Previously on A Young Doctor’s Notebook: Jon got busted by the police for his morphine habit and Dan tried to find purpose at the hospital, to no avail.
1934. The policeman shuts off the recording equipment he’s been using and gives us a lesson in morphine withdrawal as he calmly loads up a needle. For those interested, morphine withdrawal includes nausea, uncontrollable bowel movements, and involuntary ejaculation. Marvelous, where do we all sign up? He places the filled needle on the notebook and shoves it in Jon’s direction. Jon ignores it and reaches for a box of cigarettes, only to find it empty.
We head back to 1917 as we move through the hospital while one of Dan’s friends writes him a letter about how great it is that they’ve gotten rid of the czar and revolution is in the air. In one shot we see, I think, the syphilitic guy from the last episode, now confined to a bed, smoking and just sitting there. Pel shines some instruments (I hope she bothers to sharpen that amputation saw while she’s at it) while Friend VOs that he’s become a Bolshevik, which is apparently a job, because he’s given up medicine to do it. Smart. Feldcher reads an atlas, and Anna straightens one of Leopooooold Leopoldivich’s enormous pictures.
Finally, we get to Dan’s room, where Jon’s reading the last of the letter, a birthday greeting, out loud while Dan lies miserable in bed and reminds him his birthday was three weeks ago, and yet this is the only letter he’s had since then. He snarks that even letters don’t want to be sent to where he is. Heh. Jon lies that he’s sure the cards will come flooding in in no time, it’s just that their mom’s…well, not terribly communicative. Ouch. Dan goes looking for his cigarettes, and both he and Jon tell each other they don’t feel so great. Dan keeps coming up with empty cigarette boxes and complains about everything—the weather, his job, life in general. He can’t find any cigarettes, so he decides he’s going to the shop, like it’s just down the corner or something. Jon reminds him the shop’s a good half a day’s walk away, so Dan gets ready to pack a bag.
We next see him dragging his whole damn trunk into the hallway. What, he doesn’t have a valise or something? He can’t pack some clean underwear into his doctor’s bag? This feels rather forced. Feldcher asks him if he’s going somewhere nice and Dan immediately says no, but then amends that by asking if the village is nice. Feldcher speaks warmly of the ‘bright light of Grechovka’. Heh. Anna joins them and immediately assumes Dan’s quitting. He sets her straight and she tells him he can’t go out in that weather. He reminds her that this weather is fairly constant, and if he waits for the snow to stop, he’ll never go outside. He doesn’t think it’s too ridiculous for a man to go traveling a bit. ‘A man, no, but you will freeze to death,’ she tells him matter-of-factly. Ha! He tells her he wants cigarettes and a newspaper and she informs him the shop is closed until August. Defeated, he plunks down on the trunk and sadly tells her he just wanted to get out of there for a day and see something new. He starts dragging the trunk back to his room and Feldcher kindly offers to lend him a pipe and some tobacco until the provisions arrive. He also excitedly tells Dan he’s ordered some pickled sprats, because they have a birthday to celebrate. Dan doesn’t care and Feldcher looks a little sad. Aww.
In a rather bizarre scene, Dan’s with a patient, completely ignoring whatever the man’s saying in favour of listening to the window through his stethoscope. Okaaay. Is he seriously cracking up? What’s he doing? The man stops talking and Dan hops to and says he can’t decide what the best course of action is: gargle or drops. You know, because that’s all these idiot peasants ever ask for. The man wonders if a gargle will work on his elbow and Dan agrees it won’t, so drops it is. He goes back to listening to the window and the poor man, who walked at least half a day to get there, gets up and leaves.
We then move to the dispensary, where Dan’s having the world’s most unsexy sex with Pel. The look on her face is so pained and distressed it takes this scene to a whole other level of disturbing I’m not sure the makers intended. When he finishes, they can’t even look at each other. She tells him she’s sure that, if they ever do this again, it’ll be better. He’s still having stomach problems and asks her for something for a peptic ulcer. She has drops. Of course. He thanks her and clarifies that the thanks is for the drops.
