Abby Lockhart: evidence the ER writers created a person, not a woman

Here are 8 pieces of evidence showing how ER’s writing team (mostly men) with Abby Lockhart was not trying to create a woman, but a personIt wouldn’t surprise me though if they looked at themselves for inspiration, cause she has more of traits we are used to see in men rather than women, but they sure can apply to us women too.

1. Abby did not plan her ideal wedding in her head when she was 10 years old or at any time after that.

2. She has a fear of commitment, but when she finally concludes that marrying Luka is not such a terrifying idea, she is happy with a plain gold ring and an assurance that if it’s ever lost it will be rapidly replaced and the new ring will get the same status as the initial one. No talk about doomed marriages are allowed.

3. She is not religious and she doesn’t want to take part in any religious traditions. She will not get married in a church because they are a little bit creepy. Baptism is weird and the ceremony freaks her out, ”there’s something so Rosemary’s baby about it”, and also it’s an initiation into a club she doesn’t want to belong to.

Abby
4. Abby did not see herself ever becoming a mother, this was out of fear based on her own disastrous childhood, and there was a lot of hesitation before Joe was born. But once she has her baby, everything is fine. She loves Joe, but doesn’t have any revelation of how wonderful motherhood is, neither does she feel inadequate or doubt herself. She has no angst or guilt over getting back to work after a few months. The motherhood itself does not become a storyline, it is just part of their everyday life.

5. She is an introvert that keeps her emotions within, not always expressing what she feels or thinks, and likes being alone. Remember her frustration after a while having Neela sleeping on her couch? She needed her space.

6. She is a pessimist and uses her dry humor to cope, never better illustrated than when she answers Randi’s request to read her horoscope, “Abby, what’s your sign?” with “Out of order.”

7. She’s never very occupied with her appearance.

8. And the best thing is that all of these characteristics does not turn her into any kind of goof, she is just a normal, regular person. No wonder I love her so and relate to her so much!

Thank you Jack Orman, R. Scott Gemmill and David Zabel and the rest of the ER writing team for creating such a fabulous character! And of course, having Maura Tierney portray her did nothing but add to the fabulousness each and every episode.

Want more ER? Below are the stories of Abby and Luka:
ER’s Abby and Luka, part 1: Luka’s story through 10 episodes
ER’s Abby and Luka, part 2: Abby’s story through 10 episodes

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My Favourite Nashville: Your Wild Life’s Gonna Get You Down (2×18)

Scarlett has always been special to me, much because I relate to her introverted ways and her eagerness to mediate and please. In this episode from season 2 she utters my absolute favourite line of her, “I’m the kind of artist that prefers to whisper”, making it a moment and an episode telling us a whole lot about her. When rewatching this episode I realised it is also a brilliant episode in regards to Juliette.

I have always seen Scarlett as someone confident in who she is as a person, but someone with less confidence when it comes to her work. In this episode she finds the courage to stop pleasing, ignore what people tell her to do and for once make her own artistic decision. The episode brings Juliette’s confidence and insecurities to light as well and the way she is juxtaposed with Scarlett tells a real fascinating story about them both.

Scarlett at her piano
I had a plan to review my ten or so favourite Nashville episode in order of appearance, but since I have been thinking about Scarlett lately, I wanted to watch this episode instead and I thought, what the heck, I will write about them in whatever order that comes to mind. And being such a revealing Scarlett episode, I decided to include a note on her and season 5 at the end

The opposites of Scarlett and Juliette

Scarlett and Juliette in a way look somewhat alike on the surface. Physically they are both young, tiny creatures with long, blond hair and when it comes to work they are both struggling artist at the moment, even though on different levels and in different ways. Remember how Juliette fell from the good graces by sleeping with a married man, then seemingly sneer at God and now need to win her audience back.

Where Scarlett has the great self-esteem and bad self-confidence as mentioned above, Juliette is the opposite.

Their personalities are very different though and I like how that is not overly obvious in their looks. Where Scarlett has the great self-esteem and bad self-confidence as mentioned above, Juliette is the opposite. Most of the time she has the greatest confidence in her capabilities as an artist (now that she knows she can write songs) and putting on extravagant shows, but her self-esteem is another matter, not when it comes to her sexual attraction, but for sure when it comes to actual love and relationships, where her insecurities quickly rises to the surface.

Juliette claiming Avery
The episode begins with Rayna, Bucky and Scarlett meeting with Glenn, Juliette and Avery before the addition of Scarlett to Juliettes troubled tour. Juliette doesn’t care the tiniest bit that she crashed the launch party of Rayna’s new single to do her own announcements of joining Highway 65 and therefor destroying the marketing of Rayna’s new song. Juliette is super-confident about her tour, which she put money in herself, but when it comes to Avery coming along to produce Scarlett’s album during the course of it, her self-confidence takes a dive. She immediate feels the need to “claim” Avery in front of everyone by continuing Avery’s ”I’ll go where I’m needed” with ”and wanted” with a smug smile.

As much as Scarlett loves the pure singing part and putting together songs with Avery, she hates the world that surrounds the creative part. She complains about the label heads who doesn’t give a damn and tries to shove her into “some cookie kind of mold, I will never fit into”. As the introvert she is, she hates the new hotels every night, the strange beds she has to sleep in and the industry parties she has to attend.

Scarlett debating
The tour continues with Avery and Scarlett working on the album all day leaving Juliette jealous, insinuating and edgy, which of course for Juliette translates into making Scarlett miserable. It doesn’t matter that she according to Glenn performs her best show ever and having all her fans raving again, off stage all she does is worrying about Avery and his whereabouts with Scarlett. Avery gets that she is jealous, it’s impossible not to, but still he is not really getting how disturbing the whole thing is to Juliette. First he tells Scarlett, “I can’t play in her band, when I have an album to produce” and then he completely tone-deafly skips an after-show party to continue the work with her.

Everyone is out of the loop

Leaving the tour behind for a moment and visiting the other characters, the common theme for them seems to be that they are all out of the loop.

The price for being the most out of the loop goes to Layla.

Deacon was not kept in the loop when it comes to the parenting of Maddie, which he frustratingly informs Teddy when he is told that Maddie was not allowed to come to him for guitar lessons as she was grounded. ”You can feel free to give me parenting advice when you’ve actually raised a child  for 14 years”, Teddy states after a short argument. ”Yeah, I was kept out of that loop too”, Deacon wryly replies.

D out of the loop 2
Deacon is also totally out of the loop when it comes to Megan’s inability to resist the clean-shaven Teddy, who she just had to get it on with in his car. This makes regretful Megan extra clingy and commanding Deacon’s attention when he is back from his tour, which he has no problem giving to her though.

Rayna is out of the loop too, or at least in denial, of Maddie’s need to explore herself, her will, her identity, with the help of her music. Music is not a hobby and Deacon is her dad, she needs to say these things out loud as to make them real and for her it is not something that can only be kept within the family. So while Rayna is gushing over how good social media is for getting her music out as an independent, at same time as she is forbidding all tweeting and selfies in their private life, Maddie is planning her own way to get her music, her ambitions and identity known. Maddie is a teenager with her own thoughts and ideas that cannot be controlled as easily anymore and Rayna must consider the art of guidance instead.

Rayna and MAddie
Luke has been totally out of the loop regarding Deacon being Maddies father, he realises when seeing the video Maddie was posting online in the name of Maddie Claybourne. This makes him utterly jealous, a feeling he cannot hide, and Rayna finds herself in the middle spending the night mediating between the three rather frustrated men in her life.

The price for being the most out of the loop goes to Layla. Will decides to take to extreme measures denying or at least refusing to admit to anyone that he is a gay cowboy in the straight country world. While most of the artists in Nashville are putting on a show, musical and theatrical, on stage this episode – Juliette with Scarlett, Luke pretending he is having fun with Will and Deacon, Maddie and Daphne with Luke’s son Colt (ok they are back stage) –  and in every other episode, Will is the one putting on a formidable show off stage as well, choosing to propose to Layla when Jeff is getting way to close to the truth in spite of Gunnar clever cover for him. And actually he does find a stage of sorts to do it on as well.

