Red Band Society recap: 'Liar, Liar Pants on Fire'
Lies, love, and laughs fill the halls of Ocean Park Hospital.
In TV, viewers are like heartbeats on a heart monitor in the ICU. Red Band Society’s loved ones should be very worried because the viewers are dropping, and the show is close to flat-lining. A big complaint with viewers and critics is the unbelievability. And even with the temporary suspension of disbelief, the show’s quality is spotty at best. At times it is cheesy and trying too hard for jokes, at other moments its characters and relationships are truly touching. It has turned into a hodgepodge of cinematic tropes: a little bit of magical realism here, a little teen dramedy there, a touch of soap opera sprinkled on top. Much of this may be due to adapting a show from a foreign country—trying to be true to it while adding new elements. Still, for all its ailments, RBS does have its saving graces, and hopefully they can heal their wounds before Fox pulls the plug.
“Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” picks up right where it left off last week: Leo grows increasingly jealous of Jordi and Emma’s bond. Unable to let Emma be happy with someone else, Leo invokes guy code and asks Jordi to back off, saying that they used to be an item and he wants to rekindle the flame. Evidently, Leo doesn’t think Emma gets a choice in the matter, nor does he care how his friend feels. (Kudos to the show for not making Leo seem like some sort of awesome boy who had the bad luck of having cancer, and that otherwise he’s just perfect. He’s a flawed teenage boy, who’s egocentric, egotistical, and superficial.)
Emma wants to bake rice crispies for Jordi, and Leo offers his help in the kitchen. Then the lack of realism sets in. These kids are supposed to be going to school during their hospitalization. The premise is that it’s a mix between a hospital and a rehab center. Right now it seems like not much of rehab nor hospital is going on, just a ton of free time to hang out. And if Emma isn’t gaining weight at the hospital and she isn’t going to school, what is she doing with her formative years?
After making rice crispies (which Emma won’t eat a smidgen of), Leo starts to talk about “us.” (Stifle gag.) He goes on his usual diatribe about how he didn’t continue his relationship with her because he was scared he wouldn’t live, and Emma points out that he didn’t continue his relationship because he was scared he would live. According to her, in non-hospital world, he’s cool and she’s not-cool. She confronts him, saying, “I’m not blonde, and popular… you were afraid if you lived, you’d be stuck with me.” This scene is like a homage to Janey Briggs in Not Another Teen Movie… except it’s not a joke. Still, it was enjoyable to watch Leo get called out on his BS. In the end, they decide to be friends through the typical TV “misunderstanding,” continuing in the tradition of Ross and Rachel. Hopefully these two lovebirds figure it out soon, because life is short, and this show might not have that much time left.
NEXT: More surprise moms!
When Leo asks Jordi to back off Emma, he’s disappointed, but he has other things to worry about. Tons of things. For example, the competence of his doctor. Through a simple scan, Dr. McAndrew is able to tell that Jordi’s leg’s diagnosis is incorrect. “What these scans are showing us is that your cancer is not in osteosarcoma is something called Ewing’s sarcoma.” Maybe he should have thought of doing this incredibly easy scan AFTER putting a kid under anesthesia and cutting open his leg? Dr. McAndrew should get really get fired for his various negligent actions in Jordi’s case. Perhaps Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital has an opening, because he’d fit right in.
But even though Dr. McAndrew was able to perform surgery, somehow he can’t give Jordi chemotherapy without a parent signature. Because Jordi has no parent in the country, and his grandma only believes in witch doctors, no one’s going to sign off for him to have chemo. And, suddenly, a shocking twist! Dr. McAndrew’s one-night stand from only a few hours earlier walks in through the door. Her name is Eva, and she is none other than Jordi’s mother. Out of all the women. Jordi’s mother. For once, Charlie’s voiceover is dead on, as he notes this story line has become a telenovela.
So, it turns out that Jordi was only pretending that his mother was dead because he was mad at her for making him go live in Mexico with his abuela… it’s all very confusing. Jordi wants his mother to sign the papers and get out of his life. She, in turn, challenges him to a game of poker: If she wins, she’ll stay to nurse him, but if he wins, she’ll sign whatever papers he wants and disappear. This all sounds really cheesy, but the casting helps the show. Catalina Sandino Moreno, who plays Eva, is an incredible actress; in 2005, she received an Oscar nomination for the Colombian movie Maria, Full of Grace, and more recently played Alma Ruiz in FX’s The Bridge.
Jordi and Eva play poker, and the hospital kids watch with intense anticipation. During the final round of poker, Jordi flashbacks to a touching childhood memory of playing Go Fish with his mother. He looks down at his cards. It’s a full house. Remembering their better moments, he folds on his full house, letting her win and keeping her in his life.
NEXT: Two women on a mission
For a bit of comic relief, there are Kara and Nurse Jackson. While cliché, the show pulls off this relationship with expertise and charm. Their interactions are among the best moments of the show. Kara is so despicable she’s fun to watch. And Octavia Spencer could act out anything and be captivating. Kara’s got a drug test on the horizon, and Nurse Jackson desperately wants her to pass it. But Kara’s having a tough time because, in Nurse Jackson’s words, she is a drug addict.
Nurse Jackson tries a few things to distract Kara from her drug withdrawal. First, she lets her have a friend over, but Kara of course invites a guy and they get frisky in the hospital bed, which sends her heart monitor out of whack. After she’s caught, Nurse Jackson takes her to hang out in the playroom of the hospital. At first, Kara is out of her element, but then she bonds with a little girl over dolls and story time and hair. Just when Nurse Jackson thinks Kara has turned a new leaf, Kara starts asking the little girl what medication she gets and negotiating trades. Leave it to Kara to put a new spin on “stealing candy from a baby.”
Later, in the women’s bathroom, Nurse Jackson imparts to her fellow male nurse, Kenji, that she hates Kara so much that she’s disappointed in herself. (Flashback to My So-Called Life, Kenji is the same actor as Rickie. I am ashamed to say I did not realize that until Charlie kindly reminded me in the voiceover, that he has been hanging out in the women’s bathroom “since high school.”) But much to Nurse Jackson’s joy, Kara succeeds—her drug test comes back clean.
Questions, comments, and concerns:
–Is Ruben (hopefully) gone for good?
–Where is Charlie’s dad who supposedly never leaves his side?
–We can all be thankful that there were no more visits from Charlie in magical coma scenes.
–Is Dash going to get his own story line, or is he just going to whip past in a skateboard to deliver some stereotypical lines?
–Is Doctor McAndrew actually a licensed physician, or did the board at Ocean Park Hospital just hire him for his looks and bedside manner?
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