Things are getting personal on Monday Mornings. The latest patient to come through the doors of Chelsea General is Villanueva's own son, Nick. "Who did this to you?" his father tearfully demands, but Nick is unresponsive. Almost the entire senior staff jumps into action, but Sydney kicks Villanueva out of the OR for being too close to the patient, and Hooten backs her decision. He watches every move as the two of them start operating. Tina, fulfilling her role as the motherly member of the staff, talks to Villanueva while he wonders aloud who stabbed his child. An angry Ving Rhames is never a good thing.
Elsewhere, Tierney is handling a kidney transplant between two sisters, explaining the steps to them before actually performing the procedure. Things seem to be going fine until they're suddenly not, with the receiving sister flatlining on the table. The normally callous Tierney is visibly upset at the loss of his patient, and tries his best to console the surviving sister. He asks her if she'll consider reallocating her kidney to another patient, but she declines, wanting it back. Tierney explains that's not how things work. "I want the kidney," she insists. "I want to take it home with me." Gross.
And Park meets with a famous concert violinist who's having issues playing the right notes. "Absolute pitch not necessary for musician," Park tells him, but agrees to run an MRI and see what's going on in the man's brain. When the test results come back, he spots a "very small" tumor that he believes he can remove. The violinist explains that he came to Park because of his alleged "extreme precision" and wants to hear that removing the tumor will restore his perfect pitch, but Park only reiterates that he can't give a specific assurance as to the outcome of the surgery.
Michelle tells Tina that one of her patients, who allegedly can't move his legs, stabbed somebody in a cooking class and now the cops are at the hospital. When Tina confronts the patient, he admits that he can move his legs "a little" but wants to wait until his lawyer gets there. When Tina tells him they don't harbor fugitives, he goes back to his original claim and asks for another doctor.
Sydney informs Villanueva that his son is going to make it, and explains that she threw him out of the OR so that she would be better. Because it's hard enough doing surgery without your patient's father, who happens to be physically imposing, standing right there next to you. After she leaves, Hooten comes by to comfort his colleague, saying, "We'll certainly be having a drink tonight. my friend."
Wilson finally arrives at the beginning of the second act, to express his amusement at Tina's faking patient. Villanueva, who's already in a mood thanks to his son's situation, strides into the room and confronts the patient, while a wary Wilson stands beside him staring in confusion. Villanueva tells the faker that there's a growth on his liver and watches him freak out. Moments later, Villanueva declares, "I got his confession."
Tierney has brought in Fran Horowitz to explain to his patient that they can't just hand over her kidney like a piece of property. The patient retorts that women who've given birth take their placentas home all the time, which is apparently news to Tierney. He's a little uncomfortable with that idea.
When Nick comes to, Sydney is at his bedside, telling him that they got the guy that stabbed him and that his father is "a mess, but other than that he's totally fine." As if on cue, Villanueva arrives to see his son, and while neither are exactly in a talking mood, enough is said nonverbally. Tina checks on Villanueva afterward. "You know why that kid stabbed Nick?" he tells her. "Because he criticized that kid's baklava. What the hell? What kind of world is this?" He has a good point.
Hooten overhears violin in the hallway, and stops to listen to Park's patient, who's decided to spend the time before his surgery playing, in case it's the last time he ever does so. Park hauls in Wilson to assist on the procedure, determined not to let the violinist lose his gift. He goes so far as to say "please," which is a reach for Park.
Villanueva's son decides now is the time to reveal to his father that he wants to be an actor, which apparently Dad has previously disapproved of. The Big Cat suggests maybe he's "evolved some" and that they ought to talk more. The bridge between father and son is slowly being built.
Tierney convinces his patient that he understands her point of view, but that if he's going to make her case, he has to convince everyone around her that she's not a "raving lunatic" who wants to eat her own kidney. She agrees to see a shrink to prove her mental fitness. Next time we see Tierney, he's being hauled up in front of another M&M meeting for the death of his transplant recipient and the odd behavior of his surviving patient. Near everyone else practices their "WTF" expressions, with Tina going so far as to call the idea of the patient eating her kidney "barbaric," which sends Sydney into a rant. Hooten declares that they will release the kidney to the patient.
