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October 7, 2015

Eli Stone: Heal the Pain

by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 14th 2008 12:00PM
Julie Gonzalo(S01E07) I think the shift to a more balanced blend of done-in-one cases and linear plotlines suits Eli Stone well. And with the continuing emphasis on "The Adventures of Keith and Matt," and the case of the foul ball murdering baseball player, the show is developing more of an ensemble approach a la Boston Legal, rather than just showcasing Eli and his problems. Even the visions faded to almost non-existence tonight, and I think the show got better because of it.

Finally, after tonight's episode I get the character of Maggie Dekker and see the potential in her. The one-dimensional "annoyingly optimistic naive new kid" is starting to develop some real personality as well as showcasing some actual legal capabilities. This started last week when she nailed Eli as a poseur for becoming "good Eli" only because of his aneurysm. She's actually become a character I like, though I don't see why she had to cut and change her hair color. What's wrong with that hot blonde from Veronica Mars up there?

Tonight's visions involved knights and dragons, leading Eli to a case whereby a boy sought to sue a hospital for his mother's death. Dr. Agon (DrAgon, dragon--get it!) is the doctor he wants to sue. But since Eli is still under probation and not allowed to take new cases, he recruited a reluctant Maggie to convince Jordan to allow her (and Eli) to take it. Jordan agreed, so long as Maggie first chaired, which means we would finally get to see her in a courtroom.

I think they may have toned down the obnoxiousness of Maggie's character a bit, though she still makes a boob of herself early on trying to "act" like lead counsel by bossing Eli around. The case takes some interesting turns throughout the episode, especially early on when it changes from the boy suing the hospital where his mother died, to the boy and that hospital suing a different hospital.

The new hospital under fire was the one Dr. Agon worked for prior to joining the staff where the boy's mother died. They were less than honest about his troubled track record to the new hospital. Apparently, if you're hiring a doctor you want to know about things like negligence, malpractice claims and patient deaths. It was a little convenient that St. Vincent's, is the very hospital his brother Nate works at. So now we got to have a scene where Nate attempted to talk Eli out of the suit. Did hospital officials really think that would work? Would that even happen in the real world?

Of course, as it turned out, Nate knew more about Dr. Agon's track record and the subsequent "cover up," as it were, than he was letting on. And here I thought Nate was a goody-goody. And yet he knowingly supported a cover-up that lead to lives lost. In a private meeting, Dr. Agon was cleared by a "thorough" investigation. The deaths were attributed to malignant hyperthermia, an extreme and fatal reaction to anesthetics.

Kudos to Maggie for a bright moment in court. For the most part she was little more than Eli's puppet, awkwardly dancing around on his strings as she attempted to figure out what to say by his hand gestures and expressions. But, when questioning Dr. Agon's prior boss who'd written that Agon's performance record was unassailable, she started jabbing back about the patient deaths he'd encountered. And when it was countered that she was attacking his record she hit back with: "If I'm doing that, how exactly unassailable is it."

I'm not saying Maggie did a good job, because for the most part she was a train wreck in open court. In the end, despite herself, she did win her case by getting Agon's former boss to admit that there was significant negligence on the part of Agon regarding one patient death and that he would have been fired had he not quit. It bothers me a bit that Nate was fully aware of this entire situation and did nothing. He wouldn't even say anything to Eli about it. At what point does the sanctity of preserving human life outweigh the need for secrecy. These are doctors.

Again, this episode ended with that huge disclaimer that the preceding events were fiction and didn't reflect necessarily real actions. In the world of Eli Stone corruption and cover-ups appear to run rampant. I find it interesting that since we all know this is the case in parts of the real world, too, that these disclaimers keep being needed. Shouldn't Boston Legal run a disclaimer under the screen during every one of Alan Shore's opening or closing arguments then? Is Eli Stone trying to pick the most "shocking" cases possible to have Eli tackle?

Tonight's case seemed to serve a different purpose for the story, though. Mainly that of bringing Eli and Maggie closer together as business associates and ... maybe something more? I've commented since the beginning that I didn't feel great chemistry between Eli and Taylor, though, as Richard pointed out, her character has softened up a tremendous deal. In fact, that's one thing about the show that I do like.

For the most part, these characters aren't flat. Jordan can go from sympathetic father-figure to a cold and insensitive ass. Taylor shifts from a cold and insensitive ass to a sympathetic ... huh. Look at that. Like father like daughter, I guess. Still, the point of adding Taylor to the firm seems to be so they can create a romantic triangle of feelings between her, Eli and Maggie. Not the worst idea, I guess, with Maggie representing "new Eli" and Taylor being everything that "old Eli" wanted.

As for the rest of the show, there was no musical number this episode, which actually bothered me. In fact, with the visions limited to only three sequences throughout the entire episode and no musical number, this was a decidedly ordinary lawyer show. I can handle reducing the visions as sometimes they seem extraneous, but I miss the musicality of it all.

