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A double dose of manic behavior, hugs and (un)happy endings on 'Black Box' finale

Season 1 | Episode 12 | “The Fear” | Aired July 24, 2014

Full disclosure: Thanks to a local thunderstorm, I missed the first couple minutes of the first episode. But I am pretty sure I got the jist …

… and we open on a woman taking a bloody knife from a man. We see one kid tell another kid (said woman’s son) that his “mom’s a badass.”

Catherine is on the street running. We see a newspaper on the ground with the headline, “Fearless Mom Confronts Assailant.” Ah, so that’s what happened at the episode’s start. Our running Catherine is actually running to therapy with Dr. Hartramph. She arrives and says the exercising and pills aren’t working and she’s worried about everything. The doctor asks Catherine if she and Bickman are seeing other people. Catherine says she’s not, but Bickman might be.

And cut to Bickman’s hotel room, where Nurse Carlotta is exiting the shower. In the meantime, Bickman is shaving and cuts himself. He quickly flashes to his botched aneurysm surgery from the previous episode.

Back in the therapy session, Dr. Hartramph wants Catherine to check in to a hospital—for a week—to rebalance her meds. An extra-hyper Catherine says it’s a bad time. In an attempt to reassure the good doctor, Catherine says she won’t be seeing any patients until her meds are back in working condition. To that, Dr. Hartramph tells Catherine that she won’t see her until Catherine checks in to a hospital. At this time, we find out that Catherine has been seeing Dr. Hartramph since she was 16. In the end, Catherine doesn’t budge and casually thanks the doctor for everything she’s done. And then Catherine leaves.

Mira, the fearless patient

At The Cube, Dr. Mahmoud and MacKenzie test emotions with our patient, Mira. She holds up different facial pictures, each showing a different emotion (happy, sad, etc.). Mira is able to correctly identify each emotion, except for fear.

Catherine enters The Cube carrying various shopping bags. Dr. Mahmoud stops her and says she needs a consult on a patient. Catherine tells her she’s not taking on any new patients until she gets back from her very important conference in Boston. See, Catherine is making a presentation on the study of fear at Harvard. And she’s become quite braggy about it. Mahmoud tries again to solicit Catherine’s help, saying she thinks that the patient could have something neurological going on—and once again, Catherine brushes her aside.

As part of Catherine’s fear study, Dr. Lark and Leo are performing various tests on a patient using videos of snakes, sharks and spiders. At this time, Leo tells Lark he’s worried about his final test results. He tells her he stopped using the electric stimulator to help his memory.

Dr. Lark and Bickman

Dr. Lark and Bickman

In the hospital lounge, Catherine is on the phone. Bickman walks in and tells her she looks nice. Dr. Larks sees Bickman and tells him there is a new aneurysm case that needs surgery. They both take a look at the scans on the magic tech screen. Bickman quietly refuses to operate and Catherine takes note. She asks to see him outside. There, she basically tells Bickman to get over it. She also suggests Lark work with him to erase his memory of the incident—part of Catherine’s overall fear study. She also tells him to erase memories of her, too.  Ouch. He leaves and she proceeds to talk to herself a little. And then she sees fearless patient Mira on a building ledge with her young son.

After a few tense moments of Catherine, Mira’s husband and several police officers trying to talk Mira and her son from off the ledge, the frightened son gets down and the scene is over.

Bickman goes to see Dr. Lark and asks about rewiring a memory. Lark reiterates that it’s all experimental, but Bickman doesn’t care. He wants to try it out.

MacKenzie is examining Mira. From the hallway, Dr. Mahmoud and Catherine discuss the patient. Catherine diagnoses her right away and says she doesn’t need to do any tests to confirm. To appease Mahmoud’s skepticism, Catherine points out several symptoms from her diagnoses—e.g., hyper oral fixation or not being able to recognize normal objects (like a pen). Mahmoud calls Catherine out and said she should have seen Mira earlier, when Mahmoud first asked her about it. Catherine agrees and says it was bad judgment. She walks away, but Mahmoud follows Catherine into her office and asks what’s going on. Mahmoud says she’s worried about Catherine. Catherine closes her office blinds and says she’s been meaning to ask Mahmoud for a person consult. At this time, Catherine proceeds to deliver Mahmoud a half-truth story about being in therapy but now needing to see someone new. Feeding into Mahmoud’s ego, she agrees to see Catherine and they discuss setting up a session. Mahmoud leaves.

