Doctors: Episode 17
We get back on track with Hye-jung’s homework in finding the truth behind Grandma’s death, but the importance of the truth seems relative. After all these years, Hye-jung must decide how to deal with the facts from a distant yet formative moment in her past. While she makes progress on her homework, our doctors are busy taking care of lil’ puppy Kang-soo.
Puppies Doctors get sick too, but Kang-soo causes everyone to care a little too much. It’s kind of adorable.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
We begin with a quick throwback to Myung-hoon’s surgery on Grandma. Hye-jung narrates: “A truth that cannot be punished through law, a truth that relies on good conscience — I have come this far for a sincere apology.” While Myung-hoon performs surgery, Grandma’s blood pressure begins to drop. He orders his assistants to cut open her abdomen, causing the Grandma to go into cardiac arrest. Though (then assistant) Chief Kim tries to resuscitate her, Grandma loses her life on the table.
As the line goes flat, Myung-hoon closes his eyes in disappointment, and Hye-jung continues: “I don’t know how my life will change after knowing the truth.”
Back in the present, Hye-jung faces the board in her disciplinary hearing and starts out with an unexpected expression of gratitude. She thanks the board for allowing her to realize that she holds an important position in Guk-il Hospital’s public image. She considers it an honor.
Ji-hong smiles briefly and continues with the hearing. When asked about her absence when the VIP politician lost consciousness, Hye-jung defends her actions by explaining the urgency of her surgery. She asserts that she acted appropriately and does not believe she committed any wrongs. The rest of the board nods in agreement, sans Myung-hoon, of course.
The neurosurgery department nurses and Joong-dae discuss Hye-jung’s unfair hearing, pointing out that Seo-woo is immune to punishment thanks to her father. The nurses stop Joong-dae from speaking any more just in time for Seo-woo to walk into the conversation. She notices their awkward silence, and Joong-dae explains that they were just lamenting Hye-jung’s situation. Seo-woo sends Joong-dae away to check a patient, and she’s called into her father’s office.
Myung-hoon tells Seo-woo of his plans to reveal a file right before Hye-jung’s hearing decision. Seo-woo opens the file and sees their past scandal in high school. She demands that her father cover this up, but he wants to use this trump card. Trying to convince her, Myung-hoon says that he couldn’t sleep after he slapped her and that he loves her very much. Unwilling to relive painful memories from her youth, she says that she’ll die if he reveals any of this past scandal.
Seo-woo walks into the fellows’ office as Hye-jung packs up her things, in case of an unfavorable hearing decision. She asks Hye-jung if she blames her, and Hye-jung surprisingly confirms that she does. But she adds that blaming her doesn’t fix the problem, so rather, she’s blaming it on bad luck.
Seo-woo admits that for a moment, she thought Hye-jung was just like her with her emotional response, but alas, she acknowledges that Hye-jung is different. Hye-jung wonders if everyone around Seo-woo responds with resentment in these situations, and Seo-woo nods. Hye-jung asks that Seo-woo not criticize her for being different from those around her, and Seo-woo denies this. In fact she says that even in the past, she’s aspired to be like her. She half-jokes that it must be great to be a good person and leaves her to her packing.
Director Jin enters Myung-hoon’s office to ask if the hearing was really necessary (it really wasn’t). Myung-hoon claims that it’s just a reminder to the staff to be more alert, but Director Jin doesn’t have a good feeling about this. He’s been feeling antsy ever since they caused the audit and warns his son to be careful. That, sir, is called your conscience.
The board members begin their discussion on the decision. Tae-ho argues that a warning would suffice, but Myung-hoon demands that they fire Hye-jung. Ji-hong says that it’s unfair to use Hye-jung as a scapegoat for the whole neurosurgery department, and Myung-hoon pointedly asks if Ji-hong is including personal feelings in this discussion. Ji-hong gives the question right back to him, and that shuts him up.
Kang-soo enters the break room, and Kyung-joon immediately reminds him to take a patient’s CT scan. As Kang-soo turns around to follow orders, Kyung-joon rubs more salt on the puppy’s wound — asking if he forgot again, criticizing him for leaving his mind elsewhere and drawing webtoons. Instead of arguing back, Kang-soo remains silent and attends to his duties.
Ji-hong greets Chief Kim in the lobby, and Chief Kim notes his friendliness. He asks Ji-hong if his offer still stands, and Ji-hong responds favorably.
