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Lessons in Chemistry – Episode 4 “Primitive Instinct” Recap & Review

Primitive Instinct

In Lessons in Chemistry episode 4, Elizabeth goes into labor to deliver a baby girl. She’s angry when discovering a nurse gave her anesthesia without her permission. So, when told to name her daughter how she feels, she does just that. Welcome to the world, “Mad.”

Flashing forward seven years, we see a young girl opening her lunch at school recess. In it is a handwritten note from Elizabeth. “Play sports at recess,” it says, “but do not automatically let the boys win. Love, Mom.”

Back in the present, Elizabeth struggles with her newborn. She can’t get her to eat and thinks Mad must not like her. And this connection she’s supposed to be feeling with her baby? She doesn’t seem to have it. 

She confesses this to Harriet, who knows exactly what she’s going through. She helps Elizabeth see that she’s not alone in this and that it’s okay for her connection with Mad to take time.

Elizabeths still has other problems, however, as she struggles to support herself and her daughter without income. Unable to take out a second mortgage on the house, she starts working as a research consultant for some of the Hastings scientists. Secretly, of course. These important men can’t have people thinking a woman did their work for them!

It’s through this job Elizabeth learns that Donatti and Boryweitz have holed up in her and Calvin’s old lab. Acting on her suspicions, she storms into the lab to find that they have stolen her and Calvin’s research. Not only that, but they got the Remsen Grant for it. She calls them out for the frauds they are, vowing to build on her research and surpass them. She’ll publish her own research and get into any lab she wants.

Elizabeth continues work on creating her own lab, and Harriet continues to be there for her. The new mother asks her friend a personal question. Does she regret having kids?

Essentially, the answer is no, but Harriet reveals that she does have regrets. She was never able to finish law school, instead always putting her husband and kids first. She’d make some changes if she could go back, but she knows she’s more resilient for having raised her kids alone.

Resilient through her own challenges, Elizabeth pushes forward with the lab, even impersonating Fran to get some Hastings equipment delivered to her. She feels Calvin’s presence with her along the way. “You know that I loved you, right?” She tries to reassure him.

In Harriet’s house, the kids have been counting down the days until their father Charlie returns from the Korean War. He surprises them by returning two days early. The reunion and welcome-home party that follows are happy. At the party, Elizabeth meets the Reverend Curtis Wakely. It’s a friendly greeting, but Elizabeth lets him know that she’s not religious.

After the party, Charlie tells Harriet that a position has opened up for him to be a chief resident in general surgery at Kaiser Sunset. This bothers Harriet. Not only has she just got her husband back and despairs of him being away for more long hours, but she also feels that she’s put herself on hold for too long. 

She tells Charlie that she signed up to take the bar exam and has a junior associate position waiting for her if she passes. And she’s been asked to chair the Adams Washington Committee to help save their neighborhood from the freeway.

Charlie hears her out and insists they can both do it all. He’s not worried. “Because it’s you and me.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Mason shows up on Elizabeth’s doorstep to insist she join him in rowing. Once he leaves, Elizabeth experiences a moment of true connection with Mad when she makes her laugh by doing an impression of Calvin’s dance moves.

Flashing forward again, another little girl comforts the girl from the beginning of the episode. It turns out that neither of them are able to complete their family tree.

But the girl who was eating Elizabeth’s prepared lunch wasn’t Mad. Apparently, Mad has been giving her lunch to the bullied girl. When Elizabeth finds out, she won’t stand for it. She confronts the other girl’s dad, a TV producer named Walter, insisting that he provide suitable lunches for his daughter so that she stops eating Mad’s.

When Elizabeth leaves him a recipe and sample of her chicken pot pie, Walter seems a bit starstruck. Earlier in the episode, his boss insisted he hire someone younger to help revive their ratings.

Apparently, Walter sees his saving grace in Elizabeth and offers her a job hosting her own cooking show. Elizabeth declines the crazy offer, but at home, she sees her reflection in her TV screen. Maybe she should reconsider…

The Episode Review

This episode is a little bit jumbled in trying to fit in everything important before the time skip to Supper at Six. 

I’m puzzled as to how the show went about showing which kid was actually Mad. What was that about? It didn’t add anything to the story except more pity for the little girl from the beginning of the episode. Not only does she appear to have a hard time at school, but she’s not very significant to this story either.

I do love seeing the apparent connection Elizabeth has with Mad (Madeline?) years later. It’s lovely knowing Calvin’s memory helped make it happen. I’m extremely excited to see how Elizabeth goes about hosting Supper at Six. But I’m also extremely anxious to see whether all Harriet’s plans panned out! Charlie better have come through.

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