In this episode, we see how much the prospect of waiting two and a half more months for a diagnosis is affecting Stella. She lets Mac in on what's happening, and confesses to him that she doesn't think she's strong enough or brave enough to keep waiting, or to live with the possibility of being HIV-positive. While it's natural for the stress and uncertainty of the wait to keep getting to her, I also don't think that Stella would have been so quick to get to that point of near-despair a year ago. Once again, we see in a small, subtle way how much being assaulted by Frankie has changed her life, and has affected her self-regard.
Mac is quick to support her, and to reassure her that she is strong, but I don't know how much she hears that -- or how much she's able to believe it. Their scene together is quietly emotional, and we see here the partnership bond that has always guided the two of them in their relationship. This is also probably the most open comfort and reassurance we've seen the two of them give each other, as Mac puts his arm around her and Stella actually leans on him during the embrace. Compare this to the final scenes of "All Access," where there was a slight remoteness between them, a struggle to be strong for the other by not letting on how much they were really affected by what had happened, even as they were trying to reassure each other -- Mac wouldn't offer open comfort and Stella wouldn't have accepted it if he had, much less asked for it in the first place.
Stella is also quick to react with guilt to the tiny chance that she could have infected Sid while saving his life by administering CPR. Again, Mac reassures her, but we've never seen Stella this undone before. Like her earlier confession of not being strong enough, this is directly prompted by the fear she's experiencing as she waits for her diagnosis, but I think the background cause still goes back to Frankie, and how much that assault shook her life and undid her sense of self. What I think we're seeing now is that the protective shell she's had around herself since Frankie is starting to shatter, and the result is this raw-edged vulnerability. She also breaks down in tears when she tells Sid that she's waiting for a diagnosis, and this is a kind of open sorrow -- almost an open grief -- that we've also never seen from Stella before. She's like an open wound right now, and it's heart-wrenching to watch her being steadily dismantled in this way.
I think that some of the questions raised in the main case can also be tied into this ongoing plotline, and maybe to the show as a whole: as Stella says to Mac in his office, what does it matter if the world is going to end anyway? It's a fatalistic question, and a slightly bitter one, but it also rings true. Try to do the right thing, no matter what the cost ("You did the right thing," Mac tells Stella after she gives Sid CPR), or just give in to fate, sit back, and watch the world end?
Does what we do matter -- can it matter; can it make a difference if we try to do the right thing and are then faced with unintended consequences, or if everything we love is just going to be washed away in the end anyway? Does continuing to fight the good fight eventually become a zero-sum game?
No easy answers to any of these questions, and to its credit, the show doesn't try to provide quick solutions to any of it. They're also questions that are especially relevant now -- and ones that certainly seem to resonate with Stella -- but also ones that can be seen as throughlines for the show and the lab overall. Faith is the foundation for religion, as Mac points out, but it's the foundation for a lot of other things, too.
Briefly noted: Hawkes was a little too pleased with himself for his smoking experiments. I don't know if the rest of the lab was quite as thrilled with him.
That's an interesting pause and thoughtful look that Danny shoots Mac's way before he goes to talk to him about the latest bit of evidence.
Oh, Judd Nelson, you were so hot once upon a time, back when you were the ultimate tortured bad boy in The Breakfast Club.
Fashion Watch: Stella wears a gorgeous wine-colored suede fitted blazer over a lavender shirt with a gathered v-neck and a rhinestone or diamante clip at the deepest point of the v, along with (thank you!) low-rise bootcut jeans and high-heeled boots. Later, she wears black pants and a black fitted blazer with a forest-green knit v-neck.
Flack wears a dark blue pinstriped suit with a dark blue tie with a swirl pattern, and a light blue shirt that...is that a checkered pattern I see? Oh, and we were doing so well this season, too. Later, he wears a dark gray suit over a white shirt with red and gray stripes, and a bright red square-patterned tie.
Danny begins the episode in a rust-colored crewneck sweater over brown pants, and later wears a truly horrific knit shirt with very thin brown and green stripes. It looks like something that he might have originally worn sometime around 1980. Or something he saved from high school. If we didn't know this already, the '80s revival has officially gone Too Far. He also wears a very nice light gray distressed cotton blazer, but the shirt is still killing me dead.
Mac wears a brown pinstriped suit with a very dark green shirt; this is just about the only shade of green he could marginally get away with. And I still don't know about brown in general. He makes up for it later, though, with a dark gray pinstriped suit and a blue shirt. Why does this make up for it, when that's pretty much his standard outfit? Because the pinstriping is blue, and matched very well to the shirt. Sometimes it's the small details that make or break an outfit. Finally, he very briefly wears a gray pinstriped suit with a maroon shirt.
Hawkes wears a black shirt with white stripes, and later a plain buttoned violet-colored shirt.
I crave Stella's wine suede jacket.