This is more a homage to Susan than to Chuck and Susan. But I really do hope those two have stayed together. I really do feel, he completed her.
I’m so glad Susan has not been overlooked and is returning for the opening of the Carter Center. It’s a relief to see she has not been forgotten as I think she, together with Carter was the glue that held the team together and gave a sense of continuity to life in the ‘ER’. She was one of those who connected the past with the present.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if she returned to work there once more?
For me Susan Lewis was always the quintessential girl next door and on the surface someone who did not rock the boat, the good girl, cool, calm, gentle and sweet. On the work front, she was hard working and conscientious. She was the over-achieving older daughter, the perfectionist who set herself impossibly high standards, the one who never caused her parents trouble or strife. She never liked to cause a fuss either in her personal or her professional life.
In fact, I would go further and say that the way she had always been sure of her parent’s approval was by their lack of response to her achievements. Their silence and subdued reaction was in fact what she always saw as approval. Therefore, by not rocking the boat, she was able to clap herself on the back and assure herself she was doing the right thing. She was keeping the peace.
The other side of this girl next door was her fun-loving attitude to life. This quirky, fun, Susan was someone she often hid but someone who bubbled to the surface in the company of Mark Green. There are many instances of mischief involving those two but the one that springs to mind is the time they put poor Carter’s leg in plaster. Mark gave her a confidence to show her wacky side in a way she sometimes failed (or should that be feared) to do in her dealings with others. Mark’s calm easygoing nature allowed her to show the frivolous side if her personality which this ‘good daughter’ was often reluctant to reveal.
One of the most poignant moments in Susan’s story was her quiet acceptance of Mark’s death. She is once more, the ‘good girl’, not causing a fuss although she is no doubt dying inside.
Susan lives a calm, measured life but every now and again the good girl rebels and acts on impulse. Often this is to do good; as for example when she uproots her life to move closer to her sister and little Susie. Of course this was also filling a huge emotional need of her own. The most dramatic impulsive act was when she married Chuck, a virtual stranger, in Vegas. On the surface, the marriage seems doomed before it starts. But even when acting on impulse, Susan seems to intuitively know what is right, what is safe. She is careful by nature and has good instincts.
Therefore, why the sudden aberration? The ‘good girl’, the ‘good daughter’ would have aspired to someone far more her equal both professionally and intellectually, I suspect. In fact, in many ways, the ‘good girl’ is horrified by her own spontaneity. Yet the fun side of her nature finds the whole thing amusing. So it is that we the viewers are more baffled by what has happened than she is.
So what is it about Chuck? I would hate to think he is the desperate choice of a woman who fells her biological clock ebbing away. Is there something deeper that draws Susan to Chuck?
Well, he’s kind, he’s caring, he’s calm and he’s easygoing. He listens to her and doesn’t judge her. He allows her to be herself and he is fun to be around. He is, in fact, Mark Green, just in different packaging. OK, so outwardly, Chuck is a bit of a slob and not who we would have expected Susan to choose. But it is often said, we cannot choose who we fall in love with, it simply happens. One thing is abundantly clear from the outset, Chuck genuinely cares for Susan and there is an obvious attraction between them. It is not until she nearly loses him that she realises that her attraction to Chuck is a lot more than just skin deep and she sets out to build a life with him.
A lot of things with Susan are like a subtext. The ER ran smoothly during her tenure as chief. She was organised, smooth and efficient. She led from behind and observed quietly. She always fumes quietly rather than making a scene. Her love for Mark remains to all intents and purposes undeclared. Her marriage to Chuck was a non-event which gets little more than a passing mention. It was after all little more than a practical joke.
And so it is with her second departure. She leaves with a flea in her ear. The ‘good girl’ is not rewarded for all her hard work to keep the ER ticking over. Instead she is passed over for tenure and Carter is the only one who is aware of her quiet fury as she makes a quiet exit, an exit that elicits no more than a one-line response from Carrie Weaver of all people.
Okay, there were extenuating circumstances at the time. Sherry Stringfield decided to leave at short notice. Her final appearance is in Ep. 1 series 12 and she does not appear in the credits after that. Yet it is not until Ep. 5 that we are informed by Carrie that Susan has left to take up a tenured position elsewhere. It’s as if she had such a quiet presence in the ER that it is only now after this time-lapse her absence is noticed and someone wonders if she is coming back. But she was a valued member of the ER team and things did slowly slide after her departure.
However, on closer examination this exit is typical of Susan’s character. If her departure was under happier circumstances, we would have heard about it. But as already stated she left with a flea in her ear. She had been passed over for tenure and had to look elsewhere. Rather than admit her dissatisfaction with her situation, Susan would prefer to leave quietly without a fuss. Unless she had something to celebrate, she would not have wanted people to know. Instead she left fuming quietly.
It will be interesting to see if there is any reference made to this when she returns.
Now for a bit of trivia and something that may have been noted by others in the past, Carter was indirectly responsible for both Susan’s and Elizabeth’s failure to get tenure.
Certainly, in the case of Susan, John was conscious of the injustice of the situation. Might he do something to redress this??