Hypno Hospital was Jenna’s favorite guilty pleasure. She and her friends gathered in her dorm room every day at 2:00pm to eat popcorn and bask in its ridiculous splendor. Jenna had never gotten into a soap opera before- she wouldn’t have considered herself the type- but something about Hypno Hospital’s happy campiness just charmed her. It was the perfect brain break between classes.
Jenna and her group of nursing school classmates discussed the show constantly. Would Monica’s twin sister be able to use her NLP skills to replace her and seduce her fiancé Dr Blom? Was Tabitha’s witch curse real or were the Dupree clan just responding to suggestion? Would the space octopus use its’ mind control powers to convince Dr Yalom to kick his adderral addiction? Were they doing ANOTHER amnesia plot line this season? AGAIN?
Sure, if you REALLY thought about it, there were only about 5 plot line variations on the show that just repeated themselves over and over. But- those tropes almost made the show more fun. First of all, it made for excellent drinking games. Also, Jenna and her friends could talk endlessly about the variations. Who did the “turned into a bimbo” plot line best? Dr Beck and Dr Yung? Nurse Tasha and PA Brad? The last season had a pretty hot variation, Jenna thought, when Nurse Lisa hypnotized a whole harem of sexy himbofied orderlies. That was obvious fan service, of course, but no one seemed to mind.
(Jenna didn’t QUITE have the guts to subscribe to Hypno Hospital After Dark on her parents’ credit card to see the rest of those himbofication scenes. That would lead to too many questions. She certainly thought about it though.)
On the day she won the contest, Jenna had snuck a wine cooler into the dorm. Her resulting happy buzz was the only reason she had taken her friend’s bet to call in on the contest phone number that appeared on the screen after the show. She had been a bit intoxicated, sure, but her fangirl brain had no trouble answering the operator’s Hypno Hospital trivia questions. Before she knew it, she had won a free flight to LA and a trip to visit the set. She gave the operator her information, maintaining composure until she could get off the phone and squee loudly with her friends.
A week later, she flew to LAX. A black limousine was there to sweep her from the airport directly to the set.
(“Don’t I get to go to the hotel first?” she had asked from the backseat.
“Your bags will be taken there, ma’am” said the limo driver. He rolled up the divider, neatly cutting off any of her follow up questions.)
Jenna had never been on a set tour before. She wasn’t sure what to expect. However, she was definitely surprised when they pulled up to what looked like an actual, real life hospital.
A woman with a clipboard met her at the limo door.
“Jenna Hernandez?” she asked.
“That’s me,” Jenna replied, feeling a bit nervous.
The woman gave her a small, business- like smile.
“Great,” she said. She handed her a massive stack of papers. “Sign these where they’re marked,” She gave her a pen.
Jenna began to read and sign but the legalize was nearly indecipherable to her. The writing was really =small as well. She squinted.
The woman beside her politely coughed. Jenna got the strong impression that she was annoying her. She signed the papers quickly. It was probably all standard consent stuff anyway.
Next, The woman ushered her to a trailer outside the hospital. A sign on the door said “Director”.
Jenna felt her anticipation rise. She was about the meet the show’s director!
This was VERY exciting! The internet was abuzz with gossip about who the Hypno Hospital director may be. There was a name on the credits, sure, but- everyone knew it was a pseudonym.
She took a moment to fix her plane-rumpled clothes.
She walked inside.
Inside, at a large desk, she was surprised to see her favorite show actor Tom Marcos. He played the charming and hypnotic Dr Mark Mesmer on the show.
He was also, apparently, the show’s director.
Jenna was momentarily stunned into silence by this revelation.
Dr. Mesmer (Tom, she reminded herself) stood up and offered to shake her hand. He was even more gorgeous in person.
Jenna blanked out for a second mid-handshake (must be nerves! she thought) and found herself sitting in a chair across from Dr…..er….Tom.
“Welcome, Jenna!” he said, warmly. “Thank you so much for wanting to visit us on set! I hear you’re a big fan!”
Jenna took a moment before responding. “Oh- yes! Yes I am! I’m so excited to see how your show is filmed! Also- are you ok signing pictures? I can’t wait to give some to my friends!”
Tom laughed. “We can get to all of that later. First I want to learn more about you! I hear you’re in nursing school?”
Jenna blushed and smiled. “Why- yes! Yes I am!”
“That’s wonderful,” said the actor. “Maybe I should call you NURSE Jenna, huh?”
“Oh- ha!” said Jenna, laughing shyly. “Yeah, maybe.”
“Wonderful,” he said. “So- Jenna- what questions do you have about the show?
“Well,” she said, collecting herself. “I was surprised to find that it’s filmed in an actual hospital. I assumed you would be on a soundstage. Is everything filmed here?”
“What an insightful question!” Tom said. “Tell me nurse Jenna- have you ever heard of cinema vérité?”
That sounded familiar. “I think so?” she said.
“Ah,” he responded. “How about method acting?”
Jenna nodded her head yes. She knew what that was.
She noticed that Tom nodded too. “Excellent. So on our set, we utilize method acting to help the actors concentrate and sell the concepts we’re dealing with on the show. You’re a big fan- right- so you probably know what a big sale that can be.” He chuckled at himself.
Jenna laughed and chuckled along. Of course- everyone knew hypnosis like on Hypno Hospital didn’t exist.
Tom continued, “But Jenna- we have to MAKE those ideas real for our show to work- even if only inside our own heads. That’s extremely important to understand when you go on set. We don’t use actor names- only character names. And our actors stay in character the whole time they’re here. It helps with their internal process. They learn to ignore the cameras and the lights and just live inside their characters.”
