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Doctor Stranger: Episode 18

Our hero gets railroaded into doing nothing but reacting this hour as the only person he could cling to with any sense of assurance takes some time away from her main job of keeping secrets in order to multitask—now she gets to keep secrets and attempt to scrape Hoon off like an extra-clingy barnacle. When that inevitably fails to work, we can at least trust the show to stick to its prevailing modus operandi: If at first you don’t succeed, keep doing it for nineteen more episodes.

SONG OF THE DAY

Huh Gak – “아프다 (It Hurts)” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 18 RECAP

Hoon grabs Jae-joon’s hand to stop him from beginning his surgery as the president and Prime Minister Jang watch the live feed with confusion. As Hoon concedes his loss to get Jae-joon to stop, the president asks Prime Minister Jang what just happened. Jang: “The game is over.”

Chairman Oh smiles like he just won the villainous lottery while Sang-jin continues to be irrelevant. Jae-joon asks Hoon to repeat those magic words about him losing before he dares to put down the scalpel.

Doctor Moon is NOT happy about Hoon conceding his loss. After he goes off to do whatever it is he does, a reformed Doctor Yang gives Hoon a smile of approval.

Jae-joon takes over surgery for Hoon’s original patient while Hoon watches from the mezzanine. Jae-hee exchanges a look with him during surgery, and afterward mouth breathes to herself: “I’m sorry, Hoon-ah. I have no choice if I’m to let you go.”

When she actually confronts Hoon, she puts on an angry facade as part of her act(?). Claiming that Prime Minister Jang told her the truth right before the surgery, she asks Hoon about her father and how he killed him in order to transplant his kidney to her.

Hoon’s expression turns nervous as he stutters, “I… I really had no choice.” He flashes back to the moment when her father begged him to save his daughter at all costs, and apologizes to her in the present.

“You’re sorry?” she repeats back incredulously. “For what? For killing my father, or for saving me?” Again, Hoon claims he had no choice, but Jae-hee thinks he did: He could’ve just let her die. At least then she would’ve died happy and in love.

Jae-hee: “Is that love? Saving me by killing my father? No. That was just your greed to save the girl you loved. My father died because of that greed, which you’ve kept hidden from me until now. It was a lie that you loved me. You just felt guilty for what you did, so you just tried to compensate for the wrong you did to me. Isn’t it funny? Even after that, you still pretended to be a real doctor. You’d win the competition and do the surgery with me? Then why didn’t you do the surgery today? After promising that you wouldn’t let me go in there alone, why? Everything you said was a two-faced lie.”

Hoon tries to get through to her, but she cuts him off soundly by ordering him never to say her name again or to appear in front of her, because she’ll never forgive him. But after she storms out, she crumples to the floor from the weight of her idiocy. Sorry, noble idiocy. I meant noble idiocy.

Hoon is in a state of emotional shock as he goes straight to Mom in order to tell her about what happened with Jae-hee, and cries as he realizes that if Jae-hee hadn’t found out, he would never have told her.

“Father told me never to forget that I’m a doctor,” he says through his tears. “From the beginning I was never a doctor, Mom.” Aww. Even with her reduced capability to understand the situation, Mom instinctively reaches out to comfort him.

Jae-joon reports to Chairman Oh, who congratulates him on his big win by inviting him to attend a board meeting with him, seeing as how he promised to give Jae-joon some executive responsibilities.

When the topic turns to how this will affect the losing team, specifically Doctor Moon, Chairman Oh decrees that he’ll be sent to that branch hospital in the fifth dimension. He’s got Sang-jin looking for ways to revoke Hoon’s license, and if there aren’t any, he vows to pressure the right people to get it revokes anyway.

At least Jae-joon finally asks why Chairman Oh hates Hoon so much, to which Chairman Oh replies that it’s because Hoon’s father once dared to challenge him by testifying in a medical malpractice suit. And if he hadn’t taken care of Hoon’s father then, there would be no Myungwoo now.

Jae-joon’s eyes grow wide as he realizes that Hoon was telling the truth about his father’s involvement—especially because it means he’s been hating the wrong person. Chairman Oh is the real bad guy.

