Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Nurse Jackie: A Beef-by-Beef Analysis

We start with some heavy-handed symbols of Jackie's impending tumble down the proverbial rabbit hole: The family visits Central Park's Alice in Wonderland statue, and then hits the Chocolate Factory, where a swirl of strange pictures on the wall connect Max Brenner, the bald chocolatier, to Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka.

Soon after a tantrum from Grace sends Jackie to the ladies room for a snort, Jackie's façade begins to crumble. On her way to the hospital she stumbles on a familiar vagrant, and as she kneels over him, a droplet of blood appears on his forehead. It's not a a stigmata: It's a drip from Jackie's nostril. She brushes the blood aside, like most of her problems. (At least she's not tripping like Akalitus, who dances in circles with the abandoned baby she's secreted away.) As usual, it's the other humans in her life that send Jackie over the edge. Here's a look at this week's beefs.

Who: Dr. Cooper
Jackie's problem: Coop introduces his new girlfriend, Melissa (the pretty, vacant patient's daughter from last week), to Jackie as she tries to sneak past their lunch table. Ever the attentive nurse, Jackie remembers the girl — but Melissa later admits to not having the slightest recollection of having met Jackie. Not to worry, says Coop. Jackie's "just a nurse." And the doctor’s happy to lunch on Dean & Deluca, and even indulge in a little afternoon delight.
The solution: Jackie goes off to take charge of the day’s patients that Coop neglects.
Ridiculousness: Low. Ironically, Jackie’s got a clearer head, and a more caring soul, than Coop.

Who: Patient — an "Ivy league, pot-smoking Trustafarian."
Jackie's problem: The patient's not officially an organ donor, but come on, he's got a PETA card, and someone needs a piece of him.
The solution: Jackie disregards the wishes of the family, and perhaps the brain-dead patient himself, to harvest an organ that may rescue another dying patient. And she has absolutely no qualms about that.
Ridiculousness: High. And yet, somewhat forgivable. It might be implausible (and certainly un-Hippocratical) to forge an organ-donor document, but her, uh, heart is in the right place.

Who: Patient — wannabe Jackie O. of the Upper East Side.
Jackie's problem: The woman must be one of those moms who's more interested in keeping up appearances and getting her kids into the right preschool than giving them actual human love, right? Her two elementary-school-age boys have lice. Jackie's advice? Look, lady, get thee to a pharmacy and take the brats home to deal with it yourself.
The Solution: Once Jackie learns that the lady really, really doesn't want to have to touch the kids, she sends a half-dozen bottles of RID or Qwell ("whichever has the word 'lice' in bigger letters on the label," Jackie demands) to the front desk of the family’s Upper East Side castle.
Ridiculousness: Low. The bitch had it coming.

Who: Eddie
Jackie's problem: Eddie doesn't want to be her dirty little secret any more.
The solution: After rewarding herself with a little roll in the hay and some postcoital chatter with Eddie, Jackie reads Coop the riot act when she finds out he's having sex of his own instead of attending to a patient. After she barges in on him and Melissa, she spews some expletives and storms out. (Aha, says Melissa. Now I remember that nurse.)
Ridiculousness: Medium. Her double standard is epic.

Who: Zooey
Jackie's problem: The intern thinks Jackie could have saved the homeless man's foot if only she'd given him the proper diagnosis last time.
The solution: Jackie denies having erred, but Zooey has chronicled every moment in a little red book — one she soon leaves unattended, and which Jackie promptly disposes of.
Ridiculousness: Low. Why is Zooey keeping a book like that in the first place? We’re not sure what’s more ludicrous: that, or her pink-panda scrubs.

Who: Dr. O'Hara
Jackie's problem: O'Hara tells her sister in Paris about Jackie's secret life after attending to her bloody nose.
The solution: Instead of thanking her friend for the special treatment, Jackie lashes out at O'Hara. No matter that the other O'Hara is in Paris, and no names have been passed. Another tantrum, another door slammed.
Ridiculousness: High. Jackie has a pretty messed-up idea of family. Not just in the sense that she is willing to live a dual life, but in that she can’t see the benefit of sisterly bonding. And the episode ends with Jackie begging her daughter to take a dance class with her. Her giddy voice goes up a few registers when the daughter agrees. It’s unclear who is the child and who is the parent.

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime