The pilot episode of Nurse Jackie ended with occasionally benevolent, morally ambiguous Jackie coming home to her exceedingly sweet, rather dopey, irritatingly affable husband's pancake dinner. Episode two picks up in the kitchen later that night as Jackie cuts her hubby's hair leading to a romp on the kitchen floor amidst the scattered Fruity Pebbles. A scene like this one is no doubt supposed to help the audience eliminate a few reasons Jackie would have an affair from their mental checklists: "Well, their relationship is pretty loving, so scratch that off. And they still have sex, on a floor of Fruity Pebbles no less, so their relationship is still pretty passionate, so it's not that. And he seems like a really nice guy…" But for me, that's the problem with Jackie's husband and home life thus far, it's too nice, too saccharine sweet. With the exception of her older daughter anxiously trying to tie her shoe tighter, it's too blandly perfect. No wonder Jackie's itching to replace the sweetner in those packets with Percocet. She probably needs a little excitement, even if it comes in the form of a painkiller high that hits like a lightning bolt.
But this episode wasn't really about Jackie's home life. It was about jobs, or, as Jackie tends to view them, responsibilities. Jackie crushes Zoey the shaky student nurse's idealistic view of the hospital and its workers by tell her that their job is basically "wading through a shitstorm of people who come into this place having the worst day of their lives." But, she adds, "Doctors diagnose. We heal. And All Saints [Hospital] is in the business of flipping beds, nothing more." It's a view that Jackie's Rejected Sex & The City Doctor Character friend, Eleanor, espoused in the pilot when she said that she she cut open a bunny to see how it worked, that's why she's a doctor. Jackie cares, that's why she's a nurse. But for Jackie caring seems to be a duty that she undertakes—not a natural inclination. Which is why when she tells Zoey, "The fact that you have even the slightest inclination to help people puts you miles about 100% of the population," it's very clear that Jackie includes herself in that 100%.
Of course, Jackie does help people—sometimes begrudgingly, like with the cab driver having a heart attack, and sometimes she goes out of her way, like with the guy who slapped her—but she sees it as her job. Helping is something she signed up to do, and therefore does. That doesn't mean Jackie lacks empathy, but, unlike Zoey, empathy or the desire to help people isn't Jackie's motivation.
Likewise, Jackie likes people who, in her estimation, do their jobs competently and without burdening her. This explains Jackie's friendships with Dr. Sex & The City and Mo-Mo, both of whom seem to perform their respective diagnosing and healing duties well (so far at least). It also explains why she sought out Dr. "Coop" Cooper to tell him—in short—you're good at your job, so stop being such a prick and just do it. Of course, the flip side of this is that Jackie lashes out at people who, in her estimation, don't do their jobs or don't fit into her own personal elastic, ever-changing morals matrix: "Are you gonna pretend you don't see her? It's your goddamn job!" she yells at the cab driver, seconds before reluctantly helping him with his cardiac arrest. And Jackie immediately stops helping the mother of the injured skateboarder kid when she finds out the mother told him to take off his helmet so she could get a better shot for his modelling portfolio, and the discerning casting eyes at Pottery Barn Teen. "It's gonna take him a year to learn how to walk again," she admonishes the mother. "You told him to take off the helmet? It's your job to protect him."
That's the kind of sentiment that begs for an echo in later episodes, when Jackie the respectable, responsible "Sweet-N-All" user maybe doesn't do such a good job of protecting her own kids. As for now, though, all is disturbingly alright with the Peyton family: Perfect bartender dad serves his daughters pudding at the bar, the Hadron Collider, its magical God particle, and annihilation are reasonably far away, and helpful, caring nurse mom is actually putting real sweetener in her coffee. A lightning bolt has to be just around the corner.
—Notable motifs in tonight's episode: Pudding (Jackie and Eddie make out and discuss the Hadron Collider near a pudding cup, the guy who slapped Jackie throws pudding at Thor, and SuperDad serves his daughters puddingat the end), and haircuts/messing up someone's hair (Jackie gives SuperDad a haircut in the first scene, the stage mom tells Jackie her son would be so upset if the doctors cut his hair, and Jackie's older daughter whines that her mom is messing up her hair with all that affection in the last scene).
—I know she was only comic relief in this episode, but I think we could really do without the hospital administrator, Mrs. Akalitus.
—First granules, then crushed Percocet. What drug will dreamily float down in extreme close-up next week?
—"You have flawless skin!" Good job, everyone. That's totally something a gay guy would say when offered baked goods by a stranger. Zoey's response? "Is he married?" Zoey, did you miss the giant "I'm soooo gay!" sign on the back of his scrubs?
—Jackie's husband has to get a personality (besides "bland bartender) fast.