He stays so out of it, in fact, that he isn’t even listening when the board unanimously votes him in as the youngest acting chairman Myungwoo Hospital has ever seen.

After Chi-gyu and his sister share a bonding moment over his promise to be the one who performs the surgery she’ll need later in life, Jae-joon calls him out to the One Dunkin’ Donuts In All Of Seoul.

It’s there that Chi-gyu apologizes for ignoring Jae-joon’s judgment in his sister’s case, but unlike before, Jae-joon’s all smiles now as he tells Chi-gyu not to worry about it. Hell, he would’ve done the same! Or something.

Later, Doctor Yang turns his resignation letter in to Jae-joon with an addition: A witness statement detailing what he and Chairman Oh have been ordering him to do.

“Is this a threat?” Jae-joon asks. “It’s a recommendation,” Doctor Yang replies, before adding that he hopes Jae-joon doesn’t become even more of a monster in the hellhole that is Myungwoo Hospital. (Testify!)

After he tears up Doctor Yang’s resignation letter, Sang-jin hands him confidential hospital documents he was supposed to deliver but can’t for whatever reason.

Naturally, Jae-joon opens the envelope and reads about the hospital’s development fund (on Jeju island?), along with its list of donors and the amounts donated.

Jae-joon takes the documents to Chairman Oh when he’s invited for dinner with him and Soo-hyun that evening, and Chairman Oh is none too pleased that Jae-joon had the documents in the first place.

Chairman Oh referees the forced date his daughter may as well not be on for all the weight he gives anything she says. Since he’s only got eyes for Jae-joon now, Chairman Oh tells the pair to prepare for Jae-joon’s congratulatory party as well as the next step forward in their relationship: marriage.

He completely ignores Soo-hyun’s shock when he only checks with Jae-joon about whether this whole marriage thing is peachy keen with him. (While we’re at it, would Chairman Oh like to be the bride?) Jae-joon says yes, which has Soo-hyun sending him all sorts of confused gazes from across the table—but again, the men are talking.

While Chairman Oh tears into Sang-jin for entrusting Jae-joon with confidential hospital documents, Jae-joon gets a private moment with Soo-hyun to tell her that he’ll take care of this whole marriage deal.

He also apologizes before admitting that he was wrong about Hoon, and basically gives her permission to like him. Because not having that really stopped her before.

An abrupt cut takes us to the next day, where Soo-hyun and Chi-gyu end up meeting for [choose your own adventure] in Jae-joon’s office. Having just learned of Jae-joon’s appointment as acting chairman, Chi-gyu remarks that this means Jae-joon finally took over the castle.

But in saying that, Chi-gyu has to explain the story of the Metaphor Castle to Soo-hyun—and the story starts sounding all too familiar when he mentions how the knight wanted to seduce the princess, only to end up falling in love with her instead.

Soo-hyun doesn’t start to realize the connection until Chi-gyu gets to the part where the princess (her) was rejected by another knight (Hoon) when she confessed her feelings to him. Now that she can finally put Jae-joon’s “No matter what, forgive me for whatever I do in the future” into context, she asks Chi-gyu why the knight wanted the castle. Chi-gyu doesn’t know.

Soo-hyun finds Hoon outside her apartment, and even though he’s there in an attempt to track down Jae-hee, she tells him about Jae-joon’s eerie Metaphor Castle in an attempt to glean his thoughts on the issue.

That’s when Hoon remembers Jae-joon telling him about “his friend” Lee Seung-hoon, and asks Soo-hyun if she knows the name. He pieces together (aloud) that Lee Seung-hoon is the son of the plaintiff from the medical malpractice suit that got him and his father sent to the DPRK all those years ago, which leaves Soo-hyun wondering if Jae-joon could possibly be Lee Seung-hoon even if she doesn’t want to believe it.

Standing in front of his Once-A-Metaphor Castle, Jae-joon asks his father to watch over him as he begins the first phase of his revenge plan. With a smirk, he crushes Chairman Oh’s cardboard figurine.

At the stiflingly formal congratulatory party Chairman Oh throws, Soo-hyun tries to broach a conversation with Jae-joon about his hospital takeover plans only to be cut off when he brushes her off thinking she’s needlessly worried about her father announcing the marriage today.

