Monday, October 28, 2019


Description: A 'Dr. Bullfinch' impersonates a doctor and makes the rounds. A woman who didn't know she was pregnant finds herself in surprise labor, and is ambivalent about the prospect of motherhood. Ehrlich passes out during surgery. White moves in with the Morrisons when he and his wife separate. Dr. Paxton, Samuels' ex, begins work at St. Eligius.

"Hearts" is the 10th episode of season 1 of St. Elsewhere.
Originally aired January 11, 1983.
Teleplay by John Masius
Story by Joshua Brand & John Falsey and John Masius
Directed by Mark Tinker


Dr. Victor Ehrlich will be covering for Dr. Cerone in
surgery today.
Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) shows up late for a meeting headed by Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels), and sits next to Dr. Philip Chandler (Denzel Washington). He proceeds to spread some gossip to Phil about a Dr. Cerone who is absent due to a messy love triangle. Craig asks Ehrlich for the answer to a question but Ehrlich wasn't paying attention. Senior staff member Dr. Ben Samuels (David Birney) picks up the ball. Ehrlich is covering for the missing Cerone that afternoon in the O.R.

Chandler picks up a chart for one of his patients and discovers that someone wrote a medication order in crayon. Nurse Lucy Papandrao (Jennifer Savidge) interprets the signature as being from a "Dr. Bullfinch".

Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd) is setting up a film projector in his office when he meets the Bradshaw Fellow, endocrinologist Dr. Nancy Paxton (Dorothy Fielding). She worked with Daniel's friend Dr. Wyler in Africa, as part of the Peace Corps. Auschlander is showing a Chaplin film to some of his terminal patients.

Ehrlich isn't feeling well. As a joke, Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) writes Victor a "note from his doctor," excusing Victor from surgery. Elsewhere, Dr. Chandler asks Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse) if he's heard of a "Dr. Bullfinch".

Fiscus tells Samuels about the "incredible piece of anatomy" that Auschlander has brought on board, whom Fiscus asked for a consult. Samuels and Paxton recognize each other instantly. The last time they saw each other, she was a senior at NYU, and he was in medical school. He went to school with her sister Janet. They share a lingering moment of eye contact before Wayne reminds her of his patient.

Psychiatric patient Ralph is dressed in a doctor's lab coat, and he pays a visit to a patient, Mrs. Pechick, who is happy to see "Dr. Bullfinch". He tells her that he'll be making an adjustment to her medication, but he tells her not to tell Dr. Chandler about it.

Dr. Paxton is questioning a female patient (Conchata Ferrell) in the E.R. The "other doctor" thought it might be her liver, but her stomach is cramping, and her back hurts. No appendix pain, nausea, or diarrhea, either. A patient is wheeled into the E.R. on a stretcher, whom Wayne treats: it's a man (William Bronder) who's been impaled by a broken golf club. The woman with the abdominal pain is helped to a bed. Dr. Paxton discovers that the woman is pregnant. Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) also listens with a stethoscope, and she hears "a healthy little heartbeat." The woman, Miss Barnett, seems unhappy and confused by the news.

Mrs. Pechick still has her Laddie with her.
Dr. Chandler and Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) arrive to speak to Mrs. Pechick, who's in for a bleeding ulcer. She mentions Dr. Bullfinch. Her new medicine would cure her "ruffled feathers," he said. Her husband, a former patient of Dr. Westphall's, passed away recently, killed by a hit-and-run driver along with their dog, Laddie. She pulls down her blanket to reveal that her dog has been stuffed, and is still keeping her company, even during her hospital stay.

Dr. Paxton visits Gina Barnett, who has just delivered her baby. The baby is fine, but was a bit premature, and is undergoing tests. Gina doesn't want to see her baby, and says she can't be a mother. The father of her baby moved to Houston, and isn't in the phone book. Her father had a stroke, and can't answer the phone. She works early mornings as a baker at a donut shop. She's not taking this development well.

In the cafeteria, Wayne asks Dr. Hugh Beale (G.W. Bailey) if he'll be participating in the poker game scheduled for later that night. Beale is not up for it. At one of the tables, Jack tells Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) that his wife, Myra, called his house the night before, looking for her husband. Peter hasn't been home, and is staying at a motel in a "combat zone". At another table, Shirley wonders to Dr. Paxton how a woman could be eight months pregnant and not notice that her period had stopped. Luther (Eric Laneuville) walks by with Rooney (Lance Guest), who takes notice of the fetching Dr. Paxton before asking Luther about his pal, the birdman Ralph. Luther says he lets Ralph out every once in a while so he can "flap his wings." Rooney suggests Luther is asking for trouble, but Luther says Ralph is harmless. At another table, a tired Ehrlich tells Fiscus that he's "carbohydrate packing" in preparation for surgery, as a long-distance runner would.