The other thing that I wonder about is the secondary ongoing case with Keith Bennett and Matt Dowd. Don't get me wrong, because I actually like both characters. Keith has impressed me since his debut, and I like that Matt is that mix of classic arrogant punkass and decent human being. The problem that I'm having is the same thing that Richard hinted at last week. Is this Eli Stone or San Francisco Legal. It could really be either but shouldn't try and be both. If Eli isn't going to ultimately get involved with this case, then it feels really out of place.

As for the case itself, it didn't progress too much. The lynchpin evidence of the prosecution was summarily dismissed because it was a digital recording from an anonymous source so it could easily have been tampered with. Jason Turck (sp?) continued to insist he's never taken steroids, but he may have to testify that he did to avoid a murder rap. Hooray for tackling a "ripped from the headlines" case with the baseball steroid scandal, but does it fit in Eli Stone.

Honestly, it feels like the creators think they struck gold with the character of Keith. They really liked him and the way that Jason George portrayed him so they pulled him into the cast and are trying to make a major character out of him. That's great, and I agree it's a good character, but you need to tie him in with Eli somehow to make it work. As it is, the show feels a little disjointed.

Other items of note in this episode:
  • Taylor got the big Zulinsky case because Jordan didn't want Eli handling it. However, because of Eli's higher profile, Zulinsky insisted on him. So Jordan is having Eli and Taylor co-counsel. Maybe we can come up with a way to pull Maggie into the case, too, so we can put our awkward romantic triangle in the same room.
  • Eli's new office appears to be a table in the firm's library, which is amusing, and he managed to get Patti back as his assistant.
  • Victor Garber's left ear started to drive me crazy this episode and I don't know why. It's way bigger than his right one and sticks almost straight out.
  • I don't know what Richard's thinking. I love Loretta Devine and think she's fabulous as Patti.
  • On the other hand, I don't care at all for James Saito as Chen. I understand now the significance of the character and his connection to Eli's father. I can even buy him as Eli's spiritual guide, but the acting is putting me off. Either Saito's not doing a great job of making me believe him as a real person in the show or the character is written incredibly awkward. He pulls me out of the story with almost every line. Which is weird because I know Saito has been doing this for decades.
Eli Stone has improved tremendously over seven episodes, but at the same time it appears to have reached a crossroads. It needs now to figure out what kind of show it wants to be. Does it want to be the show that tackles major "ripped from the headlines" stories? Does it want to be a show about a love triangle in a law firm? Does it want to be an ensemble show set in a law firm? It's trying out all three right now and I think it's strangling in on itself a little bit.

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Thanks for an enjoyable review. I, too, think the show is hitting its stride with each new episode.

One thing you missed: The name of the new client, said with great emphasis at the beginning of the show, is "Arvin Solinsky" - a take off on Victor Garber's nemesis from Alias, "Arvin Sloane."

March 17 2008 at 4:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Blair M

I have one thing to say about your comment about the show losing its focus on Eli. While the show is called "Eli Stone" that does not mean there cannot be other characters who have things going on in the sidelines. Two prominent examples are "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." Both of these shows were about the trials and tribulations of the main characters, but if you get into a situation where all the events in the secondary characters lives are directly related to the main character it becomes unrealistic.

March 14 2008 at 11:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am enjoying Eli, but I am really loving Jordan and snippy, cold comments. I love that he is mean and human at the same time, and a great lawyer.

March 14 2008 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's actually malignant hyperthermia (not hypothermia). It's a genetic problem. Great review, though!

March 14 2008 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to emme's comment

Eep, fixed. Thanks!

March 14 2008 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I guess I'm in the minority here... The whole premise of the show is the fact that Eli has "prophetic" visions. I enjoy watching a show that allows some "magic" into the mix. To me, the visions and musical numbers create a unique and very watchable hour of television.

March 14 2008 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a huge Greg Berlanti fan, I'm biased, but I'm really digging Eli Stone. As Glen points out, the show isn't perfect, but I enjoy each episode.

Patti the secretary is the bomb :)

March 14 2008 at 2:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think your review nailed it!

I've been watching from the beginning - mostly because I'm too lazy to change the channel after LOST!

This was the first episode that I've actually enjoyed. All the previous ones seemed too disjointed or completely ridiculous. Yay to the fewer visions and more Maggie and Patty!

March 14 2008 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gordon Werner

I liked this episode and I like this show ... it isn't perfect ... but it is interesting and fun to watch.

As for the musical number ... it did have one ... it just wasn't in Eli's head ... remember the charity concert?

As for Nate not revealing the details of the "M&M conference" ... he had no right to. All doctors in a hospital are involved in these meetings after a patient dies (we've seen it on Grey's Anatomy and ER) ... the details are subject to the same rules as doctor-patient confidentiality ...

as for the disclaimer at the end of the episode ... that is just ABC trying to appease all the drug manufacturers/sponsors that really run the network ...

March 14 2008 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gordon Werner's comment

My question was more a matter of how far that client-patient confidentiality goes when up against gross negligence that likely led to a patient's death. Is there a point where morality supercedes or no? Honestly, I have no idea. I would think one's conscience might struggle with keeping quiet on a case where someone essentially killed someone else and you were asked to keep quiet about it so they can go out and probably wind up doing it again.

March 14 2008 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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