Hell and High Water is the title of ER episode 33 that aired on November 9th, 1995 as part of season 2. This episode has found its way to my favorite ER episode ever as it has for many fans. All regularly recurring characters from season 2 appear in the episode with the exception of Sherry Stringfield (Dr. Susan Lewis).
Synopsis of Main Plot Thread
Dr. Doug Ross finds a child trapped in a drainage pipe in the midst of a terrible Chicago storm. Dr. Ross attempts to save the child amidst the rain and rapidly filling pipe.
Spoiler Alert for those who actually haven’t seen this episode and don’t want it ruined.
Summary of Ross’ Rescue (or: Why I Still Love This Episode After All These Years)
The episode attaches itself to the viewer right off the bat when Ross is sitting in his car with a flat tire and feels the weight of his world on his shoulders. He considers smoking a marijuana joint and almost even lights it when the weight of another’s life crashes into his: a young boy appears banging at his car window screaming for help. The boy’s brother is trapped in a drainpipe, his leg stuck in the grate, where they were playing when the storm started. The drama of saving the boy from the simultaneous dangers of drowning and hypothermia accent the first half or so of the episode. The rescue sequence then crescendos when Doug frees the boy who then passes out. A rescue chopper arrives but will only take them to Mercy, which Doug finds unacceptable and instead he takes a news chopper to County. The episode ends with an incredible save, a stitched up Dr. Ross, and a new view on life for many.
Summary of Secondary Plot Thread (or: By The Way, This Happens Too)
A little girl is brought in from a pedestrian versus motor vehicle and treated by Dr. Peter Benton. She dies. Wasn’t that interesting.
Summary of Background Plots (or: I Guess There Was More…)
An old woman gets caught smoking marijuana in her room, blames glaucoma, and did not have it. There’s a new computer in the reception area, which Jerry doesn’t care for, and Benton gets screwed with additional work.
Medical Review (or: There’s Some Truth To That Tube)
Doug needed to open the boy’s airway after rescue and could not do so through the mouth so he gave the boy a cricothyroidotomy through his throat. While in transport, Doug performed CPR and gave the boy Lidocaine via IV.
Final Thoughts (or: Thoughts of the Final Sort)
I love this episode. Doug Ross’ determination regardless of administration is highlighted when he comes face to face with two of his greatest passions for work: medicine and children. This episode really has the classic hero feel to it and though it is predictable and over dramatized that’s why I love it.