Previously on A Young Doctor’s Noteboook: Daniel arrived at a very remote hospital to start the business of being a doctor, aided by Jon, his older self.
We begin in medias res in 1934. One of the soviet soldiers/policemen is quizzing Jon about some prescriptions he wrote. Jon claims not to remember them. Soldier has the notebook too, but Jon says it’s just nonsense written when he was a boy.
Back in 1917, Daniel comes bursting out of his exam room—sporting a truly pitiful and hilarious attempt at a beard—calling for Pel and Anna. Neither of them are around, so he settles for Feldcher. Dan’s all excited because the woman sitting calmly in the exam room has apparently swallowed an entire flask of Belladonna drops and is showing no signs of Belladonna poisoning. It’s unprecedented, and Dan’s all a-quiver at the thought of publishing a paper on it and maybe even being invited to lecture. Flash to his lecture hall, where he’s now got a beard to put Leopooooold Leopoldovich to shame (and by the way, Daniel Radcliffe—don’t ever grow a beard. Seriously.) and is asking the woman what she had for breakfast after she OD’d on the Belladonna. Stale bread does it, apparently. The medical students are astonished.
Back in 1917, Anna and Pel march in and start bundling the woman out, Anna scolding Feldcher for not fetching her before Dan did something stupid. Turns out this woman’s just a drug seeker looking to score some sweet, sweet Belladonna to sell on the sly. Dan looks deflated and Pel tells him he’s too easily fooled and the patients can sense this weakness. He sadly says he thought the beard would help. ‘Yes, a beard would help,’ she tells him. Heh.
Dan goes to his library/bedroom, where he finds Jon poking around and looking pretty peaky and sweaty. Dan rages about Mme Belladonna and starts to shave. Jon half listens to him, while eyeing Dan’s lab coat and eventually pulling it down from the peg and rifling through it. Now that Dan’s halfway into his shaving routine and looks more ridiculous than ever, Pel knocks on the door and calls him. Dan rolls his eyes, collects his coat from Jon and heads out, pausing at the door to give Jon one last, suspicious look.
In the hall, he runs into Pel, who blinks at his appearance for a moment, and then just goes on her way. Hee!
Dan’s patient is in for a sore throat, but apparently the problem is much bigger than that: he’s got the syph. Dan blusters about and breaks the diagnosis to the guy, who either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care, because all he wants is a gargle for his sore throat. Like an idiot automaton, he keeps repeating he just wants a gargle, even as Dan tells him he has to be treated for syphilis before his brain rots right out of his head. While Dan tries to drill the truth into him, the guy gets up and just leaves. Dan follows him out, where he finds the patient bitching about him to Feldcher, who’s providing a sympathetic ear and a ready handshake. Ewwwww. Once the guy leaves, Feldcher tells Dan these people don’t understand the nuances of syphilis like the doctors do. And then he actually starts chewing on the thumb of the hand he shook Syphilis Guy’s hand with. Ahhhhhh! Dan is appropriately horrified.
A little later, Dan’s disinfecting himself and wondering to Jon why the guy wouldn’t listen to him. Jon tells him he’ll get used to seeing these people just walk out, because it happens. A lot. Dan’s idea of stemming this tide of horror is to write a compelling letter to get some award and get more staff, or something along those lines. ‘I like your optimism, it’s adorable,’ Jon mocks him. Ha! Dan tells him it’s his duty to help these people, and right on cue, someone out in the hall begins wailing. Jon tells him to be on his way, then. Before he goes, Dan asks him what he keeps looking for in his rooms. Jon says it’s nothing, and Dan’s too busy just now to worry about it.
Out in the hall, he finds a man wrestling with Feldcher and insisting he has to see the doctor. Dan asks what’s going on and Feldcher tells him the man’s deranged. The guy gets away from Feldcher, who flees, and runs towards Dan, who tries to retreat to the safety of his office. The man begins crossing himself repeatedly and begging for help. Dan tells him to just chill out first, and then Feldcher returns with some chloroform and knocks the man out. Well played, Feldcher. Once he’s laid out cold, Dan starts chattering about how this is going to be a really interesting psychological case. He turns the man over, and the guy comes to and tells Dan ‘she’ fell into the lathe and he has to save her, because she’s all the man has. Dan wonders what that could possibly mean, and then another man comes bursting in carrying a little girl bleeding heavily from her legs. Dan realizes the man was speaking literally, and Feldcher, looking a bit horrified, calls for Anna.
