Nurse Jackie’s most salient trait has been her oxymoronic — verging on hypocritical — nature. Her good and bad sides duel every day, sometimes in the space of just a few minutes. But this episode, we see her candy stripes in a new way. Jackie may be a “bad” nurse, perfectly content to propel herself through life with illegal (and legal!) drug consumption, but when it comes to her children, back the fuck off.
This episode, directed by Steve Buscemi, begins with formulaic foreshadowing of the theme: maternal love stoked by a child in danger. As soon as Jackie spots the foot of a gurney careening into view, she kicks into gear, and the patient is a young boy with a preternaturally concerned twin brother. His sibling has suffered a grave mishap at the playground. Dr. O’Hara blithely rattles off the possible consequences: brain damage, internal bleeding, God knows what else. Mother and son clutch each other. Jackie mouths “it’s not that bad,” and dispatches intern Zoey to give them with a hug.
Jackie has child problems of her own. Daughter Grace’s school has called a meeting regarding the girl’s increasingly anxious behavior. Jackie’s gonna need help getting through this one. We are treated to a cinematic, Trainspotting-esque sequence: floaty, druggy music, a substance dribbled onto a mirror. But that’s not powder for Jackie to snort up her nose. It’s for her to apply to her nose — a little touch-up before she faces a jury of her childcare peers.
Grace’s symptoms: sunless, rainbowfree drawings and a compulsive habit of circling her desk three times before sitting. The girl says she’s afraid of planes falling out of the sky if she doesn’t complete the ritual. The school’s suggestion: Let’s get this kid on some anti-anxiety meds, stat. Jackie erupts. How dare they suggest that a pill will solve the problem? And who says she has a problem, anyway? So the kid likes to draw in black-and-white. What’s the big deal? The school nurse marches out of the classroom with Jackie in hot pursuit. Listen, lady. This problem isn’t going to be solved with a prescription.
Meanwhile, back at All Saints, Dr. Cooper fleshes out his goofus stereotype, singing and dancing around the emergency room, high on the excitement of his treating his first real gunshot wound. Dr. O’Hara, meanwhile, goes through the motions of her ice-queen persona, refusing to accept hugs from the young boy overjoyed that she saved his brother. The gay nurse, momentarily distracted by the scene (he lost his own twin brother early in life), slips back into his cookie-cutter character by suggesting intern Zoey spice up her do with some hot rollers.
And so, Jackie remains the most sympathetic, and nuanced, of the characters here. We support you, Jackie. Now start something with that douche bag “Coop.” This show could use a little (drug-free) pep.