Hye-jung receives a call from Ji-hong, who tells her that he has two pieces good news and one piece of bad news. They meet, and Hye-jung asks for the good news first. He starts with the first piece of good news — he’s telling her the hearing decision, since it’s better to hear it from him. But bad news: She’s suspended for a month.
Hye-jung remains optimistic and says that the suspension is much shorter than expected, and Ji-hong compliments her composure during the hearing. She says that she wanted to show Myung-hoon that she’s matured over the years. For the second piece of good news, they decide to move to another location, and Hye-jung quickly stops by the ICU to check on the pregnant patient.
When she arrives at the ICU, Kang-soo is already checking on the patient. Hye-jung tells Kang-soo not to feel too bad and reassures him that her month-long suspension is nothing. She tells him to take good care of the patient while she’s gone, and Kang-soo forces a smile.
Yoon-do yells at Kyung-joon about a patient’s wound inflammation, and Kyung-joon claims to have ordered Kang-soo to redress it. Joong-dae quickly runs off to take care of the situation, and Yoon-do continues to scold Kyung-joon for his incompetence as Chief Resident.
Kang-soo sees this and runs over to claims responsibility, but Kyung-joon pulls him aside and scolds him even more. He blames Kang-soo for Hye-jung’s suspension, and when Kang-soo remains silent, Kyung-joon demands a response. After holding in all his emotion, Kang-soo erupts at Kyung-joon to stop and apologizes. He says that he’s been remaining silent because he’s too sorry.
Kang-soo walks away, but his vision begins to blur and falls into a seizure. Kyung-joon and Yoon-do urgently rush to his side. Later in the meeting room, Yoon-do looks over the brain scans of Kang-soo’s meningioma with the residents, who suddenly realize Kang-soo’s symptoms in retrospect — the painkillers, his zoning out, and passing out at the department dinner.
Yoon-do checks on Kang-soo with Young-kook and Joong-dae as he wakes up. Kang-soo smiles with embarrassment and remains a lovable lil’ puppy despite the pain above his left eye. He self-diagnoses his absences seizure and presumes that he experienced one when he answered the call from the VIP nurse, since he has no recollection of the call. They let him rest, and Young-kook holds Kang-soo’s hand in encouragement before they leave.
Ji-hong and Hye-jung go on an evening walk, and Hye-jung jokingly comments on the perks of unemployment. She asks for the second piece of good news, but Ji-hong wants to wait a little longer for the suspense. Meanwhile, Yoon-do has returned to his apartment and prepares a drink for himself. Uncle Pa-ran enters, and Yoon-do asks about Auntie In-joo. Turns out, she’s returned to her home since all her interior work is finished.
Pa-ran shows sympathy for the Yoon-do’s department and Hye-jung’s unfortunate suspension, but Yoon-do doesn’t worry about Hye-jung since he knows she’s resilient. Pa-ran asks how Yoon-do ended up liking Ji-hong’s girlfriend and offers to introduce him to the prettiest of his connections. But Yoon-do declines and says that he’s enjoying his feelings right now. Pa-ran nods and figures that love is no common emotion.
He asks Yoon-do how strongly he feels, and Yoon-do explains that he’s even wanted to join the hospital board, despite his aversion for politics. Pa-ran cracks a smile, saying that Ji-hong should be nervous, and they toast to that.
Ji-hong and Hye-jung sit on the dock in silence as they fish, and Ji-hong notes that he always wanted to go home during these prolonged silences. He constantly needed to be doing something, but now he likes the silences and can understand his father. Hye-jung wonders why they understand people better when separated than when together, and Ji-hong just reminds her to be good to him while he’s around.
Ji-hong finally shares the second piece of good news that Chief Kim reached out to negotiate. Hye-jung asks what Chief Kim wants in exchange for Grandma’s anesthesia records, and Ji-hong says that Chief Kim has been given an option to choose a different path in exchange for the records. He says that Hye-jung should just accept the records to ask Myung-hoon for an apology and leave the rest to Ji-hong.
Hye-jung can’t accept this set-up easily and gets up to walk away. Ji-hong chases after her and tells her that Grandma pleaded that he take good care of Hye-jung. He says that he wants to ask Grandma if he’s doing well. Hye-jung turns to him and tearfully affirms him for doing a good job.
Ji-hong shows Hye-jung the key chain he always hung on his backpack and explains that it was the key chain for the apartment he lived in before his parents passed away. He says that his parents died because the delay caused by those involved in the accident resulted in his parents missing the golden time for treatment. He says he wanted to destroy the world for destroying his happy family.