Ralph, a.k.a. Dr. Bullfinch, pays a visit to a patient named Mr. Ullman (Peter Hobbs). Ralph tells the patient that he's in good hands with Dr. Craig operating on him, but Ullman, always unlucky he claims, doesn't have high hopes for making it through alive. He's also a die-hard Red Sox fan who lost his wife to the Yankees in '41, and his son to the Dodgers in '58. Ralph's favorites are the Orioles, Cardinals, and Blue Jays. He gives Mr. Ullman a pep talk about the Red Sox in the World Series and migrating birds.

Ehrlich tells Craig that he doesn't think he can make it through five hours of surgery because he's been on call for 36 hours and doesn't feel well. Craig tells him that if he doesn't assist on Mr. Ullman's bypass, that Ehrlich will be re-assigned to the animal research lab.

Dr. White is asking questions of a patient who had experienced difficulty breathing, after what he says is an allergic reaction. He's barely paying attention to her, looking away in distraction, and when she asks him to comment on her allergy, he excuses himself.

Dr. Samuels enters the men's room to the sound of vomiting. It's Victor, who looks terrible. Samuels asks Victor if he wants him to get him out of surgery, but Victor wants to persevere. Samuels gives him a pep talk.

In the stairwell, Westphall comes across Peter White, who's crying. He tells Westphall that he and his wife have split up. Westphall suggests he take the rest of the night off, but Peter insists he'll be alright, and that he needs to get back to his patient.

Outside an operating room, two doctors are scrubbing for surgery, and one of them reminds a third doctor that his mask isn't on. It's Dr. Bullfinch again.

Gina Barrett isn't sure about this motherhood thing.
Dr. Paxton bring's Gina Barrett's baby for her to see. Gina looks distressed when Paxton asks her if she's going to breastfeed. Paxton asks if Gina has decided on a name. She's chosen "Rex," because it means "king," analogous to how "Regina" means "queen." Gina still doesn't know what she's going to tell her father. She says she always wanted a baby, but now she doesn't know what to do with hers. She hands the baby back to Paxton, who places it in a crib next to Gina's bed.

In the on-call room, Peter asks a sleeping Jack if his offer to crash at his house still stands. Jack hands him a key.

In surgery, Dr. Vijay Kochar (Kavi Raz) tells Dr. Craig that the patient has a second-degree heart block. Craig decides to get the patient on a pacer, and tells Ehrlich that it's time he learns how to insert a pacing wire. Ehrlich is hesitant. Craig yells at him to get moving. Ehrlich asks if someone can take the pacing wire from him, and he faints. A nurse tries to revive him, but he's out cold.

Later, in the locker room, Ehrlich enters while Craig is changing into his street clothes. Ehrlich apologizes for dropping the ball, but Craig says there's no need to apologize. He's happy that the surgery was a success, and that they added fifteen years to Mr. Ullman's life. He tells Ehrlich that he's not the first surgeon to pass out during an operation, and he was once assisting a surgeon who "dropped dead right on top the patient." Craig tells Ehrlich to get some rest.

Gina Barnett is dressed in her street clothes, and she leaves her darkened ward room. She passes by the nursery, and stops to look at her baby. In tears, she walks away, gets on the elevator, and leaves the hospital.

Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) is discussing with Lucy what to do with flowers that were delivered to a patient who has died when another nurse tells her that something strange is going on in Mrs. Pechick's room. They hear singing coming from inside the room, and they open the door to find Ralph dancing with Mrs. Pechick. Helen tells the nurse to wait there, and she'll be right back.

Paxton tells a nurse that Gina Barnett isn't in her room and that her clothes are gone. The nurse tells Paxton that Gina walked out a half hour earlier.

Westphall and Craig are walking in a hallway, discussing how they caught the psychiatric patient has been impersonating a doctor. They come across Ralph, with Dr. Beale. Westphall asks to speak to Beale in private, and asks Mark to keep an eye on Ralph. Beale doesn't know how Ralph got loose, and Westphall tells him he wants Ralph under lock and key. Beale thinks transferring him to Roxbury would be a mistake, but Westphall insists he "will not have this man running around here playing doctor." Meanwhile, to Craig's horror, another doctor approaches, shakes Dr. Bullfinch's hand, and thanks him for the nice work he did in surgery.

Later that night, Paxton is in the doctor's lounge. Auschlander enters and asks her to assist him at a lecture he'll be delivering the next morning. Paxton tells him about Gina Barnett. She can't understand, after all she saw in Africa, how a mother could abandon her child.

