Sunday, February 10, 2019

"Family Affair"

Description: The Endicotts try to adjust to losing a family member but gain good news about another. Caldwell's diagnosis of AIDS causes concern for his friends and a cooling in Fiscus and Clancy's relationship. Ehrlich's outreach assignement leads him to try to the help the normal-sized son of dwarf parents.

Originally aired February 12, 1986.


Ed Flanders as Dr. Donald Westphall
Norman Lloyd as Dr. Daniel Auschlander

Also Starring (in alphabetical order)
Ed Begley, Jr. as Dr. Victor Ehrlich
Stephen Furst as Dr. Elliott Axelrod
Mark Harmon as Dr. Bobby Caldwell
Eric Laneuville as Luther Hawkins
Howie Mandel as Dr. Wayne Fiscus
David Morse as Dr. Jack Morrison
Christina Pickles as Nurse Helen Rosenthal
Denzel Washington as Dr. Philip Chandler

and Starring
William Daniels as Dr. Mark Craig

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


  1. As Caldwell leaves the hospital, he carries the firefighter's helmet given to him by Manny Schecter back in Season 3. Manny was one of the three firefighters Caldwell treated as burn victims.

  2. And so we say goodbye to Dr. Bobby Caldwell.

    This is where I came into St. Elsewhere as the media buzz over Mark Harmon's straight character contracting what was then considered a gay disease made me curious. His finale doesn't disappoint. Caldwell's long walk down the halls of St. Eligius, taking in sites and people he will never see again, is deeply moving. As a nice touch, he carries the fire helmet given to him by a former patient. The helmet is not explained, and, when I first saw the episode, I didn't know why he would have one. But it's a fitting symbol of the difference he's made to patients.

    The other aspect that struck me about that final scene is how much of an outsider Caldwell appears to be. As I watched earlier episodes in reruns and now on Hulu, I've come realize how appropriate that outsider image is for Caldwell. He never quite seemed to fit in with the other characters. During Season 2, he was Joan Halloran's boyfriend but didn't really develop as a character on his own. In Season 3, he had two major storylines--treating the firefighters and the young woman with facial tumors. Great stories, but they seemed disconnected from the other happenings and characters at St. Eligius. It felt as if Harmon was starring in his own show that happened to be set at the same hospital.

    One of the most telling insights occurs after one of the firefighters has died. Caldwell tells Chandler and Morrison that he never thinks deeply about philosophical issues; he's a surface man--a plastic surgeon whose looks have always opened doors for him. He sounds conflicted in that exchange, and a degree of self-loathing comes out. Sadly, this insight isn't developed until Season 4, when it's clear Harmon is on his way out. Bobby's promiscuousness lands him in serious and ultimately fatal trouble, but it seems like this trait was late developing.

    He had few relationships among the other characters. He constantly booted Ehrlich off his team (and rightly so) for the latter's insensitive remarks. He and Fiscus hung out at Caldwell's Cape Cod home, but Caldwell abandoned his friend once he had a date. He was regarded with mutual respect by Westphall and Craig, who addressed him as "Bob," and Caldwell was comfortable enough standing up to Craig and addressing him as "you little bastard" when the latter wanted to boot him out of the hospital after the AIDS diagnosis.

    In the end, he leaves the hospital in much the same way he arrived: a still dashing figure whose days are numbered and who has kept much of his inner world private. I felt both sorrow and admiration for him, but I wish would could have gotten to know him better.


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