Doctor Stranger: Episode 8
The competition for best surgeon ever rages on as everyone plays a game of musical priorities, relationships, and teammates all while the stakes climb higher and higher. Despite having the darkest past of them all, Hoon’s heart is in the right place when it comes to saving lives, which is more than can be said of his metaphor-happy rival. At least our hero’s got a fellow bleeding heart in Soo-hyun, but you’d be surprised at how much heartlessness there is among the doctors at Myungwoo Hospital—though I guess that’s no surprise in dramaland, where caring is usually the last thing on any doctor’s mind.
Ratings are still proving competitive and unpredictable, since this episode saw a drop from 13.1% to 12.5%, while Big Man’s numbers hit 11.2% on their steady climb upward. Doctor Stranger better watch out.
SONG OF THE DAY
Jeon Hye-won – “이렇게 좋은 날 (So Good Day)” from the OST. [ Download ]
EPISODE 8 RECAP
After Seung-hee agrees to help Hoon perform surgery on the twins, he agrees to rejoin the utterly ridiculous surgery competition. When Prime Minister Jang says he looks forward to working with him, Hoon answers only with silence and a tense smile.
He remembers what Prime Minister Jang did to him, and Jang’s dropped smile as soon as Hoon leaves tells us that he remembers too.
Prime Minister Jang is surprised that Hoon didn’t say anything upon seeing him, and comments that Hoon must’ve gone soft when he goes to the bathroom. Hoon’s there and ends up overhearing, causing an unrepentant Jang to note that Hoon looks a lot like his father.
Hoon loses his temper and grabs the prime minister by his expensive lapels. Jang doesn’t seem sorry when he gives his condolences for Hoon’s father, to which Hoon yells, “Why did you do it?!” while remembering holding his father as he breathed his last. Prime Minister Jang: “Why do you think I did it?”
Since that’s pretty much an admission of guilt, Hoon clocks the old man before snarling that he’s going to win that competition to see what Prime Minister Jang’s twisted black heart really looks like.
While Nightshade and fellow security personnel try to break into the locked bathroom (Hoon’s doing?), Prime Minister Jang says he can’t wait to see how Hoon fixes his heart. “Just pray that it won’t be me,” Hoon says menacingly. Because if he’s the one who performs the surgery, he promises to put a hole in Jang’s heart.
That’s when Prime Minister Jang drops the bomb: “If you want to see my heart, you’ll have to try your best. If you don’t, you might never get to meet your girlfriend up in the North.” Ohh snap.
Hoon stays out of trouble thanks (or no thanks) to Prime Minister Jang blaming the commotion on his own dizziness. But unbeknownst to them, since Chi-gyu and whatever girl he’s using this week were hiding out in the bathroom, they overhear the prime minister telling Chairman Oh something he didn’t know before: that Hoon is the son of Park Chul.
Before he leaves, Prime Minister Jang takes a tour of the hospital and asks Jae-joon why he wants to operate on him. Jae-joon replies honestly that it’s because he wants to become Myungwoo Hospital’s new chairman by proving he’s the best to Chairman Oh… right in front of Chairman Oh.
His future father-in-law apologizes for Jae-joon’s audacity, but Prime Minister Jang is unfazed—he even finds Jae-joon’s honesty refreshing. So when Chairman Oh asks what this means for Hoon, Prime Minister Jang all but shrugs as he says that Hoon has an uphill battle when it comes to Jae-joon.
Chairman Oh takes Director Choi to task for not telling him about Hoon’s parentage, and threatens to throw Hoon out on the spot. But Director Choi forces him to reconsider with the subtle threat that he knows “too much” about the hospital, so Chairman Oh takes the middle road by offering to let Hoon stay in the competition—only now he’s shortening the competition to one surgery. May the best doctor win.
Director Choi gets a call in English from the Mac Robot Voice to tell him that the orphaned boy he’s been looking for, Lee Seung-hoon, recently returned to Korea. Robot Voice claims he’s got a lead on who Lee Seung-hoon is, and that he’ll call Director Choi when he knows for sure.