Will putting on a show
By the end of the episodes Deacon has punched a wall instead of Teddy and doesn’t understand Why. Megan. Still. Is. In. His. House. while throwing things in a bag to get away and the only one still really out of the loop is poor Layla happily going through with the impromptu wedding with Will.

The courageousness of Scarlett and Juliette

That said, this is very much an episode about Scarlett and Juliette and there are some scenes that makes me enjoy it so. The young women may have opposite personality traits, but they actually understand each other real well. They are playing a bit of a game here and it’s hard to know who is on top. You would think that Scarlett is the weak one and Juliette the strong, but that is not true, both of them are both. Scarlett can be pushed around, but only for so long, she knows what she wants and she is not afraid to say it. Juliette on her hand lets her insecurities about Scarlett and Avery blur her business decisions by not aknowledging Scarlett as the fine artist she really is.

Just like Scarlett confronts her fears on stage, Juliette confronts Avery with hers.

In their first interaction back stage there is no doubt that Scarlett is the strong one and Juliette the weak, Scarlett just has better self-esteem and Juliette gets so worked up and defensive. Scarlett is not afraid to put forward her views, it’s just that she usually gives in after a while. In this case she wants to test her new song Falling, but Juliette says there is no time to test a low-key ballad when they need an energetic show that makes reviewers write about it. ”It’s my set” Scarlett replies and ”your set yesterday wasn’t reviewed either”, she frankly continues, which makes Juliette threaten to fire her.

Scarletts gonna whisper
Inspired by this exchange Scarlett finds the courage to do it her own way and this is of course where my favourite Scarlett line is pronounced: “Miss Juliette Barnes has asked me to come out here and make a whole lot of noise for you, but I’m the kind of artist who prefers to whisper.” Not only has she reached the point of where she doesn’t care about pleasing anymore, she also makes it clear that she knows exactly who she is and who she wants to be on stage. Adding “this one’s for you, Juliette” shows us just how well she also gets Juliette, that she is jealous because giving her heart away, like she has to Avery, makes her scared and vulnerable.

I just can’t seem to help myself
I wear my heart for all to see
Maybe you’re that someone else
Another hopeless case like me

The one who always falls in love too fast
The one who thinks that this time love will last

Falling, falling, I can’t keep myself from falling
Follow, follow, follow me down, down
down, down, down

And right there Juliette can’t escape the facts of Scarlett’s accomplished songwriting, the beautiful, catchy piano tune and her captivating voice. The anger of Scarlett daring to defy her quickly turns into admiration, even though she will not admit it right away.

Scarlett debating with Juliette
First we see another great scene between the two where Juliette starts off being really cocky and bossy: ”Dedicating the song to me. You got a lot of nerve!” ”It’s something I thought you would have done”, Scarlett replies, but Juliette won’t have it: “Well, let’s set the record straight. You are not me. You have not cut any record, let alone sold any.” It’s like she needs to distance herself from Scarlett, not wanting to admit her talents and that they are also alike, because that’s scary. Jealousy and rivalry makes her continue their argument and the powerplay is on again.

Scarlett begs Juliette to fire her. She hates it, she says, the cookie-molding, the hotels, the parties as I wrote before. She loves the 20 minutes on stage, but she hates the other 23 hours and he wants nothing but Juliette to fire her so she fails and can go home to where she is comfortable. Around here something changes. Scarlett sounds desperate and determined at the same time and Juliette knows what it feels like being pushed to conform. She also realises that while giving in to Scarlett might feel like a win-win situation for both of them at first, it actually is a lose-lose, and Juliette doesn’t like to lose. It’s probably driven partly by selfishness not giving in to Scarlett, but mostly there is an acknowledgement that it is Scarlett’s strength that should be acknowledged and encouraged, not her weakness.

No such luck
Juliette’s one-eighty turn in regards to Scarlett is my second favourite thing of this episode. ”No such luck” is her resolute answer to Scarlett request to be fired. Scarlett will just have to stay on the tour, because she has ”it”. It took courage to admit that, but Juliette knows when she sees something good and when push comes to shove she will not let her insecurities impact her work. Scarlett is a great artist and she adds a lot of value to her tour. Juliette might be competitive and jealous, but she also appreciates great talent when she sees it.

Business beats personal insecurity and having the courage to appreciate Scarlett gives Juliette the courage to talk to Avery about her fears. Just like Scarlett confronts her fears on stage, Juliette confronts Avery with hers, that she is scared when it comes to them, that she is afraid to lose him. When having admitted to Avery that she was jealous and having been reassured by Avery, it’s like Juliette allows to see Scarlett as a person, someone she actually admires a little bit and not only as a threat to her private happiness. Maybe this is what makes her take a closer look at Scarlett that evening at the party, the reason she becomes the person, not Avery, that suspects that something is not quite right with Scarlett, or that at least that she is high.

Juliette and AVery
Juliette and Scarlett, different in some ways, but still with and ability to understand each other. Their initial roles are restored at the end of the evening when Juliette is telling Scarlett what to do. Scarlett is the quiet introvert: “I’m not much for parties”. Juliette is the boss telling her what she needs to do: “You are now.” But some respect and admiration for each other have inevitably started to grow.

The episode is written by David Gould and directed by Julie Hébert.

Epilogue – Scarlett and Nashville season 5

The reason I stopped watching Nashville after nine episodes of season 5 was not mainly because of Rayna, even if I liked nothing about that either, but because of Scarlett.

Scarlett struggled to be confident as an artist and having the courage to do it her way, not letting anyone dictate to her how to do it. In this episode in season 2 she kind of figured it out, that she did not need to be what other people told her and  knew she “preferred to whisper” on stage and not to shout. Unfortunately her mother came back and her path as an artist came to a stop for a while. But she came back and Scarlett was never insecure about who she was and this is what I wrote about her in the Nashville Forever character defence article:

Growing up with an abusive mother can leave all sorts of scars, and for Scarlett it meant bad self-confidence and also I believe a fear of conflicts. Scarlett doesn’t shout and fight; she is the mediator, the one keeping up the good spirits in a relationship, keeping her own emotions inside while making sure everyone else is happy.

She probably learnt this very well as a child defusing bad situations to avoid upsetting her mother. This kind of behavior becomes a habit but Scarlett does it only to a point. Enough is enough, and then she politely tells people so! Cause one thing her upbringing did not give her was low self-esteem. Scarlett actually has great self-esteem. She feels secure being herself…If only people would let her! 

Back to season 5 and the introduction of Damien. Scarlett did not need an arrogant video director to tell her who she really was, while her boyfriend and her mentor, if not cheered on, but let her know this was something she had to endure and probably could learn something from. Scarlett already knew who she was and she did not suffer from any bad self-esteem. What she did lack was a bit of self-confidence in her work as an artist. She needed to hear she was allowed to be an artist on her own terms, as her own self, not needing to transform to someone else to please the masses. But no one told her that and really, this was something she figured out already on her own on the mini-break from being an artist, by the end of season 2 and beginning of season 3.

Scarlett being sexy
Then getting up on stage probably always means that you in some way put on another persona, but that is exactly where she might have needed encouragement, to find that persona she felt comfortable with, not being pushed to be someone else entirely. And the fact that the show had Scarlett realising that her true self was actually being an extroverted sex kitten was just plain absurd and misogynist in so many ways. Like there is only one way to be sexy, that all women want to be sexy in that exakt way and if you are not like that you are repressing your true self.

Sorry, Nashville on CMT! I couldn’t watch that!

