Doctor Stranger: Episode 16
Now that the show keeps sitting its characters down to talk about what’s going on, I finally understand why they were holding out on giving explanations for so long: They didn’t have any. As much as I wish I was making that up, this episode jumps the scalpel and then some by giving old evidence new meanings and introducing exposition that actually makes a negative amount of sense.
That’s right, we’re now running in the red when it comes to logic, and the worst part is that our supposedly geeenius hero buys into all this nonsense. Which begs the question of what Hoon really wants, since his wants fluctuate by the minute—does he want to be a good doctor, a good boyfriend, a good son, or good for nothing?
SONG OF THE DAY
Maniakuz – “가슴이 아프다 (My Heart Hurts)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Hoon seems to know exactly what Soo-hyun was looking at (even if we don’t) when he enters the clinic holding Seung-hee’s hand, all while the silent moment of shock between the three of them drags on.
After Soo-hyun watches him pull his hand out of Seung-hee’s, she does her best to hold back her tears as she claims she only came to apologize to Hoon for what her father did.
When she attempts to leave in a hurry, Hoon tries to stop her with a hand on her wrist. She looks like she’s about devolve into hysterics as she claims she’ll hear him out later, but when she rushes out, Hoon gives Seung-hee a look before he goes after Soo-hyun anyway.
“Why didn’t you tell me Doctor Han was Jae-hee?” Soo-hyun asks accusingly the moment they’re alone. Ah, so that’s what the scans showed? That Seung-hee is definitively Jae-hee? Is that canon now?
Hoon explains that he had reasons for not telling her, but that doesn’t help Soo-hyun from feeling betrayed that he never told her when he should have. Confused, Hoon asks why it was so important that he tell her.
“Are you asking because you really don’t know?” Soo-hyun asks. Hoon’s expression remains unchanging as he replies, “How would I know?” Soo-hyun’s eyes grow wide with disbelief as she whispers, more to herself than anyone, that Hoon is a jerk.
Even Seung-hee seems sympathetic toward Soo-hyun when Hoon isn’t, but her advice that he apologize to Soo-hyun for deceiving her goes unheeded. Hoon stands by his position that they have nothing to apologize for.
Soo-hyun rushes out of a possible confrontation with Seung-hee at their home, her shaky voice betraying her true feelings even as she struggles to be polite. She even feels sorry about liking Hoon now that she knows Seung-hee is Jae-hee. (Call me crazy, but weren’t the kidney scans proof that Seung-hee wasn’t Jae-hee initially?)
In order to stay away from any Seung-hee/Hoon situations, Soo-hyun takes the night shift at the hospital with doctors who actually look like they’re doing their jobs. She even ignores Hoon when he calls.
After the fact, Hoon acts concerned for Soo-hyun as he asks Seung-hee for updates on her emotional state. But suddenly he’s become just as heartless as Jae-joon, since it wasn’t even her feelings he was worried about, but the fact that she could go to the police and report them.
Seung-hee has to be the one to tell him that it’s Soo-hyun’s emotional state he should be concerned with, but again, Hoon thinks that he’s done no wrong. Still, he seems to feel somewhat bad as he tries and fails to write Soo-hyun a text.
A gangster with a boo-boo raises a stink in the ER before he proceeds to slap Soo-hyun for speaking in banmal to him. She slaps him right back, but before the fight can escalate, Hoon comes to the rescue and uses his gangster connections to get the thugs to leave peacefully.
Soo-hyun acts awkward at first when Hoon claims he just came to talk to her as she fails to hold back her true feelings when Hoon asks her if she’s hurting from the slap. She returns by asking him if he wouldn’t be hurt if he were in her shoes—of course, she’s talking about not being told about the whole Jae-hee thing.
“Why did you do that to me?” Soo-hyun asks desperately. “Why did you turn me into a fool?” She breaks down into pitiful, body-wracking sobs, which is when Hoon finally offers her something-like-but-not-necessarily a consoling embrace. “I’m sorry,” he says, though it seems like he’s just saying what he thinks she needs to hear rather than what he truly feels.
