The Next Episode
Lights, Camera, Action!
By Nancy Kiu, Director of Medical Research
As promised, this season will be different than our usual format. We've had a group-centric different POV episode; an interpretation of The Big Chill; a grief-centric Violet episode; a James episode that depicted a night in the ER; and now, our Sam episode!
Fun Fact – Sam doing a reality show is an idea we loved that had been pitched for the past two seasons, but we just didn't have an organic way into the story – until now. Since we're doing a season of outside-the-box ideas and focusing on individual characters, we're finally able to use this device in a way that wouldn't ring completely false, with a story that we had long talked about, but never fully delved into – Sam's back story and his family.
After six seasons, what do we really know about Sam? We know that he's a good, responsible guy, the kind who always does the right thing. He's worked hard, won a scholarship to pay for college, and became a world-class surgeon. He's a loving family man who took care of his mother and stepped up to become the man of the house when his father left, he was there for his bipolar sister, and he's the type of guy who wants to do a reality show not for the fame, but so that he can get helpful and accurate medical information out to the public. Sam is the man who takes on the weight of the world, but what happens when that world starts to crumble down around him? We got a glimpse of this weight last season, when he realized Corinne was alive and he put aside almost everything in his own life to take care of her. How would he react when his mother comes to town and a bombshell like this is dropped on him?
This news couldn't come at a worse time, because Sam's agreed to film a presentation tape for a reality show. Some production companies will finance a small crew to go and film enough footage to put together a small edited demo reel that they can present to studios and networks, to give them an idea of what a potential show could be like. While Sam isn't entirely sure he wants to do this, he agrees to film this pilot, in the hopes that the medicine can be the focal point. But the camera can shine a spotlight on who everyone really is - not who they think they are, not who they present to the world, and not who others see them as, but the unfiltered, private side to all our characters. And it exposes everyone to realities they may not be ready for and forces them to examine who they really are.
Sam agrees to treat his mom's boss, Raymond, whose shop Sam practically grew up in and who, along with his wife Jillian, watched Sam and Corinne grow up. The ties are deep, and Sam has great affection for Jillian and Raymond, but when he discovers his mother is having an affair with Raymond, he struggles to contain his anger. But, Sam being the guy who does the right thing at the expense of his own feelings, suffers through an awkward and tense barbecue with Raymond, Dee, and Jillian. That is, until Raymond collapses and it's revealed that his condition has gotten worse and he'll now need a lung transplant.
Raymond can be put on the transplant list, but because of his age and the severity of his condition, he may not last long enough to make it to the top of the list. What he can do is a living related donor transplant, which is a technique perfect for patients like Raymond who don't have enough time to wait on the transplant list. Plus, getting the transplant from a relative can increase the likelihood of a match. The human lung is divided into five lobes – three in the right lung and two in the left. Some patients need to have their whole lung removed and replaced, but other patients just need to have the diseased lobes removed. Donors who match would then be selected for a right or left lower lobectomy, which means that surgeons would go in and remove a lower lobe from the donor patient's chest, and place that lobe into the sick patient after their diseased lobe or lung was removed.
Raymond needs a match, and since Jillian and Raymond don't have any children, Jillian drops the bombshell that Raymond DOES have a child: Sam. This information understandably shakes Sam to the core, and makes him really question what defines him. Is it where you came from? How you grew up? Or the choices that you make? Sam's now faced with a tough choice: does he let this man, who carried on an affair with his mother for years and was never the father that he and Corinne needed, literally have a part of himself in order to save his life? Does he owe Raymond that?
Ultimately, Sam is and always will be a good, responsible man, made that way because of his mother, who "raised a father, a grandfather, a doctor, a real man." Sam doesn't owe Raymond anything. But he will give up part of himself if Raymond wants it, because that's who Sam is. Our choices define us, and though Raymond didn't choose to be with this family, that doesn't diminish his love or pride for them. For Dee and Jillian, agreeing to this complicated situation – their choices may make them fools, but they're not victims. And for Sam, he may not have wished this life for his mother or himself, but that doesn't mean he still won't try to save Raymond's life.
Sam is by nature a very private person, but by allowing his life to be filmed, he's also allowed a producer into his life who is trained to ask the hard questions that make him face things about both his family and himself that he might otherwise not. Sam's identity has always been his kids, his grandkids, his mother, Corinne, and his friends. It's been enough up until now. But what's next? He might not know what he's looking for, but it's finally time for Sam Bennett to make the choice to find himself.