“In the Graveyard” delivers touching end-of-life stories from a new palliative care wing, while Max (as usual) tries to find some way of footing the bill.
This recap of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 13, “In the Graveyard”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
You can always rely on New Amsterdam for an upbeat hour of television, and thus this week’s episode, “In the Graveyard”, is about end-of-life care. Fun! But also, as is typical of the show, oftentimes funny, touching, insightful, complex and important, so we mustn’t grumble about the morbidity – not too much, anyway.
The inciting incident is the arrival in the hospital of a woman who is having difficulty breathing; it turns out she has been dropped off – in a limo, as a final insult – by University Hospital on the pretext of New Amsterdam being better equipped to meet her needs. This is, as Max (Ryan Eggold) and Lauren (Janet Montgomery) tactfully inform her, a lie. Her body is rejecting a heart transplant and she has been transferred to New Amsterdam so that she can die there and keep University Hospital’s mortality rates down. Did I mention this episode was fun?
Max takes the issue to Karen Brantley (Debra Monk), who is in the midst of schmoozing a wealthy benefactor by the name of Ozzie Cobb, who plans to donate five million dollars to the hospital over the next quarter, and whenever Max visits Karen you just know he’s about to irresponsibly spend money the hospital doesn’t have for the good of New York. When Karen informs him that every hospital dumps patients, including New Amsterdam, he comes up with his bright idea of the week, which is to retrieve all those dumped patients and give them palliative care in-house, despite having neither the staff nor the budget to do so.
That’s the main thrust of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 13, and Max recruits all the show’s regulars to tend to a patient each. But most of the familiar faces have problems of their own in “In the Graveyard”; Floyd (Jocko Sims) has been offered a position as the new cardio chair in San Francisco, Helen (Freema Agyeman) is still beefing with Valentina (Ana Villafane) and doesn’t want Max to favor her, and Vijay (Anupam Kher) is smothering Ella (Dierdre Friel) with multiple-course healthy meals rather than just letting her eat her cornflakes, and chastising her for staying out until the wee hour of 9 pm.
Naturally, this is all made much worse when everyone gets to know their patients, all of whom will be dead in just a few days. Floyd is tasked with looking after Ms. Harris, the woman we met at the top of the episode, and her heavily pregnant daughter Regina (Cheryse Dyllan). Helen’s patient is a mathematician who is struggling mightily with the idea of death as an unsolvable equation that he’d like her to figure out. Iggy (Tyler Labine) works with Peter, a young man who wants to see his absentee father for the first time in 12 years, Max promotes his patient to the role of his assistant, mostly to appease a rampaging Karen, and Vijay struggles with Debra, a woman who has kept her feelings to herself throughout her life and would like to continue to do so even in death.
Another of Max’s bright ideas in New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 13 is to house these patients in a part of the hospital used to store ruined equipment, dubbed “The Graveyard” – an unfortunate nickname for a palliative care wing which persists all throughout the episode despite his frequent promises to change it. But in the Graveyard, lessons are learned, bonds are formed and realizations are arrived at in a sequence of touching, often slightly unexpected scenes. For instance, Iggy is able to locate Peter’s father and bring him to his bedside, only for Peter’s final words before he dies to be an insistence that he always hated him. Regina’s waters break early and Ms. Harris goes into cardiac arrest, at which point Lauren, despite Ms. Harris having a DNR, resuscitates her so she can see her grandchild before she dies. She badly clashes with Floyd over this decision, which ultimately compels him to take the position in San Francisco.
Throughout all this, Max continues to transform the ward from a literal graveyard into an actual wing where patients can comfortably pass on, all while trying to figure out how he’s going to pay for the various masseurs, acupuncturists, yoga instructors and dogs he keeps introducing. While some of these subplots reach surprising and emotional conclusions – Peter’s father finishes his conversation with his son, even after his passing, and Vijay determines that Debra isn’t actually dying, though only after she unburdens herself at a living wake – the development of the palliative care wing remains a constant; each time we return to it, more has been added, the patients are increasingly comfortable, and the bill keeps mounting up. The strongest thread of New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 13 is the birth and nurturing of this place, this so-called graveyard, even as those staying there reach the ends of their lives.
The matter of who’s paying for all this sorts itself out eventually. While Karen insists that Ozzie Cobb pledges millions every year but never actually donates anything, Max is able to get him “on the hook”, so to speak, by naming the palliative care wing after him and inviting various mainstream news media to televise him signing the giant cheque – which he has no choice but to do, to his obvious displeasure. Farfetched though it may be, it’s always nice to see a smug rich man foot the bill for something. Even Karen seems thrilled.
“In the Graveyard” builds to a typically terrific closing montage. Debra gets her dog back and reaps the rewards of her honesty. Ms. Harris gets to see her grandchild. Iggy plays piano with his son, as he did at the beginning of the episode, though this time he doesn’t answer his phone. Ella returns to a box of Corn Flakes, and Vijay sleeps peacefully knowing she’s home. And Max burdens Helen, as requested, telling her how he feels as though he got the flowers wrong for Georgia’s funeral; he never asked her what she wanted at the end, so between them, they decide to ensure that the other’s wishes will be met. Max wants Luna by his side; Helen wants a big party. What are friends for but arranging each other’s funerals?
New Amsterdam Season 2, Episode 13 ends with Helen’s patient, high on mushrooms, drawing his last breath in an imagined snowstorm, among too many flakes to ever count.
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