Seung-hee calls Hoon to ask whether he’s talked to Soo-hyun, and he lies that he hasn’t. Unfortunately, Hoon seems to have forgotten the cardinal rule that every interaction with a second lead must be witnessed by a third party, since Seung-hee has seen the whole exchange and knows the truth.
Even though Seung-hee wanted Hoon to console Soo-hyun, she spends some time being upset that he did as she flashes back to various memories of him with her and Soo-hyun.
She then begins to go through her phone and systematically delete photos of her and Hoon together as she cries. There’s only one she can’t bring herself to delete.
Seung-hee then meets with Prime Minister Jang, who’s going old school by popping pills for his unknown, lingering condition. He’s very upset to learn that Seung-hee told Hoon the truth about the president being the actual recipient of the surgery, since he believed that killing Hoon’s mother would have resulted in Hoon killing the president on the operating table… somehow.
His face grows red as he argues the perfectness of his plan, which is so good he has to yell the specifics so that the multiple people outside (including a nonaffiliated cleaning lady) can hear. ’Cause why care about your political career in a universe where nothing is true and everything is permitted?
Seung-hee argues that Prime Minister Jang’s plan would’ve never worked, since Hoon sees all his patients as patients and nothing more. He wouldn’t ever forsake his duty to hurt someone intentionally. But Jang laughs her silly notions off, since he knows that the real reason she hid Hoon’s mother is because she loves Hoon.
She doesn’t deny that, and when Prime Minister Jang claims he can find Hoon’s mother easily if he sets his mind to it, she replies that he’d have to give up his dream of becoming president then.
He calls her threat “cute” but seems unfazed since the election is only a few years away, though his expression falters when Seung-hee reminds him that in order to win that election, he’d need to make a strong showing at the upcoming North-South Summit. And to do that, he needs her to ensure the DPRK’s backing.
So Seung-hee’s request is that he use Jae-joon for the surgery instead, and that she’ll move over to Jae-joon’s team. The surgery will go smoothly then, even though that seemed to be the opposite of what Prime Minister Jang wanted to use Hoon for, and she’ll do her job by keeping the president in a comatose state just like Jang wanted.
However, Seung-hee has one ultimatum: That Prime Minister Jang will ensure Hoon and his mother’s safety in return. Jang all but waves her off, claiming he doesn’t like Hoon and has no reason to listen to her… until she gives him a reason to listen to her by reminding him that he can’t keep the president in a coma without her help. Why is he acting like she didn’t just recite this threat two lines ago?
Nightshade has to explain Prime Minister Jang’s plan to him, since no one understands: If the president were to just stay in a coma after his surgery, Jang would only have sixty days to be the acting president, which wouldn’t be enough time to make the North-South summit happen.
But, if the president alternates in and out of a comatose state, all power will be given to Prime Minister Jang indefinitely. The problem is that they’re stuck with giving into Seung-hee’s condition about Hoon and his mom, since they don’t have time to find an anesthesiologist they trust as much as her.
There’s a reason Prime Minister Jang doesn’t want to do that, and that’s because he’s now of the mind that he doesn’t like Hoon being, y’know, alive anymore. Why? (No seriously, why?)
Prime Minister Jang gets Jae-joon to visit his complex by calling him by his secret (but real!) name, Lee Seung-hoon. He tells Jae-joon that he wants him to do the operation, competition be damned—Hoon won’t be showing up to work for a while anyway. And if he doesn’t show, Jae-joon wins.
He asks Jae-joon what he thinks about that, and adds that Chairman Oh will be happy if Jae-joon wins. “Isn’t this what you call irony?” Prime Minister Jang laughs. Actually, that isn’t what you call irony. You know what’s really ironic? This show’s existence.
Prime Minister Jang adds his condition, along with the subtle threat that he’ll reveal Jae-joon’s identity should he choose to say no: Seung-hee has to be part of Jae-joon’s team, and she’ll be the one appointed to care for him post-surgery.
