Carter in "The Greatest of Gifts" : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

While I don't think "The Greatest of Gifts" qualified as "an all-time great ER episode," I have to say that I found the Carter storyline (which included Deb's, obviously) to be interesting and resonant from a "historical" perspective on Carter. That is to say, those of us who like this character, I think, have found the noble, people-loving, sensitive aspects of Carter to be deeply attractive. At the same time, his all-too-human attributes -- immaturity, selfishness, over-ambition, tendency to dishonesty -- have also often been on display frequently over the years, particularly in the earlier seasons. But I don't recall any single episode of ER, before this one, where both sides of Carter have been so strongly and sharply presented. "The Greatest of Gifts" showed us Carter at his very best and also at his very worst, all in one episode.

If you wanted to see Carter at his caring, compassionate, heroic best, I don't think you could look much farther than this episode -- I'll go as far to say, in ANY season. Not only was he there for Deb, but the implication of the opening scenes (with Haleh pointing out that he had competently taken over the job of the temp attending) and the scenes at the end where he efficiently managed a complicated incoming trauma event (where none of his superiors - Kerry, Benton, Mark, Luka - were around), was that Carter was just being a great doctor, period -- not only competent, but kind and attentive to his patients even though terribly exhausted. Talk about a hero!

But by the end of the episode, we see Carter literally down on his knees, shamefully puking his guts up in the toilet, reaching into the toilet (ew) to pick up the Vicodin he's just swallowed like a weasel -- a series of very unattractive images, maybe the most ignoble images we've ever had of Carter. Where just a little while earlier we had heard him giving beautiful, strong and wise advice to Deb about her difficult choice, later we were hearing him whispering ashamedly and babbling fearfully and reduced to mere gestures in the drug lockup to Abby, about what he'd just done.

Quite a contrast. I don't ever recall having seen the two sides of Carter so dramatically on display on the show ever. That's what the passage of time, and a good script, will do for a well-drawn character.

-- Ellen (, December 17, 2000


I love the way you stated this. I am a huge Carter fan myself and I often marvel at how much we have seen Carter go through. Of all the characters on the show, past and present, I feel I know Carter the best because he is the one who really shows how he is feeling on the outside. Maybe not to all the people around him, but somehow we get to see Carter's insides. I completely agree that this episode allowed us to see Carter at his best and worst. I loved seeing him so strong and supportive again, especially after last week's rant about being trusted. Deb really trusted him, and needed him and I doubt that if someone else was there holding her hand, she would have made the decision she did, or gotten through ok. Carter was really there for her.

And Carter at his worst. I'm not sure this is his worst, but it is up there. Last season we had Carter trying to deny his feelings and temptations, but this episode, he went right to Abby to confess what he had done. I think this is growth on his part, he knows he has to tell someone. Seeing him crying in the stall after puking the pills up was heartbreaking, but it was also refreshing to know that he understood the consequences of his actions and regretted them not even a minute afterward. I think it was important that the relapse happened so soon after he helped Deb, because it proved to us and him that he is NOT better yet, he is getting there, but he still has a lot to overcome. He finally has someone he knows he can go to, and feels comfortable going to which doesn't seem to be the case with Kerry or anyone else despite the fact they are there for him, and Abby is going to help him through. Carter is going to be ok.

-- Joanne (, December 17, 2000.

Ellen, excellent point, you said it perfectly. We see so much of him in this one episode. He's his traditional compassionate self that we look forward always to seeing, and we get to see it at it's finest, but then after he is strong w/ Deb, he falls backwards, and needs someone for him. The amazing thing is, that despite how tired he was, and how many times we saw him rub his eyes in this epi, he never left Deb alone when she shouldn't have been. It's hard to believe this all happens in one day, but it does, and that's what makes Carter's character so easy to watch week by week, w/out ever getting bored. In a different way, and for different reasons, we are seeing the old Carter again, perhaps because he has to, in a way, start over. He is a competent physician, as he was a competent student, but he constantly had to prove himself to Benton, and now he needs to prove himself to Kerry and Mark. They know he's a good doctor, but they need to know that he can handle the pressure. We see Haleh's and Kerry's open respect for Carter, but then we see him falter and run to Abby, who he obviously totally trusts. He has improved a great deal from last season however. He needed help and he reached out for it right away. The pill thing was a pretty low point, but he's on his way. Even Abby thought it over and agreed (so far) that he shouldn't tell Weaver yet. ANd I think he would have if she'd have told him he really should (I may be proven wrong though later)...but he did know what could happen.

-- Elaine (, December 18, 2000.

Ellen you stated it perfectly. Carter was so strong and confident and nurturing with Deb and his patients, but he knew when to go for help. He is always the one helping people yet never asking for help when he needs it. Maybe this is the start of his real recovery. I hope we see him deal more with his addiction and confide in his bosses what he is going through and they support 100%

-- Laura (, December 18, 2000.

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