Code Black Season 1 Episode 13 Review: “First Date”

Code Black season 1 episode 13 review
As you’ll in this Code Black season 1 episode 13 review, the show continues in its tradition of packing half-a-dozen storylines with some serious emotional punch!  What is starting to fall into place are the payoffs to some carefully built story arcs.  In other words this Code Black season 1 episode 13 review has a lot to cover!

The Setup

Code Black 1 x 3 starts with one of its “chaos-already-in-progress” openings:  sirens blaring, lights flashing the sound of someone sobbing in pain and then we’re in the ambulance receiving area.   Out of the first ambulance is 16-year-old Tia who were “pushed offstage at a nightclub and trampled.”  She has a badly broken leg and some cuts on her head.  The head of the residency program, Dr. Leanne “Daddy” Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden) and the head nurse, Jesse “Mama” Sallander (Luis Guzmán) are there to take her.

The second ambulance has the girl’s friend Elena who was also trampled.  Elena has a huge cut on her side and has her head and neck in one of those stabilizing braces. (I’m sure that’s not the correct term, but I’m not a medical person.) Her biggest concern seems to be the fact that Tia’s father is going to be mad because she’s not allowed to go out.  Residents Mario Savetti (Benjamin Hollingsworth) and Christa Lorenson (Bonnie Somerville) get her.

As that’s happening another ambulance pulls up.  Dr. Neal Hudson (Razza Jaffery) is there for it, but is more surprised by the doctor who pops out!  Later we find out that this is Dr. Mike Leighton (Tommy Dewey) – the hot-shot doctor who is the older brother of resident Angus Leighton (Harry Ford).  We’d heard about him in the first episode of Code Black.  The 24-year-old patient has no blood pressure, but Mike isn’t fazed. He doesn’t have much sympathy for the victim – even as he’s working to save his life.

Mike: “This budding Einstein decided to try to mug an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter who made him a pincushion with his own knife.”

As they are wheeling the guy away Neal is still surprised that Mike is even there – though he seems pleased to see the guy.  It looks like they may have been residents together, but it’s never said.  Mike teases Neal about no one telling him anything.

Inside on center stage is bustling the girls are crying as  Leanne tells Mama to check Tia’s leg for a pulse and tries getting information about them: do they take drugs, do their parents know they’re here?  These teens seem pretty clean-cut, and are worried about each other.  However, they keep harping about Tia’s father.  Christa hears this and calls out to them:

Christa: The only thing your parents care about is that you’re going to be okay.

Mike and Neal wheel then into center stage with Mike giving orders and Neal following up with a little smile. Leanne doesn’t seem surprised to see Mike, but does seem pleased to see him.  Not so much Mama. I wonder what that’s about?

As Leanne accesses that Tia’s leg is a dangerous kind of break that won’t heal on its own and will require surgery, Tia’s father Adam Benton (Tim Guinee) is at the nurse’s station inquiring about his daughter.  At the same time Neal and Mike’s patient needs an intubation.  Mike asks Leanne if she’s okay with him working on the patient:

Leanne: “Are you gonna save that man?”

Mike:     “I learned at the hands of the master.”

That catches Mario’s attention!

Neal and Mike work together like they’ve been doing it for years, and I swear Leanne has a moment of a little smile when she glances over at them.  Surgical resident Heather Pinkney (Jillian Murray) arrives to take Tia up for surgery just as Mike and Neal’s patient starts coding! Mike stays cool, but the new head of the ER Gina Perello (Christina Vidal) is not!  (What happens next was shown in this week’s sneak peek, but just in case you missed it)

This is how Neal finds out that Mike may be coming back to Angels Memorial. Mike is definitely a guy who’s sure of himself. One could say it’s arrogance…but it also seems exactly like the kind of thing Leanne would have said, and he clearly loves having been Leanne’s student.

