‘Saving Hope’ delivered another captivating episode with last Thursday’s “A New Beginning” when Charlie and Alex search for the missing piece in his medical puzzle. While Alex explores medical causes, Charlie’s encounter with a recently departed psychiatrist, Dr. Kendra Watts, causes him to face possible psychological and emotional blocks that are keeping him in limbo. Meanwhile, Dana takes Joel on a road trip to help him clear his head after chickening out on his first procedure since his bar-room brawl.
‘Shroom for improvement
As the episode opens, Alex and Shahir examine Charlie’s latest test results and are baffled by what they find. Charlie’s brain looks okay, but something must be missing because he is still comatose. Alex is relieved to know that Charlie’s breathing remains strong and steady, but Charlie is quick to urge Alex not to “settle” and keep searching for more clues. Determined to save her man, Alex kisses Charlie, whispers “Love you handsome,” and goes back to work. Charlie says he loves her too and waits to see what another day in limbo will bring him.
Paramedics rush in with TV personality, Dr. Kendra Watts (Kari Matchett, ‘Covert Affairs’), who is suffering from head trauma and possible poisoning from the mushrooms she ate in hopes of spiritually expanding her mind. While doctors work on Kendra and run tests on the mushroom samples her assistant brought in, Kendra’s spirit starts roaming the halls of Hope-Zion. As Kendra frantically passes by people without any acknowledgement, Charlie suddenly jumps out and startles her. Kendra thinks this is all part of her mushroom trip, but Charlie assures her that this experience is very real and they strike up a conversation.
Kendra explains how she is licensed psychiatrist with a TV Show, like Dr. Phil, and she tries to make sense of this hallucination. Both Charlie and Kendra wonder why her spirit is limbo, especially since she is still alive. Unfortunately, that thought comes to an abrupt end when Kendra dies and she sees her assistant setting up a press release to alert the media about her death. She says that Kendra was not a “real doctor,” but they can’t let her come off as a “hack” either. An appalled Kendra is still in denial, but Charlie rather bluntly tells her that she definitely is not going to wake up and she begins accepting reality.
Kendra humorously quips, “Shrooms! I could die if I wasn’t already dead…I’m a bigger joke dead that I was alive.” Charlie tries to comfort her and assumes she will cross over soon, unless she has some unfinished business. Kendra is intrigued by the concept; she wonders why Charlie hasn’t been able to move on and asks about what is unresolved in his life. Naturally, Charlie explains himself in medical terms and Kendra fiercely tries to break through his scientific defenses.
Charlie clarifies his reservations with psychiatry and explains how he prefers to fix things rather than talk about them. He feels the problem is neurological, but Kendra asks him to stop thinking like a surgeon and look at the bigger picture. Charlie argues that he has everything to live for, especially Alex, so it can’t be an emotional issue. Nonetheless, Kendra tries using bioenergetics to strengthen the connection between his mind and body. She believes that if he makes a mental/emotional breakthrough, it will affect his body and help him out of the coma. She starts aggressively asking him a series of questions, physically pushing him until he answers. She shouts: “Why are you stuck here? How does it make you feel? Why won’t you wake up?” Charlie finally admits that he feels scared and cheated out of his life and surprisingly reveals that he does not want to wake up. Despite the progress, Charlie feels this exercise is useless, until Kendra successfully gets through to the truth he has been hiding.
Kendra tells Charlie that she feels helping him is her unfinished business and she won’t move on until he faces his fears. Charlie insists that he wants to wake up more than anything, but Kendra knows a deep-seated fear is blocking him from moving on, so she persists further. When Kendra asks what he is afraid and to reveal the source of his pain, Charlie recalls a conversation he had with Alex.
In a flashback, Charlie looks at Alex and ponders what he would ever do without her. She teases him, saying that he is older, so he will surely die first and she will be left to pine for him. In response, Charlie tells Alex how he felt when he lost his parents. He was six years old when his parents tucked him into bed and went out for the evening, the next morning his aunt woke him up and told him his parents had died in a car accident. Charlie shut down and didn’t speak for a year. Alex feels how hard his heart is pounding just thinking about it and she promises him that she isn’t going anywhere. Back in present day, Kendra tells Charlie that he needs to take a look at the parts of himself he has hidden deep inside and figure out why he is afraid to wake up. She urges him to be brave and overcome his fears, so he can get back to his life. Charlie sincerely thanks her for helping and assures her that she is “no act.” With a job well done, Kendra moves on and Charlie is left with a new psychological puzzle to solve.
While Charlie is stuck in limbo, life keeps moving on in the real world and changes are taking place in Hope-Zion. Last week Tom Reycraft got Alex’s well-deserved job because of Charlie’s condition. This time, Brian from the Board approaches Dana about permanently replacing Charlie’s position, taking the “interim” out of Chief of Surgery. They are accepting applicants, but have been pleased with Dana’s work, so they want her to officially apply for the job. Dana says she’ll consider it and goes on with her day.
When Alex sees Dana, she shares her true feelings about Reycraft’s promotion by telling Dana that she is disappointed. Alex also realizes that she cannot give the hospital the kind of dedication and attention it needs right now. Alex promises Dana that once Charlie is “out of the woods,” they will “revisit this” matter. Meanwhile, Joel has trouble with some first-day-back-at-surgery jitters and Dana knows just what he needs.
