St. Elsewhere's pilot episode has two main storylines, centering on Dr. Jack Morrison, who establishes a caring relationship with a teenage girl with dysentary, and Dr. Annie Cavanero, whose patient goes missing. There are also several other snippets and scenes that establish characters and storylines that will continue in future episodes. We meet all of the main cast, and we see a few supporting characters who will stick around.
|Dr. Westphall leads rounds with Drs. Martin, Fiscus, |
Rowe, Armstrong, Chandler, Ehrlich and Wade.
We learn about a few other doctors and nurses as well. Annie struggles with being a woman in a traditionally male profession. Surgeon Ben Samuels has been with a lot of women on staff. Anesthesiologist Vijay Kochar is from India, and has bad breath, according to Dr. Craig. Psychiatrist Hugh Beale is a good ole boy from Mississippi, and fits right in with the oddballs in the psych ward. We meet nurses Helen Rosenthal and Shirley Daniels.
We learn about the hospital's senior staff. Director of Medicine Donald Westphall is a widow. Chief of Surgery Mark Craig is belligerent and racist. Chief of Services Daniel Auschlander is a liver specialist facing an ironic battle with liver cancer.
We learn that the life of the doctors at St. Eligius is challenging, demanding, and emotionally draining, and that St. Eligius is not well-regarded.
Stuff that happens in "Pilot":
Dr. Jack Morrison is halfway through a 48-hour on-call shift, and is already exhausted. Dr. Victor Ehrlich tells him that Westphall was upset that Jack missed grand rounds; later, we learn that it was because he was spending too much time with patients. Ehrlich informs him Jack needs to look in on Dr. Peter White's patients, because Peter told another doctor that Jack was covering for him. A large man in a wheelchair codes in the hallway; despite Jack's efforts to resuscitate him, the man dies.
|Dr. Jack Morrison. Specialty: bedside manner.|
Jack tells Sandy that he knows about the dangers of dysentery first hand; he had lousy grades in college, so he had to go to Mexico for med school, but he came back and did two years in the States. Jack is crushed to learn that Sandy's mother wants to move her to Boston General, because her physician in Maryland told her that it's a better hospital, and Dr. Westphall tells him that he has to respect her decision. Sandy likes Jack, and doesn't want to leave. Jack convinces her to go along with her mother's wishes. Jack calls his wife Nina at the newspaper where she works, leaving her a message that he's got to work again that night.
|Annie discovers why she couldn't find Henry Smith.|
Later, she apologizes to Jack, and he loses it. He gives his big dramatic speech, complaining about his lack of privacy, the pressures and demands of his job, and how he never sees his wife anymore.
Dr. Samuels has gonorrhea, and has to inform the women on staff with whom he has had relations. In a funny scene, he asks nurse Shirley Daniels to talk in private, and informs her about his infliction. She replies, "Ben, we just went to the movies. You fell asleep halfway through the picture." He's embarrassed, but adds, "When this clears up, can I call you?"
|Wayne gets more than he bargained for on his |
first date with Cathy.
Dr. Craig complains to Dr. Westphall about the breath of Indian anaesthesiologist, Dr. Vijay Kochar, and grills Kochar on his medical knowledge in the cafeteria. Ramon, the supply manager, complains to Dr. Westphall about ink stains on the bed sheets and missing scrubs.
In the ER, a woman is admitted with extensive injuries; a terrorist set off a bomb in a bank, killing two. The terrorist was admitted as well. Dr. Samuels operates on the woman, Katherine McAllister. Dr. Craig wants to use the terrorist as pubicity for the hospital, and we learn what the show's title means.
"You want to know what people call this place? Not St. Eligius. St. Elsewhere. A dumping ground, a place you wouldn't want to send your mother-in-law."Mark suggests holding a press conference where he'll be the spokesman, and suggests Donald needs to dress better.
Other stuff from "Pilot":
- Music - sound-alikes of "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" by the Police, played on walkman headphones on the ears of an orderly named Arthur, and "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen, played on the stereo in the O.R. when Ben Samuels operates on Katherine McAllister.
- We learn about a few other first-year residents that I don't think we hear about again. A female Dr. Jacobson told Ehrlich that White told her that Jack was covering for him, and a Dr. Rowe presents a case to Dr. Westphall in rounds.
- Wendy and Phil discuss Dr. Auschlander's liver cancer, and Wendy comments on the irony of a liver specialist having liver cancer. Dr. Westphall tells her, "Knowing Daniel Auschlander, he'll probably outlive all of us." Daniel indeed survives his liver cancer, and outlives Wendy in particular. As of June, 2012, Norman Lloyd is alive and well, and celebrated his 97th birthday last November. He even made a guest appearance on a 2010 episode of Modern Family as an elderly adulterer.
