Spoilers for "ER" coming up just as soon as I do some laundry...
Some people, you don't really realize how much you missed them until they turn up again. Jeanie Boulet was never one of my favorite "ER" characters. There were individual Jeanie moments that still stand out -- "Would you please quit calling me Employee X? I am HIV-positive." or her telling Scott Anspaugh to stop fighting -- and I admired the way the writers used her to examine the changing status of HIV patients, but Jeanie the person never came to life for me as much as a Carter or Benton or Doug or Carol. But damn if I didn't smile broadly at the first glimpse of her, and damn if the room didn't get dusty when Jeannie realized that Carlos' condition had shifted to full-blown AIDS.
I had barely even remembered Jeanie's status on her exit -- for some reason, I thought she had actually gone away when Weaver laid her off for budgetary reasons, but her warm mention of Kerry made me skim the episode guide to refresh -- but my memory of all the struggles she went through after getting diagnosed, not to mention Gloria Reuben's expressive face, gave Jeanie's pain almost as much weight as if she had been hanging around the ER all this time.
I like that they left the story of Carlos unresolved -- as Jeanie pointed out, no matter the results of the biopsy, he'll have a hard road ahead -- and I especially liked the catch-up scene with Haleh. My wife thought it was weird to hear all this casual talk of Carter and Doug and Carol, but that seemed like the exact thing that Jeanie would want to discuss. (Plus, her knowledge that Carter had gone to Africa was quick shorthand to let us know that she had stayed in touch off and on with her old friends -- just not recently enough to know Kerry was gone.) The showrunner, David Zabel, has said that if the show gets renewed for one final season, he wants to revisit some other old characters, and this episode not only laid some groundwork (assuming Clooney feels like slumming again for his buddy John Wells) but also showed that the current writing team can handle characters who pre-dated them. Considering that only one current writer (Joe Sachs) was even with the show when Reuben left, and he didn't write the episode (Janine Barrois did), they did an excellent job of capturing that alternately warm and strident voice of hers.
One question on the rest of the episode: am I going nuts, or are they really going to pair off Gates and Sam? I know he's with the sexy chaplain and all, but he was staring at her for practically the entire episode, and there was a flirtatiousness to all their conversations that I'm used to seeing when they put Stamos with his next love interest.
(On a completely unrelated note, right before I watched this episode, I was watching a screener of CBS' "Comanche Moon" miniseries, and it was weird to see Linda Cardellini go from 19th century woman of the prairie to 21st century nurse in under five minutes.)
What did everybody else think?