Monday, July 13, 2009

Nurse Jackie, "Tiny Bubbles": Toast up. Toasting.

I'm on vacation at the time you're reading this, but tonight's "Nurse Jackie" was so outstanding -- and was a big reason why I gave the show such a positive review at the start in spite of some unevenness in the other early episodes -- that I wanted to give it a quick write-up before I left. (In an ideal world, I'd write more, but I gots to go.) Spoilers coming up just as soon as I get you to walk with me...
"F--k you, and here's to me." -Paula
The comedy and drama sides of "Nurse Jackie" haven't yet learned how to co-exist, and an episode like "Tiny Bubbles" suggests that until they do, the writers should err on the side of drama. Because where some previous episodes felt interesting but slight, "Tiny Bubbles" felt solid and powerful throughout. Even the relatively lighter moments -- like the Coop Has Two Mommies subplot -- had more weight, and felt more satisfying.

Much of the credit for all of this goes to Tony-winning Judith Ivey, who was wonderful as Paula, turning a character who could very easily have been a cliche into a very real person whose life and death had an obvious impact on the rest of the cast. Hell, even Mrs. Akalitis seemed like a human being for most of this one.

Great work, also, by Blythe Danner and Swoosie Kurtz as Coop's aforementioned two mommies, who went a long way towards deepening a character who'd previously been there just as comic relief.

But the regular cast was great, too. I loved Eddie setting Zoey straight on the subject of how unusual this situation is, and O'Hara being mildly serious for once as she offered to help Jackie. And, of course, Edie Falco was outstanding throughout, especially during the moment where Jackie learned she isn't the first nurse to get pain pills from Eddie, and in the final sequence (wonderfully scored to Patty Griffin's "It Don't Come Easy") where Jackie went to pack up Paula's apartment and found that Paula beat her to the punch.

I have a DVD with episodes seven through twelve, and if I do anything vaguely work-related over this vacation, I suspect it'll involve watching those episodes to see if "Tiny Bubbles" was an aberration or the episode where the pieces all started clicking into place.

Keeping in mind that we are not going to discuss the seventh episode, which went up On Demand today, what did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

So many good moments in this episode.

I thought Eddie setting Zoey straight was excellent and overdue. Her earnest lack of self-awareness bordered on narcissism in this ep, starting with her little speech to Dr. O'Hara about Jackie, and culminating with her little scene with Eddie. Eddie rightfully pointed out that no one gave a crap about her in this situation. She really did need to get over herself. I realize she's supposed to be childish and annoying, which normally might be OK, but in a life and death situation, it was seriously inappropriate. Good thing Eddie got to her before she said anything to Jackie.

Loved the character of Paula. It was fun watching her telling Akulitis to screw herself multiple times. Her send off was moving and well done.

Overall, this was the best ep so far. Interesting to find out that Eddie is a drug pusher, and that Jackie's not special in this regard, which makes you wonder if she really needed to sex him up to get her pills... Probably not. Hmmm.

LA said...

Pitch perfect, I loved it. The end was awesome when they all cracked up to "eff you, here's to me, after she was gone.

christy said...

Drank it up like a champagne glass full of morphine. Can't think of a moment I didn't totally love.

Toby O'B said...

Merrit Wever continues to amuse me each week and this week, her moment was when she instructed Dr. O'Hara to walk with her - "Or we can just stay here...."

What a powerhouse of a guest cast and a perfect blend of image and song which left me verklempt.....

Anonymous said...

I know this isn't the place for it but are you still watching Kings? McShane was ridiculously good in episode 10.

It is a huge crime that no one will see it.

Megan Carlson said...

I heard so many good things about this episode that I watched it days ago On Demand, and then enjoyed it enough that I watched next week's as soon as it was available today. I've really ended up enjoying this show more than I expected.

This was a great episode. Zoey's one of my favorite characters this summer, and Merrit Weaver continues to kill it in her delivery. It was nice to see them soften O'Hara a bit in this context. The group scene with the champagne was very moving.

I think the thing that's been the weakest for me in the series has been Akulitis, and this was the first episode for me where she at least felt like she fit in with the show. (A lot of the time, she feels like a character and plots stuck in from another show.)

Anonymous said...

I loved Ackilitis saying that if anything is funny about the IV there will be trouble - and knowing that Jacquie was 4 steps ahead of her and would never be caught by the likes of her. -Milhouse

erin said...

I know I'm going to be the only one who probably feels this way, but if this is the best Nurse Jackie has to offer (and I do believe it is--the story and acting were spot on), it's not the show for me. As good as all the notes were played, I'm not emotionally invested in any of the characters. I appreciate what the show is doing, making Jackie difficult and prickly and complex, but I can't warm up to her or anyone else in the show, even in a strong episode like Tiny Bubbles. But I'm glad I tried it anyway.

Tina said...

Agreeing with all the praise above, and adding the gorgeous moment when the brash and gutsy Paula realized she needed a priest. And O'Hara realizing what Jackie was going through without words, where a different series might have needed to talk it all out. The Patty Griffin song over the end scene was heartbreaking.

