Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Description: Unable to save a dying boy, a frustrated Morrison lets the boy's parents perform a Chinese folk ritual. Samuels leaves a late-night poker game to perform emergency surgery on a gunshot victim. Paxton rejects Samuels's advances. Ralph's manic stage reaches a crescendo.

"Graveyard" is the 11th episode of season 1 of St. Elsewhere.
Originally aired January 18, 1983.
Teleplay by Joshua Brand, John Falsey, John Masius, Tom Fontana
Story by Joshua Brand, John Falsey
Directed by Victor Lobl


A poker game is underway in the solarium, involving Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.), Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel), Dr. Ben Samuels (David Birney), and Dr. Lyle Stephens (Drew Katzman). Victor is telling a story, and when Ben asks for clarification of a detail, Stephens comments, "His mind is somewhere else." Fiscus suggests it's on a certain Dr. Paxton. The doctors have noticed Samuels' change in behavior since Paxton arrived, including how his "obnoxious, detached, patronizing manner melts into a rabid, sexual yearning every time she enters the room," according to Wayne. They also wonder why he's hanging around the hospital on a Saturday night, and perhaps it's because Dr. Paxton is on call. Samuels tries to deflect by criticizing Stephens's bet and Ehrlich's hands. After winning the hand, Samuels takes his leave.

Paxton explains to Samuels why she's not receptive to his
interest in her.
His first stop is to seek out Dr. Nancy Paxton (Dorothy Fielding). He's up front about his intentions towards her, but she comments that in the ten years since he left her, she can forgive but not forget. She says she's crazy about him, but not in that way. She would have done anything to be with him ten years earlier, but now she sees that he's "irresponsible." Not to his work, but "to people." He protests, but she doesn't want to go through it again with him.

At 9:55 PM, Dr. Hugh Beale (G.W. Bailey) enters the room of psychiatric patient Ralph (Richard Marcus), who has been under the delusion that he's a bird. Ralph, perched bird-like on top of a dresser, has too much to think about and doesn't feel like sleeping. He's beginning to think that Hugh is right, and perhaps it's time he stops being a bird. Maybe he'll even be himself. Ralph wonders what Beale is doing so far away from his native Mississippi, and when Beale confides that he misses his people, including his parents, that touches a nerve with Ralph. His own parents didn't know what to do with a child genius, so they sent him to M.I.T. at age fourteen. They didn't know how to act around him, and now he doesn't "know how to act around them or anyone else for that matter." He only ever felt comfortable around Jane. He spoke with her on the phone, and she's moving to Arizona to be near her father. He cites Yeats: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold." He doesn't know what to do with the world and the world doesn't know what to make of him.

Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse) is inspecting a patient, an unconscious young male. Dr. Paxton is consulting. His pupils are sluggish. He has no fever, which isn't a good sign, as his body should be trying to fight off an infection. No response to deep pain stimulation. His brain isn't active, and is obviously infected. Paxton thinks he won't make it through the night, and that he should call the family.

At 10:15 PM, Samuels is back playing poker. Dr. Beale wants in on the action. He's surprised to learn that Ben has "struck out" with Paxton. Victor is frustrated that they're talking so much and that he's losing. Ben's flush beats Victor's three of a kind. The doctors have a good chuckle at Victor's frustration.

Jack is asleep in the dying patient's room when the boy's family arrives. The boy, Mickey Wong (Rummel Mor), and his family are Chinese, and they've brought along a Chinese doctor (Marc Hayashi). Mickey's father (James Hong) wants to perform "ultimate Chinese medicine" on his son. The doctor says it's an old superstition, something he's only heard about but never seen. Jack asks if it involves anything invasive, and the father says it wouldn't interfere with Jack's medical procedures. Jack doesn't see anything wrong with letting them try, as they've done everything possible.

Drs. White and Fiscus treat a young man brought to the E.R.
with a massive bullet wound.
At 10:50 PM, Wayne is in the E.R. Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) is asleep on a gurney. The doors open. A man is dragging a body with him, and yells for someone to give him a hand. Wayne and Peter spring in action. The man says there's blood all over the back of the cab, and the body is a young man who's been shot. Wayne tells the nurse (Jane Kaczmarek) to get Samuels and tell him there's a "gunshot wound to the chest like you wouldn't believe." They perform CPR on the victim (Thomas Hulce), and are amazed at the extent of the damage. There's no pulse. Samuels arrives. There's a hole in the man's ventricle, and Ben tries to suture it. They need to get blood to the patient's brain. Samuels performs cardiac massage, and they detect a pulse. They begin moving him to an operating room.