How will Mike’s presence affect Angels? It’s hard to say. Angus seems pleased to see Mike – his voice expresses a real kid-brother admiration type of tone when he tells Mario that Mike is his brother. At the same time, we know that Angus had major insecurity about his own abilities because Mike was known at the hospital as being a brilliant doctor.

As from Adam Benton, he is intense there isn’t he! No wonder the girls were freaking out over him!

The Cases – a Rundown:

Before getting into the medical cases I’ll lay out this little mystery. Code Black 1 x 13 is titled “First Date” so when we see Leanne canceling plans with a “Paul Weatherly” my heart starts pounding. Did Leanne’s brief flirtation with Cole Guthrie (Cress Williams) awaken the desire to date in her? This could be good! Later Mama hears Leanne tell a nurse to let Paul Weatherly know that she’s gotten his messages and will get back to him. That catches Mama’s attention!

Code Black season 1 episode 13 review

Mama misses nothing!

Later Jesse tries to get Leanne to tell him about Paul Weatherly and she retorts with what is definitely the line of the night:

Leanne: You know, I’d get more privacy in a strip club.”

I’ll save the outcome of this mystery man for the wrap up!

Case 1: Tia Benton

This is the big case of the episode.  You’ve already gotten the situation regarding Tia from the setup.  The next scene is Leanne, Heather, and Mario in Gina’s office. Gina is leaving her eighth message demanding to speak to a judge – any judge – so that they can get a court order to go ahead and do the surgery on Tia without the father’s permission. There is no doubt that is mad! However, she’s not as upset as the doctors are.  Mario can’t believe that religion is trumping science.  Gina says her hands are tied because they can’t do anything unless it’s “imminently life threatening” Leanne keeps pointing out that if they don’t operate Tia will get “compartment syndrome” – which cuts off the blood supply to the leg and could in fact kill her.  When Gina counters with the patient probably would only lose her leg, Heather is incensed! The girl is only sixteen.  While Mario and Leanne are upset this Heather seems to be taking the situation personally.

Leanne points out to Gina that at 16 Tia can legally decide for herself what she wants, so why aren’t they trying to convince Tia? Gina has a whole list of reasons: Tia’s already said no,  the father is there and besides, “she’s handling it.”

Code Black season 1 episode 13 review

Heather and Mario are not happy with Gina’s answers!

Leanne isn’t thrilled either.  With all three doctors glaring at her Gina tells them they can certainly hold Tia for eight hours while she goes after that court order.

It’s Leanne who gets to tell the dad that while they won’t operate they are going to be keeping Tia for observation.  Adam talks strongly about how they have faith in the healing powers of God.  Tia  is obviously torn – especially as Leanne points out that she’s seen this kind of injury before and how it can turn out.  Still, it’s Tia who says that she’s healing through prayer.

It’s at that moment that Tia’s friend peeks in to see how Tia’s doing.  It causes quite a scene! The dad doesn’t want Elena there – he blames her for what’s happened to Tia.  Tia defends Elena because it’s Tia that wanted to go to the concert.  Elena, devastated at seeing Tia suffering screams at the Dad about Tia being “in pain.” She can’t believe a father would allow his daughter to suffer like this.  Then she cries out to Tia that Tia is being brainwashed!  Luckily Mama arrives and escorts Elena away before things get out of hand.

After Elena is taken away Leanne lets Tia know that Tia has the legal right to choose for herself if she has the surgery or not.  At this point the Dad, with a scary sort of calm, informs Leanne that Tia does not want the surgery, and that he now forbids anyone at the hospital from talking to Tia.

Heather is still steaming about this and comes up with a plan to convince Tia to have the surgery.  She enlists Mario to help get Adam away from Tia with some forms to fill out.  She’s tells Mario that Tia isn’t completely entrenched in the father’s religion or she never would have gone to the nightclub.

I’m impressed with how Heather gets Tia to agree to the surgery (and with the writers who came up with it!) First she tells Tia about her own strict religious upbringing (which explains much about Heather!) and then points out a big hole in the religion, and in her father’s faith.  If there is no medical intervention, why does Tia’s father wear glasses?

