Doctor Stranger: Episode 9
It’s a merry go round of almost-conversations in this hour as characters tell each other that they’ll talk later, but never really get the chance to because of the one surgical competition of the century. The good news is that we finally get to know what Hoon has been thinking in these past few episodes in regards to his first love in question, but the bad news is that it leaves us with more questions than answers yet again.
There are plenty of lives hanging on the balance every day in a hospital with numerous patients to treat, but it’s only now that I realize that I should also be worrying about the doctors, too, since you can never know when you might find a gun pointed at your head.
Doctor Stranger saw an upswing in ratings again with a 13.2% as Big Man remained in the running with a 10.0%.
SONG OF THE DAY
Taeyang – “눈, 코, 입 (Eyes, Nose, Lips)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Upon hearing that Seung-hee’s about to be killed, Hoon walks out of the scrub room. It’s Soo-hyun who wrestles him back inside, however, forcing him to look at the tiny infant on the table—nothing could be more important than saving that fragile life right now.
We cut away to the other life on the line, where Agent Cha asks the burning question on all our minds: Why the sudden change of heart to choose Jae-joon as the operating surgeon instead? The only answer we get is that Seung-hee ignored her new orders to join Jae-joon’s team by sticking with the original plan and joined Hoon’s. Why she has to join any surgical team is anyone’s guess, really.
Since that essentially voids her own mission, Seung-hee grabs the gun aimed at her heart and points it at her head. She asks if the North have consented to these changes, to which Nightshade says they do as they please regardless of what the North thinks. With Agent Cha’s help, Seung-hee turns the tables and points the gun in Nightshade’s face, resulting in guns drawn from both sides.
While everyone waits for the one-time competition to begin at the operating theater, Director Choi outlines the judging criterion, whereby whoever operates the fastest (without killing their infant) will be declares the winner. Hoon scrubs in for surgery again, and even though they’re running out of time, he firmly believes that Seung-hee will make it.
That tension-filled standoff is interrupted by Prime Minister Jang’s entrance. He claims to have changed his mind yet again now that he’s seen Seung-hee in person. Moreover, he needs to know whether she’s someone he can trust, so he asks, “Are you Song Jae-hee or Han Seung-hee?” Get in line, old man. We wanna know the answer to that, too.
Everyone lowers their guns and takes their leave until Seung-hee and Jang are alone. Outside, Nightshade has a lollipop chat with Agent Cha about how it’d be fairly easy for Seung-hee to acquire another kidney, though the existence of a surgical scar would be a telltale sign of her true identity. Agent Cha replies that he’s never seen her bare skin.
But Prime Minister Jang has, and he gives a satisfied chuckle as Seung-hee gets dressed again. “Hoon is really pathetic,” he cryptically answers. He agrees to give Hoon another chance, but he tells her to keep in mind that he only needs one surgeon.
Agent Cha stops her before she leaves to warn her that she’ll also end up dead if Hoon loses. A sputtering engine noise from the truck nearby alerts him of Chang-yi’s presence, and she panics as he marches towards her, but to her luck, Prime Minister Jang stops him for a quick chat about the competition.
Jang is largely indifferent to Agent Cha’s assertion that Hoon will win, figuring that Hoon must lest he die by Agent Cha’s hands. Plus, Seung-hee would be upset if she discovered Hoon’s corpse, and Agent Cha assures him that he doesn’t leave a body trail behind. Once Jang leaves, Agent Cha looks up towards the truck, but it’s already gone.
It’s hard to tell what Chang-yi’s earlier perplexed look meant, but she calls Hoon’s phone repeatedly. Somehow that phone ended up back in the call room, so it’s Chi-gyu who picks up (and hangs up) in annoyance before heading out to observe the surgery.
As Hoon’s team continues to wait for Seung-hee, Jae-joon’s team is given the go-ahead to begin anesthesia. Hoon and his team look up when the doors open twice, only to be disappointed by Chi-gyu’s appearance both times. The third time’s the charm, though, and Seung-hee finally arrives, to Hoon’s relief.
Soo-hyun worries that they’ll end up losing for starting so late, but Hoon tells her to abandon that mindset. This is just like any other surgery, he says—their goal here is to treat a sick child.
Even though Seung-hee administers the anesthesia later than the other team, both Hoon and Jae-joon end up making their first incisions at around the same time. Up in the observation deck, Director Choi proudly says that they’re witnessing the future best cardiothoracic surgeons at work.
Even Seung-hee’s superb skills are given a mention, as Doctor Yang says that Min-se was Myungwoo Hospital’s best anesthesiologist until Seung-hee arrived.
While Doctor Yang steps outside to take a call, Chairman Oh and Director Choi walk over to get a better view of the highlight of the procedure: the crucial forty-five minute window to repair the babies’ hearts.
