I just sat through a double dose of ER - catching up with last week's show as well as the new episode -- and if this is a sign of things to come, it is safe to say I am in trouble. Inexplicably, I started crying the moment Carter walked through those ER doors. I think part of it has to do with my slow recognition of the fact that the end is really coming. But I also think part of it was the shock of having Carter walk through the doors and be, for the most part, unrecognized. This is John Carter, people! He is one of the originals. He was an intern here when you were all still a bunch of snot-nosed grade schoolers playing doctor in the recess yard. Show the man some respect!
OK, so maybe I am overreacting. After all, we've all moved on right? These days, we are all about Neela and Benner, Sam and Tony, Morris and Banfield and the assertive blonde intern that I really can't stand. I was the one, after all, who went on the record as saying that I think we need to respect the storylines and not succumb to guest-star overload. Sure. Whatever. Now when are Doug and Carol coming back? (Or rather, as Tony succinctly summed them up in last week's episode, that doctor that got that nurse pregnant and then moved to Seattle.)
There were actual patients this week - the crazy, mattress-tag cutting couple (the wife was Judy Greer, comedic actress extraordinaire who is relegated to best friend roles but deserves to be doing more), the guy in the hyperbaric chamber (played by Tony Hale of Arrested Development fame) and the ongoing story of the little girl and her aunt/mother - but I have to say none of these stories are as interesting to me as Carter's health crisis. All I can think about right now is the potential plot pretzels that are going to have to develop to bring so many cast members back.
Sam's encounter with her dying mom (Amy Madigan) was heartbreaking, and I do think that it is being used to hasten her reconciliation with Tony. Good, because their break-up has been illogical and belabored enough. Also, I am thinking that Banfield's quest for a child and the waning health of the heart transplant patient are going to collide. It's just a hunch, but we seem to be going in that direction. Unfortunately, it looks like the only direction the writers can find to clear the path for Neela and Ray is to turn Brenner back into a selfish jerk, albeit one who clearly dealt with some abuse issues in his past. Why bother putting these two together just to tear them apart? Meanwhile, Neela's tense relationship with Dubenko was tested again when he failed to back up her treatment recommendation she promptly pulled her name as a candidate at County. Sadly, I don't really care where Neela ends up as long as she ends up there with Ray.
Getting back to Carter, that closing shot last week of Carter on the dialysis machine was like a punch in the gut and a knife in the heart at the same time. Never has Noah Wyle seemed so soulful or melancholy. What do you think is really going on with Kem? Why is Carter really back in Chicago? (I did enjoy his light moment with Banfield when he tricked her into thinking he wanted her kidney.) For the record, I am dead set (pardon the pun) against any end game that involves Carter dying. First off, how many deaths are we supposed to endure? Lucy, Mark, Romano, Pratt. (I am sure I missed someone...) Enough is enough. More importantly, though, it does not make sense in the context of the role that Carter played in the early days of the show. For the most part, Carter was the audience - wide-eyed and new to all of this insanity, taking it all in and trying to make sense of it. To kill that character, in my mind would be a terrible way to end things.