Heather: Why is it okay for him to allow a doctor to help him see again, but you can’t let us help you walk again?

Boom!  (Mario is equally impressed by the way.  You can see it in his eyes. )

Okay, I’m was not thrilled with the whole gratuitous hook up between Heather and Mario last week, but this week Heather’s character takes on a life and depth that has nothing to do with her banging Mario. What’s a little sad is that they’ve sketched a stronger sense of who Heather is in three episodes than they have with resident Malaya Pineda (Melanie Chandra).  First Malaya was  connecting with Angus, then we learn she has a girlfriend, then she’s got this dying ex-girlfriend, and through all of that she seems to be the one used to voice every social justice issue that comes up.  Thirteen episodes in and Malaya’s story still feels like it’s looking for a place to land.  She’s drifting in this episode as well, even though they are setting up a plot that will likely hit next week.  I wish I had a stronger sense of who Malaya is.

Tia is taken away for surgery, but she asks them to sneak her away.  When her dad discovers what’s happened he’s briefly angry at the doctors.  Upon seeing Gina he demands that the surgery be stopped, but Gina’s got a court order saying the hospital can do the surgery.  He’s given a choice to go sit in a waiting room or to be escorted out by security.

At this point Adam Benton stops being angry.  Instead he’s devastated.  He explains that disobeying God can result in his daughter’s death….

Code Black 1 x 13 review Adam with Gina

With Gina and Leanne staring in shock Adam sadly explains that, “any disobedience” to God by Tia could lead to her death….

Kudos to actor Tim Guinee for his performance. This is not a role that doesn’t really much sympathy from the audience, yet in this scene he conveys that Adam truly believes what he’s saying.  He’s not being mean or cruel…these are his beliefs.

I think this is the toughest case Code Black has tackled yet.  Adam Benton’s religion seems irrational and made up, but there are cases similar to this that make the news on a regular basis.   From a strictly secular perspective Adam’s religion makes no sense at all, but this is an extreme position for most mainstream religions.  Personally, the argument being put forth by Adam’s religion seems to go against the Biblical story about Jesus in the desert being tempted by Satan: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test….” – Mathew 4:7.  That’s just me though.  There are religions that absolutely believe in no medical interventions and with the United States being a country that believes strongly in religious freedom, it’s not taken lightly to go against a person’s wishes…unless it’s endangering the person’s life.

In truth this topic is far more complicated than what can be taken on in a 43 minute show.  The bottom line is that most people aren’t comfortable with the idea of a religion that would keep a person from receiving reasonable medical treatment, and that’s the storyline that this case is following.  However, Guinee makes Adam someone who one can empathize with – even though you see that Tia having the surgery and people making sure it happened was the right thing to do.

Once Adam is gone, Leanne and Tina both rip into Mario and Heather.  Mario is somewhat contrite, but Heather is angry and defiant.  As far as she’s concerned they did the right thing and she will not apologize for it.  Once the two are gone Leanne and Gina admit to each other they admire Heather’s spirit. Furthermore, Gina admits that she was bluffing about the court order!

When Tia comes back from surgery we learn more about what Adam meant by his daughter’s death.  Mario and Heather go to see her after the surgery.  Tia asks for her father and they have to break the new to her that her father has left – as in abandoned Tia at the hospital!  Tia is tearful, but she understands why.  By doing her will and not “God’s” she’s committed a grave sin that in their church can get a person excommunicated.  Social services will be coming to help figure out a place for her to go.  (I’m thinking Elena’s family will take her in – as opposed to having to go to an “aunt in Minnesota.”)

Tia thanks Heather and Mario for “saving her life” – and the way it’s said we can infer she’s not talking just about her leg.  It’s Mario who tells Tia that she’s saved herself.

