They say third time’s a charm, and tonight Red Band Society did just that—it took three times since the pilot to get it right. But it finally did. With There’s No Place Like Homecoming, the show delivered on its promise: to be an original, teen dramedy that makes you laugh and cry with great characters and classic storytelling. There were love triangles galore, there was teenager angst, there were heartbreaking story lines with mothers and sons, and nurses who act like mothers. The fantastic Octavia Spencer continues to be fantastic—and Dr. McAndrew, a.k.a. Dr. McSexy (one part Ryan Gosling, one part George Clooney) doesn’t hurt.
All it took was Homecoming—which is happening out in the real, high school world. Kara can’t wait to make her re-entry into the social scene. After harassing Nurse Jackson, she is finally given leave to go to the dance, but only if Nurse Brittany comes along as her chaperone, and she must wear a heart monitor. Kara is fine with both, as Nurse Brittany is adorkable and she bedazzles her heart monitor to match her sequin dress. Nurse Brittany, in turn, is enthralled to come along, in a very Never Been Kissed way. But Brittany has one compromise that Kara is not too happy about: Emma must also attend.
Brittany worries that Emma is getting a little too comfortable in the hospital life—which needed to be brought up because Emma did seem quite content in the past few episodes. Anorexia is usually tied with various mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and so far Emma seems to be a charming, happy girl who just wants to be skinny. Anorexia isn’t that simple, and it feels very real to see her intense social anxiety and insecurities.
In hospital world, Leo keeps looking at his old soccer photos and dreaming of returning to his glory days as a star player. Nurse Jackson talks about a former patient of hers who also had a leg amputated and went on to become a famous athlete. To lift Leo’s spirits, she contacts the athlete, and he agrees to come train with Leo. Leo is beyond ecstatic. He wants to make all his dreams happen, including the one with Emma. So he suits up and heads to the dance (how he got permission from Nurse Jackson remains a mystery).
Kara and Emma show up to the dance. Kara is channeling Marilyn, while Emma is a total Audrey. But Emma is wrought with anxiety over what people will think of her. Luckily, her knight in shining armor, Leo, shows up. Kara, on the other hand, is having a terrible time. Not because everyone forgot about her, as she feared, but even worse.
The students all pity Kara and are treating her delicately—which drives her crazy. She quotes Machiavelli to Leo, saying that “it is better to be feared than to be loved.” Being pitied makes people feel weak, and Kara is anything but. Leo soon understands how Kara feels, when he runs into an old soccer opponent. Leo tries to have some friendly trash talk (demonstrating how he used to be a jockish jerk). But, just like Kara’s friends, the guy no longer sees Leo as an adversary, and thus no longer sees him as an equal. It’s obvious in the high schooler’s eyes and tone that he pities Leo, his leg, sickness, and everything about him. Leo can’t stand to see the way this guy sees him.
While the two are being pitied, Emma develops an odd fan club. Two high school girls are in awe at how skinny she is. Emma is pleasantly surprised by all the “positive” attention. When she mentions she is in a hospital for being anorexic, they say with admiration that she is truly committed.
NEXT: Kara: Queen of the Pity Parade