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The Night Shift - Family Matters - Review: "Like It's Your Last"

Despite returning to its usual medical drama format, this week's The Night Shift still managed to stray out of the box by having an episode that barely featured male lead TC Callahan (Eoin Macken). Instead of scrubbing in as an actor, Eoin Macken took the reins this episode as a director, and I think he did pretty well.

The episode began with a bang, literally. Coming off of the previous episode, Jordan (Jill Flint) and Cain (Mark Consuelos) are in a relationship, and they're apparently enjoying it. That is, until they remember that they both have to get to work and that regulation means that they have to keep their relationship a secret. I think Jordan and Cain are cute together, and I'm always a sucker for a secret relationship plot.

However, I'm not a big fan of any sort of love triangle plot, which I saw coming the moment Jordan picked up her phone and it was TC on the other line, telling her that he was coming home. Nothing has happened yet, but the concept of a call from TC interrupting a nice rendezvous between Jordan and Cain smells way too much like foreshadowing for me, and I've been watching The Night Shift (and TV in general) long enough to know that love triangles are never a good sign. We already went there with TC/Jordan/Scott, and then again with Annie/TC/Jordan. Mark Consuelos is only here for one season, and I would really like to enjoy him while he lasts. I love a good epic romance as the next girl, but TC and Jordan are done. They're friends now. The scene at the end of the episode where they're in Topher's car and they're discussing how they were the three amigos was good and platonic and sweet as heck. We need more of that (and more of Topher rememberance, too please). The TC/Jordan romance is over. It's gone. Let's just move on.

While it might not ever move on from the TC/Jordan love affair, The Night Shift did quickly move on from the bedroom scene to a gym where Kenny (Jr Lemon) helps Drew (Brendan Fehr) teach at an MMA class/support group for vets. The group is quickly joined by Mac (Mac Brandt) and his guest Locke (Val Lauren). During the practice, Locke's abrasive personality annoys Drew, while his moves injure Kenny's spinal cord. As a result, Kenny is quickly rushed to the hospital.

During his stint as a patient, Kenny displays ever-worsening signs of paralysis. JR Lemon's acting chops don't really get a chance to shine as he plays a nurse, perpetually second fiddle to the doctors. But as he plays a desperate patient, every scene is heart-wrenching and painful. The moment where he asks Jordan not to intubate him before he goes into the CT scanner was absolutely heartbreaking, while the scene with him praying while in the scanner just put the cherry on top. Later on, it seemed like I felt the exact absolute relief that Kenny felt when he found out that he wouldn't be permanently paralyzed. I didn't know how much Kenny mattered to me until now. The storyline was not the episode's A-Plot, but it sure felt like it, thanks to JR Lemon.

Sadly, I cannot say the same about Locke's storyline. As this is his first appearance on the show, I wouldn't expect a full backstory and for the episode to be named "Locke's Journey Throughout the Years", but I expected better. From the moment he came on the screen, it was like his purpose was to annoy Drew. We never saw him actually be nice to anyone, and we can only infer that he and Mac are friends, because there's never a scene where Locke is nice to Mac. At first, we assume that he's a vet with PTSD, which the viewer can easily understand and sympathize with. However, by the time Drew realizes that a) Locke never saw the battlefield and b) Locke was actually discharged from the army for having unnamed "psychiatric problems", all sympathy flies out of the window. He becomes just one of those mentally ill antagonists we're all used to seeing.

And maybe that's why the ending scene with him and Mac didn't impact me as much as it should have. Mac is a stand-up dude for sure, but we know nothing about Locke other than the fact that he's kind of mean and that he has unnamed mental issues. By the end, when Locke stabs Mac with a shard of glass, saying that Mac betrayed his trust by telling Drew that Locke needed mental help, the audience is still unclear about what this betrayal means. Sure, the viewers can be sad that a good guy like Mack is bleeding out, but it could be so much more. to me, Mac just seemed kind of naive throughout the episode for trying to help someone with very few redeeming qualities. The part of me that likes to play devil's advocate could argue that Mac had it coming. Sure, there's veteran solidarity, but veteran solidarity doesn't have as much emotional impact. I wish we could have gotten one miniscule scene of Locke and Mac actually being friends, or Locke caring for Mac. That would have made us understand how deep the betrayal was for the both of them. That would have turned the scene from just sad to utterly heartbreaking.

While I wasn't a fan of Locke as a guest character, I did really like seeing Bella Cummings (Erica Tazel), the urologist sister of Paul (Robert Bailey Jr.), visit San Antonio Memorial Hospital. She had good chemistry with the other cast members, and I especially enjoyed her interactions with Kenny and Shannon (Tanaya Beatty).

Speaking of Shannon, she spends most of the episode trying to save a young girl named Naya (Lyliana Wray) displaying mysterious symptoms after getting rescued from a fire. The girl displays symptoms of overdose, and I liked seeing Shannon empathize with the girl as a result of her past. While I could predict that the young girl was a human trafficking victim the moment I connected the dots of overdose and alone without parents in a hotel room, her storyline took an unexpected turn that I ended up extremely loving.

At first, it seemed like her storyline had completely diverged from that of Ted Rogers, another victim of the fire. Ted seemed to be the the quintessential good Samaritan, the all-American hero who ran into a burning building to save people. He was an off-duty firefighter. We saw his firefighter colleagues talk about him. We saw the hospital employees who knew him chip in to help pay for his bills. We thought he'd get the standard medical show, medical jargon plot. But, after a talk with Naya's sister (Ryan Simpkins), a fellow human trafficking victim, Shannon realizes that Ted hadn't dove into the burning building. Instead, he was there having sex with Naya, and all the tables turned. The money was immediately offered to the girls instead of Ted. Jordan confronted Ted and told him that he was a terrible person and that he was going to jail.

It's not something to rival Sweet/Vicious, but the storyline was important. All too often, rape victims are silenced because their rapists seem to be upstanding members of the community. No matter how much proof there is, way too many people disregard the words of victims because they would prefer to believe that the attackers are good people, or they just don't care. To see people who used to champion Ted immediately come to support Naya, to see the victims get some form of reparation, that's big. It tells every victim watching The Night Shift that they matter, that someone will hear them, that they don't deserve to be silenced. It's an important message, and it's a message expertly delivered.

What did you think of this week's The Night Shift? Are you glad TC is finally back home? How do you think the show handled an episode with barely any TC? Did you feel for Kenny as much as I did? Share your answers in the comments below!