Doctor Stranger: Episode 12
Our two former rivals find more common ground than you would’ve initially guessed in their struggle against their own personal demons, as they find out that what matters most isn’t destroying a castle or rescuing a potentially brainwashed girlfriend—it’s saving lives. Even if that means their self-realization can only happen in the midst of a competition that takes a new and especially morbid turn as the rules change so that the winner of Best Doctor Ever must also be the Worst Doctor Ever. If that doesn’t make sense to you, congratulations! You’re a rational human being, which already makes you 99.9% more qualified to lead a hospital than anyone in this drama’s universe.
SONG OF THE DAY
Bang Min-ah – “You and I (니가내가)” from the OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
After Hoon declares that Patient Lee will be the subject of their second match, Jae-joon attempts to argue the cardiology department’s point: that the bleeding in the patient’s heart will stop naturally.
However, Hoon offers his counterpoints to that argument, which leaves the two at a ripe position for competing. The winner performs the surgery. Or something. (God help me, what agreement did they just come to?)
Seung-hee expresses her concern that this means Hoon will lose the second match by conceding the patient to Jae-joon, but Hoon isn’t nearly as worried. Even if Jae-joon wins, which he will, it’ll just mean they’re tied—and all Hoon cares about is saving the patient. Even though he was just about to save that patient.
Jae-joon expresses his confidence that he’ll get Chairman Oh’s approval for the surgery to Soo-hyun, though she raises an issue he didn’t know about before: that this could be a case of medical malpractice. What will he do then?
Speaking of, we find Chairman Oh slapping the daylights out of the resident doctor the senior cardiologist allowed to perform the surgery—which is not only against hospital laws, but resulted in Patient Lee’s internal bleeding.
He’s worried that they’ll be sued if word gets out, which would mean the end of his precious Myungwoo Hospital, so he sends the resident away to the branch hospital and urges everyone else to keep quiet.
Hoon smiles to see Patient Lee’s son pinning his mother’s hair up in the hospital, reminded of how his own mother spurned him when he needed him most. Though Patient Lee’s son would like Hoon to do the surgery himself, Hoon reassures him that his mother will be fine even if she’s put in Jae-joon’s capable hands.
One of Prime Minister Jang’s secretaries calls Nightshade to find out about his whereabouts, and he cryptically tells her that Jang will know where he is if he’s told that Nightshade is out delivering a doll.
…Which isn’t untrue, since we find Nightshade carrying a big ol’ teddy bear into a small (mental?) hospital. He takes it into a room filled with clones of the same exact teddy bear and one woman, who turns around with a smile, “Is that you, Hoon?” It’s Hoon’s Mom, plus or minus some dementia. So Nightshade didn’t kill her after all.
After dodging questions about his own mother from Patient Lee’s son, Hoon is filled in by Doctor Moon in on the malpractice conspiracy surrounding Patient Lee, since her surgery was performed by a resident when it should’ve been done by a seasoned surgeon.
While Jae-joon receives the same information from the resident in question, Doctor Moon seems hopeful that Jae-joon won’t do the surgery, since it means they’ll win the second round and thus the competition.
At least Hoon calls Doctor Moon out on how much he doesn’t act like a doctor, as they resume their this-isn’t-such-a-serious-show-guys-we-promise Odd Couple bickering.
Jae-joon goes to Chairman Oh for permission to perform the surgery, explaining that he’ll win the second round if he’s successful. Of course, Chairman Oh wants to avoid a malpractice suit and declines, since autopsies don’t exist and there would be no way to prove the patient died from medical malpractice as long as life-saving surgery isn’t provided.
For his part, Jae-joon argues with the chairman’s motives as he belabors the point that the patient WILL die without surgery, and that it’s ridiculous for Chairman Oh to prefer that she die because he’s afraid of a lawsuit. He’s sure that if they just explain they did wrong to Patient Lee’s family, the family would accept.
But not so in Chairman Oh’s world, where any wallet that’s not actively spewing money at him is a yawning mouth waiting to swallow him whole. He warns Jae-joon to stop arguing considering that he promised to do his bidding, but Jae-joon doesn’t back down as he claims that he can’t let this patient die, since it would violate every promise he made when he became a doctor.
So Chairman Oh strangely and suddenly concedes, and takes the two competitors to Patient Lee’s bedside as he declares the parameters for winning the second round: “Whoever performs surgery on the patient will lose.” WHAT.
Okay, so let’s get this straight just in case your rational mind rightfully rejected this concept: According to Chairman Oh, who now decides the arbitrary rules for this arbitrary competition, whoever lets the patient die wins. Whoever tries to save her via surgery loses. Yes, that’s right—whoever doesn’t do their job as a doctor wins the competition for best doctor. /ragequit
Since Jae-joon will lose the competition if he loses this round, Hoon offers to do the surgery (and lose), as long as he can get Soo-hyun on his team. They’d end up tied that way, in the most nonsensical competition ever.
