ER’s Abby and Luka: Using all their strength in 300 Patients

300 Patients is a beautiful but sad Christmas episode where Abby with a push from the hospital chaplain finally finds the courage to ask for help.

”Sometimes using all your strength means asking for help” is the message of the story the chaplain, played by Reiko Aylesworth, tells Abby in the lounge at the ER. ”I thought maybe you needed to hear it” is her reply when Abby asks her why she told her the story. And she was right, Abby did need to hear that.

Remember way back in season 8 when Abby and Luka broke up. “I don’t want help, I don’t want to be pitied. I don’t want to be saved” she told Luka. Her childhood, abandoned by her father and coping with a “crazy” mother, made her feel inferior and people trying to help her made her feel patronised. She had no-one to rely on as a kid and had been used to take of herself, so she wanted to be independent. And now she is also utterly ashamed.

Screenshot toralil, 300 PatientsThe Christmas episode of season 14, 300 Patients, is a truly heartbreaking one, although not tragic as such. The scene at home that starts with Luka playing with Joe, preparing him for the impending flight to Croatia, and Abby coming to sit behind them before the finally gets the courage to take the chaplain’s advice. This is probably one of my favourite Luby moments ever.

Abby is terrified of admitting the truth – the drinking, the cheating and the putting Joe in danger – afraid of what will happen if she does. Luka’s pain is somewhat the same, knowing something wrong, but also afraid of finding out and what that will do to them, confronting her without daring to ask the questions out loud. Abby’s kissing him on the neck before finally saying those words: ”I need help.” Luka freezing, but then never taking his eyes away from her. Two people so evidently in fear and in pain.

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Their continuous scene is four minutes long, which seems really unusual for a such a scene, just two persons talking quietly. It’s a heartbreaking one. The confession, the sadness, the wish to get more information than there is a strength to offer. There is no fighting or arguing. The blame is put only on themselves, never on each other.

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“This is how we do it together, you have to help me do it alone”, is Abby’s final solution for them to move on. The guilt ridden Abby knows this is on her to fix. He will take Joe to the funeral in Croatia. She will go to a rehab facility. The heartbroken, but ever supportive Luka, finds his strength to – reluctantly – agree. It’s not a happy Christmas for the two of them, but finally they are on some kind of path forward, without quite knowing yet where it will lead.

300 Patients, also the 300th episode of ER, is written by Joe Sachs and David Zabel and directed by John Wells.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more about  ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes


ER’s Luka and Carter: The journeys, the brutality and the beauty of Kisangani and The Lost

In Kisangani and The Lost we get a brutal story about war and its victims, a glimpse of the fantastic work of Doctors Without Borders as well as the seeing Carter and Kovac find new purpose and meaning in life.

Nine years into ER it shows with grandiosity how it is still an amazing show. In two episodes, the last of season 9, Kisangani, and the second of season 10, The Lost, the screenwriters John Wells and David Zabel together with the director Christopher Chulack do not only tell an incredibly captivating and brutal story about war and its victims but also about Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières and their fantastic work. They also manage to magically weave in the inner journeys of two doctors, which both come to an end somewhere on the road in Congo. John Carter goes to Kisangani to find a greater purpose in life. Luka Kovac goes there to find any purpose at all, or maybe he goes there to die.

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Luka spent season 9 being depressed. It was triggered by Abby choosing Carter instead of coming back to him. The reason itself was more likely the pain over the family that died and the guilt of being alive himself. You could also sense a death wish when Luka after having caused the death of a patient drove his Porsche into a building. After using a prostitute as therapist and getting an ultimatum from Weaver he tries to shape up before he decides to once again join Doctors Without Borders.

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Carter comes from a very wealthy family and working as an ER doctor at the county hospital for little money seemed like a way for him to do good and give back in a way that his parents did not. When he realises that Abby is not the woman for him at the same time as his beloved grandmother dies he is distraught and when Luka asks him to come to Kisangani he knows he wants to go.

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It’s a somewhat shocked and astounded Carter that realises the situation at the primitive hospital he has arrived to and gets a lesson in what symptoms means what diseases and what medicines are available. Both we and Carter get brutally aware of the everyday life where pneumonia and malaria are the milder ailments, polio, aids and not to forget the shooting and machete injuries, the worse.

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While Carter sees the bad things, there is not enough or the right medicines to help, Luka sees the good: “We vaccinated 200 kids today. We saved their lives.” At the very basic clinic in Matenda Carter starts to feel at ease. Luka laughs and seems really happy in the midst of everything. He seems to be at home. When the war comes close he refuses to go back to Kisangani, he won’t leave his patients. He seems utterly calm and in harmony as he tends to his patients after Carter and the others have left. He is not afraid of the danger because Luka is not afraid to die.

