Critical Diagnosis: Week of January 22, 2024 - January 26, 2024 by Jeff Giles

Well, well, well. Would you look at that? Another week is done and it’s once again time to talk about what went down on General Hospital last week. In a number of respects, this was something of a placeholder week for GH — plenty of things happened, and some of them were even fairly major, but there was also a fair bit of fluff. The main takeaways, if you aren’t watching and you don’t have enough time to read this whole column, are that Esme has fully re-entered her villain era, Nina is out at Crimson, Kristina is pregnant, and Brennan is back in the mix with the Metro Court shooting story. Oh, and Doctor Mope’s malpractice hearing finally got underway.

Like I said, plenty of things happened. Let’s dig in.

Under New Management

The week started by coasting on the afterburners of the previous Friday’s cliffhanger, which saw Drew firing Nina as editor-in-chief of Crimson and replacing her with Carly. In the opening moments of Monday’s show, Nina greeted the news of her replacement with a golf clap and a sarcastic “well played” before reminding the Drewfus Twofus that now that they’d exacted their revenge, they still had a whole-ass magazine to run, at which point she dropped her shades and strolled out.

Carly actually took Nina’s parting shot to heart, and spent much of the episode fretting to Drew about how they only ever agreed that she’d be a temporary fill-in until he found someone with actual experience. But Drew, who’s never met a potentially catastrophic business decision he didn’t like, manically tried to convince Carly she’d be perfect for the job, and by episode’s end, she agreed. Enthusiastically decreeing them “partners personally and professionally,” she tossed Nina’s desktop nameplate into the trash and snarked, “Under new management.”

Nina, meanwhile, headed to the ladies’ room, where she encountered Olivia. Addressing the elephant in the room head on, Nina acknowledged that they hadn’t spoken since the truth about her involvement in the SEC investigation came out, telling Olivia she might as well go ahead and unload on her — an offer Olivia declined, explaining that she wasn’t going to kick Nina when she was down, and it was for the same reason she agreed to hold her tongue when she learned the truth in the first place. That reason? Olivia believes in peace, something she tried stressing to Nina by telling her she’d be better off if she simply let go of her grudges and moved on.

It isn’t bad advice! But this is a soap, so after Olivia left the restroom, Nina looked in the mirror and vowed to give Carly and Drew the war they seemed to be looking for. We caught a glimpse of what that war might entail on Friday, when Nina met Valentin at Charlie’s and he asked her to name the cost of starting a rival publication that would cut Crimson off at the knees. Nina demurred, explaining that she doesn’t want to make a bad situation worse, but come on — as much as this show has taught me that we can never have nice things, I sincerely hope the writers realize there’s a lot of juice waiting to be squeezed out of a Carly/Drew vs. Nina/Valentin conflict. The obvious secondary utility would be to test the waters for a Nina/Valentin reunion, which is an idea I don’t love — I thought Valentin only really came into his own after he stopped being a moony-eyed drip over Nina — but if that’s what it takes for us to get to see Valentin back in glib schemer mode, I’m all for it. James Patrick Stuart is always a pro, but I think he’s at his best when Valentin is nibbling on a toothpick and coolly clowning on his foes and rivals. He’d play with Drew like a toddler sitting on a balloon.

As always, my main reservation with all of this is that I have no faith in any outcome that doesn’t involve Carly emerging triumphant. Even if I didn’t dislike the character as intensely as I do, that’s just sloppy drama; there’s never any reason to get invested in any conflict she’s involved in, so what’s the point? Well, perhaps with a new writing regime coming in, we’ll find something other than the same old same old at the end of this story. Until then, you know me — I’ll content myself with imagining possibilities.

Tell Your Mother Everything

After their tête-à-tête with Cyrus, Laura and Spencer adjourned to the halls of GH, where Laura told her grandson to shut up and sit down until Dante arrived. Once Detective Falconeri was on the scene, Spencer proudly admitted he’d let Nikolas take Ace — and when Dante wondered why Esme hadn’t filed a police report, Spencer told him he’s convinced she regained her memories after visiting Wyndemere. This led to some fun sparring between the two, with Dante floating the possibility of arresting Spencer and Spencer throwing Dante’s relationship with his own “complicated father” back in his face; ultimately, after Dante left, Laura softened her skeptical tone, telling Spencer that if Esme truly had gotten over her amnesia, they couldn’t make the mistake of underestimating her.