He then calls forward Villanueva. While he starts with expressing everyone's sympathy at the stabbing of his son, Hooten points out that this allows them to revisit the hospital policy that prohibits doctors from treating their own family members. Villanueva is not a fan of that rule. Yet Hooten, in his usual roundabout way, points out that Villanueva wasn't necessarily clear-headed at the time, only asking him who stabbed him, and not anything diagnostic. "The question suggests rage to me, Doctor," he says. "Rage. Emotion. Do these qualities improve your medical performance?" Villanueva is not in the mood for Hooten's inquisition, but the Chief of Staff keeps pushing, saying that Nick may be alive because Sydney is the one person "who doesn't put up with your particular brand of bullshit." An awkward silence falls over the room as Villanueva stares a hole in the side of Hooten's head, and then quietly walks from Room 311.
Park and Wilson are in the OR with the violinist, who's awake and talking as they're working. Park whips out the violin to see how many notes the violinist can recognize. He gets the first two, but fumbles on the third, and Park simply tells him to "do better" with his usual lack of bedside manner. It takes a little, but the violinist smiles as he discovers that he has his perfect pitch back.
Tierney's patient has gotten the seal of approval from the hospital shrink, so Tierney hands over the cooler with her kidney in it. "I wish you could walk out of here holding your sister's hand instead of..." he starts, but trails off. She responds that she knows he did all he could and that he extended "great hope" to her sister right up until the end. It seems to be enough for Tierney, who decides to visit the dive bar, where Hooten is alone. "It's amazing lives we lead," he reflects. "I'm not sure I mean that in a good way. Just amazing, I suppose. Patient died on me - she died - and now here I am in a bar because somebody paid me a compliment." Hooten reassures him that he's a good man, as the audience finally gets to see a softer side of the transplant expert.
While Villanueva spends time with his son, Park joins the violinist in a duet, and the episode goes to black with a sense of optimism - the doctors of Chelsea General may lose some battles, like they did last week, but they win some, too.
With "Communion," Monday Mornings hits another note familiar to longtime medical-drama watchers: the episode in which a main cast member's family member or significant other becomes a patient. What keeps the show on track is that it doesn't fall into the pitfalls which often come with this type of plot. We don't see anyone having a melodramatic breakdown or going on a rampage, the 'will they or won't they make it' isn't dragged out over the whole hour, and it doesn't dominate the entire episode. While it's an important story - giving more color to the character of Villanueva - life elsewhere at Chelsea General continues to go on.
Which leads to one of the things that has become particularly noteworthy about Monday Mornings. The series has balanced about three full stories every episode, which is more than most hour-long dramas, which may have an 'A' story and a 'B' story, or an 'A' story and some smaller subplots. There are multiple cases going on each week, and all the characters are somehow engaged, even if they don't have a tremendous amount of screen time. That makes it feel like a real hospital - always busy, always moving forward. It's not hard to imagine that while Wilson wasn't in the whole first act of this episode, he was probably off performing a procedure we didn't see, or doing something else we don't know about. And not to take away from Jamie Bamber, who's one of the best actors on television, but the show doesn't suffer even with its male lead not in the game for the first quarter. The series has created a real atmosphere where it feels like its own greater world, not reliant on any one or two people to make it work.
Look at the characters of Park and Tierney. This episode is also particularly good for them, as it humanizes Tierney after his earlier transplant gaffe, and Park continues to be one of the show's most entertaining characters. Both of them showed serious compassion in this episode, Tierney more openly than Park, but they were both affected by their respective cases and that, in turn, allowed them to be more accessible to the audience. That's a credit to actors Bill Irwin and Keong Sim, and to the writers, who have created characters who express a full range of humanity.
It's natural to draw comparisons between Monday Mornings and Chicago Hope, because they're two shows in the same genre from the same executive producer - and indeed, this series does feel like early Chicago Hope, where the writing was sharp and the characters were solid. What really makes the comparison apt, however, is the heart. Like that previous series, Monday Mornings has made the intangibles palpable: the tension, the confusion, the stress and the elation. As long as it avoids the pitfalls of a musical episode or firing half its cast in a later season, this should stand as the next great medical drama.