In Beale's office, Ralph explains why he impersonated a doctor. He wanted to do something for the people who have no one else to care for them, like Mrs. Pechick. He tells Hugh that he's feeling better, and that he received a letter from Jane. Hugh notices that there's no postmark on the letter, and deduces that Ralph wrote the letter himself. Ralph, observing how Hugh's goldfish are safer in their bowl than in the wild, asks Hugh to be put him back in his "cage" until Jane comes back.

Drs. Samuels and Paxton catch up.
In the on-call room, Dr. Paxton is undressing when Samuels enters. She asks Ben how things are going. He thought that by 35 he'd be retired, with a wife in kids, in the South of France, but instead he's "surviving," in a hospital in the south of Boston. He hasn't been in love in a long time. He recalls a Christmas they spent together with a jerk named Carl Frohman and his girlfriend. Carl was the one who introduced Nancy and Ben. She confesses that she ended up marrying Carl, putting him through law school, and then divorcing him. They remember what great sex they had.

"Do you know what I remember?" asks Nancy.

"What?" replies Ben.

"I remember standing on Fifth Avenue in front of FAO Schwarz. And it was snowing, and windy, and my feet were freezing, and I wanted to go back to the hotel. You were starting in the store window at the Christmas display and you looked so beautiful. So innocent and so childlike. You turned around and you caught me looking at you and you said, 'Hey, don't be sad, it's Christmas. And we've got each other.' And then you hugged me. You held me really tight. And the more we held on to each other, the quieter it got. All the traffic sounds disappeared. And the only thing I could hear was the sound of your breathing. I have never felt that connected to another human being before, or since. It was the single most perfect moment of my life."

He moves, as if about to kiss her.

"No, Ben," she says.

They kiss anyway.

Trivia for "Hearts":
  • Dr. Paxton did her residency at the Cleveland Clinic. Part of the inspiration for the creation of St. Elsewhere was creator Joshua Brand's college roommate's experience as an intern at the Cleveland Clinic.
  • We will meet the renowned Dr. Wyler, with whom Paxton worked in Africa, in a three-episode arc in season three.
  • The actress who played the patient with the food allergy whom Peter ignores is not credited for her appearance. There were also the two doctors whom Ralph assisted in surgery (one was named Dr. Pearl) and another nurse who weren't credited. I'm wondering if that was an oversight when they put together the closing credits for the episode.
  • This is the last appearance of Lance Guest as Orderly Sean Rooney. Guest is probably best known as the star of the 1984 sci-fi adventure film, The Last Starfighter, where he plays a young man who excels at a video game that turns out to be a recruiting device for an alien race looking for fighter pilots to help them in their interstellar war. Prior to St. Elsewhere, Guest had appeared in Halloween II and in seven episodes of Lou Grant.
  • This episode featured two scenes that were included as flashbacks in the season five "clip show" episode, "Good Vibrations":
    • Victor faints during surgery.
    • Mrs. Pechick and her stuffed dog. 
      • This story was also recounted by Phil in the season five finale, "Last Dance at the Wrecker's Ball", at the party at Dr. Craig's house, which was held in anticipation of the hospital being closed down. There's a scene where various characters can be heard telling hospital stories, and this is one of them.
  • The four baseball teams mentioned in the conversation between Ralph and Mr. Ullman would all win division titles in the next four years: the Orioles in 1983, the Cardinals and Blue Jays in 1985, and the Red Sox in 1986.

Here's "Hearts" 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
Norman Lloyd as Dr. Daniel Auschlander
Dorothy Fielding as Dr. Nancy Paxton
Conchata Ferrell as Gina Barnett
Richard Marcus as Ralph
Peter Hobbs as Mr. Ullman
Madelyn Cates as Evelyn Pechick

Ellen Bry as Nurse Shirley Daniels
Lance Guest as Rooney
Eric G. Laneuville as Luther Hawkins
Sagan Lewis as Dr. Wade
William Bronder as Mr. Grossman
Jennifer Savidge as Nurse Lucy
Gay Rowan as Nurse

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


  1. Like the previous episode, this one has a line that would be echoed in Season 4's Time Heals, part 2. In the surgery scene just before Ehrlich faints, his mentor Dr Craig tells him that even a trained seal could perform the procedure. In 1955, Craig's own mentor, Dr Domedion, told him the same thing.

  2. Probably just a coincidence, but Ralph's alias "Dr Bullfinch" may have been a nod to Boston's famous Bull & Finch pub, better known as the Cheers bar.

  3. Tuesday, March 23, 2021--7:29 pm CST

    I watch "St. Elsewhere" on IMDb whenever I get a chance. I watched a little bit today on IMDb. I wish another TV station would air the show. I have Season One on DVD, I wish the other 5 seasons would come on DVD or Blu-ray someday.
    I watch "St. Elsewhere" mostly because of actor William Daniels.

    Have a very blessed day,
    Terry Marvin (Dallas, Texas)


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