Monday, February 3, 2014

The Ski Mask Rapist, Parts 1 & 2

St. Elsewhere got nice and dark with this season two storyline--a serial rapist stalks St. Eligius.

Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) lends an unwanted hand to
Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry).
In my previous video post, Peter White's Downfall, the disgraced doctor (Terence Knox) had been censured--stripped of his license to prescribe drugs after being bamboozled by an undercover police officer in the E.R. His testimony protected Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) from punishment, but the price he paid was stiff: he's been transferred to pathology, his career prospects have been curtailed, and his permanent record is forever marred.

The season two episode "Drama Center" (aired February 15, 1984) opens in the St. Eligius parking lot. A woman is having trouble starting her car in the cold weather when a man in a ski mask appears at her window, offering to help. She declines, but he reappears at the other window and smashes it.

The woman, Roxanne Reid (Allyn Ann McLerie), enters the E.R. reporting a broken wrist. When Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) tries to take her for x-rays, she confides that she was raped as well, and Dr. Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes) examines her. As she recovers and is visited by a social worker (Jenny O'Hara), she seems to be handling the ordeal remarkably well, despite her husband's discomfort. But at night, she is plagued by nightmares of the assault. Ms. Reid benefits from a therapy session where she works through her trauma.

Elsewhere, Dr. Peter White visits the emergency room and snaps into action when an unconscious man is carried in. While Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) and Nurse Daniels treat the patient, Peter, the former E.R. physician, pitches in to help, even though he's not allowed to. When they remind him of his restricted status, he grabs Shirley's arm, angry over being stuck in the morgue, and reminds her of the favor he did for her. Later, Peter's friend, Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse), visits him in his new digs. Peter is bitter, and not appreciative of the support. And he has resumed his addiction to painkillers.

  • This episode was included in the VHS collection The Very Best of St. Elsewhere.
  • For me, I will always identify Allyn Ann McLerie with her role as Carmen Carlson, wife of General Manager Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati. I've been a fan of Jenny O'Hara since her role on Beverly Hills 90210 as the grieving mother of accidental suicide victim Scott Scanlan.
  • Jack asks Peter for the Spelling autopsy.
In the next episode, "Attack" (aired February 22, 1984), Peter is performing an autopsy in the morgue with his more experienced colleague in pathology, the flaky vixen Dr. Cathy Martin (Barbara Whinnery), ignoring her spiel about the benefits of Tibetan ginseng. Peter's skills are in need of work, and when his drug-fuelled clumsiness results in the destruction of her IPG stains, Cathy gets upset with him for ruining six weeks of work. But the compassionate Dr. Martin can't help but notice that something is off with Dr. White, who fidgets nervously and says he's fine.

Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) returns from his honeymoon and is shocked to learn from Nurse Lucy Papandrao (Jennifer Savidge) that a woman was raped in the parking lot and another was grabbed on the way to the elevated train, but got away. Later, a young candy-striper (Amy Resnick) nervously approaches Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) and breaks into tears as she describes how a man lured her into a supply closet--the ski-mask rapist has struck again.

The ski mask rapist picks his moment.
Director of Medicine Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) orders the hospital locked down and hires extra security to interrogate visitors like City official Joan Halloran (Nancy Stafford), who wants to hire undercover cops to pose as orderlies. In the cafeteria, Rosenthal, Dr. Jackie Wade (Sagan Lewis), and Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) debate whether they should fight back if attacked. Wade has seen too many women beaten up for resisting, while Armstrong wants to fight back, as she has read that women who fight back are less likely to be depressed afterwards. Rosenthal doesn't want to rearrange her life and give away her power.

The female staff are treated to a rape prevention meeting from the security consultant, who advises the women not to "get hysterical". They are not assured by his statistics about the unlikeliness of being murdered or the airhorns he hands out to them for protection. Cathy Martin, on the other hand, feels that her aura will protect her--rapists seek out victims, and she doesn't project a "victim aura".