He slips away to meet with Hoon and to apologize for his misconception regarding Hoon’s father. Hoon is unimpressed that he was called out to Chairman Oh’s house just for this, even though Jae-joon claims that he wanted them to part without any bad blood between them.

Hoon also shoots Jae-joon down when he asks for a favor, but Jae-joon starts to ask it anyway as he mentions how Soo-hyun sincerely likes him. Hoon seems to know where he’s headed and asks if this means Jae-joon was faking his love for her, before adding that he better stop hurting Soo-hyun/Quack.

He talks around Jae-joon’s takeover plan even though he couldn’t be clearer in referencing it. “If you’ve done something wrong, ask for forgiveness as soon as possible,” Hoon advises.

Jae-joon’s face falls as he admits that he can’t tell Soo-hyun what he’s about to do, and definitely can’t ask her forgiveness for it. Hoon simply responds that Jae-joon shouldn’t do whatever it is then, only for Jae-joon to ominously reply: “It’s already begun.”

Right on cue, the party is interrupted by the arrival of the police with a warrant for… Not Chairman Oh. They’ve actually come for Sang-jin, and arrest him on charges of embezzlement and bribery.

When Hoon asks Jae-joon if he’s responsible, he says that this is only the beginning. “What happens from now on will scar Soo-hyun irrevocably,” he adds with a tinge of regret.

Hoon guesses that he’s Lee Seung-hoon and asks if this is all part of his revenge. Jae-joon doesn’t deny it and gives the reasons we’re familiar with by now, only for Hoon to remind him that he’s taking his revenge on the father of the woman he loves.

“The woman Han Jae-joon loved, not Lee Seung-hoon,” Jae-joon barks back. Hoon: “You’re wrong. Both Lee Seung-hoon and Han Jae-joon loved Oh Soo-hyun. Am I wrong?” Jae-joon’s guilty expression suggests he isn’t.

While Doctor Moon tells Chairman Oh that a Lee Seung-hoon tipped off the prosecutors, Soo-hyun confronts Jae-joon over his not-so-secret identity. He tries telling her that who he is matters less than the crime her father committed twenty years ago, but she’s less than moved. Was this his idea of revenge?

Jae-joon’s eyes well up with unshed tears as he replies: “Lee Seung-hoon only wants one thing… A sincere apology.”

Soo-hyun then goes to her father—the only person who hasn’t yet made the Lee Seung-hoon = Han Jae-joon connection—in order to ask him about his history with Lee Seung-hoon.

He tells her everything, but defends his actions in protecting Myungwoo Hospital from a malpractice suit all those years ago. Unsurprisingly, he stands by his belief that he did nothing wrong when Soo-hyun entreats him to apologize sincerely so he can be forgiven.

But unlike his daughter, Chairman Oh is unafraid of the consequences should he continue to be stubborn: “I, Oh Joon-gyu, will not go down so easily.”

Jae-hee meets with Prime Minister Jang while he’s faking a hospital visit to fool the press. He tells her Lee Seung-hoon’s real identity before adding that he’ll be sticking to his side of the bargain in sending Hoon and his mother to a safe place.

As if on cue (again), the prime minister’s other secretary gives Hoon two tickets to Switzerland and some money, but Hoon refuses to leave unless he gets to see Jae-hee first. Wish granted.

Jae-hee is standoffish at their meeting and unwilling to listen when Hoon tries to explain that her father had begged him to save her. She looks like her facade is in danger of breaking as she keeps trying to cut Hoon off, and rejects him in as many ways as she can verbalize.

But Hoon won’t be swayed, and promises that he’ll come back for her once he gets his mom somewhere safe. “I promised your father I would protect you,” he says, a reason that she turns back around on him: If he’s doing this out of guilt, he can stop now.

She turns to leave, but stops to add in her final words: “Forget about me and my father. Forget it all and live well.”

The president calls Prime Minister Jang up after looking over Hoon’s extensive medical records. Y’know, it’d be really funny if he chooses Hoon in spite of the competition, because nothing else could possibly negate the competition’s existence more. But, that’d be insane. That’s something only an insane writer would do.

