A few weeks ago, I wrote that this season of Nurse Jackie looked to be about accountability and responsibility. I don’t think I was off the mark, but since then, the focus has really zeroed in on two not unrelated topics: parenthood and sisterhood. The one episode so far this season that I didn’t really enjoy—the one in which Jackie and O’Hara bonded with Rosie Perez after learning that her “pregnancy” was actually a bulging, two-headed tumor that was killing her—pushed too hard toward phonying up a big, gaudy metaphor that combined the two themes. For the most part, the show has managed to get there with considerably more grace and tact. Some of the most memorably pleasurable scenes this season have been those quiet moments in the course of the workday when Jackie and O’Hara, and Akalitus and Zoey, have been able to catch a breather together and quietly salute and support each other: women in the trenches who may not have a lot in common, but who know what they’ve all been through.
Last week’s episode ended with Zoey moving into Jackie’s house. This week, enough time has passed for everyone to have settled into some kind of routine, and Zoey is making breakfast for Jackie’s daughters, padding around the kitchen in a kimono with a couple of sticks in her hair—a ballsy image to include near the start of the show, because what could follow it? It should come as a surprise to no one that Zoey has taken to the role of housekeeper like a pig to shit, and that she’s the kind of housekeeper who makes the homeowner, who has to watch her feeding and nurturing her kids and helping them with their art projects, feel like the world’s crappiest mother. The dynamics of this new domestic partnership are especially unstable given that Jackie has never actually regarded Zoey, the new rival for her children’s affections, as an adult. Beyond that, it promises to open up a whole new avenue for composers of Nurse Jackie fan fiction. (I’ve never read any of the stuff myself, but I’m guessing that the field, if it exists, is dominated by stories about Jackie and O’Hara, with a decent selection of Eddie-and-Kevin stories, with a few accounts of what goes on in Akalitus’ basement, some of which may reveal what really happened to Mo-Mo.)
Not that Jackie has time for such idle speculation, She’s coming apart at the seams from trying to remain clean and sober while contemplating the damage that a properly motivated Kevin can do to her life. Dodging her calls and communicating only through lawyers, he wants the kids, the house, half her paycheck, and her blood, not necessarily in that order. Zoey, meanwhile, is flirting with the chance to be Mrs. Lenny. The boy has proposed, and come through with a rock. Zoey, who’s new to this, isn’t sure whether she should wear it at work or not. She asks Jackie, who Zoey knows perfectly well never wore hers. “It’s up to you,” Jackie tells her. “Mine always got in the way.” “Playa!” Zoey says, admiringly. Jackie tells her, a bit defensively, that she was talking about how it slowed her down with her hospital gloves. She must be lying to herself, since everyone else she could be saying this to knows better by now.
Coop, the boy of a thousand temporary white-hot enthusiasms, is doing his bit to keep the theme in play by trying to adopt O’Hara’s baby before it’s been born. O’Hara, for her part, calls him a “donkey,” which is probably the right word for a man who insists on crouching in front of you so he can speak to your pregnant belly and who then stops to wonder if he should be using a British accent. He’s giving a terrific impression of the man who’s secretly the father and who’s doing a terrible job of keeping a secret, but he insists that he’s only behaving this way because he’s afraid that this is the last chance he’ll ever have to be part of a baby’s life. “The daddy slot,” he tells Jackie, “is wide open.” “Don’t call it a slot,” says Jackie.
When Zoey panics after losing her engagement ring, it’s Coop who finds it and gallantly slips it onto her finger, which has a calming effect on her, for about five minutes. Then she decides that she got more of a thrill when Coop put the ring on her finger than she did when Lenny gave it to her, and goes into shock. It’s not that she had a thing for Coop, she explains. But the fact that having the handsome doctor perform this ritual gesture with her gave her such a thrill makes her doubt that Lenny is the one. Speaking as someone who likes Lenny a lot, here’s the deal. No one is ever going to look at that guy and hear trumpets, see confetti and sparklers, and think, “He’s the one!” That doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to make some lucky girl very happy and content. But, as you can see, his charms are of the sort that automatically make people who are trying to take his side sound like his grandmother.
The two key scenes tonight both take place over prone bodies in the hospital. In the first, Jackie and Cruz, working together to save an injured man’s foot, come to an understanding that reaches its peak when each of them admits to having underestimated the other. The other involves a transgender patient named Lana (MJ Rodriguez), who tells Jackie and O’Hara, “I was afraid I’d get some ugly-ass doctors, but you two —swingin’ it like a big purse,” and then asks O’Hara if she knew Princess Di. Funny and warm in an off-kilter way, the interplay between the three of them is probably what the Rosie Perez episode was aiming for. Because Lana has reason to mistrust doctors, she’s trying to get out of the ward and on with her life without following the advice that O’Hara thinks is essential to her having much of a life to get back to. This is when Akalitus comes to the rescue, stepping in to tell Lana which hospital to go to and how to use its services in a way that won’t compromise her identity issues. It reflects well on the realistic open-mindedness of Nurse Jackie that it finds ways to depict Akalitus’ mastery of bureaucratic hoop-jumping as heroic. Most characters on TV who know the system well enough to get it to work for them are presented as ogres or jokes, but Akalitus knows that, with the power to talk great bullshit, comes great responsibility.
- I can’t say I was crazy about the double-dip dream sequence opening, with Jackie imagining being caught by Cruz while popping a pill, and then the two of them sampling the forbidden fruit together. It just seemed to be a way to try to kick things off with a bang, and had nothing to do with Jackie and Cruz getting it on really tied in with what happened later. If anything, it was a distraction from the link that Cruz and Jackie have that neither is aware of: their shared parenting of Cruz’s son, and Jackie’s rehab buddy, Charlie. No sign of Charlie this week, as it happens. I hope the little freak is okay.
- Zoey finally clears up the question of why everybody seeks out Eddie for advice, telling him that he is “the hermit who lives in a cave and gobbles up wisdom.” Sometimes, it is better not to know.