Chicago Med season 3, episode 18 recap: This Is Now

CHICAGO MED -- "This Is Now" Episode 318 -- Pictured: (l-r) Colin Donnell as Connor Rhodes, Norma Kuhling as Ava Bekker -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC)
CHICAGO MED -- "This Is Now" Episode 318 -- Pictured: (l-r) Colin Donnell as Connor Rhodes, Norma Kuhling as Ava Bekker -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Sisson/NBC) /

Chicago Med handles the sensitive subject of mass shootings with its own drama this week. Here’s what happened in Chicago Med season 3, episode 18.

This week’s Chicago Med wasn’t an ordinary episode, as it had to deal with a timely and still very sensitive subject—the hospital treating victims of a mass shooting. How did it handle presenting such a tough topic and delivering dramatic TV?

Tuesday’s episode is called “This Is Now” and it opens like it’s an ordinary day at the hospital, with Dr. Ethan Choi’s sister Emily (guest star Arden Cho) volunteering at the hospital and not seeming to like it at all.

Meanwhile, Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) is disappointed that his planned date night conflicts with other plans Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto) has with her sonOwen, and Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) is still arguing for more money.

But then the cops roll up, saying “some lunatic opened fire with an automatic rifle” and there are “a lot” of victims incoming.

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Chicago Med springs into action quickly, with Dr. Noah Sexton (guest star Roland Buck III) learning that he has to abandon his first patient when she can’t be saved, Choi (Brian Tee) losing his first patient, and even Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt) coming down to the ED.

"Connor: We need to prioritize surgical candidates. Where are they?Maggie: Everywhere."

The hospital is swamped before we even get to the first commercial break, while Natalie admits there is a small possibility that her son and his nanny might have been at the scene—but can’t prove either way.

How’s that for an opening ten minutes?

Chicago Med comes back from commercial with the lovely visual of blood squirting from a bullet wound in one poor dude’s neck, which leads us to Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell) having to be the voice of reason again like he was last season. Choi comes up with an “assembly line” idea to bring patients to Connor and the other surgeons, rather than shuffling the surgeons around.

That’s a good idea. The bad idea is Goodwin opening up the medication room without a fingerprint scan, meaning that anyone on staff can get to the drugs, take as much as they want, and there is no way to find out who takes what. That’s probably going to backfire.

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Meanwhile, Charles talks to a man named Roger who saw the shooter and is in shock, then has to deal with Trevor who’s totally okay with dying because his wife was killed. Like we’ve seen on this show before, their last conversation was a fight, and he feels guilty now.

But we’ve saved the worst for last: Dr. Ava Bekker (Norma Kuhling) is horrified when she finds out that Connor is doing his next surgery in the doctors’ lounge. Welcome to Chicago Med, Dr. Bekker—things aren’t quite so neat around here.

Luckily, Dr. Isidore Latham (guest star Ato Essandoh) shows up to help. And Noah gets drafted in, too, even though he can’t stop rambling. That leaves Connor to have to take charge and even start giving orders to his boss.

"Connor: Dr. Latham, this is damage control."

Emily becomes a temporary nurse along with a couple of the least injured victims, while Detective Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) arrives from Chicago PD to suggest that one of the patients may be the shooter. Of course, then we get the guy that looks so obviously sketchy that he may as well be wearing a sign.

He tries to run from Jay, so a healthy shove from Choi gets him to smash his face into the side of a gurney. A thousand bonus points to Dr. Choi! It turns out that’s not the shooter, just a thief—but Roger might have just spotted the real culprit.

The longer Chicago Med goes on, the more people start to break. Natalie finally melts down and taps out, while Dr. Sarah Reese (Rachel DiPillo) finds out that the teenager she thought was fine and that she could reunite with his worried mother died while Ava was treating him.

Plus, Jay reveals that Trevor’s wife wasn’t shot at the park—it was Trevor who shot her, and everyone else. No wonder why he feels guilty, because he is guilty. Unfortunately, he’s left while Dr. Charles was distracted and is determined to bleed out.

Natalie chews out Dr. Charles, blaming him for the fact she still can’t find her son, while Connor has the task of operating on the man who just killed more than a dozen people. With just a few minutes left in the episode, Med skips over Connor’s medical-moral dilemma and just tells us that the shooter will live—a huge missed opportunity.

Thanks to Will, Natalie is able to safely reunite with Owen (who was at the park but is just fine), and everyone else finishes up their work while finally being able to process all the stuff that they just did over two hours.

Everyone except Goodwin, who uses this to make the case for a whole new ED—even though the series started with the opening of a new ED two and a half seasons ago. That’s probably not going to happen. Maybe if the hospital blows up again, but for today, our team just has to pack up and move on.

“This Is Now” is a thorny episode for Chicago Med. It has to be sensitive to its subject matter, while also at the same time telling a story that advances the TV show and its plots, and there isn’t really a right answer to any of it.

Plus, when you do episodes with mass casualties, that’s more characters and a very real risk of either audiences not being able to keep up or the show not fully developing all of the plotlines as they’ve still got the same 42 minutes no matter how many patients come through the doors.

This episode suffers from some of that. For instance, as soon as Halstead shows up saying that the shooter is in the hospital, it’s mere minutes until he’s identified. There’s no real suspense. And even if there was time for suspense, the initial suspect couldn’t look any more obvious. That red herring then means we have to find the real culprit in less than 15 minutes—which forces the show to make another quick ID. It’s a good plot twist, but it’s just not well executed for a variety of reasons.

And once we find the real shooter, there could be great tension in the medical dilemma of Connor helping him despite wanting not to, but the show doesn’t give us even a moment of that. Colin Donnell could’ve done something great there, particularly with Ato Essandoh, but he doesn’t have the chance.

On that note, this is a great episode for Dr. Connor Rhodes, because his background as a former trauma fellow makes him the perfect fit for these kinds of plotlines. Like he did in “Cold Front,” he steps up and leads the way—maybe even moreso because this time he isn’t afraid to tell Latham what to do.

(Which makes it unintentionally glaring that his colleague is so out of her element. Yes, Dr. Bekker, we know you haven’t been in one of these situations before, but you look almost lost compared to Connor—and that doesn’t help us as viewers when you’re supposed to be as good as he is.)

We also see Dr. Ethan Choi being not only cool under pressure but once again incredibly smart; he deserves more credit than he gets, and people need to listen to him more often. It’s Choi’s idea that probably saves a lot of lives in this episode.

And although it’s a small plot point, it’s a nice bit of counter-balance to see some of the victims helping those who are hurt more than them—a small kindness in the midst of all the chaos.

“This Is Now” lacks the emotional impact of “Cold Front” and ultimately isn’t as impactful an episode as Chicago Med was hoping for. It’s had more successful episodes in that regard, because those episodes are a little better developed and also tackled issues and themes that the episode brought out. “This Is Now” doesn’t explore mass shootings the way that it could, and it has a few beats that could be done better, but it is a watchable hour of television if nothing else.

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What did you think of this week’s Chicago Med episode? Leave your reaction to “This Is Now” in the comments.

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