After evading Doctor Moon’s attempts to drag him home so he can’t perform the surgery, Hoon finds Seung-hee especially nervous because Agent Cha is in the hospital, chatting up the nurses who giggle at his North Korean dialect.
But Agent Cha is here to tell Hoon that he can’t just concede this round to Jae-joon, even if it’ll result in a tie—no matter how exciting that would be (the show loves to tell us how exciting that would be), he’s not here for excitement. He’s here for a mission, and right now, Hoon is screwing that up by losing a round.
Hoon doesn’t understand what the mission is, but doesn’t seem impressed by Agent Cha’s devotion. He reminds Hoon that he’s the one who brought Jae-hee to him, and he’s the one who can kill her at any time.
“If you wanted to kill her, you would’ve done it already,” Hoon grits back, but Agent Cha merely brushes that aside before giving Hoon an offer he can’t refuse: freedom. If Hoon succeeds in the mission, the DPRK will set him and Jae-hee free to live happily wherever they choose. They’ll even get money from the motherland to live comfortably.
Chairman Oh keeps Jae-joon in his place by reminding him who he still answers to—even though he acknowledges Jae-joon as his heir and thus the heir to Myungwoo Hospital.
“Keep in mind,” Chairman Oh adds,” if you want to be Myungwoo’s owner, you have to be more than a doctor.” Translation: You have to be a psychopath.
With Chairman Oh’s words about never letting a malpractice suit harm Myungwoo’s sterling reputation fresh in his mind, Jae-joon dreams about his father in the hospital when he was a boy, and how the surgery was supposed to be simple. That’s when he’d made his promise to become a doctor so he could cure his dad in a future that never came—but when Jae-joon wakes up, the first thing he sees is his Metaphor Castle, there to remind him of his revenge.
Knowing that performing Patient Lee’s surgery would cost him the competition, Jae-joon visits her bedside with a heavy heart as he murmurs, “I have no choice if I want to destroy the castle… I’m sorry.” Ah, so he’s opting out of the operation in order to preserve his ultimate plan.
But when he turns around, he sees his younger self standing in the doorway… only for it to be Patient Lee’s son, Jae-chul. It’s clear that Jae-joon’s heart of stone is moved at the sight of Jae-chul caring for his sick mother, and when the little boy asks if the name embroidered on Jae-joon’s gown is his, Jae-joon seems lost in his own world as he absently says no.
The two share a moment as Jae-chul mentions how Hoon spoke well of Jae-joon’s medical skills, even if his personality needs a little work. He asks Jae-joon if he’ll perform his mom’s surgery should Hoon not be able to do it, and since Jae-joon has now turned into a real boy, he genuinely agrees to think about it.
Now that Soo-hyun and Seung-hee are roomies, they talk about which doctor they think will end up performing the surgery. Somewhere in there Soo-hyun gets sidetracked talking about Hoon’s personality, and her eyes grow distant as she smiles and all but giggles in front of Seung-hee like a schoolgirl describing her crush.
Soo-hyun doesn’t realize what she’s doing, but Seung-hee does as she grips her coffee mug just a little bit tighter. “Do you like him?” Seung-hee asks in as friendly a tone as she can manage. “You always smile when you talk about him.” But Soo-hyun sputters nervously and denies it.
Prime Minister Jang is incensed that the country isn’t panicking after the DPRK’s announcement of its nuclear test, since apparently the announcement was his idea and the result isn’t what he expected. As usual, he asks about the competition at Myungwoo the way one would ask about the weather.
Even the president takes notice of Prime Minister Jang’s enjoyment of the international crisis, and when he asks which hospital Jang is looking to for his heart surgery, he names not Myungwoo. Huh.
Chi-gyu attempts to ask Chang-yi out on a date with a rose, but she instead uses it to slap him on the face and rebuke him. When he tries again, he’s treated to a small strip show from her as she sheds her outer shirt…
…To reveal another one of her part-time uniforms underneath, this time for a taekwondo job. To show off her skills, she kicks Chi-gyu right in the huevos rancheros. Good grief, I don’t think I’ve ever had to write about this many ball shots since Basketball.
After a court-mandated PPL break, Hoon and Doctor Yang discuss his upcoming surgery—only Doctor Yang tells him that Nurse Min won’t be available, and that he’ll find Hoon another scrub nurse.
Somehow, this is supposed to be beneficial for Hoon, since Doctor Yang is acting under Jae-joon’s orders to help Hoon however he can. Jae-joon’s acting out of guilt, because even though he can’t perform the surgery and lose, he at least wants to make sure Hoon saves the patient.
