How does Monday Mornings follow up its excellent debut episode? With a second episode that builds on that success, fleshing out its ensemble and again providing storylines that engage audiences like any great drama should.
Wilson's center stage at another M&M meeting again, except this one is in his head. He's still being tormented by the death of Quinn McDaniels, the young soccer player from the pilot, and wakes up in a cold sweat.
At Chelsea General, Sydney and Lieberman (guest star Jonathan Silverman) are conferring over another patient, with him hoping that she can have another breakthrough like she did with his difficult case previously. She tells him to call Villanueva. He does, and Villanueva diagnoses the patient as having worms in a matter of minutes. It seems the only person who can't figure out Lieberman's patients is Lieberman.
Meanwhile, Park is trying to convince a young woman named Tricia to have surgery, but she's not budging. With his usual lack of bedside manner - and complete sentences - he tells her that if she doesn't have the procedure, she's going to die. He's like House, only without the cutting humor to go with the blunt observations.
The one person more abrasive than Park is Tierney, who grabs Michelle and tells her she needs to pronounce a shooting victim dead so that he can make use of the man's organ donor card. She's unconvinced, especially after the allegedly braindead guy grabs her hand and then gives Tierney the finger.
Chief of Staff Hooten convenes another M&M meeting and this time he calls Tina up to the front of the class to discuss a patient named Francine Cash. Hooten grills her about the potential risks involved in the surgery that the patient underwent, and who made her aware of those risks. Tina tells Hooten that it was Michelle's responsibility to educate the patient, and Michelle squirms in her chair.
Hooten, however, presses Tina further and she says that Michelle also operated on the patient. The Chief of Staff is incredulous that the neurosurgeon let the resident perform the procedure, especially since she'd never before attempted it on her own. "That's what a teaching hospital is," Tina retorts.
We find out from her subsequent use of the past tense that Francine was a chef, and so the loss of smell she incurred as a result of the surgery was pretty darn important. Hooten chastizes Tina for passing so much of the work off to Michelle. "Or am I out of line, Dr. Ridgeway?" he asks, and she's smart enough not to respond.
Later on, Wilson is explaining to a girl named Sandy the specifics of the procedure she's about to undergo. She asks him if he's any good, and he tells her it's exactly the question she should be asking, "and the one that patients never do." He subsequently admits to Tina that when Sandy asked that, he thought he saw Allison McDaniels, Quinn's mother.
Hooten tells Tina that the hospital is being sued by Francine Cash, just before Park informs Hooten that he tried to convince Tricia and her parents that she needed surgery, but couldn't convince them. Hooten decides to speak to Tricia himself, and they have an odd discussion about both her lack of a will to live and his piano-playing skills.
She reveals that she told her mother she heard God in a sonata, and that's how she ended up with the CAT scan that revealed the brain tumor. "I'm here because my parents refuse to accept what every other hospital has told them," she says. "I'm gonna die."
"Which is why we need to operate," he retorts. "Do you really choose to die?"
"I choose to live. Even if it's for a few months. I'd like to live without chemo," she tells him. "I want to spend all the days I have left with the people I love. It may only seem like a few months to you - to me, it's a lifetime. I'd like to live it." It's hard to argue with either side of the dialogue.
Elsewhere, Tierney is so impatient to get the organs out of the guy he thought was braindead that he asks Villanueva if he's dead yet in front of the man's mother. Once Villanueva points that out, Tierney wisely runs like hell. At least he gets to do his transplant.
Villanueva is next in Park's office with Hooten and Park, trying to convince Tricia's parents that operating is the right call. Her parents insist on respecting their daughter's decision.
In his office, Wilson reviews his notes from the Quinn McDaniels case for what likely isn't the first time. He makes the odd decision to phone Allison McDaniels, and he asks for a meeting with her, although he confides in Tina that he has no idea why. "Whatever you've lost, I don't think Quinn McDaniels' mother can give it back to you," she tells him.