Meanwhile, Esme was at Pentonville, where Heather spent pretty much the entirety of their visit urging her daughter to run like hell. Naturally, this just inflamed the ever-tender scars Esme bears from her own abandonment at Heather’s hands, and no matter how forcefully Heather tried to convince Esme she ought to be playing the long game, she wouldn’t listen. Eventually, Heather let it slip that she’d be breaking out of Pentonville soon so the two of them could team up, but Esme flatly stated that her vengeance couldn’t wait, and she left the visitors’ room with Heather shouting after her.

Because time is meaningless in Port Charles, Esme was able to go to work the next day without ever seeing or hearing from Laura, which gave her time to go into Alexis’ office, swipe an Invader credit card, and start booking a one-way trip out of town — but not finish, because ol’ Uncle Kevin strolled in before she could purchase her ticket. He had questions, she had answers. Why hadn’t she filed a police report? Well, the police are useless. Why hadn’t she come to him and Laura? Well, Nikolas is Laura’s son, so their loyalties were suspect. Telling Esme not to underestimate what Laura was willing to do for her family, Kevin stressed the importance of asking for help when you need it, adding that sometimes, getting help means being willing to change. He asked Esme if she was willing to change and she told him she very much was, adding that she just wanted to raise Ace in peace and was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen — at which point she walked across the room to a shelf behind Kevin, picked up a heavy vase, and whacked him on the noggin with it, sending him sprawling to the floor. Exit Esme.

While her husband was being brained with one of Alexis’ office accessories, Laura was at Pentonville to see Heather, who spilled everything as fast as she could open her mouth. In fact, Heather was completely truthful with Laura, telling her that not only had Esme regained her memories, but she was hellbent on exacting revenge against everyone who’d wronged her, starting with Spencer and Trina. Laura, naturally, wanted to know why the hell Heather would admit this to her; in response, Heather said she wants Esme in Pentonville so she’ll be closer to her. This is 100 percent Heather.

After Heather asked her to stop Esme from doing something horrible, Laura went to the PCPD, where she told Dante and Chase everything she’d heard from Heather. Although Dante cautioned Laura that they really didn’t have any reason to arrest Esme at this point, he said they could at least come up with some cockamamie excuse to put her under a 24-hour hold, so the three of them scampered off to the Invader, where they apparently searched the entire joint before finally realizing that maybe they might also want to check Alexis’ office. Just in the nick of time, they found poor Kevin, still taking a vase nap with his face in the carpet.

From there, Laura headed back to GH, where she fretted over Kevin’s condition before bumping into Anna, who was there for a phlebotomy appointment. Pointing out that with Mac only on the job in an interim capacity — and also off in Argentina on that nebulous “fact-finding mission” —the PCPD needed a permanent commissioner to replace Jordan, Laura urged Anna to return to the department for another stint as police commissioner. Anna rejected the offer, and in one of those moments that would be hilarious to a non-viewer, she pointed out that she’d only recently shot Laura’s granddaughter — but Laura was undeterred, asking Anna to think about it before coming to a final decision.

Chase and Dante, meanwhile, were on the hunt for Esme — a hunt they were aided on after Chase called Dante to tell him they’d found a letter to Esme from her old nanny Maggie Fitzgerald, telling her she’d found work with a new family in Toronto. From there, they deduced that Esme had purchased a one-way ticket to the city and quickly made their way north.

In the midst of all this, Spencer and Trina jetted off to Paris following her farewell party at the Savoy. It was during the party that Spencer finally told Trina and Joss what he suspected regarding Esme’s amnesia, at which point Joss promised to find proof Esme had regained her memory. Our young lovebirds missed all the Esme excitement while jetting off to Europe, only hearing the news after a bellhop nearly busted in on them having sex in order to give Spencer the wall adapter he’d asked for in order to charge his phone. Trina freaked out after learning about Esme’s apparent attack on Kevin, telling Spencer he needed to return to Port Charles, but he assured her everything would be fine.