Seung-hee is not happy when she finds out that Hoon is going through with the surgery, and tries to use everything in her limited arsenal to convince him not to. But he sticks to his guns, because he made a promise to the patient’s family.
Agent Cha is able to overhear their conversation with his free backstage hospital pass, and shoves Hoon against a wall in a dark room to try and get his point across that there will be no third round. Hoon must win this round, or else.
Hoon argues that the hospital will be thrown into a medical malpractice lawsuit should the patient die and be disqualified from the prime minister’s surgery, so it’s in their best interest to make sure she lives. “Please,” Hoon pleads. “I’ll win the third round no matter what. Let me perform surgery on this patient.”
His pleas fall on deaf ears, as Agent Cha whirls around to grab Seung-hee in a threatening chokehold. “Repeat after me,” he tells a helpless Hoon. “‘I will do what Cha Jin-soo says.’” After a long, struggling moment, Hoon finally relents and says the magic words. Seung-hee is freed.
“I’m sorry. It’s all because of me,” Seung-hee cries, but that doesn’t stop Hoon from enveloping her in his arms.
Patient Lee flatlines again, and is brought back from the brink by a defibrillator. The senior cardiologist claims that her condition could be caused by many factors—though he denounces the idea that her flatlining has any relation to a surgical mistake, as her husband seems to think.
Hoon realizes what happened and tries to get the senior cardiologist to listen to reason, but it’s a no-go. Then, just as he’s ready to promise Jae-chul he’ll set things right, Agent Cha appears at the end of the hallway as a silent reminder of the promise he made.
Torn between wanting to do what’s right and what he’s been threatened to do, Hoon forces himself to turn his back on Jae-chul. He almost turns back when Jae-chul falls from his wheelchair, but again, the sight of Agent Cha stops him.
It takes every fiber of Hoon’s being to make himself walk away, even as Jae-chul calls after him piteously.
Jae-joon is put in a tough spot when he finds out that Hoon won’t perform the surgery, and that Patient Lee’s condition is rapidly declining. He’s faced with the same quandary as Hoon when Jae-chul begs him to save his mother now that Hoon won’t.
He tries shutting the boy out, but can’t shut out the similarities between Jae-chul crying for his mother to be saved and himself as a child crying for his father to be saved. Back then, his request fell on deaf ears, and Jae-joon’s face contorts in pain as he forces himself to ignore Jae-chul’s cries.
Jae-joon storms into Hoon’s office, grabs him by the lapels, and demands to know why he won’t perform the surgery as promised. Hoon looks like an empty shell of a man as he quietly whispers, “I can’t.”
“You can,” Jae-joon shakes him. “You’ll have one more chance. You promised you would do it, so why aren’t you?” Then he pauses, tears springing to his eyes as he tells Hoon exactly what he wish he could tell himself: “You’re a doctor. You should keep your word to your patients.”
Hoon smirks ruefully. “For a moment, just for a moment, I just acted like a doctor. I’m not a doctor.” Jae-joon angrily accuses him of wanting to win so badly he’d let a patient die, and Hoon can’t argue with him as he admits defeatedly that he can’t lose, which is why he can’t call himself a doctor.
Jae-joon doesn’t hide his disappointment and punches his rival before telling Hoon that he thought he was different, that he was a real doctor. But he was wrong.
So he calls up his team, since he’ll be performing the surgery now. They’re reluctant at first since they know they could lose their jobs over this, but are loyal enough to Jae-joon to throw their lot in with his. It’s a nice moment for Team Jae-joon solidarity.
Jae-chul’s happiness and relief that Jae-joon will be performing the surgery seems to lift Jae-joon’s spirits, leaving Soo-hyun shocked that he’s performing the surgery instead of Hoon—who seems just as surprised to find out that Jae-joon decided to throw the match by saving the patient.
Soo-hyun finds Jae-joon right before surgery, concerned for his future even though he’s made peace with the fact that this will likely be the last surgery he’ll perform at Myungwoo. “I have so much I can’t say,” he says, “but I can say this from my heart: My feelings for you were sincere.”
He pulls her into an embrace for a long moment before disappearing into the operating theater—but Soo-hyun follows and scrubs up, with an innocent, “I’m still part of your team, right?” Aww.
Meanwhile, Jae-chul’s eyes light up as he sees Hoon pass, thinking that he’s there to help his mom. But Hoon can only whisper, “I’m sorry.”
Chairman Oh fumes to find out about Jae-joon, but it’s too late to stop him or his determined team, which now includes Soo-hyun. Hoon watches helplessly from the mezzanine as Jae-joon makes his first incision, and is soon joined by a much more dour Chairman Oh and the entire cardiology team.
