As I watched this week's highly anticipated episode unfold, I was reminded of a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that I have always liked: Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends leave footprints in your heart. This week, we were treated to the best kind of homecoming as dear old friends returned to say a final farewell and leave with us a reminder of why this show has lasted, and why it will be missed.
The thing that I most loved about "Old Times" is the way these returning favorites were blended into the fabric of a story that bridged the past and the present in a believable, though slightly surreal, way. As Neela and Sam waited along with numerous other transplant teams, they were greeted by Carol Hathaway, Organ Donation Coordinator for a hospital in Seattle. (Hey, isn't that where that nurse went to find that doctor who knocked her up?) Moments later, I gasped (and yes, clapped and screeched a little) as George Clooney, I mean Doug Ross, strolled onto the scene as the attending physician for the brain-dead teenage organ donor. And did I mention that the serial womanizer is now a thoroughly domesticated married man and father?
What was even more striking than Doug Ross' redemption is how Mr. Clooney and the radiant Julianna Margulies slipped back into those characters so seamlessly. When I first heard about these "reunions," my biggest fear was that these appearances would be disruptive to the ebb and flow of the storytelling. However, as Dr. Ross gently persuaded the grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon, to donate her grandson's organs as a tribute to his generosity, it was the fine acting, as well as the artful writing and directing by series executive producer John Wells, that anchored the story and allowed us to forget that we were in the presence of movie stars.
When Doug finally made the connection that Neela and Sam were from County General, I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth roll call that ensued. For example, how strange that Doug never crossed paths with Abby! It seems difficult to believe that two such central characters never met. However, perhaps he would have been familiar with Luka, who had made a play for Carol right before her retreat to the West Coast.
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