Ji-hong says that he doesn’t believe in tomorrow — only this moment right now is important because he could die tomorrow. He presumes that Grandma wanted Hye-jung to be happy, not give up today to reveal the truth behind her death. Hye-jung says seeking this truth is living today for her, and Ji-hong knows. That’s why he’s been helping her and says that it’s almost at the end.
Kang-soo wanders around the hospital and asks Joong-dae for something to do because he’s so bored. Kyung-joon looks at him regretfully, and when Kang-soo asks him for any orders, he says that he’s got nothing and walks away.
Ji-hong calls Kang-soo into his office and scolds him for lying about the MRI he showed him before. He suggests surgery, and though Kang-soo voices his concerns about the risks, Ji-hong tells him not to think about the negatives. Then, Kang-soo receives a call from Yoon-do, who offers to schedule a surgery this week, especially for him. Kang-soo comes out of his office and looks at both offices, conflicted about whose offer to take. He decides to go into Tae-ho’s office and ask for advice.
Ji-hong calls Chief Kim about his decision. It comes off as impatient, but Ji-hong argues that a fast decision is best in this situation. Chief Kim says that he’ll think about it for a bit longer, since Myung-hoon’s offer also still stands. Ji-hong advises that he think it through long and hard, since this decides the next twenty years.
Yoon-do orders Kyung-joon to schedule Kang-soo’s surgery, and Young-kook notifies him that Ji-hong already scheduled a surgery for Kang-soo. They’ve both taken on the responsibility, so it’s up to Kang-soo, who’s now looking up the surgical procedure in the break room. Kyung-joon enters the room and tries to avoid him, but Kang-soo catches him before he leaves. He asks Kyung-joon why he’s been avoiding him, and Kyung-joon apologizes. He’s sorry for hitting his head all those times, especially now that he knows of his condition.
Joong-dae and Young-kook enter the room and greet Kang-soo. Joong-dae asks who he’s going to receive surgery from, and Kyung-joon scolds him for his inappropriate excitement for surgery. He silences them by asking which one of them will be entering the surgery, and Kang-soo tries to lighten up the mood by asking for volunteers to raise their hand. No one does, and Kang-soo jokes that he’s a bit disappointed. They don’t have the heart to operate on their first-year and apologize, making Kang-soo tear up again.
Hye-jung works at Soon-hee’s cafe, and Ji-hong arrives with the long-awaited records. He says that he’s done everything he can for her and hopes that she will become more at ease. She smiles and thanks him.
Kang-soo looks at himself in the mirror and compliments his looks before cutting his hair himself. He cries and gives himself words of encouragement before shaving his head, but he can’t hold back his tears as the reality of his surgery sinks in.
The next morning, Hye-jung meets with Pa-ran and brings him the records. He narrates the surgery for her: After a major vein ruptured, they opened the abdomen. This was followed by a cardiac arrest, which was caused by excessive bleeding. Then the cardiac arrest resulted in a table death.
Hye-jung says that she knows how to read the records up to that point, so Pa-ra gives her a professional reading. He says that the laparoscopic surgery was an experimental decision, since the procedure wasn’t standardized then. He finds it strange that they didn’t cut open the abdomen soon after the vein rupture despite all the bleeding. Hye-jung asks if it was based on the doctor’s judgment, but Pa-ran doesn’t know and suggests that she talk to the surgeon in person.
Based on his interpretation, Pa-ran says that the surgeon tried a new surgical procedure, accidentally ruptured a major vein, but didn’t resolve it in time to save the patient. Hye-jung has heard what she needs to hear — that the surgeon made a wrong decision that resulted in Grandma’s death.
As Hye-jung exits the hospital, she runs into Myung-hoon in the lobby. He comments on her great passion as a doctor, seeing that she visits the hospital while on suspension. Hye-jung says that she’s visited the hospital to finish up the homework that Myung-hoon assigned and reminds him of her identity from thirteen years ago.
Myung-hoon invites Hye-jung into his office and says that he’s been waiting for her to reveal herself. Hye-jung catches Myung-hoon speaking in banmal to her and requests that he speak to her in jondaemal because she wants to keep her distance. She continues by reminding him of the challenge to prove his guilt in the surgery in order to get an apology and shows him the anesthesia records. Even with this records on the table, Myung-hoon refuses to accept that his guilt. He claims that he tried his best in the surgery and says that people can make mistakes.