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When the rebels come back 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. 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. Luka is believed to be dead though and Carter comes back to Congo to find his body. Back in Africa and looking for his colleague he realises that he should stay. He has found his calling at the same time as Luka found his will to live.

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What is so beautiful with this story also is how Carter and Luka find the respect for each other. While they both were pining for Abby they pretended it wasn’t there, but the fact that Luka asked Carter to come shows that of course there was some respect there already. In Congo it didn’t just grow unlimited. No, it almost feels like love when Luka reaches for Carter to give him a kiss on the cheek and thanks him for saving him. Maybe if you have stood on your knees next to each other, with guns pointed at your heads, there are no other feelings left to have for each other, even if you once fought over the same woman.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more about  ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes

ER’s Abby and Luka: How the ending perfectly fit their stories

The stories of Abby and Luka get the endings that perfectly reflects the journeys they have travelled through their nine years in the County General’s ER.

I love how the writers, led by David Zabel, focus on different things in Abby and Luka’s last (main) episodes respectively and emphasize their separate personal journeys as well as their common one.

The Chicago Way (14×19)

Luka’s last episode is really The Chicago Way, where he mourns, contemplates and takes to heart that nothing stays the same and there is no magical happily ever after. When one is weak the other one has to be strong and if they just keep rowing the boat, they will be okey.

He loves Abby, he wants their family and he knows finally how to let go of the pain. The show ends for him having what he longed for from the beginning – a family again, not just with anyone though, but with someone he truly loves.

Screenshot toralil, Abby and Luka kissing in The Chicago Way

The Book of Abby (15×03)

Abby’s last episode, The Book of Abby, gives a testament to her personal and professional growth over the years. She is now very confident in her role as a doctor. Her self criticism has turned into self confidence, she is even prepared to joke about it and show it off.

The episode also emphasises on ”keeping your head up” telling Abby to stop stumbling around, looking down at her problems and failures, but instead to look forward and see the possibilities as she and Luka moves to Boston. She has learned to let go of her fears and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but something that requires strength.

Screenshot by Tora, The Book of Abby

It’s hard to imagine a better ending for these two. Their respective journeys have taken them to where they are now and made a loving and successful relationship possible. The ER writing team knew them so well, had a clear vision of where they were heading and understood how to give them a perfectly fitting ending. Not all long running shows manage to do that for their main characters.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more about ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes

ER’s Abby and Luka: Opening up about fears in If Not Now

This episode, the 11th in season 12, If Not Now, is one of my favourite ER episodes, so exquisitely written, acted and directed.

We follow Abby with all her fears and insecurities during one day in January, looking back at her and Luka’s endless conversations during the holidays about her surprise pregnancy, until she finally making a decision. It shows us Luka so carefully navigating through those talks being honest without being pushy, being supportive yet encouraging and being loving without inflicting guilt.

The Fear

A: It scares me, Luka.
L: Having it or choosing not to?
A: Yeah.

Screenshot by toralil, If Not Now

The Sweet

A: What if I go shopping and leave it in the supermarket?
L: Don’t worry! I’ll do all the shopping.

Screenshot by toralil, If Not Now

The Sting

A: What are you looking for? Someone to have a baby with?

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The Knowing

L: It has to be your choice. I know that!

Screenshot by toralil, If Not Now

The Truth

L: When I say I want us to keep it, you don’t like the way it sounds. But anything else is a lie.

Screenshot by toralil, If Not Now

The Choice

A: I want to keep it. I want us to have this baby.

Screenshot by toralil, If Not Now

This episode is written by David Zabel and directed by John E Gallagher III.

Note! All photos are screenshots from DVD. Material owned by Warner Bros Entertainment Ltd.

For more about ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes

ER’s Abby and Luka: How it’s not about not wanting in All About Christmas Eve

All About Christmas Eve is all about Abby’s pregnancy and it gives us hints at how her fears about having children was not about wanting it.

It’s not even December yet, but I can’t help but start writing about the Luby Christmas episodes. This one was all about Abby’s pregnancy of course and how it seem to me Abby had only great thoughts about it at first, maybe imagining herself telling him or even imagining them with the baby and liking that picture.

Screenshot toralil, All About Christmas Eve
In the lockup she thinks about telling him when he is teasing her about what he’s giving her. But it’s not the right time, he is distracted by patients. Still she blurts out ”you’re gonna love what I got you”, meaning the pregnancy for sure, knowing he will be happy about it.

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At the Christmas party in the evening she bought him the snow globe, just like one he once gave her, presenting it as ”part of your present”, obviously still thinking about the baby as a present.

