“Good Soldiers” proved an especially moving episode of New Amsterdam, as a cover-up was exposed, veterans battled their trauma, and someone desperately in need of help finally accepted it.
This recap of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 7, “Good Soldiers”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Well, blimey, New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 7 proved once again that there is no show on television quite so adept at flagrantly manipulating your emotions. I’d happily hate this damn thing if I could, but even my callused little heart isn’t immune to its sad musical montages, its little snatches of hope, and its relentless minor tragedies. “Good Soldiers” was about healing, sometimes in an unconventional way, and its unusually dour tone set the stage quite literally for a major emotional payoff.
Max (Ryan Eggold) needs more help than most, still waking up as he is to his wife, Georgia (Lisa O’Hare), despite her being… you know, dead. Last week he rejected Helen’s (Freema Agyeman) help and this week he has to come up with an excuse for doing so — he doesn’t want strangers in the house, given all the dirty dishes and bloodstains. Fair enough, I suppose.
Anyhow, young Makayla Bell (Sarah Travers Henry) is whisked into the show by the EMTs and straight off to surgery on the advice of Lauren (Janet Montgomery) and Floyd (Jocko Sims), where it’s discovered she has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant, and her rare blood type means that her doting mother isn’t a match. Her father Warren Bell (Hunter Emery) is, but he’s estranged and unknown to her. Floyd calls him asking if he’ll do the right thing, muttering that he wishes his own father had done the same. Backstory! More of that later, too.
Warren, surprisingly, arrives at the hospital in “Good Soldiers”, ready to finally do right by his daughter, who he barely recognizes since she has gotten so big in the years since he last saw her. The procedure is explained to him, and in a telling conversation with Floyd, he suggests that perhaps not having your father around isn’t always a bad thing. As someone who never had my father around, I can concur. Anyway, he donates his bone marrow and then sneaks off, which Floyd is annoyed about — he wishes he could have cared more, and perhaps stuck around for the long road that is going to follow the transplant, but Makayla’s mother reasons that he was there when it counted, and perhaps that’s enough. She seems unusually reasonable.
Vijay’s (Anupam Kher) patient in New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 7 is Nathan Fisk (Anthony Michael Lopez), a military veteran suffering from PTSD who is referred to — who else? — Iggy (Tyler Labine). But in the group therapy session full of bickering soldiers, all of whom have lost more than they feel they can do without, it quickly becomes apparent that Iggy, in a welcome change, can’t possibly understand their pain. He has never fought for his country, has never lost a part of himself that can’t be returned. He takes it as a challenge to his expertise and I suppose his empathy and devises a typically unorthodox therapeutic solution — they’re all going to perform a Sophocles play.
The play is chosen according to its relevance to their wartime experiences; it’ll help them find the words to describe their trauma that they don’t currently possess. That’s the theory, anyway. Vijay thinks that having them perform a Greek tragedy that almost directly mirrors their real-life experiences is a bit much, and could perhaps do more harm than good. Vijay and Iggy are bickering about how best to treat a patient they share, but on a deeper level, Vijay is wrestling with his own demons, as we’ll discover.
Before the performance, which is to occur in front of assembled visitors and staff, Nate decides that he can’t bring himself to play the role; to relive his experiences again. Vijay offers to take his place, revealing to the group that he too served in the military and would be honored to join their company. Thus begins a terribly moving and heavily-accented rendition of Sophocles fronted by a tearful Vijay and various touched onlookers, which was around the time that I cursed this show for its irresistibly heavy-handed heartstring-tugging. Vijay caps off his performance by kneeling and kissing the ground, finally unburdened of a secret he had kept from even those closest to him, and we must move along swiftly to dislodge this lump in my throat.
Helen and Max have a cover-up to expose in New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 7. Their patient is Elizabeth Archer (Eileen Grubba), a woman who was, years prior, confined to a wheelchair with the surgical installation of a metal plate after a tumor had ostensibly damaged her spine. She’s now cancer-free but the plate has shifted, meaning another surgery is required to correct it. That surgery reveals that she never needed the plate in the first place; the surgeon caused irreparable damage to her spine and installed the plate to cover up his blunder. When Helen reports this to Max, he’s naturally fuming and begins a crusade to expose the malpractice.
The hospital records reveal that the attending intern at the time was Dr. Clint Hartman (Matthew Bellows), whom Max corners in the locker room, ready to chew out. But Clint reveals that, despite having been young and inexperienced and told to forget about what he saw, he reported Dr. Tolman, the surgeon, to the Dean of Medicine, Dean Fulton (Ron Rifkin). Nothing was ever done about it.
This sets Max off even more. He and Karen Brantley (Debra Monk) ambush the Dean at his home and bombard him with accusations, which he doesn’t seem too concerned about. He has internalized this kind of thing as part of the job. New Amsterdam’s leaders are expected to take care of it, and if they can sleep at night, they probably aren’t doing their jobs right. Max can’t sleep at night, but that’s because he has visions of his dead wife, so he doesn’t consider the ethical cost to be worth it. He resolves to ensure that Dr. Tolman never picks up a scalpel again, even if it means New Amsterdam suffers. Doing the right thing is more important to him, and he can’t get a decent night’s sleep anyway, so why not?
Step one of doing the right thing is confessing to Elizabeth that what happened to her was unnecessary and their fault. And she doesn’t take it well, suggesting the employment of bloodthirsty malpractice attorneys. On some level, this is what Max wants. When Karen arrives with a generous settlement offer, he berates her for continuing to try and cover the whole thing up; is paying someone off really all that different from hiding a bodge-job under a metal plate? He’s writing a new policy instead, one that exposes everything and holds doctors accountable, and if their jobs or the hospital are to suffer as a result, then so be it.
Lauren is also having a mare in “Good Soldiers”. She’s cleared for a second surgery on her leg, but her surgeon lets her know she has absolutely no chance of getting through it without pain medication. If she dilly-dallies on her recovery her long-term mobility might be threated, and thus her position in the ED, which requires a bit more agility than a one-legged woman can realistically provide. She informs Helen of the news, and Helen suggests that exceptions can be made for prescribed pain medication, just so long as someone responsible oversees her taking of it. That would be her. But it helps to have a take-no-prisoners taskmaster on hand for such things as well, so Lauren enlists the help of the been-there-done-that Dr. Ligon (JJ Feild) to keep her check. He happily agrees, the cynical man in me assumes so that the chance of once again bedding the implausibly gorgeous Janet Montgomery remains on the table. You can’t blame him.
A happy ending, at least. Floyd, having presumably reached a turning point in his life, messages Evie (Margot Bingham) to let her know that he would like to invite his father to their wedding. And then the whole gang turn up at Max’s apartment. He doesn’t want strangers in there, but his friends and colleagues hardly qualify as strangers. Turning to the ghost of Georgia, he gets the approval he needs: It’s okay to let people in. Especially if they’re going to do the dishes.