Lark and Bickman begin working on the memory-erasing test. It’s intense as Bickman relives his operation fail. Leo walks in and tells Lark that he aced his test! Yea! He sees Bickman—who hurriedly leaves Lark’s office—and Leo fully figures out what’s going on. He says it’s brilliant and asks Lark why she doesn’t try the test on herself to help with the agoraphobia. Lark says it wouldn’t help because she’s hardwired that way. Meaning, it’s biological.

That night, Catherine is washing her face in her bathroom. She sees a shadow cross behind her and goes to investigate. She sees the same shadow again and hurries out of the apartment.

Catherine arrives at her brother’s house, but Joshua is out of town (camping) and Reagan answers the door. Catherine requests to spend the night there because she’s been under a lot of stress. Reagan agrees and Catherine goes to bunk in Esme’s room. Both Esme and Reagan seem concerned, but Catherine assures them she only needs rest. Esme and Reagan leave Catherine.

Later that night, Esme—who’s now bunking with Reagan—hears footsteps throughout the house. Reagan tells her daughter that bipolar people have insomnia, so Catherine can’t sleep. Reagan goes downstairs and spies Catherine looking out of the front-door windows, talking to herself.

Over at The Cube, Leo brings Dr. Lark’s former flame, Bruce, to see her. Leo has told Bruce all about Lark’s condition. Leo leaves them. Bruce hugs Lark and asks why she didn’t tell him. He says they can work on it together through therapy, whatever it takes. Aww … She says therapy won’t work and shows him a scan of her brain—literally showing him what is wrong with her. In the end, though Lark is skeptical, a positive-thinking Bruce carries Lark away to her closet bedroom.

The next morning, Catherine wakes up in Esme’s bed. Reagan enters, carrying breakfast for Catherine. Reagan says she’s happy Catherine finally got some rest. Catherine realizes the time and says she needs to leave to finish getting ready for the Harvard presentation. Reagan expresses concern and asks if Catherine can postpone the trip. At this time, Catherine says she wishes she were Reagan—because she has everything Catherine wants. She leaves.

Later, Catherine is at her apartment—packing. Through a series of muddled self-conversation, she decides she needs to go see Will. Good idea. Will is on the street, leaving a gym with his new lady friend. Catherine comes up to the pair and asks several weird questions—including “Have you had sex yet?” She then confirms that Will isn’t going to tell Esme Catherine’s big secret. Before walking away, Catherine tells Will that he’s too good for her.

At the Cube, in the restroom, Bickman overhears a few guys talking about Bickman’s new fear and how he won’t do simple surgeries. He leaves the bathroom, sees Catherine and—in passing—tells her the memory-erasing machine doesn’t work. Catherine ignores the comments and continues walking along, taking to MacKenzie about her Harvard presentation. She also asks to see patient Mira’s file.

In her hospital room, Mira and her husband are talking. In the hallway, Catherine approaches Mahmoud and tells her—again, in a very braggy way – that she knows what caused Mira’s condition. Mahmoud asks to see Catherine alone. And boom, she asks Catherine if she’s bipolar. Catherine confesses and asks Mahmoud not to tell anyone. Catherine says her disorder only gives her the good stuff—i.e., energy. She says she’s not off her meds, but they just aren’t working. Mahmoud insists that Catherine not go to Harvard. Catherine agrees (liar!). Mahmoud suggests Catherine admit herself to a discreet hospital in Connecticut. Mahmoud says she’ll tell The Cube folk that Catherine is suffering from exhaustion. Catherine leaves to make a few phone calls (liar!). Catherine goes to her own office to finish packing up for Harvard. She also grabs Bickman’s car keys and her bottle of Oxy, too.

While rushing out, she only thinks she hears other talking about her in a positive way. In other words, she’s losing her grip on reality. Reagan calls Catherine and tries to help, but Catherine (obviously) rebuffs Reagan’s good intentions.

In the meantime, an ER patient comes in who needs emergency surgery—on the brain! And who’s there to help? Bickman! At first he refuses and tries to get one of the resident doctors to perform the surgery, but Bickman pushes through and does what needs to be done.

In the hospital garage, Catherine becomes paranoid and hurries to Bickman’s car. She drives off. Elsewhere, a happy Bickman asks Carlotta if she knows where Catherine is—AND at the same time, Mahmoud enters and asks the same thing. Nurse Tinker has the answers: Catherine has gone to Boston!

