‘Nurse Jackie’ recap: I am a nurse
Many times in the past, "Nurse Jackie" seemed like two different shows. There was the heavy, dark storylines about Jackie dealing with her addiction and the havoc it caused in everyone’s life around her, and then there were the goofy, light-side stories about Zoey flirting with Lenny or Coop upset that his lesbian moms were getting a divorce. The problem is when you get an actor as commanding as Edie Falco doing your dark side, the light side can get overshadowed. The whimsical antics of the other nurses becomes trivial after watching Jackie smash her finger with a hammer to cover up that she had to cut off her wedding ring.
I wrote last week how Season Four feels like a turning point for "Nurse Jackie." She was finally facing accountability for her actions instead of slipping free of blame like she had so many times before. This week, "Nurse Jackie" continues on that path, giving the side characters in Jackie’s life major changes themselves. Everyone on "Nurse Jackie" is becoming as interesting as Nurse Jackie.
Jackie burns through her first four days of rehab rolling around in bed to a soundtrack of Beck while small hands steal items from her lunch tray (which I think actually is Step One). I was worried that "Nurse Jackie" was going to fast forward through all of her rehab days, but she finally woke up on Day 5 to face her life for the next three weeks. Her group therapy includes a Southern lady with an issue with QVC clowns, green-haired Charlie, baseball self-abuser Wayne, and Jackie’s kleptomaniac roommate Doris, whose letter to Alexis I really wanted to hear. Jackie introduces herself by saying she’s a nurse. There really isn’t much more to say.
Jackie has always been able to work the system to continue her addiction, but in rehab she runs into a few people who seem to be a little bigger of a challenge. Her counselor, Laura, seems to have learned a lot as Dr. Katz’s receptionist. She is smart and blunt. She catches Jackie’s attempts to change the subject and cuts her to the bone with her observations. She even knows the dates of all the daily meditations.
If that isn’t enough, turns out green-haired Charlie sees through Jackie’s BS like he has X-ray vision. He has already laid claim to the broom closet. Jackie brings the coffee she stole from the front desk clerk. He might only be 17, but he is in rehab No. 4, and he manages to bring out the true origin of Jackie’s drug use. She tells the group one story about slipping while nursing and getting meds to finish off her shifts, but in reality, she took pills to cope with Grace’s crying as a baby. Gives a new level to Jackie’s addiction.
Back at All Saints, the other nurses adjust to their newest coworker, Nurse Akalitus. She doesn’t want to be treated differently than anyone else, as long as no one calls her by her first name and someone orders her a new chair. Dr. Cruz continues leading the conversion by new owners Quantum Bay. He takes O’Hara and Coop on to the roof to tell tales of new helipads, and O’Hara lets slip the truth about her pregnancy. In front of Coop. She must secretly have wanted it to get out.
Turns out between the two of them, Dr. Cruz is the one who runs with the information. Coop can’t help bragging that he knows a secret about O’Hara, but he doesn’t get the chance to say what it is. Cruz makes use of his authority, switching the doctors and nurses around both on cases and in offices. He uses being a controlling jerk as a disguise to hide him accommodating for O’Hara’s pregnancy. I’m not sure if that makes him a nice guy or not. O’Hara does tell Akalitus about the bun in her oven to ease the pain of losing her office. It was fun to watch them enjoying the news.
That’s when O’Hara gets the call from Jackie that she needs to see Grace. Confessing that Grace crying as a baby jump-started her addiction must have been too much for Jackie. She had to see her oldest daughter, but that means lying and cheating. Ratting out Charlie for his illegal phone to distract the front desk nurse and then deceiving Grace into thinking the rehab was actually her new job.
Jackie does get to see Grace, but like Laura warned her (and promised us) last week, Jackie will be held accountable for her actions. Laura threatens to throw Jackie out of rehab, going as far as to let her pack. She needs Jackie to want to be there, want to work the system. She follows up with the great line “The only person you’re going to save here is yourself.”
Of course that’s not the case. In the middle of the night, her roommate, Doris, has a stroke. Not only is Jackie able to catch it, she also comforts Doris as they wait for the paramedics to arrive (as much damage as Jackie does, there’s no one you want more at your bedside). Jackie can still save lives, and she can do it five-day sober. You can see in her eyes at the end that she gets it. She can be happy, save lives, and be a better person without drugs. Hopefully that high is enough to keep her from stumbling at temptation.
Photo: Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton, Jake Cannavale as Charlie Cruz, and Carmelo Anthony as Wayne. Showtime Television.