A Return to (Lousy) Form: Episode 7 of The Night Shift

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ep-7-swat-prevAfter what I called “the best episode yet” of NBC’s The Night Shift, it’s a return to form this week, with characters responding to the (frankly unbelievable) events unfolding around them, rather than driving the action.



After what I called “the best episode yet” of NBC’s The Night Shift, it’s a return to form this week, with characters responding to the (frankly unbelievable) events unfolding around them, rather than driving the action.

And the medicine was pretty bad, too.

Every episode of this show spans a night shift, with a little clock that appears to mark the passage of time. But this episode begins in the middle! With a beefy guy brandishing a gun! in the CT scanner!



Then we flash back to the beginning of the night shift, when two attending docs are tending to a guy with a fishhook! in his eye! The patient notices a vibe between TC and Jordan (probably because their relationship is as nuanced as a fishhook in the eye) but that’s the only reference to this show’s marquee romance, this week.

Then TC and Topher are called to the chopper, to rescue survivors from a small plane crash! They find a wounded pilot, and bags of drugs!

Also, there are flashbacks to Afghanistan!


Now we’re back in the ED, where a stripper is brought in on a c-collar! after a pole accident!

Then a teen comes in with shortness of breath. Her lungs are clear but she can’t speak. The intern deduces that the patient swallowed a fork – when she examines in the posterior pharynx and sees tines poking out!


It’s only at this point that the show decides we’re ready for the opening credits.

All the flashbacks and jumping around doesn’t seem to add any depth to the characters or explain their motivations the audience. My guess is, when the writers looked at their simplistic script, with easily telegraphed plot twists, they guessed they could make it more interesting by changing the order in which events unfold.

Here are the plots, without the jump-cuts or flashbacks:

  • The girl with the fork in her larynx gets it extracted until DL (and presumably, sedation) and based on her teeth and finger callouses, is diagnosed as bulimic. Krista the intern was bulimic too; they bond, and she advocates for inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. The parents show up and downplay the doctors’ concerns. Then the patient swallows a scalpel, and starts bleeding a lot. The EM chief and the EM intern apparently do an ex-lap in the ED and open the patient’s stomach to retrieve the scalpel. Now, the parents are ready for inpatient psych. I am, too, because I just saw too emergency physicians perform abdominal surgery in the ED (it was especially weird when the chief told to intern to “close up and get her to the OR.”)
  • The stripper with the pole-related injuries gets a bunch of negative films, and wants to leave. But the intern, Paul, wants her to stay – see, his girlfriend is coming to town, and he’s a virgin, and wants some advice. Because this is a TV show, a lap dance ensues! During the dance, the stripper mentions she gets frequent UTIs from the pole at work, and asks for a prescription. Then she has what looks like a massive stroke. The MRI comes back normal, however. At this point I was thinking ‘carotid dissection’ and the show, to its (minor) credit, mentioning it on the differential – but when the patient starts to desat, Paul ends up making the diagnosis of methemoglobinemia. He guessed the patient was treating her stripper-pole induced UTI with phenazopyridine, ordered methylene blue, and the patient improved before everyone’s eyes.
  • The patient from the plane crash is rescued by helicopter (but not before his traumatic arrest is averted, by reducing a fractured clavicle in the field). When they get back to  the ED, Topher and TC are greeted by a DEA agent who desperately wants to talk to the patient. The docs wave him off, and prep the patient for surgery (which, thankfully, looks like it will be performed in the OR). They decided to stop in the CT scanner on the way to the OR, when the DEA agent surprises them. See, he’s not really a DEA agent, he’s a trafficker, and needs to find out something from the dying pilot, or he’ll be killed. So the fake DEA agent starts waving his gun and making threats. TC says the patient can’t talk – he needs surgery! The fake DEA agent orders the surgery to be done in the CT scanner, which is probably TC’s greatest dream. They start operating, using office supplies on hand to stop the bleeding. Remarkably, the patient dies anyway, so TC and Topher fake the resuscitation to stall for time (the resuscitation is about as realistic as any other on this show). Jordan knocks on the door to see what the holdup is, and gets taken hostage as well.

The night shift administrator sees security footage of what’s up, and calls the SWAT team. He considers going on diversion, but there’s a chemical factory explosion (the third, I think, this season) and burn victims are en route. So the EM resident, Drew, starts prepping for mass casualties with his two interns, while the three attendings are locked in the CT scanner with the shooter. Did I mention that the radiology tech was killed? A recurring character died! He was a weasel, but deserved better.

SWAT arrives, and invades the CT scanner with a flash bomb, which triggers more Afghanistan flashbacks in TC. In the chaos, he goes berzerker and starts punching the shooter. When SWAT has restrained him and things look settled, all eyes focus on Topher, who’s been shot in the belly. He collapses, and as TC and Jordan rush to his side, the screen goes dark, and the time appears. It’s only 12:38 AM! Even though the other plot threads have wrapped up, we see this episode is to be continued next week, concluding this 8-episode arc.

We’ll be live-tweeting the finale next Tuesday night at 10pm – check it out at @epmonthly.

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