Thursday, January 03, 2008

ER: Jeannie's back

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?


Anonymous said...

Argh! I didn't realize there was a new "ER" episode tonight, much less the one where Jeanie returns. But thanks for the recap, Alan! I think "The Peace of Wild Things" in season 6 was Gloria Reuben's last episode as a series regular on "ER", and I love that episode both for the heartrending scene between Weaver and Alan Alda's Gabe Lawrence, where the latter confesses he has Alzheimer's, and also for Jeanie's understated departure, which (along with Carol riding off into the sunset with Doug) is my favorite "ER" character sign-off.

Jeff Vaca said...

I thought it was a wonderful episode; easily the best of the season. But it wasn't only because of Gloria Reuben herself - it was as if her presence had inspired the rest of the cast to pick up their game; to show that they are just as much a part of the history of ER as their famous predecessors.

Overall I think this season has been very good. I almost gave up on the show but kept watching due to the urging of my 14-year old son, and I'm glad I did.

Alan Sepinwall said...

One missed opportunity I forgot to mention: how do you do an episode with both Jeannie and Anspaugh in it -- let alone one where Jeannie faces the loss of a child -- and not have their paths cross? If nothing else, it would have provided some forward progress for the "Pratt wants to be chief" story if Anspaugh saw Pratt being so good with Jeannie.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't remember how Jeanie left either. I thought she had moved to Atlanta or something with her no longer ex-husband. But I ended up really enjoying her appearance, just because it was so old-school ER. I wish it didn't have to be so damn depressing though.

Has it really been eight years since Carol had her babies and went off to Seattle? I feel old.

Carrie said...

Apparently my Tivo didn't realize this was a new episode and I missed it! Damn! (Yes, I have an ER season pass. Old habits die hard.)

Thanks for the recap.

Anonymous said...

One question on the rest of the episode: am I going nuts, or are they really going to pair off Gates and Sam?

Gawd, I hope not. Sure seems like they're setting it up that way, though.

Loved the ep and loved seeing Jeannie again. Also, I realized tonight just how much I like Pratt as a character (I was sort of meh on him for a long time).

CincyNat said...

My favorite Jeanie moment is when she sang the Greenday song for Scott when he died. This latest one was a good episode, but, yeah, so sad for Jeanie and Carlos. I thought they did a good job of bringing us up to speed (because I couldn't remember how she came to be Carlos' mother) and thank god Chuney and Haleh were working so she knew somebody! Agreed, Alan, that she should have run into Anspaugh--they shared so much.

Anonymous said...

For me, I did not miss Jeanie Boutlet at all ... and return brought home why that was all that much more. Once she became HIV positive, Jeanie became to stridently self-righteous to the point of extreme annoyance (on par with the character that played the secretary [at first] on THE PRACTICE). Her arguments with Pratt over the scan and, later, with Pratt and her husband over what should be told her son highlighted that (including her husband's line "Its either her way or no way" [paraphrased]). She became insufferable. I, for one, am glad she was only back for the one episode.

Pamela Jaye said...

Darn, it's just one episode?
I was so hoping that Cress Williams was going to be able to do his "it's Thursday night, my son's in the ER and my wife is too busy with her medical career to care about our marriage" thing in duplicate!

I didn't even think of Anspaugh (what precisely is his job title? even when he's not in charge, he's in charge!) and Jeannie - darn it.

And yeah, I got the same vibe with Tony (and also didn't like it - do some work, stop sleeping around) and yes I did like the mentions of the old cast - as happened in another recent ep (I remember when X, Y, and Z ran the place) and the thought that Carol and Doug were "living happily ever after" (though ER is the only show I've watched that has brought back two characters (Susan and Deb Chen)) and wouldn't it be nice for Carol, Doug and twins to end up in the ER in Seattle (where did they move to? Seattle, Tacoma, or Portland?) - nah, but it would definitely point up the silliness that often is Grey's. (though, let's face it, ER and St Elsewhere both had soap elements or at least St E had sex in the morgue)

I did a run of ER two years ago, so I knew how Jeannie left and yet I had forgotten Carlos, who was barely there, and was surprised by his age. (was it really that long or did they use soap operas' RAS on him?)

ER has been on so long that TNT recently had a Christmas Episodes Marathon (don't know what the bumpers called it but I saw the eps listed in my to be recorded list before i deleted them - hey! that's where I got all that space!) I don't want Law and Order, so... 14 years is long to me.

It got boring when most of the original cast left, and Abby took over with her own brand of whining - as Luke said "You're not that pretty, you're not that special" - gotta agree. But when she is good, she is good (and I feared Sally Field in Brothers and Sisters, since she was so good as Maggie I could barely endure her - but apparently she's just good).
I'm sure it was Leguizamo, 3rd Rock bitch and way too much Political Statements in Africa that turned me off on ER, but I still watched it, just cause it was a hospital show and it was there. Even with 3 others on the air. I didn't love it. I didn't make my brother watch it ;-) but I still did. Even if I erased it when I was done (something I am trying to fix now)