Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Bonus Episode
Since we’ve all been such faithful fans, the drama gods have granted us an extra episode to return to Doldam and say a final goodbye to all our favorite characters. I was expecting the episode to be composed of a series of vignettes, and to maybe focus on a few mundane yet adorable moments between characters (or maybe a string of flashbacks), but this episode turned out to be closer to what we’ve come to expect at Doldam, which are high-stakes, complex moral questions, and as always, a touch of romanticism.
Appendix: “The Beginning of Everything”
Early in the morning, Ki-tae receives two letters—one for Dong-joo, and another for Dr. Nam. Given the text on the cover of the envelope, Ki-tae surmises that Dr. Nam’s letter contains the ruling on his pending malpractice case, while Dong-joo’s is a bit more mysterious, with the sender being the Mayo Clinic. The content of both letters has Ki-tae itching with curiosity, but both physicians excuse themselves in order to open them privately.
In his office, Dong-joo pulls out a folded paper from the envelope, but before he can read what’s inside, Seo-jung barges into his office. She immediately asks about it, but instead of answering, he brushes her off and takes off with the letter.
Afterward—and without much effort—Seo-jung finds a willing leak in the form of Ki-tae, who guesses that it was sent from the U.S. However, before she can speculate about what it might mean, Ki-tae also tells her and Nurse Oh about Dr. Nam’s letter.
Nurse Oh helpfully fills us in on the background of Dr. Nam’s malpractice case: In essence, a young girl died during a surgery from complications. The child’s parents blamed Dr. Nam and proceeded to sue him. The court ruled against him in the first proceeding, but the verdict was overturned, so then the prosecution appealed to a higher court, and those are the results Dr. Nam was waiting for. We switch over to Dr. Nam, who opens the letter and exhales in relief to see that the prosecution’s appeal was denied.
Nurse Oh says that after the incident, Dr. Nam left Geodae, then eventually ended up at Doldam. She also reveals that Dr. Nam was the one who brought Teacher Kim to Doldam, who then brought Nurse Oh. Ki-tae pipes up to add himself to the end of the chain and points out that Nurse Oh brought him over after that. She corrects him, because according to her, Ki-tae actually followed her over.
Seo-jung gets excited to finally learn how everyone assembled, so Nurse Oh also places her into that story, and tells Seo-jung that she arrived around the same time. In fact, Nurse Oh explains, Teacher Kim’s first ever surgery at Doldam was on Seo-jung that fateful night. Aww, how lovely.
Suddenly, Seo-jung turns toward the door and imagines Teacher Kim carrying her past, injured self into the ER. Since the surgeon on call wasn’t available, Teacher Kim took over. He then called Nurse Oh to ask for her help in the surgery.
In voiceover, Seo-jung says:
“Everything has a beginning. And behind every beginning is a cause and a motive. Whether that may be from oneself or from someone else, beginnings create a sense of direction for one’s life to take and those small routes add up to create the map of one’s life. The beginning of everything. But could coincidences and fate, which are stronger than that possibly exist.”
We then return to the moment Teacher Kim sees the mysterious woman in the lobby. Her name is LEE YOUNG-JO (Kim Hye-soo), and she greets Teacher Kim familiarly. On the other hand, Teacher Kim can barely form a sentence as he tries to process her unexpected presence before him.
Young-jo smiles at Teacher Kim’s reaction, then comments on how Doldam looks a bit better than she had expected. She explains that she heard rumors of Teacher Kim’s comeback and followed the news of his heart transplant procedure until she was able to locate him at Doldam.
They continue their conversation in Teacher Kim’s office, and Young-jo lights up to see his old stereo. She pops in Hyun-joo’s tape and finds comfort in the older music. When Teacher Kim asks how long it’s been since she returned to Korea, she answers imprecisely that it has been around three to four years.
Young-jo is floored when Teacher Kim tells her that he’s taken up the hobby of brewing coffee. She reminds him that in the past he used to hate hobbies and other leisurely activities, like going to the movies. She complains that he used to make such a fuss about going on dates with her. Teacher Kim can’t seem to remember ever acting that way, and laughs to himself. She adds a bit wistfully that even his laugh is something new.
