“The Island” leaves us with a cliffhanger and almost nobody knowing where they stand in a Fall finale that’ll make the wait for the New Year feel like a particularly long one.
This recap of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 9, “The Island”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
New Amsterdam’s Fall finale, “The Island”, begins with Max (Ryan Eggold) struggling to clear his throat, and he still has things to get off his chest by the end. Luckily one of those things isn’t his cancer, which contrary to his own suspicions isn’t worsening – as a matter of fact, it’s gone. He’s in remission. This was the harder storytelling choice for New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 9 to make, especially for Max. If he was dying things would be easy; now he knows he isn’t, he has to contend with how he’s going to live without Georgia (Lisa O’Hare).
Here, halfway through the second season, is where Max finally says goodbye to his late wife.
That moment comes at the end of “The Island”, and is well worth waiting for, but the rest of it is compelling too, delivering some expected developments and some unexpected ones, and ending with the promise that a group of dangerous female inmates from Rikers Island are about to overrun the hospital and make their escape. The show returns on January 14 next year, which seems a while away after this episode.
Max’s Scooby gang head to Rikers because Martha Randall, a patient from there, is admitted with toxic shock syndrome after having been forced to use the same tampon for nine days. She’s not the first and she won’t be the last, especially since the prison is overcrowded, underfunded, and run by a results-oriented warden more concerned with the prison’s budget than the health of its population. Max whisks Helen (Freema Agyeman) directly from her disciplinary meeting with Karen Brantley (Debra Monk) and takes her along with Iggy (Tyler Labine) to, as the warden puts it, show the medical staff at Rikers how to do their jobs properly.
As it turns out, the staff are incapable of doing their jobs properly thanks to a pitiful healthcare budget and inappropriate facilities, including a tiny examination room that offers no privacy at all. Iggy sets up in the consulting room, introducing himself to the inmates and enjoying a bit of patter with Pearl, who has a longstanding rivalry with the no-nonsense CO Sanchez, who writes her up and has her physically removed for responding to Iggy, despite him being the one to ask her a question. Max sets up in the cafeteria, in breach of protocol, and finds an ally in Jackie Conner, who redirects the inmate population to wings with a certain number of COs so that the warden can’t shut down the ad-hoc clinic.
Martha, meanwhile, is treated by Kapoor (Anupam Kher) and Reynolds (Jocko Sims) to remove bacteria from her brain. The procedure is a success, but her guard insists that nobody can know; revealing that she is not in the prison to anyone, including her family, constitutes a security risk, despite her having almost died. This isn’t good enough for Kapoor, who later in “The Island” takes her for a scan in a room so dangerously irradiated that the guards have no choice but to wait outside. In there, she briefly and quietly reunites with her family.
Max and Helen are directed by one of the inmates to Charlie, her girlfriend who is being held in solitary confinement and has a number of… issues, some of which are rather intense. They include hair loss, massive mood swings, a lack of peripheral vision and bouts of psychosis, but she’s difficult to diagnose because she’s extremely temperamental and violent and outweighs Max and Helen combined. But they’re able to figure out what’s wrong with her. She has a brain tumor pressing on her optic nerve. It isn’t her fault; her issues aren’t psychological hang-ups. She’s unwell and can be treated at New Amsterdam, so she agrees to go.
Iggy, meanwhile, meets with Pearl and CO Sanchez so that they can hash out their personal issues, which are years old and faintly petty but made worse by controlling men and their current predicament as radical hierarchical opposites. But progress is made.
Things are going less well in the cafeteria, where a brawl has erupted, and Jackie has been seriously wounded. Ambulances are summoned and a number of the women are taken to New Amsterdam for treatment, where a last-minute shot reveals they are planning an escape, or perhaps an assassination attempt of the supposed heroin addict who was brought in earlier – she claims to have never taken drugs, and to be a target since she turned State’s Witness. That leaves plenty of directions for this plot to develop in, come to the New Year.
In the meantime, there’s more to unpack, as New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 9 furthers multiple on-going subplots, most of which take a turn for the morbid. First, Ella (Dierdre Friel) goes to see Vijay and admits to having OCD, which has been highly medicated for years. Now she’s pregnant it can’t be treated, and she’s anxious that she isn’t going to succeed as a mother, despite his support. She intends to move back in with her parents – in Idaho.
Max’s relationship with Helen progresses; both to decide to share their burdens. Max confesses to being in remission, though he can’t articulate why the news doesn’t make him happy. It’s after this that he finally has that conversation with Georgia, which is touchingly written, just as Helen goes for her “slap on the wrist”. But the slap turns out to be anything but. She’s stripped of her position with full and immediate effect.
Floyd’s relationship with Evie (Margot Bingham) regresses; he wakes up to her sleeping beside him, but can’t convince her to stay in bed. Later, at her office, she tells him that she has been offered a full-time position in San Francisco, and is considering it.
And then there’s Lauren (Janet Montgomery), being helped through the aftermath of her surgery by Dr. Ligon (JJ Feild), whose job is to ensure that she only takes four pills per day – one every six hours. Her pain is excruciating but she agrees to wait another hour before taking the first. When the time’s up, she can’t find the pill. She demands that nurse Aimee Kamoe (Jennifer Betit Yen) replace it, but she can’t, as per Lauren’s own instructions. She screams and rants until Dr. Ligon arrives and passionately defends her, but Lauren’s immediate suspicion, and I assume that of the audience, is that he must have taken it himself; that’s the only way he could be so confident in her truthfulness.
New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 9 leaves us not knowing quite what to believe, and its characters not knowing quite where they stand, which is fitting for a midseason finale. We will return in the New Year. See you then.