Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 6
This hour was all about Seo-jung, which gives us a good and much-needed opportunity to get to know her better. We come to know why she became a doctor in the first place, and what her core driving principles are. Regrettably, that means less time for Dong-joo and his character growth, which I was looking forward to. But hopefully, now that the background info has been laid into place, more focus will be put on their current struggle to become more humane doctors.
CHAPTER 6: “Motivation”
A rain-soaked high school student stares through the mortuary doors as a doctor covers her mother in a white sheet. The doctor is a young Dr. Do, who offers her a soda and sits down to comfort her. The girl is still in shock from discovering her mother on the floor with a slit wrist.
After he asks for her name, she introduces herself as Yoon Seo-jung. She pulls out a letter from her mother that says to find Dr. Do at Geodae Hospital should anything happen to her. Young Seo-jung then asks Dr. Do, “Are you my father?”
In the present, Dong-joo reveals Do In-bum as Dr. Do’s son to Seo-jung. The animosity between Dong-joo and In-bum is self-evident as they trade insults back and forth. Seo-jung seems oblivious to it, since her attention is focused only on In-bum. With a warm smile, she asks if he remembers her.
Scratching his chin exactly as he did in their first meeting, In-bum recalls his father presenting her to him as his “Noona.” However, he lies and says he doesn’t remember. Still grinning, Seo-jung says that she isn’t offended because it’s been a long time — and she almost didn’t recognize him either.
She asks after Dr. Do, but In-bum avoids the question by saying he’s been too busy to see him. He leaves the laundry closet, feigning to search for the hospital’s exit.
Seo-jung calls after In-bum to request that he keep her presence at Doldam Hospital a secret for just a while longer, but he doesn’t answer. Dong-joo displays clear signs of jealousy as Seo-jung continues to ignore him. Pretending nonchalance while asking all the questions a possessive boyfriend would, Dong-joo tries to grill her on her relationship with In-bum, but she just brushes him off.
Meanwhile, Dr. Song, the chief surgeon at Geodae Hospital, attempts to convince Teacher Kim not to do CEO Shin’s heart surgery. Dr. Song tells Teacher Kim that it’s a better deal to continue living quietly than to do the surgery and be targeted by Dr. Do all over again. Teacher Kim asks if Dr. Song thinks doctors only focus on making money without a conscience or if they only prize talent without a purpose.
Teacher Kim says that he remembers a time he was good at those things, and if it is because of those reasons, he’s even more determined to take on CEO Shin’s surgery. Teacher Kim goes on saying that this would be his perfect comeback opportunity, since CEO Shin is Geodae Hospital’s board chairman. Dr. Song starts protesting, but Teacher Kim shuts him down by telling him to relay a message to Dr. Do that starting now, he will only take deals that benefit him.
Back at Doldam hospital, Dong-joo is wandering about when he runs into his senior from Geodae Hospital, In-soo, who is followed by Dr. Song. Behind the receptionist’s counter, Ki-tae watches the encounter unfold.
While Seo-jung debates on whether she should call Dr. Do, In-bum waves down a taxi to go back to Seoul. Unbeknownst to him, the driver winces in pain — it seems that he meant to go to the hospital as a patient, not to pick up more passengers. However, he does not contradict In-bum, and chooses work and money over his immediate discomfort.
Teacher Kim bursts into CEO Shin’s office and slams a brown envelope down. When CEO Shin asks what it is, Teacher Kim replies that he’s increasing his demands to include another ultrasound and CT machine, as well as a portable X-ray. CEO Shin asks for the reason behind the sudden change, saying that if he’s agreed on a deal, he should stick to the original terms.
Teacher Kim claims that he made that deal on false premises. He now knows that CEO Shin is the chairman of the board for Geodae Hospital. According to Teacher Kim, as someone who put Dr. Do in charge of the hospital only to sit back and reap the profit, CEO Shin should pay more. CEO Shin asks what gives Teacher Kim the confidence to be so rash, and Teacher Kim replies that he doesn’t have anything but a dream that he wants to realize.
At the Doldam ER, Nurse Assistant Park shyly asks the cute homeless patient (the one who they took in to feed last episode) to fill in her paperwork. Seo-jung comes in with an armful of blankets just in time to see Nurse Oh deal with some testy guardians. They want to move their patient to a big hospital in Seoul, and complain loudly that they don’t feel comfortable having a country hospital like Doldam treating their relative.
Initially, Nurse Oh points out calmly that the patient needs absolute rest after his surgery, and that a transfer would do more harm than good. Shouting that he knows people in high places who could fire the entire hospital staff, the guardian continues to be difficult. Seo-jung steps in and tries to calm him down, but he just bowls her over with demeaning remarks about her gender, adding that he wants a real doctor.
