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Season 4, Episode 1
Air date September 25, 1997
Written by Carol Flint
Directed by Thomas Schlamme
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"Ambush" is the first episode of the fourth season of ER. It first aired on NBC on September 25, 1997. It was written by Carol Flint and directed by Thomas Schlamme. This special episode was aired live.

A camera crew enters the ER to film a documentary. Maria Bello, who portrays Dr. Anna Del Amico, is promoted to series regular and Alex Kingston makes her first appearance as British trauma surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Corday.


A PBS camera crew goes to the ER to film a documentary to describe a typical day in the ER. Morgenstern suffers from a heart attack. Dr. Elizabeth Corday, a British trauma specialist, joins the hospital staff.

NBC Description[]

ER' LIVE EPISODE RE-BROADCAST FOR FIRST TIME; EAST COAST VIEWERS TO SEE ORIGINAL WEST COAST TELECAST AND VICE-VERSA: When a documentary video crew invades the ER to follow Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) and his co-workers through a typical day, everyone is self-conscious at first, but gradually becomes accustomed to being taped. While the cameras watch, Greene treats a musician with esophageal cancer.

Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) is embarrassed when the cameras catch his undignified encounter with a patient. Newly arrived from England, surgical resident Dr. Elizabeth Corday (new series star Alex Kingston, 'Moll Flanders') confuses everyone with her unfamiliar medical terms.

Dr. Ross (George Clooney) and Nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) treat a toddler who appears to have been bitten by the family dog.

Greene and Dr. Del Amico (new series star Maria Bello, 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith') treat a man who received a severe injury while trying to save a teenage boy from a vicious gang beating.

When Dr. Morgenstern (William H. Macy) becomes suddenly ill while cameras are in the room, Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes) is concerned about his privacy. Eriq La Salle and Gloria Reuben also star.

Short summary[]

The ER staff finds itself under the lights when a camera crew films them for a PBS documentary. Most are self-conscious with cameras following them around and some are unaware or forget that there are fixed cameras and that they are miked leading to interesting exchanges. The documentary focuses primarily on Mark Greene, who is still recovering from the beating he suffered in the hospital washroom, but he doesn't want to be depicted as a poor soul deserving of public sympathy. An accident victim's family causes a near riot in the ER. Dr. David Morgenstern has a heart attack. Elizabeth Corday arrives for her first shift at County General.



  • This episode was aired live. The cast performed it twice for two different versions, The East Coast version for those on the east coast and the West Coast version for those on the west coast.
  • The idea for the live episode apparently came from George Clooney and Anthony Edwards.
  • To give this episode a more 'documentary-like' style, it breaks with the normal style of the series. For example, the episode uses handheld cameras (and lacks the steadicam, a trademark of the series) and one fixed camera, strategically placed in the employee lounge. Also this is the only episode of the entire series which was filmed in the 4:3 aspect ratio. Regular episodes were shot in widescreen and originally cropped to 4:3 for transmission, but appear in their full 16:9 format on DVD and in reruns; "Ambush" is the only exception since a widescreen version never existed in the first place.
  • Alex Kingston and Maria Bello join the cast with this episode. Kingston is the first new cast member to join the series without having previously guest starred, as Bello, Gloria Reuben and Laura Innes did.
    • A side note here, a few years later on Alex Kingston would be a on again/off again character on Doctor Who aka Nu Who.
  • Justina Machado, who plays Ms. Diaz, would return to ER in Season 15 as Claudia Diaz.
  • Jesse Borrego, who plays an HIV-positive patient would return to the ER in Season 14 as desk clerk, Javier.
  • A team of actors was standing by ready to improvise a scene in the event of any technical difficulties. This contingency was never used.


Carol Hathaway: Actually, it's a myth about doctors and nurses dating so much. I know more nurses who date cops, fireman, paramedics...

[Doug comes from behind and cracks his neck and everyone laughs]

Dr. Doug Ross: I'm sorry, I need a nurse in three.

Carol Hathaway: What


Carol Hathaway: ?

Dr. Doug Ross: Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do.

[With a Ricky Ricardo accent]

Dr. Doug Ross: What's all this about cops and firemen?

Carol Hathaway: Huh, jealous?

Dr. Doug Ross: Jealous! I just want to know what you're doing for them that you're not doing for me?

Carol Hathaway: Ooh, I'll tell you later if you bring the cuffs.

Dr. Doug Ross: I thought I was going to get some sleep tonight.

Carol Hathaway: Don't count on it.


George: You'll get a lot of thank-yous from the female population over at Riverview. I don't wanna brag, but...

Dr. John Carter: Yeah? You a pretty popular guy over there?

George: Well, I seem to be... I never was much of a Casanova in my day. I didn't go in for all the wild positions and so forth. Ladies need that, all the positions.

Dr. John Carter: So I've heard.

George: And the sweet talk. I was never much for that either. I was mostly meat and potatoes. But now, I'm 82, I'm a man, I'm breathing. The odds are 12-to-1 in my favor. I'm getting it any time I want. Not too bad, old age.

Dr. John Carter: I'm glad to hear it. Glad to hear it. I tell you, it feels good to save a man who's performing such a service to society.

George: Stud service!