ABC’s Private Practice has had its good runs, and its bad. Sometimes the show has been downright hard to watch, while at others it has shined like the intensely engaging drama that it can be. Last night, an episode aired that was one of the best they’ve ever done. It was called “Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?” It was disturbing, intense, tragic, and moving, all rolled into one.
The episode centered around the immediate aftermath of the attack on Charlotte (KaDee Strickland), seen briefly in flashes at the end of last week. Peter (Tim Daly) sees Charlotte stumble down a hall, badly beaten up and covered in blood. Charlotte tells him that she was robbed, and manages to keep most of the hospital staff away, secluding herself in a room with Pete and one trusted nurse. As soon as Peter steps out to notify all of their fellow doctors at Oceanside Wellness, Charlotte calls Addison (Kate Walsh). Addison is the only one that actually finds out that Charlotte was raped, as Charlotte refuses a rape kit, won’t tell the police, and swears Addison to secrecy, against Addison’s protests. In Charlotte’s vulnerable state, the other doctor cannot bring herself to deny the demand.
It’s incredibly frustrating, because the rapist, Lee (Nicholas Brendon), is sitting down at police headquarters, but can’t be held because no one has brought charges against him. If only Charlotte would agree to the rape kit, the evidence to get Lee off the streets would be there, and justice might be served. Clearly, this story is far from over. Next week’s preview showed Addison trying very hard to keep the dark secret, and Charlotte still suffering.
The hour had plenty of gut-wrenching moments. From Charlotte receiving stitches with no pain killer (she is in Narcotics Anonymous and allergic to the local anesthetics), to her fiance, Cooper’s (Paul Adelstein) first glimpse of her. He sits by her side, trying (and failing) to be brave, not even realizing just how deep Charlotte’s trauma goes. Addison’s reactions to her fellow doctors are telling, as clearly she is beyond frustrated with the situation, and just wants to help. Yet, she can’t.
The rape itself was handled delicately. Viewers got a bit more than the flashes they saw last week, but it was still just quick glimpses. What we did see was disturbing, violent, and scary. I’m not saying rape ever gets glamorized, but it was surprising to me just how brutal the attack was. What was shown was more than enough to convey what happened, so it’s good it was left at that. Congratulations to the cast and crew who pulled off such a horrible event in a way that focused on the emotion, and did not show unnecessary brutality. It still conveyed the point, but it was done in such a way that was as classy as possible in the situation. Basically, no violence for violence’s sake. Only what was needed for the medium to continue an incredibly moving, dare I say important, story.
Spaced throughout the scenes of Charlotte in the hospital was a plot where Sheldon (Brian Benben) is called to the local police station to talk to a man who was picked up covered in blood that was not his own. The audience finds out that his name is Lee, and long before he confesses to raping a woman, it’s not hard to figure out that it’s Charlotte’s attacker. However, those of us waiting for that inevitable full confession, or someone to connect the dots to who his victim was, never materializes. At least not yet. As I’ve said, I’m sure that this storyline will take up quite a lot of screen time over the coming weeks.
Brendon, famous for playing geeky sidekick Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was amazing. While he was beloved on Buffy, subsequent roles haven’t shown a depth of range, and left my opinion of his acting talents on the shallow end. However, in this role, he was fantastic. It’s such a dark, unexpected turn for him, and he greatly surpassed expectations. He didn’t have a ton of dialogue, either. He managed to convey a lot of layers with just a few expressions, which is something I did not expect he was capable of. I apologize for ever thinking ill of Brendon, and hope this role will lead to more work for him soon.
This season has already had a lot of adjustment, with the recent death of main character Dell(Chris Lowell), the debate over what would become of his daughter, Betsy (Hailey Sole), and the off-screen death of William White (James Morrison), owner of the downstairs clinic. It’s still a little hard getting used to Peter and Violet’s (Amy Brenneman) marriage, and Sam (Taye Diggs) and Addison’s relationship. It seems to have made Sam more timid to be with such an outspoken woman. It has been nice to have Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) added to the lineup, though she has yet to find her niche. She was very helpful this week, and it finally started to feel like she belonged with the rest.
Violet already went through another traumatic event that shaped more than a year of the series, and so is deeply affected by what happened. Her lack of passionate reaction demonstrates how much she has healed. While her attack, which involved a crazy woman cutting her baby out of her stomach, was equally well-written and performed, the dark place that Violet went to afterward drug down much of last season. It took a very, very long time for Violet to start to come around, and finally rejoin her cast mates with any story that did not center around her experience. I don’t think they will follow the same route with Charlotte, as it’s already been done, and it wasn’t the most-liked arc for many fans.
Naomi (Audra McDonald) has been off dealing with William’s estate, and will soon return to run the new, combined offices of Oceanside Wellness and William’s floor. This means that Naomi has not appeared in the last three episodes. One cannot help but wonder how the last few weeks would have gone differently if Naomi had been around. Surely, Naomi would have insisted on adopting Betsy herself, after no one else would. She likely would have been the one assisting Charlotte instead of Addison. Would Naomi have kept the secret? Would she have been able to convince Charlotte to get a rape exam? Naomi is not as forceful as Addison, so I doubt she would have been able to make Charlotte submit to the tests. However, she has a much greater compassion, so chances are she may have been able to talk her into it. I look forward to Naomi’s return, and how the ongoing plot will be affected by her re-joining the foray.
If your life has been impacted by rape, incest or other sexual abuse, reach out to RAINN online or by phone at 800-656-4673.
Private Pratice airs Thursday nights at 10pm on ABC, following the show it spun off of, Grey’s Anatomy.