Given that we now know Nicholas Alexander Chavez’s GH hiatus begins on Thursday, it seems likely to me that Esme isn’t really in Toronto — either she purchased that ticket with her own money in order to throw off the PCPD and bought a ticket to Paris with the Invader card, or she went to Toronto, had some sort of fight with Maggie, and went to Paris from there. Either way, my best guess is that Esme will do something to take Spencer off the board for the length of Chavez’s absence; since we also know Tabyana Ali isn’t going off-canvas, I’m also guessing that Trina’s stint at the Sorbonne will be very brief. Or hey, maybe Joss will show up in Paris to spend the next six months trying to help Trina find Spencer. Or maybe none of the above! Whatever’s going to happen will happen soon, and while the timing sucks for the show in terms of Chavez skedaddling just as Esme gets back in touch with her true self, this is all still bound to offer an improvement over the boring-ass Esme we’ve been seeing since she dragged herself out of the water.

Anna, Do You Think My Mom’s in Trouble?

Last week, Jordan was busier than we’ve seen her in quite awhile. On Tuesday, she strolled into GH just as TJ and Anna were talking about how she’d been out of touch longer than normal — but when TJ pointed out she was wearing the same clothes she’d been in the day before, she played it off, telling him she’d just been working all night. Anna, of course, knew this was bullshit, and after TJ left to get back to work, the two of them debriefed, with Jordan telling Anna that the two men who hauled her off the docks were apparently FBI, and they wanted her to back off her investigation. Stranger still, the interrogation ended just as suddenly as it started; there was a knock at the door of the room where Jordan was being held, and after talking with whoever was on the other side, the visibly shaken agents immediately let her go with a warning to drop her investigation.

Assuming Jordan had no intention of doing any such thing, Anna offered her services, which were quickly accepted. But instead of teaming up with Anna off the bat, Jordan called Brick, who came to her apartment to do some incredibly unsubtle flirting before agreeing to do her a favor in exchange for one in return, “no questions asked.” That favor? Figuring out who called Jordan to give her the lead that attracted the attention of the FBI in the first place.

After seeing Jordan, Brick showed up at Sonny’s place with some bad news — he’d been unable to lift any usable prints from the photos of Austin’s corpse — and the better news that the gun left at Ava’s apartment had been traced to an assortment of unmarked weapons that were stolen from the WSB. Putting two and two together to make one weird spumoni of a storyline, Brick and Sonny realized that whoever was responsible for the Metro Court shooting also murdered Austin, and is also likely behind the shell company that made an offer on Wyndemere. After getting Ava’s paperwork, Brick went off to find what he could find.

He also went back to Jordan, telling her he was able to trace the call in question to a burner phone being used by an inmate at Pentonville — which was enough to jostle Jordan’s memory. While talking with Anna about the case, Jordan told her she’d thought the voice on the line was familiar, and once she found out the call came from prison, she realized who it belonged to: John Brennan.

So now we’ve got a mystery man behind a door, a connection between Curtis’ shooting and Austin’s death, and Brennan back in the mix. I don’t have any idea what the hell is going on here, but I have the sinking feeling that it’s bound to tie in somehow with Jason Morgan’s upcoming return from presumed dead status, which makes me want to do some shooting of my own. By the time this damn storyline is finally over, it’ll have been through at least three writing regimes, with all the Frankenstein scars to prove it. At least Anna and Ava are involved; that’s enough to improve any situation.

As for Curtis? He’s been too busy with surgery to be much help with the investigation into the Metro Court shooting, but that may change soon: After coming out of surgery, he was put through a series of tests by his surgeon, and although he hasn’t regained all sensation or even tried to walk yet, he did feel something, reaffirming that Port Charles remains the land of the miracle cure (as long as you’re on contract, anyway).

Muldoon and Muldoon’t

I have tried very hard not to waste words on this cold oatmeal of a storyline, but I suppose once characters enter a courtroom, they’re owed at least a paragraph, so here goes. After what felt like a century of dejectedly wandering around Port Charles and telling anyone in earshot that being a doctor is his whole identity and he doesn’t know how he’ll carry on if he’s malpracticed out of practicing medicine, Finn was finally called before a judge last week. The day before his hearing, he and Elizabeth told Martin what they’d kinda-sorta learned from Muldoon’s other doctor; with no time to waste, Martin put Sam on the case, tasking her with digging up any kind of proof that Muldoon had actually been referred to an oncologist before he died and that he ignored another doctor’s medical advice.

