Monday, June 4, 2012


A recap of episode 1 of season 1, in which Dr. Morrison bonds with a teenage patient, Dr. Cavanero can't find a potentially dangerous patient, and Dr. Fiscus is attracted to Dr. Martin.

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 a bit about the first-year residents. Jack is sensitive and caring, but sloppy, and probably too sensitive. Dr. Wayne Fiscus loves the excitement of saving lives in the E.R., and likes Dr. Cathy Martin, a pathologist. Cathy is weird, and dresses in black. Dr. Peter White has a family, but he takes advantage of his friend Jack. Dr. Victor Ehrlich is training to be a surgeon, is scared of his mentor, Dr. Mark Craig, and is close to his Aunt Charise. Dr. Philip Chandler, Dr. Wendy Armstrong and Dr. Jacqueline Wade are there, too.

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.

Originally aired October 26, 1982.

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 treats Sandy Malin (Heather McAdam), a prep-school girl who contracted dysentery on a trip to South America. Jack cares about her, and pays particularly close attention to her. Later, when Jack discovers that a surgeon, Dr. Quinn Robinson (James O'Sullivan), has scheduled Sandy for surgery without consulting him, he gets into a shouting match with him in the hallway. Westphall intervenes, telling the surgeon to at least wait until the results of the liver biopsy come back. Turns out Jack was right to be concerned, as the positive test for amoebae would have made surgery potentially fatal. Jack also confronts Peter in the cafeteria about forcing him to cover for him. Peter says his kid was sick, and complains, "what was I supposed to do?"

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.
Dr. Annie Cavanero discovers that one of her patients has gone missing, Henry Smith, a 6'6" potentially dangerous psychiatric patient. She goes to the psych ward to ask Dr. Beale, who hasn't seen him. We learn a bit about the hospital's psychiatrist, who only sees shrimp when he looks at Rorschach charts, as he's the son of a shrimper from Mississippi. When Dr. Westphall calls her to his office to ask about the missing patient, she's exasperated because Henry Smith has never had a good day in his life, kicked around and lost by the system. He tells her she can't try to be everything for her patients. As she spends the day trying to track down Mr. Smith, word gets around that a potentially dangerous patient is on the loose. Finally, she crosses paths with Jack, who takes her to the morgue to show her where Mr. Smith was. Jack filled out the death certificate, but it never left his pocket. He forgot to submit it. She freaks out on him.

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.
Wayne introduces himself to pathologist Cathy Martin. He asks her to dinner, but she's on call that night. Wayne visits her in the morgue. She's unusually forward, and after telling him about her late ex-fiancee Gary, she tells him he has nice eyes, and asks him to kiss her. He's really uncomfortable, especially when she takes their amorous activity to a morgue slab, but he can't resist her.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Jennifer Savidge, uncredited, as Lucy Papandrao, surgical nurse?
    Ernie Sabella makes his first television appearance, with Ben Slack.
    Here's the episode, from DailyMotion:


    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

    and Starring
    William Daniels as Dr. Mark Craig

    Guest Starring
    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
    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


    Developed by
    Mark Tinker
    John Masius

    Created by
    Joshua Brand
    John Falsey

    Produced by

    Written by

    Directed by 

    Executive Producer

    Associate Producer

    Music by 

    Director of Photography

    Art Directors

    Edited by

    Post-Production Supervisor

    Unit Production Manager

    First Assistant Director

    Second Assistant Director

    Executive in Charge of Talent

    Casting by

    Set Decorator

    Men's Costumer

    Women's Costumer

    Makeup Artist

    Hair Stylists

    Medical Advisor

    Music Editor

    Sound Editor

    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


  1. I just finished the entire series on Hulu. I originally saw Season 1 on DVD rental about two and half years ago, so am now going back to watch it again.
    Really great to see Lucy and Jackie in tiny roles here as they become so much bigger later on. I agree that Jack's speech is really over-the-top, but Morse is always great to watch. I guess in retrospect, it seems out of character. AND, if this character thinks he's stressed now...just wait! On a related note, it's fascinating to see the McAllister story again considering what comes in Season 5.
    The other observation is that the earlier episodes have a lot more medical jargon, which I rather like. There's more realism here, which doesn't make it better, per se, but a somewhat different feel than later seasons. There is quite a bit of overlapping dialogue as well, which gives it a strong Robert Altman vibe.

  2. what kind of scrub jacket is dr morrison wearing, it doesnt look like a typical lab coat?
    kind of matches his soft bedside manner

    1. Just watched this episode, and yes, that's a weird kind of lab coat that Jack is wearing. It looks like a hospital gown, with straps, but it's white like a lab coat. And it's definitely not like the coat that Cavanero wears. So I guess my answer is--I don't know!

  3. What book is heather mcadams reading she was the girl with dysentry or abcess on liver?


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