Monday, June 29, 2009

Nurse Jackie, "School Nurse": Black and white problem

Spoilers for the fourth episode of "Nurse Jackie" coming up just as soon as I color-correct a drawing...

"School Nurse," the first of back-to-back episodes directed by Edie Falco's old "Sopranos" co-star Steve Buscemi, has children on its mind. Jackie gets into it with the teachers at her daughter's school when they suggest Grace is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Dr. O'Hara reveals, not surprisingly, a complete lack of any maternal side, while Mo Mo shows his first real signs of depth when he bonds with a little kid who reminds him of the twin brother he lost at age 1. And even Zoey, who's a grown woman, spends a large chunk of the episode acting like a kid and pouting over missing all the interesting cases, only to get some perspective after experiencing her first patient death.

I liked the parallel at the end of the episode of Zoey and Jackie both trying to improve a picture by coloring it in. But where Zoey understands that she's lost this patient, even as she performs the kind post-mortem gesture of giving her back her eyebrows, Jackie's insistence on adding color to Grace's gray drawing(*) shows that she's in denial about the problem.

(*) True story: Day after my wife and I watch this episode, I come home from work and my wife excitedly shows me a landscape drawing that our daughter did in kindergarten that day. "Look at all the colors!" my wife told me, beaming. Cable drama: always an easy way to remind yourself of all the ways your life is better than theirs.

But then, Jackie's in denial about a lot of things, from the Vicodin use to the balancing act she has going with Eddie and her husband, at one point simultaneously fielding calls from both men and telling them, "Can't talk! Love ya!" It's treated as a joke here, but Jackie's willingness to use the word "love" in connection to Eddie brings us back to last week's discussion about how much of that relationship is about the pills and how much is about genuine feelings she has for the guy. Maybe it's just because Falco and Paul Schulze have such obvious chemistry together (as you'd hope they would after knowing each other since college), but I find it hard to watch their scenes together and believe that it's just about the pills. Maybe it's somewhat, perhaps even mostly, about the pills, but Jackie does have affection, if not love, for her drug connect.

Keeping in mind once again that we're sticking with the air schedule, and therefore not going to talk about the content of the fifth episode, which went up On Demand today, what did everybody else think?

19 comments:

Eldritch said...

I enjoyed the episode.

It's my feeling that Jackie actually does care for the pharmacist. I don't believe there have been any hints on her face during their trysts that she finds them unpleasant.

However, I do believe the addict in her makes the drugs her highest priority in the relationship.

She freaked when hearing about the computerized dispensing. On the other hand, last week's mid-western tourist who was addicted to Vicodin tipped her off to purchasing drugs on the Internet. If that works out for her, I may try it ... no, no, cough, cough... I mean it would take the pressure off her. That's when we'd find out how much she really loves the pharmacist.

I feel sorry for the guy. She's mostly using him for the drugs, methinks.

Chip said...

Does Jackie adding the color to Grace's drawing really show that she is in denial? I took it to mean that she began to realize that something was missing from the drawing, and therefore, there is cause for concern about Grace.

Toby O'B said...

I'm liking Merret Wever more and more as Zoey with each episode. I was hoping we'd get continuous growth with her character as she was a standout for me in 'Studio 60'.

The deal with the daughter's picture had me questioning my own mental well-being. I didn't see anything wrong with it when they first showed it; didn't notice the lack of color.

Dr. O'Hara's unease when the kid was clutching her was funny at first, but as it went on I just felt sorry for her for being so walled off.

Anonymous said...

I watched the fifth episode today and won't say anything specific about it other than that after 5 episodes (which comprises nearly half the season) I can't believe what a misfire this show has been. There really isn't a single storyline I find believable or interesting or a single character other than Zoey that I find likeable or belieavable. In particular, I think Dr. O'Hara is possibly one of the most annoying "only on TV" characters I've ever seen and her friendship with Jackie makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I'll stick with the show because it's summer and there's really nothing else on, but if this one was airing in the regular season I would be bailing right about now. And it's a shame because the premise and the cast had lots of potential.

SteveInHouston said...

If Jackie were keeping up with her drug-related cable shows, she'd know how dangerous it is to be carrying around two cell phones.

Dudleys Mom said...