Sam showed up at the courthouse on Friday, telling everyone she’d been able to use Muldoon’s EZ-Pass records to trace him to a medical clinic — which, as Martin pointed out, wasn’t really proof of anything, since the clinic houses multiple medical professionals. Following that, Diane was of course able to provoke an angry outburst from Finn on the stand, and things seemed to be going poorly for him… until, that is, Sam came back with evidence of multiple liens on the Muldoons, the result of the family losing a bunch of money because they’d been heavily invested in Aurora before the failed ELQ merger tanked the stock.

This twist is dumb and gross. It’s one thing to drag us through the dreary doldrums of Finn pursing his lips as he whispers about the misery of a life without a medical license; it’s another to take a story about a man ignoring medical advice — which is a real thing that happens all the time — and turn it into the story of a man being wiped out financially and deciding that the only way he can keep his family above water is to die of cancer and frame a doctor for malpractice. The piles of coincidences and lapses in logic are offensive enough. Is there a reason to make Aurora the new Raymond Berlin, the source of every random character’s financial woes? And why in the hell didn’t Martin have Sam digging up dirt on the Muldoons all along? Liens aren’t exactly difficult to find. Even more offensive is the decision to take what might have been a mildly useful cautionary tale about preventative care and end up making it about a rock stupid scam. The only way any of this can possibly be interesting is if Muldoon’s widow snaps and shoots Drew.

That Murdering Bastard

I’ll be brief with this one, but I don’t want to let go of last week without pointing out how annoyed I was with the conversation that took place between Robert and Diane at the Savoy. He showed up at the club with flowers for her, and then looked annoyed when she strolled in with Sonny and Alexis; after she made her way to their table, she demanded an apology for the way he vowed to send Sonny to prison for beating Cyrus.

It only got worse from there. Robert pointed out that it’s, you know, his job to put criminals behind bars, and Sonny is quite obviously and very much a felon; in response, Diane equated Sonny’s long-standing criminal empire with Anna and Holly’s misdeeds. Tristan Rogers appeared to be extremely tired during this exchange, and I felt that in my bones. First of all, this was maybe the sixth time since like 2006 that Robert’s even been allowed to express more than momentary distaste for Sonny; second, Diane’s counter-argument stands as a prime example of the knots GH has had to tie itself into in order to make room for a murderous thug as the central pillar of the show. You can point to any character on the canvas if you want an example of someone with a checkered past — the difference between them and Sonny is that virtually all of them have made attempts to seek redemption and move on, whereas he never has and most likely never will.

Maybe this would be easier to take if Robert and Diane had any spark between them whatsoever, but their coupling is a textbook case of two characters being mashed together because they’re in proximity to each other and close enough in age. Robert being willing to agree to disagree and accept Diane’s deep personal friendship with Sonny is offensive to anyone who remembers the character’s original run. I’m always glad to see him, but there have got to be better uses for him.

Okay, enough grumbling from me. On to the bullet points!

  • Scott laid it on thick with Tracy before coming on to Lucy, who was already in a tizzy after a jealous Martin walked out on her
  • Chase and Brook Lynn asked Gregory to officiate their wedding; after sharing his reluctance, he agreed to do it, but was later found by Tracy in the hotel lobby, temporarily unable to move
  • Marshall talked to Stella again about their shared moment over the holidays, and she again dismissed it, saying it’s “something that can never be”
  • Kristina took a pregnancy test that came up positive; she and Molly told TJ, then summoned Sonny, Alexis, and Jordan to share the news
  • Spinelli lectured Cody about worming his way into Maxie’s life after Cody bought James some new riding boots; in response, Cody accused Spinelli of still being in love with Maxie
  • Sonny suggested that he and Dex take Ava to the island until whoever’s threatening her has been neutralized, and she asked him whether he was really worried or just trying to get as far away from Nina as possible