Code Black Season 1 Episode 12 Review: “The Fog of War”

Code Black season 1 episode 12

The winter premiere of Code Black jumped in right where the winter finale left off and then went full speed ahead! It’s amazing how much this show packs in within just a few minutes of screen time. This is the 12th episode of Code Black, and it feels like they are trying out some new things. Then there’s are the storylines we’ve been watching evolve since day one. All and all Code Black season 1 episode 12 has given us a lot things to review!

First of all, “The Fog of War” reminded us of where we left off – so I’ll do the same. There’s been a huge highway accident Dr. Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) & Dr. Neal Hudson (Raza Jaffrey) had brought the residents out to assist. This was the first time they had to deal with tagging victims – including a dreaded “black tag” – which means that the person’s injuries are considered too severe for him or her to be saved. Things had gotten dicey fast.

Leanne had immediately clashed with the doctor handling the entire operation, and she later ended up defying him to go look for a woman whom resident Dr. Malaya Pineda (Melanie Chandra) had already given a black tag.  Leanne does this because she’d promised the woman’s young son that his mother, Connie, would be okay – breaking one of her own rules from episode one.  However, being that Leanne lost her entire family in a car accident I’d say there’s some PTSD clouding her judgement.  Because she and Neal had gone out and left Malaya to deal with victims brought to the tent Malaya had to do a blind chest tube insertion on her own. Even though they may have saved the boy’s mother the other patient now is at risk of brain damage or death.

Leanne and Malaya went back to Angels Memorial with those two patients, leaving Neal to suddenly realize that he’s got three resident doctors unaccounted for: Mario Savetti (Benjamin Hollingsworth), surgical resident Heather Pinkney (Jillian Murray), and his personal favorite (although he can’t really say that) Christa Lorenson (Bonnie Somerville).

Now, as viewers, we knew that Mario and Heather were in a trailer being held at gunpoint by a man named Gary (Lost alumni Neil Hopkins)  demanding they save his wife – whom they had black tagged earlier.  We also knew that Christa had tumbled down a ravine and found a mom named Katherine (Amy Stewart), and her 16-year-old son in bad shape.  Krista had done some heroic work with the assistance of Lily (Maggie Elizabeth Jones ), Katherine’s 12-year-old daughter, but they were going to need help fast!   In particular, Katherine has a neck injury and is in danger of being permanently paralyzed if she moves an inch!

Back at Angel’s Malaya’s pregnant ex-girlfriend, Dr. Carla Niven (Shiri Appleby) who is dying of cancer had come in. The cancer had moved to her brain, and Dr. Rollie Guthrie (William Allen Young) told her they should induce labor because if she died with the baby inside of her…well it wouldn’t be a good thing.  Carla is in denial and wants to give the baby as much time inside as possible. She also doesn’t want Malaya to know she’s in the hospital or how dire the situation is. (Like, we all knew that wasn’t gonna happen, but still.)

The Fog of War: Review

The Setup

Neal heads out into the carnage to look for his missing residents.  One of the things that hits hard doesn’t have a word of dialogue.  Flashlight in hand he’s searching through the dark and the various cars.  He sees a cell phone ringing outside of a car and it’s flashing “Mom.”   Inside is a blond woman, eyes closed, and black-tagged.  Someone has lost – or is losing – their daughter.  It’s a dark and poignant moment.  Neal doesn’t try to second-guess the tagging – doesn’t even check for a pulse.  He just watches the ambulance drive away.  It’s sad, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be done, and it serves as a sharp contrast to what Leanne did earlier.

Down in the ravine Christa notes that the fog is lifting and sends Lily to go flash the car’s headlights in the hopes that someone will see them.  Lily, a girl scout, does so using morse code.  It doesn’t take long for Neal to find them.  They are both very relieved – especially Christa!

Christa: “I’ve got three people down here! Two red tags and one green!”

Neal can’t get to them, but he heads back to get help. Soon a helicopter shows up to medevac everyone out.

Mario and Heather are still inside the camper with the Gary,  frantically working on the lost cause of his wife.  I’m glad she’d unconscious.  The two are both scared, but keep they keep working until she’s really dead.  Then things get really bad.

At first Gary doesn’t want to believe it, and in his grief he momentarily turns his rage on them and points the gun at Heather.  He then turns the gun on himself, saying at least he’ll get to be with his wife.  Mario tells him to put the gun down, but must have realized it wasn’t going to happen because he makes a leap to grab it just as we hear it go off.  Did Gary kill himself?  At this point we don’t know.

Things at Angel’s have a different tension running.  Dr. Guthrie is there with Malaya and Leanne as they work with the patient Malaya did the chest tubing for.  That patient is still unconscious.  Leanne tries to casually mention that there’d be some issues with the chest tubing and thus some oxygen deprivation to Guthrie.  It’s not a good move.  Guthrie asks who did the chest tube and a not happy Malaya tells him it was her. He’s surprised.

Guthrie: You did this on your own?

Malaya: I had no choice.

This was a heck of a moment! Daddy feels guilty! It’s all over her face. This is important to know.  Why?  Because when the Gina Perello (Christina Vidal), the new head of the E.R., hauls Leanne off the floor to let Daddy know that there’s been an investigation started on her and Neal about their behavior at the crash site Leanne pulls her usual, “I’ve done nothing wrong” attitude.   However we know that this is her being totally defensive and it’s not pretty.   She’s dismissive of Gina, even when Gina tells her she’d spent the last ten minutes on the phone defending Leanne.   As a viewer it was good to  hear that.  At least we know Gina isn’t gunning for Leanne.  She’s just trying to do her job and keep the hospital from being sued!

We also learn that Carla has made it through the night – but still won’t let Guthrie tell Malaya anything….

Case 1 – Mario and Heather

Mario and Heather bring the gunshot victim in – so we know he’s not dead.  Understandably Mario is hyped up and determined this guy isn’t going to die.  The thing is, he didn’t mention that he and Heather had witnessed the attempted suicide until they are bringing in the victim.  Only when the police officers are asking about it does he say anything, and only Mario’s new buddy Dr. Angus Leighton (Harry Ford).  It’s a problem because Mario is jumping ahead medically because he has first-hand knowledge.  He’s ignoring Guthrie’s orders – which doesn’t go over well.

Mario takes off a glove and it’s revealed he has a nasty gash on the side of his hand.  I’m guessing that in trying to pull the gun away the bullet grazed the side of his hand.  This also means that the victim didn’t get off a clean shot and it wasn’t directly against his temple.  If this guy lives it will be because Mario saved his life.

Guthrie makes Mario leave – you can’t work on a patient if you’re bleeding – and sends Heather to go talk to him.  Angus has a worried look on his face as he watches his friend.  He may not know exactly what happened, but he can guess, and he gets that Mario’s messed up about it.

This is where things for me get a little weird.  Heather is stitching up Mario’s hand and they are talking about what happened.  Mario is feeling guilty for black-tagging the wife and sees the husband as having no choice in what he did – the whole taking them at gunpoint bit.  Heather’s not having it.  Especially since that’s makes her even more guilty because she’s the one that insisted they had to black tag her.

Mario:      “I didn’t mean to say it was your fault.”
Heather:  “It was crazy out there.  We just followed protocol.”

The next thing I know things are getting flirtatious and Heather out of nowhere reaches up and kisses Mario!

Code Black Season 1 Episode 12

We’re talking serious, start to make out kissing – Grey’s Anatomy type kissing.  This gets interrupted before it can go too far, but still, this was an eye-rolling moment.

Is this the thing about people wanting to have sex right after a near death experience like a car accident?  I suppose I can go with it.  I’m more inclined to think that these two characters are young and attractive – and Code Black needs to punch up their demo ratings.   Being that I really want Code Black to stick around, and I really have no problem with eye-candy, by all means have at it!