This was my second Favourite Nashville post. Here is the first:
My Favourite Nashville: I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You) (1×02)

Did you like ER? Want to revisit? Read my posts about Abby and Luka!
ER’s Abby and Luka, part 1: Luka’s story through 10 episodes
ER’s Abby and Luka, part 2: Abby’s story through 10 episodes

The Handmaid’s Tale: An antifeminist NRA commercial?

So, I binged The Handmaid’s Tale last weekend and I have some thoughts. I enjoyed it, but I could be without the endless closeups on Elisabeth Moss’ face to show how Offred feels. I get it, it’s completely horrible, but over-explicit storytelling does not engage me more.

Looking at the story it in one way comes out as an antifeminist NRA commercial. As my husband pointed out, the reason to be allowed to have a gun is to defend yourself and that includes defending yourself if the state turns on you. This is what happened in episode 3. The state turns on its people and the people are defenceless and can do nothing.

Faithful

When it comes to the women, the handmaids have something the state desperately needs, fertility, yet they are not turned into queens but into slaves. I get it, the well-being of their children already born is used to control them, but still, they have the best leverage. If they didn’t see themselves as victims, maybe they could have turned themselves into the pampered queens they should have been. Just saying! Maybe this is season 2.

Big Little Lies’ Renata: The Working Mom Monster

There were things I didn’t lie about Big Little Lies and the absolute worst thing is its ridiculous portrait of the ”career woman”, Renata, played by Laura Dern. I loved the Celeste/Perry story, their therapy scenes in particular, the attention it got and Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman’s Emmy award are so well-deserved. But I can’t remember the last time I saw a TV show portray a working mother as such a horrific cliché with all possible stereotype traits such a woman can have.

Renata is a highly successful business woman, but apparently she is only truly happy when her husband validates her sexiness and the only thing she truly wants is to spend time with her child.

First of all yes, Renata is the only of the mothers who works full time and it’s funny how for Jane – the struggling, single-parent mom – work is something she seems to do a bit on the side and it’s something that doesn’t occupy her mind much. Working full-time as a mother is in this show equal to making a fabulous career in a money-packed business being super-bossy.

Big Little Lies Renata
Of course Renata is not liked, which is not strange in any way since is unpleasant, arrogant, aggressive and yells at everybody at work. She seems extremely stressed out even though she has a nanny and she repeatedly questions herself about how she could choose her career over the role of being a full-time mother. She likes to create envy and frantically entices and uses bribes to get things for her daughter. She is in a hysterical mood most of the time and the only occasion she softens and relaxes is when her husband, who is mellow, cool and a sensible dad, reminds her of how sexy she is and ensures she is properly fucked in the office restroom. Deep down we learn Renata is of course just a worried, scared mom who wished she had more time for her daughter. How sweet!

Dern is not to blame for the hopeless writing, but she does turn up the volume and the intensity of the acting leaving out any kind of nuance and subtlety

There are so many wrongs here. Renata is a highly successful business woman, but apparently she is only truly happy when her husband validates her sexiness and the only thing she truly wants is to spend time with her child. It’s like she was forced to make that career, when she would rather had stayed home pleasing her husband and nurturing her motherly instincts. If at least she in some way seemed to enjoy her work, which I think you have to do to make it like that, then her conflict would be more understandable. If she does not enjoy it, she could easily choose something less consuming and spend more time with her daughter. Now it just comes out very one-dimensional.

Big Little Lies Renata at officeDern is of course not to blame for the hopeless writing, but she does turn up the volume and the intensity of the acting leaving out any kind of nuance and subtlety. Renatas hypersonic manoeuvres just get plain painful to watch and not worthy of any TV show in my honest opinion, let alone one that sees itself as a feminist success. Not that a working mother and a business woman can’t have all sorts of unattractive traits and insecurities, but please, create complexity and diversity, not sexist parody!

 

My Favourite Nashville: I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You) (1×02)

In one month it will be five years since Nashville premiered on ABC and four and a half since it started airing in Sweden and got me hooked completely. Season 5 has ended, without me in the audience I’m afraid, and I feel the urge to revisit the show and share my thoughts on some of my favourite episodes, the stories that got me mesmerised and the scenes that took my breath away. 

First up is episode 2 of season 1 and Nashville does a great job in continuing to establish the main characters, who they really are and want to be, and what crossroads they are at, professionally and in life general. By giving us an insight in their backgrounds and letting us in to some emotional turmoil we start seeing the depth and complexity of their personalities. Among those things are the intimacy still remaining between Rayna and Deacon, what some of the struggles are for Scarlett and the many faces of Juliette. It’s just brilliantly setting the scene.

Rayna is at a stop

Rayna starts off being stuck in traffic due to Juliette’s video shoot, which perfectly gives the picture of where Rayna is in her career at the moment and as it turns out, in her personal life. She has come to a stop in her music career while Juliette’s seems to be souring, and she is not really sure where to turn to get back on track again.

Rayna in the car with the kids
As we learned in episode one, Raynas arena shows are not selling and her label, Edgehill, will not support her album unless she goes on tour with Juliette. Watty White, her friend and mentor, suggests she does a scaled-down acoustic tour with Deacon, but it’s one thing doing cosy one-on-one performances when you are young and madly in love, and quite another when you’re past 40, married to someone else and have children. She does not feel very comfortable with the idea, and neither does her husband, Teddy.

Rayna likes being in control and suddenly she is just not. At all.

I love how Nashville is the master of details and in a second gives us a glimpse of just how well Rayna and Deacon know each other. Late for the meeting with Watty and Rayna, Deacon is sweeping in and nonchalantly picking food from Rayna’s plate before spitting out his “What did I miss?” It is a very intimate gesture, I think, something you would only do when you know someone really well, and it becomes clear that these two have shared many intimate meals where picking food from each other’s plates probably was part of the foreplay.

Deacon stealing food
Teddy is not quite satisfied with where he is at either, as the back-seat, not so successful husband to his famous wife, so he has decided to run for mayor. This triggers a background check which forces Rayna to answer probing, uncomfortable questions about her past and we learn the details of the sad and unfortunate history between her and Deacon, one filled with alcohol abuse and rehab visits. Teddy is far from happy letting his wife go on tour with him, but in a marriage you have to compromise. He wants to run for mayor and she rather does a tour with Deacon than opens up for Juliette Barnes, so that is that and it could work, right?

Seeing Deacon hanging out with Juliette does not sit that well with Rayna. It is one thing having the record label’s undivided support anymore, but having the always dependable Deacon slipping away with her biggest rival is just too much. Rayna likes being in control and suddenly she is just not. At all. When she and Deacon finally meets to discuss the tour, the disappointment and some vaguely disguised feelings of jealousy have Rayna (for once, we realise later) unable to keep her calm. And before the episode is over Rayna’s marriage has also come to a stop, even if Rayna will try all kinds of manoeuvres to convince herself that it isn’t so.

Scarlett is trying to please

Scarlett and Gunnar get an offer to do a 3-song demo with Watty and suddenly Scarlett needs to decide if she really wants to branch into the music business or not, which she contemplates in a series of scenes during the episode.

Scarlett and Avery
Scarlett writes poems and has no real desire to sing and pen songs, or? She did look quite comfortable singing when Gunnar lured her up on stage at the end of the pilot episode, but no, even if Avery would support the idea, she wants to be with him and support him as planned. Even though both these things might be true, it becomes obvious that Scarlett is someone who avoids creating conflicts or the risk of hurting someone else.

[Scarlett’s] struggles with balancing between pleasing others and pleasing herself as well as understanding that there actually is a difference becomes very evident.

She is very sensitive to the mood of those she is with. In the scene where she is planning to tell Avery about the demo says it clearly. She spots in a fraction of a second that Avery is not happy, immediately changes the plan and lets the conversation be about Avery. In the scene later with Gunnar, who puts her a bit on the spot regarding her decision not to go forward with the demo, she claims it to be about herself and what she wants, even though what actually comes out still sounds like it’s all about Avery. Her struggles with balancing between pleasing others and pleasing herself as well as with understanding that there actually is a difference becomes very evident in this episode.