Dr. Wayne Fiscus tries to help out by organizing an escort service for the women at the hospital, but Dr. Annie Cavanero points out the flaw in the plan--"how do you know you haven't signed up the rapist?"

Nurse Shirley Daniels has obtained a license to carry a can of mace for self-protection. When she enters a secure prescription drug storage room, she hears noises and springs into action when a man rushes at her from the shadows. The attacker, however, turns out to be merely a thief who picked the wrong drug closet on the wrong day, and he is charged only with criminal trespassing, to Shirley's dismay.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter White  is not having a good night. We join him as he fails to perform with a prostitute at a seedy motel, and he explains that it was the night of his wedding anniversary, and he and Myra were all set to go out and have a good time when their kids started acting up, triggering the same fight they always have--Myra feels Peter is too lenient on the children and he feels she's too hard on them. He expresses his frustration with family life and leaves.

Back at St. Eligius, Dr. Cathy Martin is at work in the morgue when a ski-masked face appears at the window. The assailant enters, and despite Cathy's aura, he advances on her. In the struggle, she pulls off the ski mask and reveals the identity of the rapist--Dr. Peter White. The clip cuts off the ending, but after she pulls off the mask, he threatens, "If you tell anyone, I'll kill you." Roll credits.

  • To keep the clips shorter, I decided not to include the "red herring" storyline. In "Drama Center", Dr. Annie Cavanero is dating Dr. Christopher Rant (Michael Goodwin), the moonlighting physician who dumped an indigent patient on St. Eligius in "A Pig Too Far". At Annie's place, Chris won't take no for an answer, and Annie has to fight him off with a face slap. In "Attack", we see Annie enter the rape prevention seminar--she has just had one last fight with Chris, who was getting grabby again, and left with a "to hell with you." Goodwin has a similar build and height to Terence Knox, and both characters kept grabbing women forcefully, so the guy in the ski mask looked like it could have been either of them.
  • "That's why lions sleep in trees." I always enjoyed the show's dark humor. I hope rape prevention lectures are delivered with a bit more sensitivity nowadays.
  • Wendy intends to fight back because she's heard that victims are less depressed afterwards if they resist. This is some pretty brutal foreshadowing, as we shall see.
  • Some even more brutal and amazing foreshadowing--Wayne says to Jack about the panic that has gripped the women at St. Eligius, "I guess we'll never know what the women are going through." In season four, Jack gets raped while doing community outreach work at a prison, and is then stalked by the assailant after he is released in season five.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Classic 1980s TV: Cynthia Sikes vs. Heather Locklear on Battle of the Network Stars

Video of Cynthia Sikes, who played St. Elsewhere's Dr. Annie Cavanero, taking on Heather Locklear on Battle of the Network Stars in 1983.

Cynthia Sikes, Heather Locklear, and Howard Cosell
Here's some quintessential 1970s-80s nostalgia--remember Battle of the Network Stars? Television stars from CBS, ABC and NBC would compete for network television supremacy in physical challenges. Someone has graciously preserved several clips of these contests on YouTube.

St. Elsewhere is represented in the following video clip by Cynthia Sikes, who played Dr. Annie Cavanero in the show's first three seasons. She takes on a young Heather Locklear in the obstacle course, with a play-by-play and post-contest interview conducted by legendary ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell:

Sikes falls behind after the monkey bars, but Locklear, then 22 and starring on T.J. Hooker, stumbles after clearing the wall and loses her lead. Sikes pulls away after this misstep, and Locklear can't compete with Sikes's long, graceful stride. Victory to NBC!

And as a bonus, here are two clips of Mark Harmon, Dr. Bobby Caldwell himself, representing his pre-St. Elsewhere series, the prime-time soap Flamingo Road (which also featured Sikes in a recurring role). In both clips, Harmon, the former starter on UCLA's football team, demonstrates his prowess on the obstacle course. In December 1981, he dominates against Falcon Crest's Lorenzo Lamas, and in the second, from May 1982, he sets an event record against Dynasty's John James. Cosell is in fine form, especially in describing the agony of Lamas, who injures himself.

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