Friday, October 18, 2019

"Down's Syndrome"

Summary: A couple learns their baby will be born with Down's Syndrome, and the husband pushes for an abortion. Beale assesses the bomber to determine his fitness for trial. Westphall shows members of the board around the hospital. Fiscus and Martin get trapped in an elevator; Fiscus worries that their relationship is only physical. White, fending off persistent phone calls from his wife in the E.R., nearly kills a patient. Morrison learns his wife is pregnant.

"Down's Syndrome" is the 3rd episode of season 1 of St. Elsewhere.
Originally aired November 16, 1982.
Teleplay by Tom Fontana
Story by Joshua Brand & John Falsey and Tom Fontana
Directed by Mark Tinker

Rooney tells Westphall about the latest child junkie.
The episode begins with the residents learning about a case of liver cancer from Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd). When he asks the residents how they would handle the patient in this case, Ms. Taylor, Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) says she would tell the patient the truth, that her condition is terminal. Auschlander stumps Wendy when he asks her when the patient will die. Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) compares having Auschlander (who also has liver cancer) discuss this case to having Marie Antoinette talking about the "inner mechanisms of the guillotine."

Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) gives a tour of St. Eligius to two members of the hospital's board of directors (Virginia Kiser, Thomas Hill). One of them, a judge (Hill), mentions that there's talking of closing down the facility and moving it to one of the better suburbs, like Newton or Wellesley. Donald counters that closing the hospital would leave a hole in the neighborhood. They encounter orderly Rooney (Lance Guest), who complains to Westphall that sanitation didn't show up, and they had "another kid in here, twelve years old". Donald explains that sanitation is supposed to dispose of syringes so that the kids, who are intravenous drug users, don't re-use the needles.

Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) is working in the E.R. when he receives a phone call from his wife, Myra, who is looking for the ticket for the laundry.

Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) spots Wayne talking to Dr. Cathy Martin (Barbara Whinnery), with whom he recently began a relationship. After Cathy leaves, Wayne asks Victor to cover for him while he and Cathy go on their first date, to a pistol range. Wayne is worried about the relationship becoming too serious, but also that it's been purely physical up to that point.

We meet the Whitehill family, Bill (Tony Bill) and Denise (Maureen Anderman) and their two daughters. Denise is pregnant, and sleeping late in advance of her doctor's appointment at St. Eligius. Bill wants the child to be a boy. Denise insists that this will be their last child, given her age.

Dr. Hugh Beale (G.W. Bailey), the hospital's psychiatrist, introduces himself to Andrew Rhinehardt (Tim Robbins), the injured terrorist bomber. Beale must determine if Rhinehardt is fit to stand trial. We learn that Rhinehardt was an honor student who won a science award in school before he dropped out to become a radical. Beale mentions that he plays chess with Dr. Craig. Rhinehardt calls Beale "doctor pig".

Next stop on the board members' hospital tour is the animal research lab. Someone named Belznik sent a dead mouse from upstairs through the hospital's pneumatic tube messaging system. The judge comments that the tube system is out-of-date. Donald explains that it's the only wing that still uses it, and if they could get more money, they could do something about it. Mrs. Beardsley (Kiser) isn't comfortable with the use of dogs for medical research. Donald replies that if she's got a better system for developing medical treatments, they'll try it.

The Whitehills learn that their child will have Down's

At the hospital, Bill and Denise Whitehill meet with Dr. Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes), who informs them that their child-to-come has Down's Syndrome. Bill chides Annie's suggestion that some parents take pleasure in raising a Down's child. It's little consolation to him that the child is a boy.

On rounds with Auschlander, the residents examine Miss Taylor (Betty Cole), the liver cancer patient. After leaving the room, White comments that her liver was hard as a rock. Auschlander asks them what the treatment options are. Armstrong suggests that they should just keep her comfortable.

Stephen McAllister visits his wife, Katherine, who was seriously injured in the terrorist bombing. Her eyes are open, but she is unresponsive. He tells her that they'll go skiing again once they get back to Minneapolis.

The hospital tour continues with a trip to an operating room, where Dr. Ben Samuels (David Birney) is performing surgery and chatting up the two guests while pop music plays on the O.R. stereo.

Back at the Whitehill house, Denise and Bill are getting ready for bed. She is optimistic, but he does not like the idea of raising a "damaged" child. Their daughters are in bed, but one of them overhears the conversation and listens at their door. Bill gets angry, calling their unborn child a "mongoloid", and Denise doesn't like Bill's implication that he wants to "throw it away". She doesn't like the thought of having an abortion, and their daughter doesn't like it either, running back to her room.

In the E.R., Peter is stitching up the wrist of a woman, Mrs. Lawson (Sandy Martin) whose husband is watching through the window while she complains about the "constant humiliation" she endures in their marriage. He asks her to keep her arm still, but she insists on keeping up her animated rant. Eventually, Peter snaps. He tells her he doesn't care about her problems, and he's sick of her continually attempting suicide after their fights and coming back to the E.R. to be stitched up. Dr. Phil Chandler (Denzel Washington) tells Peter his wife is on the phone, but the agitated White refuses to take the call. He finishes the stitches and tells the patient she "ought to see a shrink or somebody."

The Whitehill's daughter awakes in the middle of the night, shouting for her mother. She had a bad dream. She dreamed that her parents were mad at her and threw her in the ocean. When Denise asks her daughter where she would get an idea like that, she says she knows they are planning to get rid of the new baby.

Someone needs to teach Vijay the rules of Scrabble.
The next day, in the St. Eligius cafeteria, Phil is playing Scrabble with Wendy, Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse), and Dr. Vijay Kochar (Kavi Raz). Phil is now Rhinehardt's doctor, and he wonders how Jack put up with him. Vijay tries to play the word "shamash", the sun god of Assyria. At another table, Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels) complains to Beale about doctors wearing gym shoes.