What Director Choi doesn’t know is that the call is coming from inside the hospital, as Robot Voice goes to Jae-joon’s office and asks, “Lee Seung-hoon?” Jae-joon turns around. Welp, we got our answer as to whether Jae-joon is the maligned orphan.
While the two seem to know each other, Robot Voice seems a bit surprised that Jae-joon is the Lee Seung-hoon he’s been looking for, making it hard to tell whether he’s in cahoots with Jae-joon or not.
The two converse in Chinese, with Jae-joon asking whether Robot Voice has met with Director Choi, while Robot Voice replies that it all depends on Jae-joon. Curiouser and curiouser.
But he owes Jae-joon a debt, since Jae-joon performed heart surgery on his father, and Jae-joon buys him a ticket to China to get him out of Korea ASAP. Before he goes, Robot Voice comments on how Jae-joon’s lego castle is all but complete before asking what Jae-joon will do when it is.
“I’ll tear it down,” Jae-joon replies. “I built that castle just so I can tear it down.” Our episodic dose of metaphoric foreshadowing has arrived early this hour.
Hoon pulls Seung-hee aside just to smile at her for a moment, but she quickly catches herself from smiling back when she sees Agent Cha’s reflection nearby. Hoon seems to notice something off, but says nothing. (This hospital’s lack of security is really turning into an issue.)
Seung-hee tells Hoon that the twins are only getting worse and will need surgery soon, though he’s suspicious as to why she volunteered to help. He also thinks back to Prime Minister Jang’s warning that if he doesn’t do well in the competition, he won’t get to operate on him and will therefore never see Jae-hee again.
However, Seung-hee claims she’s just in it to save the children. They’re interrupted when Soo-hyun jokingly asks how much Hoon is going to get paid for the surgery, and finish the discussion at Chang-yi’s coffee shop, where Hoon has to explain that he took a whole 500 won for the surgery.
Of course, when Seung-hee asks if that’s all he took, he thinks back to charging the gangsters per stitch and shrugs his shoulders in defeat. Soo-hyun keeps the tone of the conversation light as she tells Seung-hee that Hoon’s been saving up to sneak his girlfriend out of the North.
“What do you think your girlfriend would say when she finds out?” Seung-hee asks disapprovingly, and with both girls teaming up on him, Hoon resigns himself to one or two-word answers. He grudgingly tells Soo-hyun the bare minimum to all the questions she asks about Jae-hee, like how they met, whether it was love at first sight, etc.
But each time he answers, he sneaks a look to Seung-hee. Even though he complains about Jae-hee’s behavior toward him, he still answers Soo-hyun’s question about why he still likes her with: “Because she’s Jae-hee.”
Soo-hyun admits she’s envious as she wonders if Jae-hee knows how he feels about her. Hoon’s reply is more cavalier, even though he looks at Seung-hee when he says that Jae-hee wouldn’t know anyway since she’s not here. Soo-hyun: “When you meet her later, what are you going to say to her? ‘I missed you?’”
Surprisingly, Hoon responds by slamming his hand down on the table as he looks Seung-hee straight in the eye: “I’ll save the babies, so don’t worry. But what’s your real reason? The real reason why you want to do this surgery?” Then he turns back to Soo-hyun with a disarming smile as he says that that’s what he wants to tell Jae-hee. Hmm. I wonder if this means he knows that Seung-hee=Jae-hee?
Seung-hee gets called away by Agent Cha, who’s just received word from Prime Minister Jang that he wants Hoon to stay away from him. Wait… what? Okay, let me break this down: Prime Minister Jang moved heaven and earth to get Hoon on the surgery team, which was already risky considering their past together. But now that Hoon is aware of their past, Jang wants out and NOW wants Jae-joon to do the surgery? How does ANY of this make sense?!
Anyway, the plan is for Seung-hee to move over to Jae-joon’s team, since he’s the front runner to perform the surgery now. Or something.
Hoon uses his Genius to pick the twin he’s going to operate on. It looks like Jae-joon will operate on the other one at the same time, and whoever doesn’t end up with a dead baby wins.
They retire to adjacent see-through rooms to discuss the surgery procedure with their teams, even though Hoon’s is pretty sparse compared to Jae-joon’s. To make the stakes higher, they’ve only got a forty-five minute time frame to work under, due to the complications if they take any longer.
