March 13, 2009 at 07:38 AM EDT

The widely-rumored surprise return of George Clooney to ER last night had a number of very nice moments, with Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross seen practicing in a hospital in Seattle. I’m only half-joking when I say that his performance probably did a lot to increase organ donations around the country: When Doug Ross, in that superlatively reassuring murmur of his, tells you that “You can change lives for the better,” as he did with guest star Susan Sarandon as the grandmother of a dying boy, you want to fork over your retinas.

Sure, it was a little corny that Sarandon’s grandson should provide the heart for a dying mom at County General and a kidney for Noah Wyle’s Carter (in a different hospital in Chicago), but who cares? The emotions rang true in every scene. Julianna Margulies also returned as Carol Hathaway, now a hospital administrator; Carol and Doug are still cozy-tight, with twin daughters waiting for them at home. 

Noah Wyle and Eriq La Salle also shared a few charming, chummy scenes in this episode entitled “Old Times,” and their subplot also featured a fine turn by Christian Clemenson — Jerry from Boston Legal! — as a cranky surgeon.

But the focus of our attention remained, inevitably, on Clooney. He didn’t leave County General and become a movie star for nothin’.

Did you watch? Were you glad to see Doug Ross, Carol Hathaway, and so many of the old ER faces back again?

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