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'Black Box' recap: One new relationship, one new breakup

Season 1 | Episode 11 | “Emotion” | Aired July 17, 2014

Having finally broken up with Will, Catherine is now free of hookup guilt. So, she hooks up with Bickman at his hotel. It’s good and sexy, and the next-morning scene is adorable. She eats dry cereal—only the cherry-flavored Fruit Loops—and points out answers to his crossword puzzle. See? Adorable. The doorman, Joey (Steve Schirripa, The Sopranos) comes to Bickman’s room and delivers flowers to Catherine. All is lovely until the happy couple goes to leave the building. Doorman Joey collapses and the super doctors rush him away in a car.

Second patient alert! Our rather annoying doc-in-training, MacKenzie, enters an exam room—holding prompt cards. She questions new patient Fred Baker (Dan Fogler, Fanboys), who says he’s a mess. He also tells MacKenzie that he wants to pop her head (don’t we all?). Fred continues to tell her that he feels way too much and he has a cold. MacKenzie then relays his lab results: positive for meth. Uh oh. Fred denies any drug use and says he was there to see Catherine. MacKenzie says she’ll see if they can get a consult.

Bickman meets with a fellow doctor, Phoebe, to look over Joey’s scans using a magic-screen-style tech board (Note: An old-school chalkboard is right behind them). Joey has an aneurysm. Bickman and Phoebe disagree on what’s to be done with Joey. Phoebe says because Bickman cares for Joey, that is all the more reason to step out of the situation. But in the end, Bickman basically overrules Phoebe and says he wants to be the one to operate on Joey because he wants the best possible care (himself).

Third patient alert! Catherine meets with little boy Skyler and his mom. Skyler is unresponsive; he’s awake, but doesn’t respond when spoken to. Mom doesn’t seem too worried. And then we find out that Skyler is on an all-natural food diet (that’s OK) and has never been vaccinated (not OK). Catherine wants to do a spinal tap, and now the mom gets a little worried.

BB 1.11 - Black Close up

MacKenzie meets with Catherine about patient Fred. Once again, MacKenzie is a little too sure of her diagnosis and tells Catherine she’s already turned him over to the psych department. Distracted, Catherine goes to see Bickman in his office and brings MacKenzie’s iPad with her. Talking to Bickman about work turns to Bickman flirting, which then turns to a nice office hookup. Oh, and Catherine leaves MacKenzie’s iPad on Bickman’s desk.

Later, we see patient Fred in the hallway, walking in a rather off manner. Nurse Carlotta and Nurse Tinker observe this and question, “Isn’t he supposed to be with Dr. Mahmoud?” Fred gets on the elevator, and we get a good shot of his eyes, which are bright yellow.

It’s operation time for Joey, and Bickman isn’t there. Finally, he walks in to the OR. Bickman is told that Joey wanted to speak to Bickman first, but they couldn’t wait and Joey needed to be sedated.

Elsewhere at The Cube, Leo is using his new dandy electric stimulator machine to jump-start his hyper memory. MacKenzie walks in and accuses him of using the machine for his next tests. She continues on to brag about her own test scores (which are very high) and then proclaim that Leo’s stimulator machine is bogus. They agree to test him after he’s done studying, and Leo looks a bit nervous.

During Joey’s operation, Dr. Phoebe enters the observation deck with a herd of docs-in-training. She lets them know that her option for Joey was the better option; however, Bickman thought differently. At this time, an error occurs during the operation. Bickman now has four minutes to clamp Joey’s aneurysm; after that, part of Joey’s brain will die.

­­Later, MacKenzie tells Catherine that she needs her iPad back. Dr. Mahmoud walks in and mentions that Fred has jaundice (yellow eyes!). Oh, and then they find out that Fred left the hospital. Catherine looks accusingly at MacKenzie (as she should). Now, the team has to track Fred down before something happens to him.

Back in the operating room, the clock ticks away. Bickman finally gets the job done, but time had just run out. Bickman failed and leaves.

In her office, Catherine attempts to call patient Fred. She leaves a voice message. Her computer dings with the lab results for her child patient, Skyler. Catherine goes to see Skyler and mom. And things get sad. Skyler has a rare virus of the measles. This has caused permanent brain damage and nothing can be done. Catherine tries to console the mom. What was a third patient story actually turned into a little PSA for vaccines, because Catherine can’t cure this one (even though she did cure rabies last week).

Joey is in his recovery room with his wife (Becky Ann Baker, Freaks and Geeks). Bickman knocks outside the room and beckons for Nurse Tinker. She tells Bickman that Joey isn’t breathing on his own and he’s been off sedation for six hours. Bickman begins to spiral into a wave of self-blame.

As suggested earlier, MacKenzie tests Leo using the brain stimulator—and he knows all the answers (yea!).  As predicted, MacKenzie says what they’re doing isn’t fair, because he won’t be able to wear the machine during the actual test. So, he takes it off and gets the next question wrong (boo!).

Catherine goes to see Bickman and asks about Joey. She tries to be optimistic, but Bickman admits that Dr. Phoebe’s option would have done the trick. Speaking of Dr. Phoebe, she later meets with Bickman and Leo. They see that Joey now has Ondine’s Curse (fact checked!)—and an elaborate story is told summing up that Joey is stuck on a breathing ventilator for the rest of his life.

