Sunday, October 20, 2019

"Samuels and the Kid"

Description: Samuels operates on a precocious and likable boy admitted for surgery, and is reminded of his painful past. When his patient dies suddenly, Chandler tries to get Nurse Skilling fired for incompetence. Fiscus surprises Martin with a romantic dinner for their one-month anniversary. Cavanero, while vacationing for a weekend, delivers a baby by telephone. Craig receives the Cushing Left Anterior Descending Artery Award for Surgeon of the Year.

"Samuels and the Kid" is the 5th episode of season 1 of St. Elsewhere.
Originally aired November 30, 1982.
Teleplay by John Masius
Story by Joshua Brand & John Falsey and John Masius
Directed by Thomas Carter


Nurse Skilling calls a code.
At 1:14 AM, Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) is working in the E.R. along with a "new" doctor named Bernie Arguello (Rudy Ramos), who's not good at taking blood. A man with a laceration over his left eye (Paul Lieber) is brought in by a police officer. The man asks Wayne for help getting rid of his clothes. He's wearing women's underwear underneath his shirt and jeans, which would likely land him in trouble with his jail-mates.

Nurse Skilling (Vivian Bonnell) is monitoring the nurses' station when one of the monitors shows a flatline. She calls the code and rushes to the room, where nurses are performing CPR on the patient. Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse), who had been sleeping, arrives to attempt to revive the patient.

Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) and Dr. Fiscus are chatting when Dr. Ben Samuels (David Birney) approaches, asking them if they'd bet on a horse named "Gomer". Wayne replies, "Gomer? You mean, Get Out of My Emergency Room? I'd rather play a horse named 'Leukemia'." Samuels notices Ehrlich's white dress shoes: "Have you been rummaging around in Pat Boone's closet?" Ehrlich has a penchant for vintage clothing, which was not stylish in 1982. Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd) passes by, and also notices Victor's sartorial statement: "Spiffy shoes, never thought that style would come back." The doctors comment on Auschlander's liver cancer. Fiscus and Samuels speculate on his prospects, but are taken aback by Victor's suggestion that they start a pool to bet on how long he'll live.

Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) congratulates Jack on his wife's pregnancy, and then Wayne needles her about focusing on her career instead of having children. Given her age, Wayne suggests she'll need to conceive as soon as possible, offering his services.

Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) informs Dr. Philip Chandler (Denzel Washington) that one of his patients died overnight, Mrs. Perez. He asks who was on duty, and when she tells him it was Skilling, he gets angry. "Again?"

Dr. Samuels arrives at the room of his patient, a boy named Robbie (Jeremy Licht) with an air cast on his right leg. They have a natural rapport with each other. Ben offers to take the kid to an upcoming Patriots-Jets football game.

In the morgue, Wayne pays a visit to his love interest of late, Dr. Cathy Martin (Barbara Whinnery). Wayne asks if she'll be coming to his place that evening, even though she's already said yes twice. She's got a full house, and overflow in the hallway, including Mrs. Perez.

Phil thinks Nurse Skilling can't cut it.
Dr. Chandler questions Nurse Skilling. He's annoyed because she missed a medication he'd written on Mrs. Perez's chart, and he says it's not the first time she's made a mistake with one of his patients. Phil is blunt, and says that she's not cutting it. She says he can take it up with Rosenthal and Westphall, and when he says he intends to do just that, Skilling stops him. "My, my... The monsters our children have become. Remember your roots, Dr. Chandler. It was not too long ago the cotton you were picking wasn't from an aspirin bottle."

In the office of Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders), Rosenthal complains about Phil's treatment of Skilling, especially unhappy that he chose to dress her down in a public hallway. Phil is adamant that Skilling is incompetent, even though he knows it was pneumonia, and not the flubbed medication order, that killed Mrs. Perez and Mrs. Rothlein, another patient. Donald is sympathetic, but agrees that Skilling's performance is deteriorating. Phil wants her gone, but Helen protests that they're shorthanded and they can't afford to lose a trained nurse with twenty years experience. Donald decides to transfer her to another floor.

At 11:45 AM. Westphall discusses the city-wide blood shortage with Orderly Gunderston (Mace), and chats with a worker named Andy who is patching a bullet hole in the wall. Dr. Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes) explains to a very pregnant Mrs. Rodriguez (Bridget Sienna) that she was experiencing false labor. Her husband has to work, but a neighbor, Mrs. DeJesus keeps her company in the afternoons.

In the cafeteria, Wendy is eating with Dr. Cavanero. She's telling a story about her surgery tour, and a procedure she was invited to observe. The patient was a young woman, lying naked on the table, but it wasn't the comments from the male staff that bothered her. When they cut the patient across the abdomen, Wendy got sick. She's worried that she doesn't belong in medicine, that "medicine is still a man's world." Annie says that things are a lot better than when she started. There were two surgical dressing rooms, one for doctors, and one for nurses. She wasn't a nurse, so she "really shook things up in there". She takes her leave, about to start 36 hours of R&R in Pittsfield.

