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Throwback Thursday - ER - Old Times

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from over the years.

Welcome to another edition of Throwback Thursday. This week I chose to write about one of my favorite ER episodes “Old Times”. I admit that it was difficult choosing what episode I wanted to write about. There are probably 50 episodes of ER that stand out in my mind, but “Old Times” was one that I remember being very special.

“Old Times” originally aired in 2009 which to me doesn’t feel like that long ago, but so much has changed in TV since then. Before this episode aired NBC ran promos all week long telling us that all of our favorites would be there. However, George Clooney was never pictured, and there was nothing online about his return. So we all waited and wondered if George Clooney really would reprise his role as Dr. Doug Ross.

At the beginning we’re reminded that Dr. Carter needs a kidney transplant and is waiting in a hospital. He’s originally told that he’s being sent home to wait, but then another doctor comes in and informs Carter that a kidney is on its way. Then we cut to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle where where we see someone walking. We know it’s woman since she has on heels, but we don’t see her face. But then she says, “Hi. I’m Carol Hathaway.”

There are several doctors waiting for organs including Neela and Sam from County who are waiting on a heart. The organ donor is a boy named Billy who was hit while on his bicycle. There has been a delay in the transplant because the grandma felt him squeeze her hand. It’s a spinal cord reflex, but now she’s changed her mind. As Carol explains this, Doug walks in. “Doug Ross. Attending Physician.”

Even though this episode aired 9 years ago I still remember how excited I was that Doug Ross was back. And I was really impressed that NBC kept this a secret from everyone. I’m not sure something like that could be done today.

More tests are being run on Billy to confirm what the doctors already know: he's brain dead. Carol tells Doug they are trying to find the Billy’s mother, and she goes to check on the grandma. The grandma is played by none other than Susan Sarandon which I thought was great casting. When the tests come back Doug informs her that her grandson is brain dead. But the grandma just keeps saying that his mother needs to be there.

Doug grabs a cup of coffee and talks to Sam and Neela. He asks them where they work in Chicago, and when they say County he says that he did his residency there. “Is Kerry Weaver still kicking around?” They tell him that she left a couple of years ago. He asks about Peter Benton and Susan Lewis, and they ask about Abby Lockhart and Greg Pratt. I think this conversation showed how much the show changed throughout the 15 years it was on the air. Then Doug asks if Anspaugh’s still there. They tell him yes, he’s still there.

“Tell him Doug Ross said hi.”

The show now cuts to Carter’s hospital room where he’s sucking on ice chips waiting on his surgery. We see Dr. Peter Benton walk into his room.

“What the hell are you doing?” - Carter
“I’m working. What are you doing?” - Benton

Benton comments on Carter’s socks and tells him he looks ridiculous. They catch up for a few minutes, and we learn that Reese is 13 now. Benton needs to get back to work, but he’ll check back later. They shake hands, and Carter says that it was good to see him. I always liked the relationship between Carter and Benton and was nice to see that again.

The episode moves back to Seattle where we learn that Billy’s mom left years ago, and they don’t know where she is. The grandma talks about how kind and caring Billy is. When Doug asks if he was generous, the grandma says yes. She agrees to the transplant and tells Billy goodbye. This was a sad moment but the acting was terrific.

Benton spends more time with Carter while he waits for the transplant, and he teases Carter by eating an energy bar. Benton asks him about his time in Africa, and then Carter shows him a picture of Kem. Carter gets moved after Sam drops off his kidney, and Benton tells Carter he should call her. Then Benton decides to stick around for Carter’s surgery.

Before being put under Carter complains about it taking so long. He’s cold and hungry, but Benton tells him to stop being a baby. The transplant surgeon wants to start the surgery, but Benton makes him complete a pre-surgery checklist. There ends up being a complication with Carter’s kidney, and they have to take it out and start over again. They have to use some sort of solution on the kidney that they had available because it was on the checklist. Benton makes a snarky comment about how it was good that they just had some lying around. I laughed when one of the younger surgeons asked where he could get a copy of the checklist.

The woman who received the heart makes it out okay, too, and Neela comes out of the OR and asks the lady’s daughter if she wants to see her. I wasn’t as emotionally invested in this story, but I was happy that a young girl didn’t lose her mother. Their reunion at the end was very touching.

Carter wakes up from his surgery and comments on Benton still being there. Benton says that he didn’t want to miss all the fun. Carter asks Benton get to his phone out of his bag, and he calls Kem. He says that he has some really good news.

At the end of the episode Doug and Carol are in bed together as her phone rings. She answers it and it’s someone from the hospital telling her that Chicago called and the heart worked. She tells Doug that the heart went to a 36 year old woman with a daughter, and the kidney went to “some doctor.” They kiss and tell each other they love each other, and then Carol turns off the light and the episode ends.

There were other scenes in this episode that actually happened at County General, but I wasn’t as concerned about those. I do want to mention that Angela Bassett and John Stamos did a wonderful job with their roles. John Stamos’ character helped an elderly couple, and Angela Bassett’s helped save a baby and give advice to a young mother. The show always did a good job of picking great actors.

I was just so impressed that ER was able to bring back Doug, Carol, Carter, and Benton and make the episode believable. Doug and Carol had no idea the kidney went to Carter, and that was realistic. It had been years since these four characters had been on television, but Carter and Benton’s banter and snark was still there as was the fantastic chemistry between Doug and Carol. It felt like we were just dropping in on old friends to see what their lives were like, and I appreciated the show letting us have these moments.

Were you a fan of ER? Was "Old Times" one of your favorite episodes? Did you enjoy having some of our old favorites back? Leave a comment and discuss below!

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