Chicago Med season 3, episode 9 recap: On Shaky Ground

CHICAGO MED -- "Shaky Ground" Episode 309 -- Pictured: Nick Gehlfuss as Will Halstead -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC)
CHICAGO MED -- "Shaky Ground" Episode 309 -- Pictured: Nick Gehlfuss as Will Halstead -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC) /

Chicago Med puts Manstead to the test this week, and they’re not the only ones. Here’s what happened in Chicago Med season 3, episode 9.

So far Chicago Med has taken things relatively easy on Manstead, but that changed this week. And they’re not the only characters Tuesday’s episode made us worry about.

Season 3, Episode 9 is called “On Shaky Ground” and begins with Manstead gazing adorably at each other before Maggie Lockwood (Marlyne Barrett) interrupts their PDA to have them look at a pregnant woman. Focus, people!

Natalie deduces that the woman is going into premature labor, and if they can’t stop it, there could be terrible consequences for the baby. And it’s a terrible decision to make.

The woman and her husband decide that if the child comes early, they just want to “make him comfortable.”

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You know what’s not comfortable? Jail. That’s where Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt) and Dr. Sarah Reese (Rachel DiPillo) are treating incarcerated patients. It is not a good time by any stretch of the imagination, but of course Reese is too stubborn to do anything but go through with it.

Back at the hospital, Dr. Ava Bekker (Norma Kuhling) introduces the team to her mentor, Dr. Marvin Jaffrey (Malcolm McDowell, who will always be the villain from Star Trek: Generations to me). Jaffrey has a tumor and he doesn’t want anyone but Ava to take care of it, which is a perfectly normal request.

What isn’t is wanting to have the surgery done while he’s awake so he can watch her work, which gives us another fantastic Colin Donnell reaction shot while Dr. Connor Rhodes wonders what everyone else is thinking. But his opinion is overruled.

"Latham: I respect his desire to observe. If I were in his position, I certainly would."

Maggie’s ex Barry brings in Debra for Dr. Ethan Choi (Brian Tee) and April Sexton (Yaya DaCosta) to treat. Since she’s a teenager who’s fled an abusive home, Choi wants to call Child Services; April thinks that they’ll just send her right back to her mother and mom’s drunk boyfriend.

They take the issue to Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson). Sharon agrees with April and says she’ll call some of her contacts to try and find a place in a group home for the young woman. That might solve that problem, but then we’re back to the pregnant woman whose baby is definitely on the way right now.

As in, she’s going to be delivered in the Emergency Department.

When the baby comes, Natalie and Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) are surprised to find out that little Ian is alive after all. But can they keep him that way? Not according to the doctor in the NICU, who doesn’t think the baby will survive and agrees with the parents’ original directive to make him comfortable.

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While preparing for surgery, Ava questions why Connor didn’t want to agree to Dr. Jaffrey’s request. She dismisses his concerns, saying the uncommon procedure will be good for the hospital and for their department. You can just imagine Connor’s internal eye roll.

Choi’s patient has a seizure, leading to a call for Dr. Sam Abrams (recurring guest star Brennan Brown). Abrams, as usual, cuts right through the BS and determines that Debra’s issue is due to a cockroach in her ear. Let’s all cringe for a few seconds.

And in the jail we learn that Dr. Charles’ patient is so violent, they have to clear the entire room before they’ll let him out of his cell. He also really loves tattoos. Reese insists on taking the lead, because that’s why she’s here: confronting her fear of violent patients by putting herself right in front of them.

So Hector immediately starts barking at her like a dog to intentionally frighten her. He gets hauled off for it, but now everyone in the pod knows that Reese is shaken, and they start acting up while she’s escorted out. We’re halfway through this episode and nothing is going well so far.

Will breaks the news about the baby to her parents, who start to rethink their position when they realize their baby has a chance—and read Natalie’s total lack of a poker face. Uh-oh, it’s time for a Manstead disagreement:

"Will: What were you thinking in there?Natalie: That this baby might still have a chance."

Speaking of gambling, let’s go over to Chicago Med‘s circus of the week, I mean, Dr. Jaffrey on the operating table. Not only is he awake, he’s backseat operating. Dude, this is not your job right now! At least Dr. Isidore Latham (a returning Ato Essandoh) tells him to shush.

