Doctor Stranger: Episode 3
Welcome to the hospital where cardiothoracic surgeons reign supreme and countless lives hang in the balance every day. It wouldn’t be a medical show without some serious ethical flags being raised about its clinical practice, especially when a water delivery boy can go around treating patients better than the doctors themselves.
It’s as if this show likes to answer our questions two episodes later than we’d like it to, because while we learn why our hero is a practicing doc in the South, we’ve still yet to know exactly how. But what kind of hero has time to doctor around when he’s already too busy trying to find the love of his life?
Just like the numerous tonal shifts in this show, the ratings also shuffled around on Monday with Doctor Stranger pulling first with 12.1% while Big Man held onto second place with 9.7%, and Triangle brought up the rear with 7.5%.
SONG OF THE DAY
Oh Ye-ri – “너 때문에 (Because of You)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
After shedding tears over the digital evidence that Jae-hee is indeed alive, Hoon asks the smuggler how fast he can get her here. Although money is no object when it comes to saving his beloved, Hoon is still taken aback to hear that it’ll cost half a million dollars.
Jae-hee’s case is particularly expensive since she must be smuggled out of prison camp, but Smuggler Im figures Hoon will come up with the cash in no time on his doctor’s salary. You mean in that tiny clinic where he’s stitchin’ up mobsters (likely) illegally? Time to get crackin’.
Meanwhile in his office, Prime Minister Jang tosses aside hospital brochures like spam mail. He takes a gander at Myungwoo Hospital, however, and smirks at a photo of the chairman of the board of directors (whom we previously noted as director, whoops!), Chairman Oh. Hmm.
Speaking of, Chairman Oh sits down with a pair of reporters and chuckles at their praises of Jae-joon’s prestigious background at Harvard. Though Jae-joon’s mistake-free surgical record precedes him, it also properly introduces us to the newest cardiothoracic surgical department head.
At the same time, Doctor Moon blames the incompetent surgical mistake on one of his fellow surgeons, who quietly takes the blame—and slaps—like a champ. The suspension puts an end to Doctor Moon’s reign as surgical head doc, but maybe someone needs to learn how to assume responsibility like one first.
After seeing Chairman Oh off, Soo-hyun pulls up to Jae-joon in her fancy red car. He smiles. Oh, are you two an item?
They must be because when Soo-hyun drives him to the hospital, she urges him to give his workaholic nature a rest on his day off. There’s something else she’d like to tell him, but that’s when he swoops in to cut her off with a kiss. She accepts that as payment to pick up this conversation later.
Jae-joon’s unexpected visit to the hospital scares the bejesus out of first-year cardiothoracic resident KIM CHI-GYU (Lee Jae-won), with whom he gives the reminder to call him “hyung” when they’re in the on-call room. Aw, that’s adorable.
It seems that Jae-joon and Soo-hyun’s relationship is no secret in the hospital, and Chi-gyu chides the girl hiding underneath the covers on her admiration of Jae-joon before resuming sexy times.
So it appears that the scolded surgeon we saw earlier was following Jae-joon’s orders in Doctor Moon’s surgery, which sounds to me like a dangerous gamble. When asked if there’s an assistant professorship for him on the horizon, Jae-joon uses his wooden castle-building hobby to illustrate that a lord should reward his men handsomely.
Once Jae-joon is alone, however, a dark expression casts a shadow on his face as he mutters, “Trashy bastard.”
We check back in with Hoon, who’s on the brink of tears watching Jae-hee’s video on his computer. That’s when a much healthier Jae-hee pops out from behind him: “I’m right here!” she smiles. Oh man, I already know it’s a dream, but it’s still heartbreaking.
Fantasy Jae-hee marvels at his tiny clinic and asks if he really earned half a million dollars to get her here. Hoon says it was worth every penny. She happily digs into the curry he made for them, and Hoon just watches her eat with this goofy smile on his face.
But the sound of Jae-hee’s real voice calling out to him brings him back to the sad reality, where he’s sitting alone in an empty room.
Soo-hyun arrives home where she politely greets a man who scoffs at being called “oppa” by a concubine’s daughter. I assume he must be her douchey half-brother, who’s only interested in her expensive car. She tosses him the keys, and then returns with a rock in her hand and smashes the glass with it. Point taken—you don’t mess with her.
Soo-hyun keeps up appearances with her father Chairman Oh and his wife in their lavish home inside. Although the chairman’s wife makes her dislike towards Soo-hyun perfectly clear, it’s apparent that Chairman Oh regards his daughter more highly than his incompetent son.
