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Life: Episodes 1-2

From the writer of Forest of Secrets comes a political medical drama where a virtue-driven ER specialist and a profit-first executive begin their tense face-off. The first two episodes introduce us to these two protagonists on opposing sides and capture the collision of their two worlds. Thrown into a story filled with complex characters, mysteries, and questions, it’s easy to get lost in the details, but with such a solid cast and crew behind the helm, Life seems to be off to a steady start.

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

An ambulance pushes through traffic in the middle of the night, and arrives at Sangkook University Hospital where ER Doctor YE JIN-WOO (Lee Dong-wook) nervously waits outside. He opens the doors of the ambulance, and inside, a weary man holding a defibrillator with bloody gloves sits next to a patient covered with a blanket. Jin-woo pulls the blanket away from the patient, revealing hospital Director LEE BO-HOON (Chun Ho-jin). The man inside is Deputy Director KIM TAE-SANG (Moon Sung-geun), who declares the time of death.

In a surgery room, thoracic surgeon JOO KYUNG-MOON (Yoo Jae-myung) and neurosurgeon OH SE-HWA (Moon Sori) stare at Director Lee’s lifeless body in disbelief. Interrupting their time of grief, organ transplant coordinator SUNWOO CHANG enters the room with papers for them to sign. Despite the doctors’ protests, Chang reminds them that they need to recover the cornea quickly and forces them to concede.

While the others leave, Dr. Joo remains in the room, lost in thought as he recalls a happy memory of Director Lee bragging about his new organ donor sticker. Before covering the director’s face, Dr. Joo prays for everlasting light and peace for the director, and asks for comfort and courage for those remaining.

Alone on the curb, Jin-woo calls his younger brother YE SUN-WOO (Lee Kyu-hyung) and tells him about Director Lee’s death. Sun-woo asks if Jin-woo discussed that with the director, but Jin-woo can’t bring himself to answer. Instead, he asks his younger brother to keep it a secret, and Sun-woo promises to try.

Still in a daze, Jin-woo walks onto the street and nearly gets run over by a car. He watches it drive by and stares as a sharply dressed man exits from the backseat. The passenger is newly appointed President GU SEUNG-HYO (Jo Seung-woo), and he marches into the hospital with ominous music playing in the background, foretelling the impending conflict he’ll soon bring.

Back in the ER, Jin-woo fills out the death certificate for Director Lee, but he hesitates to choose between homicide and suicide. Not alone in his misgivings, pediatrician LEE NO-EUL (Won Jin-ah) stands beside Jin-woo and tells him that it’s strange that Director Lee died at the deputy director’s house. Before she can elaborate, a young daughter and father are wheeled into the ER.

Dr. Oh visits Deputy Director Kim in his office and mentions the police officers who just came out. Her accusatory tone isn’t lost on the deputy director who explains that Director Lee came to his house drunk and went to the roof for a smoke when the accident occurred. Dr. Oh doesn’t push further, but warns Deputy Director Kim to not look so well-kept since rumors are already spreading.

The police officers who questioned the deputy director find their way to the ER, but unfortunately, the young daughter from before has already passed away, though the father still lives. A nurse asks them if it was a robbery, but the patrol officer sadly informs them that it was an attempted double suicide.

Jin-woo finds No-eul curled up in her office, and asks why she thinks it’s odd that Director Lee had a drink with Deputy Director Kim. She tells him that someone heard them fighting today, and doubts that they were on friendly terms. Despite her suspicions, No-eul doesn’t want to believe that the deputy director would have actually harmed the director, and she asks Jin-woo if she should take this information to the police or not.

Before he can answer, Jin-woo is called down to the ER, and contemplates the two DOAs today. The young daughter died from being stabbed by her trusted father, while Director Lee died after being stabbed with words by a trusted junior. Jin-woo silently notes April 5, 2018 as Director Lee’s final day as well as the day of his biting remarks to the director.

The officer from last night finds Jin-woo sleeping at the station since he’s been waiting to ask the officer about Director Lee’s death. The officer asks when Jin-woo last saw the director, leading to a flashback of that fateful day. His brother Sun-woo called Jin-woo, telling him that some of the hospital funds were funneled to Director Lee’s private account, so Jin-woo barged into the director’s room wanting an explanation. All the while in voiceover, present-day Jin-woo lies to the officer that nothing notable happened during their encounter and describes the director as a respectable doctor.

Since the officer has a witness and no reason to doubt otherwise, he suspects the cause of death to be a heart attack, and asks Jin-woo why he’s really here. Suddenly, imaginary Sun-woo appears and answers the question for him: “Because a friend died, who was also a father.”

Jin-woo drives to the deputy director’s house and examines the scene of the accident. In voiceover, the officer repeats Deputy Director Kim’s story, and Jin-woo imagines the scene playing out before him. Still suspicious, Jin-woo tries to meet the witness but returns to his car empty-handed. Luckily, Deputy Director Kim leaves his home right then, and Jin-woo tails him.

The scene flashes back to a meeting led by Director Lee as he harshly criticized the proposed performance-related pay system. Even if the hospital were bought by a private company, he argued that this wasn’t right, and left the meeting to confront the new president. Jin-woo chased after him and reminded him that all the other doctors supported him as well.

Despite his day off, Jin-woo arrives at the hospital after following the deputy director, and he is dragged to a meeting by the head of the emergency care center, Doctor LEE DONG-SOO. A flower is placed at the head of the table in memory of Director Lee, and the doctors begin discussing and complaining about the latest events surrounding the director’s death.

As Dr. Joo announces Director Lee’s cause of death as a heart attack, Deputy Director Kim enters. He tells the group that he stopped by the Ministry of Health and Welfare this morning—which Jin-woo knows is a lie since he followed him to the hospital from his house earlier—and informs them that three of their departments will be dispatched to a provincial hospital: OB/GYN, pediatrics, and the emergency care center. Though the doctors protest, the issue isn’t up for discussion; it’s an order.

