Alex enlists the help of a bohemian healer to continue Charlie’s coma arousal therapy and she bends the boundaries of professional ethics when her patient, Sandhya Ahuja, lapses into a coma after complications arise during a surgical procedure. As Charlie befriends Sandhya’s spirit in limbo, Alex tries to find a way to cure her. Meanwhile, Joel learns to overcome his stereotypical prejudice when he treats Karn, a tattoo and piercing riddled man who has been infected by surgically implanting horns into his head.
“Consenting Adults” begins with Charlie’s voice-over explaining how doctors “take pains to be clear with [their] patients” about the exact details of treatments and procedures they will undergo. Since these doctors spend their “days touching people,” it is important for the patients to know why and how they will be touched. As Charlie’s voice fades out, we can hear Alex tell Sandhya that she will need to remove the tumor in her bowel through laparoscopic surgery. Alex promises it is a simple procedure and ensures Sandhya and her family that she will be home by the end of the day. While Sandhya prepares for surgery, Alex checks in with Charlie.
Alex tells Melanda that she has hired Ashley, a masseuse who specializes in working on coma patients, to help treat Charlie. Suddenly, Charlie’s ex-wife Dawn interrupts their conversation and asks to visit him. She disapproves of the way Alex has been handling his treatment by callously saying he isn’t getting any better. While they argue, Ashley walks in and they are all surprised to see that the masseuse is a guitar wielding, free-spirited hippy dude. Melanda immediately jokes that Charlie would not want to be touched by him. Nonetheless, Alex finds comfort in knowing that someone spends time with Charlie when she can’t, so she decides to give Ashley a shot. Alex also tells Dawn that she isn’t at the hospital everyday with Charlie, so she doesn’t have the right to judge his progress. However, Dawn claims to have a better “perspective” since she has kept her distance and she harshly states again that Charlie is not waking up. As Alex’s blood boils, Charlie reassuringly whispers in her ear, “Don’t doubt yourself…You know me better than anyone. I’m right here.” Unable to hear Charlie’s kind words, Alex walks away from Dawn and gets back to her patient.
In the operating room, Alex speaks with Sandhya while the anesthesia is prepared. Sandhya says she is engaged to Sanjay, who looks like a Bollywood star, but she doesn’t seem too excited about her impending wedding. A few seconds later, the anesthesia kicks-in and they proceed with the surgery. Suddenly, Sandhya begins coding and convulsing. She appears to have had an adverse reaction to the anesthesia. Although she is unconscious, the doctors successfully save her from brain damage. Once Sandhya has stabilized, Alex speaks with interim-chief Dana about what they should tell the family. Alex doesn’t want to scare them, but Dana doesn’t want them to be given any false hope. She looks on from a distance as Alex informs the family.
Alex tells Sandhya’s mother and brother that she is stable, but unconscious. She also positively notes that things can change minute-to-minute and promises that there is no reason Sandhya can’t wake up and be out of the hospital by the end of the day. Dana calls Alex away and cautions her, “Less is more.” Meanwhile, Maggie, Joel, and Gavin are grappling with a unique patient of their own.
Maggie calls Joel to consult on her excessively tattooed and infected patient, Karn. As Joel examines Karn, he discovers that the horn implants have caused an infection which could spread into his bones and erode his skull if the silicone horns are not removed. Karn refuses to remove them because they are part of his identity. To be safe, Joel wants Karn to take a CT to see how far the infection has spread and asks Gavin to provide a psychological evaluation of Karn’s apparent identity issues.
Gavin speaks with Karn, whose real name is Damien, and learns more about this mysterious, odd-looking man. Karn got his first tattoo when he was 13 years old and had his first piercing at 16. He trained himself how to do it all on his own. Naturally, the procedures hurt, but it all depends on your philosophy. Karn explains, “Pain is an attitude…If you have a goal, you get over it.” He realizes that his appearance is off-putting to others, but it is simply a reflection of how he feels on the inside – horns and all. Everything on his body is merely a way to “mark [his] story.” Karn also assures Gavin that he wasn’t abused as a child. He reveals that his father was a military man who just didn’t like him. Gavin shares his diagnosis with Karn by saying, “You’re as sane as any of us.” While Gavin heads out to tell Joel, our attention turns to Charlie’s latest foe and surprising new friend.