Hoon brushes off Chang-yi’s request to cover her water deliveries to Myungwoo Hospital so that she can go sightseeing with her mother. She notes that he needs the money to save Jae-hee, but her aegyo pleas do little.
Yet one doe-eyed look from her mother gets him to agree reluctantly. Chang-yi’s mother seems to recognize Hoon’s name from somewhere, but Chang-yi brushes that aside.
So when Hoon arrives at the hospital, he walks past all the hospital director portraits, but stops in front of one depicting current director CHOI BYUNG-CHUL (Nam Myung-Ryul), whom Hoon recognizes as the ajusshi who promised him to take him to Dad years ago.
Oh, so that must be how Hoon ended up in the North the first time. I also think it’s worth noting that Director Choi has been in charge since 1994, the year of the nuclear scare in Episode 1.
Looks like the same little girl with the broken finger finally got herself checked at the hospital, where she’s told that whoever patched her up did a good job. Hoon runs into her and her father in the hallway, and the dad’s coughing fit grabs his attention.
Hoon asks if he’s had trouble breathing lately and places a hand on the man’s chest, about to tap into his genius medical skills… when the man pushes his hand away. Ha, the odd record-scratch effect accompanying the move cracks me up.
Hoon lights up to hear that they’re all on their way to the radiology department. They all follow the blue painted line in this stop animation-like sequence (and clarinet gypsy music. Oy the tonal shifts in this show), only to scratch their heads when it ends at an arbitrary destination.
After asking directions, they follow a different line but that leads nowhere, too. Hoon struggles with the water container he’s been lugging around all this time, and grabs another doctor for clearer instructions.
But it’s Soo-hyun he’s caught this time, and he sighs to be told to “follow the blue line.” The exasperated look on his face mirrors mine: But they’re ALL blue. She points to the actual sign that says “radiology” and walks away.
Hoon and the girl celebrate like they’ve reached Disneyland when they finally get to their destination. Returning to reality a minute later, Hoon advises the dad to get checked out.
We get another tonal shift back to the medical dramatics as Jae-joon and his dream team are informed of a flood of incoming patients due to a traffic accident. Jae-joon issues orders in the ER and walks out with his team to receive the accident victims.
At the same time, the little girl pulls aside a nurse, worried about her father who’s having difficulty breathing. And with all the chaos about to rush in those doors, something tells me that his case is going to go overlooked.
Hoon watches the medical drama unfold both outside and inside the ER and spots the young girl helplessly trying to grab someone’s attention. She lets out a bloodcurdling scream, which stops everyone for one long second before they start hustling again.
Soo-hyun kindly stops to explain the situation to her though, and then takes a minute to examine the girl’s father. She rules out a respiratory issue and Hoon pops up next to her to say it’s probably the heart.
Soo-hyun gets pulled aside to attend to another patient, leaving Chi-gyu to attend to the girl’s father. When Chi-gyu gives them directions again, Hoon grabs him to instruct him to escort the pair himself.
Feeling uneasy, Hoon tags along in the elevator and asks the girl about her father’s symptoms, which prompts Chi-gyu to ask if he’s a doctor. But just as Hoon answers “sort of,” the girl’s father collapses to the ground.
Chi-gyu runs for help as soon as they get the man out of the elevator. Now Hoon uses his genius without interruption, and says they have to perform CPR immediately. But when Chi-gyu ignores him, Hoon takes charge of the situation, calling out orders left and right.
By the time Chi-gyu realizes that they don’t have a heartbeat, the defibrillator Hoon ordered has already arrived. Hoon uses it to bring back the man’s heartbeat and says they have to operate immediately. Problem is, all the surgeons are busy attending to other patients in the ER.
So when Jae-joon gets the call about the girl’s father, he orders the operating room to stand by until he finishes with another patient. But of course Chi-gyu panics when the anesthesiologist warns that they’ll be in danger if the patient goes into cardiac arrest again.
With Jae-joon in surgery and the patient about to expire, Chi-gyu has no choice but to call up Doctor Moon, who barks back drunkenly that he’s suspended. Knowing that things are looking bleak, the little girl tearfully requests Hoon to perform the surgery.
Hoon answers that he’ll get in trouble for picking up his scalpel so recklessly, but he can’t ignore the girl’s pleas either. He jokes that his medical treatment is pretty costly, so she places the 500 won coin in his hand. “Is this enough?” she asks. Hoon: “Of course not.”
She cries that she wants to spend more time with her father, and Hoon’s heart softens. Oh no, don’t tell me that you’re going in there!