To sweeten the pot, if Jae-joon goes along with his request, he’ll give him an envelope filled with everything he’d ever need to take Chairman Oh down—if Jae-joon does something else for him first.
Agent Cha crawls out of his hidey-hole, along with Nightshade, to take Hoon to a scenic spot for a long overdue chat about why he hates him so much and why he’s been so hell bent on revenge. Something about Hoon ruining his life and such, y’all know the drill by now.
He tells Hoon that he has his chance now that Prime Minister Jang has removed Hoon from The Plan, and doesn’t give Hoon any answers when our young doc demands to know why the mission is continuing without him.
Instead, Agent Cha aims that gun he’s been saving up at Hoon’s forehead as he smiles with devilish glee now that he’ll finally be able to have his revenge. “Goodbye,” he says as his finger tightens on the trigger…
…Only for a shot to ring out that’s not from his gun. As Agent Cha’s shoulder explodes before he falls into the water, we find Nightshade holding the smoking gun. He’s saved the day again, and Hoon’s life twice now.
“I never expected us to meet again like this,” Nightshade tells Hoon as he holds out the same kind of lollipop a mini-Hoon had once offered him. I love how no one bothers to even look toward the water, and Hoon is just like, It’s a little early in the day to be shooting people, don’t you think?
Nightshade explains his actions as being due to Seung-hee/Jae-hee (wasn’t he threatening to kill her with a gun to her head only a few episodes ago?), since she made a deal for Hoon and his mom’s safety when she removed him from The Plan.
Hoon doesn’t believe it when Nightshade says Seung-hee will join Jae-joon’s team, since he thought they agreed to be in on this together. But a PPL voicemail left from Seung-hee explains her feelings better, as she tells Hoon not to worry because his mom will be protected.
She tells him how happy she was to spend the past month with him, and how her heart soared when he first embraced her in the staff room (when he was checking their heartbeats, and she was still a different person for whatever reason they’ll never explain).
After explaining that she’s doing everything for Hoon and Mom, the Artist Formerly Known as Jae-hee adds that she’ll find him when she finishes the mission, since he’s got to lay low for a little while. “Please take care of yourself until then. You must. I’m sorry, Hoon-ah. I… don’t want to be a burden to you anymore.”
Hoon initially doesn’t want to believe Nightshade when he says he can guarantee Hoon’s safety as well as Mom’s, because he thinks Nightshade cared for his mother only to use her against him. Nightshade doesn’t deny that he’s partially right, but reminds him that he took care of Mom even when Hoon was in the North.
“Have you ever thought about it?” Nightshade asks. “About who saved you from Cha Jin-soo on the bridge in Budapest? About who took care of your mother for the past twenty years?” Hoon realizes that Nightshade was his savior back then, so he listens when Nightshade tells him that he needn’t worry about Seung-hee/Jae-hee—she’s a lot stronger than he thinks.
And right now, Hoon will do her more good if he’s the safe place she can return to after completing her mission. “The choice is yours,” Nightshade adds. “Will you come with me, or will you defy the prime minister’s will and place yourself, your mother, and Song Jae-hee in danger?”
While Chi-gyu’s attempt to give Chang-yi a pair of couple’s sneakers gets interrupted by the arrival his younger sister, Jae-joon finds a good opportunity to insert Seung-hee into his team when his former anesthesiologist, Min-se, announces that she’ll be too busy marrying Doctor Geum to do her job. That was easy.
Chairman Oh orders a reluctant Soo-hyun to that branch hospital no one ever goes to as a means of separating her from Hoon, as well as to give her time to sort herself out. She is not having it.
But then Jae-joon arrives at her father’s request, and the two men presume to talk about Soo-hyun like she isn’t there in the room. Chairman Oh asks Jae-joon what he’s been doing for Soo-hyun’s feelings to wander (never mind that he used to be on his daughter’s side and once rejected Jae-joon because he yelled at her), and what he plans to do about it.