If this is the show, I'll take it. It's also a wonderful showcase for women who started out on the stage -- Falco and Best, but here, Kurtz, Danner and Ivey.

Eyeball Wit said...

I actually put off watching it because of its less than Up-With-People subject matter. But man, was this was a breakthrough, like "College" in the Sopranos, only more so because what came before was so uneven.

The scene between Zoey and O'Hara was the first and only LOL moment on the show, and maybe the whole summer.

And Eddie's speech was spot-on, too. It was two parts "get over yourself" but one part "there's more in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Zoey/Merritt Wever makes the show for me, and an otherwise incomprehensible description on TWoP that invoked Michael Cera makes perfect sense. (Linked below, if you dare.)

Even serious viewers (like us, I assume) don't have a lot of patience for a show to find its voice. But remember that Springsteen's first album featured "The Angel" and "Mary Queen of Arkansas" too.

JanieJones said...

I also felt "Tiny Bubbles" was the most solid episode to date. I don't watch the next episode on demand because I want to be surprised and keep pace with itin real time.
I think Ivey's, Kurtz', Danner's performance added another layer to the show. Coop was given additional depth. Facinelli is doing a fine job with the material he has been given.
Merrit Wever continues to amaze me with her mannerisms, body movements, facial expressions and so forth. She is perfect in this role.
This episode was very touching-hate to sound cliched but I cried at the end with the brilliant use of Patti Griffin's song and Jackie realizing that Paula had already taken care of everything.
I laughed when Zoey was telling O'Hara to walk with her. I knew Jackie was going to walk up behind and hear her speech.
Mrs. Akalitus (Anne Deavere Smith) is a bit annoying to me. She needs to given more layers to her character. She appears one-dimensional to me most of the time. I am hoping to see her character grow a bit.
I know new shows are usually uneven and experience growing pains so I'm going to hang in there for the long run. I love the cast and think that there is so much material that can be expounded upon and add to the show.
Also, I'm trying to quit smoking and this was a sobering reminder to me of what happens-lung cancer and death so this episode hit home with me.

Mike F said...

this was the best episode, but largely on the strength of one major guest performance...the nurse character was terrific...too bad they can't bring her back or go back 20 years and make her the main character...certainly, a hospital show needs great guest actors/characters, so its a good sign

like Alan, I'm interested to see what they do with the rest of season 1

Anonymous said...

Alan why do you think they only used the VALLEY OF THE DOLLS theme for the pilot? It was so dark I laughed my ass off but now the theme is just bland. Is it because the show doesn't know which way it wants to go? I'll continue to watch in hopes it'll eventually dazzle me as MAD MEN did.

Anonymous said...

Gee...another "rebel" nurse worked at the hospital, who also abused Rx drugs. O'Hara is the only reason I watch this show.

nfieldr said...

Eyeball Wit said...

remember that Springsteen's first album featured "The Angel" and "Mary Queen of Arkansas" too.

And his latest album has "Surprise, Surprise", MQoA is maybe even better than that :-)

WSDD said...

Does anyone know the name and artist of the song that played at the end of Nurse Jackie last night?

Maggie said...

I agree with anonymous above that the theme song is horrible - each time I watch the credits I remember how cool the first episode with the "Valley of the Dolls" music was. Maybe they couldn't afford that, but the piece they are using now is just painful.

I enjoyed this episode also - I am not really a fan of the sentimental hospital storylines (you can't have some patient tug at your heart strings every week or it turns into - well, one of those sentimental hospital shows I refuse to watch) but this wasn't so saccharine. Maybe because, as suggested, of the talent of Judith Ivey.

Question I had about Jackie the character - in this episode it's said she and Paula worked together 15 years ago. Has Jackie been at this same hospital for 15 years? then how come nobody knows she has kids? Wasn't she pregnant for them - or are they adopted?

Or did Paula and Jackie work together somewhere else, and meet up again at this hospital after Jackie had her kids already? Yeah, this seems petty but I'm fascinated by the idea that Jackie could have such a secret home life. When the show takes pains to show you what she goes through to hide it (the off-and-on wedding ring, the dual cell phones) it draws attention to it.

KrisMrsBBradley said...

I agree, how on earth (and WHY?) has kept the husband and kids a secret? How did she hide being pregnant twice?

The thing that bugged me about this particular episode was who was going to bury Paula? If there was no one around to pack up her stuff besides Jackie, who's paying all the money to have her buried?

I like parts of the show, not crazy about others. I'll probably stick around for a while, just because there isn't anything else on. If it was up against 2 other shows that I liked, though, I'd easily leave it behind.

aearle@meekassoc,com said...

IS there anybody out there who knows what the closing song was and who recorded it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Somewhat shockingly, the answer to your question is conveniently located within the blog post you're commenting on.

Remember, kids: reading is fundamental.

Ed said...

Patty Griffin "When It Don't Come Easy"