Judging from the way Prime Minister Jang ordered Nightshade to make sure Hoon was “taken care of”, the sentence wasn’t just cut off before he added “…all the way to Switzerland.” He wants Hoon dead.

Secretary #2 is tasked with carrying out Prime Minister Jang’s orders as he aims a gun at Hoon and his mother.

While Hoon stands protectively in front of Mom, the president discusses him with the prime minister. After watching how Hoon tossed his chance at victory away, the president is convinced that that quality (of caring for patients) makes Hoon more of a doctor than Jae-joon.

Secretary #2’s finger tightens on the trigger without squeezing, almost as if he was waiting for the call he gets ordering him to stand down. He hands the phone with Prime Minister Jang on the line to Hoon, who screams into the receiver as he accuses Jang of planning to kill them from the beginning. (And… he’s surprised?)

Prime Minister Jang is his usual haughty self as he tells Hoon that he’s been chosen as the president’s surgeon. While Hoon seethes that he won’t do what he wants, Jang replies: “You’ll have to. We have your mother.”

Hoon turns around to find that Mom has disappeared. Pffft. He somehow failed to notice Secretary #2 taking her back to his car, and is helpless as Mom is driven away.

After all that fuss, Prime Minister Jang tells Chairman Oh that the surgeon has to be Hoon now. He literally even says that there’s nothing they can do about the president’s choice with a shrug, like he didn’t just spend X amount of episodes trying to make that choice for him.

He promises that he’ll be the one to tell Jae-joon, and reassures Chairman Oh that Myungwoo will still get all the credit since Hoon will be working under them. He’s also pulled strings to get Sang-jin out of jail.

Prime Minister Jang does as he promised and calls Jae-joon, but it’s mostly to warn him to sit quietly for a week. He claims Jae-joon will get his chance for revenge after the surgery is completed.

Hoon pays a visit to the prime minister while he’s pretending to be a hospital patient, and demands to know where his mother is. He doesn’t trust Jang anymore when he says Mom will be safe if the surgery is successful.

“Fine,” Prime Minister Jang petulantly concedes. “What if I said it like this? If you say something stupid, your mother will die. How’s that?” Ugh, this man.

Hoon tells Jae-hee everything, but earns a non-reaction from her at the news that he’ll be the surgeon after all. She says disinterestedly that as long as he does his best during the surgery, she’ll handle the rest.

He’s worried that she won’t be able to get to the president afterward with Prime Minister Jang’s men hovering around, but she brushes that concern aside: Agent Cha taught her how to take care of problems like that. Hoon looks surprised at her meaning: “Take… care of them?”

“Did you think I came here trained only in anesthesiology?” she asks incredulously, and it’s clear from Hoon’s reaction that yes, yes he did think exactly that. But she makes sure to add that if she had known he killed her father, she wouldn’t have gone through with the training because she wouldn’t have had a reason to see him again.

Hoon asks what her plans are if everything ends up working out for the mission. “I don’t know,” Jae-hee replies. “But the one thing I’m sure of is that I’ll never be with you.”

After trying in vain to get her father to apologize for a wrong he still claims he didn’t commit, Soo-hyun attempts to convince Jae-joon to stop what he’s doing. “I know you used me and deceived me. I can forget everything, so please stop here,” she begs.

Jae-joon only replies that he’s sorry, causing Soo-hyun to desperately grab his hands in an effort to connect with him as she promises that she’ll do all that she can to convince her father. He cuts her off by telling her not to bother.

He makes a production about locking the door in Chairman Oh’s office and closing the blinds. For a moment, you think that Chairman Oh has realized who he is… but instead he just buys that both Jae-joon and Soo-hyun have been meeting with Lee Seung-hoon. Somehow.

It is so ridiculously obvious that Jae-joon is speaking as Lee Seung-hoon by pretending to speak for him as he tells Chairman Oh in every viable form but song that ALL he has to do is apologize sincerely in order to put a stop to Seung-hoon’s revenge.