Still, I’m more interested in the relationship unfolding between Christa and Neal (who are also both very attractive – like I said, I’ve no problem with eye candy.)  The key word is “unfolding.”  While the medical action on Code Black is super fast, I like that the relationships have had real-time to build. This new storyline feels abrupt.

Making things more complicated is that later Heather goes and cries on Angus’s shoulder.  Now he’s interested in her as well!  He tells Mario about it – and he has an interesting reaction.   He doesn’t tell Angus that he’d just had a super hot kiss with Heather or tell Angus to back off.  Instead he sort of  freaks out and practically runs away from talking about it.

Mario’s reaction is actually really  sweet.  He can see that Angus is all starry-eyed, and he doesn’t want to break his new friend’s heart.  In a conversation with Heather about the patient he tells Heather they can never kiss again!  Heather’s expression says she’s not buying it.  There’s some subtext about Mario not being able to allow himself to be loved.   However, since Heather and Mario’s connection seems to have jumped out of their shared traumatic event, what’s love got to do with it?

Angus meanwhile has gone to then goes to Guthrie and asks him to play a father-like role and give him some advice.  Angus thinks he’s out of Heather’s league, but Guthrie tells him there’s no such thing.  The dynamic between him and Angus really is like a father and son, and it’s enjoyable to watch.  This is a good thing because in this episode we’ve learned Cole Guthrie (Cress Williams), Rollie Guthrie’s actual son, has quit his job at the hospital. I guess we’re only going to be seeing Rollie playing dad to Angus?  I’m not sure if they’ve just written out the character or if there will be more to the story.  It feels like he’s been written out though.  Like I said, Code Black continues to do some tweaking as it progresses.  I’m grateful CBS is giving them the time to it because the core of this show is great.

As for the gunshot victim, he makes it – but he can’t remember his name, his wife or what happened.  Is that the end of his story? It feels somewhat unfinished.  What’s definitely not unfinished is this Mario, Heather, Angus thing.  At the end of the episode Heather goes into the locker room and seduces Mario.  I feel bad for him.  He actually tells Heather he’s trying to do the right thing – and not for her.

Heather: You don’t strike me as a ‘do the right thing’ kind of guy.

Bam! Locker room sex.  ….Whatever.

Case 2 – Malaya and Carla

Even though Chandra and Appleby act the heck out of their scenes I’ll keep this brief.  Malaya finds out about Carla being in the hospital, and at first decides to respect Carla’s wishes.  It takes a stern talking to from head nurse Jesse “Mama” Sallander (Luis Guzmán) to get her to go see Carla.

Jesse:     “I don’t understand you two.”

Malaya:  “I’m trying to respect her wishes.”

Jesse:      “You love each other.  That’s all you need to know.”

It’s Malaya that gets Carla to induce the labor, thus they both accept that Carla’s out of time.  Carla asks Malaya to help her be able to hold her son, (she named him Philip) before she dies.  It’s questionable if that’s going to happen….

Carla makes it through that ordeal, and the preemie baby Philip does to.  Once he’s stabilized Malaya brings the baby up in his incubator, takes him out in and puts him in Carla arms so that Carla gets to see and hold her son before she dies.  I’m pretty sure there’s not a dry eye watching this. The episode’s final scene is Mama finding Malaya and saying he’s heard the news. Carla has died.

Carla: “She saw him. That’s good, right?”

Jesse: “That’s better than good.”

I still have a few questions about this story.  We’ve not heard a thing about how this baby was conceived.  Is there a father in the picture we know nothing about who hasn’t been around?  If it’s artificial insemination who exactly is supposed to take care of this child?  Malaya?  Like, that was considerate of Carla: dump your girlfriend come back dying and pregnant and stick her with your son.  I’m sure Malaya’s current girlfriend (who we’ve seen briefly, once.) will be thrilled to learn her girlfriend is taking on her ex’s kid.  As sad and well done as the actual scenes are, there’s still a part of me thinking the entire scenario has too many holes in it.