Teacher Kim asks for the reasons she’s come to Doldam, since, he notes, she isn’t the type to just drop in. She confesses that there is someone she would like Teacher Kim to operate on. After she explains the patient’s condition, Teacher Kim remarks that the procedure should be simple enough to do by another surgeon—that is, until Young-jo reveals that the patient is HIV-positive.
In the shared office, the younger doctors and Nurse Assistant Park eat ramyun together while Dong-joo broods in the corner. The group guesses Dong-joo’s antisocial mood must have something to do with the letter he received recently. Seo-jung recalls Ki-tae’s intel about the letter being sent from abroad, but keeps the information to herself.
Then, one of the nurses bursts in to tell the crew about Teacher Kim’s mysterious and beautiful guest. Immediately, they ditch their ramyun and hurry over to do some spying; even grumpy In-bum eventually trails after them.
They stack heads outside Teacher Kim’s office, trying to catch a glimpse of the newcomer, when suddenly In-bum and Dong-joo simultaneously get a text from none other than Teacher Kim himself to call them both to Director Yeo’s office.
The commotion has caught the attention of Young-jo, who looks back at the crowd outside with a smile. Caught, they laugh nervously before quickly scattering.
Teacher Kim meets with the boys, Ki-tae, and Nurse Oh to discuss Young-jo’s friend and the logistics of the surgery. The situation is quite grave, as Teacher Kim explains, since given the patient’s high blood pressure, they will need to perform the procedure immediately.
Fearful of ruining Doldam’s reputation, Ki-tae suggests they refuse to operate just like the many other hospitals Young-jo had previously asked. Director Yeo concurs with Ki-tae—given the risks—so Teacher Kim explains that they will not do an open surgery and will take extra precautions to avoid contamination. He’s confident that they will be able to succeed without any problems.
In-bum points out that no matter how careful they are, there is still a risk of exposure. Furthermore, In-bum adds, if they do the surgery, then they will need to sanitize everything thoroughly afterward, which will mean that they will be down one OR for two days while it is being cleaned.
Taking a more moderate approach, Dong-joo expresses concern over Teacher Kim’s injured wrist and its limited mobility. Teacher Kim glosses over both their concerns and goes right to Director Yeo to ask for his consent.
In the shared office, Seo-jung waits for the meeting to end so that she can get the details. She glances nosily over to Dong-joo’s belongings and pulls out his letter.
Though we don’t hear Director Yeo’s answer directly, Teacher Kim returns to his office and tells Young-jo to bring the patient to Doldam. Meanwhile, Ki-tae complains to Nurse Oh about the situation, going so far as to even claim that Teacher Kim’s judgment is being blinded by his feelings for Young-jo.
Ki-tae then begs Nurse Oh to persuade Teacher Kim to change his mind. However, Nurse Oh says that she sides with Teacher Kim’s decision.
Dong-joo and In-bum return to the shared office after their meeting, where they continue to argue over Teacher Kim’s decision. Distracted by what she saw in Dong-joo’s letter, Seo-jung belatedly asks the boys what their meeting was about. Dong-joo fills her in on the situation and her reaction is notably muted. Dong-joo asks what’s wrong, but she merely blames it on fatigue.
Word about the HIV-positive case travels quickly through Doldam, and soon some of the staff begin panicking and whispering urgently to one another, just as the patient in question arrives. The staff’s anxiety visibly shakes the patient until Young-jo takes her hand the tells her not to mind them.
With her friend in hand, Young-jo confidently strolls through Doldam in search of Teacher Kim, and passes by Dr. Song, who recognizes her (though the recognition isn’t reciprocal). Dr. Song tells Ki-tae that Young-jo is a general surgeon who graduated at the same time that he did, then joined Doctors Without Borders afterward. He adds that she and Teacher Kim dated in the past.
In his office, Teacher Kim checks the patient’s blood pressure and explains what he has in mind regarding the operation. The patient agrees to his plan, and so Teacher Kim asks Nurse Oh to prepare the patient for surgery.
Once they’re alone, Teacher Kim tells Young-jo that the patient’s condition is much worse than he imagined. Young-jo says she understands before thanking Teacher Kim for helping, but Teacher Kim tells her not to mind it.
