Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Mrs. Hufnagel Chronicles, Part 13

Elliott pays a visit to the recently discharged Mrs. Hufnagel with the gift of a baked ham.

Mrs. Hufnagel (Florence Halop) was surprisingly
tech-savvy, especially for 1985.
In "Saving Face", the thirteenth episode of St. Elsewhere's third season to feature patient Florence Hufnagel (Florence Halop), Dr. Elliott Axelrod (Stephen Furst) is planning to pay a visit to a patient he has been worried about, and he asks senior doctors Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel), Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.), and Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes) for gift suggestions. When Elliott reveals that the patient was none other than the abrasive Hufnagel, Ehrlich suggests he needs therapy.

For the first time, we see how Mrs. Hufnagel lives--in an apartment that houses her personally autographed photo of Ernest Borgnine, and her home computer which she uses to figure out the odds at the track. I enjoy Elliott's reaction to learning that a senior citizen like Hufnagel would be computer-savvy. I'm not sure what the actual percentage of American households had a personal computer in them in 1985, but it couldn't have been that high. (They had already done an arc in season two where a hacker breaks into the hospital's computer system and removes patients' records; it turned out to be a ten-year old girl home from school during a snowstorm, who later learns that she killed someone.)

Elliott has brought a ham for Mrs. Hufnagel, who is grieving the death of her almost-fiancee, Murray Robbin. (The gift is appropriate since Murray, a comedian of limited talent, was quite the ham himself.) He doesn't want to impose, but Mrs. Hufnagel, in an uncharacteristically friendly mood on her home turf, invites Elliott to stay and eat the ham with her, as she could use the company.

Elliott (Stephen Furst) is afraid he's killed Mrs. Hufnagel
with his gift.
Unfortunately, the ham aggravates Hufnagel's gallbladder symptoms, and she ends up unconscious on a gurney in the St. Eligius emergency room, convinced that Dr. Axelrod tried to kill her.

For those who remember this arc, I've left in the complete shot in the E.R. that includes part of the introduction of Maddy and Dean, a pregnant 14-year-old girl suffering from cocaine intoxication and her junkie/hustler boyfriend. Maddy is played by Lycia Naff, who earned a place in pop culture as the three-breasted prostitute in Total Recall, and Dean is played by Tim Van Patten, who had previously played Salami on Bruce Paltrow's The White Shadow, currently serves as executive producer on Boardwalk Empire, and also directed the pilot episode of Game of Thrones among numerous other impressive credits.

This clip also features Karen Austin as Dr. Mary Woodley; prior to this role, she had recently played Night Court's original court clerk, Lana Wagner. She's been working steadily since the late seventies, but I mostly know her as the mom in the John Candy comedy Summer Rental, which was a fixture on Saturday afternoon television in my youth.

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