Case 3 – Leanne, Gina, Malaya, and Neal

The situation with the patient isn’t good, and Neal is straightforward with Leanne that he’s not sure that she – they – made the right call.  Mama can also tell that Daddy is on edge.

Jesse:     “Whatever you and Neal did, you know I’m on your side, right?

Leanne:  “I didn’t know people were taking sides.  All we did was our jobs.”

Code Black 1 x 12 "Mama"

There is no fooling Mama!

Under Jesse’s knowing gaze Leanne gets defensive, but when Jessie asks if she’s okay she just walks off.

Making matters worse, Malaya and Leanne realize that Malaya made an error putting in the chest tube – it punctured the liver, so that’s where the blood, which they thought was from the lung, has been draining from!  On top of that, Leanne figures this out – and says it out loud – just as the patient’s sister shows up.  The patient’s name is Jocelyn, and her sister had gotten a call from her while Jocelyn was at the crash site.  At the time, Jocelyn had said she was fine….  Can you say, “lawsuit”?

After the sister is escorted away, Leanne tries to comfort Malaya.

Leanne:  “Malaya, no one is blaming you.”

Malaya:   “Well they should.  And they should blame you, too.”


Between, Neal and Malaya’s comments and attitudes, Leanne’s mind has to be working overtime.  Later Jesse finds her looking at Jocelyn’s chart and she confides in him that she, “needs this patient to wake up.” Still, she’s not actually saying that she’s made a mistake.

Unfortunately, the opposite is happening with Jocelyn.  She’s still bleeding from somewhere and her blood pressure is dropping. Malaya is with Carla, but Leanne, Mama, Mario and Neal are all there.  There’s no operating room available.  Leanne tells Neal he has to go in and repair the liver, with a look that says, “or we’re both screwed.”  Neal basically tells her she’s crazy – it would take a team of surgery to attempt it.

Thank goodness for Leanne’s talent for medical improv!  It occurs to her that if they use a balloon catheter to divert the blood from the liver it will buy them some time for an operating room to open up so that a team of surgeons could in fact fix her liver.  The only problem is that Gina happens to be there as they this is happening.  Just as they’re starting to move the patient, Gina says they absolutely can’t do it the procedure because isn’t approved for the E.R.  – but Neal backs Leanne.  He reminds Gina that experimental procedure isn’t approved for the O..R. either – and that it’s the only shot they’re got to save the patient.  Gina relents.

Gina: “I’m going to close my eyes.  When I open them, I don’t want to see you here.”

Leanne is pleased with Gina’s decision.  Her wry comment of, “Welcome to Angels” is the first sign that Leanne gets where Gina is coming from.  Gina’s got a job to do and rules to follow – but she wants Gina to understand that at Angels, sometimes you’ve got to look the other way.  If the patient dies, it’s definitely a lawsuit – so doing whatever is necessary to save her is in the hospital’s best interest, even if it’s not exactly by the book.

It’s a difficult procedure – which makes it a great scene!


Jocelyn ends up making it, but with that pressure gone Leanne is now ready to face herself. First she goes to Neal and asks if he thought they’d made a bad call. He’s reluctant to answer. At first all he says is “all’s well that ends well.” When Leanne pushes him, Neal still won’t answer the question – which lets them both know that he thinks they did.

Armed with that information she goes to find Malaya. Malaya is in Carla’s room. Carla is asleep (or unconscious) so she steps out to talk to Leanne. This is another one of those great character-defining scenes. Leanne could have let the situation go. Malaya is actually apologizing to Leanne about being so accusatory. Instead she tells Malaya that she was right – and apologizes for putting Malaya in that spot.