Catherine is driving—and hallucinating. She sees bright colors; she rolls the window down and puts her head out of the car like a happy dog. She’s manic and completely high. We see Dr. Hartramph attempting to call, but Catherine doesn’t even notice. Catherine stops her car in the middle of nowhere. She gets out and dances a little, and then strips a little. She falls to the ground and then walks into the woods, topless.

And now, on to the next episode.  

Season 1 | Episode 13 | “Consequences” | Aired July 24, 2014

Catherine in group therapy (with her stylish new haircut)

Catherine in group therapy (with her stylish new haircut)

This next episode, directed by Pretty in Pink’s Andrew McCarthy, picks up directly from where “The Fear” left off: Catherine in a police car after she was found half-naked in the woods. Voiceover time. It seems some time has passed and Catherine actually went to that hospital in Connecticut. She’s in group therapy talking about how good the experience has been for her. The group leader says Catherine will need ongoing therapy for her impulses, but she also must face the consequences of her actions. Oh, and Catherine got a cute new haircut.

Joshua pulls up to the hospital, which really looks like an old mansion. He flashes to when he first dropped off Catherine—a very unhappy and worked-up Catherine. Now the two are walking outside—in present time. He tells her he went to a support group for people with bipolar family members. He mentions that he is codependent. He’s an enabler because he always cleans up Catherine’s messes—and he can’t do that anymore. Catherine asks about her job. He mentions “exhaustion.” He cites this as an example of something he can’t do anymore.

They head to Catherine’s very unkempt and dirty apartment. Joshua says he meant to clean up before Catherine got back, but clearly didn’t. He’s ready to leave, to go help Esme with a school project. Catherine says she’s scared about work, about not having been there for so long. Joshua hugs her and says she’s stronger than she thinks.

Later, Catherine is cleaning the apartment when her phone rings. It’s Esme. The two have a simple “How are you feeling?” conversation; then Catherine apologizes to Esme. There’s no need, Esme says.

The next day, outside The Cube, Catherine’s phone rings. “Kitty?” the voices asks. Holy cow, it’s Johnny—Esme’s biological father. He says he needs to find their daughter.

Leo hugging Bickman (FYI, this episode has a lot of hugs)

Leo hugging Bickman (FYI, this episode has a lot of hugs)

In his office, Bickman hands over a letter of recommendation to Leo. It’s cute, and Leo hugs Bickman. Leo leaves and Bickman immediately calls the hospital front desk to see if Catherine is there yet. Nope. Not yet. The male nurse hangs up and says that’s the third time he’s called. Carlotta, a little pissy, questions what “exhaustion” really means. Dr. Lark is there and backs up Catherine, saying it’s just a fancy way of saying “overworked and tired.” Carlotta walks away and the male nurse wonders what her attitude was all about. Dr. Lark informs him that Bickman and Carlotta used to get it on every once in a while. And enter Catherine! Lark hugs her—as does MacKenzie. Mahmoud walks by and stares.

Dr. Lark and Catherine (see, another hug)

Dr. Lark and Catherine (see, another hug)

Catherine goes to see Bickman. She walks into his office and is greeted by a warm Bickman hug. He tells her he knows about her bipolar disorder. Mahmoud told him—after Catherine stole his car. She apologizes, but he tells her not to worry about it. Morely also knows now too. Bickman supports Catherine and says they can’t fire her over a medical condition. He tells her she needs to defend herself. Oh, and he also says there will be no more stress from his end, and he calls her a great friend. In a very sweet way, mind you.

Next stop: Morely’s office. Catherine takes a seat and Morely tells her that he can’t handle the betrayal. She confesses to being afraid to tell him the truth. He says his dilemma is the patients. She wants another chance and he agrees to it; however, it’s on a trial basis, and he will have to supervise everything. He also wants to speak to Dr. Hartramph. He gives her one more chance to speak up about anything else (other secrets, perhaps?), but she says there’s nothing else.

In therapy, Catherine tells Dr. Hartramph that her voice message helped Catherine while she was away. The doctor then asks about Catherine’s first day back at work. As expected, she says it was very hard. Oh, and there’s also that call from Johnny. Catherine says she plans on telling him she did a closed adoption—meaning, there’s no communication for her and Esme. Hartramph agrees that is the best plan. And what about Bickman? Hartramph inquires. Catherine tells her Bickman was amazing and kind. While she doesn’t really just want to be friends, she says she couldn’t handle anything more right now.