At yet another table, Mrs. Whitehill sits down with Dr. Cavanero. Her husband wanted a son to carry on the family name. Denise wants Annie's take on the situation. Like Annie's mother, Denise is a "very traditional woman."

In the E.R., Rooney confides to Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) that he has aspirations of becoming a scrub nurse. Shirley has been considering getting out of nursing herself. Myra White calls again. Peter is treating a patient, and suggests that Shirley add 30 mg of potassium to the patient's IV to help with his dehyrdation. He leaves to take the phone call. While explaining that he can't interrupt his shift to pick up his wife's mother, Rooney interrupts and tells him to "come quick". Ehrlich is performing CPR on the patient. After defibrillation brings the patient back to life, Ehrlich informs White that the potassium almost killed the man.

Back at the Whitehill house, Denise insists to her husband that she wants to keep the baby. Brian protests. He insists the child is a "defective accident." She insists that abortion is "murder." He says he doesn't have the strength to handle it.

Later, at St. Eligius, Wayne meets Cathy in an elevator, having enjoyed their date at the shooting range. The elevator gets stuck between floors. She starts getting upset, relating that during the Manhattan blackout in '79, she was stuck in an elevator at the Biltmore with an Arab prince and four Labradors. Cathy insists Wayne hold her tight and kiss her. Meanwhile, Dr. Craig complains about the elevator to Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles). She has a key to get it moving again. When the doors open, Cathy calmly leaves the elevator, while Wayne is standing in the corner, zipping up his fly. A man steps in, and Wayne asks him, "going down?"

Nina Morrison (Deborah White) arrives to meet her husband Jack. Rather than go out for lobster at Durgin-Park, she wants to go home, since they hardly ever get to spend time together. She's got a bottle of champagne. They walk past Mr. McAllister, who is eyeing the room where a police officer is standing guard. Nina isn't thrilled about the prospect of an evening with the Whites, who are "going through a rough patch." Jack defends Peter, saying he's under a lot of pressure and he has a baby, to which Nina replies, "so do you." Jack is thrilled with the news.

Back at the Whitehill house, Denise is already in bed when Bill gets home from work. He'd talked over the baby situation with someone at work, but it's too late--she had the abortion.

Dr. Auschlander tells Westphall about his childhood trips
to the opera with his father.
Later, at St. Eligius, Dr. Auschlander is listening to opera music in his office when Westphall, on his way home, stops by. He tells Donald, "When I was a little body in New York, my father used to take me to the Metropolitan Opera House, the old one at Broadway and 39th Street... My father and I. Every week, we'd stand and watch Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, and my father would cry. Once I asked him, 'why are you crying, papa?' And he turned to me and said, 'Be quiet. Listen.'" He considers the treatment options for his liver cancer. Donald tells him he should see a doctor, and takes his leave. Auschlander pays a visit to Ms. Taylor, and joins her for a game of gin rummy.

Trivia for "Down's Syndrome":
  • This was the first episode of episodic television written by a young Tom Fontana, who went on to create the series Homicide and Oz after his run as a St. Elsewhere writer and producer. A copy of the original script can be found on Fontana's website.
    • One of the scenes cut from the episode features Rhinehardt's parents explaining how their son fell in with the group of radicals that inspired the terrorist bombing he committed.
  • Wayne comments on the slideshow of microscope images, "Who took these pictures, James Garner?" Garner was the commercial pitchman for Polaroid cameras.
  • According to Westphall, Dr. Osterwald, the doctor napping in the hallway when the board members pass by, is the best cardiologist in New England. This is his only appearance.
  • I'm familiar with Sandy Martin, who played Mrs. Lawson, from her role as Mac's mother on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and her roles in Big Love and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
  • I'm familiar with Thomas Hill as Jim Dixon on Newhart.
  • This episode earned a positive review in the New York Times: "NBC's Stylish 'St. Elsewhere'".
  • Dr. Auschlander's story about seeing the opera with his father turns up again when he tries marijuana for the first time, in season 2's "Hearing".
  • Guest star Tony Bill won an Oscar along with Michael and Julia Phillips as producers of The Sting. He also directed My Bodyguard, among others.
  • They could have just told Vijay that you can't use names in Scrabble. English dictionary words only.
  • Durgin-Park, the restaurant where Jack wanted to dine, closed its doors permanently on January 12, 2019. It opened in 1827, and a restaurant had been operating in that location since 1742.

Here's the scene with Peter White and Mrs. Lawson in the E.R.:

And here's the episode in its entirety:


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
Tony Bill as Brian Whitehill
Maureen Anderman as Denise Whitehill
Jack Bannon as Stephen McAllister
Deborah White as Nina Morrison
Virginia Kiser as Mrs. Beardsley
Thomas Hill as the Judge

Lance Guest as Sean Rooney
Tim Robbins as Andrew Reinhardt
Betty Cole as Miss Taylor
Sandy Martin as Mrs. Lawson

Jeanna Barron as Michelle Whitehill
Michelle Walker as Stephanie Whitehill
John Walter Davis as Bram Hammond
Vance Colvig, Jr. as Mr. Pechar

Watching St. Elsewhere on Hulu? Feel free to comment on this episode below.

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    I am trying to find the song & artist from the bit where Ben Samuels (David Birney)is performing surgery and chatting up the two guests while pop music plays on the O.R. stereo. The song sounds futuristic for its time & I couldn't properly pick out what the female vocalist is singing, which makes it impossible to search for. It's been driving up the wall! If you can help then I'd be ever so grateful whatever the outcome.

    Thank you Mike Brooks


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