Case 2: Trevor

A 5-year-old named Trevor Randall brought in with his parents – he was found at the bottom of a swimming pool.  This is Neal and Malaya’s case.  Trevor is alive, but unresponsive. They don’t know how long his brain was deprived of oxygen.   There may be brain damage but they won’t know until Trevor wakes up…if he wakes up.  (This is something that the Mom, Danielle (Courtney Ford), picks up on as a possibility.)

Trevor’s father is convinced that the gardener is the one that left the pool gate unlocked, but Danielle confides to Neal that the latch has needed replacing and they haven’t done it.  More importantly, she’s the one who went for a swim after work and may have left the didn’t check that the gate wasn’t just closed, but locked.  Being that the dad wants to have the gardener arrested Danielle tells her husband.  He is furious when he learns the truth, and as they wait to see if Trevor will wake up, he can’t forgive her – and she can’t forgive herself.  Finally Neal steps in to get Trevor’s dad to forgive Danielle.  He reminds the father that his wife is the only one who can begin to understand what he’s going through, and that just like he’d never deliberately hurt his wife, she’d never deliberately hurt their son.  In other words, sometimes accidents happen.

The good news is that Trevor does wake up, and he doesn’t have any brain damage.  Because the husband was able to forgive his wife before this, it won’t be sitting between them. As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well!

Case 3: The Stalker

In the middle of Trevor’s case Malaya has a good Samaritan with a fractured wrist who gets way too familiar with her.  She looks uncomfortable with it, but there’s no time to register it because 5-year-old Trevor codes – she rushes to take him to center stage.  At the end of the episode we see this guy watching her walking off with Angus.  ( This guy is creepy!)

Case 4: The chinese man

Angus is given a patient by Mama – a man who passed out in a supermarket and only speaks chinese.  Angus, having just learned that despite Mike’s historic dislike of Los Angeles he’s applied for the open surgical attending spot happily invites Mike to shadow him.  Unfortunately the translator sent speaks Cantonese and the patient speaks Mandarin!  The most she can tell him is something about “intermittent blindness.” Great.

Mike figures out that the man is trying to say that he has ringing in his ears, but aside from teasing Angus about looking like a young Orson Wells he seems willing to let Angus take the lead…until he’s not.   This is where the issues between Angus and Mike slowly begin to appear.  Angus thinks the man suffered a stroke, but Mike tells him he should order a CT scan because the signs could be part of the man’s natural countenance.   Later Angus expresses his doubts to Malaya about his diagnosis because his brother not only is more experienced, but has always been good at everything – including women. (This is where he tells Malaya about his crush on Heather.)  She tells him he hasn’t been this insecure since his first day of residency.

I’ve a quick side thought.  I have nothing against lesbians and lesbian storylines. In fact, I tend to enjoy them.  (Gail on Rookie Blue was my recent favorite.) However, does anyone think that Malaya may end up discovering she’s bisexual?  Maybe it’s because of the chemistry between her and Angus, or it could be the writing, but the connection she has with Angus has been there since day one and that would be an interesting and solid story path for Malaya to basically have come out of another closet.  It’s not a light thing to be a declared lesbian and suddenly find you may be bisexual.  Maybe that’s why her character seems vague at times.  Anyway, I’d love to know what you think about this!

Okay, back to Angus and Mike.  Empowered by Malaya pointing  out to him that he’s slipping in the confidence department Angus gets back to work.  When the CT scan back comes back, he decides that it is in fact a stroke and orders TPA, Mike however looks at it and says it could be a carotid artery dissection artery.  The two get into it and Angus testily points out that he has experience with both issues. (This is true. We’ve seen him facing both using TPA on a stroke victim and a carotid artery dissection situation.)  Mike points out that if Angus is wrong TPA will kill the patient.  and suggests thinking about the other symptoms.  Angus isn’t having it.

Angus: “I’m sorry, Mike.  This is my patient and I have to go with my gut!”