We return from commercials to find the little girl laid out on the exam table, being tended by Anna as well as one can tend a kid who’s bleeding to death, while Dan washes up at the sink. Jon VOs that this was the first time he saw anything like this. Dan tries to escape with the old ‘I need a cigarette’ bit, but Feldcher’s way ahead of him and already has a stash in the room. Dan stands about as far away from the patient as possible as he confirms that this is the only child. The only child of a widower, no less. Ouch. He puts out his cigarette, walks over to her, and looks at the carnage. Jon joins him and tells him not to look down, but of course he does. Feldcher uncovers the legs, and they’re an absolute mess. Even Anna and Pel are horrified. Dan wonders if she’s still alive and Jon tells him she is. Dan murmurs that he can’t do anything for her, but Jon tells him not to think about that. After all, he had great grades! Jon Hamm’s great at mocking people. Jon guilts Dan into doing something for the girl by calling him both cold and a coward. Dan steels his spine and tells the ladies to prepare for an amputation. Both Anna and Pel try to talk him out of it, but his mind’s made up. He tells Feldcher to start sterilising the knives.
‘Ok, team, let’s get this show on the road! Here come the good times!’ Jon cheers. He starts massaging Dan’s shoulders like he’s about to go out on the field and asks what he had for breakfast. Dan can’t remember. ‘We’ll soon find out!’ Jon crows, clapping him on the back. Feldcher administers the morphine and Jon looks a little too interested in it as he sets the needle down. Dan gets ready to start and Pel carelessly hands him the amputation saw. Dan warns her to be careful, but she shrugs and says it’s blunt. Excuse me? Why is it blunt? Its only purpose is to take off limbs in extreme emergencies! That’s not something you want to have to take lots of time with, you know? Did Leopoooold Leopoldivich not believe in keeping his instruments properly sharpened for some reason?
Dan gets started, and it takes forever to get through the damn leg. Hours, clearly. So long that, when he finally gets it off and Feldcher asks what he wants to do with the other one, Dan just says they’ll leave it on. What? If that was an option, why didn’t they try to save both legs? Oh, whatever.
Later, Dan complains about all those years he spent at the finest medical school in Russia, all that studying to stay top of the class, and what did it get him? A fine job as a butcher. He’s saying this while stitching the kid’s legs back up. How is this child even still alive? Jon tells him he did a good job; after all, he saved the kid. Dan says he can’t do this for two years, and he turns around just in time to see Jon measuring out the last little bit of morphine left in the bottle. Aghast, he tells Jon to put the needle down, but Jon refuses. Frustrated, Dan starts pitching surgical instruments at him, until Jon slips in some blood and shatters the syringe.
Out in the post-mortem hallway, Anna lights Dan’s cigarette and asks if he’s performed many amputations. He admits he hasn’t and Pel says it looked like his first. He says it was his first leg. Anna reassures him he’s come to the right place and will have plenty of opportunities to improve. Yikes! He tiredly trudges off to bed and Anna stops him and says that, in time, he may start to resemble a very young and inexperienced Leopoooold Leopoldivich. She considers that a great compliment. Dan accepts it and goes to write about being a butcher in his notebook. He also finally gets around to shaving off the rest of the beard.
Another day, he’s got a mother with a crying baby as a patient. The baby’s the patient, not the mother. The kid’s got some gross growth on his eye that thankfully we don’t have to see. Mother just wants some drops—is she related to Gargle Guy?—but Dan says drops won’t do any good, that thing has to be lanced. Eeeek! He terrifies the woman with that eye-gouging instrument, grabs the kid, and lances the abscess or whatever and gets a faceful of pus. Marvelous. I don’t need lunch now.
In the 30’s, we’re finally finding out what the deal is with these prescriptions: they’ve all been made out to the people from the hospital, all of whom are now dead. It’s how Jon was scoring his drugs. That was pretty stupid—why didn’t he just make names up? The soldier/policeman asks for an explanation, but he and we know there isn’t one.