When Nurse Oh tries to usher the irate man away from the ER, he slaps her hand away, and the situation grows tense. Nurse Oh finally reaches her boiling point and shoves a telephone in front of his face yelling for him to get his high-and-mighty friends on the line, since she’d like to talk to them. At this, the man grows mute. In a priceless moment, Seo-jung even offers to press the number for him, but when he’s unable to carry out his bluff, the burly orderly escorts him out.
Afterward, Seo-jung massages Nurse Oh’s shoulders like a prize fighter as the nursing assistants fan her with clipboards to cool her down. It’s at this point that they realize both their board-certified doctors, Dong-joo and Teacher Kim, are out. The only doctor staffing the ER is Seo-jung, so they all frantically try calling the two. But Teacher Kim has left his cell phone in his office and doesn’t answer.
Dong-joo doesn’t even see his phone vibrate because he is at lunch with In-soo Sunbae and his former department head, Dr. Song. They discuss Teacher Kim’s true identity as Bu Yong-joo, and Dr. Song warns Dong-joo that Teacher Kim has a psychopathic personality. Dong-joo asks why Dr. Song is telling him this, and Dr. Song replies that he doesn’t want to lose another promising student to the inhuman Teacher Kim.
After lunch, Dong-joo rises first to leave so that he can get back to Doldam, but Dr. Song tells him to think again about which of them is the rotten rope, and which is the ladder to success. On his way out, Dong-joo checks his phone and realizes that he has thirteen missed calls from Seo-jung. Ki-tae, who has overheard the entire conversation from next door, eagerly steps into the room that Dong-joo just vacated.
Teacher Kim hacks away at a chicken with a thick butcher’s knife in what looks like a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Beside him, Dr. Nam watches him warily as he asks him what’s wrong. Teacher Kim wonders if he may have taken a step too far with CEO Shin when he told him that he’d ask for a whole new hospital from the chairman if he could.
Just then, the casino’s general manager walks into the kitchen. They step outside to have a conversation while Dr. Nam peeps interestedly from afar. The general manager tells Teacher Kim that he should have tried harder to get CEO Shin on his side, but Teacher Kim says that he likes to be clear without the use of flattery. She then hands him Dr. Do’s hospital management plan, instructing him to read it.
Dong-joo calls Seo-jung back as he hails a cab to go back to Doldam. She berates him for not answering his phone when an emergency patient has just arrived at the ER. It’s In-bum’s taxi driver, who suddenly collapsed on the road. The patient needs surgery, but Seo-jung can’t give the order because Teacher Kim revoked her authority as a doctor due to her wrist-slitting incident. She needs Dong-joo to come in ten minutes, but he says he’s forty minutes away.
Apparently, there’s been a miscommunication. Dong-joo thought Teacher Kim was still at the hospital and vice versa, resulting in neither of them being there for this emergency. Dong-joo tells Seo-jung to do the surgery or keep the patient alive for at least thirty minutes while he tries his best to get there fast.
In-bum shakes Seo-jung, asking why she won’t treat the patient when she is a doctor. She remembers Teacher Kim telling her that a person who has inflicted harm upon herself has no right to treat anyone, but with a dying man right in front of her, she can’t turn away. She proceeds to order the patient to be prepped for surgery, and since the patient’s gallbladder needs immediate attention, she calls for anesthesiologist Dr. Nam to help her.
Thinking that Dong-joo has called him in for another emergency operation, Dr. Nam leaves Teacher Kim brooding over his problems in the abandoned shack/kitchen.
CEO Shin meets with Dr. Do in his office and hands over the manila folder that Teacher Kim brought earlier before telling Dr. Do to turn over all the items on the list inside to Doldam Hospital. Dr. Do confirms that Teacher Kim is Bu Yong-joo and asks the CEO why he wants to hand over all this state-of-the-art equipment to a disgraced doctor. CEO Shin tells him to just do as he says.
Ki-tae shows us that fawning is an art as he wine and dines Dr. Song and In-soo Sunbae with his own brand of panache. Slyly, he asks his real question: What they were trying to do with Dong-joo? But just then, Dr. Song receives an urgent call from Dr. Do, telling him that he’s needed at Doldam Hospital right now.
Dong-joo impatiently stares out the window of his cab, when suddenly, the driver hits the brakes. A frantic woman asks for their help to save her husband, who is lying crushed underneath a farm wagon. Dong-joo gets out to survey the situation. EMTs arrive then, and he pitches in to help stabilize the patient.
Seo-jung keeps calling Dong-joo, but he doesn’t answer because his phone is still in the cab. There’s no other general surgeon at the hospital who can perform the laparoscopic operation. As the taxi driver’s vitals tank, In-bum offers to do the surgery himself.
