Spoilers ahead for Episode 3 of Chicago Med Season 8, called “Winning the Battle, but Still Losing the War.”
Chicago Med gave Dr. Charles a colleague to work closely with in the eighth season, but not by bringing back Sarah Reese. Dr. Nellie Cuevas (played by Lilah Richcreek Estrada) is a psych fellow working alongside Charles, and after they gently butted heads early in the new season, their disagreement in “Winning the Battle, but Still Losing the War” boiled over into real conflict. By the end of the hour, however, it seemed that the conflict might be good for both of them.
The stakes were already high when the teenager they’d diagnosed with schizophrenia in the Season 8 premiere (only to have his parents refuse to let them treat him) was brought back into the ED, and he was suffering more than ever. His mom was finally willing to listen and allow the doctors to try and help him, but helping him showed the stark differences between how Charles and Nellie approach psychiatry.
While experience taught Charles that sometimes the only way to build trust is to play into delusions, Nellie cited clinical evidence that made her want to do the exact opposite. He wasn’t thrilled, but the real fight didn’t start until after she administered some heavy drugs to the young man when he grew agitated. For her, medicating him was the right move; for him, it destroyed their chances of building trust.
And all things considered, the conflict may have been inevitable based on what kind of doctor Nellie already was when she began working with him. Chicago Med co-showrunner Diane Frolov spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of Season 8 and explained how Nellie fits into what had been a well-oiled machine in the ED:
Co-showrunner Andrew Schneider added that she’s “very firm in what she knows and how she thinks patients ought to be approached,” which is the cause of “conflict with Dr. Charles.” They made a bit of a scene in the ED when Charles went off after learning that she’d ordered drugs for their patient, and neither seemed ready to back down in the moment, so why would conflict between two psychiatrists be a good thing?
Well, Nellie may be firm in what she knows and how she thinks, but her final scene of the episode proved that she’s not completely inflexible and unwilling to learn from Charles’ decades of experience in their field. She visited him in his office to tell him that she talked to the boy’s mother about letting him spend a few nights in the psych ward so that they could talk to him and get to know him before writing him a prescription.
Even after Charles gave her the out of acknowledging that the situation was chaotic when she’d ordered the drugs, she admitted that she probably jumped to meds too quickly, and knows that she relies heavily on the literature and standard of care because she doesn’t 100% trust her own instincts. Charles reassured her that it took him years, and he promised that she could get to a place of trusting herself to make the right calls.
And this breakthrough almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t had their conflict earlier in the episode. Neither of them enjoyed the argument (and probably wouldn’t have had it in the middle of the ED if cooler heads could have prevailed), but they seem to be on better terms after their disagreement than they were before.
See whether their new status quo as colleagues sticks with new episodes of Chicago Med on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, ahead of Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. and Chicago P.D. at 10 p.m in the 2022 TV premiere schedule. Nick Gehlfuss recently shared one thing that will never happen for Will Halstead, and the problems with the the supply shortages (which the showrunners opened up about) aren’t going anywhere, so be sure to keep tuning in.