Both teams proceed in step as the timer ticks down, the anxiety growing with each passing minute. Hoon yells at Soo-hyun to focus when he catches her sneak a nervous glance towards the clock with just over ten minutes remaining, and that leads to a minor yet critical mistake.
Soo-hyun starts to panic, but they’re running out of time and they must repair the tear to move on. Taking her shaking hand, Hoon tells her to look at the baby and stitch it up herself. Feeling insecure, Soo-hyun makes excuses, and Hoon reminds her that they practiced earlier: “Do it. Are you going to be called a quack for the rest of your life?”
Seung-hee looks up at the observation deck to see Agent Cha sitting with the other doctors (grah, the severe lack of security in this hospital), then demands that Hoon do it instead. But Hoon waits on Soo-hyun, who runs through all the negative remarks about her surgeon skills and then Hoon’s encouragement.
And just when Hoon decides to do it himself, Soo-hyun steps up to the plate. But as they work, Jae-joon’s team finishes up first, which makes his team the winner. Seung-hee casts a worried look towards Agent Cha before her eyes fall upon Hoon with the same concerned expression.
Prime Minister Jang is informed of the result, and we see Agent Cha prepare his gun in his car outside.
Thankfully Hoon’s team finishes with a minute and twenty seconds to spare. Soo-hyun nervously apologizes and starts to blame herself, but Hoon cuts her off, saying that they saved a life. Watching the baby’s heart beat faithfully, he says it doesn’t matter to him that they lost.
As the twins are led out of their respective operating rooms, Hoon sends Jae-joon a look of acknowledgement. He tries to grab Seung-hee for a word, but she says they can talk later.
When Doctor Moon conveys his timid congratulations to Chairman Oh, he’s told that there will be something for him to celebrate in the near future. Then Chairman Oh declares that this was Hoon’s last surgery, and despite Director Choi’s efforts to dissuade him, Chairman Oh remains resolute to his decision. Having Jae-joon alone is enough to make Myungwoo into the best hospital in Korea, he argues.
Doctor Moon gets worked up when Chi-gyu congratulates him in advance for his soon-to-be transfer to the branch hospital, since that’s not what he had in mind. He chases Chi-gyu around, neither of them noticing the “water bottle” (filled with liquor, perhaps?) drop to the floor.
Because Doctor Moon is the easily influenced type, he pleads with Soo-hyun to persuade her father not to send him away. She has no idea what he’s talking about, and when he latches onto her hand, she encourages him to speak to the chairman himself, squirming out of his grip.
Hoon responds to Doctor Moon’s hysterics with the usual dismissal, all, You’ll be just fine. In the midst of his dramatic “We’re all dead!” cries, we see Agent Cha casually walk past him. Sigh, no wonder there’s no one manning that security room.
Hoon comes looking for Seung-hee, only to be told that he’s just missed her. He runs into Chang-yi on his way over, and her first question is: “Hyung, that woman was Jae-hee?” Well, now.
Hoon pulls her aside and instructs her to listen closely. He makes Chang-yi promise not to tell anyone what she’s seen. She agrees and then asks again, “Is she really Jae-hee?” Hoon nods. Finally, a definitive confirmation from our hero!
When Chang-yi admits that she’s scared at how Jae-hee is also a spy, Hoon says that’s why they have to remain tight-lipped. She hands him the keys to the trucks and asks one last time if everything will be okay. He gives her another reassuring nod.
As for Seung-hee, she’s busy looking for Agent Cha, who reminds her that they’ve failed their mission and Hoon is now his target. He sees Hoon running after Jae-hee through the hospital, making sure to keep himself unseen.
Seung-hee argues that they’ve still got another chance and whether their mission is a success or a failure isn’t for Agent Cha to decide. By now Agent Cha has mysteriously caught up with her at the operating theater—he obviously thinks differently and asks if she’s afraid to die.
He acknowledges that they did have an opportunity, but that bastard Hoon ruined everything. Seung-hee sees Hoon arrive in the operating room and looks up towards Agent Cha on the walkway… only that there’s no one there.
Panic washes over her face as her eyes search for Agent Cha’s whereabouts. It’s another minute before she looks down to meet Hoon’s gaze. At that moment, we see a shadow behind Hoon, and sure enough there’s Agent Cha with a gun trained on Hoon’s head.
The suspense builds with each passing second, but before Agent Cha can shoot, Chi-gyu and his newest fling come barging in to mess around. Never mind that an operating room is a sterile environment, of course. Anyhow, the two stop to get a good look at Agent Cha as they leave, but throwing on a doctor’s coat makes you one in this place.
So when Agent Cha turns back to finish the job, both Hoon and Seung-hee are already long gone.
