[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Good Sam series premiere.]
If you’ve been looking for something to fill the House-sized hole in your heart, CBS’ new medical drama Good Sam should do the trick.
When we meet Dr. Sam Griffith (Sophia Bush), she’s convincing a patient that he’s in good hands with Dr. Rob. “Griff” Griffith (Jason Isaacs), “the best” cardiothoracic surgeon, in her opinion. “I know that you are scared. I was, too,” she says. She had heart surgery a long time ago.
When the team gathers in the scrub room, Sam’s sure to tell everyone they all have strengths, only for Griff to walk in and disagree. He sees a lot of weaknesses: “pathologically arrogant” (Michael Stahl-David’s Dr. Caleb Tucker), “profoundly insecure” (Omar Maskati’s Dr. Isan M. Shah), “emotionally unpredictable” (Skye P. Marshall’s Dr. Lex Trulie), and “exceptionally vain” (Davi Santos’ Dr. Joey Costa). And as the cardiac fellow, Sam is “above them, in knowledge, rank, and skill,” he tells her. “Act like it.”
Speaking of arrogance, Griff changes the plan mid-surgery, but “good thing he’s in the hands of a capable surgeon.” It’s his attitude, however, that convinces Sam to take the Cleveland offer, she shares with her boyfriend, Caleb, after the surgery. She can’t work with Griff if he won’t respect her. But before she can inform her father of that plan, he’s shot. According to the news report, the shooter had no connection to the doctor.
The premiere then jumps forward six months, and Sam has been serving as interim chief in her father’s absence. It’s about to become permanent, something she’s earned, her mother, Vivian (Wendy Crewson), the hospital’s chief medical officer, assures her. (What else has changed: Sam and Caleb broke up. He tells Isan he panicked because he didn’t want Sam to plan her whole life around him.)
But just as Sam’s about to accept the job, Griff wakes up, and he’s eager to get back to work. In fact, he’s calculated how much time in the OR he’s missed. But he’s months away from picking up a scalpel, and first, he has to be proctored, per state law, Vivian tells him. He wants Sam to do it, but his ex-wife makes it clear he’s going to have to respect she’s in charge.
Sam’s on board. “Six months ago Sam would not have been able to handle this. I’m different. I’ve changed,” she explains to her mother. “It doesn’t really matter [if he hasn’t]. I have the authority now, and he will have to respect that.”
But it doesn’t take long for Griff to try to take charge once again, ordering tests when he thinks he’s diagnosed their patient. Is it any wonder that Sam turns to her stress release — playing piano against her leg, on the lab table? Though it initially appears as though he’s right, one of the patient’s symptoms, a swollen lip, isn’t getting better with treatment. Griff wants to just move on (“you need to be right about something,” he tells his daughter — ouch!), but then the patient’s condition worsens. Once again, father and daughter disagree on how to proceed.
Talking to the patient’s wife, on whom he’d cheated, Sam eventually figures out that it’s Chagas disease. He needs a new heart, but Griff argues he won’t get one in time. That’s when Sam calls him out on not respecting her authority or rules, and he boasts, “You need me.” But as she sees it, “It’s actually the other way around.”
“Something in him is broken,” Vivian says when Sam turns to her, and she thinks it has been since the accident. But that can’t be his excuse for everything, Sam insists. He was speeding, but what happened to her and her heart wasn’t his fault. If you feel badly for hurting someone, you don’t push them away but try to make it better.
To make matters worse, when Sam stops by Lex’s, she finds out that her best friend was sleeping with her dad before the shooting. It doesn’t matter that it’s over now. Sam wants Griff to find someone else to proctor him.
Griff tries to get Vivian to intervene on his behalf, but she refuses. “Make this right with your daughter. Be her father. Stop hiding behind your work,” she tells him. “This is how I’m her father. I’ve always been like this,” Griff says. Viv disagrees: “You need professional help. You can’t see how the accident affected your relationship with her. You have blacked it out.” And he proves her point about needing that help when he calls his daughter needing heart surgery “ironic” not traumatic.
The episode ends with a parallel to how it opened. Rather than put down her team, Sam tells them what she sees in them: “inspiring confidence” (Caleb), “wisdom and compassion” (Isan), “commitment, courage and a complexion I truly envy” (Jason), and, after a pause, “a brilliant doctor who I need on this team” (Lex). And Sam echoes her father’s earlier words — “good thing he’s in the hands of a capable surgeon” — when she has to improvise in the OR, using both the donor heart (which is too small) and the patient’s own to save him, with Griff’s guidance.
After that, Sam agrees to proctor Griff, though she points out to her father that he hasn’t been there for her in a long time. Therefore, she’s made the decision as a doctor. But, “as your daughter, I’m calling it.”
As for Sam’s personal life, Caleb seems to be regretting the breakup, but will he get a second chance? Likely no, considering her new love interest: Malcolm Kingsley (Edwin Hodge), the hospital’s new director of finance. There’s the awkward run-in (when she talked about the boring rich donors, not realizing his family was one of them). Then, Sam tells him she started playing piano to make her fingers more agile and it became her stress release, and the two stress that they didn’t get their jobs because of who their fathers are. And he later tracks her down to ask her to dinner, but while she’s clearly interested, work interrupts.
While the medical side of the series offers nothing new, we are intrigued by what’s been set up between Sam and her parents, as well as with Lex and Malcolm. But for how long can Sam and Griff’s relationship be so contentious? And since it doesn’t seem like Griff is going to change anytime soon, will Sam be the one who has to give in? Plus, with the premiere understandably focusing on the father-daughter relationship, we’re hoping upcoming episodes shed some light on the lives of the rest of the characters. What did you think of Good Sam? Let us know in the poll below.
Good Sam, Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS