel and Alex check out his x-ray before operating on him and ask if he is on any kind of medication, but the Boy Scout “crosses [his] heart” and promises that he is completely clean. Joel awkwardly addresses him as “Mr. Sir” and proceeds to explain the complications caused by the rebar, so in an effort to help the doctors out, Mr. Sir shockingly pulls the bar out of his chest and passes out. They manage to stabilize him and speak with him after the surgery. Alex, Joel and Victor rifle through Mr. Sir’s belongings hoping to discover his identity and the cause of his painlessness. Alex discovers a business card for The Great Randall, a hypnotist, and she calls him in for insight on their mystery man.
Alex checks with Gavin on the effects of hypnotism. Gavin confirms that hypnotism can change a person, so she has him try to hypnotize Mr. Sir. However, Mr. Sir’s eager interruptions and child-like jesting prevent Gavin from effectively hypnotizing him. While she waits for Randall to arrive, her thoughts shift back to another great mystery: is she pregnant or not?! Since Melanda was there when Alex first realized that she might be pregnant, she confides in her friend about her conflicting situation.
Alex reveals that she could not take the pregnancy test because now she wants to have a baby. She confesses that with Charlie in a coma, Alex would like to have a part of him with her. Before she can continue, Alex is paged away and the scene transitions to Charlie expressing his thoughts on having a baby. As he looks into the nursery, he explains how the maternity ward is the “happiest place in a hospital” because the ultimate reward is always worthy of the screams from women in agonizing pain. Wistfully pondering his impending parenthood, Charlie continues to walk through the hospital when he suddenly crosses paths with Randall who sarcastically quips, “Nice tux.” While Charlie remains puzzled by the encounter, Randall follows Alex to visit Mr. Sir.
Randall reverses the hypnosis, causing Mr. Sir to regain his memory and a whole lot of pain. It turns out the mystery man’s name is Chester Mills and he was hypnotized to get rid of a chronic pain in his stomach that could never be cured. Charlie’s narration aptly informs us, “Doctors call pain a vital sign.” Chester provides his medial history, explaining that his pain had lasted for five years and previous doctors could not figure out the cause of it, so he got hypnotized to numb the pain. Randall describes it as “freedom of the mind,” but Alex fears that it could be something serious and insists on thoroughly examining Chester’s records to find the source of his problem. As Alex heads out of Chester’s room, Randall asks her about compensation for the hypnosis, but she tells him to chalk it up to doing a good deed. Before she walks away, he observes, “There is a great sadness about you,” but she dismisses his comment and leaves. When Alex tells Zach that she isn’t done with Chester, he coldly says she did her part and doesn’t need to look into it any further, but she does not want to fail him like all of the other doctors in his past. While Alex tracks down medical leads, Charlie tries to seize a rare opportunity.
Randall rides down the elevator with Charlie and finally realizes that he is seeing a spirit, so he tells Charlie to leave him alone. When Charlie pursues him, Randall explains that the last time he interacted with a dead guy he was institutionalized. However, Charlie refuses to take “No” for an answer and stresses the importance of this favor. Charlie asks Randall to tell Alex that the pregnancy is okay and he wants to be a father. Randall grabs a coffee, chats with Charlie and waits to see Alex.
In a ‘Ghost’-like scene, Alex scoffs at Randall’s claims and Charlie tries to point out details that could convince her otherwise, for example, the necklace she always wears is a birthday gift Charlie gave her the year before. Randall snaps at her to go away if she thinks he is crazy, but he insists that Charlie is sitting next to her. In one of the show’s best scenes yet, Alex turns to face an invisible Charlie and with a quivering voice she begs, “Charlie, if you’re there, you need to wake up.” Charlie tears up, asking her to have faith and saying that he is trying. He waits for Randall to talk to her about the pregnancy, but he pulls her aside and hustles her for cash before revealing anymore info. Disgusted by his manipulation, she chastises him for preying on those who are holding out for hope and then storms off. With tears still streaming down his cheeks, Charlie cannot believe how Randall blew his once-in-a-lifetime chance to connect with Alex. While Charlie lingers in limbo feeling hopeless once again, Alex returns to check on Chester.