Everyone's favorite psychiatrist, Dr. Mahmoud

Everyone’s favorite psychiatrist, Dr. Mahmoud

And next stop: Dr. Mahmoud’s office. Catherine sits down. Mahmoud starts off nice, saying that as a psychiatrist, she understands what being bipolar means and she could have helped Catherine. But then she says Catherine shouldn’t be back at The Cube—a month away wasn’t enough, and Catherine shouldn’t be seeing patients. Oh, and Mahmoud tells Catherine that she will relapse. Catherine thanks her for her honesty and walks out.

Patient alert! Catherine and MacKenzie meet with twins. Apparently one twin copies the other—with clothes, hand gestures, etc. But really, there is only one patient—the twin is in our real patient’s mind. Moments later, Catherine and MacKenzie discuss the patient with Morely, who suggests she should consult with Dr. Mahmoud. Just what Catherine wants. She argues that it’s not psychiatric and she’s already scheduled a test. Morely says she should have checked with him first, but he’ll allow it.

Bickman is scrubbing up for surgery when Carlotta walks in. She attempts to get a quickie in, but Bickman declines her advances. Carlotta throws Catherine’s name out there and Bickman says they’re just friends. Carlotta tells him that he’s in love with Catherine—which he denies. Carlotta leans in for a kiss, but stops just before reaching his lips. She says, “Are you lying to yourself or just me?” I sense a troublemaker!

Leo, MacKenzie and the male nurse sit in the lounge talking about future residencies and where they want to be.  And guess who walks in?  Former doc-in-training Ali!  Where did she go again? Leo goes in for hugs and MacKenzie asks the nurse who Ali is—basically, the former MacKenzie. So, what has Ali been up to? She just published a paper on neurology and plans to spend the summer in Rwanda. But she still plans to apply for residency at The Cube. Just like the now-nervous MacKenzie.

In his hospital room, the faux twin patient, Bishop, gets out of bed, only to see his other faux half still in bed, smiling back at him. Catherine and Lark enter the room and propose a sleep study to confirm his condition. He agrees to anything.

Later, Catherine is walking outside and runs into a very feeble-looking Johnny. He says he’s dying and they need to find their daughter.

Well, it turns out Johnny has a form of leukemia. It was diagnosed over a year ago. He’s on chemo, but he needs a transplant. He’s hoping their biological daughter will be a match. Catherine mentions that the adoption was closed; however, it’s unraveled that she actually knows where Esme is.

Leo and Dr. Lark watch over Bishop’s sleep clinic. He wakes up and sees many, many doppelgängers. He tries to strangle and head-butt them—which only leads to him head-butting the wall.

Morely meets with Dr. Hartramph. He says he can’t believe how Catherine hid her bipolar disorder. Dr. Hartramph lets Morely know that she thinks Catherine can manage her disease. Yes, she has slipups, but she would never be a danger to her patients—just herself. The doctor tells Morely that he would need to accept the possibility of Catherine working in a manic state. In the end, Dr. Hartramph tries to convince Morely that Catherine’s benefits outweigh the risks—but there will always be risks.

Catherine meets with Joshua and Reagan at their home about Johnny. Joshua thinks it’s time to tell Esme the truth. He says they were going to tell her eventually, so why not now? Reagan is concerned because she doesn’t want to be the odd one out. Catherine tells Reagan not to worry because Catherine will be the one Esme hates. Joshua supports the cause to tell Esme by throwing this out there: If they wait, what happens when Esme finds out about Johnny and his illness? She could have been the one to save him, but she didn’t. At this time, Esme walks in—but her parents send her away. In the end, they decide to tell her—but just Reagan and Joshua, not Catherine. Catherine says she understands and leaves.

A depressed Catherine finds herself at Bickman’s hotel room. He answers, a bit surprised, but happy-looking. She starts to say, “Can we rewind the clock?” when Carlotta appears behind him. Catherine leaves.

At The Cube, Morely, Bickman and Mahmoud review patient Bishop’s sleep clinic videos. The docs believe Bishop had a psychotic break—meaning, there’s no proof of what Catherine thought it might be. Catherine’s informed that Mahmoud will be taking over the case. Catherine is upset and doesn’t understand. She’s usually right about these things. Mahmoud and Morely leave. In an awkward moment, Bickman tries to smooth things over with Catherine. He says something about how it was hard getting her out of his mind and then kisses her. Catherine’s phone rings—and she tells Bickman that she can’t do what they’re doing.

