Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Royal Pains Ep. 5: "No Man Is an Island": My reception is flagging a little, too

I've taken my sweet time writing up this episode, and indeed haven't watched episode 6 yet, for a few reasons. Most importantly, as mentioned in the previous post, I am temporarily living a life of indolence and sloth. A close second was that this episode didn't realy grab me. After the heady thrills of seeing the PA profession portrayed in a pretty damn positive and generally realistic light, here we have an episode with nearly no Divya. As much as Hank and Evan's core story was advanced a little, and despite a couple of nice moments from the actors, this episode felt, to me, solidly okay but by no means great. I'll run down what I can from my notes of a week ago...

Hey, that's some kind of record: this week's shameless product placement came approximately 0.8 seconds into the episode. Mmmm, doesn't that Gray Goose vodka look classy as it drifts across the screen on a silver tray? Smooth. And bills paid, we move on to some Hank/Jill flirting, which is about as white as humanly possible, seeing as it includes a job offer and talk of playing glockenspiel in marching band. I know this show is set in the Hamptons, but it really is embarrassingly Caucasian.

Anyway, Hank now gets to consider whether he'd rather stay the course in his new life of glamor and heroism, tending to the needs of PDBs who are, deep down, not all that bad, versus returning to the ED. To his credit, he politely tells Jill he'll think about it. Laughing in her face would probably kill the mood, anyhow. There follows an almost-sexy scene, cut short by Evan being almost funny. Already this episode is failing to grab me. Our wacky caper this week involves people who are stupidly rich, even by Hamptons standards. Okay, that's new. Sort of. The sooner this show resolves its schism about whether being wealthy is a) fascinating and exotic or b) just a characteristic that some families or people happen to possess, the sooner we'll be over the need to blather about nanotechnology being "so last year" and get on with the interesting bits.

A small dose of Divya helps, somewhat. On the tarmac of the local airport, she is competent, in control, and will be doing all the medical stuff on the mainland while Hank and Evan screw around with the PDBs of the week. It's the 21st century and I have digital cable; can't I just stick with her story for the entire time period of the episode? Evan by the way has had his obsequiousness ramped up to eleventy-five by the writers this week. It's possible they are trying to humanize the PDBs by placing them next to a super-douchey version of Evan in their first few onscreen minutes. Divya drives off, taking my enthusiasm with her.

Sigh. So the PDBs are a family made wealthy by technology, who get away once a year to their island. The two sisters have fond memories of roughing it in a little 2000-square foot cabin, with electricity, running water, a gourmet kitchen... you know, the bare essentials. The high-strung mom's kids carry more gadgets than most IT managers (shout-out to Nintendo DSi, surely another sponsor), and even the granola mom's tech-scion husband is lost without his Blackberry. Oh, and she's approximately 1000 weeks pregnant*. Subtle, right?

For some reason, they take a helicopter, rather than a boat, because while they need to carry a lot of stuff and will be utterly cut off if -- for SOME REASON -- something should happen to their one satellite phone, it's important to the experience that they also be totally reliant on the outside world. This is certainly less of a plot hole than the tick-in-the-ear thing from a few episodes back, but one line of dialogue would have made this a lot less dumb.

Fast-forwarding, there's some decent-enough medicine in Hank's well-mom check. Fundal height, blah blah, rare blood group, etc etc. Wait -- RARE BLOOD GROUP? Ruh-roh! I wonder if that will be important later?

Evan's presence is partly redeemed by a plot wherein he bonds with the young son, who appears to be useless and irritating in much the same way as Evan. Although in the end he will be the hero, he first has to indirectly cause a totally gnarly leg injury in the kindly caretaker of the island. Hank whips out his acid-washed jean jacket and goes into MacGuyver mode, practicing Wilderness Medicine. I'm not sure what's up with the antacid, other than it should in theory be sterile water. Sugar isn't a bad topical antibiotic for the situation, though I wonder about vodka.

Also, we tend to call them "open fractures," not "compound." Hank was doing that talking-aloud thing again, and apparently he was talking to a group of Boy Scouts.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, there are wacky misunderstandings. Divya is holding down the fort, and just when we're wondering why she needs Hank at all, she and Jill have a heart-to-heart. Divya is kind enough to delete Jill's horny, confused, generally 15-year-old-sounding voice mail, and Jill learns that Divya has tried and failed to start up a concierge practice twice before. Hank's arrival just happens to have served a pre-existing plan of some long standing. Hunh. Eeeenteresting.

Later, we learn that Jill's ex was an ER doc (an EM doc, if we want to be stick-up-the-bum about it). Hmm. Maybe she's into guys who work weird hours. Meantime, Hank is demonstrating a basically accurate Direct Coombs Test, if the test didn't require a reagent and you didn't need to wash the cells. For TV medicine, it's complex enough to demonstrate the basic idea: the family trait means matches are rare. Having a ten-year-old test himself is a little funky, but there's no time to think about that. The loser kid is the hero of the day.

And if Hank has IV tubing for some reason, how come he doesn't have antibiotics or wound care supplies?

There are some good Evan scenes near the end, together with little glimpses into the Lawson boys' formative years, so the actor wins me back despite a growing sense that the character could go utterly clown-shaped any moment. There's another nice scene where Hank calls the kindly caretaker out on sharing this weird blood trait with the family -- eighth-grade life sciences teachers across the cable-viewing nation may want to take notice. In the end, naturally Hank wants to stay Dr. Robin Hood.

So. A perfectly nice episode, and true to the central theme of the series, but now that some of the novelty is wearing off, I have some misgivings about how well or how long things can maintain. Not to mention, the paucity of Divya took some of the shine off this sunny summer series for me. Call it a B- this week.

* By which, I mean of course that 36 is closer to 1000 than it is to 100,000.

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