Last week’s episode of Red Band Society ended with Jordi, the kid with cancer who still has both of his legs, dramatically ripping the titular band off, and Nurse Jackson getting suspended for tampering with Charlie the Coma Boy’s blood samples in hopes of buying him enough time to meet with the World’s Greatest Doctor.
Everyone involved in this show is smart enough to know that things gets way too feels-y without Octavia Spencer around to whip everyone into shape. As such, the majority of this episode is wisely concerned with showing how everything falls apart (most prominently, Dash’s lungs) without Nurse Jackson, and then getting her back where she belongs, pronto. (This show’s tendency to rush through plots that most other programs would spread out is one of many ways it reminds me of The O.C. I mean, it took no time at all for Jordi’s mom to bail or for Charlie’s backstory to get explored. Leave yourself something for the back nine, guys!) But before Nurse Jackson can return to Ocean Park, we get to see her at home, cooking for her niece and most assuredly not marathoning Murder, She Wrote. (Nice meta-shade with the “I’m not feeling Angela Lansbury in here” line, show.) We also get some backstory. Turns out that before she became a nurse, she sang in a Supremes-Pips-type trio, but gave it up after her sister died and she had to help raise her niece. (The limited commercial prospects for Supremes-Pips-type trio in this century probably had something to do with it, though maybe if they tried hard enough, they could have signed with Dap-Tone.)
After shoving their faces with feet-flavored tacos, nurses Kenji and Brittany show up to ask NJ why she hasn’t been answering her phone. (Better question: Why aren’t you two making sure Dash gets his lung therapy?) The whole affair devolves, as it inevitably must, with everyone throwing back cocktails at a piano lounge. Nurse Brittany is basically the lamest but also kinda-nicest person that you’re still friends with on Facebook, and she was on fire here. (I can’t decide what my favorite line was “Amazeballs,” “These apple martinis are the bomb,” or the part about making a sick Vine.) To one no one’s surprise, Nurse Jackson can still bring it, in this case, with a nicely understated rendition of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Octavia Spencer sounded great, though it felt strange to hear this song without Liz Lemon adding, “I’ve got to go / I’ve got to go.” (Also, try to imagine how this markedly unempowering song would have fared if it had to weather today’s think-piece climate. Gladys, girl, I love you, but oh, get a life!)
I hate to ever appear be critical of national treasure Wilson Cruz — I once got serious stink-eye at a party for defending the Juliana Hatfield–angel episode of My So-Called Life, such is my love for Rickie Vasquez — but my, oh, my, did he have to deliver some heavy-handed dialogue here. After Nurse Kenji helpfully reminds her that she became a nurse because “you love kids” (we already figured that out, show), Nurse Jackson has to head to the hospital because apparently, she’s the only one there who remembers that Dash has cystic fibrosis, and now he’s spitting up blood. While there, she and Dr. McAndrew have it out. Rather than fire her for tampering with a patient’s records (which is mega-illegal, even if for a good cause), we get another part where a character explains What This Character’s Whole Deal Is About: “What I didn’t know was how much you mean to these kids. They need you. And more importantly, I need you.” Shippers, start your engines. I can’t think of a cute nickname that combines Jackson and McAndrew, but maybe one of you guys can help me out.
So while all the nurses were drinking and talking about their feelings, what were the kids up to? Well, they were going to write a letter demanding Nurse Jackson be reinstated, but then they all got distracted.
Unconcerned with the campaign to reinstate Nurse Jackson, Leo introduces Emma, whom he calls his girlfriend and everything, to his cool friends. Emma has previously described Leo as an all-American, square, athlete type, but he seems a bit hipper than she gave him credit for, what with the the cool band posters provided by Sub Pop’s publicity department and the gay friend and the platonic, Harvard-bound lady-friend Lauren. Except Lauren’s the absolute worst. And then they all go out to lunch — Ciara Bravo nicely underplayed’s Emma’s terror — during which Lauren basically asks Emma why she doesn’t just stop being anorexic. She later tells Emma that she better stop being anorexic soon, or she’ll get dumped. Helpful! At first, this show was notably squeamish about the reality of Emma’s disorder, but lately it’s been dealing directly with the shame it brings her, and her frustration with people who don’t realize that she can’t just flip a switch and turn off a complicated mental problem. The show is still pretty deep into its “figuring stuff out” phase, but it’s an encouraging sign that the writers are taking things seriously, and I’m glad they allowed her character the tiny victory of a chocolate-marshmallow treat.
The other kids were going to finish the letter Leo and Emma bailed on, but instead they allowed Hunter, the brooding guest-star who dickishly/hilariously fucked with Kara during that hour she was blind, to lead them on a delightful journey to watch surgery. For some reason. Hunter is pretty bummed because he was supposed to get a liver transplant but then didn’t, so now he’s going around and talking about rotting buffalos and going on monologues like, “We aren’t normal kids. This isn’t home, we’re not here to form secret societies that band together around a tough nurse with a heart of gold. We’re here for one reason and one reason only: to end up on that table.” Hunter is deep into his “no one understand me and the world is shit” teenager phase, and in the grand tradition of the Fox network, he’s played by an actor who is clearly 25. Such is his general downer vibe that Kara isn’t sure if she would still hit that: “I no longer want to have sex with you — unless you want to, in which case, I can easily be persuaded.”
Lot of knocking the central concept of the show tonight. Jordi is, I guess, still pretty pissed that Emma chose Leo over him, even though Dash is clearly not having that. “The problem isn’t that I threw away my red band, dash. The problem is that I never should have put it on in the first place.” (God bless teenagers and any showrunner willing to make an actor say a line like that.) But after Dash’s emergency, Jordi and Leo take turns waiting by his side, and all is well again. I’m actually legitimately surprised we didn’t get a dramatic shot of Jordi putting another red band on, though maybe this plot will drag on for another episode.
What we got was even more dramatic, as Dash goes to check on Charlie in comaland, and Nurse Jackson goes to check on him in the mortal plane, only to discover that he’s opened his eyes. Aw. Maybe that’s why his voice-overs weren’t as annoying this episode: He had to save his energy for the big reveal.