Often times, "Being Erica" walks a fine line between being emotional and being treacly, but in Wednesday's episode, "Physician, Heal Thyself", it managed to stay perfectly on the powerfully emotional side of that line, thanks to a strong performance by Michael Riley (Dr. Tom).
First, let's deal with Erica. This was the episode -- foreshadowed a few weeks back -- in which Kai came back on a regret and ended up sleeping with Erica. When Kai showed up, Erica wasn't sure what to do, so she asked the group, and by extension Dr. Tom, who was having none of it.
That's because Dr. Tom was dealing with his own problems. First, we saw early in the episode that he'd asked Dr. Arthur to take on another patient. However, Dr. Arthur was reluctant to grant that request, because he thought Dr. Tom was taking on too much work and not allowing himself to have any kind of life. And just when things couldn't get strange enough for Dr. Tom, his daughter -- who, remember, he hasn't seen in years -- shows up at home. She's broke, homeless and strung out on heroin, but Dr. Tom is compassionate. He wants to help. Only later, Tom comes home and his wife informs him that Sarah took all their money and all her jewelry, which kind of sends him off the rails. But because he can't take out his anger on the absent (again) Sarah, he takes it out on Erica.
At this point in the episode, this could have easily devolved into a re-hash of Season 2's "Being Dr. Tom", but our glimpse into Dr. Tom's past was a lot more introspective. Thanks to Dr. Arthur, we got to see Dr. Tom's first meeting with Dr. Naadiah, and learned that she gave him a second chance at life. Only he's now become so wrapped up in helping people that he's failing to help himself.
Seeing the two versions of Tom practically side-by-side really shined a spotlight on the strength of Michael Riley as an actor. He played them perfectly not as two different people, but as two sides of a coin, and in doing so, he made it easy to see how something like Sarah coming back could "flip" the Dr. Tom we see every week back to that lost Tom sitting in Dr. Naadiah's office.
We even got a glimpse of Dr. Tom's very brief regrets list:
Not surprisingly, he put "Sarah" above "Killing Myself", which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the characters.
What I found incredibly interesting was that both Erica and Dr. Tom had someone come back into their lives, and were really forced to come to the appropriate conclusion on their own. Erica wasn't going to be sure about what to do with Kai if someone told her, and Dr. Tom was never going to let go of Sarah if HE was simply told to. It's kind of like "Inception" -- if you tell someone an idea, it's not really their idea. And if you give someone the answer, you're not really helping them, so with situations like this, only Erica and Dr. Tom could help themselves.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.