It’s not until she actually has to say it out loud that all her fears and insecurities pours out of her. She is afraid she will ”do something to ruin it”, the great time they have had together the last few weeks being back together. Ruin it like she did with Richard when they were married.
Screenshot toralil, All About Christmas Eve

Not telling Luka like as she did not tell Richard would definitely ruin it. Telling and then not keeping it would ruin it too probably. But keeping it could also ruin things, at least that is what Abby thinks as she has little faith in her motherhood capabilities.

All of next episode is about her fears of becoming a mother, the fear of providing for a baby as poorly as her own mother did for her or having a baby with the same problems and condition as her mother and brother.

Screenshot toralil, All About Christmas Eve
So looking back at All About Christmas Eve, all points to the fact that it was never about not wanting the baby, Abby was happy about the pregnancy. It was all about having the courage to keep it.

All About Christmas Eve is written by Janine Sherman Barrois and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter.

For more about ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes

ER’s Abby and Luka: Two pieces of a puzzle finally in the right place

In Sea Change Abby comes home from work the day before her and Luka’s planned honeymoon. The scene is one of my favourites because of how utterly comfortable they are with each other finally. It wasn’t always so.

I could perhaps write an essay on the journey of Abby and Luka’s physical intimacy, but I’ll keep it shorter. This scene where Abby comes home and stops for a moment to look at Luka and baby Joe before she says hi, climbs into the sofa and embraces him from behind, is lika a sweet end to a long story.

Comparing this interaction to season 7 when it sometimes was like they had magnets repelling each other, making it difficult for them to really connect. In The Crossing when Abby brushes off the snow from Luka’s arms, I get the feeling that she uses that as an excuse to touch him, like she needs an excuse to do that. In the next episode, Witch Hunt, Luka only allows his forehead to touch her, wanting so much to comfort and show her affection, but not daring anything more intimate than that, afraid she will reject it.

Abby and Luka intimacy
Of course everything changes when they get back together in season 12. Still in this scene from Sea Change, in season 13, just after they’ve gotten married, it’s like the magnets are finally correctly attracting each other until there is absolutely no space between them. It’s like Abby is attaching herself to Luka there in the sofa, they are a perfect fit, like two pieces of a puzzle supposed to be together and finally in the right place. So relaxed together, so comfortable with each other and finally nothing between them. I love that moment!

Then of course there is a phone call and the sea change is about to happen, but that is another story.

The episode is directed by Laura Innes, who has directed several other significant Luby episodes (e.g. The Human Shield). She gets them.

For more about ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and ER: Favourite episodes

ER’s Luka Kovac: Evidence of the carefully constructed and complex character he is

Luka’s 9-year long story on #ER is one of the most touching I’ve seen on TV and it’s an unusual one as well, I think, especially for being about a man and the fact that his characters is so very carefully constructed.

Just as Abby is freed from any stereotype female traits, Luka too is not your average guy, but one inhabiting traits both associated with men (the protector and provider) and women (passive, patient, compassionate and caregiving). Most of all he is just a very carefully constructed, complex man driven by his quest to fill the void after the family he lost.

Here are 8 things characterising him:

1. He is caring, compassionate and fond of children, which together with his longing attracts him to women with kids.

2. He is very competent but not competitive. He is encouraging, supportive and always confident in others’ (Abby’s) capabilities.

3. His survivor’s guilt and longing for a family throws him into a depression triggered by Abby choosing Carter over him. It starts with some kind of sex addiction to numb the pain and ends with a death wish fortunately not being accommodated nor when he crashes his Porsche into a building nor when going to Africa and getting captured by militia.

4. He does have a violent streak, seen when it comes to protecting women as illustrated both with the man that tried to rob him and Abby and the neighbour beating up Abby. After surviving Africa though, we never see the survivor’s guilt, the death wish or the violence again.

5. He is passive in his ways and usually lets things happen to him, especially when it comes to women. He is never flirty or makes passes. Abby, Nicole, Gillian, Sam and all the women he had encounters with during his slutty phase, he was never the initiator (Carol is the exception.) Not until he decides to show Abby what he feels and wants, does he make the first move, kissing her at the end of The Human Shield (probably the best of all ER scenes)

6. When it comes to relationships Luka gets beguiled by his visions of an idyllic future and doesn’t really get why they don’t turn into reality (Carol, Sam). Abby was the exception who with her pessimism never projected any kind of happy future for him to fall in love with, he just loved her.

7. He learns to be patient when getting back together with Abby. He knows she can’t be pushed and patiently waits for her to get ready to ”define” their relationship (Abby’s word), moving in together and finally getting married.

8. He never understands (Abby’s) jokes!

No one could portray Luka the way Goran Visnjic does, having the capability to express so much emotion and states of mind without usually many words to go with it. All the credit to him and the writing team for creating such a unique, deep and interesting male character.

Read more about Luka here:
ER’s Abby and Luka, part 1: Luka’s story through 10 episodes

For more about ER, check out: ER’s Abby and Luka and More ER greatness