Code Black: S01E15 “Diagnosis of Exclusion”


Talk about dropping the mic. This latest episode of Code Black was game-changing and definitely warrants the series picking up a second season. So CBS, make it happen! 

Last week, we were left with Christa (Bonnie Somerville) finding an attacked Gina (Christina Vidal), bloodied on the locker room floor (crazy, stalker patient Gordon {Jesse Bradford} was obviously to blame, right?). This week opened with a board room style set up where scenes cycled through each doctor giving their account of what transpired the day Gina was attacked. Fantastic job on the suspense in the way of writing and editing as no hints as to the eventual outcome were dropped until at least 10 minutes into the episode. Did Gina make it? What happened to Malaya (Melanie Chandra)? Why did this feel like an interrogation? Through flashbacks all those questions were answered. 

Cut to “Center Stage”, where Christa, Mario (Ben Hollingsworth) and Mike (Tommy Dewey) begin working on Gina who we discover has been stabbed 8 times, has lost nearly 2L of blood and is barely hanging on. Mario and Christa are frantic, Mike however smoothly sets his blinders and becomes cool under pressure (I’m definitely warming up to this guy!). Cut intermittently are recounts of the event and we learn Mike has come under scrutiny for his treatment approach; his decisions are being questioned and “Daddy” Dr. Rorish (who is seated at the table) fires up, steps in to defend her lion cub and then it hits… Subtlety mentioned in a passing conversation (so quick that I nearly missed it) is the acknowledgement that Dr. Gina Perello did not make it. Cue the tears.

As the investigation continues, Mike mentions hearing screams – and through another perfectly placed flashback we learn these screams came from Malaya. She’s been attacked (quite brutally) and is now present in “Center Stage”. As Neal (Raza Jaffrey) and Jesse (Luiz Guzman) “Mama” begin to treat Malaya the camaraderie between these doctors is evident – Christa loses her focus on Gina, Mario looks like a deer in headlights while Malaya is writhing in pain, “It was Gordon, Gordon did this!”

At this point, I want to add how visceral and traumatic the episode was. The acting went above and beyond enemy lines with no one player giving anything less than everything. You know when performers are invested and the ensemble of Code Black definitely are. Shortly after Malaya is delivered to Center Stage, Gordon arrives, being treated by Angus (Harry Ford). He’s dying. Melanie Chandra has been a stand out these last few weeks, but this week, she was soul-crushing (in the best way). Demanding she be removed from Center Stage, not wanting to be near the man who attacked her, will go down as one of the more memorable television scenes I’ve seen to date. In almost the same breath, Dr. Campbell (head of surgery and the guy Heather has been sleeping with) arrives (he is a bit of an ass) to assess Gina’ status. What ensues can only be described as a dual of pretty, arrogant men. They argue, and exchange narky, little jabs at one another with the conclusion of the scene being one of the most heartbreaking of the episode. Gina doesn’t make it. No one wants to call it. She’s family. How does one even make that call? 

As we move away from the outrageous scenes of Center Stage we discover that Gordon had been lurking the halls of Angels for over 2 months, undetected. On 17 different occasions he was treated, all under different names. Can anyone say creepy? As the investigation continues we learn that Malaya bought herself in; she called security and was determined enough to make it to the ER herself (Luiz Guzman is perfection as Jesse). Through flashbacks and Malaya’s testimony, it is uncovered that Angus (who would have thought?) was the one to rescue her. Laying on a solid tackle, Angus subdued Gordon and told Malaya to run. However, in the altercation the knife Gordon had been wielding was now firmly in his neck – could this be anymore complicated? Could these doctors face anymore moral dilemmas? 

Key plot points that should be highlighted include Christa and  Neal becoming official (by HR standards), Mario being all school-boy jealous over Heather, Dr. Rorish staying on as ER Director and the BIG REVEAL in the closing moments that Angus did NOT in fact try and save Gordon. He willingly, and quite rightly so withheld treatment after Gordon explicitly said he was going to kill Malaya. Could this be the beginning of a downward spiral? Even more so now that Gordon is dead? Either way, Harry Ford is doing some nuanced stuff right now, I’d be there to see that downward spiral. Oh Code Black, you’ve definitely stepped it up.  

And while recapping the beats in this episode are important, the feeling of shock and devastation elicited by this ensemble is more so. Bonnie Somerville does broken in a way that would make anyone’s heart shatter. Harry Ford displays Angus’ constant dilemma of wanting to be the hero but sometimes not feeling like enough. Ben Hollingsworth is spot on when balancing the selfish prick with love-sick puppy. And Melanie Chandra, continues to hit it out of the park with gut-wrenching portrayals of pain, anguish and utter fear in the face of life’s most terrifying challenges. Oh and Marcia Gay Harden and Luiz Guzman are fearless leaders, funny and light when required but protective and undeniably devoted to this family. In a time where TV is pushing the boundaries and making waves, Code Black, although with a simple premise, continues to deliver stories and moments we won’t soon forget. It offers a cast, whose commitment to work and passion to tell honest stories, bounces off our screens.