This week, Eli Stone teetered on the fine line between the poignant and the banal — and got it right. If you made it to the end without at least flirting with the idea of tearing up, check your pulse.
It was a night for some fine, fine acting by Matt Letscher as Eli’s brother Nate, and for the relationship between the brothers, which I find increasingly believable and nuanced. We begin the episode with a girl walking around in her underwear, while Eli sleeps. Way to get viewers’ attention right at the top of the episode, guys. Turns out it’s a vision — and, Eli finds out later, what he’s experiencing is Nate’s life, 10 years ago.
The husband of a former patient of Nate’s is suing him; Nate, the UNOS coordinator at his hospital, is in charge of prioritizing which patients are next in line for organ transplants. And he moved a sicker patient to the front of the list to get a new heart, ahead of the patient in question. Nate swears to Eli that he didn’t do anything wrong, but he’s clearly not telling all.
Then the vision comes back, prompting a visit to Dr. Chen, and a great line from Eli during their very awkward moment about the possibility that he’s America’s Next Top Prophet. It occurs to Eli that what he’s experiencing are Nate’s memories from the day their father died. Eli, two days from taking the bar exam, wasn’t there.
In court, the patient’s husband hypothesizes that Nate moved the other patient past his wife on the transplant list because she was an alcoholic. Uh oh. Yah, Nate didn’t mention this part, and given their family history and their father’s drinking, Nate’s decision is looking pretty shady, regardless of what he says about maintaining his patient’s confidentiality.
On the stand, Nate explains that he kept the woman’s alcoholism off the UNOS form, because didn’t want her to be denied a new heart. Opposing counsel raises the issue of Nate and Eli’s father’s alcoholism, and affadavits by Nate’s friends and colleagues giving testifying to how much he hated it. Things are looking dark, when Eli’s vision comes back (accompannied by George Michael’s "Father Figure" in the background), and he learns that the car accident that led to their father’s death was caused by a sudden heart attack, not drinking. There’s a chance to save him with a heart transplant — and Nate vetoes it.
Eli confronts Nate, and Letscher does a great job of not milking the anguish he’s understandably been feeling all these years. Of course he thinks he killed his father. Of course he’s holding himself responsible and calling all of the legitimate reasons for his decision just excuses. "Tell yourself that in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep," he says sadly. It turns out that the patient asked Nate to reprioritize the list and told him that she was an alcoholic. She made him promise never to tell her husband, who she knew wouldn’t understand.
Back in court, Eli calls a woman named Dina Allston to the stand — not to ask her questions, but so the jury could see the woman who got the heart. It’s important to remember that while there was a death, someone’s life was also saved, he says. And the jury sides with Nate.
While all this is going on, there’s a somewhat interesting, if throwaway, B storyline case that thankfully
keeps us from focusing too much on the fact that Dowd continues to pursue Taylor after their rendezvous. For a lawyer who presumably understands the ins and outs of sexual harassment, the guy is a talented harasser. Taylor tells him she wouldn’t date someone her father would disapprove of, leading Dowd to discuss the possibility with Jordan in the most sad, transparent way ever. The look on Victor Garber’s face is priceless, like he’s trying to keep himself from gagging at the idea of his daughter with Dowd, and he talks to Eli about it. Predictably, Eli loses his mind about it, while at the same time getting weirdly jealous when he learns that Maggie got engaged. I get the purpose of the Taylor-Dowd storyine, and it’s played nicely up until now, but I think it’s waning. And in the name of all that’s holy, can we please drop the Eli-Taylor-Maggie triangle?
What started this rigamarole was when Taylor, taking the lead chair in a divorce case, asks Maggie to work with her rather than Dowd. The case involves a wife who meets a man online and then arranges to meet him in person. And it turns out that ClooneyDouble32 is actually her husband. The husband alleges that she violated the fidelity clause in their prenup by arranging to meet someone not her husband. But since the guy she’s meeting was her husband, did she really violate anything? Do you like pina coladas?
Both husband and wife opine about how amazing it was to find this person online — this person who resembles nothing about his/her spouse. Which ultimately prompts Taylor to recuse herself and Maggie, and force the husband’s lawyer to recuse himself, for 72 hours while they work it out. "It’s a big world — these two people found each other not once, but twice," Taylor says. "I strongly encourage you to talk to each other. There’s a reason you two keep falling in love." See, this is how you know this show is fantasy — no real lawyer would do that.
Back to the end, and a terrific Stone brother moment in which Nate tells Eli he’s not sure he should have the aneurysm removed. Something’s happening to you, Nate says, and what you’ve seen is impossible unless it’s beyond science. Eli confesses that he’s been jealous that Nate got to say goodbye to his dad — and then has a vision that allows him to finally bid farewell on his own.
What did you think? Do you think Maggie’s engagement will stick? Will Matt and Taylor end up getting together? Should Eli go ahead with the surgery?