Juliette is playing roles

Juliette overhears some negative comments about the age of her fan base and she decides she wants to do music for adults, starting now. That decision will take her through a journey of emotions during this one episode that seriously would be enough for the whole season. The episode quite brilliantly gives us an insight in just how Juliette Barnes works, how her self-confidence together with her insecurities impact her actions, and how she quite flexibly takes on whatever role she thinks will suit her goals for the moment.

Juliettes video shoot
She starts being very determined and confident. Juliette doesn’t want to do stupid music videos for 12 year-old fans, she wants to be taken seriously. ”I’m doing my part, you need to do yours” she tells her manager, Glenn. He should give Deacon a business offer he will accept and she will help by giving Deacon a personal offer he cannot resist. Having Deacon in her band on is a way of giving her music credibility and writing songs with him will be a way of showing she is a real artist. Getting Deacon into her bed will help her getting him in her band, or so she thinks, disclosing just where her self-confidence is at.

[Juliette] is very aware of that she is playing roles… but somewhere it becomes difficult to see, even for her, where the role ends and the genuine Juliette begins.

Juliette lures Deacon away from Rayna and takes him to her countryside property to write some music and to seduce him. Juliette is very confident in the persuasive powers of her sexual attraction, but she is also letting her guard down trying to show Deacon another side of herself. She is very aware of that she is playing roles. ”I’m whoever my manager is thinking will sell the most records”, she tells Deacon and adds that she has another side too, but somewhere here it becomes difficult to see, even for her, where the roles end and the genuine Juliette begins.

Juliette and Deacon by the lake
She wants to show him the land and her love for that, as well as her genuine intentions for songwriting, but she still can’t help trying to impress him with rare gifts and flirting with him to get him into her bed, or in this case, the water. When they finally get to the songwriting part, she is too insecure to appreciate his admiration for her songwriting; it’s much easier for her to believe in his attraction to her. During these scenes she shifts between being confident, flirty, vulnerable and modest so effortlessly that it is difficult to know when she is playing a role and when she is honest, and probably she doesn’t even know herself anymore which is what, it’s all just means to get what she wants.

Back home Juliette is getting quite confused! She doesn’t get why Deacon is not thanking her for the guitar she gave him. She wants that validation from him and she just doesn’t understand why she won’t get it. And yeah, Deacon is not the most honest guy here, looking for distraction in all the wrong places as he chooses to ignore the context of Juliette’s “offering”. He takes the sex, flattered as he is, probably without any intention of giving her what he damn well knows she is really after, him on her tour.

Juliette at Deacons houseMaybe Juliette gets that she doesn’t get it. Later when she shows up at his house to give him the demo of the song, she is back being the sincere girl: ”Something about you wants me to grow up”. And this time we know it’s real. She looks so happy at the Bluebird later, like she has figured things out. But the happiness turns to one big bowl of hurt when Deacon asks Rayna to sing with him on stage instead of her. Even if it was an extra bonus that her actions towards Deacon would spite Rayna, it was never her reason for doing it. Juliette wants first of all to be a respected artist, she wants to be (like) Rayna, although she would probably never admit it.

The Bluebird is where it concludes

The episode ends superbly with one of best performances on the show, Rayna and Deacon’s No One Will Ever Love You at the Bluebird Café. You can literally see those buried emotions being released and coming alive during the song. And while it tells the story about Rayna and Deacon, it manages to impact the feelings and thoughts of Scarlett and Juliette as well, and I love how Nashville always manages to make the closing song relate to the other characters.

No one could watch without being affected by the genuine feeling of that performance, and having Watty point out that it could be Scarlett and Gunnar up there, could not but help Scarlett to make the decision to go ahead with the demo. And she looks pleased having done so.

Rayna and Deacon at the BluebirdJuliette is singing the words to Rayna and Deacons song, because she knows and loves the song, or maybe she wishes she had written a song like that, or she wishes she had someone loving her like that (now realising the extent of Deacons feelings for Rayna), or just all of the above. For Juliette the episode ends with that pain of being rejected by Deacon where it hurts most, as an artist, even after she was trying to show him her true self.

It was the moment she realised that her marriage was over.

“No one will ever love you like I do.” Deacon eyes could not more obviously show just how much he loves Rayna and never was there a more heartbroken face than Rayna’s in the car with Deacon after their duet. This very short scene is my favourite from the episode. There in the car she realises that her marriage is over and her ”I wish we hadn’t done that song” is when she admits it, if only for a second, before she goes home to hug Teddy and tell him that she loves him.

Rayna and Deacon in the car
We will see this repeating in later episodes, both the same reaction and similar scenes. The moment her emotions gets too real and familiar, when the reminders of the painful past gets too loud, she turns 180 degrees and runs in the opposite direction, because it is only that or giving in. Rayna is the not the one to give in, that would be to be weak and losing control, and Rayna wants to be in control. “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)” and it’s obvious that Deacon can’t help it, even Juliette points it out to him. He should focus on the present, not the past, she tells him. Rayna can’t help it either, but that does not mean she has to acknowledge it.

The episode is written by Callie Khouri and directed by R.J. Cutler.

This is the first of My Favourite Nashville posts. Here is another:
My Favourite Nashville: Your Wild Life’s Gonna Get You Down (2×18)

ER’s Abby and Luka, part 2: Abby’s story through 10 episodes

Last December I wrote a short post, as part of a Christmas countdown, where I included the fabulous singing of nurse Haleh and Dr Morris in season 12 of ER. This threw me into an obsessive rewatch of all seasons featuring my favourite character, Abby Lockhart, and the equally exquisitely developed character of Luka Kovac. The result is two articles describing their separate journeys through 20 episodes in total, where the writers so eloquently capture the characters and where Maura Tierney and Goran Visnjic just act the hell out of every scene. This is the second article. The first one you find here

07abby-e1501970065904.jpgAbby was the character I fell in love with when first watching NBC’s ER. She was unlike any other women I had seen on TV and I could relate to her so much, her way of keeping her emotions within, her need to be alone, the use of dry humor as defence mechanism, the atheist and the women who had not spent a second of her life daydreaming of her future perfect wedding. And there is something else. I feel like Abby somehow represents the normal, everyday woman. The other actresses on the show – Julianna Margulies, Alex Kingston, Sherry Stringfield, Parminder Nagra och Linda Cardellini – are all so incredibly beautiful and so are their characters, Carol, Elizabeth, Susan, Neela and Sam. Maura is gorgeous for sure, but she is not über-beautiful like the others and that makes Abby even more such a relatable character, a normal woman less occupied with her appearance in general. I think that adds to her appeal, I know I love it.

The ER writing team really worked so cleverly and effectively with the themes, often mirrored in the titles, for each episode and how those themes usually included several of the characters and intertwined their private and the professional lives.

The best thing though is that we through the nine seasons of Abby get to see her grow, be challenged and finally overcome her fears one by one, with humor intact and with the effect that she can be in a relationship with Luka and succeed in her work. I love how Abby and Luka don’t save each other from their miseries, but they save themselves, with a little bit of help from the other here and there perhaps. It’s like Abby explains to Luka in season 14, “This is how we do it together. You have to help me do it alone”. Luka is otherwise the person who believed he could fix others and that for instance Sam could fix him by giving him a family.

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As can be seen in the article about Luka’s story, the ER writing team really worked so cleverly and effectively with the themes, often mirrored in the titles, for each episode and how those themes usually included several of the characters and intertwined their private and the professional lives. Perhaps it’s even more refined in the story of Abby, who were introduced at the ER half a season later than Luka. This is her story told with the help of 10 episodes.

