Let’s hear it for Iggy

This is a celebration of Dr. Iggy Frome.  If you watch the NBC series, New Amsterdam, you already know Iggy.  He is “the psych department” at the hospital.  So far, that has mostly required him to be empathetic and cuddly, which he is.  You hear him say “Oh, I’m sorry” and “No, that’s OK” a lot.

Iggy 4That didn’t happen in the one subplot of the one episode “The Blues” (Season 1, Episode 13) that I am going to describe here.  Three lines, all directed at Dr. Lauren Bloom, opened up a new facet of Iggy’s work and changed my assessment of him entirely. 

The first zinger was, “I wouldn’t do that.” when Dr. Bloom was about to walk out on the counseling session.  The second, in answer to her speculation “So….I’ll get suspended,” was “No, you’ll get fired.”  And delivered just right.  Nothing cuddly at all there.  You’ll have to wait a little for the third zinger, but it will be worth the wait, I promise you.

The Addict

So here’s the deal.  Dr. Bloom (Janet Montgomery) has ADHD and is an emergency room physician.  She had taken Adderall for her condition for a long time, but now the stresses of her life and work have led to her abusing it.  Her colleague and friend, Dr. Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) reports her to the head of the hospital, Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) and Max sets Dr. Bloom up with psychiatrist, Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine).

This is a tough deal for Dr. Bloom.  She knows she is abusing Adderall, she knows she is Iggy 2making mistakes, but she tries to tough it out and denies all the indications that she is a danger to the hospital.  The “appointment” with Iggy is an ambush.  Dr. Bloom is called to Iggy’s office to “deal with a VIP.”  It turn out that the VIP is her.  Max leaves behind a very angry Dr. Bloom,;Iggy sits down behind his desk and starts asking innocuous questions.  She can’t leave without getting fired.  Iggy’s job is to get her to face the problem, which, after the process I am going to describe, she does.  Her last line, as she breaks down in tears is, “I need help.” (37:47)  Here is Dr. Bloom in better days.

The Treatment, Phase 1

If making the case against Dr. Bloom, were the job, Iggy could have started off by detailing the evidence against her.  He has a lot of evidence, it turns out, in the folder on his desk, but he doesn’t use it.  He just asks questions that seem chatty (and are supposed to) but when you have watched this episode several times as I have, you know why he asked them and where he is going to go.

He asks her why she, a New York City girl born and bred, went to Walla Walla, Washington to go to college.  She gives a snarky answer because she is angry about the ambush (“It’s insulting”) and doesn’t yet know that she is trapped. [1]

Iggy asks if she abused Adderall.  We all know she does.  She denies it.  Never take an extra dose?  Absolutely not.  Never put a patient in danger because of overuse.  Absolutely not.  “If I did that,” says Dr. Bloom, “I would turn in my license.”  Iggy has a folder full of evidence that she bas been doing exactly that.  “So…what are you waiting for?” he asks.

For me, watching this unfold, the desire to see Iggy play gotcha is overwhelming.  She is denying an offense he can prove her to be guilty of.  But Iggy isn’t trying to convict her.  He is trying to get her to understand that she needs help and that help is available.  He can’t do that by producing a lot of evidence.

The Treatment, Phase 2

Iggy 3Iggy asks about her childhood.  Her mother was a mess, her sister a victim, and her father a saint.  The “mess” her mother was turns out to be a mess that Dr. Bloom had to clean up, beginning at age 7.   She protected her sister as long as she could, but abandoned the sister at age 12 so she could go to college.  The father’s sainthood turned out to be his business successes and the fact that he always answered the phone when she called him.

That occasions the third of Iggy’s zingers.  “You just described him as an emotionally closed-off workaholic who was in complete denial that his personal life was on fire.  Who does that sound like?

Iggy means that she is running away, just like her father did, and he wants to know what she is running away from.  It turns out that she is running away from the guilt of abandoning her mother and her sister so she could go as far away as she could get.

We see the noose tightening around Dr. Bloom’s neck.  Iggy has the evidence and Bloom knows there is no denying it.  But she has not yet seen that this is one she can’t tough out.  She makes one more try and Iggy helps her—or seems to.

He asks if she thinks she can get her Adderall use under control.  She says she can.  He asks if she thinks practicing medicine is the best thing for recovery.  She says she knows it is.  “O.K.” he says, releasing her.  “Go show ‘em how it’s done.” [2]

The Treatment, Phase 3

She goes back to the emergency room. but she is disoriented.  The image we see of her is out of focus.  She sees things in slow motion.  She looks at five bays containing people in pain with no real comprehension.  Then, without thinking about it, she digs in her pocket for the Adderall.  Then she stops.

That is what takes her back to Iggy’s office.  She closes the door and leans against it in tears and says, “Ask me again.”  He says, “What were you running from?” and this time he gets in.  Bloom’s defenses collapse.  She has seen for herself that she can’t go on and says, finally, what Iggy needs for her to say, “I need help.”

He responds, “We can do that.”

The whole episode, “The Blues” is OK.  It’s fun, especially when you know the characters. [3]  But this particular subplot really engaged me.  It surprised me.  It moved me.  And I’ll never look at Iggy the same way again.

[1]  I had the same experience with an emergency room physician in Chicago when I demanded that she release me from the hospital.  I was pretty uppity about it.  She signed a paper saying I had left the hospital against medical advice.  I asked her what the airline would do when I presented the paper to them and she said they would not allow me to fly.  At that point I realized that she had me completely under her control and I got a great deal more compliant immediately.

[2]  They do come back to that moment at the end.  Bloom says through her tears, “Were you really clearing me to go back to work? and he replies, “And let a drug addict loose in the ED.  God, no.  Are you kidding me?”

[3]  It’s not a soap opera exactly.  It’s a scrub opera.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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