Three cheers for CBS! If the Eye Net hadn’t picked Medium off NBC’s scrap heap and given it a sixth season — it’ll be paired with Ghost Whisperer on Friday nights next fall — then the underrated psychic detective series would’ve ended its run with Emmy winner Patricia Arquette’s Allison Dubois unconscious and unresponsive after suffering a stroke during brain surgery. (FYI: I put in a call to CBS Paramount to find out if an alternate ending was shot, just in case last night’s episode had turned out to be a series finale. Check back this afternoon for an update.)
Still, the grim final scene — Allison lying bandaged and comatose in a hospital bed — was in keeping with the episode’s less-than-upbeat mood. Allison’s dreamscape opened with her microwaving a TV dinner at a dumpy hotel efficiency on the one-year anniversary of Joe and the girls’ deaths at the hands of a drug cartel, while her waking life found her investigating the murder of a police detective whose body had been delivered to his family in a set of gore-spattered coolers. As far as Medium mysteries go, this one was pretty obvious — I suspected that Munoz was pulling a double-cross from the moment Allison’s DeKalb Avenue tip failed to pay dividends — but this episode was interested in a larger question: Would our heroine want to survive her brain tumor if it meant putting her family in jeopardy? (As we saw from her futuristic vision — and the delightful parting shot of ”You’re right. Ladies first” before firing her gun and blowing the baddies and herself to Valhalla — the answer turned out to be a resounding “no.”)
Aside from the pyrotechnics, though, I liked the little details from the front lines of the Dubois residence this week: Allison leaving sweet notes in the girls’ lunch boxes; the family experiencing day-to-day strain resulting from Joe’s weekly trips to San Diego; Allison, in a rare moment of impatience that would later be explained by the tumor, snapping at Marie. Because Medium has always put family first, painting a rich and realistic portrait of middle-class life, Allison’s crisis was both poignant and fitting. And so while I understood Joe’s argument that Allison’s dreams couldn’t be trusted because of the pressure on her brain stem — this was, after all, her second recent hospitalization following her body swap with Jeffrey Tambor! — I was glad to see him finally relent and send Ariel, Bridgette, and Marie to the safety of his sister’s home. I mean, seriously, the one time you might want to immediately jump aboard wifey’s psychic bandwagon is when it involves your daughters being targeted by a murderous drug-cartel henchman. (Anyone notice said baddie was played by José Zúñiga, formerly of CBS’ short lived but delightful dramedy That’s Life?)
And so we’re left with a cliffhanger. Obviously, with Medium back in play on CBS, Allison is bound to regain consciousness, but wouldn’t it be an interesting twist if her “gift” is altered in some way by the surgery or the stroke? If you ran Medium, how would you kick off the show’s sixth season? (I’d like to see Allison solve a case or two while her consciousness or communication skills remain impaired.) And how enraged/depressed would you have been if NBC had allowed this to be the series finale? Oh let’s not even think about that scenario. Instead, I’ll end this recap the way I began it: Three cheers for CBS!