Nurse Oh states that technically, it’s against hospital policy for an unregistered doctor to perform surgery under its jurisdiction. However, In-bum insists that he must step in because the patient is about to expire. Seo-jung and Nurse Oh make the executive decision to go ahead with the surgery, which means that when Dong-joo calls back in to tell them that he will be arriving soon, it’s too late. Seo-jung and In-bum are already past the point of no return in the operating room.
Dong-joo rushes into the ER with his partially crushed patient. He runs to the OR where he meets Teacher Kim, who realizes for the first time that a non-Doldam doctor is operating in his hospital. Teacher Kim frantically heads into the OR, but thankfully, In-bum has everything under control. Teacher Kim is even surprised by In-bum’s skillful maneuvering of the delicate instruments. In-bum finishes the surgery successfully as Teacher Kim watches on, but as they leave the operating room, Teacher Kim tells In-bum and Seo-jung to follow him.
Dr. Do arrives at Doldam Hospital at the same time as Dr. Song and Ki-tae. He demands to see Dr. Bu Yong-joo immediately, and in the hallway, Dr. Do sees the person he so wanted to meet with the last two people in the world he wanted to see by his nemesis’s side.
The two men share cold, tense greetings before Dr. Do is told that his son has performed an unauthorized surgery in Teacher Kim’s hospital. When he yells at his son for it, Seo-jung tries to pacify him by insisting it was her fault. However, her words fall on deaf ears, and Teacher Kim takes this as his cue to brush past his old rival in order to deal with Seo-jung and In-bum.
In Teacher Kim’s office, Seo-jung and In-bum both try to take responsibility for the violation of hospital policy. Teacher Kim just asks In-bum how long it took him to perform the surgery as he glances down at In-bum’s fingers, noticing a slight erratic tic. Resigned, he says that he’ll make a decision after conferring with other hospital authorities.
Seo-jung explains that the patient was in critical condition, but Teacher Kim shoots back: “What kind of orderly allows an unregistered doctor to treat a hospital patient?” She says that she’s sorry, but adds that if she were to go back in time, she would still make the same decision.
Furthermore, she says, “I will do all that I can for the patient. No matter if you [Teacher Kim] recognize me for it, no matter if I have talent or not, because I am a doctor.” Ki-tae enters then, because Dr. Do is waiting for Teacher Kim in Director Yeo’s room. As soon as they leave, Seo-jung collapses onto the floor, reeling with disbelief that she dared to cross her godlike mentor.
Scratching his head, Nurse Assistant Park peers uncomprehendingly at the Chinese characters on the cute homeless girl’s personal chart. It seems she’s an immigrant who can speak some basic Korean, and she asks him for a favor: She has no money to pay for her treatment, so she wants to work it off by doing odd jobs at the hospital. He relays this to Nurse Oh and gets her to acquiesce, but through their conversation, Nurse Oh catches a whiff of infatuation in the air. Nurse Assistant Park adamantly insists that he’s only helping because of his motto: “We are the world.”
In Director Yeo’s office, Teacher Kim and Dr. Do become reacquainted with each other and find that nothing has changed. Dr. Do is still trying to make a profit rather than look out for patients, and in his plans (which Teacher Kim received from the casino manager), Dr. Do had outlined a proposal to turn Doldam Hospital into a retirement community for the wealthy.
Teacher Kim gives him statistics about how many lives Doldam Hospital saves in a given week, but Dr. Do doesn’t seem to care. Teacher Kim then threatens to make In-bum’s unauthorized surgery an issue, causing Dr. Do to capitulate as he asks what Teacher Kim wants. Teacher Kim tells him that he wants his son so that he can turn him into a proper doctor.
As Dr. Do leaves, he notices Seo-jung waiting nervously outside. Seo-jung hesitantly explains that Dr. Do was the first adult to ask her what her dreams were when she was young. And in flashback, we see that she replied that she wanted to be a doctor, though she only really wanted to be someone he could be proud of. In the present, however, Dr. Do says he’s disappointed in her.
Outside, In-bum waits for his father, only to be greeted with a hard punch to the face. The company car drives away, leaving poor In-bum in front of Doldam. How’s that for a heartless father?
At the intensive care unit, an ajumma has come to see the gallbladder patient who Seo-jung and In-bum operated on. Seeing her weep lovingly over her husband, Seo-jung tells herself that no matter what happens, it’s all right because the patient got to live.
Dong-joo tries calling all the nearby hospitals to take his crushed hip patient because Doldam doesn’t have an orthopedic surgeon, but after being rejected numerous times, Teacher Kim walks up and grabs the phone. In just one call, he gets the patient transferred, and they load the patient onto the helicopter.
