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'Black Box' premiere recap: Normal vs. not

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Kiss the Sky” | Aired Apr 24, 2014

The premiere of Black Box begins with our lead character, Dr. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly), speaking to her therapist, Dr. Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave). During the session, we’re exposed to a flashback of recent events as we get to know just who Catherine is. And who is she? A psycho-smart neurologist who works at the Neuroscience Research and Treatment Center, AKA The Cube.

In said flashback, we learn that just prior to leaving for a conference in San Francisco, Catherine’s boyfriend, Will (David Ajala), popped the big question — something she wasn’t prepared to answer. While preparing for a speech in her hotel room, Catherine decidedly goes off her various meds to “free her mind.” She ultimately spirals into a hallucinatory state in which she gives an impassioned, if not arrogant-sounding, speech and hooks up with her limo driver. The evening concludes with Catherine wearing next to nothing, dancing on her hotel balcony as she/we see psychotropic colors set to jazz tunes. She climbs onto the rail in a euphoric state and falls back to the hard floor of the balcony as reality hits once again. Catherine suffers from bipolar disorder.

And cue the title card.

Flashbacks have ended (for now). A composed, “normal” Catherine is at the Cube to see her first case: Anthony, a young man diagnosed with schizophrenia. While Anthony draws on the office walls, his parents tell Catherine they believe something else is wrong with him. Then Anthony stops drawing and spaces out. Catherine sits alone with him and we hear the untrusting voices in his head. He connects with Catherine and she, too, believes something else might be wrong.

In a follow-up scene, Catherine is introduced to the new doctor in town: neurosurgeon Dr. Ian Bickman (Ditch Davey). Dr. Owen Morley (Terry Kinney) suggests that Dr. Bickman has quite the reputation for being a sleaze with the ladies.

Another case is introduced: Older woman Lucy has an imaginary friend, Yojo, who just happens to resemble one of Santa’s elves. While Lucy is suffering from either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, the imaginary-friend symptom is fixable through medication.

Later in the day, Catherine meets Will at the restaurant where he works. He asks again about his proposal, and Catherine says they can talk about it after her niece’s basketball game. It’s game time and we meet Catherine’s older brother, Joshua (David Chisum), who appears to be an all-around nice guy. We also meet Joshua’s wife, Regan (Laura Fraser) while she is preparing the team’s post-game snacks. It’s evident she’s in conflict with her daughter, Esme (Siobhan Williams). Note: It’s not cool to serve healthy foods after a sports game; kids want chips and soda.

Catherine tells her brother about Will’s proposal and how she is obviously going to decline. After a year of dating, she has yet to tell him about her mental illness. And a few moments later, while sitting in the car, she does in fact tell Will about being bipolar. He says he can handle it and likens it to his mother having diabetes. She disagrees and says that diabetes does not make a person — her bipolar disorder is who she is. She tells him about her history of noncompliance with her meds and confesses to going off them while in San Francisco, alluding to her bad behavior. Will gets angry and orders Catherine out of the car, cuing another flashback. Catherine is similarly stranded outside a car, yet this time yelling, “Johnny, don’t leave me. This is your baby, too!” What?!

It’s later that night and we’re back at The Cube. The staff is sedating Catherine’s patient, Anthony. They tell Catherine that they took away the boy’s drawing tools, which prompted him to start using his own blood. Catherine dismisses the staff and speaks one-on-one with Anthony. He hallucinates that the room is on fire and Catherine makes him “touch” the flames. This calms him.

In the next scene, Catherine is elated to find out that Anthony has a tumor on his brain. His behavior is fixable. She confirms with Dr. Bickman that the tumor can be removed. His demeanor is rather aloof, but he assures her it can be done.

Will surprises Catherine at work and she tells him that she’ll stay on her meds.

Catherine meets with niece Esme and shows off her engagement ring. She tells Esme not to tell anyone. In another series of flashbacks, it’s revealed that Catherine and Joshua’s mother was bipolar, as it’s a hereditary trait. When Catherine was seven, her mother killed herself by walking into the ocean. Catherine says she’s worked her entire life to be different from her mother. This included never getting married or having kids. But things are changing, and Catherine asks Esme to be her maid of honor.

Back at The Cube, Catherine discusses the operation with Anthony and his parents. Anthony becomes concerned that he will not be able to draw anymore after the tumor is removed.

Catherine leaves to find Dr. Bickman. And she finds him — hooking up with a nurse in a closet. Seeing this incites some sexual emotion in Catherine, and she flashes to her steamy encounter with the limo driver.

While in bed that evening, more anxiety overcomes Catherine. She flashes to her mother and her speech at the conference. Overcome with desire to once again “free her mind,” Catherine flushes her many pills down the toilet.

Back at The Cube, a different Catherine sees patient Lucy, subdued and sad, looking for her sister (who will never come, as she is in a home with a severe case of dementia). Catherine orders the doctors to stop issuing Lucy’s meds so that she can once again see her imaginary elf, Yojo. Catherine says that Lucy’s illness gave her what she needed — a friend.

Feeling rejuvenated, Catherine dances alone in the center’s stairway, then seeks out Dr. Bickman. She catches him taking pills, which he explains are for focus. He notices that she is the one that is “flying high.” The two hook up.

Later that night, in her “free” state, Catherine goes to Will for some rough sex. She forces herself on him, telling him to “hurt” her. After the deed is done, Will looks confused and hurt — literally, with bite marks! Catherine is angry, and throws the engagement ring at him before leaving.

A frantic and unmedicated Catherine gets an unexpected call from her niece. Sensing something is very wrong, Esme calls her dad. Catherine is taken away in an ambulance and wakes up in restraints, with Josh at her side. She apologizes profusely.

Catherine is back in therapy with Dr. Hartramph. Catherine tells her she went off her meds because she didn’t want to get married — she didn’t want to end up like her mother. The good doctor disagrees and tells Catherine she did it because she wanted Will to love her for who she is. So she showed him the worst of herself. Dr. Hartramph expresses concern for Catherine’s downward spiral into depression, but Catherine says that she still has what matters most: her daughter.

Cut to Catherine on the doorstep of her brother’s house. An angry Regan answers the door and forbids Catherine to see Esme. Catherine is Esme’s biological mother; however, Regan says that she was the one who raised her and she can cut off Catherine any time she wants.

Later, Catherine calls Dr. Hartramph from a beach. She asks the doctor to give her one reason to live. For Dr. Hartramph, the answer is simple: Catherine’s work.

Catherine is back at The Cube, talking to a cured Anthony. He says he doesn’t recognize his drawings, but he is thankful for Catherine because she saved his life. Catherine later leads Lucy (and Yojo) to meet the person who was going to take her to her new home. Lucy is happy because she has her friend back. The staff is about to clean up Anthony’s drawings from the walls when Catherine walks in and tells them to leave it as is.

The episode ends with Catherine talking to Will on a park bench. He confesses that he may not be that normal because he liked their rough lovemaking. He wants to do it again. They hold hands and Catherine looks ahead, almost expressionless.

Pilots are busy, and this one was no exception. Many doors were opened, including Catherine’s role as a mother to Esme and the sordid fling with Dr. Bickman. Are you tuning in next week? Do you think they should continue to focus on Catherine’s personal life, or do you want to see more of her work as a neurologist? How about the approach the show took to mental illness? Sound off in the comments!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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