Abby Road (Season 6, episode 12)

Written by: R. Scott Gemmill

Abby Lockhart first shows up in the 8th episode of season 6 as an OB nurse when Carol delivers her second twin daughter, but her regular journey starts a few episodes later when Abby as a medical student begins her rotation at the ER. It’s winter and just about everyone is sick with the flu, so it’s not strange that Carol thinks she is there to cover for the sick nurses. It takes a while for Abby to explain she was just working extra as a nurse, but she is here now as a third-year med student.

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We don’t learn that much about Abby in this episode (or in season 6), but she does have a very significant meeting that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of that story. Dr Luka Kovac shows up in the examination room where Abby and Carol are about to assess a patient. As soon as he realises Abby is a med student he lets her evaluate Carol’s suggestion for medication and he favours of her proposal for the next steps. From the first day they meet, Luka is fully supportive of her and shows that he trusts her ability and judgement. Abby immediately shows a bit of interest in Luka and asks Carol if he is single. He doesn’t talk much about himself, a somewhat protective Carol informs her. ”Oh, tall, dark, handsome and mysterious”, Abby replies about the man she will impulsively kiss and then casually ask out on a date six months later.

The Dance We Do (Season 7, episode 8) 

Written by: Jack Orman

It’s not until The Dance We Do that we really start getting to know Abby and we get to do it through the dance she for so many years has been waltzing around in with her bipolar mother Maggie. It’s the dance where the mother storms into her life from nowhere seeking love and forgiveness, causing anguish and chaos, before giving up and disappearing to who-knows-where again.

It’s been a few weeks now since Maggie showed up at the ER and in Abby’s life again. It becomes obvious what Abby has repeatedly been going through since she was a kid. The suspiciousness mixed with the worry about whether her mother is genuinely in a good mood or in a manic state? The eternal question whether she can trust her mother when she earnestly states that she has taken her medication. The mortification over her mother’s embarrassing behaviour, like now when she overtly is flirting with Luka, who is suturing her after her conflict with a glass window. Or the one when Abby has to apologise and downplay her behaviour (that glass window conflict) to the police and shop owner. The weight of always being the caretaker instead of the one taken cared of, as a child should be.

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The last things Abby feels when her mother finally leaves again is relief mixed with resignation, sorrow and guilt. But Abby doesn’t show her emotions to anyone, not the colleagues at work nor Luka, whom she flees to at night without having the ability to turn to or confide in him. Not until Luka is sound asleep will she lock herself into the bathroom and let the tears roll down her cheeks.

Fear of Commitment (Season 7, episode 20)

Written by: R. Scott Gemmill

Maggie is back and after a suicide attempt Abby gets her committed to a 90-days psych hold, but Maggie goes to court to get the decision revoked. Abby and Luka are closer than before and Abby tells him about Maggies efforts as soon as she hears about it. She does not want any support though, but Luka doesn’t care and follows her to the court house anyway. The judge sides with Maggie and Abby hopes she will have better success in killing herself the next time. ”I don’t want to be a burden to you, but I just can’t be committed” Maggie offers and adds, ”I don’t want to break any more promises to you”. And no, Abby doesn’t want to live through any more broken promises either.

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Later that day Abby is alone with her feelings in the bathroom again letting the water in the tub embrace also her head as if she wants to disappear. Luka’s voice makes her return to the surface and afterwards she hugs him, hard, and thanks him for being there. It’s like she, who usually doesn’t hug, is ready to embrace not only Luka physically, but also them as a couple, finally. But the moment only lasts for a few seconds. The doorbell buzzes and on the other side is Maggie, and with her the reminder of that loving someone hurts.

The Longer You Stay (Season 8, episode 2) 

Written by: Jack Orman

The longer you stay the bigger the risk you of getting hurt. Might as well break up before that happens is seemingly the thought back in Abby’s head this night out with Luka. It is tainted with her annoyance from the get go and when they at the end of the evening start fighting, it’s like nothing can stop them. Everything they have felt and thought but never talked about during the last year just gets spit out and it is not pretty. ”I don’t want help. I don’t want to be pitied. I don’t want to be saved”, Abby concludes.

What does she want? To be loved probably, but it’s difficult if you don’t think your worth it and it’s also scary. Love hurts and being together with someone probably gets you abandoned down the line, that she knows from Maggie and the dad that disappeared from her life a long time ago. It’s easier to be the one that stings first and she has already done that several times. This evening becomes the last straw for Luka, ”I’m done! I’m done, okay. Carter can have you.”

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Amidst the agony, Abby seems to find some kind of relief in being by herself in her bed again. When you are alone, no one can hurt you. The fear of being abandoned and the need for independence seem to be the different sides of the same coin.

Beyond Repair (Season 8, episode 11)

Written by: Jack Orman

Abby’s day starts with her loud, fighting neighbours waking her up. At work her first patient, a frostbitten homeless man, sets the tone when one of his fingers is just frozen beyond repair and falls off when Abby is examining him. It’s not just a bad day in general for Abby, its a day that manages to remind her of all her fears and failures.

Luka, who she actually managed to become friends with after the brutal breakup, doesn’t remember that it is her birthday, even if he has a patient stating the date out loud. He also tells her that he will be going away for a while on a mission for Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors without Boarders. Later Abby’s ex-husband Richard shows up to tell her that he is getting remarried and becoming a father and the knife in her heart is twisted again. The start of their downfall was her not telling him about being pregnant and having an abortion, when the thought of having a bipolar child was too scary. Richard does not remember her birthday either. As icing on the cake she catches Carter kissing Susan in the lounge – Carter, whose interest in Abby was the perfect reason, or excuse, to break up with Luka. Now all the men in her life is abandoning her for something new.

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The day also reminds her about her professional failure. The new med student Michael asks her about everything as if she was a doctor och even though she can answer him, She. Actually. Is. Not. A. Doctor! Cause she had to drop out of med school and then she just couldn’t get herself to enroll again. Nothing says more about Abby’s emotional state that day than the answer to the new receptionist Randi, who wants to read Abby’s horoscope:
”Abby! What’s your sign?”
”Out of order.”

And if the feeling is that you are beyond repair, then you might just as well say yes to that beer the neighbour offers when you get home that evening, even if you have been sober and attended AA-meeting since the divorce a few years ago. Right?

Dear Abby (Season 10, episode 3) 

Written by: R. Scott Gemmill

“Dear Abby”, Carter writes in the letter to Abby where he explains to her that he will stay in Africa and continue his mission with Doctors without Boarders. “Dear Abby” is what Abby seems to tell herself in this episode, in which she realises that maybe she is not entirely beyond repair after all. Her relationship with Carter may have keeled (which might be just as well even though it hurts like hell to be left) and perhaps Luka has decided to leave his feelings for her behind (just when she was about to retrieve hers), but with her professional life she has all the power to do what she wants.

Abby knows her job as a nurse in and out. She is very competent, but she is also very tired of it. She knows when there is a need for an attending physician and not a resident. She informs a younger doctor of what he needs to do in the trauma room and of course she turns out to be right. She answers the questions from the surgeon meant for the new residents. She knows exactly how to handle her young patient in the best compassionate way. Still she gets reprimanded by Susan, ”you’re not her doctor, you’re her nurse”, which means she cannot tell the patient how sick she is, since the parents have not given permission. Not even the schoolchildren visiting respects her, they all want to be doctors. ”I hate my job”, she concludes this day.

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Abby starts smiling though when finally she gets a chance to see Luka, who is back from Africa with malaria and a girlfriend. ”I didn’t know he was missing”, is her sarcastic answer when he explains to her that Carter found himself in Africa and in reverse, no one makes Luka smile like Abby. But he quickly becomes serious again. ”Africa changes people, I think maybe I have changed too”, he cautiously informs her. ”Change is good, right? I think I’m way overdue myself”, she replies with an honest attempt to sound convincing before girlfriend Gillian tenderly caresses Lukas forehead and they leave the hospital hallway together. Abby throws away the letter from Carter and decisively heads towards the room of her young patient to tell her what she needs to know, that she soon is going to die. The decision is made, Abby is going to become a doctor and it’s time to continue medical school.

