With Shaun on his road trip, of which more presently, there’s only room for one Patient of the Week in this emotionally-charged episode. Art Kalman, pro footballer, suffers a spinal fracture at the gym – coincidentally while Claire and Melendez are there – and in the immediate aftermath is paralysed. Art is taken to St Bonaventure for treatment, although to start with another surgeon – a specialist in sporting injuries, I think – makes a case to Art that he would be better performing the operation. Melendez convinces Art to stay where he is; he’s confident that he will be able to reverse the paralysis, and that Art will not only be able to walk again, but will be able to resume his career.
The surgery is successful, but here’s the thing: Art confesses to Claire that he hates football, and he was kind of hoping that the operation would be a failure – in fact, he picked Melendez and his colleagues to wield the scalpel precisely because he didn’t expect them to care so much about whether he’d be able to play again. But there are a lot of people who are financially dependent on him, including his mother, who worked all her life in minimum wage jobs: how can he explain to her that he’s giving up an incredibly lucrative career just because he doesn’t like it? Claire uses this as motivation to address her own mommy issues.
Shaun, meantime, is in Wyoming with Glassman and Lea – not Carly – to visit his dying father. To start with, he gets as far as his parents’ house, then has to leave. Glassman and Lea persuade him to return, which he does, essentially telling his father that he doesn’t care about his impending death. After an intervention by his mother – and a midnight swim with Lea, or at least by Lea – he goes back one more time, only to be verbally abused by his father, who dies a few hours later
The end result of all this – which would have been traumatic enough for a neurotypical person – is that Shaun has a meltdown in their motel, stilled only when Lea wraps her arms around him and holds him until he calms down. Perhaps significantly, he doesn’t seem to have as much of a problem with physical contact when it’s Lea, although of course that may be because he sees that as platonic rather than erotic. On the other hand, he was notably reluctant to call Carly earlier in the episode to tell her that he was going to see his father. Presumably this will all be picked up with the show returns after its winter hiatus. I was never convinced that Shaun and Lea as a couple was a good idea, so I suppose that makes me Team Carly, although that final scene, with a fully-clothed Shaun and Lea entwined on Shaun’s bed, perhaps changed my mind just a little.