I thought a lot about how I would start this post. There are very few times on TV when an episode hits you to your core. And not to be sexist, but I think if you are a woman, watching an episode like last night, it just impacts you harder and affects you more. Private Practice went there last night. They have done violent episodes before (Violet’s attack comes to mind) but something about the way this episode was filmed and executed just resonated with me. Unfortunately we witnessed the brutal and vicious beating and rape of Dr. Charlotte King….one of the strongest but one of the most emotionally challenged women on the show. I’m glad the show decided not to show the entire rape scene. To see Charlotte’s condition, the condition of her office, and the few clips of the actual attack, were enough to demonstrate what a horrific trauma this woman just went through. And to sensationalize more would have been distasteful. I thought the show handled that very well.
The opening scene shows the immediate aftermath of the attack. You see her office in disarray. A broken fingernail. Lamps are broken. Glass all over the floor. Tables turned over. An overturned coffee cup. Charlotte’s bloody arm surfacing on her desk in an attempt to stabilize herself. She grabs her underwear off the floor and hides them in a file drawer in her desk and then locks it and hides the key in a flower-pot. It is very consistent with what her character would do instinctively….hide the evidence of what truly happened to her so no one will know. She walks down the corridor to a supply closet where she is gathering medical supplies so she can treat herself. Pete walks in and see her. She collapses and he picks her up and carries her to an exam room. He begins to help her and she requests a nurse who will “keep her mouth shut” for assistance. As soon as Pete leaves, she makes a phone call. You think it’s to Cooper but it isn’t, she calls Addison. When the exam resumes, Addison comes in and Pete wonders what she is doing there. Charlotte shakes her head “no” and Addison said she was called in on another case and heard about what happened. At this point, Charlotte vomits and Addison shoos everyone out of the room, including Pete. She starts to clean up Charlotte and suggests a HIV cocktail, the morning after pill, some other test for STDs, and a pelvic exam. She asks if her assumption is correct and Charlotte confirms she is right.
One of the more painful scenes to watch was the pelvic exam. You see Charlotte shaking and crying and then Addison reaches for her hand for support which Charlotte grabs onto. It would be fair to assume Charlotte’s cries were for the pain of the exam but it was much more than that. It was the pain of someone being around an area where she was violated and the idea of someone else with their hands on her (even her friend who is a doctor) is excruciating. Addison suggests a rape kit and Charlotte refuses immediately. “I was robbed, I wasn’t raped.” Addison is stunned and says she needs to do this so she can turn evidence over to the police and it is her legal duty to do so. Charlotte says no. The story is she was robbed and beaten, nothing else happened. She stresses it again, nothing else happened. Addison reluctantly agrees with her and she begs Addison not to say a word to anyone. “He took my wallet, he didn’t take anything else.” KaDee Strickland and Kate Walsh had incredible scenes together. Both of their emotions were very raw and real and it was touching to see Charlotte lean on someone for help (which she never does) and Addison being there for her every step of the way and the pain she exuded for Charlotte.
At this point, Cooper has finally been told that Charlotte is in the hospital (he was out drinking with Amelia and Sam) and he leaves the bar to be with Charlotte. He’s pretty hammered so he needs to sober up in order to go see her. I read that the scene where Cooper sees Charlotte for the first time is also the first time Paul Adelstein sees Strickland in her makeup so the reaction you get from him is real because he hadn’t seen her yet. Cooper is completely distraught over the sight of her but you see him trying to pull himself together to be strong for her and Charlotte sees right through it. She asks to come to her bedside. He goes over and lays his head in her lap as he starts to cry. Vintage Charlotte, being the strong one, being the one to comfort him and tell him she is ok and that she will be alright. I wonder how often that happens? The victim of a violent crime needs to comfort the family around them so they don’t worry and get too upset. I bet it happens a lot.
Amelia suggests they do a CT scan since she threw up and had damage to her head, she may have a concussion. As Amelia preps Charlotte, you can see she is uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say so she goes into doctor mode telling her what to expect and Charlotte reminds her she knows how a CT works. Amelia then begins to recite the Serenity Prayer and Charlotte chimes in and they finish the prayer together. “I thought you seemed like you were one of my people” Charlotte tells Amelia. And Amelia smiles and tells her that she has been drinking a lot lately. No pills, just a lot of drinking. Charlotte asks her if she has gone to a meeting and Amelia replies no. Charlotte tells her that they will go to a meeting together. “Thank you” Amelia says, “no problem” Charlotte responds. Again, in the midst of everything she has just been through, she reaches out to help and comfort Amelia. In one sense it’s a good thing because it takes her mind off what had happened to her and gives her some power back if she is helping someone else in need. At the same time, I just want to burst through my TV set, throw my arms around her, tell her to stop worrying about other people, take care of herself, and let her cry it out!