If Not Now (Season 12, episode 11)

Written by: David Zabel

”It scares me, Luka.”
”Having it or choosing not to?”
”Yes.”

An unplanned pregnancy, just when Abby and Luka have decided to be together again, gets Abby for the first time to spell out loud the feeling that has steered her life so often – fear – and finally she is comfortable to talk to Luka about it. The bathroom door is open this time and Luka is invited inside.

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It’s the week after New Year’s Eve and the patients at the ER, a teenager that have had a dangerous accident and a young man who turns out to have unfortunate genes, reminds Abby of their long and many talks about the pregnancy during the holidays. Will she be able to love the child the right way? Is she really meant to be a mother? What if the child turns out not to be healthy? What if she leaves it in the supermarket when she goes shopping? Luka supports and reasons, but he has learned something too. No matter how much he wishes to become a father again, he knows this is something Abby must want and choose. ”It has to be your choice, I know that”, he quietly assures her, but it doesn’t stop her from wondering what will happen to them if she does have an abortion.

The obstetrician, Dr Coburn, assures her that whatever decision she makes it will be the right one, when Abby tearfully asks to make an appointment at her private clinic. But it’s never really about not wanting the baby, it’s about having the courage. ”I want us to have this baby”, she finally declares. If not now, with Luka, when would she ever have that courage?

I Don’t (Season 13, episode 21) 

Written by: David Zabel

”I don’t think I could have planned a better wedding!”, Abby admits during a dance after an ER dinner surprisingly turned out to be her own wedding.
”You don’t?” Luka beams.
”I don’t.”

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Abby’s first instinct, when realising what Luka has planned, is not surprisingly to flee. Not that they haven’t decided to get married, but because when push comes to shove it is still scary as hell. ”One foot after the other”, Luka asks of her after begging her to stay for just ten minutes so he can show her what he’s done. And putting one foot after the other is really what Luka has impelled her to do during the course of their relationship – giving her the courage to love, to have a baby, to move in together, to commit. What he didn’t get the first time they were together, that Abby can’t be pushed, he has learned by now and he knows how to grab har hand, keeping her from running the other way like she did back then.

When it’s time for vows, Abby again gets the confirmation from Luka that this is something he has actively chosen, not something he just let happen, like he has done before: ”I choose you as the person to love an honor.” Abby is annoyed of course for not having had the chance to prepare, but she knows what has to come first. ”First of all, I love you, I do”, knowing she has not been explicit about her feelings and that she needs to make sure he really knows. She continues by admitting to herself that it’s okay to get a little bit of help when you need it: ”You’ve helped me through a lot, and we got here together with a beautiful little boy.” And when dancing to Astrid Gilberto’s Fly Me To The Moon, she has finally let her guard down.

Blackout (Season 14, episode 7)

Written by: David Zabel

Luka has left for Croatia to take care of his ailing father and what was supposed to last for a couple of weeks has now turned into months. Abby hates feeling left alone, it brings out her fears and self-destructiveness. After a visit to the ER with little Joe, who had fallen and hurt himself, the bottle of wine, a get-well present for Neela who was staying with her, becomes irresistible and this time her drinking is not staying at a moderate level. No one is keeping an eye on her and the feeling of abandonment together with the stress of having the sole responsibility for Joe becomes too much for her.

After a few weeks it’s like she’s giving up with the sneaking around and almost embraces her failure. It becomes her self-fulfilling prophecy, she always knew she was going to screw up. Under the influence at work she is cheeky towards the new chief of the ER, Moretti, without caring about consequences. At the bar after work, when two colleagues are to be celebrated, she turns up visibly intoxicated. She is clingy, outspoken and by overcompensating she manages to put a damper on the party instead of the other way around. While Queen and Bowie’s Under Pressure is playing in the background, Abby starts flirting with Moretti by accusing him of flirting with her in between of being the tyrant that he is.

Abby s14e07
During that night there is a blackout in Chicago and Abby wakes up naked in an unknown bed. The fierce dread coming over her gets her to rush home, throw out the babysitter, drag Joe out of the bed and desperately getting to the airport to catch the next flight to Croatia. If only she will get to Luka, everything will be alright, but both the blackout and her hysterical demeanour stop them from getting anywhere. At the same time in the ER, the doctors save the life of a little baby that Abby despite of orders decided not to discharge. She may have fucked up completely, but her instincts as a doctor are still impeccable.

The Book of Abby (Season 15, episode 3)

Written by: David Zabel

The Book of Abby takes place during Abby’s last day at the County Hospital ER. She says goodbye to all her colleagues in different ways without actually telling them that this is what she is doing, just according to Abby’s book of rules. She still hates goodbyes. The episode offers so many scenes telling us about Abby’s journey through the years and I will focus on two.

Abby’s last day at the ER is also her first as an attending physician and we have had the pleasure of following her from being an insecure med student and discouraged nurse then through her way from student, intern, resident and now finally attending doctor. Already in season 7 the always supportive Luka encouraged her: ”You’re a good nurse, Abby, but you’re going to be a great doctor. You just need a little bit of confidence.”  (Which she very uncharacteristically responded to by giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. The first.) ”The only person still not sure about Abby is Abby”, was Susan’s conclusion when the med students were evaluated in season 10. But this is now long gone. When the new chief of the ER shows up and immediately questions Abby’s work, she is frank and confident: “I’ve been here for 10 years and I know when I know something.” Her way of joking has not changed, “I’m a skilled practitioner and an excellent teacher. It’s just getting too hard to deny”, but the self criticism has nicely turned into self confidence.

Abby s15e03
One of the long-lasting receptionists at the ER, the blunt ex-cop Frank, is forced by his wife to learn the tango before their 30-year anniversary. He has drawn footsteps on the floor, swirls around with his eyes on his feet and every time Abby passes by she reminds him to hold his head up. Finally, just before she is about to leave, she can’t keep herself from offering to help him practice and they are successfully dancing around in the entrance. Why didn’t we do this before, Frank cries out? ”I’ve been stumbling around here all day”, which is exactly what could be said about Abby, the pessimist that stared down at her feet and kept stumbling around only noticing her failures and problems. ”Keep your head up, Frank”, is her last words inside the ER, prior to the final goodbye at the ambulance bay from the colleagues now realising she is leaving, before Luka and Joe picks her up. ”Keep your head up, Abby”, is the phrase we hope she repeats to herself when she now is starting up her new life in Boston. Look forward and see the possibilities, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and you’ll see that everything will work out fine.

Epilogue

Abby shows up in a short scene in episode 20 of season 15, when she talks to Neela on the phone giving her life advice. She is in a good mood, it seems like she and Luka are happily settled in Boston. But Abby is still Abby and the dry humor is intact. With childrens’ noises becoming audible to Neela she explains: “Thursday is my day to do this childcare swap thing. I hate Thursdays”.

”I’m done! I’m done, okay”, are my own words now – although in a much more positive tone of voice than Luka – when my more than half-year-long obsession comes to, not an end, but to a much more sensible state after writing these two articles – this one on Abby and this one about Luka. It took a bit of time to choose the episodes for sure. Some were obvious choices of course, but there were also a few lingering on forever until I just had to make a final cut. There are just so many great and telling episodes in this show, which leaves us at a final question:

When is this fabulous show being picked up by a streaming service, so people are not dependent on reruns and DVD’s?

Note! Although slightly modified, a very similar version of this article was first published in Swedish at TVdags.se.

ER’s Abby and Luka, part 1: Luka’s story through 10 episodes

Last December I wrote a short post, as part of a Christmas countdown, where I included the fabulous singing of nurse Haleh and Dr Morris in season 12 of ER. This threw me into an obsessive rewatch of all seasons featuring my favourite character, Abby Lockhart, and the equally exquisitely developed character of Luka Kovac. The result is two articles describing their separate journeys through 20 episodes in total, where the writers so eloquently capture the characters and where Maura Tierney and Goran Visnjic just act the hell out of every scene. This is the first article. The second one you find here.

