Last week’s Monday Mornings was a heartbreaker. This one pokes around in the brain – those of some of our doctors, a few patients, and the audience, too.
Tina’s in front of another M&M meeting, talking about a patient named Benjamin with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She wants approval for a controversial gamma-ray procedure, which Villanueva equates to a “high-tech lobotomy,” much to her ire. Wilson springs to her defense, because it’s Wilson. “This kid is out of options,” he says. “This is perhaps his only shot.” Suddenly everyone in the room has something to say, including Park and Tierney. Tina finds herself pleading her case to the entire room, only to be stopped cold when Hooten asks how her marriage is. Cut to a similarly bewildered Wilson, further implying these two have something going on between them. Tina refuses to answer the question and walks out of the meeting, leading Hooten to reflect, “Nobody says goodbye anymore.”
She storms into Hooten’s office afterward to attack him, insisting that he wouldn’t do such a thing to Wilson, and he tells her that “You’re no Ty Wilson.” He goes on to say that whatever’s going on between her and her fellow neurosurgeon, whether or not it’s impacting her focus, it will never rattle Wilson’s, so she shouldn’t delude herself. Furthermore, Hooten wants to meet Benjamin before he makes a formal decision on Tina’s proposed procedure.
Later in the ER, Villanueva deals with an incoming patient whose family happens to be Christian Scientists. He calls in Sydney for advice, and she tells him their hands are tied, which is not what he wants to hear. When the teen’s parents arrive, the two doctors plead their case, with Villanueva bluntly saying that he doesn’t respect their position if it places an innocent life in jeopardy. “She is going to die,” he insists, but her father threatens him with battery charges. Under the guise of complying with Dad’s wishes to have the tubes removed from his daughter, Villanueva goes ahead with his original plan, and tells the parents that “she just got better” afterward.
Elsewhere at Chelsea General, Park meets with his former patient from the pilot, who insists that she’s grateful for his help having stopped her tremors, but says she’s incurred a “behavioral side effect” – increased sexual urges that she wants controlled. Park refuses, insisting that this is a good thing. To make Park’s day even better, Hooten hears about this conversation and wants to discuss it, because Park’s now being sued. Welcome back the hospital counsel (that’s Jason Gray-Stanford, who was the most underrated performer on USA’s Monk), who wants to make the lawsuit go away as quickly as possible. This is a perfect bit of casting, bringing in an actor who should be on TV a lot more than he has been. It’s the first time a hospital lawyer has been an entertaining character since Peter MacNicol played Alan Birch on Chicago Hope – another David E. Kelley show.
Hooten meets Benjamin and his mother. He wants to know if the young man understands what they’re discussing, and when Ben says “Help me,” Hooten not only says to schedule the gamma-ray procedure but tells Tina that he’ll personally be assisting her in the OR. The two explain to Ben’s mother exactly what’s going to happen next, after which Tina goes home and prepares for the surgery. She and her husband have another awkward conversation, with Tina revealing that Hooten asked about their marriage. “You’re having an affair,” he deduces. Her apology confirms it. “Do you love him?” he wants to know. She looks at the table and admits, “I might.” Even though she adds that she doesn’t think it’s going to go anywhere, her husband leaves.
Her poor personal choice continues to blow up in her face the next morning. Tina reveals to Sydney that her husband has already packed up and is moving out. Dude deserves better and he knows it. That doesn’t stop her soon-to-be-ex from showing up at the hospital, confronting Wilson (who seems like he was expecting this), and serving her with papers. Obvious affair is obvious, and it causes Hooten to question Tina’s fitness for the surgery, though he stops short of pulling her off the procedure. Villanueva, on the other hand, involuntarily recruits her to work late-night shifts in the ER – his idea of helping her work past the breakdown of her marriage. It’s worth noting that Villanueva himself is divorced and prone to one-night stands, so it’s a bit of the pot meeting kettle, too.
Shifting back to the professional side of things, Park is getting deposed (and losing his temper, at least as much as he can), and Sydney is not all that surprised when the chief of staff starts inquiring as to how the Christian Scientist became miraculously better, but manages not to throw Villanueva under the bus. That doesn’t stop Hooten from calling another M&M meeting, this one for Villanueva, commenting that while he may have made the same decision, he would’ve at least taken a moment to recognize the patient’s beliefs, and not just immediately gone ahead with his own plan. Even though Villanueva’s patient recovered and he didn’t technically do anything wrong, there’s still room for improvement.
Park’s patient later visits his office and tells him that she’s reconsidered, is dropping the lawsuit against him, and has a gift for him: a picture she drew of him. “I hope you don’t mind, I gave you a little bit of a smile,” she tells him as she leaves. And the Christian Scientist comes to see Villanueva, thanking him for saving her life but questioning her faith because of it. “If it works for you, keep it,” he reassures her. Elsewhere, Wilson visits Tina just before she and Hooten start Ben’s surgery, and she tells him she doesn’t want to talk at that particular moment. She completes the procedure and comes home to a now half-empty house, which is going to take some getting used to. And so the episode doesn’t end on a downer, Ving Rhames does a great Alfred Molina impression as Hooten and Villanueva drink at the dive bar.
One of the things that’s become very interesting about Monday Mornings is its continuing storylines. Every episode has had a callback or more than one to events that have happened in other installments – not something you’d expect from most shows, much less a medical drama, which are typically built around the “patient of the week” concept. This comes from the fact that it’s based on a novel that by its very nature contains longer storylines, but the series didn’t necessarily have to play them out this far, and it will be interesting to see if the writers continue to pursue the same approach once they’ve moved beyond the content of the book. These extended stories help create a great world, reinforcing the series’ central idea of actions having consequences, and making us care about even the guest characters, because we never know when we may see them again. In that sense, it’s the medical equivalent to FX’s Justified, because as on that series, there’s no such thing as a filler character or an empty plot.
It’s refreshing, too, to see the affair between Tina and Wilson handled in the manner in which it is, and not turned into something lurid like you might glimpse on another show. The audience understands the impact without characters having overwrought emotional breakdowns or flings in the storage closet. It’s something that’s emotional and not just existing for the sake of an obligatory romantic subplot. Hopefully, it will stay that way.
Monday Mornings has established itself as not simply a great medical drama, but a well-done television series regardless of genre, with sharp writing and a first-rate ensemble cast making the most of that material. If the programming folks at TNT are listening, they ought to order that second season immediately, because this is a strong series that the network can build on.