The nurse asks the cab driver, Danny Christiano (Robert Pastorelli), some questions. He noticed a younger guy talking to an older guy. The older guy pulled out a gun and put it in the younger guy's chest. The young man turned away, and the older man shot him in the back. He got out of his cab and picked up the young man, who said to him, "Why did they have to kill me?" He wonders how he's going to get all the blood out of his cab.

At 11:05 PM, Samuels and Ehrlich are operating on the John Doe. Samuels comments on how Saturday night used to be date night, but now people are trying to "blow each other's brains out."

In Mickey Wong's room, Drs. Morrison and Paxton watch while the boy's father performs "ultimate Chinese medicine". Jack can't believe they think that this ritual will help. Paxton thinks it's spinal meningitis. The father asks to remove the IV. Paxton goes along with it, since the boy is dying anyway.

Luther is dragging a broom down the hallway when Ralph runs to catch up to him. Luther is happy to see Ralph, as Julius, Luther's racing pigeon, has been flying record times since Ralph treated him. Ralph gives Luther a paper bag. It's a care package of vitamins, oils, and seeds for Julius. Luther isn't comfortable taking Ralph's "bird stuff," but Ralph explains that he's done being a bird.

At 3:30 AM, Samuels and Ehrlich are still operating on the John Doe. Samuels asks Ehrlich to patch a bleeder. Ehrlich has dozed off. Samuels wakes him. Ehrlich asks him how he can still concentrate after four hours. Samuels explains that he "gets off" on performing surgery. They still have about forty-five minutes to go before they can call in Dr. Fanning, a kidney specialist.

At 3:50 AM, Jack adjourns to the solarium. He asks about the John Doe, and Fiscus tells him it's too early to tell, and Samuels has been working on him for four hours. Beale invites him to joint the poker game. Jack reluctantly agrees. Mickey Wong enters the solarium, looking for Dr. Morrison. Jack is shocked to see him up and about. Mickey is hungry.

Mr. Wong is grateful for his son's recovery.
At 4:10 AM, Mickey is back in his hospital bed, eating pizza. Jack asks if his neck is hurting. Mickey says no, he's just hungry. His parents want to take him home, but Jack says they need to run some tests first. Mr. Wong thanks Dr. Morrison, explaining that Jack's intelligence along with the ultimate Chinese medicine rid Mickey's brain of the infection.

In the O.R., Samuels welcomes Dr. Norma Fanning (Gillian Eaton), who's there to repair damage to the John Doe's kidney.

In the cafeteria, an excited Ralph runs in, calling for Earl, the cafeteria's cook (Julius Harris). Ralph wants a human breakfast, of ham, eggs, bacon, and a short stack of blueberry pancakes with real butter. No more worms or caraway seeds for Ralph. The grill isn't ready, but Ralph settles for a danish and a glass of orange juice. He asks Earl if he's happy with his life, and Earl says he's happy that his pension will be coming up soon, and he and his wife will be able to move south to be close to their grandchildren. Ralph says to give them four kisses from him, and he plants two kisses on each of Earl's cheeks. He thanks Earl, then runs off.

5:18 AM... At the nurses' station, Jack updates Dr. Paxton on Mickey Wong's tests. Jack is amazed by what happened, calling it a miracle. Paxton isn't so amazed, and tells Jack he can't write up the folk ritual as the cause of the recovery. He would lose all his credibility. But she confides that yes, she thought it was miraculous.

Drs. Beale and Fiscus are running up the stairwell. They open the door to the roof, to find a few nurses, a security guard, Luther, and Ralph, who's standing near the edge. Ralph says he wanted to see the sun rise. Beale says he'll see about getting Ralph a room with a better view. Beale steps towards Ralph, but Ralph tells him not to come any closer.

"Well, it should be a fantastic sunrise. Just enough clouds in the sky to make it colorful. Reddish-pink. You think I'm gonna jump, don't you? Well, let me calm your anxiety, I'm not. But if I were, I wouldn't fall. I'd flutter. And I wouldn't light on the sidewalk. I'd land on a sailing mast bound for--where was it, Hugh? Didn't it used to be Portugal?"

"It still can be. That was your dream."

"That was ours. Jane's and mine. The ultimate migration. The quintessential flight. Birds of passage. Birds of the day, of the night, of dawn. The final roost, Hugh, the final roost. And now, that's all gone, forever."

"Jane is not a bird anymore, Ralph."

"I know that, I do. And I have my moments, too, when I realize that I'm not a... I have my moments, too."

"I know you do."

"I'm not an eagle, am I."


"And I'm not able to fly."

"No. You're not able to fly."

"I have these moments when I'm thinking clearly. Like right now. And it makes it so hard, so devastatingly hard, Hugh, to accept my condition."

Ralph embarks on his final flight.
"Time, Ralph. All you need is time."

"You think so? You know, I don't think so anymore."