Dr-Luka-Kova-dr-luka-kovac-35769751-1200-1500I have always considered NBC’s ER one of my favourite shows after Dallas and Nashville, but I never did obsess over it and I hadn’t rewatched a single episode since the last one originally aired in 2009. It was Maura Tierneys character Abby Lockhart that fascinated me the most back then, partly because I could relate so much to her and because I had not seen a female character like her on tv before. She is an introverted, sarcastic, independent pessimist with a self-destructive tendency who at the same time knows exactly how to take care of her patients. Rewatching I realised how equally captivating her biggest supporter is, the character of Luka Kovac played by Goran Visnjic of course. This accomplished doctor with his death wish and desperate attempts to fill the void of the family that no longer exists, which he continuously lets himself be reminded of in the trauma rooms of the ER.

There is something special about how a long running tv show has the possibility to let their characters develop and grow during so many years and this is something the writers and producers of ER took full advantage of with Abby and Luka

There is something special about how a long running tv show has the possibility to let their characters develop and grow during so many years and this is something the writers of ER took full advantage of with Abby and Luka – two wounded souls that both together and separately fought to relate healthily to their pasts, overcome their fears and get their lives in order.

Executive producers and show runners, John Wells and later David Zabel, who together with Jack Orman, R.Scott Gemmill wrote many of their episodes, all knew their characters so well – how they would act and react – and had a clear compass for where the characters were going. They were also very subtle in their storytelling and not often letting Abby or Luka be explicit about their thoughts and feelings, very much in line with the introverted characters that they are. Tierney and Visnjic being such brilliant actors with perfect ability to convey an inner life without many words adds to the perfection of course.
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I love the love story of Abby and Luka, it’s the best love story I know, but it is their personal journeys that both make that relationship so fascinating and also possible in the end. This is why it makes sense to present their stories separately. Luka entered the ER in the premiere episode of season 6 and this is his story told through 10 episodes. Abby’s story will be told in part 2.

Leave It to Weaver (Season 6, episode 1)

Written by: Lydia Woodward

The first thing meeting Luka’s eye when he peacefully walks into the ambulance bay is a girl that seems to be left behind in an otherwise empty ambulance. He immediately approaches her, talks to her calmly to get her out and makes her feel safe in his arms as he walks into the chaos within the ER. There he presents himself to the girl: ”My name is Luka. It’s a funny name.”

ER Luka s6e01
Luka does what he thinks is right rather then what he is told to do. He defies Mark and Weaver, lets the girl see her seriously hurt mother and explains calmly what all the tubes and machines are for. The next patient is a curious little boy in need of stitches and after that Luka does not hesitate for a second, as the other doctors in the room, to first save a fully developed baby before continuing the attempts to save the life of the mother.

Kids, kids, kids and in addition to his little patients Luka is immediately drawn to the heavily pregnant nurse Carol. Confident and competent, empathetic and caring as well as very fond of children, that is how Luka Kovac is introduced.

A Walk in the Woods (Season 7, episode 14)

Written by: John Wells

Abby and Luka are lying next to each other, relaxed and content, and there is definitely  a physical intimacy between them, Luka’s hand never stops touching her. To talk to each other and open up for emotional intimacy seems more difficult for them, even if Abby this morning makes an honest effort. She wants to know what he is thinking about, states the fact that he looks at her when they make love and finally asks him about his dead wife, maybe with the notion that the distance between them has something do with him having something or someone else on his mind.

A bishop has repeatedly visited the ER and this time he is close to dying. While being treated by Luka he has sensed something unprocessed under Luka’s professionell surface and at the same time Luka seems to be drawn to the bishop. Luka now does everything to help him being able to perform a last act, as if saving the bishop will save himself. In church, with oxygen connected to his lungs, the bishop tells Luka about his decision to become a priest and how it came to him during a walk in the woods. It’s like he talks about Luka, who painfully seems to recognise the story:  I had no idea for how long I walked, but at a certain point I suddenly realised I didn’t know which way to go. I’d gotten lost. I was frightened. As I looked up at the dark that night, he came to me. The snowflakes. So still. So peaceful. Perfect.

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It’s snowing in Chicago and Luka takes a walk of his own also looking at the sky for answers. Abby shows up and he smiles when she approaches him. ”Ready to go home?”, she asks. ”Yeah.” Luka throws another look towards the snow flakes, as to get a confirmation that Abby is the answer, before he puts his arm around her, his head against hers and they walk away. Yes, he is ready to go home, he seems to decide, and continue life together with Abby.

The Crossing (Season 7, episode 15)

Written by: Jack Orman

During an emergency callout to the field after a brutal train accident in a crossing, where the scene looks much like a war zone, Luka does not surprisingly get visions from the war in Croatia (getting independence from Jugoslavia). Back at the hospital he can’t help but find the ward where the dying bishop lies. Luka is at a crossing too, where he can let his memories and history wear him down or leave them behind and look forward instead. The bishop urges Luka to make a confession and meets his baffled face: That’s what you are here for, right? Your heart is burdened, Luka. Talk to me! Let me take that burden with me.

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Slowly and matter-of-factly Luka tells the bishop what happened. That they stayed in Vukovar so he could finish his medical training even if it could be dangerous. That he went out to get supplies when his apartment was suddenly bombed behind him. The horror that met him when he ran back, the dead baby son under the crib and the dying daughter next to him. His wife that he could have saved had he carried her to a hospital, which he choose not to do in order to stay with his little girl instead. The confession of the gnawing guilt that finally once was spelled out loud.

Hindsight (Season 9, episode 10)

Written by: David Zabel

After a U-turn by Abby when she got together with Carter instead of back with Luka, he numbs the pain with alcohol and an endless number of casual hookups — nurses, patients’ mothers and whoever comes his way. He never makes much effort though, the women approaches him and he passively lets it happen.

Hindsight starts with the end in fierce Memento style, when Luka’s reckless driving makes him crash his Porsche into a building, with med student Harkins next to him in the passenger seat. They both seem fine and take care of the people in the other car involved before Harkins collapses att the scene and in critical condition is rushed to the ER.

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The morning before Luka is awakened with the worst of hangovers. When ordered to come to work due to lack of personnel, he performs what probably is his worst day at work ever. Abby is keeping her eyes on him all day, barking at him for not caring about his patients and getting very annoyed when he doesn’t trust her opinion as he always do. Luka is not too shy to put his blame on the nurses and at the end of the day a patient dies for absolutely the wrong reasons.

The evening before, at Susan’s Christmas party, Luka is drunk and regretful when reaching out to Abby in some futile attempt to get her back. Her stone-cold rejection makes him return to his bottle, give in to Harkins’ flirting and resign to what seems to be the only thing he’s good for.

The Lost (Season 10, episode 2)

Manus: John Wells & David Zabel

Luka has been lost for a long time, in one way since his family died, but more specifically since Abby and Carter became an item. Now he is assumed dead during his mission for Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors without Boarders and Carter, who left him with some unmovable patients when it got dangerous, is heading back to Congo to look for his missing body. In parallell with Carter’s search for him, we follow Luka’s last weeks in Congo. ”Don’t do anything stupid”, was Carter’s last words to him, but Luka looks happy and relaxed when the other have left. He knows that it’s dangerous and he doesn’t know if he is coming back to the US, but he takes care of his patients and that is the only important thing. Luka is not afraid to die.

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When the rebels come close he runs to the woods with a child in his arms and it’s like he gets to do what he could not do with his own family. When his malaria stops him he urges the others to continue without him. As in penance he won’t take any medication, everything should be used for the child, it’s his time to make a sacrifice now. Captured with tied hands, shaking from the fever, bruised and prepared to die, Luka says a prayer for the first time in a very long while, a prayer that actually saves him. Maybe he is not supposed to die after all.

