New Amsterdam season 2 episode 12: Have a little faith

NEW AMSTERDAM -- "14 Years, 2 Months, 8 Days" Episode 212 -- Pictured: Tyler Labine as Dr. Iggy Frome -- (Photo by: Karolina Wojtasik/NBC)
NEW AMSTERDAM -- "14 Years, 2 Months, 8 Days" Episode 212 -- Pictured: Tyler Labine as Dr. Iggy Frome -- (Photo by: Karolina Wojtasik/NBC) /

This week, New Amsterdam asked us to have a little faith and leave room for a miracle when there is nothing else to be done.

Hello, Dam Fam! We return this week with a new episode that’s steeped in belief. New Amsterdam is no stranger to mixing religion with medicine, and the writers make a point of showcasing more than one faith, but Aaron Ginsburg’s work in “14 Years, 2 Months, and 8 Days” deconstructs belief into what helps and what hinders.

We start with director Seith Mann’s beautiful opening sequence that takes us back over a decade to watch time progress from when Vijay first started taking care of his patient, Jacob Singer, to the present when Jacob “awakens.” The passage of time, the slow crawl toward growing older, and the loss of Vijay’s wife, Ansuya, put into perspective how much can change in 14 years — and how much someone can miss as life moves on without them. This sequence is a key component in understanding how much Jacob’s wife, Annie, has missed by sitting vigil with him since his accident.

Annie is a woman whose faith in her husband’s recovery and fear of leaving his side has kept her from leaving the borough she calls home and getting to know her grandchildren. While her own children — Sam and Melissa — have gone on with their lives and done their best to accept their father’s death despite his body still living, she has not been able to do the same.

For Jacob there is nothing else to do but let him go. There are no miracles for him. His eyes are open, he can grasp his wife’s hand, and he can even make sounds, but according to Vijay that’s involuntary movement. Jacob lacks the necessary brain activity that indicates that he is a person and not a body in a vegetative state.

Still, while Sam describes the 14 years they’ve spent holding onto his father as “a never-ending wake,” Vijay recognizes if it were Ansuya breathing and looking at him he would struggle with letting her go, too, despite knowing that it isn’t really her. And in Annie’s case, she is aware that she’s alienated her children by refusing to move on even though that is what they needed to do to move forward with their lives.

The narrative with the Singers points fingers, but it lays no blame at anyone’s feet. It is hard to let go of a loved one. It is hard to let go of the chance that they’ll be saved even when a doctor is saying that’s impossible. And while it’s true that doctors aren’t infallible, that is only a marker of the fallibility of humans, not an indicator that if you want it enough, pray enough, and believe hard enough the impossible can happen. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn’t, and while that may not be okay, it’s also a fact of life.

As Minister Reid tells Max this episode, “You know what miracles are? They’re the word for the shoreline between what we understand and what we can’t.” Jacob’s health condition is something we can understand. The science is there, he’s not. And, in the narrative for this episode, this means the real story is the family Jacob left behind, how it fractured their bond, and how letting him pass enabled them to reunite.

Answered Prayers

For Jackson Lowe — a 13-year old who hid his vaping from his parents — medical science has yet to catch up to his condition. Jackson has a lung injury associated with E-cigarette or vaping product use, otherwise known as EVALI. Reynolds and Max promise his parents they will do everything they can for him, but there isn’t much known about the condition or how to treat it when the disease has progressed this far. Jackson has chemical burns on his lungs that are similar to those seen from chemical warfare, and his lungs are failing.

The science concerning Jackson is where a layperson like myself gets lost, but Reynolds and Max are lost, too, which is not comforting. When the CDC’s recommendations aren’t enough to assist with Jackson’s treatment, Max tries a PCK modulator (please let me know what that is because I have no idea), but Jackson’s lungs still fail and Reynolds has to put him on a heart-lungs bypass machine.

Without options and in desperate need of a miracle, Max goes looking for Minister Reid, the leader of the Prayers for Healing group that comes to New Amsterdam every few weeks. Earlier in the episode, Max had been growing increasingly irritated by the group’s presence. While he has no issue with the religious beliefs of others, Max is also a man of action who believes more good can be done if people actively help others rather than praying to a higher being which is implied to be passive.

Instead of indulging Max in his desire to fall back on the prayers of others, Minister Reid suggests he tries to pray himself. As he says, “When we do it right, prayer changes us, not the other way around…we’re not looking out, Max, we’re looking in.” So, Max prays for the second time this season. He acknowledges that he struggles with the idea of assistance from a higher power when his parents’ prayers couldn’t save his sister. But he still prays that Jackson can be helped and that his recovery can be a good event in the midst of countless tragedy.

In this instance, what is prayed for is what happens. Jackson recovers. Neither Reynolds nor Max is sure whether it was Jackson’s reacting to the treatment Max suggested or if his body was fighting off the EVALI on its own, but what’s important is that Jackson didn’t become another life lost to the effects of vaping. And, hopefully, a fictional case like Jackson’s will make audiences more aware of just how little doctors know about the dangerous side effects of vaping due to a lack of regulation in the market, companies consistently changing their products, and how that affects medical research on the effects the chemicals used in these products have on the body.

Body Image Issues

Speaking of bodies, body image and how a negative perception of one’s physical characteristics can deteriorate mental health is a topic told through the character of Louise. After taking pills prescribed to her to lose weight because she struggled with obesity, Louise was left with excess skin as a result of her weight loss. The pills were covered by her insurance but the skin removal she needs was not, and it’s a surgery she can’t afford. Louise also can’t afford compression sleeves that would help minimize the appearance of her excess skin, so she uses panty hose to do it resulting in cellulitis and a fungal infection.