In the operating room, Joel’s hand trembles as he hesitates to cut into his patient. He dramatically drops the scalpel, claiming he “can’t do this” and he sees Dana about taking a leave of absence, but she has a better idea.
Dana decides to take Joel with her on a road trip to her hometown, where she is scheduled to hold a continuing education seminar. In the car, Joel tells Dana that she should keep her job as chief of surgery and thinks she shouldn’t need to apply for a job that is already hers. Dana feels he makes a valid point, but she shifts the focus. Dana addresses Joel’s reservations in the operating room and attributes them to his difficulty with overcoming the haunting suicide he witnessed. Their conversation is cut-short when they arrive in Dana’s hometown and we see the sexism Dana had to overcome in her small town upbringing.
As they walk through town, Dana sees her old friend, Stephanie, and the two ladies plan on chatting later to set up a time to catch up. Moments later, Dr. Ron McBride approaches Joel as the Chief and thanks him for coming, but he soon learns that Dana is the doctor in charge. He apologizes for his mistake and they prepare for the seminar. During a break in their presentation, Dr. McBride admits he doesn’t hire as many female physicians because women are more likely to stop working in order to have a family, so he figures why bother hiring them in the first place. Dana is clearly disturbed by his mentality, but she doesn’t have time to argue because they get called out to a severe car accident.
When Dana arrives on the scene, she sees that Stephanie is trapped under a massive truck. She is losing consciousness and bleeding out, so Dana must act fast. Dr. McBride says an ambulance can be there in half an hour or more, but Dana insists that Stephanie only has 15 minutes to be freed from the truck. Dana asks Joel to overcome his issues and help her amputate Stephanie’s leg, so they can get her out. Improvising with the tools they have available, Joel uses a bolt cutter to sever Stephanie’s leg bone, while Dana keeps her stable. After a gutsy and successful save, Dana and Joel unwind over a beer and game of darts.
Dana assures Joel that his hand is fine and he proved it by the way he came through for her out in the field today. She also reveals how difficult it has been for her as woman in her profession. She confesses that she has been teased throughout her career by people who call her a “ball-breaker” and say she has a “peen.” She admits she may not be a good friend, mother, or person, but she is a good surgeon. Joel is quick to comfort her, saying her behavior today was “insane, inspired…and sexy.” Next thing you know, Joel and Dana’s trip has a “happy ending” and we flash-forward to the semi-awkward car ride back to Hope-Zion.
Given the nature of their prior interaction, it was clear Dana and Joel had some sort of romantic history, so this one-night stand might be easy for them to get over without too much awkwardness in the workplace. The road trip gave both of them the ego-boost they needed. Joel returns to the hospital ready to hit the O.R. and Dana calls up Brian to tell him how she really feels about their job offer. Dana says she is not going to apply for a job that she is already doing well, so they can simply keep her on as the official chief of surgery because her work is the only application she needs.
“A New Beginning” continues to demonstrate how much ‘Saving Hope’ has improved over the course of this season. The scenes between Michael Shanks and Kari Matchett were a joy to watch and revealed a huge breakthrough for Charlie. It will be interesting to see how he will overcome these deep-rooted obstacles and find a way back to his body.
What did you think of “A New Beginning”? What were your favorite moments? Do you think Charlie will be able to face his fears and fight his way back to Alex?
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- Other cases: Alex’s case-of-the-week involved Doug, a previous patient who lost 124 pounds. When he comes in for a routine check-up, his boyfriend, Rich urges Doug to tell Alex about his sore chest. Doug thinks he bruised a muscle when a weight fell on him in the gym, but after a few tests, Alex discovers that Doug has breast cancer. She performs a mastectomy, which makes Doug feel less desirable for Rich. He thinks Rich only fell in love with him after he lost the weight and got into shape, so he is really insecure about their relationship. He doesn’t want Rich to sees how he looks post-op, but Rich assures Doug that he loves him for who he is and won’t leave him.
- Drop the attitude: Alex has a right to be bitter and avoid interaction with Reycraft, but she chooses to kindly reach out to him instead. Once again, Reycraft gives her nothing but attitude. He doesn’t feel awkward for taking her job and doesn’t want her help. When she sees him scold one of the residents, she suggests he talk to the kid in private instead of embarrassing him in public, but Reycraft snaps at her for telling him how to do his job. Later, Alex finds him with surgical glue in his sneakers and she laughs it off as a common prank. She admits it can be “lonely at the top” and offers to “impart wisdom” over coffee if he ever wants to talk about it.
- Please don’t leave me: Now we understand one of Charlie’s core psychological hang-ups: he has abandonment issues. Judging by his answers to Kendra’s questions, it seems like Charlie would rather wait in limbo than risk returning to his life and face the possibility of losing Alex in the future. This is a bit of an unexpected revelation and it is sad to see Charlie as a man who is more scared of living than he is of dying. What Alex teased in the flashback has partially come true because Charlie has been watching her pine for him over the past several weeks. How much longer will he let her pine? What will it take for Charlie to suck it up and jump back into his body?
- Psych!: Kari Matchett shined in this role and it was a welcomed contrast to her rigid persona on ‘Covert Affairs.’ Her interaction with Shanks and their engaging scenes together were the highlight of the episode. This week’s material gave both actors a chance to stray from their usual character-work and give more colorful performances. What did you think about Kendra’s Q&A with Charlie? Do you think there is more trauma that Charlie left unsaid?
This article was originally published on Examiner.com on August 28, 2012.