After losing a game of rock-paper-scissors with Dr. Lee, Jin-woo must inform the nursing staff of the impending transfer, and as expected, the news goes over poorly. However, an emergency patient cuts their meeting short, and as Jin-woo treats the patient, imaginary Sun-woo appears before him again.

Imaginary Sun-woo notes Jin-woo’s rather untroubled expression and guesses that he must have somewhere else to go. Looking around the center, imaginary Sun-woo ponders the fate of the hundreds of patients who come into this ER, and sardonically says that they probably won’t end up on the streets.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lee breaks the bad news to the emergency care center residents who suggest striking in order to voice their dissent.

That night Jin-woo finally goes home, and meets Sun-woo who’s just come back from Director Lee’s funeral. Jin-woo helps Sun-woo, a paraplegic, change, and thinks back to earlier that day when No-eul asked him if it was all right for him to leave Sun-woo by himself. In his usual nonchalant manner, Jin-woo told her that that Sun-woo would be fine without him.

Lying on his bed, Sun-woo wonders if he did something wrong, but Jin-woo tells him that the funneled account is real. He explains that Director Lee asked him how he knew about it when he confronted him, and that was enough of an answer for Jin-woo. Unconvinced, Sun-woo decides to reinvestigate the bank account, ignoring his brother’s protests.

The next day while leaving Director Lee’s funeral, Jin-woo runs into Deputy Director Kim, and using this chance encounter, he calls out the deputy director for lying about his visit to the Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday. Deputy Director Kim denies the accusation, so Jin-woo threatens to inform the police about the deputy director’s fight with Director Lee the day of his death.

Deputy Director Kim tells Jin-woo that he was actually teaching the director a lesson, and explains that he’s unafraid to bare everything to the police. However, he doubts the same can be said for the saintly Director Lee.

Angered, Jin-woo accuses the deputy director of destroying the hospital that Director Lee dedicated his life to protect, but Deputy Director Kim points the finger back at Jin-woo, citing how much he works to fix the emergency care center’s deficit. Jin-woo doesn’t deny that Deputy Director Kim performs a lot of surgeries and is well regarded, but the hidden implications behind his words strike a chord with Deputy Director Kim, who grabs Jin-woo by the lapels. Before their fight escalates, a phone call breaks them apart.

Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff members gather for a meeting about the dispatch issue, and Dr. Joo mentions the fact that the provincial hospital they are transferring to seems to be in the dark as well. As the conversation turns to complaining about the newly appointed president, Dr. Oh interjects and reminds the crowd that a business doesn’t have any grand ideals, and this dispatch is just the start.

A hush falls upon the audience as footsteps approach, and every pair of eyes in the room turns towards the figure taking center stage—President Gu Seung-hyo. He urges the doctors to begin the discussion about the surgery, much to their confusion, so Deputy Director Kim asks for clarification. Seung-hyo explains that the surgery is for the nation since all the doctors gathered here want to help people regardless of their background, and apparently now, they also want to personally go to those places in need.

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

In an office overlooking Hwajeong freight company, Seung-hyo orders Director Lee to turn around the loss of the three bottom departments (OB/GYN, pediatrics, and the emergency care center) before his inauguration, but from Seung-hyo’s response, it seems that Director Lee keeps pushing back. Manager KANG KYUNG-AH sends Seung-hyo the profiles of the doctors from Sangkook Hospital, and Dr. Joo’s resume catches his eye.

Seung-hyo buys drinks for the vice minister of Health and Welfare, and with some careful prompting by Seung-hyo, the vice minister brings up the topic of dispatching doctors to more rural hospitals. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find cooperating university hospitals, and Seung-hyo laments the lack of support for such a wonderful program.

Hearing the news of Director Lee’s death, Seung-hyo makes his way to the hospital and recalls the day when Director Lee admonished him for expecting to make a profit off the poor who come through their ER. The car suddenly jerks, bringing Seung-hyo back to reality, and he watches a dazed Jin-woo standing on the road.

In his office, Seung-hyo’s flashback of Director Lee continues as the director then defended the importance of the OB/GYN department and threatened to tell the media about Seung-hyo’s for-profit stance. Back in the present, Deputy Director Kim enters Seung-hyo’s office and assures him that the hospital funds issue with Director Lee has been resolved. Seung-hyo pointedly describes Director Lee’s last moments as peculiar, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Deputy Director Kim, but Seung-hyo casually avoids explaining what he means by it.

Seung-hyo gives a presentation of Sangkook Hospital to the other presidents of Hwajeong group’s different companies, and offers Hwajeong Insurance their patients’ information for a million won per person. Another company president attempts to undermine Seung-hyo by pointing out the illegality of this exchange, but Seung-hyo informs him that the rule was overturned a couple of years ago, making this negotiation completely legal.

The young chairman sitting at the head of the table gives Seung-hyo a barbed compliment, bringing up his past as a scholarship student, but Seung-hyo laughs it off along with the rest of the presidents. The chairman assigns Seung-hyo another task, and orders him to buy land from a particular person who isn’t willing to sell.

Seung-hyo thinks that the land is a bit far from the hospital, not making it ideal for the new hospital building, but the chairman won’t budge. Thus, Seung-hyo agrees to take on the assignment, but in exchange, he wants 70 billion won to help build the new hospital centers.

As soon as the meeting ends, Seung-hyo calls the land owner, but can barely say hello before the owner angrily hangs up the call, clearly stating his disinterest in selling the land. Leaving that task to the side for now, Seung-hyo arrives at the hospital and enters the auditorium where the hospital staff has gathered to discuss the dispatch issue.

Continuing from Episode 1, Seung-hyo addresses the audience and urges them to speak up about the topic. Dr. Oh goes first and expresses the confusion this sudden order has caused. In response, Seung-hyo asks the group if they reacted this way when the medical examination center moved to the Gangnam district (a wealthy district in the capital) last year.