When Carter finally finds him half dead there is no rivalry left between them, only the respect they have found for each other in Africa. It almost looks like love when Luka reaches for Carter and gives him a kiss on the cheek before he is loaded into the aircraft. Carter stays. ”Tell her I was lost, but now I’m found” he asks Luka to tell Abby, words that  are just as relevant for Luka himself in more than one way.

Touch and Go (Season 10, episode 11)

Written by: Marc Morocco

Luka talks to Weaver about leaving the ER to go back to Africa. This time he is in a good mood doing so, energetic and enthusiastic instead of depressed and self-destructive as he was the last time. Weaver promises to bring up his request tomorrow morning, but she is not without reservations: ”For the record. We need you here as much as they do there.” And that day shows Luka just how recognised and appreciated his work is these days, by patients and colleagues, and he ends up saving the arm on a little boy in a somewhat spectacular way, doing an innovative repair of an artery.

Alex, the son of new nurse and single parent Sam, quite often spends time in the ER and likes hanging with Luka. Sam is not pleased about her son acquiring such an inappropriate friend, but has to admit that it’s nice to get some help sometimes. Today Alex is at the ER again after being naughty at school trying to suture himself and Luka shows interest in him as usual. Sam is annoyed but later admits to Luka how hard it is to be sole responsible for him and as he lightly touches her arm, Luka ensures her that she’s doing a great job as his mother.

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The smile in Luka’s face when later he carries a sleeping Alex to the car, and the look he gives Carter and pregnant girlfriend Kem as they pass, are almost those of someone in love. As happy as Luka is for them, as hopeful he seems to be for himself with the dream of becoming a father again suddenly coming to life. Before going home he gets into Weaver’s office and snatches the leave request he put there earlier that day. Maybe he actually can be needed here in Chicago as much as he would be in Africa.

Man with No Name (Season 12, episode 3)

Written by: David Zabel

Luka wakes up in the morning on the couch with his clothes on, a burned out cigarette in the ash tray and one of Clint Eastwoods spaghetti westerns flickering on the TV. Sam and Alex has moved out. ”I can’t give you what you want. Alex already has a father and I don’t want anymore children”, she explained to him with frustration.

Outside work a severely burned man is desperately walking towards Luka and the ER. ”He just walked in here like that?” Abby asks him later. ”A high tolerance of pain, I guess”, Luka replies. Luka is not giving up easily either. Let’s think about this, he begs Sam, it all went so fast. He refuses to admit what Sam has realised for a while now, that their relationship is not working. ”We are pretending, Luka. I don’t want to pretend anymore.” Luka finally realises that it’s over, but refuses childishly to work with her in the trauma room, which hurts a young patient. ”It was the wrong thing for the wrong reason”, he later says about his behaviour during the day and at the same time, finally, admitting what was the problem with their relationship already from the start.

ER Luka s12e03Luka finds comfort in the bottle when Abby shows up at the bar and no one makes him smile like she does. The atmosphere turns serious when she tells him about her cancer patient – ”she was telling me how she’s at this point of her life, where she is worried that some of the things that she wants, she’s never gonna have” – without perhaps realising how well the words reflects Luka’s thoughts as well. He has been in the US for six years now and what has he achieved? He is still alone, without really being connected to anything and without the family he so desperately is longing for.

The episode ends as it began with a drunken Luka falling asleep on the couch, his cigarette, just like Luka himself, burning without being used and with the Man with No Name seemingly stuck on the screen.

I Do (Season 12, episode 9)

Written by: Lydia Woodward

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What a difference a few months can make. Abby and Luka may have gotten into an awkward conversation – after impulsively spending a night together – where neither dared to admit that they wanted each other, but their friendship is blooming. At the same time the thought of getting the eccentric Dr Clemente as new chief of the ER has made Luka apply for the job himself. So much more affirmative of life, Luka goes about the day that gets characterised by this:

  • his uncharacteristic but incredibly charming flirting with ”Dr Lockhart” and the long and thoughtful look he gives her when she leaves to get ready for Michael and Neela’s wedding
  • the pleasure of having been appointed new chief and getting to joke around about it with Abby at the wedding reception
  • the silly conversation followed by the telling silence in the car before he with zero hesitation answers her ”Would you like to…” with a passionate kiss
  • the steamy car that quickly gets replaced by the bed and Abby’s cautious, ”Do you really think we should be doing this?”
  • and last of all Luka again, being assertive in bed and looking Abby in the eyes before softly delivering his resolute answer: ”I do.”

Bloodline (Season 13, episode 1)

Written by: Joe Sachs & David Zabel

A shooting in the ER has Abby fainting, falling and a way too early delivery getting started. A little boy is born, but Abby’s uterus will not stop bleeding. When Luka wants to stay with her she screams at him in desperation. ”Stay with the baby! I want you to stay with the baby. I don’t want him to be alone”, confirming what he of course already knows, that he could not have done differently back then in Vukovar.

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It’s with a bit of cautiousness Luka watches the baby, hooked up and fighting in the incubator at the neonatal care unit, as if afraid to really relate. Back with Abby, after Weaver promised not to leave the baby alone, Luka shows a video and updates her about his stats. ”Will one be enough?” she asks him and it takes a few seconds for Luka to realise the meaning. The uterus could not be saved. ”One is all we need”, he ensures her before Abby slowly discloses the name she has chosen, ”I would like to call him Joe, if that is okay.”

The whole situation, including the fact that his father is called Josip, becomes too much for Luka. He quickly enters the nearest restroom and starts scrubbing his hands as to wash his feelings off. He fails miserably when the joy of becoming a father again, the sadness over Abby’s hysterectomy, the grief over the children who died mixed with the worry about the son who is born so early, all turn into cathartic tears that Luka just can’t stop.

The Chicago Way (Season 14, episode 19) 

Written by: David Zabel & Lisa Zwerling

When going through a crisis wanting change is normal, big things and small. Luka has stopped drinking coffee he informs Abby while dropping of Joe one morning. He has also started a new job at a hospice. Sorrow is what Luka effuses when Abby gives him a newspaper, like married couples are supposed to do on their one-year-anniversary. He mourns the relationship that sort of died with Abby’s drinking, deception and that fact that she put Joe in danger. This time Luka is not looking for comfort in casual hookups, drinking or seeking death for himself, but he does seem to find peace with those about to die.

Luka has always been patient and caring, the one that loves and encourages, but now he needs someone that cares about and encourages him. That someone becomes Walter at the hospice, who tells him about his life and his nephew. ”Kids give you strengths you didn’t know you had, make you fight harder”, which is exactly what Luka once told Abby, ”being a parent makes you stronger”. Walter seems to get him, he even jokes about him being depressed and Luka laughs for the first time in a long while. ”My nephew will pick me up. We’re going fishing. If I row us out, he will row us in”, Walter lets him know when it turns out he is not dying after all. You have to help each other. When one is weak, the other one has to be strong.

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With insight and conviction Luka finds Abby at the ER and takes her for walk. ”As long as we keep rowing, we are going to be okay”, becomes his version of Abbys marriage vows, ”let’s just try to love each other and persevere”. Life is always changing, there is no happily ever after, but if you persevere you will come through and right then and there, happy and relieved, Abby and Luka decide to leave Chicago together.

Comment

The producers found a great way to deal with the fact that Visnjic’s contract ended at the end of season 13 while Tierney’s lasted another season. Having Visnjic agree to seven episodes in season 14, where the season finale The Chicago Way was the last one, helped finish Abby and Luka’s story in a good way. Lukas absence is explained with him needing to go back to Croatia to tend to his ill father, which opened up for a great storyline for Abby. Tierney also appears in two episodes of season 15, where The Book of Abby is the last one, and where Visnjic also appears very briefly at the end. More about this in part 2 of this ER tribute, where I tell Abby’s story.

Note! Although slightly modified, a very similar version of this article was first published in Swedish at TVdags.se.