Chi-gyu returns to the operating room, still panicked, but he turns around to who he thinks is Jae-joon scrubbing up for surgery. We see that it’s actually Hoon, who scowls as he thinks back to Dad’s words never to forget the fact that he’s a doctor.
Even if Hoon is wearing a mask, his voice is a dead giveaway that he’s NOT Jae-joon. But before he can be questioned further, Hoon makes his first incision. Everyone in the OR (and Doctor Moon who watches from above) gapes in shock.
Soo-hyun is belatedly sent up to the operating room and left confused to see that someone else is performing what should be Jae-joon’s surgery. She demands to know who the operating surgeon is, but Hoon merely answers, “A doctor.”
When Soo-hyun calls a halt to the operation, Hoon steps back—he’ll move aside if Soo-hyun can handle it. She’s put off when the anesthesiologist says this procedure is beyond her abilities—they must save the patient first and worry about who did later.
Soo-hyun walks out to call for security and sees the little girl waiting outside. She walks back inside to see the patient being wheeled out already, surprised to be told that the mysterious surgeon works at lightning fast speed.
Still in his scrubs, Hoon saunters in the hospital but then quickens his step when his presence alerts the security guards and he quickly loses them.
Impressed, Doctor Moon pulls Chi-gyu aside to ask who that mysterious surgeon was, and the sight of the empty water container jogs his memory. Cut to: Hoon, walking in his normal clothes. He bends down to grab the rogue 500 won coin, but then comes to a (literal) screeching halt in front of Soo-hyun and the guards.
Soo-hyun rewards Hoon with a slap across the cheek, calling his fraudulent doctor actions akin to attempted murder. Hoon says that he is a doctor but then figures that he exactly isn’t one either, words that confuse her.
He points out that she was the one who ran away from a patient and leans in to say, “You know what they call people like you? A quack. A quack doc.”
He grabs her hand when she raises it to hit him again… and then she slaps him again with the other hand.
Right now they’ve got bigger problems to deal with because the girl’s father is crashing. This time, Jae-joon is on call to respond, and the situation gives Soo-hyun more reason to have Hoon arrested.
However to her surprise, Hoon identifies the exact symptoms. Both he and Jae-joon issue the same order and the patient stabilizes. Hoon smiles at the confirmation that he was right, then places both hands on his cheeks in defense. Snerk.
By the time Jae-joon joins them, Hoon is kicking and screaming against the guards’ hold on him. Hoon asks why he can’t just leave, to which Jae-joon answers that something could have happened to the patient.
Even if Hoon does possess a medical license, he needs prior authorization to perform procedures in establishments outside of his own practice. It doesn’t matter if it was an emergency either, because he could risk losing his medical license if something did go wrong. Thank goodness someone in this hospital is here to establish some medical ethical boundaries.
Jae-joon notes that it’s only been two years since Hoon obtained his M.D. (at least on paper), which answers why he can practice in the South, but still begs the question of how and at what school he acquired it from.
Hoon answers that question with a sarcastic response and accepts Jae-joon’s request not to show up at this hospital anymore with a smug smile. He turns back to collect his “surgical fee” from Soo-hyun, but she has no idea what he’s talking about.
Jae-joon is willing to let this incident go quietly, and Soo-hyun reaches into her pocket to discover the 500 won coin.
Hoon is still worked up when he runs into Chang-yi, who’s here with her mother. He’s almost offended that she came to a hospital when she’s got a doctor buddy, but he’s forced to run when he turns to see Doctor Moon & Co. trying to chase him down.
It’s only once Hoon’s gone that Chang-yi is asked to move aside by another doctor… a doctor who’s the spitting image of Jae-hee.
Even though Chang-yi recognizes her face, Hoon barely lets her get a word in before hanging up huffily. There’s a rapping at the clinic doors just then— it’s Doctor Moon, whose nose nearly get caught when Hoon slams it shut again.
Doctor Moon insists that he’s here to present Hoon with an opportunity. He sees a possible chance to get inside when Chang-yi shows up, only she gets pulled inside and the doctor slams into the door again.
Before Hoon can tear into her for his hectic day, Chang-yi asks to see Jae-hee’s face again. She thinks she saw someone who looks like Jae-hee at the hospital, and that convinces him to take a trip back with Doctor Moon (and his bloodied nose).
Jae-joon and Soo-hyun appeal to Chairman Oh to add a cardiothoracic surgeon to their dream team, to which they’re told that there are only a handful of specialists in the country. However, the chairman does acknowledge the need since Soo-hyun is preparing to transfer into hospital administration. Judging from the look on Jae-joon’s face, that’s news to him.
