Chicago Med 2×18 Review: ‘Lesson Learned’

It never fails that Chicago Med manages to emotionally destroy audiences week after week. In the best way possible. There are tears of joy, tears of anger, and tears of grief that never let up. There are moments that leave your heart racing and moments where you could swear someone was pounding your heart with a hammer. I’m amazed that I still have a working heart at this point after all of the emotional trauma this show has brought about.

Chicago Med delivered yet another emotionally powerful episode in “Lesson Learned,” that also served to teach us all a hard lesson about life. About how it’s not what you want, but what that person wants. No matter how much you want to save someone, sometimes you just can’t. Sometimes you just have to give up control. And sometimes, you just need to hold onto someone for dear life because you can’t stand without some support from a loved one.

There was so much happening in “Lesson Learned,” which included Reese struggling to move forward, Rhodes struggling to give up control, and Halstead struggling to say goodbye. Chicago Med, while a procedural, is perhaps the most character-driven of the four One Chicago shows as there are ample opportunities to explore these characters and their stories – sometimes up to four at a time without skipping a beat, as evidenced by this episode.

Chicago Med never fails to satisfy you. It always keeps you on your toes, and it always forces you to have a full box of Kleenex nearby. This episode was a doozy.

Let’s break it down:

Treat the Patient, Not the Disease

If there’s one thing in this One Chicago universe that hurts me the most it’s seeing the Halstead brothers hurting in any way, shape, or form. So watching Will struggle through this immense emotional pain and guilt as he watched his mentor dying in front of him was the equivalent of having a root canal without Novocain.

In an episode aptly titled “Lesson Learned,” Will struggled to overcome the emotional paralysis that seemed to dictate his questionable actions. He fought tooth and nail to save Dr. Rowan because there was no way in hell he was going to let her die as he just stood by without fighting.

But Will was fighting to save his mentor that could not be saved.

Throughout his treatment of Rowan, Will watched a video of his mentor preaching a very important lesson that it took Will some time to learn: “Treat the patient, not the disease.” Basically, don’t fight to defeat the disease, fight to save the patient. You have to think about what the patient wants. Not what you want. The patient’s wants are the code. Whether that’s through treatment or just letting them pass on.

Will was hurting throughout this entire episode. He tried to mask his anger, fear, and a slew of other emotions. But that’s not the man he is. One of the beautiful things about Will Halstead is that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s so loving, so generous, and so good that when bad things happen you can’t help but curse the world.

Natalie and others looked on as Will went to extremes to attempt and save the life of the woman that is responsible for the doctor he is today. When it comes to emotions, there’s nothing more powerful in the world. Love, anger, grief. They’re like a plague that infects you entirely and you’re helpless to resist alone. Luckily Will had some help. Not only did Rowan help him through her powerful message, but Natalie stepped in to help her friend – which might’ve also sparked the start of something new…

Holding On For Dear Life

When the promo teases that a tragedy could bring two doctors closer together, we knew this was going to be a pivotal episode for Will and Natalie. But the thing I really liked about this progression was that it wasn’t something that was in your face. It was a lot of small things capped off by the big supportive embrace at the end. This was more about Natalie being aware of Will’s emotional state and offering her support, as well as Will leaning on her when he needed her.

The second seasons of One Chicago shows are huge for the big couples. Casey and Dawson. Halstead and Lindsay. Now it’s time for Halstead and Manning. But much like the previous couples, this hasn’t been an easy journey. Natalie is coming off a rebound relationship, and Will is currently in what looks to be a happy relationship. But is it a relationship that’s fulfilling? Perhaps it’s his own rebound?

But let’s talk about that final scene…

Will Halstead was put through the emotional ringer in this episode. He struggled throughout as he watched his mentor slowing losing her fight to disease. Will has always been someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him react the way he did. Fighting tooth and nail until he eventually realized that despite his good intentions he was doing more harm than good. Natalie was there to watch him through this journey. Natalie was on edge throughout the episode as she was worried about Will’s emotional well-being. It was fear. It was a deep caring.

And she was there to comfort him when he finally broke.

Natalie knew Will was hurting. You could see it in his posture. And she walked right into his arms and embraced him. Will clung to Nat for the support he needed as he felt himself breaking in her arms. But for Will, he never had to fear breaking in Nat’s arms because he knows that she’ll be there to catch him.

Will was holding onto Natalie for dear life afraid that at any moment if he let go he would break completely. It’s that kind of chemistry mixed with those kind of moments without any dialogue that is more powerful than words. It’s moments like these that remind us Manstead’s journey is just beginning.

What You Think Is Right and What Is Right

When you’re working with people on a daily basis, it’s nearly impossible to separate emotions entirely. Whether it’s an extensive care for a patient or finding a piece of your life in theirs, these emotional moments often arise and challenge the doctor.

