Nurse Jackie 2.1 – Hey, Hobo Man! Hey, Dapper Dan!

Yep, that’s right: another Showtime series is getting the blog treatment on Premium Hollywood. It’s amazing how much more inspired you can be to write a series blog when the network provides you with all of the season’s episodes up front. I mean, I don’t know how the other TV critics who are married with children feel about it, but for my part, trying to write a blog immediately after an episode airs really screws up my time with my family (particularly if it happens to be a series that my wife doesn’t like and that I’m not comfortable watching around my 4-year-old daughter), so I’m a heck of a lot more predisposed to take the reigns of a blog where I can watch the episodes in advance.

In the case of “Nurse Jackie,” it also helps immensely that I really love the show. Although I’m guilty of missing the first season when it originally aired, I can assure you that no arm-twisting was required to dole four stars for the Season 1 DVD set, and by the time I’d finished watching the whole thing from top to bottom, I was chomping at the bit to dive into Season 2, so it’s a pleasure to finally be able to do so.

I’ll say this for Showtime’s series: they sure do use some great music: “United States of Tara” offered up the Zombies’ “Care of Cell 44,” and now “Nurse Jackie” gives us “I Say A Little Prayer.” Niiiiiiice. But am I the only one who wasn’t entirely certain for a few minutes that the opening scene was actually taking place in the real world? It sure felt like a dream at first, the way it drifted slowly out of the opening credit sequence and onto the shot of Jackie on the beach. It wasn’t until the close-up shot of Grace doing her Lady Macbeth impression with the soap and water in her sand bucket that I decided for sure that what I was watching wasn’t all in Jackie’s head. Oh, hey, as long as we’re on the topic of heads, how about that raccoon, huh? It says so much about both Fiona and Elenor that the former would take a picture and send it to the latter, resulting in both of them being quite pleased with themselves. It’s no real surprise that Grace is still neurotic, nor that she’s still not talking to her mother, and it’s typical Jackie to be annoyed about receiving the silent treatment from her daughter, even though she unquestionably earned it.

“I Say A Little Prayer” pops back onto the soundtrack the moment Jackie re-enters the hospital, but while it first appears to be directly connected to the appearance of the Virgin Mary statue, it seems more likely that it’s because it was only by the grace of God that Jackie didn’t get struck by the bullet that zings Mary. I found it interesting that, while the average person would’ve had that sudden realization that they had been only a few steps from being in the bullet’s path, Jackie had no “I could’ve been killed” epiphany. Instead, she just screams at the shooter, “She’s a mother!” Really, though, we’re talking about a woman who pops pills left and right, so while she might not have a death wish in the traditional sense, she’s clearly not exactly doing anything to avoid death.

Of course, you can’t entirely blame her for wishing she was dead when Coop’s on her case, desperately flirting with her. It was pretty hilarious to see him pitching the idea of going to see “Hair” because it’s ostensibly era-appropriate for her (“It takes place in the ’60s, I thought it might take you back”), only to immediately bail on his plan the second it doesn’t work and make with a snide comment about how much older than him she is. Coop’s other great moment this week comes when he demands an audience with Akalitis in order to lodge a formal complaint against Jackie for challenging his decisions, not acknowledging the chain of command, and for being bossy, rude, unpleasant, and just an all-around bully for not acknowledging the chain of command. “If this were a food pyramid,” he screams, I would be a steak!” Then he promptly starts crying.

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a TV boss who’s as easy to hate as hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus on “Nurse Jackie.” Played to perfection by Anna Deavere Smith, Akalitus is a character who has enough leadership traits that you don’t question how she’s worked her way up through the ranks to her current position, but you do wonder how it is that no one’s killed her. Maybe my memory’s failing me, but I can’t remember any episodes on Season 1 where she had quite as many great moments as she did in this one.

1. Zoe asks if she’s just heard a gunshot, and Akalitus only considers the sound for a moment before replying, “22 caliber, I’m guessing.”
2. When Jackie is giving her less-than-spontaneous speech about the shrinkage in the hospital’s Pill-O-Matic machines, Akalitus steps in first to correct Jackie’s choice of phrase, then to underline a comment that Jackie didn’t emphasize sufficiently.
3. Akalitus is on the phone, throwing a fit with someone over the fact that they owe her money, then closes by saying, “Sorry, Monsignor.”
4. The whole time Coop is complaining to her about the way Jackie treats him, Akalitus is scribbling “World’s Biggest Asshole” on her notepad.

We don’t get nearly enough Zoe this episode, though her giddiness at getting Coop’s now-useless-to-him “Hair” tickets was a great moment. We do, however, see the return of Sam (Arjun Gupta), the guy who came onto the staff last year, got busted by Jackie for being hopped up on drugs, and – before hitting the road – gave her a verbal smackdown with his classic comeback, “Takes one to know one.” Sam, however, has been in rehab, which pisses her off even more, mostly because it means hours of forced denial on her part. Clearly, however, Jackie’s still just as much of an addict now as she was when she had Eddie in the palm of her hand. It’s completely ballsy yet totally in character for her to swipe meds from the Pill-o-Matic while in the process of giving her speech about drug shrinkage, but even though she knows full well that the hammer is inevitably going to come down on the hospital as a result of the vanishing drugs, she simply doesn’t care. She needs what she needs, and she’s going to take it, consequences be damned. Besides, it’s not like she’s not going to try to blame it all on someone else, anyway.

Which reminds me: could Jackie and Eddie possibly lose to anyone in the field of TV’s Most Dysfunctional Couple? (I’m excluding any couple where one or both parties are now dead, which takes Jesse and Jane from “Breaking Bad” out of the running, sadly.) Jackie’s tried to get over Eddie, but even after three months with no contact, she’s still seeing visions of him wherever she goes. I bet she wished it was only a vision when she saw him turn up in the E.R. as a victim of an overdose. Turns out he did it intentionally, knowing full well that he was only taking enough to get himself admitted and therefore get to see Jackie, but, again, these are clearly not the activities of someone who has a vested interest in continuing their existence. After she leaves him, Jackie pops into the hallway, takes a call from home, and is promptly back into her normal domestic mode. Can she possibly be over Eddie? It’s hard to imagine that’s the case: despite bringing home cake for dinner, she hasn’t been home more than a few minutes before she’s in the bathroom, snorting up to the tune of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.” They’ll be bonding over benzodiazepine again soon enough.

Random things I really liked:

* Jackie taking down the douchebag at the fast food stand. Another classic example of the character doing the things that most viewers would seriously considering doing ourselves if we had the cajones and weren’t worried about the possibly repercussions of our actions. Another example of this comes when Jackie battles with the insurance company in order to help the deaf woman get her hand surgery covered. It’s absolutely genius, and you can bet the clip will end up on YouTube sooner than later as an example of how ridiculous insurance companies can be.

* The way how, the moment after Akalitus wonders aloud what’s different about the department that’s caused the State of New York to flag the hospital’s emergency room, Jackie pops her head into the office. All that was missing was her doing an impression of Michael McKean as Lenny and saying, “Hello!”

* Thor’s horror at the thought of having to work in the maternity ward, as well as his obsession with cake.

* Grace’s response when she misses Jupiter while listing off the planets of the solar system: “It doesn’t matter. The sun’s going to explode and eat up all of the other planets, anyway.” Well, it’s true

  

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