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Monday, April 9, 2012

'Nurse Jackie' is the proverbial pot

Showtime's Nurse Jackie returns with "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black," and the proverbial poop has hit the fan. Jackie (Edie Falco) acts erratically and admits to Eddie (Paul Schulze) that she may have been sleeping with him for his drugs. Then she picks up an addict (Greenday's Billie Joe Armstrong) at a church and takes him home. When the guy dies before Jackie can sleep with him, she finally realizes that she needs help. Lucky for her, Dr. O'Hara (Eve Best), a true friend, is there to help clean up the mess and get Jackie into rehab.

Jackie's drug problems have been a major arc on the series since episode one. It's not surprising that it's taken until season four to get her treatment, given her honed ability to hide her problem. But as bits of her life leak out and fall apart over the past three years, there is an expectation that this arc will come to a head. It does in "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black."

It is unlikely that Nurse Jackie will cover much, if any, of Jackie's time in rehab. That's OK, because the charming humor, a vital element to the greatness of the show, is mostly back at the hospital. How will things be different for Jackie when she returns to work? How many people, besides Eddie, O'Hara, and Akalitus (Anna Deavere Smith) will know the truth about where Jackie has been? Will she be treated with kid gloves by her co-workers? Will she be as effective at her job without her "helpers?" So many possibilities, and no telling which direction the writers will take things.

Jackie seems to make a second important decision in "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black," and that's that Kevin (Dominic Fumusa) is the man for her. She doesn't try to get with her separated hubbie, realizing that she is not healthy enough to do so. But by shooting down Eddie in such a cruel manner, one assumes that she is leaving herself open to reconciliation. It's hard to believe that, no matter how many dishonest things she has done, Jackie would stoop to sleeping with Eddie so many times just to get something from him. More than likely, she says that so he will move on and she has a better shot at putting her family back together. And the addict she brings home is a stupid mistake during a low time for her, rather than someone she is truly interested in.

Another important occurrence in "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black" is that the hospital is sold. Dr. Mike Cruz (Bobby Cannavale, Will & Grace, Win Win) is the guy on the ground representing the new owners. He seems nice enough. He is not heartless, but he is there to make things more profitable, and surely that could cause conflict. Really, it's a smart, realistic way to shake things up, and Cruz is the right type of layered persona to use in this situation.

One of the first things that Cruz does is to tell Akalitus that her job is redundant, and she can either go back to being a floor nurse, or take an early retirement at half pension. As a numbers person with no shortage of determination and resourcefulness, that is no choice for Akalitus, who stays. At least Cruz lets her keep her authority over the other nurses.

It will be thrilling to see Akaltius in scrubs, if only because it will give her more interaction with the rest of the cast. There may also be a sense of relief for Akalitus that she no longer has to work tirelessly to keep the hospital afloat financially. Smith plays the part beautifully, but sometimes her character gets a little too shut away from the others. This should give her even more opportunity to shine.

What a fantastic return for Nurse Jackie! Nurse Jackie airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Please click here to buy DVDs and streaming episodes of Nurse Jackie. Article first published as TV Review: Nurse Jackie - "Kettle-Kettle-Black-Black" on Blogcritics.

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