Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Nurse Jackie: “One-Armed Jacks”

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It sometimes takes me a while to think of things that might seem pretty obvious in retrospect, which, depending on the situation, might be either an ideal or a deplorable quality in the guy who’s reviewing your TV show week by week. For instance, it wasn’t until this week that it crossed my mind that the shortened season for Nurse Jackie—it’s down to 10 episodes this year, instead of the usual 13—may be a factor in the pace of the series. That could be why Jackie was hustled out of rehab so quickly, leaving a great collection of guest actors and potentially meaty situations largely untapped. A series that’s in its fourth season does something like that at its own peril.

But maybe the writers have places to go and not as much time as they’d like to take in the scenery. Nurse Jackie has always allowed its actors, especially Edie Falco, to set the pace. Now that Jackie is clean and sober and really, really trying hard to stay that way—at one point in tonight’s episode, she gets some bad news while seated at a restaurant and impulsively orders a drink, then gets a grip on herself and asks the waitress to bring her pie instead—it would make sense if the action slowed to a Cassavettes-like crawl in an effort to mirror the change in how Jackie experiences the world around her when she’s not all lit up. It would make sense, but it also might make for some deadening viewing, So whatever the steady pace may be costing us, it may in some ways be a godsend.

This was one of those episodes in which, give or take the bookend scenes at Jackie’s home, the action spanned a single workday at the hospital, and while nobody who turned it on in the middle would be likely to mistake it for ER—a show that played as if someone had been watching St. Elsewhere and got to wondering how it would look if everyone in the hospital were powered through the hospital corridors by invisible jet packs—it still managed to zip along at a pretty neat clip. It began with Jackie in her kitchen, making funny-animal-shaped pancakes for the daughters she would later claim to have forgotten don’t live with her anymore. If she really did forget and isn’t just torturing herself, the pancakes may be a sign that some part of her unconscious is sending distress signals to the part of her brain that still isn’t getting it, the part that tells O’Hara that “Kevin would take me back in five seconds if I asked.” The inevitable rude awakening comes at that restaurant, when Kevin, having arranged a lunch date, fails to show up. Instead, he sends a process server, bearing divorce papers.

Jackie immediately picks up the phone and reaches out to Charlie. They’ve scarcely exchanged a few words before the full horror of her situation hits her: She’s a grown woman who, having estranged herself from her children, is now seeking support and guidance from a troubled child. Charlie is happy to supply both, but the situation is too weird for Jackie in her newly sober state, and she begs off. It’s not that Charlie is any poster boy for mental health himself. He’s spending the day sitting in his father’s parked car, so that when he’s discovered there by his startled pop, the old man can respond to his clumsy but open-faced attempt to connect by asking how much money he needs—$500, $1000, just give me a figure and leave me alone. The sequence  feels prickly and unresolved. It’s easy to understand how it would make Jackie feel unclean to use Charlie the way he’s offering to be used. But it could be that using Charlie in any way that he might come in handy—which, by some definitions, might be the same thing as treating him as an adult—would be the best thing anyone could do for him.

Ultimately, Jackie ends up brushing up on her people skills with the help of the really big kid in her life, Zoey. Zoey, her relationship with Lenny having reached some kind of confusing impasse, is trying to find a roommate—or, as she insists on putting it, “someone to go halfsies with me on a phat pad.” Jackie begins to think that she might be the obvious person to take her up on it after she’s blown her stack at Zoey  (“You don’t have to be in everybody’s fucking business every fucking minute of every fucking day!”) and then needs to do something distracting to get Zoey to stop giving her the silent treatment. It works, and Zoey’s excitement when Jackie proposes making pancakes for dinner opens the door to an obvious solution to Jackie’s grief over no longer being allowed to serve as a mother, anybody’s mother. But will the cure turn out to be worse than the disease?

Stray observations:

  • At the end, Zoey is very excited about seeing her new digs. “You’ve seen my place,” Jackie points out. “Not without a dead body in it,” says Zoey.
  • Dr. Cruz, after seeing the “Roommate Wanted” flyers that Zoey has used to paper the walls of All Saints: “Take them down.” Zoey, always eager to negotiate, says, “Take them down a notch?”
  • Having been jolted out of his premature midlife crisis by Cruz, Coop has dropped the Jeff Spicoli look he was sporting at the start of this season and now dresses as if he were taking his marching orders from Gordon Gekko. Appreciating his devotion to the new world order, Cruz asks him to take on the job of selling the nurses on the new uniform dress code. Complimenting him on his easily approachable manner, Cruz tells Coop, “You make everyone feel like they know more than you.” Coop accepts the tribute but admits that it’s “a blessing and a curse.”
  • It must be said that both Zoey and Coop seem to love being bossed around by Mike Cruz, and that Thor, having been ordered by Cruz to “bring the hammer down,” is moved to announce that, for the first time in his life, he doesn’t hate his own name. This is ominous. It’s starting to recall stories about how incredibly popular and persuasive the Antichrist is supposed to be.