“A Seat at the Table” might have been a little overstuffed, but it was as emotional and refreshingly uplifting as New Amsterdam always seems to be.
This recap of New Amsterdam Episode 11, “A Seat at the Table”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It’s a good job the notion of objectivity in criticism is a big fat fallacy, because I’m just a total sucker for New Amsterdam. Ever week it leaves me a wreck – me! Snarky, cynical, impossible-to-please old me, the human embodiment of the sceptical raised eyebrow emoji, all teary-eyed and lumpy-throated every goddamn week. A part of me was hoping that “A Seat at the Table” would maybe take the week off; give us a real tragedy, for once, something to be properly miserable about, not all this uplifting medical success. No such luck. It was just as inspiringly optimistic as it always us.
That’s quite an achievement, really, given that one of the big storylines in “A Seat at the Table” was Max (Ryan Eggold) beginning and being gradually weakened by his chemotherapy. Of course he’s a terrible patient, but no matter how tough you think you are, a gradual drip-feeding of poison begs to differ. Eventually he was being helped up the subway steps by a concerned passer-by, and forced to join his knowing and welcoming support group in a game of cards. They still deal their old buddy in to their games, even though Max has taken his place, just to put a morbidly emotional cherry atop an already deeply saddening cake.
As always, it seems like he’s only willing to open up to Helen (Freema Agyeman), and only Helen who knows how to get through to him. Stood at the door of the chemo room and gawping inside like he was facing a bottomless abyss, he had no problem admitting to her what he can’t admit to Georgia (Lisa O’Hare) or any of his other colleagues – if he sits down, he becomes just another patient. He becomes weak.
But Helen knows that if he doesn’t allow himself to become weak he’s going to become dead – and who’ll run the hospital then? Well, it turns out Helen will. Partially, anyway. “A Seat at the Table” devoted a lot of time to the beautiful Brit and her own problems, from money-making TV appearances to her egg-freezing endeavours, but what mattered most was that she decided to help Max with his by accepting his offer of becoming New Amsterdam’s deputy medical director. It’s perhaps against her better judgement, but his second choice was Lauren (Janet Montgomery), and at the moment Lauren’s in no position to run a fever, let alone a hospital.
What’s up with Lauren, exactly? She’s a workaholic, for one thing, but she’s also a pill-popping addict who unconvincingly insists she’s going cold turkey. It’s easy to believe for a while, when she’s snappy and irritable, but when she returns to work the next day on cloud nine, Helen has no choice but to go rifling through her bag – which Lauren catches her right in the middle of. Uh-oh. That’ll take a while to straighten out, I imagine.
But there’s more at stake than Helen’s friendship with Lauren – New Amsterdam’s reputation and budget, to name a couple. Its admirable rep is threatened by Floyd (Jocko Sims), who is being profiled in a medical journal by a journalist who is threatening to expose his chequered past, which gives him a chance to monologue about race relations in America and how it doesn’t matter how exemplary you might be in your chosen field – at first glance, you’re still black. It was a good monologue and some needed backstory for Floyd, even if it was just a little bit too much that he happened to be pulled over for no reason as he was feeling empowered by Barack Obama’s election.
The problem with the budget was a lonely, alcoholic homeless guy who had cost the hospital over a million dollars in just a year by constantly checking himself in with a variety of phantom ailments. Max’s outside-the-box solution of renting him an apartment on the hospital’s dime – “I’m prescribing you a home.” – was a reasonable one, all things considered, but there he was again the next day, as lonely as ever. What next? Well, it turned out all his unnecessary stays at the hospital had granted him a profound knowledge of its layout, so what else? A job in the chemo ward, thanks very much.
Things weren’t that easy for Iggy (Tyler Labine), whose patients in “A Seat at the Table” were a young man experiencing terrifying delusions and a father who, understandably, wanted to do anything in his power to “fix” him. Of course, some things can’t just be fixed; not even by controversial surgical means. Sometimes it’s about acceptance, of letting people be who they are, which was a moving conclusion to an odd subplot that included a hungry wolf sprinting through the hospital corridors.
But what if letting people be who they are means letting people be dicks? That’s the problem with Rohan (Vandit Bhatt), the money-grabbing son of Vijay (Anupam Kher), who is ostensibly trying to repair the fractured relationship he has with his father but is clearly after financial support for his music career. At first he seemed to accept that his father giving him money was probably a bad idea, but then along came blabbermouth Ella (Dierdre Friel), who was all too happy to reveal that Vijay gave her two large for vet bills. A rookie mistake, to be sure, especially since Rohan took no time at all in letting Vijay know that they had become new best friends. “Thanks for introducing us,” he said. What a smug prick.
“A Seat at the Table” was a busy episode, then, perhaps to a fault, but whatever. New Amsterdam remains gloriously soapy television that it’s difficult – almost impossible – not to enjoy, and I’m done complaining about falling for it every time. At this point, why not?
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.