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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.