"C'mon, Ralph. Let's go back inside. Please?"

Hugh reaches out his hand, and Ralph jumps.

The sun has risen, and Dr. Samuels encounters a tearful Luther in the hallway, mopping the floor. Ben walks past the solarium, where he sees Nancy Paxton. She asks Ben about the patient who killed himself. She says she saw a miracle happen. Ben says he saw a miracle, too.

"Jack Morrison says that after what he saw tonight, anything is possible," says Nancy. "I thought you weren't working tonight."

"Yeah, well, life's full of surprises, isn't it? You gotta be prepared to expect the unexpected."

"I was never very good at that, was I? Why did you leave me, Ben?"

"I was young. And scared. Shallow, and very stupid."

"You were the golden boy. Ah, you had the world at your feet."


"I remember you saying you were going to be Chief of Surgery by the time you were 35. And not just at any hospital. Mount Sinai."

"Yeah, well, that was a long time ago, wasn't it?"

"What happened?"

"Life threw me a couple of curves. Could never hit a curve."

"Sure you could."

"Could I?"

"Anytime. Anywhere. Do you still want the same things?"

Samuels and Paxton are overcome by their feelings.
"No, I don't think about that much anymore. You know, when I used to see a closed door, I had to know what was behind it. And now I walk by."

"That's too bad."

"Maybe. Sunday morning. Time to go home, get some sleep."


He stops. She stands up. He moves towards her, and they embrace. And they kiss.

Trivia for "Graveyard"
  • The poker game was teased in the previous episode. Beale said he wasn't going to play, but he did anyway.
  • I've been trying to piece together a timeline of Ben's life to figure out how old he is, but it's a bit dodgy. Here, he and Nancy split up ten years earlier, which would be around 1972. In "Samuels and the Kid", Ben said he was married to a woman named Cynthia, and that she had bought a gun around the time of the Charles Manson murders, and their toddler son killed himself with it. It's also posited in "Tweety and Ralph" that he was into betting on horse racing in 1963. I don't think there's any way to piece all the details together with any kind of consistency. Poetic license, I guess. Or just retconning.
  • Robert Pastorelli, who played cab driver Danny Christiano, would find fame playing house painter Eldin Bernecky on the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown.
  • Ralph will appear on St. Elsewhere again in season five's "After Life".

Here's "Graveyard" on 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
Dorothy Fielding as Dr. Nancy Paxton
Richard Marcus as Ralph Selover
Jane Kaczmarek as Nurse Sandy Burns
Thomas Hulce as John Doe #12
James Hong as Mr. Wong
Marc Hayashi as Chinese doctor
Julius Harris as Earl

Robert Pastorelli as Danny Christiano
Eric G. Laneuville as Luther Hawkins
Rummel Mor as Mickey Wong
Drew Katzman as Dr. Lyle Stephens 

Gillian Eaton as Dr. Fanning
Mark W. Burke as Blood Bank Technician
Wendy Wessberg as Scrub Nurse

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


  1. None of the senior regulars (Craig, Westphall, Auschlander, Rosenthal) appear in this episode.

  2. A beautiful piano tune is playing at the end of the episode when Ben and Nancy embrace. Would you happen to know what it is?

    1. Depends which version you're watching, Maria. The version of the episode available to watch on All4 in the UK ends with the song "Unchained Melody". However, I believe in the DVD release this was replaced with a generic instrumental to avoid rights issues.

    2. Been mentions he is 35 in this episode or the one before it

  3. Re: Samuels' age. I often find it useful to use the actor's true age to speculate on the character's age in the absence of other information. David Birney (born 1939) was 24 in 1963 and 30 in 1969 (the Manson killings occurred in August of that year), so those dates match up. Presumably, the death of his son and his divorce from Cynthia occurred within a year or two after the Manson killings, which would allow him to have a relationship with Paxton in 1972-73 (perhaps a rebound relationship), ten years before "Release" aired. One possible discrepancy is that Samuels told Paxton he'd be chief of surgery by 35. By this reckoning, Samuels turned 35 in 1974--but then he was probably as ambitious as he was cocky. (Note that he's still not chief of surgery at 43-44.)

  4. Ralph has got a line in here about being a genius and going to MIT at 14. This is one small line from the episode, and over twenty years before we knew who the Unibomber was and long before most of us knew about the experiments he went through as a youth at MIT. This throwaway line is something that I wonder how much thought was put into it. How familiar were the writers with that? Was it a part of the culture of Boston at the time? An open secret?

    Hope y'all know. I didn't create a profile on the site but on FB, Instagram I'm Meg Annunaki if you all have some insight it fascinates me as to how they'd have a profile so similiar.

  5. Who played as the gun shot victim?


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