The head of OB/GYN argues that the two aren’t comparable, and asks if Seung-hyo would relocate to a rural area if he were in their shoes. He replies in the affirmative, and twists their words back to them: If this were actually a business, then the workers would have already prepared to move rather than complain.

Dr. Joo speaks up next, and asks Seung-hyo what right he has to split up thousands of patients who visit these three departments when Sangkook Hospital is a public institution. Seung-hyo has a response for this too, and asks Dr. Joo if a public institution isn’t about everyone having access to equal care.

Dr. Lee suggests sending financial support rather than a dispatch, but Seung-hyo reminds him of his department’s accumulated deficit. Jin-woo remembers those same words from his argument with Deputy Director Kim, and to the surprise of those who know him, he throws a question at Seung-hyo: Does this mean that departments in the black can satisfy the requirements with money rather than be dispatched?

Seung-hyo starts to respond in his roundabout way, but Jin-woo forces him to be direct and answer the question. Thus, Seung-hyo asks how the emergency center will even acquire the funds if that is the case, and Jin-woo simply replies, “You’re right. We can’t.” However, he exchanges glances with Dr. Joo, who in turn locks eyes with Seung-hyo.

The meeting ends, and as everyone files out of the auditorium, Dr. Joo catches up to Jin-woo and asks him what he meant by that question. A sudden outburst by Dr. Lee saves Jin-woo from answering, and he excuses himself to take care of his department head.

The ER is busy as usual, and as Jin-woo starts chest compressions on a patient, we hear him talk about the two most frequent questions he receives. The first is about the difficulty of the job (using a common Korean expression about something being so hard it’ll kill you), to which Jin-woo says that people don’t technically die from hard work. The second is about why he picked this job, and Jin-woo explains that it’s because it would be a waste of his education… and because he lacks the courage to look away from a disappearing life before his eyes.

Jin-woo watches another doctor escort a young patient to the pediatric ward, but suddenly, both disappear as an empty wheelchair bangs into the wall. He looks around the ER, and staff and patients fade away as the equipment and walls age from neglect. Jin-woo firmly tells Director Lee that he’ll continue living without courage, and marches through the abandoned ER.

Manager Kang brings Seung-hyo the hospital’s varying records, from patient wait times to surgery room usage. He complains about the inefficiency of the hospital as he flips through the different files, and orders Manager Kang to improve the operation rate of surgery rooms.

He notices her sullen expression, so Manager Kang tells him that it’s easier said than done, especially since she’s never worked in a hospital before. He tells her to gather operation data from other top hospitals first, and also asks her to find more information on Jin-woo—whose face Manager Kang praises, much to Seung-hyo’s disapproval.

Jin-woo goes around to the pediatric and OB/GYN departments, hoping to find out their deficit. He learns from No-eul and a loose-lipped OB/GYN doctor that both were at the bottom, and imaginary Sun-woo appears besides Jin-woo to state the obvious: He might have an idea, but no proof.

Imaginary Sun-woo suggests checking out the accounting department for evidence, but Jin-woo gets off on a different floor. He walks away from imaginary Sun-woo, ignoring his questions, until he hears a crash and a cry. He quickly returns to his imaginary brother’s side, and Sun-woo teases Jin-woo for his worried look.

Real Sun-woo is at work where he learns about the recent dispatch order from Jin-woo’s hospital. He pulls out his phone to call his brother, but stops himself from pushing the button.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lee works in the ER with no Jin-woo in sight because he’s currently too engrossed in a list of departments ranked by sales. Confirming his suspicions, the three departments chosen to be transferred are at the bottom.

Jin-woo remembers Seung-hyo’s self-righteous claims about saving lives and helping places in need, and realizes the deceit behind his words. He finds Dr. Lee to tell him his discovery, but catches his department head looking for a job at another hospital. Dejected, he silently closes the door and seeks help elsewhere.

Jin-woo looks for Dr. Joo, but the nurse in charge tells him that he’s currently operating and won’t be available for a while. However, the nurse confronts Jin-woo and asks him to stop calling on Dr. Joo since they’re taking advantage of Dr. Joo’s good nature, which only results in more troubles for their department. It sounds harsh, but we see Dr. Joo slump to the floor after his surgery, clearly exhausted from overexerting himself by taking on all the rejected patients.

In his office, Seung-hyo examines the annual report and different types of equipment, but the pictures of various surgical scissors all look the same to him. Instead, he decides to visit an operation room and look at the equipment in person. To his surprise, Seung-hyo finds a sleeping Dr. Joo—the one he hates the most.

As he looks upon the scraggly doctor, he remembers Dr. Joo’s resume, which states that Director Lee scouted him from another hospital, and since he’s the only one from a different school, he was an outcast and often works 36-hour shifts because they’re short-staffed. Clearly though, no one can hate Dr. Joo since he wakes up covered in surgical blankets, most likely placed by Seung-hyo.

Jin-woo goes home and is greeted with food prepared by Sun-woo. The two brothers drink, and Jin-woo quickly catches on that Sun-woo heard about his transfer. He reassures his brother that he isn’t leaving, but doesn’t explain how. Later that evening, Jin-woo uploads the list of departments ranked by profit margin.

Seung-hyo chomps on a sandwich while on his way to meet the land owner who won’t sell, but has the car turned around when Manager Kang tells him about a post on the hospital forum. Jin-woo’s list was posted online, highlighting how the bottom three departments were chosen to be dispatched, and to top it all off, the author is the deceased Director Lee.

Manager Kang still hasn’t found the uploader, though they did figure out that the computer used was from the residents’ sleeping quarters. Seung-hyo instructs Manager Kang to check the accounting department as well as the computer processing room to find out how the list was leaked. Since they struck first, he’s decided to end any positive relations.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joo quietly walks up to Jin-woo in the hallway and cryptically asks if he missed the director that much. He orders him to follow him outside, and Jin-woo complies. Once alone, Dr. Joo asks if he was the one who posted the list online.

