Nurse Jackie ramps it up a notch tonight, in ways that are good and ways that I need to get back to you on. Bobby Canavale’s Dr. Cruz, having come home to find Jackie nursing his strung-out son Charlie, discovers that she is his “friend from rehab,” and in the process learns both that Jackie has more in common with Charlie and is a more trusted confidante of his son than he is. It’s not a discovery designed to bring out the graciousness in such a man, and the single scariest thing in tonight’s episode may be his line, “Be very careful how you talk to me today. I’m trying to keep a promise to my kid.” The promise is that he won’t fire Jackie, which Charlie levies as his ultimate condition for returning to rehab. (The second scariest comes in the conversation between Cruz and Jackie, with Charlie looking on. “I am completely sober,” she assures him, because she can see the bullseye that his eyes are projecting onto her heart. “Good for you. How come you’re not him?” he replies, missing the target completely and nailing Charlie instead—not that Cruz even seems to register this.)
Unable to fire Jackie but determined to have his pound of flesh, Cruz instead fires Akalitus and Eddie. On paper, he has good reasons for both calls, having scrounged up the surveillance video of Akalitus tossing Jackie’s incriminating urine sample in the garbage. (“Your pension will remain in place,” he says, after telling her that she’ll have to leave the premises immediately and work out a deal with security about coming back to retrieve her stuff, “because I do have a heart.”) As a long-term strategic move, it looks to be on par with the Ancient Mariner’s brainstorm about shooting that albatross. Anna Deavere Smith handles the firing scene beautifully; it’s a terrific moment in a season that’s been a real showcase for her, playing a character that seemed to have calcified into a tired joke during the show’s third season. She never asks for sympathy, but when she smiles at Cruz as she accepts the inevitable, it’s not too obvious that she’s imagining what the place will be like without her and picturing his head on a spike. (When he fires her, she’s just been off somewhere pulling God knows what strings to get the air conditioning repaired.)
There are some sweet things going on elsewhere. Having gotten a toe in the door with O’Hara regarding his desire to help out with her pregnancy, Coop is now trying to wedge his whole thigh in there, and doing a lot better than might be expected. O’Hara even lets him tag along for her Ultrasound. (“We’re both doctors,” Coop tells the woman conducting the procedure, “so it’s like the doctor’s already here.”) Having convinced me that Coop is both a load and a fundamentally decent guy with some love coming to him, it’s heartening that the show is finally allowing its characters to come around to this view.
But the zenith of sweetness is, as one might expect, the scene with Zoe telling Jackie that she thinks she should move out for the sake of their relationship—“I think you’re a private person. And I think if I’m here and I see things you’re not used to people seeing, you’re gonna like me less. You won’t mean for it to happen, but it will”—and Jackie asking her to stay, to help keep her from backsliding. The show is threatening to thin out into melodrama as this season winds down, but if these characters can continue to show unexpected sides of themselves, it may be able to avoid that fate.
- Just to remind us that a big part of Coop will always be an asshole, there’s the brief exchange between him and Lenny, when he sees Lenny prowling the corridors carrying chick lit. Coop assumes that Lenny is returning Zoe’s books to her, but it turns out that Lenny is reading it himself, to cheer himself up. Coop is mortified. “This is not a time to Eat, Pray, Love! This is a time for sleeping with hot yoga instructors.” (In its way, this rhymes nicely with Zoe’s apparent conviction that there is no heartache that can’t be at least partially repaired by watching Dirty Dancing.)
- Coop at the Ultrasound: “He looks like an old man with a beautiful mouth!” He also tells O’Hara that the baby looks like her, which is enough to get her to stop averting her eyes from the screen. “I do not look like that!” she gasps. “A little,” shrugs Coop.
- Thor: “When I was diagnosed with Type 1, I was all cry-abetes.” Say what you like, that’s better than anything that the ad companies competing for the diabetes-awareness campaign on The Pitch came up with.
- It’s nice to get to see Laura Silverman’s rehab counselor again, even if we don’t get to go back inside the center. She greets Charlie at the door with, “Fourth time’s a charm.” “It’s my fifth,” says Charlie. “Fifth time’s a charm,” she says. “We’re getting there.”