I’m not always the biggest fan of TV episodes where the story is told ‘in media res’ mostly because it often feels like a trick to seem like you have a more interesting story than you really do. For some reason though I was PUMPED for this episode of New Amsterdam because it felt like such a good way to get a better insight into all our characters in a short amount of time. Instead of spending weeks getting to the place we arrive at in this episode it takes only one bad day at the hospital witnessed by a reporter and we’ve done leagues of character work!
As mentioned, this episode takes place over roughly twenty four hours. The hospital, and Max are being shadowed by a reporter who clearly has ulterior motives (or does he?). He’s been given full access to the hospital for the entire day just as a double shooting comes into the ER. I’ll get my biggest complaint out of the way early; “Cavitation” tried to say a lot of things about very important issues including Police violence, politics, and hospitals and health care administration reform. Not all of them are on par with one another but they’re all important and they’re all more important than sharing one 42 minute episode of television.
If “Cavitation” had stuck to just one of these storylines and let the interpersonal issues between the doctors really shine it would have been a remarkable episode of television, especially for a freshman show still in its original episode order. Every single character gets a moment or two to really shine, but it’s the moments where they interact with each other that the episode is at it’s best.
To set the stage, there’s been a double shooting of two young African American boys, Malik and Jalen. The cops are involved in an undetermined capacity. Both boys are brought to New Amsterdam with Malik in far worse shape than Jalen. Through the course of the day the reporter, Louis Navarro (Jose Zuniga), keeps asking Max questions about the caliber of the bullets used and the police involvement. Max is also getting calls from the Chief of Police and the Mayor that he refuses to answer because he keeps insisting it’s not the point. The hospital is the point of his and Louis’ job for the day. Not what kind of weapon was used, not the level of police involvement, not the mayor and not the police chief – just the boys whose lives hang in the balance.
It’s a bold point for a medical procedural to insist on, but they do and they do it well. On the sidelines we’ve got Dr. Lauren doing a fancy procedure while waiting for Dr. Floyd only to have Malik start bleeding out. This leads her to believe she punctured his heart and she starts second guessing her work the rest of the day. Dr. Floyd is naturally pretty hard on her because she’s not a heart surgeon and he has to eat his words later when it turns out she was not to blame for the bleeding. Their episode ends with a pretty great confrontation. Floyd apologizes and Lauren doesn’t really let him off the hook which is refreshing. She says she’s just as talented of a physician as he is and she won’t forget that. Their dynamic is absolutely one of my favorites on the show.
Elsewhere Dr. Kapoor admits he has a son and goes to meet him for a coffee. It’s a fraught situation because he can’t figure out the right thing to say. I’m like 99% sure the son is an alcoholic but it wasn’t the most clear storyline. We do find out he’s doing well now after a while where he was not doing so great. He’s managing a restaurant now and he’s back on his feet. At the end of the episode Dr. Kapoor walks past the restaurant and sees his son but he can’t bring himself to go in and eat. It’s only a matter of time, but it was heart wrenching.
Dr. Frome is charged with looking after Malik’s aunt Rhonda which, to me, is the heart of the episode. He comes to realize that Rhonda has her own PTSD to deal with in addition to caring for Malik since his parents were killed in similar situations. He tells the best story about when he and his husband (twist!) adopted their kids from Bangladesh. They too had severe PTSD and couldn’t be left alone, but they worked through it and they’re good now. He tells her it’s important to take care of herself or she won’t be able to meaningfully take care of Malik no matter how hard she tries. It’s a spectacular scene showing that even those not physically affected by a trauma still need to be cared for. Dr. Frome’s episode ends with him calling his husband and saying he wants to cancel their fancy anniversary dinner so they can just hang out as a family. It’s completely lovely.
As expected, if you’ve ever watched any television, though Malik was in worse shape when he arrived at the hospital, it’s actually Jalen who dies after he’s been stabilized. Max is in the process of bringing his brother to see him when he flatlines. Through the whole ordeal Louis is standing nearby and he talks to Max immediately after. He and we find out in rapid order that Max chose Louis to write this article and that it was him and not the hospital board who gave Louis full access to the building. Max wanted someone to write about the hospital itself and the good it does. Not the bullets, not the cops, not the mayor, just the hospital and how they’re doing everything they can.
Unexpectedly, if you’ve ever watched any television, Louis does exactly that! The article comes out the next day and all the doctors are sitting in Max’s office where we started the episode. They’re all second guessing themselves and beating themselves up when Max reads the beginning of the article to them. It’s great and they all feel better.
As can often happen with “message” episodes, this one is great in the good parts and very muddy in the not so good parts. Overall, the episode did what Max wanted the article to do. It focused not on the politics, but instead on the heart and soul of the operation which is its strength. Despite a rocky opening, these characters have become well rounded and interesting in their own right and I can not wait to see how they keep growing as the show continues!
NOW THAT THE OFFICIAL NEW AMSTERDAM REVIEW IS OUT OF THE WAY, FOLLOW MY STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS BULLET POINTS BELOW!
- LOL this is going to be a super fun episode – 24 hours earlier!!
- Nutella is not a good euphemism for cancer
- There’s reporters shadowing the heroes on multiple shows this week!
- Dr. Frome…You live in New York. You should know what fiddlehead ferns are
- Dr. Kapoor’s secret son is not so secret anymore!
- Oh man…I did not need Helen to have fertility issues!
- This reporter definitely has ulterior motives
- Which makes this a bad time to get a call from the police chief
- I just like everyone and I feel like this episode is only going to make me sad!
- I mean everyone makes mistakes but puncturing a heart is a pretty bad mistake
- Oh good a big new batch of tension between Dr. Lauren and Dr. Floyd
- I have a suspicion that Jalen is going to die and Malik is going to be ok…maybe
- Dr. Kapoor’s son is so cute!
- What happened to them!?
- Oh he’s an alcoholic
- Ok I mean I definitely get it but maybe Rhonda’s anger should be directed at literally anyone besides Dr. Frome aka the nicest man in the whole world?
- Fucking garage sale Matthew Lillard can get bent
- Two shows in a row also very nonchalantly announcing a character is gay! I can’t wait to meet Dr. Frome’s husband!
- Thank goodness, Rhonda is getting some help from Dr. Frome now.
- Dr. Frome is too good…I’m terrified he’s going to die now because he’s so good.
- Oh man…I was right, Jalen is going to die now…
- This reporter…give it a minute man!
- Wait…Max asked for him to come to the hospital!?
- Dr. Lauren and Dr. Floyd’s chemistry is so excellent
- Dr. Kapoor! Go inside and eat food at your son’s restaurant!
- Oh it was a good article actually!