Jae-joon takes Chairman Oh’s biting words, and saves(?) Soo-hyun from her father’s wrath by asking that Chairman Oh leave his daughter to him. Like he’ll sort her out, or something. I can’t quite tell if Chairman Oh is implying that marriage will sort out their problems, but this is a case of “Hush, the men are talking!”
Soo-hyun tears herself from Jae-joon’s grasp at the first opportunity to remind him that she was very clear about her lack of feelings for him. Jae-joon understands her completely, but has to get his feelings off his chest too.
“Listen carefully. For whatever I do in the future… please forgive me. And never forget that I sincerely loved you. No, you can forget that, so I can accept the fact that you love someone else. But it just can’t be Park Hoon, do you understand?” Jae-joon’s romantic interlude is interrupted when he’s called to the ER. Ohhh right, they’re supposed to be doctors, aren’t they?
And wouldn’t you know it, the patient in the ER has identical symptoms to the patient Jae-joon was already scheduled to operate on. (Funny how that keeps happening—it’s almost as if there’s someone organizing all these coincidental occurrences.) He orders the patient to the operating room anyway, even though he can’t physically perform both surgeries himself.
He tells as much to Chairman Oh, explaining that he was told by the prime minister’s office that Hoon wouldn’t be coming into work for a while, and that they wanted the competition to end. Since there are only two surgeons in Seoul and Hoon is unavailable, Chairman Oh wonders whether this means the second patient could die.
“I think it’s more important to decide on the winner first,” Jae-joon replies. Chairman Oh’s face breaks into a sly grin as he catches onto Jae-joon’s sinister implications and all but rubs his hands together in delight. You people are the worst.
Even though there’s already been three too many “final rounds,” Chairman Oh tells an oblivious Doctor Moon that these dual patients will be the guinea pigs for the real final finale end conclusion round. Also, Doctor Moon’s suspension will finally be lifted so he can practice medicine again. God help the patients.
Since the surgical procedure needed is one Hoon’s performed for Myungwoo before, Doctor Moon thinks that they’ve got this competition in the bag… until he can’t get a hold of Hoon, that is. Whoops.
While Seung-hee talks Chang-yi down when she grows suspicious of her part in Hoon’s sudden disappearance, Soo-hyun finds out very belatedly that everyone’s prepping for an emergency surgery—only no one seems to have thought to find out if Hoon was available first.
Doctor Moon and Soo-hyun rush to Hoon’s clinic in the hope of finding him there only to come up empty. Meanwhile, Jae-joon preps his patient for surgery and introduces Seung-hee as the team’s replacement anesthesiologist.
But since the second patient has no one to help them, Soo-hyun convinces Doctor Moon to perform the surgery himself.
In the operating theater, Jae-joon casually asks Seung-hee how she knows Prime Minister Jang. He doesn’t seem to believe her when she feigns ignorance however, because the prime minister sure seemed to know her very well.
As Doctor Moon preps for surgery in Hoon’s absence, Soo-hyun confronts Seung-hee over her suddenly switching teams. “Are you really Jae-hee?” she asks. “I’m doing this because I am Jae-hee,” Seung-hee/Jae-hee (pick your poison) replies.
The rest of the conversation literally just entails Soo-hyun asking for clarification or asking if what she’s hearing makes any sense as Seung-hee cryptically addresses Soo-hyun’s fear that Hoon will be kicked out of the hospital if he loses this round by saying that no matter what happens or what seems at all logical, Hoon will be back.
While scrubbing up, Jae-joon enlists Doctor Yang’s help, except this time not as a saboteur—he has to help Doctor Moon in any capacity he can, since the hospital can’t risk a table death before Prime Minister Jang’s surgery. I can’t tell if he means it because they seemed pretty okay with the idea of the second patient dying as long as it meant Hoon losing, but any further questions are cut off when Jae-joon dramatically drops his scrubbing soap like he just dropped a pair of drumsticks.
