New Amsterdam: Season 1 – Episode 5 ‘Cavitation’ REVIEW

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New Amsterdam gives us the best episode of its premiere season this week in ‘Cavitation’. The premise of the episode focused on two young black boys being brought into New Amsterdam after being shot. But there is so much to take away from this episode because of the issues it seeks to discuss. It doesn’t hesitate to embrace the political and social angle surrounding the two young black boys being shot, and at the epicenter of it is Max as the voice of reason and guidance.

The episode opens to the department heads gathered around in a conference room with a glum look on their faces as Max opens the newspaper to read a section about the events that transpired at New Amsterdam the day before. It is this opening that sets the tone and stage for the rest of the episode as it flashes back to 24 hours prior to this meeting.

While this particular aspect of a medical drama isn’t new, there is something about the way ‘Cavitation’ chooses to explore it that makes it unique. Police brutality was the topic of conversation in this week’s episode after two young black boys are brought in after one is shot by law enforcement and the other is injured as well in the process. It’s a topic that’s difficult to discuss, especially in the context of a drama series, but it’s a sad and tragic reality for so many.

Throughout the episode, the cops are a looming presence over the hospital, and the Chief of Police and Mayor even put in a call to Max to try and handle the situation according to their terms. It’s commendable that ‘Cavitation’ broached this topic with sensitivity and understanding but still, hesitated to dig even deeper. Of course, it’s often hard to do so given the sensitivity of it all, but if any show can do it, it’s New Amsterdam.

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As the day progresses, other characters face their own trials and tribulations – including Dr. Kapoor (Anupam Kher), whose son pays him a visit. They appear to be estranged and Dr. Kapoor can’t seem to connect with his son who decided to take a unique path in life and manage a restaurant. But it’s the events of the day that make Dr. Kapoor realize that there is more to life than ego and status. There are bigger things at stake for so many others and while by the end of the episode Dr. Kapoor doesn’t exactly apologize to his son, he looks at him with a longing, teary-eyed look from outside the restaurant he works at.

This episode is all about pushing the boundaries and taking chances, while opening one’s eyes to the wrongs that are being committed around them. Lauren is placed in such a situation when Malik’s (one of the injured boys) heart starts filling with blood and she is forced to break protocol to save his life. And while she does the procedure correctly, blood begins squirting out of the syringe and she believes that she has messed up in the most awful way possible.

But, as she learns later Malik had sustained other injuries that caused blood to pool up. In that moment, Lauren could have chosen to follow the rules and regulations that are set in place, but she took a chance and believed in her ability to help the patient. And this is precisely what New Amsterdam represents. Going above and beyond the standards of patient care and helping those in need – in whatever way possible.

During the episode, a reporter comes in to shadow Max but Max doesn’t seem all that thrilled to have him around. And during the chaotic day, Max keeps telling the reporter that the story isn’t him, but it’s about New Amsterdam itself. It’s a point that the reporter doesn’t quite grasp until the very end after he releases his report. The story isn’t about all the amazing things Max has done or continues to do, but rather about the reality of their lives as doctors day in and day out.

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‘Cavitation’ also focuses on mental health and PTSD through Malik’s aunt and Iggy trying to help her. Since Malik’s parents died, his aunt was the one to take over the parental role and it’s taken quite the emotional toll on her. Despite her trying to protect him and his brother, Malik still became the victim of a senseless act carried out by the police. Iggy tunes into the fact that she is dealing with PTSD and helps walk her through it.

The heartbreaking moment in their interaction comes when Malik’s aunt states that lack of sleep and feeling depressed is just a part of life. It’s an alarming reminder that many simply do not know they are dealing with mental health issues, and therefore never seek out help.They become accustomed to feeling the way they do, and over time their mental health is chipped away and they are felt feeling helpless and alone in their feelings. Thank you, New Amsterdam, for shedding light on this very important and ignored topic.

Max and Helen help each other through their own health struggles in this episode as Helen performs a laryngoscopy on Max due to his sore throat. They’re concerned that his cancer may be spreading but luckily the results prove otherwise. On the other hand, Helen gets fertility tests done to see her chances of getting pregnant – something she truly wants for herself. But as the tests indicate, her chances are slimming down with each passing day and she has to make a decision ASAP if she wants to have a child of her own. It’s a jarring moment for any woman that can relate to her and it’s another aspect of life that shows tend to shy away from. It’s a reality for many women and we commend New Amsterdam for bringing it front and center this week.

‘Cavitation’ is quite the emotional episode overall – it focuses on police brutality and how one moment can disrupt an entire family’s peace, as we witnessed with Jalen’s death. His brother was overcome with so much grief and anger and it’s representative of the sentiments many feel in cases such as these. It’s also revealed that Max is the one that set up the reporter’s deal to come into New Amsterdam and it’s why the episode began with the focus on the article – which pointed out the point of the episode beautifully by stating that the doctors did their best to save the patient but on that day, the bullet did it’s job better.

With a new day ahead of them, Max says they have a chance to help others and they have to take a hold of the day and move forward because days like this will happen, but it should never stop them from doing their job.