And hah, it’s cute how Hoon waves to Jae-joon and his team in the other room like a dork—because while he’s taking the surgery seriously, he’s not as stone-faced as Jae-joon is about the competition.
In the other room, Jae-joon ignores objections from his team about making Soo-hyun his first mate and chooses her anyway. He reassures Soo-hyun in private that he has faith in her.
Now that Hoon has Doctor Yang as his first mate and Seung-hee as his anesthesiologist, he’s got to find a scrub/OR nurse. But the nurse Hoon wants isn’t in the hospital.
Meanwhile, Seung-hee thinks back to Agent Cha’s orders for her to switch to Jae-joon’s team, even though that means giving up on Hoon. “I don’t know what they’re thinking either,” Cha admits, which seems like an apt representation of the writer’s knowledge at this point.
But even though Seung-hee’s being moved, Agent Cha wants, needs, Hoon to win. “He’s just worthless garbage if he loses. You, me, and that bastard will all die.” I feel like this is a redundant question at this point, but, why?
To find their nurse, Hoon visits MIN SOO-JI (Uhm Soo-jung), whom we know as the woman pregnant with Doctor Yang’s baby.
…Or the woman who was pregnant, because Nurse Min won’t answer the door in order to care for her infant. So Hoon sneaks through the window and plays the sympathy card in order to convince her over to his team, even though she gave up being an OR nurse a while ago.
He leaves without knowing what her answer is, though she’s at least considering it. Doctor Yang later holds their baby as he tells her she made the right choice to do it, even though it’s useless: “Doctor Park will never beat Doctor Han.” Coupled with the shady phone call from last ep, Doctor Yang seems to be yet another ajusshi over forty in a conspiracy against Hoon.
Seung-hee breaks it to Hoon that she’s backing out of the surgery, using the lame excuse that she wants time off. I love that he throws what she said earlier back at her (about wanting to save the babies), and that her reaction is pretty much, I did, but today just doesn’t work.
After a conversation with Seung-hee where she was convinced to switch sides, the anesthesiologist who’d objected to Soo-hyun’s addition to Jae-joon’s surgery team, EUN MIN-SE (Han Eun-sun), volunteers to be Hoon’s anesthesiologist in Seung-hee’s place.
This means that Jae-joon now has no anesthesiologist (since they literally all go home early and can’t be convinced otherwise, or something), which causes him to seek out Seung-hee.
Just like she told Hoon, she claims she’s unavailable, until Hoon shows up to try convincing her to join Jae-joon’s team. She’s confused that he’s helping Jae-joon when they’re supposed to be competing, and Hoon replies that it’s because he wants the competition to be fair.
Still, Seung-hee’s a no-go because she’s got to go home to watch Dance Moms. Jae-joon is suspicious of Hoon’s motives to help, and claims that he’s so good he doesn’t even need an anesthesiologist to win. Hoon just smiles and wishes him the best.
Chairman Oh knows that Jae-joon’s wooden castle is a metaphor for Myungwoo Hospital, but attempts to change the way Jae-joon looks at it. He (Chairman Oh) isn’t the castle’s owner—he’s only the caretaker.
The castle owns itself, he claims, so in a The Shining-esque way, it chooses its caretakers. And in order for Jae-joon to prove himself as a possible caretaker to the living entity that is Myungwoo Hospital, he’s got to get rid of Hoon. They say this all in castle metaphors, of course, but that’s the gist of it.
In order to prepare for the surgery, Hoon enters the virtual reality chamber of his mind to imagine how it would go… only to get interrupted by Soo-hyun. Ha, I love that you can hear the simulator power down, and that Soo-hyun’s genuinely confused by Hoon’s behavior.
However, she’s here because she’s insecure about what to do as the first member of Jae-joon’s surgery team—which is exactly why Min-se said she wasn’t fit for the job. Hoon’s not above helping someone on his rival team, because doing so helps ensure the survival of both babies.
She gets uncomfortable when Hoon gets touchy, and after jokingly assuring her that he’s not trying to be inappropriate, he pulls her into a back hug so he can Inception himself into their shared simulation in order to show her how it’s done. (It’s a simulation within a simulation!)