I'm still really enjoying this show. I like that we're getting to learn about the secondary characters, and there's at least a couple laughs for me in each episode (and I consider myself a hard sell in that regard). I've told a few friends about the show, and they're all watching and enjoying, although not obsessing.

I have to say that I find the opening credit sequence to be very weak for an HBO or Showtime series...I expect more. I always fast forward through it. I don't even watch MadMen, yet I'm compelled to watch that opening every time. (Don't fuss at me about MadMen, I'll get to it.)

Anonymous said...

Jackie's violent rejection of the very idea that something is wrong with Grace seems forced and weird to me. Surely the child is showing the classic signs of anxiety disorder, if not actual depression. Why is Jackie so hellbent on denying the child the help she needs? It seems to be against her nature, which is to help people who need it. Maybe she fears it's an implicit indictment of her parenting, but she ought to know better, as a medical professional.

limo said...

I have to say that I find the opening credit sequence to be very weak for an HBO or Showtime series...I expect more. I always fast forward through it.

erin said...

@Dudleys mom--I think like most people, she can diagnose and treat strangers with confidence, but when it comes to her own family, it might be hard to see what's right in front of her. That makes sense to me.

I like that Jackie is fairly tough and in your face...the only way they've softened her is in scenes with her husband. They haven't watered her down, but you can see where the toughness comes from. She's an interesting, complex character and i can see why Falco was drawn to the role. I especially liked the way she mouthed off to the school nurse, thinking she could bull her way in, but then had to dial it back when the nurse took offense. And I think the kid playing her oldest daughter has lots of promise.

christy said...

I agree with Chip, I thought Jackie's "was that so hard?" was her way of admitting to herself that there is, or at least might be, a problem with Grace. Though I suppose the fact that she can only admit it to herself and no one else is a sort of denial in itself.

LA said...

I like this show a little more each week. Anyone know in what language Haaz Sleiman was singing to the injured twin? That little side story about his twin was interesting.

TxGowan said...

@LA - The captioning identified the singing to be in "Arabic".

This is the first episode of this show that I've truly really enjoyed. I felt like there was a lot more emotional depth to the episode.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I find the opening credit sequence to be very weak for an HBO or Showtime series...I expect more. I always fast forward through it.


***yeah what happened to the clever VALLEY OF THE DOLLS theme used in the pilot?

A_Homer said...

I will keep trying to watch, but isn't it sort of like "Rescue Me", set to a different gender and as Nurses? Only THAT could be interesting. This one feels like a show that went too quickly into production before it settled on the right supporting characters, and hoped the star's presence would just allow time to improve things on the go. I just don't believe her surrounding situation. "Mad Men" is an excellent example, but even on a smaller scale something like "Breaking Bad", I believe much more. And that is crucial for the story to work, otherwise the guy is just another twisted soul in the end. "Nurse Jackie" has to decide on more than quirks of one character, and definately has to watch out for the romanticization of hospitals, patients and staff - most of the audience knows better today, and really, doesn't need it for this kind of drama(dy?)...

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

I found it completely hard to believe that as a nurse, Jackie had absolutely *no* knowledge or acceptance of mental illness. However, the show got it a little wrong: circling the desk 3 times before sitting down so that planes don't fall out of the sky is a certain kind of ritual-- it's a symptom of OCD and not generalized anxiety. Just like she's worried if she doesn't perform the ritual/compulsion (circling the desk a specified number of times) she worries something catastrophic will happen, her questions of flu epidemics and the Bubonic plague show obsessive thoughts about catostrophic events. OCD, not generalized anxiety. Obsessive thoughts about catostrophic events compel her to perform a ritual, the compulsion, so that the thought will go away.

I was a little taken aback at how quick Jackie was to get defensive and how ignorant she was about a very common mental illness. Even if she didn't want to admit that something was wrong with her child, she should know a little more about mental illness, especially one as common as anxiety, working in the medical field. It seemed that her reaction was more towards not wanting to medicate her daughter (almost projecting her own addiction and addictive tendencies that she doesn't want to admit to but doesn't want her daughter to be susceptible to, if she were to be medicated).

As for the sun, I saw her admitting that something was missing, but the statement "Was that so hard?" implies that she feels it will be easy to fix and isn't really as big of a deal as it really is.

