It’s not surprising, given my love for dark dramedies, that my second favorite show right now is The Comeback. For whatever reason, be it the fates, an alignment of the stars, or a smart VP of programming, tonight’s episodes of both shows reached unprecedented levels of discomfort, humor and light.
The fifth episode of Getting On is entitled “The Revolving Door Admit,” which is sort of funny in itself because one of the episodes’ reoccurring gags involved a set of broken hospital doors.
The episode begins with DiDi’s half sister Sherrie (Lateefah Holder)—a temp nurse who’s seeking a full time job. Sherrie’s childhood name is Princess and despite the fact that she obviously hates the name, both Patsy and DiDi call her that. The trio—Dawn, DiDi and Sherrie—whisper about the presence of a strange woman. They’re also wondering where Dr. James is, and right before they go to page her, the woman turns around and reveals herself to be the good doctor. She’s nearly unrecognizable. “I decided it was time for a new look,” she says, showing off her animal print mini skirt and ringlets that vaguely resemble the hairstyle of a victorian child. The nurses are speechless.
Dr. James tells Dawn to release Varla (June Squibb), despite her ongoing mental health issues. Dr. James is, as always, on the lookout for fresh hospice beds, and despite Dawn’s protests, James is insistent that Varla must go. There’s also tension between DiDi and Sherrie almost from the beginning. While administering a blood test to a patient, DiDi stands over Sherrie’s shoulder, causing her to lash out.
Up on the sixth floor, James reviews her mice order over the phone. She’s got several dozen—each one a specific kind of mouse. Her review is interrupted when DiDi enters and complains that the hospice beds are all full, and the ward is swamped. Dr. James is thrilled. Full beds means more funding for Jame’s research. Before DiDi can press the issue, James notices a camera following nurse Patsy around. DiDi informs James that Patsy has won an award for excellence. After DiDi leaves, James realizes that almost all of her mice have escaped.
Later that day Jame’s new look illicts special attention from Dr. Paul Stickley, and also Dr. Ann Killigrew. Its not entirely clear what Stickley thinks of Jame’s Cosette esque curls, but Killigrew’s reaction is very clear: she’s attracted. Stickley tells James that he wants her to put her research on pause.
Back in the ward DiDi, Sherrie and Dawn struggle to discharge Varla. Varla is bipolar, and doesn’t have anyone to take care of her. Even more alarming, Varla is an aggressive nymphomaniac. Though the trio finally calm Varla, Dawn makes a point to do extra preparation for her discharge.
When the group breaks for lunch there’s a sort of celebratory potluck in Patsy’s honor. DiDi tells embarrassing stories about Sherri, and Patsy rubs his award in everyone’s face. It’s tense. James starts talking about how not everyone should be parents—she cites DiDi’s older sister, and Sherrie wholeheartedly agrees. She then turns to Dawn and insinuates that her false pregnancy may have been a good thing. “It’s not like raising cats,” James says.
So, DiDi warns Sherrie about cozying up to Dawn—“She’s got issues.” But Sherrie reveals that she wants a full time job at the hospital, and she thinks Dawn is the one who might make it happen.
Meanwhile, Patsy confronts Dawn about the way she’s going about discharging Varla. Dawn counters that Varla has been to the hospital three times in the last few months; she’s not comfortable discharging a woman she knows will be back. Patsy accuses her of having an attitude and instructs her, quite specifically, to discharge the patient immediately.
Though there are a few more plot turns, and a pretty hilarious bit involving a naked June Squibb, the thing that was most special and most authentic in this episode was the relationship between DiDi and Sherrie. I come from a family comprised of half-siblings and step-siblings, and there can be a real sense of resentment between kids who, despite sharing a parent, were raised differently. Sherrie was not a villain and DiDi was not a saint. It would have been easy to reduce these archetypes to “good” and “bad” characters, but creators Olsen and Scheffer are much more aware of the many shades of gray in situations like these.
Both Nash and Holder gave incredibly human performances. Borstein, too, popped for the way that she pivoted from emotion to emotion in this episode.
This is, to my understanding, the second to last episode of the season and I can only say that, while I’m excited to see what’s in store for Dr. James and her team, I’m also sad that the end came so quickly.
Leland Montgomery is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and contributor to Paste.