Seung-hee doesn’t look happy to see the two of them so close, but then again, that could just be her normal expression. After Jae-joon angrily pulls Soo-hyun away for a talk, Seung-hee tries reminding Hoon that he’s in a competition—and that by helping Soo-hyun, he just helped the enemy.
“Do you think this competition is a joke?” she asks. Hoon calmly answers that she’s the one who backed out on her promise to be on his team, and then refused to join Jae-joon’s. She stops him with some advice: There’s a lot more at stake in this competition than he thinks.
Hoon asks her what’s at stake. “If I lose, am I going to die?” I thought for a moment that you might be Jae-hee… but you’re not.” When she asks why, he replies, “If you were Jae-hee, you would say that it doesn’t matter if I win or lose.”
She tries to say that it’s because the competition is important, and Hoon gets angry when he fires back that nothing’s more important than those babies right now. He drills it in that those two miniature humans are going to have surgery tonight, a surgery they might not even survive.
“Why is the competition so important when we don’t know if they’ll live or die after the surgery? What’s so important about winning or losing?” When she tries to argue, he cuts her off and tells her to go. She walks away with tears brimming in her eyes.
Soo-hyun is devastated when Jae-joon tells her he’s switching her out for the bespectacled Doctor GEUM BONG-HYUN, since it means that Min-se will return to his team.
But with the way Jae-joon talks, Soo-hyun soon becomes aware that he’s reacting out of jealousy from seeing her and Hoon so close. She claims she went to Hoon for help despite her embarrassment, and Jae-joon fires back, “Was that your embarrassed face? To me, it looked like you couldn’t contain your happiness.” Ouch.
To make matters worse, he pulls rank on her and orders her out of the surgery team. She pleads for him to reconsider, since every doctor wants to try a difficult procedure like the one they’ll be performing on the infants—to which Jae-joon coldly replies, “I need someone who can do it, not someone who wants to do it.”
He further drills in her incapability by adding that someone like Bong-hyun wouldn’t need to ask Hoon for help. Wow. So this is all about his jealousy.
Soo-hyun is given no choice but to accept, and fights as hard as ever to control her tears after. It doesn’t work, poor thing.
Jae-joon sends Doctor Yang a cryptic text asking for his help as a knight, cashing in on the bargain he made to help Yang advance if he helped Jae-joon. Doctor Yang wastes no time in slamming a door on his hand repeatedly… Jesus, Seung-hee can get out of surgery by just saying so, but this guy has to break his hand?
Doctor Yang explains his reasons to Nurse Min, and that he did it in order to get a full-time position from Jae-joon. She’s disappointed in him, even when he claims he did it to become a better father. “Then what about being a good doctor?” she asks, but receives no answer.
This leaves Hoon without a first mate, and since Soo-hyun just recently became available, he asks her. She’s reluctant at first (because Jae-joon made her doubt her skills), but Hoon says all the right things to convince her to take his hand.
However, that’s when Hoon finds out that Min-se left his team to join Jae-joon’s. She doesn’t leave him totally bereft though, since she calls up Seung-hee to order her, as her superior, to come in for surgery. Huh. This was all part of the initial plan Seung-hee with her to get Jae-joon to change his mind.
Now that Seung-hee’s back on Hoon’s team, it seems like that’s what she made all these roundabout plans for all along—that way, she could be ordered to be on Hoon’s team and avoid suspicion from Prime Minister Jang for not being on Jae-joon’s.
Like Agent Cha did earlier in the hour, she admits that she doesn’t know what “they” are thinking, but that the two of them have to continue with their mission regardless. Unbeknownst to Seung-hee and Agent Cha, Chang-yi is following them on Hoon’s orders.
After Nightshade buys off the president’s spy, we (and Chang-yi) see Agent Cha and Seung-hee approaching a darkened art center, guns at the ready. She follows them into the building while the babies are prepped for surgery at the hospital.
Jae-joon is angry when he finds out that Soo-hyun joined Hoon’s team as the doctors start scrubbing up, and accuses Hoon of playing dirty in an attempt to win.