Leanne witnesses this argument and after Angus leaves asks Mike if working with his brother will be a problem.  Mike says no, but Leanne makes a point of reminding him that he doesn’t have privileges at the hospital yet and to not “cross the line. ”

Mike agreed to not cross the line – and promptly crossed it.  Angus comes back to administer the TPA to discover that “Dr. Leighton” had ordered a CTA.  Angus is furious…until the patient starts rapidly deteriorating.  It looks like Mike was right.  Angus starts to panic, but Mike is calm and talking him through it.  He’s completely backing Angus up and encouraging him.  Right after stabilizing the patient Leanne comes by.  Mike makes it look like Angus made the call on the carotid artery dissection and Daddy praises Angus.

At the end of the episode Mike and Angus have a real heart to heart about Mike taking the position. Angus shares his fears with Mike about things becoming “like high school all over again” – and just when he is starting to gain confidence in himself and his abilities.  It’s a wonderfully written and acted scene.  You feel how vulnerable Angus is, and you see how much it’s hurting Mike to see his brother in pain, knowing he can’t change anything.   Things are what they are.  Mike isn’t trying to be better than Angus, it’s just, like Angus said, things tend to come easily to him.  What Mike says to Angus, though, is powerful.  Great writing.

Mike:   “You don’t know how good you are, do you?”

Angus: “Are you kidding me? I screw up in there all the time.”

Mike:   “…That’s not what I’m talking about.  I mean good. Okay.  Look, everything you need to know to be a doctor, you can learn except for what you were born with. (He puts his hand briefly over Angus’s heart) You are good, man.  Good.  Okay?”

I really like the way Code Black has approached this sibling relationship between Angus and Mike.  So often sibling rivalry is done where one sibling is a total jerk and the other is the one suffering under it.  In the story being told here it has these two men who genuinely love each other – and like each other – while still having some real issues between them.

Code Black 1 x 13 The Drs Leighton

Drs. Angus & Mike Leighton: they’re very different, but these brothers really do love each other.

Case 5: J.J.

Leanne and Mama get a patient named J.J. who was on a first date with Kamilla (Hence the official reason for the title “First Date.”)  J.J. defended her from a much bigger guy and ends up in the hospital.  Leanne suggests Kamilla wait outside while she goes over J.J.’s symptoms and medical history, but he says it’s fine for her to stay.  Mama and Daddy are amused with the starry-eyed couple, but as the case plays out the pitfalls of this level of intimacy on a first date are shown.

At first the pitfalls are little things like J.J. revealing he takes a medication for anxiety and her apologizing for accidentally suggesting that he was short.  Both are trying to put their best self forward.  Because of this, J.J. doesn’t mention the pain in his testicles to Leanne until he’s in so much pain he has to.  He’s got torsion in his left one which cuts off the blood supply to it. It’s a dicey situation because the testicle can’t survive long without blood, so Leanne scolded J.J. for not telling her sooner.  J.J. then begins blurting out all kinds of things, including sleeping with a hooker the month before because he didn’t know it was a hooker until after the fact!  Talk about too much information!

This story ends well.  J.J. keeps the family jewels and Kamilla hasn’t been scared away.  Instead she begins revealing secrets about herself, including the fact that one of her breasts is a lot bigger that the other.  (She pulls out of her bra the plastic piece she uses to compensate!)  Chuckling, Leanne tells them to invite her to the wedding.

Case 6:  Kelly Rockman (Christa & Neal!)

Yes, I saved the best for last.  Mr. Rockman has brought in his wife Kelly (Sadie Stratton) who is having trouble breathing.  She’s a chronic asthma sufferer and Mr. Rockman says she’s been wheezing all day.

The Rockmans are clearly a happy couple – with three kids that they love, but…

Mr. Rockman:  I love them…but they are serial killers.

In other words, it’s a hectic household.  In fact, their oldest calls whining about needing help studying for an algebra test.   Clearly these are very hands-on parents – good parents.  Kelly tells her husband to go home and help the kid with studying and  Christa encourages him as well.

