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When Boomer Met Nick Moats

Warning: this blog contains spoilers to the TV shows American Crimes and St. Elsewhere. It is also mentioning violence and rape. In other words, this isn’t one of my fun blogs about Muppets, entertainment, or books. You’ve been warned.
 I just watched the season premiere of American Crimes, the anthology show starring Timothy Hutton and Felicity Huffman. Let’s just say this: it’s not going to be the laugh riot of 2016. Anne Blaine (Lilli Taylor) finds out through cell phone photos her child was raped at a party. She confronts the headmaster Leslie Graham (Huffman) but Huffman tells her the boys will be “disciplined” and Anne’s child should “make better decisions in the future.” We’ve heard this story way too many times. Girls being raped at parties, backseats in cars, in her own room. However, Anne’s child is named Taylor, a boy. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it. The news is depressing enough, why send out for extra. But I am haunted by another story that was shown thirty years ago, one I was never able to forget. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see the episode again. But I want to write about it to show that terrible things happen, and yet you somehow survive.

I was probably the youngest viewer of St. Elsewhere back in the day. The truth is I didn’t understand a lot of it; I thought Dr. Craig was too mean and many of the jokes went over my head. Maybe it was because the hospital reminded me of middle school: in the run down St. Eligius hospital that served the poor and needy, only the strong survived. But I just loved the acting, I loved Dr. Westphall (Ed Flanders) the kind doctor who was firm but kind with his young residents; Bobby Caldwell (Mark Harmon) the yummy plastic surgeon who was catnip to the ladies and performed brilliant work on his patients; Luther Hawkins ( Eric Laneuville) the smart orderly who knew all the gossip and tried to use it to his advantage.

And there was Jack Morrison, played by David Morse) AKA Boomer. Oh, Boomer. Dear sweet Boomer. He had these big puppy dog eyes and curly brown hair. He was way too thin; you wanted to take him somewhere and fatten him up. The worst kept happening to Boomer: his wife died, leaving him the sole caretaker of their baby, Pete. His best friend (Terrance Knox) was the Ski Mask Rapist. Only Boomer believed he was innocent. Boomer struggled with his patients; he was always unsure of himself. There was a reason for that: it turned out he went to an “accelerated” medical school in Mexico. I’m guessing the slogan was: “The McMedical School of Mexico!” So he had to retake exams. He broke his leg when he was rushing to rounds. Then his son was kidnapped (he was returned) Towards the end of the fourth season, things were getting better for our Boomer. He was doing better with his patients, Pete was well, and he had a possible love interest. Yes, everything was doing well for our Boomer!

Then on March 12, 1986, the episode Cheek to Cheek was aired.

The episode was written by John Maisus and Tom Fontana (they wrote most of the scripts for the show) and Eric Overmeyer. Inspired by a trip to Africa, Dr. Westphall made all the residents do community service. So far it had mixed results; mostly the residents complaining and Dr. Chandler (played by Denzel Washington, yes, Denzel Washington) working on a suicide hotline and hearing a woman kill herself on the other line. Dr. Westphall wasn’t discouraged though. He decided to send Boomer to the local prison. Now as an adult I saw this snippet and thought “Dr. Westphall, with all due respect, this is a bad bad idea.” Our Boomer went to the prison to help out at the understaffed clinic.

While working, Boomer sees a familiar face: Stephen McAllister (Jack Bannon) the husband of a patient that died in St. Eligius years before. When we first saw McAllister he was sad but friendly looking, a man who called his wife sweetheart and had fond memories playing touch football with his wife. McAllister in prison was scary looking, frightening. Of course I thought “Art Donovan! (the role Bannon played on Lou Grant) What gives?”

I can’t remember all what happened, but this is what I can remember: A riot broke out. A nurse was taken hostage. McAllister and Boomer were in a room. Then this scary man walked in. He was Nick Moats (John Dennis Johnston) I do remember he gave me the shivers. He looked scary. I kept on thinking “Boomer, leave the room. Leave now, Boomer.” Boomer told him to leave. Moats refused. Realizing he was in danger, Boomer tried to leave. McCallister grabbed his arms and threw him against a cabinet. Moats had a knife. “I think you’re going to enjoy this, mamacita,” Moats said, then ripped Boomer’s shirt open. McCallister continued to hold Jack from behind. I don’t think I realized what was going on. If I understood the full context, I would’ve been scared to death.

It wasn’t until the last scene I understood. The ER is busy with patients from the prison. The nurse held hostage was holding her torn dress, weeping. Dr. Jacqueline Wade (Sagan Lewis) ordered something to her, then she saw Jack in a corner, looking dazed. She asked him if he was okay. He was in a trance. He did a monologue about being in Mexico during the summer, when everything was hot and sticky. He was remembering his late wife. Jacqueline held his hand. He then said “Nina, I miss you so much.” Then I realized oh my God, Boomer was raped by that guy. Wait, can guys be raped? Oh wow. Oh man. How could that happen? But it did happen. It was frightening and scary, but it did happen.

Boomer was gone the last three episodes of the season (Morse was filming a movie) I worried about him. Was he okay? Wait, maybe I made a mistake. Maybe he was just beaten up. By then my mother realized I’d seen the show (I taped it on the VCR and watched it after school the next day) and erased the tape. It was before social media, when tweeting was a sound a bird made. No one else watched St. Elsewhere. Yes, thirteen was way too young to see what happened. How was I supposed to know? There was no parental guidance warnings. Nothing to prepare me for what happened.

I’m happy to say Boomer did return for the fifth season but Nick Moats haunted him. I don’t want to give everything away, but Boomer ended up testifying what happened to him. He is interrupted several times: there was no knife found.Why mention McAllister in the story? Finally Boomer has had enough. “Would you stop interrupting me? What the hell is your problem? Don’t you understand? I was raped! I was forced on the ground, my arms behind my back, my face against the tile! And worse than what Nick Moats did to me physically is the way he invaded my life!”

Maybe I was too young to see what happened to Boomer. But it made me realize rape wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t about what someone wore or what have you. It was about control. It was about humiliation. It was about shame.

Years ago Jessica Savitch did a series about rape for her local Philadelphia station. “Pretty young girls are getting raped. So are infant girls. So are their mothers and eighty year old grandmothers.”
 So are teenage boys.
 After all, it happened to Boomer.

Originally published at