We’re coming to the end of the beginning for Monday Mornings. Things that seem great turn out to be not so much, and things that seem bad end up being worse. It just goes to show you that medicine is most definitely not an easy nor predictable occupation.
The episode starts off with a bang, as Michelle nearly loses a patient only to make a breakthrough just before they’re ready to pronounce her death. Elsewhere, Wilson and Hooten’s next case is a judge who knows the Chelsea General chief of staff, and Park and Ridgeway’s patient doesn’t know where he is after having a seizure in the street. Oh, and he decided to write all over himself, too. Yeah, it’s going to be one of those weird days at the hospital.
Michelle later visits her patient and the woman’s husband, who are grateful for her help after their car accident. “You not only saved my life, you maybe extended it,” says the woman, who calls Michelle her “guardian angel.” Villanueva subsequently offers the young resident a beer as a reward for her accomplishment. “I want you to imagine the beer is life itself,” he tells her, who also encourages her to meditate as a way to keep her calm in the ER, and then gives her a hug. Erm, okay. Afterward, Fran the omnipresent relations woman (can’t she just leave everyone alone already?) tries to encourage Michelle to bank some good publicity first because it would mean money for the hospital, and then because it might keep her from getting fired if she screws up later on.
Tina and Park find out that the young man they’re treating might have a few screws loose, at least according to his mother, who says he’s been writing all over everything. He has “the opposite of writer’s block” and is not thrilled that he’s been locked in his bedroom for awhile. He tells Tina and Park that he’s got temporal lobe epilepsy, and Park decides to schedule a test without his consent, saying that it doesn’t matter because the kid isn’t competent. Tina comes back later to try and make nice, and gets the kid to admit that he’s afraid whatever they find and fix might change who he is. “If the obsession has you, that’s a problem,” she tells him. “You’re not winning the battle here, Derek.”
In Radiology, Wilson and Hooten find a tumor in the judge’s brain, and decide to operate, with Hooten remarking on how much pressure comes with operating on a woman of her stature. This is not necessarily encouraging to Wilson, but at least Hooten decides to stick around for the procedure. Once they’re in the OR, Hooten doesn’t like what they see. After the procedure he visits the judge, telling her that it wasn’t a tumor. No, she has late-stage syphilis that might have gone undiagnosed for decades now. “We’re confident that we’ve stopped any further progression,” he says, but stops short of guaranteeing anything.
At the next Morbidity & Mortality meeting, Michelle is called forward to talk about her success, with Hooten doing his usual great job of denting a doctor’s ego even under the best of circumstances. The “guardian angel” label comes back to bite Michelle in the behind in front of her colleagues, as does her inexperience. In a matter of maybe two minutes, Hooten tears her down, making her victory seem like a defeat that just happened to end well. “You saved the day, Dr. Robidaux, but not before very nearly losing it,” he tells her, while everyone else sits there hating him a little bit.
Once all that drama is over, Park and Tina try to convince their patient that operating won’t mess up his entire life, but he continues to blow things way out of proportion, much to Tina’s frustration. She tells Park he’s coming with her to make a house call whether he wants to or not. When they arrive, they’re dumbfounded at the writing all over the walls, and Tina is further bewildered by Park’s declaration that they’ll simply see how things go.
The next morning Hooten is surprised to hear that the judge has requested an early checkout from the hospital, but it starts to make sense when the two of them hear the news media breaking the story of the judge’s diagnosis, which obviously jeopardizes her dream of being named to the Supreme Court. Cue Wilson and Sydney’s pagers going off: it’s time for another M&M meeting.
A particularly belligerent Hooten first wants to hear from Park, calling his patient “a threat” to himself, which Park vehemently objects to, saying he looked at the whole of his patient, not just the body parts. Hooten then asks Wilson if he has an opinion, even though Wilson admits he has “no idea where you’re going with this,” which is probably good because Wilson then gets enraged at Hooten’s accusation that he’s responsible for the judge’s condition making it to TV. Hooten again refers to Tina as Wilson’s “girlfriend,” which makes her upset, and she’s not the only one. In response to Sydney’s attempt to defend her colleagues, Hooten decides she gets a special assignment to address privacy concerns at the hospital, and walks out again.
At the dive bar, Villanueva points out that Hooten may have overreacted more than once. Hooten retorts that “I bet you hugged her” because Villanueva probably knew his tirade at Michelle was coming. While the judge sits in her recovery room with a glass of wine, the kid with epilepsy is still writing, and Michelle is watching the news report calling her the “hero of the day.” She doesn’t feel like a hero, though.
For an episode before a season-ender, “Wheels Within Wheels” is a quiet one. Yet there’s still a good debate here, and it’s about if and how medical procedures can change a person, whether it’s the kid with epilepsy worried that he’ll never write again, or the judge who fears her career may be threatened by the reveal of her condition. The episode does a fine job of illustrating the point that medicine doesn’t end once you step out the doors of a hospital, and it isn’t just about the physical effects. As someone who’s spent three years in and out of the hospital having numerous procedures done, I can vouch that things you never even thought about can change, and sometimes they don’t change back. This is an episode that drives that home, and does it fairly, not just casting our doctors in a negative light because of it.
Having said that, this show also points out just how tough it is to be a doctor. Hooten is at times completely insufferable, and this is one of those instances. He leaves everyone else around him disliking him at best and outright hating him at the worst, and those feelings are absolutely understandable, given how blunt – some might even say cruel – he can be. The M&M meetings are legitimately uncomfortable for the audience, so one can only wonder how tough it must be to be standing at that podium. It creates a certain degree of empathy for these surgeons, as we have to ask ourselves if we could constantly live up to the exacting standards that Hooten is looking for. Being a doctor isn’t easy, and it’s not predictable, but just being able to claim the title is an accomplishment.
The Monday Mornings season finale airs next Monday, April 8.