Last Night’s TV – ER: Dream Runner

er Neela

This episode of ER was rather like Groundhog Day and It’s A Wonderful Life in that Neela – on whom the entire episode centred – had three differing outcomes for the same day, courtesy of three dreams which showed the confused medic – and the even more confused viewer; me – how minor changes in behaviour can have huge consequences.

Neela’s day – thrice over – began with her pager going off at 5am and her wishing Ray a happy birthday. And then the story begins but it was interwoven into, as I said, three different outcomes.

The central story surrounded two patients; Anastacia, a young girl with sickle cell anaemia and Nick, who had messed up brain chemistry which caused him to “act out” his dreams as though he were awake. He was in the ER because during a somnambulistic wander, he’d managed to get big chunks of glass embedded in his abdomen…

Other recurring themes throughout the three ‘dream days’ included Sam and Gates’s relationship, Neela’s with Simon and Dubenko and Banfield versus Morris in their mulish butting of heads. Also throughout was a busker playing Tears For Fear’s song, Mad World which contains the line, “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”

In each of the three dream days, Neela’s input played a critical role in determining the course of treatment for both the patients and as she became more honest, more confident and more forceful in her suggestions, the outcomes for Anastacia and Nick improved.

er banfield

In the first dream day, they both died, which not unreasonably was a bit of a downer for Neela. Banfield quit her job and stormed out of County vowing never to return and Neela met up with Simon and ended up stomping off in a huff.

er anatacia

In the second dream day, Neela asked Dubenko to wait one more day before doing Anastasia’s surgery because she reckoned she could treat her infection. She was surprised when Dubenko agreed but he told her that as she’s about to become an attending, he needs to start listening to her.

She also came right out and asked Banfield what the hormone injections were for, so the ice-maiden opened up to her and also ended up telling her that Dubenko wants to offer her a faculty place but still wants her to go for the interviews so she can assess all her options. The second day ended with Nick and Anastacia being worked on as they both ‘crashed’.

er dubenko

So now the third and final dream day began; Anastasia’s procedure went well after Neela’s pre-surgery treatment and Dubenko insisted that Neela cut out early to attend her interviews. He told her that after she’d weighed her options, he hoped she’d accept an assistant professor position at County.

er simon neela

With both her patients doing better, Neela’s third encounter with Simon went a whole lot better too and the two end up in a hotel room doing the ‘bad thang’…

Other differing outcomes included Sam going from just handing hockey tickets over to Gates to allowing him take Alex to the game with him. Morris went from moaning about Banfield’s mood swings to belligerence about how Tony was being emasculated by Sam.

In one of the three different days, we also had the very welcome but all too brief return of Alex Kingston in the role Dr Corday. She was interviewing Neela for a job at Duke University and advised her to leave County, claiming they didn’t fully appreciate her talents. Here’s a clip from the interview…

However, did any of this happen? Is any of it going to happen? Was it just a dream or several dreams? Did the kids die or not? The answer is, we were left not knowing but that’s part of the joy of ER – we’re often left to come to a conclusion about an episode ourselves and I concluded that it was a brilliant episode with a bit of a message; small things can make a big difference…

Ok, not an earth shattering or even terribly useful observation but nonetheless, a really excellent episode!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.