Charlie follows Dawn as she speaks with his neurologist, Shahir. She clearly wants him to say that there is no hope left for Charlie to recover, but Shahir insists that the chance of him waking up is not impossible. As Shahir heads back to work, Charlie grows increasingly angry at Dawn for meddling in his life. However, his thoughts are interrupted when Sandhya’s spirit gleefully runs towards him. Charlie is the first person to have seen her, so she greets him with a hug. They go over to her room to see what the doctors are saying about her condition.
Shahir doesn’t know if Sandhya will regain consciousness and Alex clearly feels bad about what happened. Charlie empathizes with Sandhya, saying he knows that she wants to jump back into her body, but can’t. Surprisingly, Sandhya is enjoying the time she has to herself and is no rush to back. When Alex checks in on Charlie, Melanda tells her to fire Ashley because his singing is driving everybody crazy, but she wants him to work on Charlie a little while longer. Alex also officially informs Melanda that Dawn no longer has permission to see Charlie. Meanwhile, Charlie gives Sandhya a tour of the hospital and learns a lot about her as they roam through the halls.
As a Hindu, Sandhya does not fear death because she believes in reincarnation. In the meantime, she relishes her break from reality. Charlie, on the other hand, has a scientific view of death and believes that nothing happens when you die. He isn’t sure if there truly is a soul or if it is just a matter of synapses firing, but being stuck in limbo is causing him to question his beliefs. While they continue to philosophize, Gavin shares his opinion of Karn with Joel.
Gavin tells Joel to talk Karn through the procedure instead of commanding what needs to be done. He snaps at Joel for being so self-centered and for never considering how the other person feels. Joel lashes out with attitude and leaves to see Karn. Meanwhile, Alex gets into trouble with Dana for giving Sandhya’s family false hope.
When Dana and Alex update Sandhya’s family on her status, her mother tearfully confronts Alex on lying to them earlier by promising that Sandhya would be fine by the end of the day. After the family leaves her office, Dana scolds Alex for over-stepping her bounds. She reminds Alex that Sandhya is not Charlie and tells her that she should know patients hang on their every word, so she should be more careful. While Alex tries to figure out what is keeping Sandhya from waking up, Charlie and Sandhya continue their tour.
In the nursery, Charlie and Sandhya teasingly debate who the babies could have been reincarnated as. The moment sharply turns from joking to unsettling when the expression on Charlie’s face grows worrisome. Charlie fears his friends are forgetting him because they just see his incapacitated body and don’t see who he is anymore. Conversely, Sandhya feels like people don’t know her even though they do see her. In the middle of her sentence, Sandhya begins feeling weird and suddenly freezes. They follow her body and find Alex removing a blood clot from her leg in the O.R. Sandhya doubts Alex’s ability, but Charlie comforts her. He explains that Alex is his fiancée and she knows what she is doing, plus Alex feels guilty and awful for what happened. As things begin to look more promising for Sandhya, the daunting sight of her fiancé, Sanjay, makes her cringe.
She admits to Charlie that she wants to get away from her fiancé because she doesn’t love him. The wedding planned for this weekend is the result of an arranged marriage. She looks at him and thinks, “What’s wrong with this guy?” Based on her explanation, the guy seems like a jerk. She loves to sing, but has a bad voice, so he refuses to let her do karaoke. He says he wants to have children, but he clearly doesn’t like them. Everything she learns about the man gives her another reason not to love him. Charlie’s relationship with Alex has been the complete opposite. He was married to the wrong women (Dawn) once before, so he could tell the difference with Alex. From the moment they met, she knew him inside-out, “warts and all.” He urges Sandhya to sing and joins her. They are belting-out “Tracks of My Tears” when the moment shifts from cheesy to perplexing as she abruptly pauses again. While Sandhya’s fate lingers in suspense, we get to catch up on Karn’s case.
