Sunday, November 7, 2010

Private Practice: Did You Hear What Happened to Charlotte King?

I view Private Practice as one of my guilty pleasures, and not a show I go on and on about, but seeing as how I'm still having a physical reaction several hours after seeing Thursday night's episode, it deserves to be discussed. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum but some are necessary.

Private Practice is one of those shows that never burst out onto the television landscape like Grey's Anatomy or Desperate Housewives. In fact, it came out around the time of the writer's strike in 2007 and that's one of the main reasons it was given a second season. It's a spin-off of Grey's with Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery being the character we knew and took us to California, where Addison began a brand new life. It has a wonderful cast with people such as Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly, Audra McDonald, and Taye Diggs, but while it was much hyped, and initially attracted a respectable viewership, it was not critically received. There were a lot of problems with it. If I didn't know how talented the cast was, I would have given up on it that first season, but I stuck with it, and I am so glad I did.

The show has gotten progressively better with each season. Everyone got more comfortable in their roles, characters were better developed, the writing seriously improved, and while the show still has its over the top, cheesy, schmaltzy moments, it's finally starting to achieve the same kind of quality Grey's initially had. So, let's talk this week's episode.

This week deals with the initial aftermath of the assault and rape of Dr. Charlotte King, played by the indomitable KaDee Strickland, and how everyone reacts to it. Charlotte is discovered by fellow doctor, Pete Wilder, who immediately takes care of her, while getting her much needed privacy. Charlotte is Chief of Staff at the hospital, so naturally news traveled fast. In one of the few moments Charlotte has alone, she calls Addison, and eventually, her rape is revealed. No one but Addison knows this. With all of that going on, Charlotte also has to deal with the reactions all of her friends are having, as well as how her fiance, Cooper, is freaking out. Throughout this entire ordeal, Charlotte is the strong one. She's taking care of Cooper, she wants to draft a memo to the the hospital letting them know everything's okay, she's offering to take another doctor to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting - she's the one. She's in agony but when she leaves the hospital, you better believe she's walking out on her own two feet.

Words don't describe how powerful an episode this is. It features one of the most realistic depictions of rape I have ever seen (and I still have problems watching Buffy's Seeing Red) as well as showing the various emotions that the family and friends go through when something like this happens. A lot of people forget that when a violent crime happens to one person, everyone is that person's circle is seriously affected too. From Addison's confliction on keeping Charlotte's secret to Sam not being sure of the proper etiquette for these things because it was four in the morning and he had a surgery later that day, but he knew she was okay (so to speak) to Violet not wanting to go into Charlotte's room because it brought back horrific memories and to poor Cooper, who felt so helpless because he wasn't there to protect his woman, these are all legitimate reactions, and because everyone brought their A game, it was something you wanted to turn away from but was so captivating, you couldn't.

Speaking of bringing their A game, KaDee Strickland was a sight to behold, and I'm not talking about how battered and bruised she looked, which was considerable. The character of Charlotte King is a strong, tough as nails person, so to see her reduced to such a vulnerable state is shocking. KaDee gives a fearless performance as she manages to keep Charlotte's strength, while showing us how hurt and angry and vulnerable she now feels. At times, she looks like a wounded animal, like if she could, she'd attack. At one point, Cooper tries to tell her she doesn't need to deal with hospital issues because she's the victim; her response is throwing a cup of water at him and declaring the wedding off if he ever calls her that again. That's the essence of Charlotte King; no matter how bad it gets, she is a fighter and woe to anyone who tries to make her feel weak. This is what KaDee manages to capture perfectly while infusing her with so many layers, making Charlotte one of the most interesting characters on TV right now.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Nicholas Brendon, playing a mentally ill man, who is also Charlotte's rapist. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xander has always been one of my favorite characters so it was tough seeing "Xander Harris" go crazy and get violent, but kudos are in order, because I was so disturbed by Nicholas' performance, I quickly stopped seeing him as Xander. Since the end of Buffy, Nicholas has acted in a few things but other than a recurring role on Criminal Minds, he hasn't had the kind of success some of his fellow Whedon alums have, like Alyson Hannigan and David Boreanaz. I'm willing to bet some of it is due to type casting as well as the personal demons Nicholas has had to deal with, but no more! If this role doesn't get him more roles, I will be shocked. He scared the crap out of me, and almost made me wish it was Xander who had gone evil instead of Willow. He became that guy you cross to the other side of the street to avoid. Outstanding performance. I heard he was tapped for only three episodes but I'm hoping it will be dragged out a little longer so we can see more of him.

There are some shows we all enjoy but never expect them to win awards or receive critical acclaim; they're the shows we watch for pure fun. I always categorized Private Practice as one of them until last night. I never expected to feel like vomiting after an episode. I thought maybe some tears but certainly not that visceral a reaction. This is one of those episodes that people should be talking about and I can't wait to see how the rest of it plays out.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you don't have to go it alone. Get help from RAINN.