Red Band Society recap: 'There's No Place Like Homecoming'
Emma and Kara get to go to a high school dance, where Leo makes a surprise appearance.
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
The night continues, and Kara is so sick of the pity parade, she’s ready to bounce. Unfortunately, the spotlight flashes on her, and calls her onstage to be crowned homecoming queen. Instead of a throne, she gets a wheelchair. Kara is repulsed by how everyone is treating her. All they see of her anymore is her sickness, not her personality. (But that’s also what makes seemingly detestable Kara so addictive to watch.) She’s strong, shameless, and sticks to her guns.
While Kara is being honored onstage, a sappy video about her is about to play. Leo fully empathizes with her and gets onstage to give a speech. He says exactly what he thinks about her… basically that she’s a total bitch. As the audience boos him in disgust, Kara is enthralled. She pops out of her wheelchair to give a big, sloppy, kiss on the lips. In the audience, Emma is dying of jealousy.
Back at the hospital, Dash’s jealousy over Jordi and Leo’s friendship continues. But being the only two left at the hospital together, they’re forced to bond. Jordi imparts to Dash that his mother is one of those people who disappears when the going gets tough, and that she only likes to “play” the role of mother.
As Jordi begins chemotherapy, Nurse Jackson gives Eva a hard time, making her feel like a bad mom. Eva tries to prove herself to Nurse Jackson, but she is not buying it. She sends Jordi and Dash off to the movies, only hours after he’s had a round of chemo. As is to be expected by anyone except Jordi’s mom, Jordi gets sick at the theater. Nurse Jackson and Eva take care of him together, and Nurse Jackson is about to change her opinion about Eva.
But Eva realizes that the situation is getting too real. In a heartbreaking scene, she emancipates Jordi, and through the window, he watches her sneak out in a cab without even saying goodbye.
The next day is a new day. Kara decides to relinquish her role as queen bee, decreeing to her minion that she is released of her duties. (I hope this doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing her again—that girl is hilarious!) Leo realizes that he’s never really going to be an athlete the way he thought he would be and accepts it. He tells Nurse Jackson to tell the pro athlete not to come train him.
And while everyone is making progress, Emma is backtracking. Leo told her that she doesn’t understand what it’s like to be pitied because she doesn’t really need to be in the hospital. Her illness is complicated; it’s not merely vanity, but a psychological mind-set that also affects her health. And of course, it’s easier to dismiss compared to people who have no control over their terminal disease. Emma got so much positive attention at homecoming for being skinny, that rather than eating more, as she was at the beginning of the episode, she is now back to eating nothing.
Last week’s theme of “lies” felt forced and heavy-handed, but this week the show found unification through it’s theme: home. The characters in Red Band Society have made a home and a family at Ocean Park. And maybe we can, too—if episodes like this become the norm.
–How many love triangles are acceptable for one show to have?
–Kara: “I’m going to have sex with me.”
–Nurse Jackson is always right. Always.
–Charlie: “Going home means facing everything that you left behind.”
–Can we forget those two episodes in between now and the pilot existed?
–Dr. McAndrew: “I guess he’s ours now.”
Nurse Jackson: “He was ours the second he walked through that door.”
–Did you cry during this episode? Y/N?
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Red Band Society