As Malaya’s teacher and supervisor Leanne the apology a step further. After reassuring Malaya that Malaya didn’t fail Jocelyn Leanne explains her mistake, admitting to herself – and Malaya – that if she hadn’t met Connie’s son, she wouldn’t have made the choices she had. The D.I.C. guy was right to have said she’d made an emotional decision. What an excellent teacher! Leanne wants her students to be the best – which means she can’t just show them what’s right. She’s got to let them see when something is done wrong. If Jocelyn had died, it would have been Leanne’s fault – but, as Malaya points out, Jocelyn didn’t die.

Code Black 1 x 12

Leanne: “No. She didn’t”

Case 4 – Neal and Christa

I’ve saved the best for last!  Christa and Neal is the romantic interest story that definitely has my attention.  Maybe it’s because they both have such strong backstories?  It could be the great chemistry as well…. whatever it is I love watching Christeal slowly grow!

Not that the majority of their screen time is overtly flirtatious.  It’s more the sense of bonding that we’ve been watching occur for the last 11 episodes.  Right before the two parter there had been some trouble between them because Neal was feeling the conflict between his personal feelings for her and his job as one of her teachers.  (Funny how that doesn’t seem like as big a deal when the students are the same age – but the problem is still there.) In “The Fog of War” that conflict seems lifted.

In fact, much of this episode is about just how good a doctor Christa is.  That thing she did with coming up with a makeshift breathing tube for the 16-year-old boy is seen as a big deal by everyone.  As they’re rolling the boy in from the medevac even Leanne is surprised – and she thinks Neal is the one who did it.  He’s speaking fast, but there’s a definite tone of pride and awe in Neal’s voice when tells Leanne Christa did it – with the help of a 12-year-old girl!

Christa and Lily – the said 12-year-old girl – have a sweet moment where Christa tells Lily that Lily saved her brother and Mom.  Lily promptly says, “No, we did.”   Christa would be such a good mom.  Watching the scene I can’t help but think of the little boy she lost.  Hopefully someday – like in season 6 or 7 (I’m an optimist) – she and Neal will have a kid so she can be a mom again.  (Okay, yes, I’m a total Christeal shipper!)

Anyway, while working on the boy, Neal says something about they “need to get it right this time” when he and Leanne start to work to remove the temporary tube for a more stable one.  (So, yes, the tension between him and Leanne really is throughout the episode – and juxtapositioned against his pride in Christa’s work.) Leanne comes up with a way to make the transitioning of the tube smoother.  Aside from it being a way to show Neal she still knows what she’s doing, it reminds me that Christa is studying under Leanne and Neal. Christa’s improv skills in the field certainly may have been nurtured by Leanne – the same woman Neal is mad at.   While it’s not a romantic triangle, there has been a triangle of sorts between these three.  The sense of divided loyalties is one that I think we’ll be seeing more of.

Because Cole has skipped out, Neal ends up doing the surgery on the teen’s throat – and takes Christa with him to assist.  While Neal is stitching up the patient,  Christa is telling him all the things she screwed up and how scared she was – ending with saying that she’s “a mess.” Neal shares a story from his past about not wanting to pose in a white coat when he’d graduated from medical school because he didn’t really feel like a doctor.  Then he lets Christa know that all the fears, doubts, etc that she’d had in the field were normal.  Then he really lays it on.

Neal:   “…But what you did was an act so brave, and medically so impressive, that I’m baffled that you call yourself a mess.”

Christa: “Does it ever go away? The fear?

Neal:       “No, I don’t think so.  You just get better at not showing it.  You’re a great doctor, Christa.  Do yourself a favor.  Admit it.”

Are Leanne and Christa two sides of the same coin?  Right before this Neal had reminded Leanne that she was the one that taught him the only thing worse than a lack of confidence is over-confidence, suggesting that he thinks Leanne is being just that about them making the right choice.   There’s definitely more to be revealed about these three – and I’m more interested in what happens to these relationships than to the whole Heather/Mario/Angus thing.  (Although, I am sort of interested in how Angus and Mario friendship goes.  Let me know what you’re making out of all these new dynamics in the comments, ‘kay?)