Joel finally goes to convince Karn to remove the horns, but it seems Zack has let him check out of the hospital. Joel chases Karn down the crowded street. He finds a couple of construction workers antagonizing Karn for his appearance, but as Karn prepares to fight back, he collapses. Next thing you know, Joel is in the O.R. removing Karn’s infectious horns. Joel checks on Karn after the procedure and unexpectedly discovers that Karn has a lovely wife and little girl. He says the surgery was a success, but tells Karn that he cannot do procedures on himself anymore because he should only work in a sterile operating room. With one case cured, Alex continues to find the missing piece in Sandhya’s puzzle.
Alex and Shahir work together to find Sandhya’s core problem, which Charlie has already discovered by seeing how she freezes up in limbo. Charlie talks to Alex and tells her to focus on the symptoms. Ashley pops his head in and says he worked on her body earlier. He moved her rakhi and cleansed her chakra, restoring her equilibrium. He places his hand over her heart to show Alex what he did and Sandhya smiles. That’s when Alex figures it out. Sandhya’s body has been having seizures. They record her brain activity and prescribe the correct anti-convulsion medication, so she can stabilize and wake-up.
As the treatment starts to work, Sandhya tells Charlie how it is all interconnected because the doctors and Ashley both helped her. Sandhya feels like life is easier in limbo, especially since her life has been lacking so many important experiences. She wishes to have found a love like Charlie’s and asks him to kiss her. Although he appreciates the offer, he says he can’t. Suddenly, she senses her body calling her back to life. She feels connected to everyone in the room, including Alex. She describes how everything feels warm and wonderful. Charlie quickly kisses her, hoping to feel that connection to Alex, and Sandhya wakes-up.
Alex tells her she can go home in a couple of days and have the surgery after her honeymoon. Sandhya reveals that she doesn’t remember much about what happened during her coma. But, she surely felt safe and protected, as though someone was with her the whole time. Alex smiles and goes to Charlie’s room.
Alex gushes to Charlie about saving a coma patient. She knows she can help him too and she just has to figure out what she needs to do for him. Charlie agrees, “That’s right. You know me best.” The scene flashes back to Alex and Charlie having dinner. We learn that Charlie’s parents died when he was young and he was in the foster care system for a couple of years until he went to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm. Now that farm is for sale and Charlie isn’t sure what he should do. Without hesitation, Alex says she knows how much that place means to him and tells Charlie to buy it. Then Charlie’s narration resumes, “Every patient has a story…the truth is always there…begging us to do what needs to be done.”
Dawn aggressively approaches Alex and hands over some files. She has appealed to the board because she believes it is time to take Charlie off of life support. Alex believes Charlie can still wake-up if she gives him some more time. Dawn disagrees and she wants to have the legal right to make that decision. The episode leaves Alex, Charlie, and the audience in a state of shock, eagerly waiting to see what happens next.
What did you think about “Consenting Adults”? Were you surprised by Dawn’s actions? Does Dawn have a right to declare Charlie’s D.N.R.? How did you feel about Karn and Sandhya’s side-stories and the affect they had on the doctors? Share your thoughts below!
- Dawn of the Dead: Well, now it is really clear why Charlie and Dawn’s relationship didn’t work out. She has no right to speak on his behalf. If the accident happened just after Alex and Charlie’s wedding, then Dawn couldn’t even claim to have a right because the law would be Alex’s side. So, now what? Will the board rule that Alex is practically Charlie’s wife and she has the right to make life-or-death decisions for him? Or does Dawn have enough clout as his ex-wife to over-rule Alex’s desires? What do you make of this situation?
- Charlie “The Alex Whisperer”:Poor Charlie keeps talking to Alex, hoping she will hear him one day. You’d think by now she would be looking for clues from the beyond because she has had three unrelated people claim to have seen him in the hospital. Do you think Alex will ever hear Charlie? Or does Charlie have to do something more drastic to get her attention?
This article was originally published on Examiner.com on July 25, 2012.
UPDATE (Summer 2016): ‘Saving Hope’ now airs on ION Television in the U.S. and still airs on CTV in Canada. Visit ‘Saving Hope’s’ ION TV homepage (HERE) or CTV Homepage (HERE) for details.