Episode Recap: "Dream Runner"

"The toughest thing is making the right call when it counts." In life, we don't usually get the chance to see how different choices can have dramatically different outcomes, but the concept certainly makes for good storytelling. This week's triple take on a day in the life of the ER showed how minor alterations can make all the difference. It also showed how, as Neela's fortune ultimately confirmed, "Your actions are the seeds of fate."

The skillfully crafted interweaving of stories was the highlight of this week's episode. As Neela struggled to help her young patient fight a serious infection, Tony, Morris, Banfield and Sam ran into some contention about how to best approach the treatment of the seriously injured "dream runner," a young man whose inability to go into a paralytic state during sleep caused him to physically act out his dreams. (An interesting underscore to this storyline was the street musician outside the hospital playing the Tears for Fears song "Mad World," which includes the lyric: "the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had.") In each case, Neela's participation played a critical role in helping determine the course of treatment. As she became more honest, more confident and more vocal in her suggestions, the outcomes improved.

It was really interesting to watch the subtle changes that occurred as each potential outcome unfolded. Sam went from just handing the hockey tickets over to Tony to letting him take Alex to the game. Neela and Brenner's encounters became less awkward as Neela became more open with him, finally culminating in a steamy hotel hook-up. Morris went from whining about Banfield's mood swings (courtesy of some serious hormones) to complaining about how Tony was allowing himself to be emasculated. Jerry was, of course, Jerry - his return engagement is perfectly timed as we approach the end of the road. And it goes without saying that it was wonderful to see Alex Kingston return very briefly as Dr. Elizabeth Corday though I really would have enjoyed it more if a) NBC hadn't ruined the surprise and b) she had actually visited the ER. (On a side note, who else was a little rattled by the revelation that Ella is now eight years old? How time flies.)

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