He starts hitting the drops bottle hard while he reads in his study. Whatever book he’s reading actually has the pictures he loves so much—one a fairly gruesome one of genital warts. Dan freaks out when he sees it and goes to the sink to wash himself. While he’s there, Feldcher bursts in and announces the sprats have arrived. Dan realizes this means cigarettes as well and says he’ll be right there.
By the time he emerges, Feldcher tells him it’s not the sprats, it’s just a dead girl. A weeping woman drags her daughter in, begging for help, and lays her down on the floor, saying the girl’s dying. Dan growls that Feldcher said she was already dead before he drops to his knees and examines her. He diagnoses dipthyritic croup and asks how long the girl’s been like this. Five days, her moronic mother tells him. He completely loses it and starts yelling at her for having almost certainly killed this girl. He leaves off lambasting the woman long enough to ask for cigarettes and a newspaper, but she has neither, so he calls her a stupid witch and has the girl brought to the operating room.
He’s in a fairly bad way, stomach-wise, as they bring the girl in and the mother keeps asking for drops. Dan’s had it and asks her what the deal is with these people and drops, because the drops are useless. The girl suddenly comes to and tries to breathe, making this horrible whistling noise, and Dan lays her back down and gets a faceful of mucus for his pains. He towels himself off and angrily tells the mother that the girl’s dying and he can’t believe she’s dead already. He goes on to say that he has to cut her throat open and insert a metal tube, at which point the mother completely loses it and starts screaming like a banshee. Some fierce other female relative comes in and tells the mother to wrap the girl up and they’ll leave, as she sets herself on Dan, getting ready to beat the hell out of him. Feldcher tells him not to worry, he’s pretty sure this woman’s with the others. Anna tells Feldcher to get some chloroform and off he goes. He manages to subdue the woman and Dan moves away, tells everyone that if there’s no consent, there’ll be no operation. As he stomps out, he suggests they take another five days to think about it.
Out in the hallway, he runs into Jon, who looks like hell. He’s got no trousers on and is holding a wad of sheets in his hand. Dan asks what he’s doing and Jon says he thought he’d just clean up after having a little accident. Ewww. Anna comes running out and tells Dan his tantrum worked and the family’s agreed to the operation. Dan tells her to get ready for it, and then sinks onto a nearby bench, saying he’s pretty sure he has appendicitis. Anna tells him to stop whining, because it’s probably just gas.
Dan returns to the operating room with that obnoxious female relative hanging onto his leg. He tells Feldcher he didn’t give her enough chloroform and Feldcher, astonished, says he gave her enough to knock out a horse. Pel suggests he give her enough to knock out an elephant. She and Anna drag the woman back out as Jon comes strolling in, wearing trousers a good four inches too short. Dan notes that those are his going out trousers and Jon tells him it’s the only clean pair he could find, and anyway, where’s he going out to? Dan finishes washing up and admits to Jon he’s not sure he can keep doing this—and by doing this, he means stay in this hellhole. He’s gotten so desperate he’s wishing for word to come that he’s actually failed all his exams and he’s to be stripped of his medical degree. Woah. Jon tells him they’ll take away his degree if he lets too many patients die on the operating table. Dan seems hopeful for a moment, but then looks at the girl and realizes he couldn’t possibly do such a thing as let her die just so he gets his mortality numbers up. Anna bundles the mother out of the room and Dan gets ready to get started, still complaining of his stomach pains and having a fever.