At another table, Phil describes his ideal death: a massive coronary, right after a steak and a bottle of Lafite Rothschild 1961, and right before the check. Morrison is splitting a shift with White, and Ehrlich offers to finish Shirley's fruit salad.

Robbie is eager to learn the ways of Dr. Ben Samuels.
Ben is visiting Robbie Durant, playing a game of electronic football. Rosenthal arrives to take blood. Robbie is scared, but Ben comforts him. Robbie is interested in learning the ins and outs of gambling from Ben, and when Ben suggests that next he'll want to know how to pick up girls, Robbie says he already knows: you tell them what they want to hear.

In the on-call room, Jack wakes up Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) to take over his half of the shift. Peter has heard the news about Jack's impending fatherhood, but he doesn't offer congratulations. "First Nina's gonna want to quit her job and be a full-time mother, and that's less money coming in and more mouths to feed. Then the two-door isn't big enough, she's gonna want a wood-paneled station wagon, and you're busting your tail off to pay off a thirty-year mortgage in Newton... Plus you never see the kids. I mean, they're awake, you're here. Matter of fact, they're asleep, you're here."

A code is called over the intercom, and Peter is annoyed that it's his turn to respond. The woman is unresponsive as Peter performs CPR. Peter won't give up, still pounding the woman's chest, but Phil pulls him away. Luther observes, "That's the second lady today."

Wayne's apartment is adorned with lit candles as he pours a glass of champagne for his date, Cathy. He's dressed up, wearing a white tuxedo jacket. Cathy wonders what they're celebrating, and Wayne offers a wrapped gift. It's a cuticle cleaner, "what every pathologist needs," but that's a prelude to the real gift, a heart-shaped necklace for their one-month anniversary. She is hesitant to accept it, even though it's a nice gesture. As she protests, Wayne calls for Mel, the accordionist hiding in the kitchen, who begins playing. He pulls her to her feet for a slow dance. "Dr. Fiscus, you are terrific," she says.

The next morning, Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels) complains about his morning schedule. Donald comments on Mark's nice suit, in advance of the annual Cushing Left Anterior Descending Artery Society luncheon, where Mark will receive the award for Surgeon of the Year. Mark says it's important to him to get positive feedback from his peers. "Sometimes I feel I'm not too well-liked around here." It's about the work, not the recognition, but he "should have won last year."

Dr. Samuels wheels Robbie out of his room, telling him a story from his days as a competitive swimmer. Ben was psyched, and had shaved his entire body for less resistance, but he committed two false starts and was disqualified. As a result of his shaved head, he couldn't get a date for six weeks.

Dr. Auschlander is in his office, looking at a brochure for a vacation in Cabo San Lucas, and he turns down Donald's offer to attend the Cushing Society luncheon with him. Auschlander has decided on a more upbeat treatment for his cancer: a week in Mexico with his wife.

Ben and "Dr. Dembones" explain Robbie's upcoming
Westphall runs into Ben and Robbie, and asks Robbie about his injury. He got his cleats caught in the turf while running during a football game. In Westphall's day, he played football in a leather helmet with no face mask. Samuels is about to explain what will be done to Robbie with "Dr. Dembones"--a life-size model skeleton. Robbie has a broken tibia, and will have pins inserted. He's scared about the surgery.

In the E.R., Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) asks Wayne about his "affair to remember" with Cathy Martin. Shirley tells him that rumors are flying that they've "been everywhere except Dr. Auschlander's office." Wayne is annoyed about the lack of privacy in the hospital, but confesses that he thinks he's in love with Cathy. Shirley says the necklace was a wonderful thing to do, "but the accordion was a little schmaltzy."

At the Cushing Society luncheon, Ellen joins Mark and Donald. Mark is annoyed that the luncheon is sparsely attended. He receives his trophy--a plaster cast of his own hands--and begins his speech.

Annie is having lunch in a restaurant, presumably in Pittsfield. After dealing with her disappointed waiter (for whom she left a small tip as a comment on his service), her beeper sounds. She calls the hospital from the pay phone--her patient, Mrs. Rodriguez is in labor. She asks the waiter for change, but he's not in the mood to open the register. A diner sitting nearby (Robert Davi) overhears, and offers to help: she intends to deliver the baby over the phone.

Mark continues his speech, wishing to thank those who made the moment possible, and pulls out a stack of 3x5 index cards. Ellen asks Donald if he minds her lighting up a cigarette.

Annie talks to Mrs. Rodriguez, and asks for the number for Mrs. DeJesus. Mrs. DeJesus isn't home, but a child named Juan answers, and Annie insists that he must help, and she'll talk him through it. Juan and another child, Paco, open the door to find Mrs. Rodriguez on the floor and ready to give birth. First up--they need scissors and string. After Juan says he can see the head, Paco loses his nerve and leaves.

Ben operates on Robbie, with Victor assisting and Dr. Vijay Kochar (Kavi Raz) delivering anesthesia. Nurse Louise (Roxanne Reese) comments, "what a cute boy." Louise is about to go on her honeymoon to Niagara Falls. The surgery is a success, and Victor begins putting on the cast as Ben leaves.