Connor Rhodes found himself in that position when dealing with a young patient whose father was overbearing and seemed to care more about how long his son could throw a football rather than the longevity of his son’s life. It was something that Rhodes immediately recognized from his own childhood, which presented this nearly instantaneous bias towards this man.

When the first surgery didn’t work – and actually made things worse – Rhodes had a talk with the father explaining what they had to do next. It was the same procedure that would effectively cost the boy his arm. The father, as Rhodes expected, reacted to the arm bit first. To Rhodes, he construed it as meaning he cared more about his son tossing a football than whether he survived. But as we later saw, the father reassured his son that at least he would be alive. I mean, did Rhodes ever think that maybe this father just wanted the best for his son? To protect him from the hardships of life?

We soon learned that there was another procedure that Rhodes didn’t tell the father about. (A procedure which I cannot name but has something to do with clamping the heart.) Rhodes lied to the father saying the cath lab was the only option because he didn’t want to go back in there and risk the boy’s life.

But Robyn pointed out the very important point that it’s not his decision. It’s the father’s decision. Basically, you might think something is right, but that doesn’t make it so. What is actually right is giving the father all of the information he needs in order to make an informed decision even if you don’t agree with his mentality or ultimately the decision he makes.

So Rhodes did the right thing and informed the father. Like Rhodes assumed, the father chose the procedure that held the risk that wouldn’t cost the boy his arm. But it didn’t matter what Rhodes thought was best. That’s not his job as a doctor. His job as a doctor is to what’s right by the patient – regardless of what that is.

And thankfully everything worked out for the better. The boy survived, as did his arm. See, sometimes doing the right thing can have its rewards.

Maggie Mentors

This storyline with Maggie and Monique, the new nurse, was everything I didn’t know I needed and everything that I wanted. Maggie has always been the strength of Chicago Med as she guides the ins and outs of the entire wing. She’s fierce; she’s fearless; she’s strength. So it was nice to see her take on a mentor role, which I’m sure she’s done before, with a greater focus.

Poor Monique. The girl was so excited and so caught off guard by the fast pace and extreme environment that Med provided. You could say Monique struggled on her first day. But with a mentor like Maggie, was there any doubt that she’d begin to get the hang of things?

These are learning moments so it was to be expected that Monique would make mistakes. But perhaps Maggie was too caught up in the busyness of Med or didn’t feel this was beneficial, but that tone came off of her when working with Monique. She was critical and not very nurturing. I mean, a hospital is a tough environment. But sometimes people just need a little encouragement to get through.

The pivotal moment in this episode came with Goodwin chatted with Maggie about how Dr. Rowan, her mentor, was the reason that she continued as a nurse. When a resident tore her to shreds for making a mistake, Rowan stepped in to remind him that everyone deserves respect. Goodwin knew that she had someone powerful, caring, and determined on her side which made all of the difference.

So that’s what Maggie did with Monique. It was a lovely parallel that seemed to progress the story to a direction that I wasn’t really expecting when the hour first began. But it was really a powerful moment that might get overlooked in an episode like this. As Monique continued to struggle on her first day, instead of pointing out the negative she defended her and reinforced the positive, which made all of the difference. Knowing that someone has your back – that they care – goes a long way.

Five Things…

  1. There is nothing more painful than watching a Halstead brother suffer. Will was hurting throughout this entire episode as he watched the woman who made him the doctor he is today, dying in front of him. He couldn’t let her die. But Will was fighting to save a woman who couldn’t be saved. This episode was another example to add to the ever-growing file where the Halsteads hurt and I cry.
  2. That Manstead hug was EVERYTHING. It’s amazing how so much can be conveyed without words. Natalie gave Will her sympathies and didn’t hesitate to embrace him. There was more said in that one hug that couldn’t have been conveyed in words. Will clung to Nat for dear life like she was the only thing keeping him from breaking completely.
  3. Reese is still hurting after Wheeler’s suicide. If there was any doubt, Wheeler’s suicide isn’t something that’s going to be easy to move past. Reese, who is someone who notoriously wears her heart on her sleeve, was struggling trying to comprehend the moment that Wheeler jumped.
  4. It was nice getting to see Maggie taking on a mentoring role with a new nurse. That was something that I didn’t know I’ve been waiting to see. We’ve seen Maggie and April’s relationship. But I want to see Maggie nurture someone from the beginning and see where it leads them. Hopefully we get more of this.
  5. Thank you for letting Rhodes be happy. While I doubt it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out, just hearing him say that he’s “all in” with Robyn and seeing the happiness on his face is everything.

Chicago Med airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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