With the patient admitted into the hospital, Teacher Kim asks either Dong-joo or In-bum to volunteer to be his surgical assistant. In-bum turns away, somewhat shamefaced, but looks up in surprise when Dong-joo calmly accepts the request. Dong-joo then reiterates his concern about Teacher Kim’s wrist and offers to helm the procedure.
Teacher Kim dismisses his concerns again and proceeds to list off some additional safety precautions to avoid transmission before heading off to do his own preparations. When Teacher Kim is gone, In-bum asks Dong-joo if he’s scared of getting infected. With a grin, he tells In-bum that he doesn’t think he’s that unlucky in life.
Dong-joo heads over to the ER and finds Seo-jung there. He checks on her, and after getting a curt answer, he asks if she’s upset with him. She feigns ignorance and asks if there is something he’s done that she should be mad about. When he denies it, she also denies being upset with him at all. In-soo then pulls Seo-jung away to help with a patient before Dong-joo can press for more details.
In the hall, Yeon-hwa overhears the HIV-positive patient speaking in Chinese on the phone with her daughter. The patient’s voice cracks slightly as she lies that she is well. In-bum joins Yeon-hwa to ask her what the patient is saying, so Yeon-hwa explains that the patient’s daughter doesn’t seem to know about her mother’s condition. They share a beat together, their expressions soft with worry.
After finalizing a few more details with his surgical team, Teacher Kim prepares to enter the OR, when suddenly Ki-tae and Dr. Song step into his path to ask him to reconsider once more. Ki-tae expresses concern that Teacher Kim is putting Doldam at risk in order to fulfill a personal agenda.
Dr. Song asserts that Teacher Kim would have refused if it wasn’t Young-jo who personally requested it. Young-jo, who has overheard their accusations, steps in to take responsibility for the difficulty of her request. She understands the high risks involved and the frightening possibility of transmission, but she points out that the most frightening thing is their discrimination.
She asks that they try not to let their fear cloud their ability to make clear and compassionate decisions regarding a person’s life.
Dr. Nam is the first to announce that he’s going into the OR. On the side, he tells Young-jo that they’ll catch up later with a smile, and Young-jo looks back at him gratefully. With Ki-tae admonished, and just as it seems as if the opposition has backed down, Seo-jung receives a call notifying them of an incoming patient with gunshot wounds.
Things look dire when the new patient enters. The EMT explains that the man was hit by stray shotgun pellets while hunting a wild boar. Seo-jung helps Teacher Kim assess the damage, but it quickly becomes clear that the patient will also need emergency surgery.
Meanwhile in the OR, Dr. Nam preps their other patient for surgery. Nurse Oh uses the downtime to ask Dr. Nam about his malpractice ruling. He confesses that although the results were favorable for him, the situation isn’t something he wants to feel happy over, since someone still died. Nurse Oh replies understandingly before swiftly moving on to inquire after Dong-joo’s mysterious letter.
Dong-joo seems rather taken aback that Nurse Oh is aware of the letter’s existence at all. Nurse Oh then asks if Seo-jung has said anything, since she also knows about it. He sighs to himself, finally realizing the reason for Seo-jung’s earlier behavior.
From out in the ER, Teacher Kim calls the OR team to brief them on the growing situation. He instructs Dong-joo to operate on the patient with the buckshot wounds instead, but they encounter a complication when Teacher Kim realizes that Dong-joo can’t lead the procedure, since he doesn’t have the right experience.
Young-jo presents a solution by offering her skills in operating on the gunshot patient, since she has a lot of experience in the field with those kind of wounds. She’ll guide Dong-joo through the procedure while Teacher Kim operates on the HIV-positive patient.
As Teacher Kim scrubs his hands clean before entering the OR, he winces in pain and clutches his wrist, but continues with his prep. Inside the OR, he’s shocked to see two new additions: Yeon-hwa and In-bum.
In-bum offers to hold the laparoscopy and lead the surgery since Teacher Kim’s wrist is still healing, and the procedure requires a lot of wrist motion. In-bum adds that he has one previous experience in this specific procedure (though not on an HIV-positive patient). And when Teacher Kim doesn’t respond, In-bum promises that he isn’t lying this time.