Myung-hoon continues to argue that he made an honest mistake despite trying his best and tells Hye-jung that she should have a more mature mindset as a neurosurgeon now. He decides to apologize, since mistakes are still wrongdoings and figures that he’s settled the debt between them. He continues the conversation by commending her relationship with Ji-hong and advising her to live life happily.
His shameless lack of remorse appalls Hye-jung, and she admits that she underestimated Myung-hoon. She naively thought that an apology would suffice, but she feels even more offended after he apologized. She says, “My expectation of a beautiful apology from the offender to the victim must have been wrong.” Hye-jung decides to leave for today, and Myung-hoon says that Ji-hong and everyone else will respond in the same way. He adds that it would be better if she never return to the hospital, asking if she really wants to work at a hospital that he runs.
Hye-jung rages in the bathroom and decides that she’ll have to play it his way. Outside, she finds Ji-hong waiting to hear about the encounter and asks him if he knows any capable lawyers. She’s decided that she needs to find any possible legal consequences. Ji-hong crosses his arms and asks if she can just stop here because Grandma’s unresolved death seems to hold her back. Hye-jung becomes defensive and says that Myung-hoon predicted that Ji-hong would respond just like him. She feels frustrated that no one can understand her, even Ji-hong. In response, Ji-hong offers to introduce her to a lawyer and tells her to do it her way.
Before she leaves to meet with the lawyer, Hye-jung gets a text from Kang-soo that he’s getting surgery, joking that it’s because he made her go to a hearing twice now. Hye-jung responds with an apology that she can’t be there and promises to visit after his sugery.
Ji-hong finds Kang-soo in the stairwell and asks why he chose him as his surgeon. Kang-soo reasons that his surgery risks include loss of vision, so Yoon-do’s proposal for total removal of the tumor could be a greater risk. Ji-hong honestly tells him that the surgery doesn’t have major risks on his life, but it could end his career as a neurosurgeon if he loses his vision. Kang-soo pleads that Ji-hong prevent that from happening, since he’s survived up to this point with his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. He wonders why life is so difficult for him, and Ji-hong pats him on the shoulder with encouragement.
Hye-jung meets with the lawyer and shows him the documents from Grandma’s surgery. He tells her that the case will be dismissed because the expired statute of limitations, but Hye-jung asks if there is any way to legally prosecute against Myung-hoon. The lawyer coldly states that she should have come to him earlier if she was this desperate.
Tae-ho finds out that Kang-soo postponed his surgery, so he goes to find out why. Kang-soo explains that he’s waiting for his younger brother and wants to see him before the surgery, since he could possibly lose his vision. Tae-ho assures him that the surgery will go fine, but Kang-soo says that he’s used to thinking about the worst case scenario.
Tae-ho reminds him that he’s not alone and says that this surgery is a fight against time — both he and the surgery team will have to endure twelve hours of operation. He nods and then hears his younger brother call out to him. Younger Bro salutes that he’s reporting to vacation time from the military, and Kang-soo salutes back.
In the hospital room, Younger Bro brags to Kang-soo about his culinary certificates and then asks if the surgery won’t allow Kang-soo to be a surgeon anymore. He says that he’s still proud of Kang-soo even if he’s not a surgeon and apologizes for all the times that he’s caused trouble. Kang-soo says that Younger Bro never caused trouble and takes a good look at his handsome brother. Aww, these two.
Ji-hong enters the operation room and tells his team to prepare for this long surgery. They begin, with Seo-woo serving as the assistant, and the neurosurgery staff wait anxiously. Younger Bro waits nervously, and while the department staff come and go from the viewing room, they constantly check the clocks thinking about Kang-soo. Almost eight hours into the surgery, Ji-hong is sweating and the team is understandably tiring out.
Meanwhile, Hye-jung continues to search for lawyers willing to represent Grandma’s case in court. The next lawyer she speaks to tells her the same thing — that the statute of limitation restricts any legal action. Plus, her family settled with the compensation, which lessens her credibility in trying to pursue legal action.
Ji-hong and Seo-woo take a break from the surgery to stretch, and from above, Young-kook points out that Seo-woo looks tired. Yoon-do orders him to replace her, but when he goes down to offer his help, Seo-woo insists that she’ll continue. She suggests that Ji-hong drink some water, but he refuses because he’ll have to use the bathroom. The dedicated duo continue with the surgery with more focus in the final stretch and finally complete the operation, much to the relief of their colleagues.