But Chairman Oh repeats the same tired refrain that he didn’t do anything he needs to apologize for. Jae-joon: “You never once thought you did anything wrong?” Chairman Oh: “Never!” Trust me when I say it goes on like this for far too long, and becomes less of a conversation and more like a Monty Python sketch.

No matter how many last chances Jae-joon offers in Seung-hoon’s name, Chairman Oh stubbornly rejects every last one until you’re left wondering how on god’s green earth he hasn’t connected the dots yet. Still, he stubbornly sticks to his story, at least until Jae-joon tells him that Seung-hoon has made it so that Oh can’t open up his branch hospital in Jeju island anymore.

This is really the last straw for Chairman Oh, enough to drive him to have a heart attack on the spot. As he clutches his chest in agony, Jae-joon just gives him even MORE details about Seung-hoon’s master plan to bring Myungwoo Hospital down, and Prime Minister Jang with it.

As Soo-hyun tries to get into her father’s office, Jae-joon tells the ailing chairman that Seung-hoon spent his life thinking about his revenge and worried what he’d do if, after all that, he found Chairman Oh living in regret as penitence for his sins. Would it make his life seem meaningless?

Chairman Oh starts to get suspicious when Jae-joon says he’s relieved. “It’s really a relief that you’re still like this and haven’t changed. Actually, I want to thank you.” Chairman Oh: “Are you… perhaps…” Jae-joon: “Yes. I’m Lee Seung-hoon from twenty years ago. Thank you for not letting my life go to waste, Chairman Oh Joon-gyu.”

He casually knocks the phone from Chairman Oh’s reach when he grabs for it with one hand, while the other stays clutched tightly to his chest. Jae-joon stands as still as a stone as Chairman Oh writhes in pain before collapsing on the floor.

Soo-hyun scrambles for a key to the office while crying outside for her father and Jae-joon, as if she knows something terrible is happening inside.

However, Jae-joon continues to ignore her cries as his longtime enemy, her father, is finally lying helpless at his feet.

 
COMMENTS

A lot can be said about the whiplash-inducing experience it’s been to watch Jae-joon’s character fluctuations from week to week, since he never quite hit a sweet spot and stayed there. He played with being a lot of things, and ultimately I think his potential has been wasted just waiting for this moment for episodes on end. Still, Jae-joon has the pleasure of being the only character to offer us the least bit of gratification this hour, so for that I have to thank him.

Compared to literally everyone else, Jae-joon at least made decisions this hour, followed through with them, and wrestled with their emotional consequences. He actually did stuff with a purpose, which—while being so grossly overstated that stating it at all is akin to killing a horse just for the purposes of beating its dead, desecrated husk—could not have been made any clearer to us. In a desert of murky and constantly changing objectives, Jae-joon’s clarity of thought really was like having our own little morally-ambiguous oasis.

Is it sad that the bar has now been set so low that a character needs only to make a decision within reason to automatically grab our attention? Yes. That result seems inevitable when eighteen episodes are spent watching characters we just don’t understand. And repeat offender Jae-hee undoubtedly won at being the most completely and totally incomprehensible character this hour. I’m honestly shocked that I dared to think she couldn’t get much worse after her most milquetoast of identity reveals, but I stand corrected. Being wrong has never felt so wrong.

That being said, there are two possible ways to contextualize Jae-hee’s recent actions: 1) In an attempt at noble idiocy, she’s trying to push Hoon away emotionally to save him from heartbreak while also trying to spare him from performing THE surgery, or 2) She really is mad about her father’s death and now hates Hoon because of it.

I’m more inclined to believe it’s the first, mostly because Jae-hee had that moment where she apologized to Hoon from afar before putting on her angry/normal face to shut him down, and because she had that wilting flower moment after being mean to him where she couldn’t stay standing from the paaain. Her knowledge of Hoon’s involvement in her father’s death is where understanding becomes impossible, since she either knew it all along and is just using it now as an excuse, or she’s telling the truth and really did just find out in an off-screen game of telephone.

Honestly, her existence would still be a moot point even if some or any of those explanations had been made clear by now. With only one week left, it’s time to start making peace with what this show is rather than what it isn’t. So for instance, you could say that it is—…

Actually, that’s all I’ve got. It exists, therefore it is.

 
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