Furious, Chairman Oh orders a stop to the surgery, but Jae-joon refuses. Grasping at straws, Chairman Oh tells Team Jae-joon that unless they stop the surgery right now, they’ll all be sent to the
ninth circle of hell branch hospital.
“What are you so afraid of?!” Jae-joon finally demands to know, since the chairman is about to fall over from self-induced heart failure. Unlike him, Jae-joon is convinced that if they tell the truth and sincerely apologize to Patient Lee’s family, there won’t be a lawsuit.
Chairman Oh screams that such a thing has never happened, while Jae-joon yells back, “That’s because we’ve never apologized sincerely! We’ve ignored the people who lost their parents and their children because we didn’t want to lose our money and positions. I’ll show you that you are wrong.”
Jae-joon cuts off the chairman’s intercom and orders his team to focus and continue. But almost immediately there’s a sudden spurt of blood, and Hoon can’t seem to just sit and watch anymore.
Chairman Oh orders Doctor Moon to call for the disciplinary committee to meet should Patient Lee die on the operating table. He also adds that they should prepare for a lawsuit, and that they’ll tell the truth… that Jae-joon killed the patient during surgery. They’re to blame everything on Jae-joon. Keepin’ it classy, I see.
Hoon trips Doctor Moon up before vaulting out of the mezzanine, while chaos ensues inside the theater as Jae-joon’s first in command becomes too nervous to find the source of the bleeding and close it.
As Patient Lee’s vitals drop and the situation looks dire, a scrubbed-up Hoon enters the theater and asks Jae-joon’s permission before he’s suited up to help with the surgery.
Hoon takes one look at everyone’s downcast eyes and tells them to lift their heads—they have nothing to be ashamed of. “The people up there should be ashamed. Look.”
They all do, only to be met by the serious expressions of Chairman Oh and all the cardiology doctors. “You should be proud,” Hoon tells the team. “You’re the only real doctors in this hospital.”
I couldn’t be happier that Jae-joon’s character finally got a little fleshing out in the humanity department, except for the eerie feeling of disconnect that came with it—like we suddenly switched from our regularly scheduled programming to an after school special. The players and settings are the same, but something strange happened this week, didn’t it? Even for a show as tonally dissonant as this one, it’s as if the one semi-cohesive direction this show was at least attempting to take for a little over half its run just suddenly shifted.
The direction that Jae-joon is taking now is one that would’ve benefitted his character had it been introduced literally anytime before the halfway mark. We certainly want characters to grow and change, but as we know from sharing in the collective human experience, change is rarely instantaneous. In Jae-joon’s case, we had eleven prior episodes to see hints of the person he became in this hour, but we were given the complete opposite instead.
In fact, at this point last week the show had led me to the assumption that Jae-joon would take up a more active villainous role, since his ambition and thirst for revenge were strong enough to make him crawl on his hands and knees to beg, literally beg, for another chance to compete in a trial concocted by complete idiots. But I bought that moment, because that’s the kind of person the show had revealed Jae-joon to be up until that point: cold, calculating, repressed. He had to win the competition at all costs in order to enact his revenge, and it made sense. He made sense, in a sick, twisted sort of way. Even if he didn’t seem like a real human being in his quest to manipulate the princess in order to gain the castle, that was Jae-joon. And I was pretty sure we’d just have to deal with that.
So to go from him crying as he begged for a second chance to him giving up everything—potentially even his career and his revenge—in order to become the good-hearted doctor he (apparently) always was inside wasn’t necessarily unwelcome, but it was certainly bizarre. Don’t get me wrong—if you had just started the show at this episode, I’d be more than willing to agree that his change of heart was mapped out well in a one-hour span. Taken on its own, this would’ve been a nice moment of character progression for him, and it’ll still have to be since this is the new direction he (and the show) is taking.
But if taken in context with every episode we’ve seen until now, we witnessed less of an organic change and more of a sudden lobotomy. The Tin Man was given a heart off-screen, which robbed us of the man who wondered what love even was and if he felt it for Soo-hyun in order to give us a reformed almost-hero, one suddenly overflowing with morals and a love for his work that he wouldn’t trade for anything. This coming from the man who made his peasant doctor break his hand in order to doom Hoon’s surgery, even though he’s apparently also respected Hoon this entire time.
All that aside (and it is a massive aside), I actually like the direction we’re going with Jae-joon and Hoon, even if I’m not quite sure how we got here. It puts the two on a more even playing field if we consider both of them as decent, well-meaning people who just so happen to be caught up in causes greater than themselves. And at least we got the gratification of seeing them fight against a system which created a best/worst doctor competition based entirely on the constantly changing whims of some very unstable people and the corrupt establishment this show has the (as yet uncrushed) cojones to call a functioning hospital.