Hoon’s tone stays jokey as he lets Jae-joon think whatever he wants, but he becomes dead serious as he tells his rival: “You must save the baby at all costs. Understand?”
Chang-yi calls Hoon as he’s scrubbing, and he’s able to answer even after dropping his phone in the sink. (Ha, now I kind of want one of those waterproof phones. Damn you, PPL!) She’s well hidden away even though the art center is swarming with bodyguards as Seung-hee and Agent Cha meet with a dramatically-lit Nightshade, and are stripped of their weapons in the process.
Hoon becomes worried for Seung-hee once Chang-yi tells him something shady is going down, and flashes back to the moment where Jae-hee got shot and the moment when he first saw Seung-hee.
Meanwhile, Nightshade tells the two spies that there’s been a change in plans: Jae-joon has been chosen to operate on Prime Minister Jang. As he says that, he pulls a gun out on Seung-hee.
Chang-yi’s eyes grow wide as Nightshade’s finger tightens on the trigger. “I think he’s going to kill her!”
In an effort to try and understand this show better, a task at which I’m currently having a very difficult time doing, I’m going to attempt to list all the myriad conspiracies going on so that we can (ideally) start breaking them down from there. Or at least try to, anyway.
1) Prime Minister Jang’s conspiracy to prevent war in order to become president, 2) Director Choi’s malpractice conspiracy concerning Jae-joon’s parents, 3) Chairman Oh’s conspiracy to cover up that malpractice conspiracy, 4) Prime Minister Jang’s conspiracy to kill Hoon’s dad, 5) Prime Minister Jang’s conspiracy to get Hoon to work at Myungwoo Hospital, 6) Chairman Oh’s conspiracy to get Hoon to stop working at Myungwoo Hospital, 7) Jae-joon’s conspiracy to take over Myungwoo Hospital, 8) The Jae-hee/Seung-hee conspiracy, 9) Agent Cha and Seung-hee’s mysterious mission conspiracy, and finally 10) The “Who ISN’T a spy?” conspiracy.
Phew. Did I get at least half of them? The thing is, it’s not even the bajillion plates this show is spinning at any given time that makes things difficult as a viewer, because when it decides to focus on any plate not related to political conspiracies it doesn’t feel like explaining ever, it generally does a good job. I never thought I’d be the one to say that I enjoy the hospital scenes more than the spy scenes, but then again, I never expected to be weighing in on hospitals and spies in relation to one drama. I guess there’s a first time for everything.
So out of all the listed conspiracies, Hoon’s involvement (or not) in Prime Minister Jang’s surgery is what’s most perplexing as of late, if only because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If Jang knew that his past with Hoon could become an issue, why did he insist so strongly that Hoon perform the surgery in the first place? It’s not like he even chose Jae-joon because of the competition, which now seems arbitrary when it was designed for Jang to choose his team—even though originally the competition was arbitrary, because he’d already chosen Hoon.
If it just comes down to a change of heart for Prime Minister Jang, that makes all of the effort expended to put Hoon in the hospital completely and utterly moot. Even when Hoon threatened him, Jang seemed to be challenging him to win just so he could perform the surgery. And for what? Why did he want Hoon in the first place if Jae-joon was a suitable substitute?
And then we come to the Seung-hee question, and why her existence is a black hole where plausible explanations go to die. I can’t seem to wrap my head around Seung-hee’s importance when she’s been made to look exactly like Jae-hee, works around the only person in South Korea who knew her as Jae-hee, yet constructs her whole persona around not being Jae-hee—regardless of whether she really is or isn’t. While we know she and Agent Cha are working with Prime Minister Jang on some level, this episode also made it clear that he’s not the only one they’re taking orders from. When Jang rejected Hoon for the surgery, Agent Cha and Seung-hee had to put their heads together to figure out a way to make sure Hoon would still win because their lives (somehow) depended on it.
So that means someone is scarier to them than the prime minister, and it’s someone who really cares about Hoon’s fate. But since we’re talking conspiracy theories anyway, I have an equally ridiculous one to throw into the mix: What if Hoon’s dad is still alive? I mean, they never retrieved his body, and we usually know what that means… Orrrrrr do we?