She takes him for a walk down the hall and learns more about his life. Chester used to be a happy-go-lucky car salesman, but his severe pain pushed his girlfriend away and turned him into the miserable man he is today. Alex wrestles with what could be the cause of his pain and the answer unexpectedly hits her when she is riding in the elevator with Nurse Jackson and other doctors. After seeing Chester’s bubbling skin earlier in the day, Jackson starts joking about Chester being a vampire and teases about making him a “garlic and holy water enema.” However, Alex thinks Jackson has a point and meets Joel in the lab to run one more test on Chester’s urine sample. Chester’s pee turns neon pink, indicating that he has porphyria, which is also known as the “vampire disease.” Alex tells Chester the news, instructing him that there should be no sun, alcohol, or stress in his life. However, Chester is disappointed to learn that there is no cure and he will have to learn to manage his life-long condition. Charlie poignantly narrates, “If you can name it, but can’t change it, does it help?” In Chester’s case, apparently it doesn’t help. Now that Chester has faced his condition head-on, it is time for Alex to determine her fate.
As Alex takes the pregnancy test, Charlie and Melanda pace outside and wait for the result. Surprisingly, Alex quickly leaves the room without saying anything. As she breezes through the halls, Randall reaches out to her to make amends. He tells Alex that Charlie ceaselessly pines for her, but she doesn’t believe him and walks off. However, as we have learned throughout the course of the episode, Randall is not the only man getting the cold shoulder.
Maggie has been giving Joel a hard time ever since he chose Alex over her in the surgery. She pretends to brush it off at first, but when he pulls her into an empty room for an impromptu make-out session, she abruptly stops him to have “The Talk.” She confesses her disappointment in him and he claims she knew the kind of arrangement she was getting into when she started hooking-up with him, so she has no right to be upset over it. Maggie tells Joel that now she wants something more from their relationship and breaks off their current arrangement. As the day progresses, Joel continues working with Alex and Maggie consults Gavin on her psych patient.
While Joel and Alex have been working on Chester, Gavin and Maggie have been perplexed by their own difficult case. A young woman named Heather enters the E.R. claiming that her mother pushed her down the stairs. Her neck is stuck in an awkward position, she speaks in rhymes, and she comes off as erratic, so Maggie immediately gets Gavin to help her out. As Heather’s explosive temper erupts, she lashes out at her doctors and they call her mother to come in. Heather’s mother tells them that she is delusional and often goes off her medication. Gavin speaks with her mom about changing her meds, but she does not want Heather to have any more false hope and refuses to take his advice. However, Gavin decides to speak with Heather directly; he tells her that she can meet with him weekly to discuss the antagonizing voices in her head. He also adjusts the kink in her neck, explaining that it is a side-effect of her medication and he prescribes her something better. Heather agrees to Gavin’s new treatment and tells her mother that she wants to become more independent and lead a stable life. With two medical mysteries answered, all that is left to be resolved are the lingering matters of the heart.
Joel reaches out to Alex about his situation with Maggie and asks her what women want. He realizes he is a jerk for the way he treated Maggie, even though he was just trying to be honest with her about how he felt. Alex then tells Joel about how foolish she feels after falling for Randall’s gimmick. She was so desperate to believe and now she just feels like an idiot, but Joel assures her that she is not. In return, Alex tells Joel that he is not a jerk, he is simply a chicken for not opening himself up to a real relationship with Maggie. They both go their separate ways to take care of their unresolved business.
Alex goes to Charlie and tells him that she is sadly not pregnant and he is clearly disappointed. The scene then flashes back, showing us a conversation between Alex and Charlie earlier in their relationship. Charlie thinks Alex is lucky to have had a brother, then he impulsively suggests they “Roll the dice” and try to make a baby. Alex argues that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child now because she wants to focus on her career. Charlie predicts she will change her mind someday and goes to teasingly pick baby names deriving from Charlie. While Alex seemingly regrets changing her mind a little too late, Joel scrambles to save his relationship before he has something to regret himself. Joel takes Maggie her favorite coffee and says he wants to be her boyfriend, so they officially mark their status as a couple.
As the episode concludes, Charlie describes the difference between pain and suffering. He explains that pain is in the body, whereas suffering is of the mind and feels infinite. He says, “Maybe the key is to feel your pain and learn from it… [Hoping] someday your suffering might disappear.”
What did you think of “The Great Randall”? Do you feel that ‘Saving Hope’ has been improving? Is there anything you still wish to see on the show? Did you like this week’s theme of pain vs suffering? Share you thoughts below!
- Michael Shanks: This has been his best episode yet, although he still could have been featured in it more. His performance was moving without being over the top and we could truly see Charlie’s heart aching because he wasn’t distracted by some other spirit of the week.
- Alex’s openness to the supernatural: Alex feels like she has been fooled every time she opens herself up to believe in something that is “out of the box.” Will Randall’s greed keep Alex from exploring the idea of speaking to Charlie through a medium?
This article was originally published on Examiner.com on July 19, 2012.