Nurse Jackie: Mmm, Sweet ‘n All

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Photo: Courtesy of Showtime

Episode two opens with Jackie screwing her bartender husband on the floor of their cookie-cutter suburban kitchen, complete with Wonder bread on the table and Fruity Pebbles littering the seventies-era tiles. The sex with her spouse is clearly better than what she’s having with the hospital-pharmacist–cum–prescription-drug dealer — the affair isn’t about romance; it’s about feeding her addiction.

After packing her daughters’ sack lunches, Jackie crushes up a half dozen or so Percocets and tidily shovels the powder into three emptied Sweet ‘n All packets and neatly reseals them with a glue pen. One for morning, one for afternoon, and one for “the long ride home.”

As she arrives at work, so, too, does her closest ally at the hospital, the seasoned Dr. Eleanor O’Hara. We see Eleanor’s bright-red high heels and Barneys New York shopping bag peek out of the taxi before we see her — a Devil Wears Prada moment that plays perfectly against the all-pills, no-frills Jackie. But the two find easy camaraderie in their shared hatred of the world, particularly the one inside All Saints Hospital. They divulge their best-kept secrets, and reveal their career motives: “Doctors diagnose, nurses heal.” At lunch, Jackie all but admits to Eleanor that she flushed the severed ear of a prostitute-assaulting patient; nor does she leave out that she blamed this unauthorized disposal on an innocent intern.

The two women also bond over a hatred of the new guy, young and dumb Dr. Fitch “Call Me Coop” Cooper. He’s the perennial frat boy who tells a dying patient, “we’re gonna fix ya up real good there, champ!” and greets the trauma doctor, nurse, and EMS attending to a critically wounded teenage skateboarder with: “Hey, it’s a party!” Clearly the doofus outcast, he dives (almost literally) into the new patient, spews some med-school baloney, and abruptly declares that kid’s had an aortal aneurysm. O’Hara shoos him away (“too many cooks; you need to leave”).

When it turns out Dr. Cooper’s knee-jerk assessment was correct, Jackie gives him credit, admitting he’s a “good doctor.” It’s an abrupt about-face from her last confrontation with him, which amounted to “stay the fuck out of my way, you spoiled-brat pretty boy.” Cooper, dumbfounded, silently hugs her.

Meanwhile, the wicked-witch hospital administrator, Gloria Akalitus, is unwittingly getting high. You had to see this one coming: As Mrs. Akalitus (they all refer to her as “Mrs.”) was informing Jackie and intern that they would be under formal investigation for the ear incident, Jackie was fiddling with a Sweet ‘n All packet. Wouldn’tcha know it, Mrs. Akalitus has been looking all over creation for some Sweet ‘n All! She snatches it out of Jackie’s hand and dumps the packet into her coffee. (We thought of the scene in Sixteen Candles wherein the prom queen accidentally gets loopy on meds.)

As with the premiere, we close with Mom, Dad, and their two kids. The brood meets at the pub where husband Kevin tends bar. One of the regulars has taught the grade-school–age daughter the trick where you knot a cherry stem with your tongue. The other daughter informs her mother that she learned antibacterial soap doesn’t work anymore because germs have gotten too strong. There’s genuine familial affection surrounding this bunch, so much that we hardly even notice when the Large Hadron Collider — the same one Jackie’s pharmacist paramour was just telling her about — conveniently appears on the bar TV.

Related: Emily Nussbaum’s Nurse Jackie review [NYM]