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ER: Season 13 - Jigsaw (Review)

ER, Scott Grimes

Review by Jack Foley

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at an episode from the 13th season of ER entitled Jigsaw.

What’s the story? A belligerent young man (Shawn Hatosy) who enters the ER with flu turns out to be more than he seems and presents a challenge to Dr Archie Morris (Scott Grimes) and Sam (Linda Cardellini) when he refuses treatment.

Why so good? ER has consistently been good at delivering the big emotional set pieces, whether featuring plane crashes, train smashes or incidents directly involving their staff. It’s also a great platform for big name actors (James Woods, Forest Whitaker, etc) to showcase their talents in stand-alone episodes or brief story arcs.

But the reason why it has continued to be one of the top-rated shows for so long (13 years) is because it also does the little things well. Hence, when a belligerent patient enters the ER and presents Dr Archie Morris with a challenge, it gives one of the unsung members of the cast a genuine chance to shine.

Digging a little deeper: There’s plenty going on in every episode of ER and Jigsaw was no exception. Aside from ongoing plotlines involving Forest Whitaker’s Curtis Ames and the furthering of the relationship between Neela and Gates, there was also this little gem of a storyline.

For many viewers, the character of Archie Morris (Scott Grimes) is often the comic relief – the man who lightens the load whenever things reach boiling point. Indeed, as this episode showed, it’s often how the character sees himself.

So, when he diagnosed a patient (Shawn Hatosy) with Disociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), very few people were prepared to believe him. And what started out as an amusing case quickly took a more serious turn as one of the patient’s alter-egos kept on preventing Morris from administering the treatment that could save his life.

Morris’s anguish at not being taken seriously was expertly portrayed, giving rise to a genuinely affecting moment between him and nurse Sam (Linda Cardellini) in which he reveals his frustrations.

And just as it provided a salient reminder to Sam that there was a considerable medical talent behind her wise-cracking colleague, so too did it provide viewers with a surprise showcase of Grimes’ own ability as a dramatic actor.

By the time Sam had taken her own gamble and proved Morris’s theory right, thereby persuading the patient to agree to the treatment, everyone had a newfound respect for one of the ER’s unsung heroes.

Praise, too, deserves to go to guest star Shawn Hatosy (of The Faculty, 11:14 and upcoming Factory Girl fame) for playing the patient in question so convincingly. Viewers, too, were initially puzzled by his transition from angry young man to shy, unassuming patient.

His identity changes were seamless and totally believable, providing an intriguing insight into a very rare and little-known condition.

What’s more, it provided the show with a truly memorable conclusion, as Morris was forced to sit and comfort his patient as he entered yet another persona.

It’s credit to ER‘s writers that they can still make you care after all these years and even rally during the quieter episodes.

What do you think?