 
COMMENTS

The first outing of Life works best as a sum of two parts barreling towards a conflict brewing on the horizon. It’s an interesting opening, to say the least, with different characters, relations, motivations, and secrets all jumbled and intertwined. The first episode is fine on its own, but I particularly enjoyed the introduction of Gu Seung-hyo to the story and the contrasting perspective he brings in comparison to Jin-woo’s narrative. I thought the choice to keep one half of the conflict hidden until the second episode to be a brave move, since there’s no guarantee the audience will stick around for that long. However, I really liked the end product as the story retraced itself from Seung-hyo’s point of view and completed certain flashbacks and stories from Episode 1. It feels closer to a dual narrative, and I hope the show continues telling its story for both Jin-woo and Seung-hyo this way.

Though so many characters were introduced and the teams are clearly being formed, I can’t say for certain who’s “good” and “evil.” There are more sympathetic characters like Dr. Joo, who seems to radiate so much virtue that even his enemies give him blankets, but even characters I know I’m supposed to dislike, as in Deputy Director Kim, seem to be hiding something else. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the characters couldn’t really be pegged down, and to be honest, I don’t really trust anyone at the moment. I feel like everyone is hiding something and only looking out for themselves, but it could be the ominous background music that’s got me paranoid.

The acting is amazing, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the stellar cast filled with talented veterans and scene-stealers, and lead actors Lee Dong-wook and Jo Seung-woo. Jin-woo in particular feels like a hard character to play because of his stoicism, but I think Lee Dong-wook, with his ethereal face, brings a tension to the character that I can’t quite place. Though Jin-woo is calm and collected on the outside, he also feels like a ticking time bomb ready to break down, and when imaginary Sun-woo first popped up, it only cemented the fact for me that all is not well with our hero. Though Jin-woo seems to acknowledge the fake Sun-woo as a figment of his imagination, often ignoring his comments, he also showed emotions when he thought imaginary Sun-woo got hurt. Not only is it fascinating to see a part of Jin-woo’s consciousness manifest itself into the form of an able-bodied Sun-woo, his reactions to this figment also raise so many questions that I hope the show won’t forget to answer.

As for Seung-hyo, Jo Seung-woo makes the character impossible to hate with his smooth-talking persona and unreadable expressions. Despite being set up as the antagonist who’s only after profit, we see him portrayed as a human being, and adding Manager Kang as his sidekick was a stroke of genius. Their banter is easy and familiar, while still maintaining that delicate balance between boss and subordinate that doesn’t cross the line into cheesy territory or an abusive relationship. I especially loved the scene where the mean president commented on Manager Kang’s weight, and Seung-hyo snapped at him, throwing the president’s insult right back. It was a tiny scene, but revealed so much about their relationship and added another dimension to Seung-hyo as a character.

While I loved the characters so far, I’m not quite as fond of the plot yet. It’s odd, but after finishing the episodes I feel like so much yet so little has happened so far. If I write all the things that occurred, the list isn’t too long, and in terms of action, it was mostly characters talking and walking. However, there were so many little details and nuggets strewn throughout the show that makes it feel packed. It’s impossible to add everything into the recap, but if Forest of Secrets wasn’t a fluke, I think writer Lee Soo-yeon will be able to keep the twists and the turns coming for this show as well. All in all, I’d say that Life is off to a good start, but if years of drama-watching has taught me anything, I’ll hold off on my judgment until we see a little more.

 
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O.O ...no one is smiling...

I love this cast!!! But..but...no subs! 😭😭 Do I have to wait to binge watch it?
Maybe that's a better idea...

Thanks Lovepark for the recap!

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I'm also waiting desperately for sub, raven. (I couldn't resist taking a peek at Lee Kyu-hyung's scenes and it looked so good) Though it seems like Netflix Asia will air this drama starting from 4th August.

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If Netflix Asia will air the drama, does that mean Netflix USA will pick up the title and that's why I can't find it anywhere? Netflix always changes the name of kdramas it airs so half the time I don't know which dramas I like are airing.

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Netflix USA has Life up.

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Just started it - have you started it yet? And in two days they're adding Rise of the Phoenixes.

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Just started it! We'll have to find a meeting place to discuss!

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I just watched the beginning of Ghost Detective ep 3 (raw) and it was deliciously creepy.

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I didn't even notice the lack of smiles until now! There are... some "smiles" though (also counting smirks), and even a wink in the first episode!

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For those that care, its airing on Australian netflix from 4th August :)

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Thank you for the recap!!
I want to read the recaps so much but I want to watch the drama first. Why no subs? 😭😭😭😭 How much long we have to wait for it. The wait is killing me.😭

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Same! I just saw the images...and everything looks so grim! I can't wait to watch it! Lol!

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By the time we'll get the subs I won't have a life to watch life. 😂
*Waiting is really hard*

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Hahaha so many dramas and yet I want THIS one. Gosh, we are stubborn. *waiting is sooo hard yes*

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Usually by the time Netflix airs the drama I don't care anymore. I'm still shocked their airing Mr Sunshine simultaneously.

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We're all out here still waiting for subs. >_<

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I hope the subbers hear our plea!! ^^

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I really hope subs will be available soon, idk why it's taking so long😭😭😭

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Do we know if this show got picked up by anyone? I am not seeing it on DF or Viki. If course, the title alone makes it difficult to search for...😑

This looks so good! Another show to get my dad to watch. He loved Forest of Secrets.

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Netflix. Premiere on August 7

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I honestly think we should start a campaign and complain with netflix about their waiting to release the episodes. There are dramas that netflix will only release after all 16 episodes go on air in Korean and because of that they hold on the subs and I think it's more because netflix love binge-wacthing than some negotiation witb the channels. Viki and fever seem to have no problem releasing the episodes a week.

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I was seriously surprised that they are simulcasting Mr. Sunshine.