That night, Catherine goes to Bickman’s office and it’s not good. He is used to being perfect, so Bickman is not handling Joey’s situation well. Bickman then mentions that he forgot he’s married—what?!—to his work (phew). He digs at Catherine’s emotions a bit by saying he let her fill his mind and should have known better.

An uneasy Catherine goes to Nurse Carlotta for some Oxy pills, saying they are for Skyler. Carlotta isn’t quite buying it, but gets them for Catherine anyway. And as we can expect, Catherine takes them herself.

Later that night, Catherine calls her brother. She is hysterical and tells Joshua that she hears a voice inside her head, telling her to hurt herself. Joshua goes to her even after Reagan asks, “What if you don’t go?”

When Joshua arrives at Catherine’s apartment, a scratched CD is playing and he finds her in the bathroom crying. He cleans her up, and she thanks him. He says they should go to the hospital, but she refuses. Joshua asks if she’s been drinking. No, just some Oxy pills.  Whoops. Joshua says he’s done and starts to leave. He falls to the couch and tells Catherine to go to sleep.

The next morning, a better-minded Catherine wakes up and takes her normal meds. She sends her brother an apology via text. We see him ignore the text. He tells Reagan he’s angry, to which she replies, “Good.”

In an effort to find patient Fred, Catherine heads to his apartment. We see him start walking up to the building carrying—and then dropping—groceries. Catherine goes to him and immediately sees it’s Fred—again, yellow eyes!

At The Cube, Bickman is in his office doing some research. He finds something and makes a call to a Dr. Finney.

Moments later, Bickman goes to see Joey and his wife. Joey is awake; he just can’t talk.  His wife expresses gratitude for Bickman’s care and asks when the breathing machine is coming out. At this time, Bickman tries to explain that a part of Joey’s brain is damaged—the part that allows him to breathe on his own. The damage is permanent; however, there is another doctor (Dr. Finney) who could help. At first Joey and his wife insist that Bickman perform the surgery, but Bickman refuses.

Bickman leaves Joey’s room and runs into Nurse Carlotta. She strokes his ego a bit and tells him he’s the better surgeon; there’s no reason Dr. Finney would do a better job. Bickman just walks away. Nurse Tinker appears and says Bickman is scared.

And just like that, Joey’s in surgery. Bickman watches from the sidelines.

Meanwhile, MacKenzie watches as Catherine examines Fred. Results are in, and Fred has Wilson’s Disease (fact checked!), in which copper builds up in your system and can cause mood swings. Good news: There is treatment to remove the copper! MacKenzie pipes in with some obvious statements, clearly trying to impress the unimpressed (and still pretty pissed) Catherine. Catherine invites MacKenzie to join her in her office. There, Catherine lectures MacKenzie that she needs to stop focusing on her own residency and start focusing on the patients. They should matter more. MacKenzie gets embarrassingly weepy.

In an effort to clear her conscience, MacKenzie joins Leo in the cafeteria to make a little confession. It turns out Leo didn’t get that stimulator-free question wrong; MacKenzie just wanted him to be wrong. She then apologizes to Leo. Don’t you miss other doc-in-training Ali? Where’d she go?

It’s checkout time for Joey. Before leaving his hospital room, he holds the door for Bickman (he’s a doorman, remember?).  A fragile Bickman just looks happy that Joey is doing OK.

Ready for a little frustration? Bickman is hanging out in the hallway, and Catherine walks up. She tells him that he should have been the one performing the operation—but it’s OK, he just had a bad day. Bickman just can’t come to terms with his failure. He always has to be the best. He then admits that he was still thinking about Catherine when he entered the operating room. He confesses to having had feelings—something he’s never really felt before. And he doesn’t want them. Ouch. Catherine tells him that feelings are what make life worth living. Bickman disagrees and tells her they need to take a break.

Therapy time, and Catherine needs it. To cover the bases, things are now over with Will and Bickman. Oh, and Joshua is angry at her. Catherine tells Dr. Hartrampth about her Oxy slipup, and Doc isn’t happy. Catherine says she wants to rebalance her meds. She then says she should have never gotten involved with Bickman; work needs to remain separate from everything else, because it’s what really holds her together. Dr. Hartrampth writes her a prescription for lithium.

That night, Catherine sits alone in her apartment. She tries calling Will, who’s with another girl. He ignores the call. She then tries calling Joshua, who (you guessed it) ignores the call. It’s not her night.

Well, that was depressing. First, poor patient No. 3, Skyler. Then we get an unhealthy dose of Catherine on opiates. A big no-no. And finally, we were all amped for an “official” Bickman get-together, only to be disappointed that the short-lived couple is now on a break. I get Bickman’s need for perfection, but … DAMN.

So, next week is it! It’s a two-hour finale, and this girl is going to try to live-tweet along with the episode! If you’re on Twitter, be sure to join in the discussion and tweet me at @bloodypopcorn.

Black Box, rated TV-PG, airs Thursdays at 8/7C on ABC.

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