With her son all patched up, the focus turns to Katherine. Mom and son are in the same room, so Christa and Neal go check in on them both with Lily.  Neal does some tests to see if Katherine can feel anything on her legs.  It’s looking good – until Neal subtly lets Christa see that he’s not actually touching the mom’s legs when she says she can feel something.  Katherine is lying to protect her kids. Being the wise person that she is, Krista later has a gentle chat with Katherine, pointing out how brave and strong her kids are – and that they get it from Katherine.  They are all strong, and as such,  it’s probably better that Katherine be honest with her kids.  Katherine agrees and Krista leaves when the kids come in.

The big straight up fun Christeal  is at the end of Christa’s shift. She getting off work and says she’s heading home to bed, then asks Neal if he wants to come.  Of course, that’s not what she meant, but it’s definitely a funny, sweet and awkward moment!  Neal breaks out it by letting Christa know that there are some reporters that want to talk to her.  This time he’s not kidding.  There’s a photo of her being lifted out of the ravine by helicopter that’s gone viral.  Christa doesn’t quite believe him, but then he shows her!


Code Black 1 x 12 Christa and Neal 2

Christa’s amazed – and Neal is so proud of her!

Christa then turns and asks Neal how he’s doing, but he won’t let her divert from going and taking credit for what she did.  She then teasingly asks how she looks, but Neal answers sincerely with, “beautiful.”  It changes the tone, and she thanks him for “today…for everything.”  It leaves him a bit starry-eyed with a little smile – until Leanne calls him over to see that the patient they’d been worried about is awake and talking.

The Wrap Up

It’s a scary thing to realize the kinds of decisions doctors in those kinds of situations have to make every day.  Leanne’s wrong choice allowed for two lives to be saved and a young boy to have his mother.  Mario and Heather’s distraught husband’s wife – could they have maybe saved her if they’d stayed?   What about the woman crying about her date or the one in the car with the ringing cell phone – where Neal didn’t even check for a pulse?  The idea of having to make those calls on whether someone lives or dies carries with it levels of stress I can’t imagine.  Watching this two-parter unfold I’m struck with how our very human doctors have to play God – and how scary that has to be.

As for the stories unfolding, I’m thinking this episode won’t be the last we hear about the inquiry into Leanne and Neal’s choices.  It’s another sad reality. Mistakes or not, everyone was doing their absolute best to do what was right.  These doctors all really care about their patients…and it doesn’t mean there won’t be a lawsuit if everything isn’t absolutely fine with Jocelyn, or that their won’t be a reprimand.  Don’t forget that the season started with Neal being frustrated with Leanne’s “reckless” behavior.  It’s a theme that’s been ongoing – old fashion medicine vs. cutting edge technology, mcgivering  techniques on the spot that aren’t sanctioned….  Leanne told Neal way back in episode one that he’s the doctor a patient wants – but she’s the one they need. Maybe that’s true…but perhaps not always?  There are no hard and fast right or wrong answers, but I suspect we’re going to have a lot more opportunities to think about it.

As for all the relationship drama, well, Mario and Heather I could take or leave. I’m also not sure what Malaya’s part is going to be with Carla’s baby, and it still seems weird that Carla just popped back into her life the way she did. I am wondering about Leanne’s reaction to Cole disappearing. She seemed personally hurt that Cole had just left.  If he’s woken her up to the idea that life goes on and maybe she could in fact start to think about dating then his short stay wasn’t in vain.  Leanne has so many facets to what’s going on with her – she’s definitely a complicated woman.  I’m looking forward to seeing more be revealed! Oh, and I’m completely thrilled with Neal and Christa.

What did you think of this week’s Code Black?  Let’s hear your take on things in the comments!


  • Code Black Season 1 Episode 12 Review


Code Black season 1 episode 12 has given us a lot things to review! It’s amazing how much this show packs into just a few minutes of screen time!

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