In another very painful scene, Charlotte has to get stitches in her arm and she can’t take drugs due to her background with drug addition and her allergy to local anesthesia. So Amelia has to sew her up with nothing to ease her pain. Her screams of pain are almost unbearable to watch and listen to and Cooper nearly loses it at the sound of her agony. He can’t take it and Charlotte realizes this and asks him to get her a latte. He doesn’t want to leave her side but she convinces him that she wants that latte so he leaves to get it for her. After she is cleaned up Addison comes back in to see her and begs her to tell the police what has happened so that this won’t happen to another woman. Addison tells her “if you keep this secret, it will eat you alive, I know it.” Charlotte begins to enlighten Addison with what she is going through:
“You ever been violated? Anybody rape you lately? Let me tell you what it is like. You know those made for TV movies that always show some woman naked in a shower crouched down on her knees and sobbing? ‘Cause when she closes her eyes she can still feel the guys hands on her? How when they show the attack the woman’s eyes go all blank and still? She goes to some other place in her mind just so she can deal with the horror of what is happening to her while some Lilith Fair song plays (I have to say that made me smile a little because it’s true.) It is nothing like that. It’s dirty and sweaty. And he licks your face and he wipes himself off in your hair and when you try to scream he punches you so hard you see God. And then he goes at you again…raping stuff you didn’t even know you had ’cause he enjoyed it so much the first time. I know you are trying to help. But if helping me, means that everyone, that Cooper, is going to be looking at me the way you are looking at me now? Please. Do not help me.”
I was so mesmerized and so attentive during her talk with Addison I couldn’t move. I could feel her pain, her anger, her fear in my bones. It made me want to hunt this guy down and torture him with any means possible to try to have him feel of a tenth of what he put her through. I can’t even imagine or begin to understand that kind of terror. And she says it perfectly when Pete comes in to help her pain with his “voodoo” medicine and he asks her where it hurts the most? “My soul” she very matter-of-factly replies.
Cooper is sitting with Charlotte when she realizes that she needs to write a memo about what happened. She feels people are going to be concerned about their safety since a doctor was attack and she needs to write this memo. Cooper tells her someone else can do it and don’t worry about it. She reminds him she’s Chief of Staff and she has to worry about. “I’m the boss” she says. “You’re the victim” he says and she slaps her water cup and pitcher all over Cooper and the floor. She tells him if he ever calls her the victim again their marriage is off. He apologies and says he understands. Her face turns very soft and she apologies to him for which he says, she doesn’t need to. He leaves to give her some space and walk off his anger towards her attacker. He ends up at her office and goes in to see the destruction and brutality that occurred. He can see how much she fought back. Even Violet who follows him was not prepared to see the complete and utter chaos in her office. Cooper at this point completely breaks down and Violet shuts the door to give him some privacy.
Cooper comes back in to check on her and sees her trying to get dressed. She asks him to help her and he just wants her to get back into to bed and rest. But she doesn’t want to be in the hospital anymore, she just wants to go home and he agrees and helps her. She tells him “thank you for loving me. Take me home.” He walks her out of her room and into the hallway where the PP crew is waiting for her. Pete offers to get her a wheelchair and she informs him that the only way she doesn’t walk out of there on her own 2 feet are if she is in a coma or a body bag. When she begins to walk down the hall is when you start to see the flashes of what happened to her in her office. Just those 60 seconds of her ordeal are enough to make me want to throw up. The look of terror in her eyes as she realizes what is happening to her is bone chilling. And as we flash back and forth between the attack and her walking down the hall, we see her trying to stand strong in front of her subordinates (“Don’t you all have some place you need to be.?”) she barks at them, while telling Cooper very softly “Don’t you let me fall.” “I won’t” he says. And the meaning there isn’t just about her walking out of there on her own 2 feet, it’s about him being there for her through the impossible struggle of recovery they are about to face.
While this entire episode is happening as laid out above, there is Sheldon who happens to be called into the police station to question an unstable man who has blood all over him. While we witness Charlotte being attended to and the reaction of her friends and colleagues, Sheldon is questioning the dirt ball who raped her and he has no idea. We find out the man did this to Charlotte because he found his girlfriend in bed with another man and when he went to the hospital for help, Charlotte was mean and told him to wait. I am now incensed by this statement. And when he told Sheldon he “gave it to her and he gave it to her good” I just wanted to throw up again. If I could have jumped through my TV and beaten him within an inch of his life, I would have. In the end, Sheldon and police determine he has raped someone but the police say that unless some comes forward, they have no case.
“What Happens Next” is the title of the next episode. This will surely resonate throughout this entire season and have permanent life changing effects for the characters. How does Charlotte begin to rebuild her life? How will Cooper be able to stand by and support her? Will Addison be able to keep her secret and how will that effect her? Will the other members of Oceanside figure out what really happened on their own? And will Charlotte decide to come forward and put this asshole away forever? “What Happens Next?” That’s what we all want to know. My money’s on Dr. Charlotte King.