Before the surgery begins, Nurse Min warns Doctor Yang against pulling any of his usual tricks. Doctor Moon is so nervous his hands start to shake even before he makes the first incision, which isn’t a reassuring sign.
Things start to look bad for Doctor Moon mid-surgery, but he manages to save the patient by manually massaging the heart into beating again… only for a sudden blood spurt to cause massive uncontrolled bleeding in the patient. Uh oh.
Prime Minister Jang watches the surgery and chuckles to himself that Chairman Oh doesn’t know what’s in store for Jae-joon should he win the competition, while Chairman Oh sends an order for Jae-joon to treat the second patient after he’s done with the first—not out of that thing you and I call human compassion, but because it’d look bad for the hospital if someone died.
Doctor Moon panics while waiting for Jae-joon to arrive, but when the door to the operating theater opens…
…It’s Hoon who arrives, ready for surgery.
Good grief, does that unlocked and unmonitored door lead to the hospital parking lot? How is it that the people who matter (and many who don’t) have eyes everywhere except where it counts? Why am I even bothering with Hoon’s sudden reappearance when there’s a laundry list of issues waiting to be discussed?
Look, I had hope for this show. And maybe, just maybe, that hope was based not on any merit of the production itself, but on my foolish wish that this wouldn’t go crazy in the final act and solidify itself as an unfocused mess. If one could will a show into being good, then Doctor Stranger would be the best show of the year. But alas, only a decent writer could save this show from itself, and whoever we’ve got has seemingly stopped trying. We got an hour where everyone talked about the big conspiracies without saying anything about them, like they were all in on a secret someone forgot to let us in on.
I’m still a little wary about trusting the Seung-hee = Jae-hee reveal, if only because it felt way too underwhelming a solution to all the mystery piled onto her existence. We spent so many episodes on the “Is she or isn’t she?” question that this answer is like receiving a text message breakup—you want to care more about the content, but you’ve got to get over the infuriating way it was delivered first. Surely the solution to the big mystery can’t be that easy, can it? If the end result was that Seung-hee was the girl Hoon hoped she’d be and thought she was this entire time, then any prayer this show had for keeping up a semblance of dramatic tension just became dead in the water (after flailing inexplicably over the railing).
What’s also confusing is the way Soo-hyun apparently found out about Seung-hee’s true identity, using the kidney scans that had been used to disprove the idea that Seung-hee was Jae-hee as proof that Seung-hee really IS Jae-hee. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the show used our general inability to decipher scans as a way to make what Soo-hyun saw mean something completely different than we were initially led to believe it did, even if our notion of what those scans spelled out wasn’t just some abstract guess considering that Doctor Moon, who knew that Jae-hee had once had a kidney transplant, looked at the scans and declared that Seung-hee couldn’t be Jae-hee.
Even if Jae-hee could’ve gotten enough surgery to fool the scans, Soo-hyun had the same information regarding Jae-hee’s kidney transplant as Doctor Moon did before she looked at them. So how is it that she could look at the same exact scans as Doctor Moon and arrive at a totally different and eerily convenient conclusion? Did I miss a vital step, or is this yet another black hole where plausible explanations go to die?
If I weren’t actively recapping the show, I’d be really tempted to fast forward through any scenes with Prime Minister Jang in them, because the end result would still be the same. I never got him, but this week put a cherry on top of the shit sundae that has been his character so far when he decided to do away with Hoon just because he stopped liking him. Never mind the hours (and decades, on his end) spent getting everything just right so that the one and only Hoon could perform a magical surgery that his nemesis can now do just as well and just as easily, or so we’ve been led to believe. It’s probably good that Prime Minister Jang has no shame, because I’d be feeling pretty stupid if I spent twenty years on something that a spy with two years of experience could talk me out of in one conversation—but hey, maybe there’s a reason I’m not the leader of a country. Yet.
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 15
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 14
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 13
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 12
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 11
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 10
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 9
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 8
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 7
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 6
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 5
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 4
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 3
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 2
- Doctor Stranger: Episode 1