Huh- that was interesting, Jenna thought. She’d never considered it before, but the acting on Hypno Hospital did tend to be a little better than in other soaps. Maybe this was why?
Tom concluded. “So when we go to set today, don’t be surprised if people ignore you. They’re not being rude- they’ve just been instructed to stay in character. And you’re not someone their character knows yet. Got it?”
Jenna guessed so.
“Great, “ said Tom. “Also- I have one more surprise for you!”
“What?” asked Jenna.
From under his desk, Tom pulled out a white garment. Jenna looked closer. It looked like one of the sexy nurse outfits from the show. There was even a little embroidered name tag on the top pocket that said “Nurse Jenna”.
“Oh!” said Jenna. “Thank you so much! Err…how did you know my size?”
“We measured you while you were out,” said Tom dismissively. “Try it on!”
“You…” Jenna’s brain seemed to skip a beat. What was she thinking about again?
Oh right, the nurse outfit!
She took off her clothes and changed into the costume. It was..snug.
Tom directed her to the mirror in the corner. “You look very beautiful in that, nurse Jenna. Have you ever considered acting?”
She admired herself in the mirror. She normally didn’t consider herself attractive but..something about these lights and Tom’s words helped her see the attractive side of herself. She smiled.
“No, just nursing,” she replied, responding to his earlier question.
“Ah, of course,” said Tom. “Of course you’re a nurse. Perfect. Well- let’s get on set!”
Jenna followed Tom out.
Tom took her on a tour of some of the different hospital rooms. They walked through the ER, the lab, the nursing station, the brainwashing chamber. They were quiet throughout as the show was in the middle of shooting. As promised, actors who were not currently shooting were deep in concentration, not acknowledging her at all.
Jenna was beginning to understand how one could concentrate so deeply. After hearing a few whispered “ignore the cameras” from Tom, she found it increasingly easy to see past them. It was almost as if they weren’t there.
Finally, they ended up in Dr Mesmer’s office.
“And he we are!” said Tom.
Jenna looked around. It was amazing! The spiral and the pocket watch and the metronome were all there, just like on the show.
“Wow!” she said.
“Impressed?” he asked.
“Yes, Tom” she replied.
He gave her a look.
She laughed, “I mean, yes Dr. Mesmer.”
“Wonderful, nurse Jenna!” he beamed “And do you remember what happens in here?”
“Yes, “ she giggled. “Dr Mesmer hypnotizes people here.”
“That’s right,” he said, his voice smoothing out a little, “I hypnotize people here. You’ve seen that so many times, haven’t you?”
Something inside Jenna shifted, as if cued. “Yes,” she said.
“That’s right,” he smiled. “Sitting there watching, focusing all of your attention on me. Listening to my voice going low. That hypnotizes people, doesn’t it?”
Jenna blinked. There was a bright light shining on her somewhere. It was disorienting. She nodded.
“It’s so easy to be hypnotized like that,” he said. “When you’re listening and focusing. You need to concentrate so often, don’t you nurse Jenna? You’re so good at that. Concentrating on learning, concentrating on me. It must be nice, though, to be able to watch me and let your mind rest a while. To decompress. To let your thoughts go loose. Isn’t that nice?”
What? Oh, he was saying it was nice. Jenna agreed.
She was feeling like pretty spacey.
She could use some rest.
He fixed her with a stare. His hypnotic stare, she remembered.
“It’s so easy to relax here. To take a break. To just watch and let things go fuzzy and blank. Isn’t that right, nurse Jenna?”
She felt herself nod, dreamily.
“To go blank and fuzzy. And it can be so easy to remember to forget and forget to remember exactly where you are and who you’re supposed to be because you don’t have your script yet but that’s OK. I’m here to direct you. I’ll tell you exactly where to go and what to do and what to think about and- that’s my job, isn’t it? As your medical director?”
She nodded again.
“Good girl,” he remarked. “And you don’t have to know anything but what I tell you now.”
His tone changed again. “Nurse Jenna,” he asked in a more normal voice. “Do you know where you are?”
Nurse Jenna shook her head. She snapped back to herself, feeling a bit more present. Where she was? No……
“You’re in the hospital,” said the doctor. “Do you know who I am?”
Everything was fuzzy in Jenna’s head but that was quite clear. “You’re Doctor Mesmer,” she responded. Her voice sounded like it came from a long way away.
“That’s right, Nurse Jenna. Do you remember why you’re here?”
Everything was fuzzy. Jenna was aware of cameras and lights in the room but she knew how to ignore them. She was alone with Dr Mesmer. Why was she here? Why did she come to his office? Was she giving report? Her mind was blank.
“Oh no, “ said Dr Mesmer, looking at her concerned. “Do you remember anything about earlier?”
Jenna nodded her head no. Her memory was blank.
Dr Mesmer gave her a serious look. “Nurse Jenna- I think you must have a case of amnesia.”
A few weeks later-
Jenna’s friends were watching TV back in her old dorm room.
“Nurse Jenna- I think you must have a case of amnesia,” Dr Mesmer said on the screen.
A camera panned in on Jenna’s confused face.
The show then cut to commercial
The girls cheered. They had no clue that Jenna was an aspiring actress- or that she would get a chance to audition for the show- but she must have used her set visit as an opportunity to get cast! Sure- someone had taken her belongings off campus and she hadn’t been answering her emails. But that made sense. She was a star now! It must all be so overwhelming.
They spoke eagerly to each other about their friend’s new fortune during the commercial break. They were excited to see what her character did next.