Catherine is on the phone with Joshua. He and Reagan told Esme the truth. He tells Catherine that Esme was quiet for a while—but then she said, “That explains a lot.” She didn’t cry, but she was angry. Esme also agreed to help Johnny. Catherine will contact Johnny and get back in touch with Joshua.

Moments later, Catherine tries calling Johnny. From the other end, we see a passed-out—possibly dead?—Johnny.

At The Cube, Mahmoud and Morely tell patient Bishop that they want to do a full psychiatric exam. Bishop stares at his twin and tells the docs, “You think I’m crazy? Examine him!”

Bishop points to his twin. Morely has a moment of clarity and suddenly believes Catherine’s diagnosis. Apparently, when Bishop sees his twin, that is the moment he is having a seizure. Morely immediately orders a head scan.

Having not heard from Johnny, Catherine rushes to his apartment. He has no pulse, and Catherine tries to revive him. 911 is called and Johnny is saved—for the moment. Catherine calls her brother to let him know they need Esme right away. But now Esme is missing. She never showed up at school.

Everyone's favorite nurse, Carlotta.

Everyone’s favorite nurse, Carlotta

Bickman and Morely share a conversation about Catherine. She was right about the case. Bishop needs surgery—via Bickman—and his twins will go away. Bickman tells Morely that he should have trusted Catherine. Enter Carlotta, who tells Bickman he’s being paged in the OR. Bitter Carlotta then overhears Bickman tell Morely that The Cube isn’t the same without Catherine. Bickman leaves.

And guess who makes it into the finale? Will! With nowhere else to go, Esme heads to Will’s restaurant. He consoles her.

Best buds Leo and Ali say their goodbyes, and Ali gets on the elevator to leave. And who’s on the elevator too? A very bothered MacKenzie. She unloads, telling Ali that she has everything she could ever want—the looks, the brains, etc. MacKenzie then tells Ali not to try for residency at The Cube because that’s all that MacKenzie has. Ali’s reply? Maybe MacKenzie should get something else in her life. Who knew Ali could be so sassy?

Catherine is with Johnny at a hospital. Reagan and Joshua show up. At this time, Joshua tells Catherine that Will called—and Esme has been at his restaurant. And then Will and Esme show up at the hospital. Good timing. A blank-faced—but obviously fuming—Esme lets the group know that she’s ready to meet Johnny. She wants her real dad (Joshua) and real mom (Reagan) to be there with her, completely ignoring Catherine. Esme and parents exit one way and Will exits the other way, leaving Catherine alone in the middle.

Time to find out where our docs-in-training will be doing their residencies (or not). At the Manhattan School of Medicine, Leo, Ali and MacKenzie open their letters of acceptance together; however, the viewers don’t learn anything! Argh! Catherine and Morely watch from the sidelines. He fully embraces Catherine’s gift and says he won’t second-guess her anymore.

Back to Johnny’s story: Catherine lets Reagan know that Esme is a perfect match. Catherine asks when she might be able to talk to Esme. Reagan says to give Esme time and says Catherine should be proud of her. Catherine says, “I’ll never stop.”

Operation time. Catherine watches Bickman from the observation deck. And here’s where things get sticky. Carlotta (aka the new Delilah) goes to see Morely. She tells him the entire story of that time Catherine had Carlotta fill a prescription for Oxy for little boy Skyler (in the episode “Emotions”). And Carlotta has her ducks in a row and proves that Catherine kept the pills for herself, never intending to give them to Skyler.

And now for the last scene of the season (possibly the series?!): Morely joins Catherine in the O.R. observation deck. He looks to her and says, “You’re fired.”  What?!

So, there’s no confirming whether the show has been canned or picked up for a second season, but I still have so many questions! First, I can live with the way things ended with Catherine and Bickman. Yeah, they aren’t together-together, but that last smile is worth so much. They care about one another, so I can buy that they’ll eventually end up as a real couple. But that’s about the only happy(ish) ending for Catherine. 

Now Esme knows the truth, and she’s pissed and wants nothing to do with Catherine—yet. But if the show is really stick-a-fork-in-it-done, we’ll never see Catherine and Esme’s resolution. And now for the big bomb—Catherine got fired! Screw you, Carlotta! What’s with these bitter women? They all just need to accept the fact that Catherine is the better option—and they will always be second choice. I kid, I kid … kind of.

Anyway: Were you happy with the finale? Have you started a petition to save the show? If the show is done, what are your burning questions? How would you tie things up? Sound off, #Boxheads! 

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