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CORRECTION. It is on August 4 instead.

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Thanks. I shall pray that it is simulcast here in the US. US Netflix is often a black hole as they release it only after the show has aired. But Mr. Sunshine gives me hope - it appears to be the first kdrama to be simulcast on Netflix here.

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Me too.....
I hope they do more simulcast...

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I just read that the US market will get the title on September 12th.

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Yeah, I noticed someone here posted it on the wall yesterday. Great news!

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It will be available on Netflix Asia on August 7.

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Only Asia region?

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It's a no go for the U.S. Use the chat feature on Netflix to see if your region (if it's not U.S) will get it.

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NOOOOOOO!!!!! I hate when dramas get picked up by Netflix. It means we have to wait forever until after it has finished airing. Please tell me it won't be as long as a wait as it was for Age of Youth 2.

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At least we know that there will be subs about a week after the drama airs. This is how I watched LIVE before it came on NETFLIX (off-site through a VPN--or through NETFLIX ASIA/EUROPE through a more secure/expensive VPN). Would @lovepark delay the recap until after reliable subs come out each week to allow more of us to participate in them in real time?

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I will have to go the route of Life on Mars, and be forced to watch on an illegal site. I do not have a VPN account to do that.

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I second @ally-le's request to postpone the recaps to coincide with Netflix's release of the subbed episodes on Aug. 4 (presuming no one else subs it in the meantime). This is a hard drama to watch raw because of all of the medical vocabulary.

P.S. Welcome back, @lovepark-- it's great to read you again. And thanks a mill for recapping this. IMO, Life rates very high on the recapworthy scale.

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I had my hopes on U.S. region (can access with VPN). For Latin America region they said no.

It's pretty weird, because with "Forest of Secrets", DF had license for Latin America, and Netflix for US. But for this drama, it's a mystery.

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CORRECTION. It is on August 4 instead.

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Waiting for this drama is torture. The only one I care about this season, and nowhere to watch :(

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It’s available on Netflix Asia on 4 August.

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Lee Dong Wook looks great in this. I worried he was too pretty for this but he’s not. Looking forward to this!

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The fact that I can't watch this is hurting my existence. Forest of Secrets is still the most perfect drama for me. I won't even read the recaps until subs come out. But thanks Lovepark.

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Thank you for the fast recap! I did watch this without subs, but didn't understand a word of the hospital politicking, which is unfortunate, because I think I would enjoy it for once in a medical drama. I appreciate that the writing interjects actual controversies that surround physicians and administrators in real life. It's more complex than a power-hungry, greed-ridden administrator covering up atrocities in a hospital and the lowly physician trying to bring it to light, which 90% of medical kdramas tend to focus the plot on. Just a couple of things that are worries in current hospital environments are the pay system for hospitals and physicians. The recap mentions "pay-for-performance." I'm not sure how accurately the show explained this, but for anyone curious, it's a system of paying doctors that is based on a set of criteria that hopefully improves patient care. This is where the huge debate comes in: does this really improve patient outcomes??? One of these is readmission rates to ER's and hospitals. If you are caring for a patient that you discharge from the ER and the "bounce back" within a certain amount of time, you a dinged and so is your pay. So, you can understand ER physicians and hospitalists (those you take care of you when you are admitted to the hospital) would be against being paid this way. Hospitalists have to do what insurance companies dictate sometimes and may be forced to discharge a patient before they're ready to go home if the insurance company refuses to pay. Then they come back because they shouldn't have been discharged in the first place. Something that I've found out of the ordinary are people in kdramas that are hospitalized for fainting when all their vitals are normal (I'm looking at you Secretary Kim) and then staying overnight---waste of resources, when there are much sicker people who get discharged with electrolyte abnormalities, still hypoxic or wheezing, etc. I only see the back end of this (I recently had a patient discharged for asthma exacerbation in the ER come back to my clinic the same day because they were still sick, but they didn't want to wait in the ER again but then I end up sending them back to the ER anyway because they really should have been admitted to the hospital and I have to make a phone call to the hospitalist to get them there). It's a broken system sometimes. And here's a parody by a very impressive real life ER physician who has spoken out about how he thinks the system (at least in the US) can be changed by physicians and patients. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS3xaXsh6vo

However, I highly doubt that a hospital would just get rid of three departments or move them just because they were not making it any money. We know that there a certain specialties that lose money (psychiatry, infectious disease, pediatrics) but if you don't have them in a hospital, you can't have a hospital. That's why you have high earning specialties (surgery,...

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, orthopedics and plastics) that pay the bills. I have some experience with this being on two clinic and hospital financial committees as well. When our hospital was lagging behind another hospital in town in terms of deliveries, which affected the financials, we spent more money on our delivery rooms, making all of them private, increasing amenities and types of deliveries, investing in doulas, midwives, making the experience better for the patient, and guess what, delivery numbers increased. That's what you would do in real life, maybe that's what they'll do in the drama. But what happens if you get rid of the ER? Where to the surgeons, neurologists, hospitalists get patients? THE ER! You can't make money unless you spend money 99% of the time. What happens when you get rid of pediatrics or OB/gyn? No NICU, NO PICU. Also, they are the front line physicians that refer to other subspecialities that do make the money. Your OB finds breast cancer, you go to surgery, oncology, interventional radiology, radiation oncology, and a whole host of other specialties to care for you. You don't get rid of your front line soldiers when you have a war to fight and you don't get rid of your primary care physicians when you want to make a hospital profitable. It makes no sense in this regard.

But the acting and actors are superb, I can't deny that and I WILL be watching this for them. I might interject more of my thoughts on the medical side of this from time to time, mainly for my own sanity, but hopefully, it'll be helpful for those that don't live in this crazy medical world as well.

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Thank you! So my takeaway is business minds shouldn't be making decisions affecting delivery of care, it should be those with medical training.