On their way back, Dong-joo asks what Teacher Kim will do about Seo-jung. Asking what Dong-joo thinks he’ll do, Teacher Kim says that Seo-jung did a great job under the circumstances, which were partially his fault anyway. He tells Dong-joo not to leave the hospital without notifying him, and that he’ll do the same. Seeing Teacher Kim being so reasonable takes Dong-joo by surprise, and he can’t help but be reminded of Dr. Song’s warning about Teacher Kim being a psychopath.
When Nurse Assistant Park notices the homeless girl, WOO YEON-HWA, working hard around the hospital, he offers her a Snickers bar. She pockets it gratefully, but the object of her affections is actually Dong-joo, who she peeks wistfully at from behind a corner as he fills out charts.
It’s the end of the work day, and Dr. Nam and Teacher Kim have returned to their shack/restaurant. Dr. Nam is upset at Teacher Kim for not turning off the stove when he rushed to the hospital for the emergency gallbladder patient, which ruined the meal he was making.
When Nurse Oh arrives for dinner all dolled up, Teacher Kim tells them about how Seo-jung stood up to him. Dr. Nam is surprised at how far Seo-jung has come, but Nurse Oh says that she expected it, because she knows how principled Seo-jung is.
We find the subject of their conversation fast asleep atop some thick medical textbooks in the break room. Dong-joo comes in and thoughtfully drapes his gown over her. Taking the chair across from her, he places his hand over hers and lays his head on his arm while gazing at her sleeping face. Soon enough, he’s asleep as well.
Alone at a bus stop, In-bum reflects on how his father punched him in the face earlier that day while that same father contemplates Teacher Kim’s demands in his own office.
The next day, Ki-tae wakes Teacher Kim, all abuzz about something. The Doldam staff gathers around them as they step into the lobby, where a team of doctors from Geodae Hospital — including In-bum and Dr. Song — have arrived for an extended stay.
Dun dun dun. I’m worried that with the arrival of the Geodae team, the plot might devolve into being all about hospital politics, which have mired many a lesser medical drama down. So here’s hoping that the Geodae vs. Doldam face-off might become a really awesome underdog-team-wins-the-battle story. To be honest, I wish Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim would go back to the heart of the drama and make our main characters actually build relationships with the patients, so that instead of viewing them as transient bodies that need fixing, they will see them as fellow humans who need healing.
Because we haven’t been given enough information about the patients to build sympathy for their plights, there’s less of an emotional impact when Seo-jung, Dong-joo, or Teacher Kim treat them successfully. Even the scene where Seo-jung witnesses the tearful reunion between the wife and the taxi driver fell flat, because while I knew she felt something for the couple, I didn’t. I was just glad she was so mature about sticking to her principles and accepting the consequences. But now that Geodae Hospital is involved, it seems like we’ll have less time to invest in the patients’ stories.
On a happier note, I’m loving the side romance between Nurse Assistant Park and cute-as-a-bunny immigrant Woo Yeon-hwa. Unrequited love is my favorite, and I can’t wait to see how cluelessly Dong-joo will respond to her affections, and whether poor, sweet Nurse Assistant Park will ever catch on. It seems that Dong-joo’s fire for Seo-jung is still going strong, despite their having a lack of screen time together, so for now, these two will do.
Most of the progress we got this hour was in Seo-jung’s character arc, since we got to see that her initial impetus to become a doctor came from her wish to be acknowledged by her father, but now she’s grown beyond that. Instead, her motivation is in helping the patients no matter what. The details on her time between her fiancé’s death and Dong-joo’s arrival are still murky, so at this point, I don’t know if they’ll ever get back to it to flesh out how Teacher Kim shaped her current ideology.
After re-inventing himself as Teacher Kim, I’m not sure if he’s much of a mentor based on what we’ve seen of him. It actually seems like he’s in the learning process himself, because while he recognizes his students’ strengths and faults, he has a strange way of reinforcing good behavior and discouraging bad behavior. Even until the end of the episode, Seo-jung didn’t know whether Teacher Kim approved or disapproved of her swift decision with the gallbladder patient. It would have been nice if Teacher Kim were to at least let her in on his thoughts.
The central medical ethical dilemma highlighted in this episode was whether hospital policy was absolute, even though it’s there to protect patients from potentially unqualified doctors. At times, sometimes it’s better to wait for a better solution than to take drastic measures that cannot be reversed. Imagine if In-bum’s surgery had failed because of his shaking hand tremor — that would have been a malpractice nightmare. However, I think this show is taking the mainstream approach, which is the idea that taking some action is better than doing nothing at all.
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