Patient #1 is Ethan Wilkie, an 8-year-old boy who gets inadvertently shot at a political protest he attended with his mother Taryn. Patient #2 is directly related to this storyline, a 9-year-old boy called Mason Bardo who attended the same rally with his mother Carina.
This rally is for something called “Prop 266”, which we can only assume stands for Proposition 266. It’s never explained what exactly this is (yes, it’s fictional), because that’s not necessarily important to the story arc in this episode.
Ethan attends the protest only because his mother is invested and believes in exercising their first amendment rights to make change happen. The story for Mason and his mother is different, they are there because Mason is the invested party, while the mother would rather get milkshakes with her son.
Mason has multiple gunshots to the chest and abdomen. He is getting CPR when they bring him into the ER. One bullet damaged his heart, and he’s bleeding heavily. He goes to the OR after they stabilise him in the ER.
Ethan took a gunshot to the head and became unresponsive en route to the hospital. He is taken directly to the OR without intervention in the emergency room.
The surgical teams then operate on Ethan and Mason, doing everything in their power to keep the boys alive. Both are complicated cases, both boys are hanging on to dear life by a thread.
While both mothers wait in the waiting room for the outcomes of the surgeries, the mothers start bonding over their linked fates, but it becomes more complicated and outright antagonistic when Taryn realises that she and Carina are actually on opposite sides of the political conflict, and she blames Carina for getting her son shot.
Mason throws a clot in his leg after the initial surgery and suddenly there’s also a chance he may lose a foot. The hits just keep coming. To make matters worse, they run out of blood transfusions to give Mason. He may not make it until they get more blood med-evac’ed to them. Taryn, Ethan’s mother, sees the desperate need and puts her antipathy aside. Her blood type is A– and she agrees to give blood to help Mason make it through the night. Thanks to Taryn, Mason makes it, and it’s almost a little miracle.
Ethan has several bullet fragments in his brain. There’s one that they need to leave in because it’s embedded too deeply to safely take out. When Taryn needs to decide whether that’s the best course of action, Lea tells her, “You can trust them, they’re the best doctors I’ve ever known.”
Ethan had severe brain swelling during the surgery, and they have to leave his skull open until the swelling goes down, which could be days or months. He is unresponsive and goes into a focal seizure (a seizure only involving part of the brain). They take him back to the OR, thinking the bullet fragment they left in the brain migrated, but that’s not actually the case. There’s a new fragment that travelled to the brain that wasn’t there earlier, and it’s doing more damage.
Park has an idea that ultimately saves Ethan’s life, and they manage to extract the moving bullet fragment from the brain. Both children make it through the night.
Shaun & Lea
This episode doesn’t really have as much focus on either Shaun or Shea as the episode primarily focuses on the two paediatric medical cases and their single mothers.
Lea is waiting at the hospital for the results of her glucose test for gestational diabetes, sitting in the waiting room with her laptop. Shaun drops by to check in on Lea when both of them see a news report about the shooting at the political rally. While they watch, Shaun gets paged to the ER to help with incoming trauma patients.
While Lea is following the shooting news on the waiting room TV, Ethan and Mason’s mothers are sent to the waiting room to wait for the outcomes of their boys’ surgeries. Lea bears witness to the stories of their boys unfolding – all the despair and uncertainty and tragedy.
Shaun is one of the surgeons assigned to Ethan’s case, and it’s hard for him to come to terms with the fact that the bullet fragments in his brain may mean a death sentence for Ethan. There’s nothing that the surgeons can do to save the young child, and it kills Shaun to have to stand by helplessly. He seeks out Dr. Glassman for neurosurgical advice, because Shaun thinks he may have missed something. But he hasn’t. Ethan can’t be saved. And it very much upsets Shaun that there’s nothing anyone can do.
Dr. Glassman watches Shaun warily, seeing him teary-eyed and distraught over trying to accept Ethan’s fate. “This one’s different, huh?” he asks him. “No. I’ve lost children before,” Shaun insists. But he hadn’t been a father-to-be at the time. Glassman suggests, “Maybe because you can’t protect Ethan, you think…” Shaun shakes his head. “That’s not rational.” No, parenthood is not rational. But it’ll all be worth it. Shaun doesn’t see it. “If it makes me upset and irrational, it doesn’t sound like it’s worth it.” Just you wait, Shaun. You’ll change your mind.
I love the two of them so much, and both Richard Schiff and Freddie Highmore continually knock these scenes out of the park. I hope they keep up the fatherly bonding between Glassy and Shaun in season 5.
Lea’s diabetes test results come back in the meantime, and they’re normal. However, with Taryn and Carina there, she doesn’t have much reason to rejoice or feel relief.
Shaun gets all protective of Lea when Taryn resentfully shoves her away and Lea stumbles. Taryn gets angry. “I made a decision about my son’s life based on your opinion of your boyfriend?!” She apologizes for it afterwards, and she and Lea have a conversation about the strength of a mother and her bond to her child. “Strength doesn’t matter. It’s compassion. And the way you’ve treated us, you’re gonna be a great mother,” Taryn tells Lea. I would like to agree.
Lea stays in the hospital the whole night, and her and Shaun leave in the morning. Both are tired and feel very lucky to have a baby on the way. The feeling doesn’t last long, because Lea suddenly has abdominal pain and collapses right outside the hospital. The episode fades out as Shaun tries to get her help. What does this mean? Is Lea losing the baby? We’ll have to wait for the next episode to find out.
The First Year Residents
During a conversation in the OR, Asher admits he voted for Trump. Once. He liked his stance on Israel. And that opens up a really controversial discussion about whether you should judge people on what political choices they make. Does a presidential vote really define who you are as a person?
I’m seriously torn on this, and I think there are nuances. Or maybe not even nuances, more like fundamental differences. It’s all a spectrum, and there’s the radicals, and then there’s the sympathisers and the more casual voters who made a choice based on a party platform rather than the ideals or personality of the one politician.
I think it was rather bold to tackle this topic on the show, but I also applaud them for doing that. And yeah, it’s definitely a chink in Asher’s likeability armour.
Andrews admits he belongs to the NRA. He bought a handgun after he and his wife were threatened during a dinner date, and he’s a card- and gun-carrying member. Heh. Interesting.
When Alex has a crisis of faith over Ethan and wants to quit the case, Morgan encourages him to suck it up and stay on. She’s her usual uncompromising, somewhat heartless self, but she has a point, and she actually changes Alex’s mind.
After the worst of the crisis is over, Morgan and Alex talk in the locker room. “I think we should stop seeing each other,” Alex tells her. Just sleeping with Morgan isn’t enough for him. He wants to give Heather a chance. Morgan gets passive aggressive about it, but deep down she’s actually upset. Come on, Morgan. Get over your damn ego already. You love the guy.