Christa:  Go.  Help Dommer with his homework.  We’ll take care of her.

As one of the attending doctors on the floor Neal is checking out Christa’s patient. Although the standard treatment seems to be working Christa asks Neal to give her more time with the Kelly – the breathing “doesn’t seem right to her.” Christa can’t explain more than that though and there’s nothing on the charts that indicates Kelly needs more time in the E.R., all she’s got is “a hunch.”  Neal balks at this, but then she asks him to do it because she’s the one asking and he says he’ll give her an extra hour before  releasing Kelly.

So much for no special treatment for Christa!  Still, let’s just pause for a moment.  Last week Christa proved, once again that she’s an amazing doctor with great instincts.  Her gut about something being wrong when everything seems fine has happened more than once.  So, regardless of Neal’s personal feelings for Christa, he’s got every reason to believe there may be a reason to give her that extra hour.  Yes, because it’s Christa, but as in knowing her skills and intuition as a doctor. Obviously it’s personal as well, but part of the attraction is that Christa is a brilliant doctor.

What happens next is icky. Gina takes great pleasure in calling both Neal and Christa on the carpet for not discharging the patient.  She tells Christa that “Those puppy dog eyes” don’t work on her and insists that Kelly be discharged immediately.  When Christa leaves to do so she meanly tells Neal, “check yourself before you wreck yourself.”   She’s really smug about the whole thing.  I’m not sure what this is about because although Gina is strict about protocol her reactions felt personal instead of professional, but she barely knows Christa or Neal.  Maybe she doesn’t like blondes?

Gina’s call is the wrong one.  Kelly is found unconscious in the parking lot and in cardiac arrest! Gina walks in to see Christa and Neal trying to revive her.  We can all see that Christa is (rightfully) beyond upset while the look Neal gives Gina is one of cold fury.  There were no signs of cardiac distress in Kelly, just Christa’s sense that something was off.  Neal calls Kelly’s time of death.  Gina’s in total shock  and stammers, “I’m so sorry.”  Well, sorry doesn’t cut it, honey!  Whatever pre-conceived ideas Gina had, they have cost Kelly  her life.

Everything about this situation is heartbreaking.  Christa has to break the news to the husband – the man she’d told to go home and not to worry.  He’s lost the love of his life and three children have lost their mother.  Neal may be holding Gina responsible, but Christa, Christa is blaming herself for not fighting harder.

Every time I watch this scene I cry. I love that Christeal happens, don’t get me wrong, but Somerville knocks this out the park! The passion and despair Christa is feeling around this cuts through you as much is does Neal. This is why he’s been falling for her, not just because she’s pretty, but because her capacity to feel so deeply and give so much to her work. This is nothing like the stupid hookup with Heather and Mario. This kiss is coming from a place of love, comfort – and yes, desire. I’m sorry Kelly had to die for Neal to realize that it’s not been his attraction to Christa that’s had him give her “special” treatment, but at least he now sees that it’s been the other way around. His attraction to Christa and the so-called special treatment has been because he’s sensed that she’s an amazing doctor and human being.

Okay, now I’ll squeal! Christeal!!! Finally!

The Wrap Up

I left the conclusion of Leanne’s supposed date for the wrap up because it’s huge and encompasses far more than this episode.  We learn that Paul Weatherly isn’t a man Leanne has a romantic date with, but a therapist.  She’s started therapy!  Apparently the workaholism that her friends and colleagues have been scolding her on, the implications of brief thing with Cole that she pushed away, and all of her recent slip ups, have driven Leanne to think about quitting her job!  What?!

Even the doctor points out that being a doctor – and the head of the residency program – is a huge part of who she is.  Heck, she canceled the appointment because she felt like she had to keep an eye on Mike to see how he fit in!  Where is this gonna go?  I want next week’s episode like, right now!

Did you love this episode of Code Black?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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