- Victor tells Wendy about his fear of his mentor Dr. Craig. "No one's forcing you to go into surgery," she tells him. He replies, "(And) break my mother's heart?" Later, it is established that Victor was an orphan, raised by his Aunt Charise, so he didn't have a mother whose heart he would break. Even later, it is established that his parents are actually alive, and disappeared because they were spies.
- I'm pretty sure we see Lucy Papandrao, normally an E.R. and ward nurse, as a surgical nurse, assisting Dr. Samuels in the O.R. She has a line, yet for some reason, Jennifer Savidge was not credited. Maybe you don't get credited if your face is a covered with a surgical mask.
- The IMDB says that Dominique Dunne also appears uncredited in this episode, but I didn't notice her.
- Sandy Malin is played by a young Heather McAdam, who later appeared on Sisters, but whom I mostly remember as Dylan's fellow alcoholic surfer friend Betty/Sarah on two early episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210.
- Ernie Sabella appears in the scene in the psych ward, in his first television role. He has gone on to a long and successful career in TV, movies, and on stage, and most notably played the voice of Pumbaa in The Lion King and on Timon and Pumbaa. I remember him mostly as Larry and Balki's boss, Mr. Twinkacetti, on the first season of Perfect Strangers, Mr. Carosi, the boss at the beach resort (and Leah Remini's father) on the summer vacation episodes of Saved by the Bell, and as the naked guy on the subway on Seinfeld.
- We also see Rockin' Ralph in the background in the psych ward, flapping his arms.
- The actor who played over-eager surgeon Dr. Quinn Robinson, James O'Sullivan, also played Donald Peck, the grand jury prosecutor investigating police corruption on two episodes of season two of Hill Street Blues, "Pestolozzi's Revenge" and "Freedom's Last Stand". I'd have to check it again to see exactly what's said, but on the DVD commentary track for "Freedom's Last Stand", I'm pretty sure the commenters (writers Jeffrey Lewis and Robert Crais) feel that he overacted in his role as Donald Peck. I had the same feeling about his scene in this episode.
- I wonder if that "swinging-for-the-fences" kind of dramatic acting was more common back then. He and Jack really bark at each other, and it seems overblown. There's a review or two of the St. Elsewhere season one DVD that criticizes the early-eighties overly dramatic acting on the show (e.g. David Birney's "He's not dead until I say he's dead!" in "Graveyard"). I also found Jack's "you violate my privacy" speech to Cavanero a bit melodramatic. Sure, styles have changed in thirty years, but compare that scene to Ed Flanders giving Dick O'Neill a piece of his mind in "Monday, Tuesday, Sven's Day", or to William Daniels in pretty much any episode.
- On the other hand, I've met a doctor who yelled like that when he didn't get his way. In a retail store.
- Wow, I just noticed that the two first-year residents given co-starring billing in the closing credits are named "Dr. Rowe" and "Dr. Wade", as in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that deemed abortion a fundamental right under the constitution. Funny that they made Rowe a man and Wade a woman.
Ed Flanders as Dr. Donald Westphall
David Birney as Dr. Ben Samuels
Also Starring (in alphabetical order)
G.W. Bailey as Dr. Hugh Beale
Ed Begley, Jr. as Dr. Victor Ehrlich
Terence Knox as Dr. Peter White
Howie Mandel as Dr. Wayne Fiscus
David Morse as Dr. Jack Morrison
Christina Pickles as Nurse Helen Rosenthal
Kavi Raz as Dr. Vijay Kochar
Cynthia Sikes as Dr. Annie Cavanero
Denzel Washington as Dr. Philip Chandler
William Daniels as Dr. Mark Craig
Norman Lloyd as Dr. Daniel Auschlander
Barbara Whinnery as Dr. Cathy Martin
Kim Miyori as Dr. Wendy Armstrong
Ellen Bry as Nurse Shirley Daniels
Heather McAdam as Sandy Malin
James O'Sullivan as Dr. Quinn Robinson
Cotter Smith as Dr. Rowe
Rafael Campos as Ramon
Jack Murdock as Professor
Eric G. Laneuville as Luther
Sagan Lewis as Dr. Wade
Ben Slack as Louie
Richard Marcus as Ralph
Roxanne Reese as Nurse Louise
Mary Armstrong as Mrs. Malin
Estelle Omens as Erma
Lisa Rafel as Nurse
Pearl Shear as Mrs. Sussman
Alma Beltran as Nurse Vela
Al Berry as Patient
Peter Van Norden as Patient
Ernie Sabella as Patient
Paco Vela as Doctor
Director of Photography
John McPherson, A.S.C.
Unit Production Manager
First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director
Executive in Charge of Talent
Titles and Optical Effects
Modern Film Effects
Additional Casting by
Executive in Charge of Production for MTM Productions
Camera and Lenses by Panavision
Color by Deluxe