In the two ORs, both teams begin with their procedures without much difficulty. Young-jo ‘guides’ Dong-joo well, but can’t seem to help herself from taking over occasionally. At some point, there appears to be a break down in the lines of responsibilities between the two surgeons, and soon they are working in tandem to remove the pellets, perfectly in sync.
Outside, Seo-jung learns a little bit about Teacher Kim and Young-jo’s past from Dr. Song. In short, the nature of their relationship was not unlike Seo-jung and Dong-joo’s, in the sense that they were constantly at each other’s throats. So much so that Dr. Song was certain they’d end up killing one another eventually. Instead, he soon noticed that they were inseparable.
Dr. Song cites the long distance (after Teacher Kim went to work in Cleveland for a bit and Young-jo shipped out to work with Doctors Without Borders) as the reason for their eventual breakup. Seo-jung repeats the reason to herself as she gets a faraway look in her eyes.
In his OR, In-bum removes the tumor successfully and begins wrapping up the procedure. With one surgery winding down, Teacher Kim heads over to check on Dong-joo and Young-jo, who are making great progress on their end. They are preparing to move down to the pellets in the thigh, so Teacher Kim asks if they will be fine without an orthopedic doctor.
In response, Young-jo simply begins cutting into the patient’s leg to remove more pellets. She explains that in a war zone, it doesn’t matter what a doctor’s speciality is, especially when they are fighting against the clock and working without the right resources. She asks poignantly if they can fathom such a world existing alongside the one they live in.
After both operations are complete, Young-jo and Teacher Kim convene for a cup of coffee. Young-jo watches Teacher Kim amusedly as he brews her a cup, still intrigued by his new hobby.
She then launches into a story about the last place she was stationed while working abroad. She tells Teacher Kim that their area was bombed, and though everyone died, she did not cry. Instead, she felt anger, wondering self-pityingly why such a thing happened to her. That anger led her to fear and hate others.
With tears in her eyes, she says that she feels as if she’s lost her way. Teacher Kim points out that she still worked so hard on behalf of the HIV-positive patient, so she must not be as lost as she thinks. She replies that her doing so was mostly out of habit rather than a higher moral calling, but then adds that she was curious to see Teacher Kim again.
The thought prompts her to ask if Teacher Kim is happy with his life now. He replies introspectively that he used to be an idiot who couldn’t enjoy things like drinking coffee or watching movies with the woman he liked, but all things considered, he feels as if he’s doing well.
Taking notice of her still somber expression, Teacher Kim offers his shoulder for her to lean on. He moves to sit next to her, and she places her head on him. Tiredly, she asks, “How did we let all those years pass us by?” It’s not a question Teacher Kim can answer, so he sits silently beside Young-jo as she closes her eyes.
Elsewhere, Seo-jung dolls herself up and gives herself a little pep talk before facing Dong-joo, who is waiting for her outside. She suggests they go on a date, since they both have things they want to say. Dong-joo is a little flustered by her suggestion, but he lets himself be pulled along anyway.
On their way, Seo-jung ropes Teacher Kim into taking a photo with the two of them. He resists at first, but then gives in at the end. Seo-jung isn’t done and proceeds to drag Dong-joo all over Doldam to take funny snapshots with everyone they know and love. Oh, is this for the memories?
Their last stop is the OR, and Dong-joo finally finds a moment to ask what’s gotten into her. She doesn’t avoid the answer, and tells him directly that she’s planning to send him off, but she realized that they barely had any photos together.
He asks where he’s being sent to, so she admits that she saw his letter. She promises that she’ll be fine and that, like Teacher Kim and Young-jo, she’ll always respect his path. When he asks how much of the letter she’s read, she says that she only actually read the front, so he pulls out the letter and has her read it herself.
Oh, it’s a rejection letter! Hahaha! He tells her that he was too embarrassed to show her, but is offended that she decided everything on her own. She’s thrilled, of course, but her happiness is proportional to Dong-joo’s humiliation. He swears that even if he got accepted he wouldn’t have gone, or at least, he wouldn’t have gone without her.
She reaffirms that if their professional lives diverge, she will accept his decision, but he doesn’t want that. Dong-joo accuses her of acting old-fashioned and feels disappointed that she came to such a conclusion, then proceeds to sulk alone.