She then goes out and promptly confides in Sydney that she's worried about Wilson. Sydney asks how serious things are between them, and if she loves him. "I don't know. Maybe a little," Tina admits. That sounds like confirmation that Wilson and the very married Tina are having an affair. It'd certainly qualify as the personal storyline they have this season. Sydney reveals that Lieberman asked her out. It's an awkward "girl talk" moment that doesn't really fit.
Thankfully, it's quickly moved past. Tierney tells the family of his patient that the transplant went well. He's shocked to see the donor's mother still there, and when he tries to tell her that her son saved six people's lives, she slaps him - accusing him of inferring that her son only matters since he saved the lives of more important people. Tierney acts like this has happened to him before. With his personality, it probably has.
Hooten, Park and Villanueva take one more shot at trying to convince Tricia to consent to surgery. Hooten asks her if she knows what the title of this episode means, and she doesn't. "An illogicial, if not preposterous resolution out of nowhere," he tells her. Villanueva adds that "Miracles, however unquantifiable, they do happen." Apparently, that convinces her, because we next see her being prepped for surgery. She asks Hooten if he'll cry should she die, and he says that he will, because she's affected him.
So much so, in fact, that she convinces him to shave his head - much to Villanueva's horror. "I look good bald, you don't," the big man says. He's greeted with laughter at the next M&M meeting, and lets everyone get it out of their system before he calls out Tierney. Hooten confronts him on his breach of protocol - having transplant patients admitted before his donor was even declared deceased. Like Tina before him, Tierney tries to drag Michelle under the bus, but he can't even pronounce her name. This time, Michelle speaks up and tells Hooten that the donor responded to voice commands.
This leads Hooten to call Tierney a "predator" and a "vulture." The two of them have a staredown, with Tierney saying that he's done his job well for two decades, ranting about the difficulty of his job, and then declaring how unliked he is before walking out of the meeting.
While Hooten plays the piano, Park operates on Tricia with what seems like half of Chelsea General watching him do it. The episode ends with Park waking her up in his usual cheerful manner, with Hooten standing right beside him. Though Park leaves moments later, Hooten stays, holding the young woman's hand.
"Deus Ex Machina" continues to develop both the characters and the compelling discussions that make Monday Mornings a successful series. It's interesting to see that the show hasn't set aside the fact that Wilson was traumatized by the loss of a patient in the previous episode; so many other series would have wrapped that plot up with a bow last week and had him back to form.
If there's anything to be iffy on, it's the implication of an affair between him and Tina; between this and the pilot episode, the sheer number of scenes in which she tries to console him make her come off as almost cloying, rather than genuinely close to him. Not to mention that the whole "romance between two doctors" storyline is pretty cliche; there have been whole shows that orbit around that idea. Yet how mainstream romantic subplots have become on television is a whole other tangent.
Since we saw relatively little of them in the pilot, it's also nice that the second episode provides more screen time for Drs. Park, Tierney and Robideux - although Michelle is largely just implicated in everyone else's problems. Monday Mornings has a relatively large regular cast, with eight principals, so it obviously can't service everyone in a forty-odd minute episode, but it's done a solid job in two episodes of establishing all the characters and not letting one or two overshadow the others.
When it comes to the material, a particularly great sequence is the scene between Hooten and the young patient, Tricia. When her storyline is introduced, it's hard for the audience to fathom why she would refuse a necessary procedure - but in that one conversation, both sides of the discussion unfold, and it happens with respect. Even though this is a show about doctors, the script doesn't try to tell us that Hooten is right, even though we certainly understand his position. It becomes completely understandable why Tricia would choose not to undergo treatment.
While she does in the end make that choice, the show doesn't have her suddenly give a mea culpa. It does, however, give the audience a glimpse at how these doctors are as dedicated to their science as she is to her faith, by their continuing to plead their case.
Then there's the purely entertaining: considering that last episode ended so tragically, it's pleasant that this one ends on a more positive note.
With this second episode, Monday Mornings makes clear that its outstanding pilot was the rule, and not the exception. If installments can continue to be this intriguing and with acting this strong, this show should be around for years to come.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.