He makes the first cut and a whole lot of blood immediately starts gushing out. Of course, that horrible female relative comes back in at this point (are there no locks on these doors?) and sneers that he dares to call himself a doctor. Feldcher thinks she’s talking to him and he starts explaining that he’s actually a field medic, so she decks him and lays him out cold. Nice. Pel takes over knocking her out while Dan ignores her and freaks out because he can’t find the girl’s windpipe. Jon looks over his shoulder and quietly suggests a bigger knife. Dan returns to the instrument tray and grabs a big ‘un, the sound of the girl’s wheezing in his ears. He holds the knife up in one bloody hand and has a brief fantasy that he’s on trial for murder, having stabbed the girl three times in the throat until she died. As punishment, he’s declared unfit to practice medicine. Dan smiles joyfully and thanks the judge.
Back in reality, he steels himself, cuts into the throat again, and finally manages to get the job done, with Anna and Pel assisting. At one point, oddly, he refers to Anna as ‘mother.’ He fits the tube, completes the tracheotomy, and after a second, the girl begins coughing and breathing normally. Feldcher pops up, announcing that he’s back, and as Dan steps away he slips on some blood and falls back on top of Jon, who groans and regretfully tells Dan that he just ‘finished.’ Ewww. Dan barely has a chance to wonder why this guy’s suddenly involuntarily ejaculating into his going out trousers before Anna tells him he’d better go lie down for a while.
Dan makes it out of the operating room before crouching down in obvious pain. Anna starts to realize he really is ill and admonishes him for not taking better care of himself. There’s yet another knock at the door and they both look at it in dread. It opens and a little boy pops in begging for help for his mother, who’s outside. Dan grimaces and Feldcher comes out and is disappointed to see the kid’s not the sprat delivery either.
Dan and the ladies head out into the snow to where this poor woman’s in labour and unable to move. Dan tells her this is no place to give birth, like she doesn’t know that, and she explains that her father-in-law wouldn’t give her the horse because she’s a healthy woman and it’s only a few miles. What an asshole. Dan diagnoses another transverse lie and gets ready to do the procedure from episode one again.
Sometime later, he’s looking down at a bundle in his arms. He sadly observes that he broke the baby’s arm, and Pel gently tells him he has nothing to blame himself for, because the baby was already dead. Feldcher and Anna are wrapping the poor mother back up. Dan gives her the baby and she starts to wail. I hope to god she and her husband beat the everliving shit out of her douchebag of a father-in-law after this. Dan quietly says he’s not a butcher, but he is a murderer, and he begins to weep.
Later still, both Dan and Jon toss and turn in bed. Dan tumbles out, gasping that he can’t take this anymore, and crawls over to his bag, where he pulls out his little syringe and vial of morphine. Jon watches him in alarm and then tells him he doesn’t want to do that. Dan says he really, really does, because this has to be better than gargling drops. He preps the needle, going on about how this is fine, he’s a doctor, he can handle it, and he gives it to children! Jon reminds him that he only does that when he’s going to saw off their legs, so maybe this isn’t quite the right treatment for stomach pains. He fiercely tells Dan to suffer through it, because this is far, far worse. He goes on to tell him that this stuff will take him to a lush meadow in the middle of the summer, and it’ll be amazing. Nice job selling him on not taking drugs there, Jon. Unsurprisingly, Dan presses the needle into his vein, and as the drugs take hold, the light in the room starts to warm and a look of absolute bliss comes over his face. Jon gently takes the needle from him and tells him it’ll never be this good again. And then he takes the rest of the morphine from the bottle and gets ready to shoot it up himself.
Dan, all better and rather chipper, is examining a woman—presumably the wife of the syphilitic soldier. Dan delightedly tells her she has no sign of infection, and isn’t that amazing? He’s so happy he totally misses the implication of that, but she sure doesn’t. She starts swearing oaths and hopes her lying bastard of a husband dies a slow and painful death. Jon pops up from below her raised legs and brightly tells her he will. Hee! Dan follows up by offering her a pickled sprat. Ha!
In 1934, the needle full of morphine the policeman filled at the beginning of the episode is being held in Jon’s lax fingers, while a drugged up Jon smiles happily, leaning back in his chair, eyes closed. Damn, he just shot up right in front of the cop? That’s a serious addiction right there.