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Unfortunately, those with medical training rarely desire to go into administration and that where the disconnect comes in. I’ve been ask to play a greater role in admin, but then when would I watch kdramas? 😉

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RL problems! I blunt the need for a fix by streaming kpop/osts continuously!

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I already do this *as Highlight plays on endless loop in my office*

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This is also the impression that I got from the first 2 eps. Gu Seung-hyo was only thinking from pure business mind and tried to make the best out of it, while in fact hospital management should be handled very differently. I wonder though if him slowly understanding what it truly means to manage a hospital is going to be a part of his character growth.

Also @ally-le, thank you for your insightful comment. It really added another perspective for people who didn't live in medical world like me.

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Is it too much to ask for a bromance between him and Jin-woo?

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Ikr? At least I want to see them as allies, because so far I don't really see Seung-hyo as the big bad. They might very well have to deal with another 'evil' character down the line.

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Here's another good parody video that's kind of serious from the same doc, but also talks about pay for performance, the business of medicine, how doctors can't be doctors in a system that puts more value in numbers rather than people.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lyMvp2GoSY

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Thanks for your insights-- they're very helpful.

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It's interesting to see different perspectives of how the healthcare system manifests in different countries. I work in a private hospital in Australia. The public system is more or less fully subsidised by the government through Medicare and the PBS. Public patients may choose to be treated at private hospitals and vice versa as some of the consultants are shared between the two, but once you're admitted into the private hospital, the costs are covered by your own private health insurance, with or without out-of-pocket excess.

We don't have our own emergency department, and instead share it with the public's. It is rare that patients get admitted through the emergency department and then get sent to the wards though. Most of our patients come for elective surgeries and simple procedures, so the turnover is very quick. In essence, the private and public systems are separate entities.

However by the looks of it, Sangguk Hospital seems to be a public hospital, but it's privately owned and managed by a corporation? I have no understanding of whether South Korea has any universal health care or not so this seems to be an interesting arrangement.

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the hospital is not a public but a private hospital. In South Korea, the healthcare system is actually pretty good. read this.

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_in_South_Korea

I'm not saying it's perfect. it's just good. there's always a problem.

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After I watched them with the recap at bah-doo:
Here is the answer to your question about what was the pay-for-performance system in the show:
The President was angry that the pay-system was awarding the doctors if they use more expensive medicines and did more expensive procedures and so on. It was like getting a commission directly added to your salary for every medicine or treatment the patient got.

The hospital was owned by University but recently was taken over by a private company. The CEO is probably from that company. I am not sure what they really meant by not having an ER/OB/GYN, for me it sounded like a lay off. I will say more after I watch episode 2.

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So, what you’re referring to is actually the “fee-for-service” model that has traditionally been in place to pay for services in the medical field. There’s two sides to this coin. If someone comes into the ER with a the worst headache of their life, a doctor has several options: they could do minimal or no labs and head imaging, give them some aspirin and send them home, or they can do labs and a CT scan to make sure they don’t have a bleed or aneurysm and then medications that could stop that bleed, observe then overnight in the hospital and if everything looks good and the headache goes away, they can go home. So, the second way has a higher fee-for-service and the doctor has to do more for the patient and they will get paid more. Now, could a physician take advantage of this? Maybe, but they have to justify everything they do as well. Maybe they had a family member that had a brain aneurysm, or that this was really the worst headache of their life and they never get headaches—something that the physician sees is amiss because of their experience. Now, even if their is no aneurysm, I probably wouldn’t fault the physician who did the latter, because if you don’t catch an aneurysm, they patient may die and you’ve got a litigation nightmare. I’m not sure if the translation is wrong or if the writer actually is using the term incorrectly here. “Pay-for-performance” is a different method of payment where a certain set of criteria has to be met by the physician before they are paid. It takes several “metrics” into consideration, and tries to take cost out of it. This rabbit hole can get pretty deep so I’ll stop here.

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Well, i am no expert in payment for doctors. I have no opinions either. But i know that some doctors do ridiculous stuff to get more money, because not every doctor will care about you, they will do an c section for delivery when everything is normal, they will prescribe x-ray /c-t scan when you just had it done because the place where you got it done does not pay commission to them, they will prescribe a more expensive medicine, even when cheaper alternatives are available. Not everyone does that but that's also a reality. I have seen this so many times, but i have never seen any patient getting a benefit out of it other than complications. That's why i think, i oppose this system, if the doctor has reasonable doubt, he or she can do whatever test they think the person needs. But this has got nothing to do with tgeir salary, which for me should be fixed. There two institutions for me which should never be even thought of as a place where you make profit, education specially school and second hospitals. In my opinion its fundamentally wrong for a teacher or doctor to even dream of being rich. It makes no sense. But it doesn't mean that they should not be paid, they should be well paid but a doctors performance is not so simple to be judged just by what he does, its not an exam, where all the doctors get the same patients. And they compete to do it the best. For me, the only thing that should negatively hurt a doctors performance is when there is a malpractice. And this should be investigated by a team of experts. This is the best one can do.

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Watched the first episode:
- Such a HEAVY DRAMA. Nobody smiles. Everyone is so intense. But I'm hooked!
- Still can't figure out what's happening as all the characters are still being introduced. Quite curious with the plot.
- why does Dr Ye keep getting an imagination of is brother?

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Contrary to my earlier expectation, I'm getting more worried for Jin-woo. His imaginary brother is nothing like the real Sun-woo and I don't understand why he kept seeing his brother everywhere. It's not like they are estranged or barely knew each other or something. Is it a manifestation of his guilt? Or maybe resentment? Hmm...

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Me too.... He's like having hallucination... The plot and stories are intriguing me. I have so many questions, including the brothers' relationship. What happened actually to Sun-woo? Is he paraplegic from birth? or, something bad has happened to him? is that something to do with Jin-woo?

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I didn't mention it in the recap, but there was a scene where the camera lingers on a picture in Jin-woo's apartment that's probably the brothers when they were younger. From that, it seems like maybe Sun-woo wasn't paraplegic from birth.