It appears that Soo-hyun’s half brother Sang-jin is an even bigger douchebag than we thought, as he hovers over a hospital bed. Turns out that the unconscious older woman is Soo-hyun’s mother, and he plans to surprise his half-sister with her existence, so she can’t die until then.
With that, he leaves and a doctor attends to the patient. Is that our Jae-hee doppelganger?
Suffice to say that Jae-joon is furious to hear about his girlfriend’s future plans from the chairman’s mouth, and storms off before she can get the chance to explain herself. Does this mean Jae-joon doesn’t know that she’s Chairman Oh’s daughter?
Sang-jin decides to show up just then, and Soo-hyun is in no mood to entertain him. So when he grabs her by the wrist to listen, she drops the tense polite act and warns him not to mess with her if he wants to stay in that cozy branch director position of his. “You still don’t know why I asked to transfer to hospital administration?”
Back in Soo-hyun’s mother’s room, we see Jae-hee’s doppelganger tie something to her wrist, telling the woman to keep it safe. It’s the same red threaded bracelet.
Hoon arrives back at the hospital with Doctor Moon and Chang-yi in tow, looking for a doctor named Song Jae-hee. He runs ahead to the pharmacy where he finds a white coat with her name.
He sees two people locking lips in a corner and slowly approaches… but it’s another doctor (making out with playboy Chi-gyu, at that) who goes by the same name. Hoon sighs in disappointment.
Dispirited, Hoon listens to Doctor Moon’s assurance that he has both the power and resources to find the person Hoon’s looking for. Doctor Moon can’t fork over the 500 million won Hoon demands in immediate payment, though, so Hoon turns to leave… and that’s when he sees Jae-hee’s look-alike inside.
Hoon can hardly believe his eyes as he sees the woman bearing Jae-hee’s features. He utters Jae-hee’s name before running off to find her. He calls out her name over and over and stops at the elevators as the music swells…
…then the music cuts out as Jae-hee’s doppelganger walks past behind him.
Hoon whips around at the sound of her heels just in time to see her figure turn the corner, and he runs to catch up to her.
You have to hand it to Hoon when it comes to saving Jae-hee—we’ve seen it a number of times already, but there’s no geographical or moral boundary that bars him from finding his sweetheart. While wholly romantic in one sense, we’ve also been witness to how deeply dark Hoon can be if left to his own devices, making that one of the more compelling moments of this show.
To that end, I do think that it’s difficult to conceptualize a recklessly dangerous hero when Hoon is so outwardly cavalier about his present situation. Aside from the genius aspect, Hoon’s character trajectory makes you wonder what happens to a doctor’s competency when all bets are off because of love. A world where doctors are too busy being in love is nothing new, but I’m hoping that we don’t spend too much time on these comical-dramatic-comical medical shenanigans, and spend more time on the moral and ethical quandary over what the hell it means to be a doctor.
So you could say that I’m still confused because despite all the horrific things Hoon has been through, he’s still good to a certain degree. He’s still willing to help others (albeit reluctantly) and break a billion hospital rules to save a life. I feel like the answers to my looming questions of where Hoon draws the line and since when lies in that mysterious two-year gap. Or maybe risking a medical license in an emergency pales in comparison to the horrors he’s seen.
And now Hoon’s entire world is turned upside down because he’s seen someone who looks exactly like Jae-hee in his vicinity. It’s too early to tell how the show will deal with the doppelganger element, though seeing that red bracelet raises some questions. That clue suggests that she could be the same Jae-hee, which would make that video file of Jae-hee a dated one. Then there are a sea of questions that accompany that theory if it’s true, but I think it’s best to hold off on those until we see how the show plays this out first.
Moving on to the larger characterscape, I was disinterested in Jae-joon as the perfect and impeccable doctor (because we’ve all seen plenty of those) up until the moment we learned that he employs his colleagues to undermine his rivals. Not that I would put Doctor Moon’s incompetency on par with Jae-joon’s skills, but knowing this little fact now makes him an interesting enigma; it makes you wonder what kind of ulterior motive Jae-joon has to play a little dirty. Then you have Soo-hyun, whose character comes with mysterious questions of her own.
So even with the jarring tonal shifts and hodgepodge of genres that should come with its own surgeon general’s warning (’cause it looks like the crazy muzak is here to stay, folks), we still have less-than-perfect docs who are all battling all kinds of
demons, I mean diseases.
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