Louise suffers from severe depression due to her appearance. After mentioning to Helen that cutting the excess skin off with her garden shears would make her feel better, Louise is seen by Iggy to talk about her self-harm ideation, and he promises that he will do what he can to make sure she can get the surgery that will help her.

At the top of the episode, Iggy said he was only going to be making healthy choices. It’s a mindset that he’s been touting at home and one he commences at work by throwing out the gratitude cupcakes the office had received. But when Iggy fails to convince Larkin — an insurance manager for New Amsterdam — that Louise’s surgery is necessary because she could die without it, he falls back on a harmful practice.

Ever since Iggy addressed his own body issues and how they affect the way he sees his worth, he has taken to eating when upset. While the show hasn’t named what Iggy is doing, it looks like binge eating, which is a disorder I first learned about through My Mad Fat Diary. Due to his distress, Iggy is compelled to eat excessively. It’s a source of shame he carries and something he is hiding from the people he cares about.

When Helen discovers him in the stairwell, Iggy backs himself against the wall and hides the three cupcake wrappers left from his binge. It’s not directly stated, but there’s an implication that they’re the same cupcakes he’d dumped into his trash can. Iggy deflects attention away from himself by zeroing in on Helen’s issue which once again involves Dr. Valentina Castro and surprisingly Max not backing her up. Helen doesn’t disclose this information to Iggy, but they commiserate over the system keeping them from providing necessary care to their patients.

Iggy points out the hypocrisy of insurance covering breast reconstruction after a mastectomy because it’s considered a necessary cosmetic procedure but not covering excess skin removal for obese patients who lost weight through the pills that were provided to them through insurance. Both procedures are cosmetic and both procedures should be covered for the benefit of the patient’s mental health. He describes the lack of consideration to the mental health of obese patients after they’ve lost weight as only treating 50 percent of the disease. If they’re going to call it a disease, he insists they need to treat it like one.

His description leads Helen to a brain blast. Going rogue once again, she gambles by arguing that the moles on Louise’s excess skin could be cancerous and rather than doing a biopsy it would be better to remove the skin entirely. Her gamble only succeeds because Max backs her play, which is his apology for not having her back with Valentina.

Power Struggles

Let me state for the record that I will never tire of Max running after Helen, but I will grow tired of his apologies if he doesn’t step his game up. Helen has been his right-hand woman since the jump; it’s his turn now. He can’t fall down on the job especially when his excuse is that they have to follow the rules. Since when, Max?!

Valentina got funding from the National Institutes of Health to cover an experimental drug trial with 40 New Amsterdam patients. She chose15, left 25 out in the cold, and justified it by stating one day the drug would help millions of people. And then had the nerve to sashay away because as Chair of Oncology she doesn’t have to explain herself to Helen and she doesn’t appreciate her tone. And on top of that salty sundae she ran to Max about Helen.

Look, it is very hard to understand Valentina’s perspective when she came in foul by blackmailing Helen and is consistently rude or combative with her. Some of this is my Helen bias admittedly but most of it is Valentina. Because if you’re Chair, then handle your “subordinate” yourself. Why go to the Medical Director and escalate matters especially when you’re conveniently not going to him over the issue of the other heads of departments, their staff, and yours bypassing you to get assistance from Helen? If you’re Chair then be Chair.

Anyway, Max is still in the dark when it comes to Helen and Valentina but at least he was her safety net like he said he would be even though he was a little late. The Sharpwin moment makes up for it for the most part. Max being awkward over his not-date with Alice and asking Helen about it was cute, and she was more helpful than Iggy who spent his time getting a laugh out of teasing Max. I don’t agree with Iggy’s assessment that it’s time Max put himself out there, but I wholeheartedly agree with Helen that he and Luna deserve a new friend.

Max doesn’t need to worry himself over the what ifs of spending time with Alice. What’s important is that he’s interested in a relationship regardless of its definition. He wants to bond with someone, and it’s a desire that stems from wishing for a connection as a single parent. Alice fulfills that for him. It doesn’t have to be romantic, and if it dips toward romance then it does. But Max’s desire is no different from any single parent finding a kindred spirit in another who is going through the same things they are.

And it’s not like we’re going to be missing out on Sharpwin. We didn’t when Max was married to Georgia and Helen was dating Panthaki, so I doubt we are now considering the two of them can’t help looking fondly at one another and sighing with heart eyes you can see from space. They’re absolutely, ridiculously, 100 percent in each other’s pockets, down for one another. That’s not changing anytime soon.

What else happened?

  • Bloom dealt with IT issues from the devil himself but wound up appreciating returning to basics with a pen and paper even if there was only one pen to split between the whole ER staff. Someone needs to make a run to an office supply store STAT.
  • Reynolds still hasn’t told Max he’s leaving New Amsterdam and moving to San Francisco. Evie teased him for it, but she realized how difficult it was to tell him, too, when Max went on about struggling with being a single father and wanting to give Luna the dad time he knows Georgia would have wanted for her.
  • Max and Luna went on their play date with Alice and Bobbie to the surprise of no one.

Like most New Amsterdam episodes, “14 Years, 2 Months, and 8 Days” had a lot to juggle, but Ginsburg pulled it off. I do hope, however, that the power struggle between Helen and Valentina comes too a head soon. It’s so stressful! The same can be said for Iggy’s mental health issue that’s liable to balloon into a full blown crisis. My heart can take it, but my feelings aren’t so sure. Until next time — two weeks from now *sighs* — keep it Goodwin, Dam Fam!

Next. New Amsterdam season 2 episode 10 review: “Code Silver”. dark

What did you think of this week’s episode? Serve up your thoughts in the comments below!