After the surgery, Ji-hong calls Hye-jung to tell her that Kang-soo’s surgery went well, but Hye-jung can’t hold back tears after a discouraging day. Ji-hong comes over to her place, and Hye-jung says that she misjudged her priorities and regrets not seeking legal action right after Grandma’s death. But she couldn’t do anything in her youth, and after waiting all this time to gain power, she can’t do anything now.
Ji-hong gets real with her and says that Hye-jung wouldn’t have gotten this far if she had lived solely trying to avenge Grandma’s death. He tells her that expecting a sincere apology from a person like Myung-hoon is asking too much. His fake apology to her is comparable to giving a lollipop to a crying child, and Ji-hong says that a sincere apology requires a fair compensation. Hye-jung vows to get that fair compensation: “I’m going to kill him. To catch a monster, I’ll have to become a monster.” Ji-hong cringes, and so do I.
Ji-hong offers to do the dirty deed for her and asks for time to wrap up his life, since he’ll have to spend the rest of it in prison. Hye-jung knows that he’s trying to talk her out of this, and he calls her smart for understanding his message. Trying to convince him, Hye-jung points out the time between Director Hong’s loss of consciousness and the nurse discovering him. Ji-hong knows and admits that he’s suspicious as well, but he doesn’t let that consume his life because he knows his father wouldn’t want that for him.
Hye-jung challenges his assumption, but Ji-hong asserts that parents want their children to be happy. He says, “Revenge, destruction, punishment — I’m not absorbed by these things. I already feel wasteful trying to do everything I love today. Because there’s no tomorrow for me.”
Hye-jung just stares back at Ji-hong and narrates: “I thought the world would change when the truth came out. But the world did not change.”
Well, there we have it: an uncharacteristic climax of angst for our heroine. The last scene was particularly strange for me, watching Hye-jung vow to kill Myung-hoon for fair compensation. I didn’t believe for a second that she was serious because the overall character arc of Hye-jung wouldn’t permit her to commit such a deed. Plus, the music didn’t set the mood that she was actually serious. But her conviction to eye-for-an-eye revenge is something new, and I’m not a fan. We’ve known that Hye-jung has been dedicated to finding the truth behind Grandma’s death to receive proper acknowledgement of wrongdoing from Myung-hoon, but you can’t expect such moral things from such an indecent human. She set the bar too high, and I was expecting her to elevate herself as opposed to stooping to his level. I’m frustrated with Hye-jung as a character and hope this is just a phase in her realization of Myung-hoon’s proud incompetence. Hye-jung knows better than to go down that rabbit hole of angst — she’s been doing so well!
It’s a good thing Hye-jung has a level-headed partner hypothetically willing to go the prison for her, but more importantly, a partner who knows how to communicate effectively with her. Though I wasn’t a big fan of Ji-hong’s direct and aggressive romantic advances, I’ve generally approved of his direct — sometimes blunt — communication. He’s willing to butt heads with Hye-jung and play devil’s advocate a little bit all while supporting her. And in this particular case, I’m with Ji-hong in persuading Hye-jung to let it go. He’s lived through his fair share of unfair experiences, and I found that his maturity stood out particularly in this episode. He’s accepted the fact that he’s unable to change his past, so he lives authentically in every moment. Of course, it must have taken him time to get to this point, and I think the wisdom he’s trying to instill into Hye-jung can only be learned through personal experience and over time.
It was interesting to watch Kang-soo’s surgery unfold in parallel to Hye-jung’s story. I actually think Kang-soo’s surgery storyline made me even more frustrated with Hye-jung because it showed how disconnected she was with the present. Everyone in the neurosurgery department was deep to their necks with worry for the surgery while Hye-jung kept beating a dead horse trying to find legal representation for Grandma. I just wished she cared a little more because it was so heartwarming to see the care and investment from the neurosurgery crew.
Kim Min-seok really showed off his acting chops in this episode, and I was especially impressed with his commitment to shaving his head. That kind of scene is a one-take sort of deal, and he nailed the puppy dog tears. He’s emotionally present with his character, and I rarely find a moment of awkwardness seeing him as Kang-soo (though I did have a quick déjà vu moment with that military salute). He balanced his character with playful charm and a relatable fear of uncertainty. Get better soon, puppy, before you make your hyungs worried sick!
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