Soo-hyun meets with her father, who gripes over how she could help Hoon over Jae-joon. Everything worked out for the best, she replies, and she asks if her father is concerned about their relationship. Chairman Oh says he’s worried about losing a potentially great son-in-law.
Their conversations take on an endearing quality lately, as Soo-hyun assures her father that she likes Jae-joon second best after her father, which makes the latter smile. He’s surprised to hear that Soo-hyun wants to move out and live on her own (oh, so the apartment was for herself?), and her mind’s already made up on that matter.
She briefly runs into Jae-joon outside since he was also called in to see the chairman. He asks if she’s free, but she brushes that aside and congratulates him on winning.
Chang-yi contemplates whether to report a spy to the authorities, her finger hovering over her phone. She’s briefly interrupted when Soo-hyun appears, looking for Hoon. Once she leaves, Chang-yi calls it in. Uh oh.
Soo-hyun catches a glimpse of Seung-hee walking past with her phone to her ear. She continues her search for Hoon, briefly interrupting Min-se’s advances towards a nervous Doctor Geum.
She eventually runs into him in the hallway, telling him that there’s something she wants to tell him. But Hoon says they can chat later, and runs off looking for Seung-hee.
Somehow, Agent Cha still goes unnoticed in this hospital and notes Director Choi’s presence. Seung-hee is still trying to get ahold of him by phone, to no avail. She then calls Hoon to tell him to get out of the hospital immediately, but he just keeps demanding to know where she is right now.
Having heard each other’s voices in the vicinity, they both stop and walk towards each other. Hoon has no idea that Agent Cha has appeared from behind him again, and once he sees Seung-hee’s face, he softly utters, “Jae-hee.”
“Stop!” she calls out. Hoon stops in his tracks and Agent Cha keeps his eyes trained on Seung-hee, shaking his head. “It can’t end like this,” she whispers as she walks down the steps.
Hoon starts walking towards her again, but Seung-hee cries “Stop!” once more. Hoon thinks she’s talking to him, but we know that she’s speaking to Agent Cha behind him, pleading, “We still have a chance.”
Hoon is quick on the uptake and follows her line of sight behind him. He slowly turns his head just as Agent Cha raises his gun. As he pulls the trigger, Seung-hee pulls Hoon out of harm’s way, then they search into each other’s eyes, holding onto one another.
A code blue is announced, and while all the other doctors rush towards the ICU, Seung-hee leads Hoon in the opposite direction. Interestingly, we see Nightshade hanging outside the ICU, and he notices Agent Cha stalk off in frustration in the wake of his failed attempt.
Aw, Chairman Oh berates Jae-joon for being so harsh on Soo-hyun that she would join the rival team. He tells Jae-joon to take good care of her. Jae-joon rushes over to the NICU once he hears the code blue. Turns out their baby has gone into shock and requires another surgery.
The primary blame falls on Doctor Geum aka Jae-joon’s first mate in the operation, and Doctor Moon seems awfully too excited about this turn of events. Oh phew, Hoon and Seung-hee file in moments later, but when Hoon demands to prep for surgery immediately, Jae-joon grows irate.
Barely controlling his rage, Jae-joon grits out that this infant is his patient, therefore he’ll be the one to perform surgery. Seung-hee disappears into the crowd and Hoon takes off after her.
Director Choi pulls Doctor Moon aside to lecture him on his inappropriate behavior. Doctor Moon is a terrible doctor who would rather win this ridiculous competition and save his own skin over saving a life, and says they have to go and re-determine the winner with the chairman immediately.
Jae-joon successfully completes the procedure and dismisses his first mate, determined to see that this operation is error-free from start to finish. His blood still boiling, Soo-hyun comes barging into the operating room, wanting answers. He barks at her to get out. Aw, I love you Soo-hyun, and I know your heart’s in the right place, but I’m with Jae-joon here on that now’s not a good time.
Unfortunately for him though, Chairman Oh has seen the outburst from the observation deck above him, and he rises from his seat, disappointed. Chairman Oh doesn’t get far before running to Director Choi and Doctor Moon, whom he walks past without a word.
And then Doctor Moon bursts into a victory dance right then and there. He’s a ridiculous character, but that’s still not cool. If anything, it gives Doctor Moon reason to punish Chi-gyu by ordering him to do backward push-ups.
Prime Minister Jang is informed in his sky blue teddy bear pajamas (and furry cat slippers) that Jae-joon has lost. He wonders if he should choose Hoon again in the same casual tone as if deciding what kind of juice would make a good nightcap before heading off to bed. Curiously, it’s as if Nightshade is reading Jang for a reaction, but says nothing.
Seung-hee finally catches up to Agent Cha in an empty clearing and says smugly that Hoon has won. Agent Cha already knows, and when she lashes out that his rash behavior nearly compromised their mission and that Hoon nearly died, he pins her against the pillar.