April and Choi follow up with Goodwin, who says she hasn’t had any luck placing Debra, meaning that Choi has to decide whether to call Child Services or let her go back out onto the street. After having seen the cockroach in her lungs, Choi makes the call.

And as fans probably guessed, Natalie is upstairs monitoring baby Ian. Will drops by, followed by Ian’s mother, who gets her first real look at him. Over Will’s objection, Natalie offers to let her hold her son. But just as she reaches in, the baby crashes and seems about to die.

Mom changes her tune and Natalie is all too happy to jump in and try to save the kid, even as Will does not want to participate in what he sees as a futile endeavor. He eventually comes around and they’re able to stabilize Ian—for now. Mom and Dad start to bond with their son, while Will starts to look like he hates everyone.

"Reese: I can’t help him or myself."

Outside the jail, Charles tries to comfort Reese again by saying that prisoners are experts at finding vulnerability, and Hector exploited her vulnerability. Reese gets this look on her face like she’s channeling Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 and decides she wants to go back in.

And Dr. Jaffrey is still on the operating table. You know, this surgery would probably be done by now if he shut up. Even Ava appears to be frustrated by his running commentary, although she is able to remove the tumor. That doesn’t stop Jaffrey from trying to get her kicked out and have Connor to take over.

Connor Rhodes doesn’t play that game, though, and just orders the anesthesiologist to knock Jaffrey out finally so Ava can finish the procedure.

"Connor: How about that? So quiet you can hear a heartbeat."

While we’re still giggling over that, it’s no laughing matter when Debra’s Social Services rep can’t even get her name right—or when they find out that she’s escaped. Choi confronts April, who says she didn’t stop Debra from running and dares him to write her up for it.

Then “On Shaky Ground” gives us the moment you probably knew was coming: the baby dies. And everyone cries. Most of all Natalie, who doesn’t want to listen when Will tries to comfort her after the fact. He should have just stopped there, because later he asks her the wrong question:

"Will: What are you going to do next time?"

Ava and Connor visit Dr. Jaffrey in his recovery room, where he’s sulking like a teenager who was caught out past curfew. He chastizes Ava, telling her that “you disappoint me,” so White Knight Dr. Rhodes comes to her defense by complimenting her in front of him. Ava is understandably hurt by Jaffrey’s words, but says nothing of it.

Also getting the cold shoulder is Choi, as April tries to compare Debra’s case to that of Choi’s own sister, which isn’t fair. The two of them go out onto the streets looking for Debra, who’s back in the homeless encampment, to give her the medication and supplies she needs. That might be a happy ending, kind of, maybe?

“On Shaky Ground” is an interesting episode for Chicago Med season 3 to end on (for now). Fans who’ve been watching the show all season can see every one of these plotlines coming, as they play out in the pairings and plots we expect, but there are still good moments along each familiar road.

We see Choi and April, who have what is a relatively mild disagreement (and for that matter, once again this hospital calls Child Services and it turns out to be a disaster). We have Will and Natalie, who butt heads a little harder, but mostly this becomes a story about how Natalie’s big heart gets broken once again.

The most interesting plotline in the episode is in the cardiothoracic surgery department, just as we haven’t learned almost anything about Ava this season, so we get some important backstory that should help audiences relate more to her. Connor is, as usual, the good guy in the situation, and it’s good to see Dr. Latham back even if he’s a bit underused.

But Chicago Med season 3 needs to use episodes like this to go out on a limb, the way that the show did in season 2. It’s starting to feel too comfortable, like we know who works with who and what their problems are and how certain cases will play out.  Did anyone really think the show was not going to have that baby die just to tug at our heartstrings, and Natalie’s?

This is a good episode of a great show, but it could be great if we went right instead of left, or just stepped a little bit further onto that ledge. Maybe we will when the show returns on Feb. 27.

Next: What Chicago Med fans can watch until the show returns

What did you think of this week’s Chicago Med episode? Leave your thoughts about “On Shaky Ground” in the comments.

Chicago Med airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.