Annie celebrates a successful delivery with her helpful
Following Annie's instructions, Juan slips the loops over the baby's head, uses the string to tie off the umbilical cord, and cuts it with the scissors. The delivery-by-phone was a success.

In the surgical dressing room, Ben chats with a Dr. Anspaugh (Douglas Rowe), who is looking for "the perfect tax shelter". Mark arrives with his trophy. Ben is annoyed that the Celtics didn't cover the spread. Ehrlich enters, looking distressed. Robbie "threw a fat embolus in recovery, he went into full arrest. He died, Ben, just like that."

Later, at a bar, Samuels is drinking, and chatting with a pretty young theatre arts major at B.U. (Ally Sheedy). We learn his back story. His wife was an actress, but he is no longer married.

"I was at Dartmouth and Cynthia was at Holyoke, and we fell in love and got married. Cynthia always thought that I did it to beat the draft."

"Did you?"

"No, I went to med school to beat the draft. UCLA. See, Cynthia wanted to be an actress, so we moved to Los Angeles, and I went to the University of Chad Everett. It's a hell of a place... Anyway, I'm working my tail off in med school and Cynthia finds someone, uh, more artistic than me. She thought the karma was better--a lot of karma going around in 1970. You think, uh, you think directing television is artistic? Want to see her picture?"


"It's a little on the old side."

"She's pretty. Is that your son?"

"William. Billy. Named after my Dad. Cynthia was leaning towards, um, Eugene, you know, as in McCarthy, or, uh, Freedom, as in America, but I figured, you know, why give that kid a reason for a fistfight every day for the rest of his life? What a sweet baby."

"Does he live with his mother?"

Ally Sheedy as Diane.
"Well, Cynthia got very paranoid. Living in L.A. does that to you. Um, I don't know, Manson was on the loose. And she bought a .44 Magnum, you know, kept it in a bedside table, and, uh, must have been a Clint Eastwood fan, right? And, um, Billy found it one day, and blew a hole the size of a softball in his chest. It's a very stupid way for a little boy to die."

"I'm sorry."

"Cynthia thought it happened because I didn't go to Vietnam and die. She began to get very weird. I mean, that's the bottom line, isn't it? I mean, whether it's cancer, or napalm, or a safe falling on you, we're all out here alone, dodging the bullets. Except for Billy boy, he didn't know enough to duck. A toast, to Robbie Durant, another poor soul who never knew what hit him."

"Who's Robbie Durant?"

"A friend."

Ben asks for another drink, but the bartender cuts him off. He's in no shape to drive. He asks his companion, Diane, to call him a cab. She helps him off his stool, and they leave together.

Trivia for "Samuels and the Kid":
  • The Cushing Left Anterior Descending Artery Award will become a running joke throughout the series. The cast of Mark's hands gets broken more than once.
  • In "Bypass", Mark claims that Ellen used to smoke, but he "nipped it in the bud". Well, not quite. This is Ellen's first appearance. Bonnie Bartlett is married to William Daniels in real life.
  • Jeremy Licht would go on to be a series regular in Valerie/Valerie's Family/The Hogan Family. Ally Sheedy would go on to movie stardom as a member of the Brat Pack.
  • After Mark comments on the cut on Donald's face from shaving, Donald explains that his daughter used his razor to shave her legs. Mark replies, "These days, be thankful it wasn't your son shaving his legs." Later, we learn that Donald's son is ten years old, autistic, and mentally disabled. Mark's comment could still apply in that case, but it would be a strange thing to say if they had established the character at that point. A bit of retroactive continuity happens there.
  • The actor who played Mrs. Rodriguez's husband, Berto, was not credited. Neither was the actor who played the waiter who complained about Annie's tip (Kevin Scott Allen).
  • The necklace Wayne bought Cathy was from Boston-based Shreve, Crump and Low, the oldest purveyor of luxury goods in North America. Established in 1796, the firm is responsible for the Davis Cup and Cy Young Award trophies.
  • The cause of death for the three patients who coded in this episode will be revealed in the next episode, "Legionnares (Part 1)". As Phil will see, it was not Nurse Skilling's fault.

Here's the episode, on DailyMotion:

Here's an NBC promo from the Sunday night prior to its original airing:

I guess they weren't as concerned about spoilers back then.


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
Jeremy Licht as Robbie Durant
Ally Sheedy as Diane

Paul Lieber as Arrested Suspect
Robert Davi as Patrick
Bonnie Bartlett as Ellen Craig

Eric G. Laneuville as Luther
Rudy Ramos as Bernie Arguello
Vivian Bonnell as Nurse Skilling
Mace as Orderly Gunderson
Bridget Sienna as Mrs. Rodriguez
Roxanne Reese as Nurse Louise
Barry Cutler as Orderly

Peter Iacangelo as Policeman
Douglas Rowe as Dr. Anspaugh
Henry Celis as Juan
Michael Saucedo as Paco

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


  1. Can anyone tell me who played the bartender at the end of the episode? He has a few lines and isn't credited.


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