“You dared to try and run away with him!” he spits back furiously. He warns Seung-hee against her own impulsive behavior, adding that he’s always watching. “I decide whether [Hoon] lives or dies,” Agent Cha reminds her. “The same goes for you, Han Seung-hee.”
At the same time, Hoon is still looking for Seung-hee. He catches a glimpse of her being dragged away by the wrist and follows them out of the hospital. Ignoring Doctor Moon’s cheeriness, he trails behind Seung-hee’s car in the truck.
He ends up back at his tiny clinic and heads on inside… a sight Agent Cha sees from his own car. Hoon opens the doors with great anticipation, but his face falls in disappointment to be met with the same video of Jae-hee playing on his laptop.
But then he turns around to see Seung-hee/Jae-hee standing there with the same big smile Jae-hee used to wear. “Hoon-ah,” she says, her eyes welling up in tears.
She runs into him, wrapping her arms tightly around him. It takes a few seconds for the initial shock to wear off before he holds onto her, running his fingers through her hair.
Nestling into her shoulder, Hoon hugs her and then pulls away to gaze into her eyes. She cradles his face in her hands as he surveys her face. He finally breaks into a smile, and then swoops in to kiss her.
Hoon stares at the image of ragged Jae-hee on his computer the following morning, then she pops out from behind him: “Stop watching that, I’m right here!” Omo, you two spent the night together. Bow chicka wow wow.
Their pleasant morning after plays out just like in Hoon’s fantasy back in Episode 3, as they giggle and make faces at each other. Hoon prepares curry for the both of them and watches her eat happily with that same goofy grin.
But then that happy image fades away as Hoon wakes up alone in his bed. He runs out, calling Jae-hee’s name over and over again.
And we’re back to the Seung-hee mystery. It just can’t be that easy, can it? I’ll first get this out of the way: It matters less to me who Seung-hee exactly is than learning why she assumes this identity in this covert mission/conspiracy. I know that it matters a great deal to our lovesick hero, yet with the innumerable conspiracies flying around, I find that the importance of that detail keeps coming up short in lieu of more pressing questions. For instance, I’d rather know who in the North is in cahoots with the prime minister and issuing orders to Agent Cha and Seung-hee. And also why all three of them including Hoon are as good as dead if Hoon doesn’t follow a protocol he isn’t even aware of himself.
But since the show continues to bring Seung-hee’s identity into question, we’ll start there. I wish I could say that Hoon’s solid conviction (and verbal confirmation of his belief) helps us any, but it sadly doesn’t. To the show’s credit, I can see the attempt to make a distinction between what Hoon believes versus what the rest of the dramaverse thinks. Unfortunately what happens is that I find myself distrustful of any character’s subjective opinion, most of all Hoon’s. He should be our best barometer since he knows Jae-hee best, but his reactions and nonverbal behavior ultimately can’t tell us what he’s thinking. Sometimes a verbal affirmation isn’t necessary, but once your hero harbors a crucial secret or any kind of integral information from its viewers, the writing enters dangerous territory which could end up revealing a narrative gap and/or a writing flaw. In this case, we have Hoon’s verbal confirmation of his thoughts and Chang-yi’s evidence in the arts center. But until we see more definitive visual proof, we’re still treading speculation waters.
So while much of Seung-hee’s mysterious identity is still up in the air, we do know that it was important for Hoon to believe that it was Jae-hee standing in his clinic, that it was Jae-hee whom he kissed and spent the night with. To that end, Hoon’s reunion was heartbreaking to watch, no matter who she really was. Seeing Agent Cha sitting outside makes me suspicious (as many things do in this show), especially since he was so angry with Seung-hee in the previous scene. I’m sure there’s more than what meets the eye, because it just couldn’t be that easy, right?
I realize that there is ONE person in this dramaverse who comes closest when it comes to solving the Seung-hee conspiracy. I’m talking about our teddy bear pajama-wearing Prime Minister Jang of course, who would arrive at a faster decision over who will operate on him with a coin flip rather than holding an arbitrary surgical competition he didn’t even seem to care for. His close watch over Hoon seemed to suggest that he had a specific plan that involved our genius hero, but he spends more of this hour being even more flippant about the future of his health. Apparently knowing who Seung-hee all but helps him decide what kind of coffee he wants tomorrow morning. But I digress.
Even though it’s not much an hour to know more about all these confusing and nonsensical conspiracies running around in this hospital, I’m at least grateful that their existence is keeping Hoon alive. Well maybe keeping him alive everywhere else besides the hospital because for some damn reason hospital security keeps letting an armed North Korean secret agent roam free, ready to take down Myungwoo Hospital’s best (and most adorable) cardiothoracic surgeon.