Eddie clearly doesn't know about Jackie's husband and kids, but I wonder how? Do they *never* hang out outside of the hospital? Does he wonder why they don't go on dates, why he hasn't been to her house, why she doesn't spend the night with him?

And Dr. O'Hora's complete lack of maternal instinct, while not surprising, was a little exaggerated to me. As a doctor, I'm sure she would at least be used to having to fake enthusiasm and affection for children. There's no way this is the first child she's had to interact with.

Maggie said...

I could be off base on this, but my impression is that Jackie, as an ER nurse dealing with all kinds of horrifyingly bad physical trauma, may feel that her daughter's teachers are making too big a deal out of her daughter's emotional issues. Having a job where she gets to spend all day fixing people (or at least knowing what can be fixed and what can't) can cause you to be in denial when faced with something that isn't as easy to diagnosis, let alone fix. I also think there is some fear in even thinking of her daughter dependent on a medication to function - she has to realize how screwed up her own addiction is, and would be desperate to keep her daughter from following in her footsteps.

I took the coloring of the photo to be her way of telling herself that she can fix her daughter, that it's not as big a deal as the school is making it out to be.

Bobman said...

Considering Jackie is a drug addict, I took her denial of her daughter's condition to be more of a self-denial; most drug addicts become such because of underlying depression issues, so admitting her daughter has a problem is kind of admitting that SHE has a problem. Doling out medication to her daughter reflects how JACKIE is self-medicating to cover up a problem. No? I'm no psych major but this is how it kind of played out to me.

Also, Jackie's affair does seem to be about more than drugs, but it is so jarring to me because she seems to truly care for her husband. Usually affairs depicted in media are borne of some dislike or resentment of the spouse but Jackie seems to legitimately care about both people. My question is how the pharmacist (why can I never remember his name?) doesn't know that she's married. That's a tough thing to hide, especially for how long they seem to have known each other. At first I thought she was keeping it from him (hiding the ring, etc) just to not remind him of it, but now I realize she's really hiding it.


Finally, I'm 29 and still can't draw half as well as Jackie's young daughter, colors or not. :)

dez said...

However, the show got it a little wrong: circling the desk 3 times before sitting down so that planes don't fall out of the sky is a certain kind of ritual-- it's a symptom of OCD and not generalized anxiety. Just like she's worried if she doesn't perform the ritual/compulsion (circling the desk a specified number of times) she worries something catastrophic will happen, her questions of flu epidemics and the Bubonic plague show obsessive thoughts about catostrophic events. OCD, not generalized anxiety. Obsessive thoughts about catostrophic events compel her to perform a ritual, the compulsion, so that the thought will go away.


I thought the same thing. I kept waiting for Jackie to say, "That's not GAD; that's OCD!" Grace's belief that she can control external events through her own actions is an example of the "magical thinking" aspect of OCD, which I'm surprised the school psychologist missed. Anxiety is a by-product of this behavior.

Of course, if you learned about OCD from TV, you'd think OCD only means excessive hand-washing and germophobia. Maybe the writers are getting their psych advice from other TV shows ;-P Paul Weston would have recognized the real issue immediately!

Marnie said...

Folks in the profession, have you ever seen anyone wear their scrubs as tight as Edie Falco's character does in this show? When she sits the fabric strains and I can't see how she can be comfortable in a getup like that for the upmty-ump hours she supposedly spends in that place.

Re- the denial on her daughter's behavior, we see this reaction often in parents. They will come in to the school with a laundry list of their child's issues and the reasons why they need special attention or treatment, but the second you suggest that the child could be acting out some anxiety she could be feeling from home life, the walls come up. My guess is Jackie realizes the concern is valid, but has so many balls (no pun intended) in the air that she thinks it would be impossible identify the cause and do anything about it, so it's easier to tell the staff at school that they are making a mountain out of a molehill.
At the end of the day, I think she minimizes because even with the kind of time she's spending at the hospital, she can barely keep up with her meds needs, and in the back of her mind, the thought of anything interfering with scavenging for her habit is just terrifying. Watch how she treats the pharmacist; she is barely civil long enough to get what she needs and as soon as she gets it, she can hardly wait to get away from him...