Max is once again forced to grapple with his mortality and with hospital finances in “Five Miles West”.
This New Amsterdam Episode 18 recap for the episode titled “Five Miles West” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
As promised, Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) has a new oncologist after his falling out with Helen (Freema Agyeman) last week. And she’s a take-no-prisoners ball-buster; a sign on her desk reads, “Nobody Said Life Was Easy”. She has no time for Max’s trademark silver-tongued slacking, and she’s quick to let him know that there’ll be no missed appointments on her watch. Pretty soon, Max is going to have to step down as the medical director of New Amsterdam. “We’ll see about that,” he responds. Does his new beard indicate he’s letting himself go or has he achieved his final, all-powerful form?
Speaking of no-nonsense, Dr. Candelario (Nana Mensah) deals with a heavily pregnant woman’s headaches and hypertension by performing the fastest emergency C-section in the history of mankind (seriously, does this woman get paid by the patient?) The pestering, hopeless husband deserves a shout-out for authenticity here; speaking from experience, men have no idea what to do when their babies are being born. Although, also speaking from experience, that baby seemed incredibly happy and alert to say it had been born seconds prior. But, details.
“Five Miles West” finds Helen, now having divorced herself from Max, sucking back up to Dr. Panthaki (Sendhil Ramamurthy), who creepily offers to fertilize her frozen eggs. Chill dude, you’ve only been together a month! Helen, despite being oh-so-sure of how to proceed with Max, is still notably unsure about what she wants to do with her own rapidly-cracking eggs, delaying the procedure until 5 pm so she has more time to think about it. What’s that saying about making omelets?
One of Max’s crises this week comes directly from board member Karen Brantley (Debra Monk), who wants to sell delinquent medical bills to the “highest bidders” — basically debt-collection agencies — in order to shave off some of the hospital’s six-figure debts. This, needless to say, is firmly against the principles of Max, who thinks it goes against New Amsterdam’s responsibility of care to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. Hence, he proposes a new solution: to get six cents on the dollar, rather than the suggested five, and to do so without bankrupting anyone.
While Iggy (Tyler Labine) is trying to push his daughter’s handcrafted “artwork” on people, Vijay (Anupam Kher) attempts to make amends with Ella (Dierdre Friel) for suggesting that her relationship with his son, Rohan (Vandit Bhatt), wasn’t entirely genuine. She’s not really having it; the flashy gold bracelet on her wrist suggests she has something to gain from the relationship, even though Rohan is apparently so broke that he needs his dad’s money for everything — true love, or is Rohan just an irredeemable conman?
Complications arise in the newborn baby subplot. Lynn, the mother, is not the hapless father’s partner, but his best friend who agreed to be his surrogate. But surrogate contracts aren’t legally binding in New York, and without the mother’s permission, the hospital can’t give Michael custody of the baby. The problem, according to Max and Casey (Alejandro Hernandez), is that delivering the baby didn’t actually help Lynn’s hypertension — she’s still unconscious, and thus can’t confirm the agreement. Michael shows the contract to Iggy, but it states that disputes are to be settled in New Jersey, which Michael can see out of the window. “Five miles west and I’d be holding my son,” he says, clarifying the episode’s title.
Floyd’s (Jocko Sims) patient in “Five Miles West” is a smartass schoolgirl with Cystic Fibrosis who has had a seemingly unrelated respiratory flare-up. With the help of Helen, the working theory is that black mold is to blame, but as we all know, the first guess is rarely the real solution in New Amsterdam. Max, meanwhile, is implementing his plan to clear the hospital’s debts by bartering with the patients who owe money. By lending their services to the hospital — a suspicious number of them are tradespeople — they can work off their medical bills.
Of course, while Max is doing this, he isn’t attending his radiotherapy appointment, leaving his new oncologist pacing the halls in fury. Things, as ever, go badly wrong. Lynn’s parents could sign a waiver granting Michael custody of his child, but they refuse to, instead deciding to selfishly take the baby home. And the misdiagnosis of a fungal infection results in Floyd and Helen’s patient being further compromised; Max, who is approached by Helen about the matter — after being lectured about their boundaries, of course — suggests that the high-flying overachiever might be taking on more than a 12-year-old can handle and using chemical assistance to keep on top of it all.
You won’t be at all surprised to learn that none of this goes as terribly as it seems to be going — this is New Amsterdam, after all. It’s a show about flagrantly manipulating the viewer’s emotions so that the worst-case scenario seems perilously close right up until a better one presents itself. Hence, Ella visits Vijay about the bracelet; he confirms that it belonged to his wife, but also that it is the final piece of a set that has been missing for years — Rohan kept it in memory of his mother. Hence, Lynn’s parents, after seeing that Michael is willing to give up his child rather than see him in foster care, agree to sign the waiver and grant him legal custody. Hence, the young girl with Cystic Fibrosis wasn’t taking additional drugs — on the contrary, she was taking too few, trying to prove a petty point out of love for her mother.
And that leaves Max, who was in trouble with everyone in “Five Miles West”, from his new oncologist to his boss. His bartering deal is allowed to stand, for now, but not to continue any further — Karen promises to bury him before his cancer does if he works against her. But his new Iron Lady oncologist gets through to him. If he doesn’t start taking his cancer seriously, he’s going to die. In an emotional scene with Helen — who else? — he admits that he’s terrified of slowing down because he believes that will give the cancer time to catch up. He isn’t finished yet, but all he sees is what the cancer is trying to take away. She tells him he isn’t looking in the right places, and of course, he looks straight at her. Helen might be by her own admission “crazy about” Dr. Panthaki, but Bearded Max isn’t out of the game just yet.
Cue uplifting musical montage. See you next week.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.