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Ahh, I really would love to watch it with subs. I tried raw but the medical terms/talk are a bit hard for me. The opening episode is very good. Camera work is really wonderful and flashbacks are used in a nice way. (Its not dripping in money Cinematography, but its more like on the point, sleek.)
The first half of episode 1 was shot in dark(night) reminds me a lot of how My ahjussi was mostly shot in dark. Is this drama pre-produced?
The thing that I loved the most was that opening scene was about death and then you see the drama title roll in saying Life! The sharp contrast and drama slowly takes you in.

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I do like the cinematography here too. It's brooding, angsty, dark, and you're totally drawn in.

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This is Forest of Secrets, medical style! The death of Director LEE reminds me of the death of Park Mul Seong. Events revolve around it. It’s really good and very intense. More intense than FoS! But so much dialogue I have to frequently rewind and read the subs a few times to understand. It’s the same writer’s style, no doubts abt it. And Cho Seung Woo! What can I say? He fills the whole screen with that last 5 mins of episode 1. That presence!

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so do i re: dialogue. it's good tho so we can understand all the nuances. also he killed it just in those last moments alone truly i FELT THAT

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Thank you @lovepark for the recap 😁😁😁

JO SEUNG WOO!!!! I fell like I will and that I do like him in anything, regardless if his character is the pro- or antagonist 🤗🤗🤗
I wish we had gotten more glimpses of our girl, Won Jin Ah, but I understand why it had to be our 2 main males that had to the center for episodes 1 and 2.

I can’t wait to see more!!!

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May I suggest that anyone from North America who wants to see this show on Netflix here, submit a request for it. It is ONLY ONE request per I.P. Address.

https://help.netflix.com/en/titlerequest?ui_action=title-suggestion-quicklinks

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You can actually log a complaint here: https://media.netflix.com/en/contact-us
since Life is already coming to Netflix, just not in a timely manner.

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It’s already coming to Netflix: August 4th for Canada, but not sure when for the U.S.

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Why does Jin-woo keep imagining sun-woo?

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As per usual, writer Lee Soo-yeon's script is rich and filled with hidden gems. Every line is so important that sometimes I have to rewind many times to catch everything that's said. The acting is also on fire on all fronts, even the supporting characters.

I've expressed my love of Jo Seung-woo's acting and interpretation of Gu Seung-hyo, but I cannot praise him enough. He was given a very meaty character to play with but his delivery is the bomb. He's ambitious, calculative and perfectionistic. He may be manipulative but he's not totally cold and devoid of morals. He's also sassy and sarcastic. There are so many little moments inserted that reveal his character, such as:
1. When he called the minister to find out about the dispatch, he was like "Hey, it's me. You know, recently... Oh, *slight pause* Yeah, long time no see." This gave me the giggles, as I totally relate to his straight-forwardness, barrel-ahead and no-nonsense attitude.
2. When his fellow subsidiary president commented on Manager Kang by saying "You've gained weight again, the hospital's rice (meals) must've tasted sweet to you." And without missing a beat Seung-hyo snapped "And since what age did rice taste sweet to you, President?", prompting a reply of "Thanks to you, I've lost a lot of weight". Seung-hyo: 1, mean president: 0. This line is also a re-interpretation of KES's famous cheesy line by Hyun Bin in Secret Garden "Since what age were you this pretty?" (I must say I love JSW's sassy version more). I agree that it's a stroke of genius for this character to have a female subordinate that he still respects and relies on.
3. The fact that he's aware he doesn't have a lot of medical knowledge and is not above learning it by himself from scratch to better understand hospital management.
4. After cursing out Joo Kyung-moon for being annoying after Kyung-moon challenged him at the grand rounds meeting, he still put a blanket over a sleeping Kyung-moon.

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JSW could eat a sandwich (which he did in ep 2) and it would be riveting.

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Thank you to fellow beanies for the info on 'Life' premier on Netflix! I was waiting in agony for subs on those 'alternative' site. Now I can wait 'peacefully' for the show to be on Netflix. It really put me at ease knowing I'll be able to watch it, albeit a little late, but that's better than nothing.

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This recap snuck by me! Thank you for the recap of the first two. Watching it right now and I LOVE IT. I had to stop reading this recap a quarter of the way through to not spoil myself. I thought I could take a spoiler or two, but decided against it :-) .

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thanks for the recap!
With Cho Seung Woo and Lee Dong Wook in the same screen, how can I resist to watch this?
BUT I'M DESPERATE FOR SUBS!!!
Dear drama God, please hear our plea! Please please please release english sub for this drama 🙏

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Please tell me Where are Beanies watching Life - illegal/legal? Thanks

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Still waiting for the episode 3-4 recap.

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STILL waiting for the Episodes 3-4 recap. What's the hold up?

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I think they are waiting until it airs in Netflix. Although they removed it from the "Currently recapping" section. I hope it's just until Aug 4th.

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Announcement from Netflix:

Netflix, Inc., the world's leading entertainment service, announced it has licensed Life, the new Korean original drama written by Lee Su-yeon and directed by Hong Jong-chan and Lim Hyun-ook. Netflix will premiere the first four episodes of Life in APAC markets (excluding Japan) and English speaking regions (excluding U.S.) on Aug. 4 at 12AM PST. Episodes 5 and 6 will stream on the same day as the Korean broadcast on Aug. 6 and 7 at 9:30AM PST followed by a regular weekly schedule. All other territories excluding the U.S. and Japan will premiere 2 episodes weekly on every Mondays at 9:30AM PST while all episodes will be available in the U.S. on Sep. 12.

Link:
https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/netflix-announces-k-drama-life

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WHY are they excluding the U.S.????

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karma smh

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Care to elaborate?

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lol i just meant that's what we get for causing such chaos in the world lately (a bad jk)

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Jo Seung Woo and Lee Kyu-hyung give me life.

