INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Sad Death on Season Finale of ‘Combat Hospital’


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Sept. 8, 2011.)


In the preview for this week’s season finale of “Combat Hospital,” we learned that someone on the medical base at Kandahar, Afghanistan, would die and that it would shake up the crew. When you have over a dozen regulars listed in the credits, it could’ve been just about anyone, but it was one of the characters that meant the most to me.  Seven minutes into the show, women doctors are treating local patients at the women’s clinic, as they often do.  Suddenly, someone covered from head to toe enters and starts shooting at them.

Dr. Pedersen (Deborah Kara Unger), the Australian psychiatrist, gets hit. As someone shouts, “Suzy, no!,” Major Suzy Chao (Ellen Wong) pushes one of the women down then rushes the gunman, punches him, and tries to wrestle the gun away from him. She almost succeeds, but he pushes her down and shoots her. Finally, Major Rebecca Gordon (star Michelle Borth) shoots the gunman from behind. Hmm, I thought, it looks like Chao only took it in the leg, while Pedersen got it in her upper body.  Maybe she’ll die. Fine with me. I could never stand the way she didn’t even try to enunciate her words, making her warm milk voice annoying to listen to.

After the commercial break, Gordon checked on the wounded and found Chao actually got shot in the stomach.  She’s the one who died. Wow. Well, at least she went down fighting. What made it especially sad is that as the doctors walked to work, Chao had been especially nice and sunny, greeting everyone, including Bobby Trang (Terry Chen), her sometimes-lover, who barely acknowledged her, probably because he was afraid of tipping others off to their extra-curricular activities.

Major Suzy Chao (Ellen Wong)

We didn’t get a big reaction scene from Trang, though he requested Colonel Marks (Elias Koteas) send him home because there was no way he was going to treat the gunman—who was still alive—when he wanted to kill him.  His boss told him he had to deal with the uncomfortable situation and not run from it. Trang agreed. Unfortunately, there also wasn’t a great scene between Gordon and Trang about the loss of Chao. Trang just said he never gave their relationship a chance but didn’t seem to feel much (in a previous episode, he’d told Gordon the sex he had with Chao meant nothing), though he laughed at how his former lover used to say that “I had a stick up my ass.”

Major Rebecca Gordon (Michelle Borth) checks on the status of Major Suzy Chao (Ellen Wong) after the shooting.

This being the final episode of the summer (and given its ratings, probably ever), I assumed Gordon would wind up in the arms of the womanizing British doctor Simon Hill (Luke Mably), since he’d been trying to pick her up all season. She always acted uninterested, but of course, all of a sudden, at the end of last week’s episode, she went to his room. This week’s episode opened with the two talking and Gordon complaining that he wasn’t trying to make a move on her. Oh Lord. Give me strength. Why does the jerk always get the hot chick? They started making out and taking off their clothes, but thankfully, Hill got a knock on his door, and they were interrupted.

Still, towards the end of the episode, before Hill flew off to see his suicidal brother in London, Gordon saw him off, kissed him, and told him to make sure he returned. I would’ve preferred seeing her get together with Trang, with whom she had more chemistry. After all, they began working at the base at the same time and often discussed with each other how they felt about the place.

All in all, “Combat Hospital” gets positive marks for including not one but two Asian doctors in its line-up, giving them a relationship with each other, and for being, in general, a warm-hearted, feel-good show. I hope it returns next summer, but ooh, with the loss of Suzy Chao, it will never be the same again.

Congratulations But… Part II Department: Two months ago, I wrote about watching Ali Wong on “The Tonight Show” and being underwhelmed by her stand-up act. Last week, Joe Wong, an immigrant from China who was the subject of a front page cover story in a July L.A. Times, appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman,” where he’d made his national debut in 2009.

Joe Wong on “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Looking like a typical Asian immigrant with glasses, wearing a suit and meek expression on his face, the smiling, 41-year-old former biochemist (and yes, he looks like one) kept turning slowly from left to right, gradually feeding his lines, pausing and waiting for his words to sink in with hopeful laughter from the audience (which oddly thought everything he said was hilarious—when it usually wasn’t).

He recalled his childhood in China where school kids were asked to bring bricks so they could build a road. Later when he heard about “child labor,” he said, “What? Those kids got paid?! I got a D-minus!”

Wong said he came to the U.S. for college and asked a girl out who turned him down. “She says to me, ‘Hey, Joe (sounds like Jill), no means no!’ Well, it also means nitric oxide.”

Of his visit to New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras: “I don’t approve of nudity in public, but when it happens… I wanna be there!”

The comedian remembered an ESL teacher who was too lazy to learn the names of her students, so she handed out a list of English names. By the time it came to him, only two were left, so he took Joe over Jake. “And the other day, I told that story to my son… Jake!”

Wong’s now married and has a four-year-old son. He realized, “Wow, this gentleman contributes nothing to society!” Still, he feels obligated to be impressed with everything the boy does. “ ‘Wow, you walked half a block by yourself?! That’s amazing!’ But in the back of my mind, I was like, ‘Big deal! When I was a kid, I built a road!’ ”

Not for me. Wouldn’t pay to see him.  Maybe if he keeps at it for another five years, he’ll be more consistent.

Coming Attractions: The producers of “Glee” said that their fans kept asking to see the parents of the students, so they’re granting some of those wishes. In the upcoming season, the parents of Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.) will be played by Tamlyn Tomita and Keong Sim (“Southland”). Unfortunately, Chang will also be revealed to be one of the seniors graduating this year, meaning he’ll be gone from the show by May.

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.


Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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