Lee Dong-wook has been slowly (but steadily) improving since I first saw him in My Girl. Maybe he'll surprise me this time.

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ok, I just finished watching the 1st ep and am planning to see the 2nd later today.

While I didn't get what the director meant when he told LDW that his dept always had deficits, I do know that private hospitals don't want to admit patient who are not financially capable of paying hospital dues - this was prob why the surg dept didn't admit a certain patient referred to them (thus LDW's sarcastic remark on orthosurg doing lots of surgeries.) But why does that "put them on the red" as the director said?

Ye Jin woo is an ER med consultant and it's unusual for ER drs to admit patients under their service because their job is mainly to man the ER, ward pts usually go internists, sugeons etc. So what YJW did was uncommon (and is prob his habit whenever he sees admissible pts no specialty wanted to take in) and might be the reason why the director says his dept had deficits, whatever that meant.

I think there will always be a disparity between medical and political interests. I imagine being enraged too if i were a dr in a teaching hospital when it seems to me the admin is only interested in getting more money from pts; the goal of drs is only to treat pts. So sending your medical staff away when hospital is already understaffed is like killing an already dying person

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Really really enjoying this drama!! Have watched all 4 episodes now and I generally don't gravitate towards medical dramas but there are a lot of complex layers and some great acting in this one. It is my first time seeing Jo Seung Woo act and I can understand why he is so revered as an actor... I like the direction of the story as well as how there are breaks and shifts across scenes but it does not feel disjointed.

Also really impressed with Lee Dong Wook, I have always liked him but he portrays so many nuances with his character so well - the slight shifts in his facial expression, his eyes, his tone... I think this is a great role for him and he is doing a great job. Also really enjoy all his scenes with his brother Sun Woo, you can see such a range of emotions going on there that is really powerful. Looking forward to the rest moving forward, I really hope that we can have more recaps here but also understand there are a lot of dramas right now!

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so far i rly like it but it requires such intense focus lik stranger loool. the cast (well most) i am so in love with. i am glad to see won jin ah in a another role.

i am trying to be more positive about ldw's acting but his portrayal is making me look at his character so flatly while the world around him is in disarray and disappointing but everyone contains multitudes while jinwoo just exists. the good thing is i think the writing makes it ok to watch, i just certainly wish there was more depth.

you can DEFINITELY tell from the writing (even tho the PD is different) that there are certain things this writer enjoys doing (even camera angles haha.) i'm really interested to see how it progresses though i just finished ep 2 so i have more to catch up on.

i now csw....and yoo jae myun,,,,and all the rest from stranger and JBL... *____* i usually am not a huge fan of [male] actors but like someone in the comments said they'd watch csw eat a sandwich. and truly i would. what a departure from stranger. he is literally posed as so fuckin smarmy and im like damn i would never talk to u irl. excited to see more and get all these mysteries solved cos rn im like ???? help

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THANK YOU! I see everyone praise the acting, but really I think its OVER DONE like a bad soap opera or parody! lol

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Oh! Am I too late to get on this train 😆😆😆😆😆?

Trusting in the work of the writer and the PD (if I’m not mistaken), I began watching this after Netflix’s subbed it which was some days ago. The first episode didn’t grip me, just like the first episode of FoS didn’t, but those last minutes of the first episode,.. the writer had done a great job of inserting a terrific hanger for all watchers at the ending of just every episode. Just like the way I love FoS, I am loving this series more and more. The plot is gripping, though not as intriguing as FoS, but it deals with something which presumably happens in reality everyday, without us being notified of it. The writer had again delivered an impressive work. The third and forth episodes are much better than the first two imo since we begin to understand each character more.

At first I thought JSW acted a bit over-the-top, so as some supporting actors. I actually compared their acting with my FoS standard and made a judgement that the acting was better in FoS. However, I think I was immersed into it more and more after I watched episodes after episodes. This one is a must-watch. I love the storyline and am immensely impressed by the writer, the PD, the actors and everyone involved.

❤️❤️❤️

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At first I disliked the actor who played the Doctor Ye since I think he seemed lacking sleep all the time. And his acting reminds me of the character he portrayed in.. what was it? Oh Goblin. I questioned his ability to act, as well as his handsomeness (imho I just can’t see how he’s referred to as a modern Greek God). I think putting two warm, used tea bags on his eyes should get rid of the dark circles just fine. 😌

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Thoughts on Ep 7

The relationship between mr gu and his mother is adorable ❤️. That scene shows he is like every other child when it comes infront of his parents. He might be adopted but his parents love him a lot esp his mom. Remember in the last ep his mom was lying down almost asleep while watching tv and mr mr gu comes and lays down beside her but as soon as he says that he felt sick or something , his mom jumps right up worried about his son. So definitely no doubt his mom loves him. But still want to know his backstory.

2nd I SO SHIP MR GU AND DR Lee so neul !! They are cute.i doubt there will be cute fluffy scenes with them dating in this serious drama but one can dream. Hehe

3rd Mr Gu is awesome ! The director that this hospital doesn't deserve but got.

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where was it mentioned that he was adopted?

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My bad..i suspected it but i was wrong.

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why didn`t you recap this show anymore? I really need some serious discussions on it. at least when it`s completely over write a review on the whole series. If it`s possible, of course

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Does anyone know of any alternate site which does Life recap? For such a high intensity drama recaps are very useful. Although I would say it appears less intertwined than Secrets of the Forest (SoF) aka Stranger; also Life spider web doesn’t seem as wide as SoF, yet. (Maybe cos I’m only at episode 4, but I definitely feel that Life is not as complicated 😬)

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well, you`re right. Life is not as complicated. Stranger was a masterpiece but I won`t use this word to describe life. Not that it`s bad. On the contrary. life is better than most of Korean dramas out there. it`s just that it can`t measure up to Stranger.

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i've only seen the 1st ep so far but i hope lee dong-wook's character gains some development he seems so uninteresting from the first episode

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