Coquettishly, she leans over and whispers the three words he’s been longing to hear most: “I love you.” He can’t believe it and asks to hear it once more, but she totally denies it. They playfully flirt back and forth as the sound of chaos from another busy day in the ER echoes through the halls.
Outside, Young-jo takes one last glance at Doldam before walking away into the night.
Later, Seo-jung asks Nurse Oh how she and Teacher Kim first met. Before answering she lowers her voice and says it was at “the police station.”
We go back in time to that very moment, where a young Nurse Oh was being questioned by a police officer for slapping a patient. She defended herself, stating indignantly that the man grabbed her butt. The patient denied ever doing so, which pushed Nurse Oh to begin screaming at him to admit it. This is so hilarious.
Meanwhile, in that very same room, Teacher Kim received a similar lecture for beating some guys up. Hahaha! He explained that he was protecting a student from a pair of thugs. As fate would have it, a man nearby passed out from blood loss.
Teacher Kim leaped into action and began performing some emergency first aid. Naturally, Nurse Oh joined him in stopping the bleeding. Teacher Kim then asked her questions about the nearest hospital (where she worked), and asked if they had the tools to perform a specific procedure. Nurse Oh replied that they did, but it mostly depended on the skill of the doctor, so Teacher Kim had grumbled that he was more than capable of doing it.
Then, they exchanged names and shook hands, thereby cementing a long, long friendship.
It’s hilarious and cheeky for the show to make their very last medical issue be about contamination, given the amount of blood that’s been squirted into people’s eyes throughout the series. I tend not to be too freaked out about those medical risks because I’ve come to accept it as a simple way to make things more dramatic, but that being said, I did find this show to be a little heavy-handed in that very specific department.
Kim Hye-soo’s portrayal of Young-jo was brave, confident, and nostalgic in all the right moments, but there was a point in the episode when I felt like we didn’t really need her to be there. What I mean is, I liked Young-jo as a character, but in terms of using her and her shared past with Teacher Kim to learn more about our favorite crotchety surgeon, I don’t know that we got that much new information. There were some insights, but overall it felt a bit meager. That’s why I kind of wish it was a fun episode where we got to see what everyone does in their downtime, or one where we tied up loose ends from the main story in a comedic way, kind of like that perfect last scene. I also felt as if there was a shortage of Nurse Assistant Park, and I just wish we knew more about him, because there are things about his character that hint at an interesting back story, so I was disappointed not to see more of that.
On the other hand, I could not have imagined anything more wonderful than what we saw in that last scene. Teacher Kim and Nurse Oh meeting in that setting and interacting the way that they did was simply hilarious. I probably could go on and on about how much I enjoyed it, but it’s probably best to just go and watch it if you haven’t already, and if you have, watch it again like I will.
To me, Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim wasn’t a perfect drama—there were a number of things I wished it did differently, but what I ended up loving about this show was how daring it was to allow the ambiguity of a complicated situation to exist between characters without a clear solution, as shown through Dong-joo and Teacher Kim’s final emotional obstacle. Sometimes the show tended to gloss over the lingering effects of certain story threads in favor of moving on to more dramatic territories, and at times I thought it was a shame, but I can honestly say that I’m happy with where we ended up.
After a while, it was easy to predict that the good guys would come out on top, but I was impressed with the show’s ability to still keep every step very entertaining, and perhaps more importantly, it managed to be genuinely moving and heartfelt when I least expected it. This was a show whose fundamental philosophies were to show compassion and live righteously, and to let those ideals lead your way through the gray waters of the world. True to its message, the characters proved time and time again that they would there for each other, ready to make the necessary sacrifices to be there for those in need. It’s a simple but earnest message that truly captured my heart.
I would like to avoid speculating about a second season because it seems like the show left things a little open in case the stars don’t align and it doesn’t happen. To me, it almost felt like this episode was a test to see how the show could continue, and I was a little surprised to feel somewhat convinced that it could. Second seasons are often very tricky creatures, so if this is all we ever get, then I leave Doldam with some wonderfully warm memories.
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 20 (Final)
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 19
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 18
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 17
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 16
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 15
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 14
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 13
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim in talks for extension
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 12
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 11
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 10
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 9
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 8
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 7
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 6
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 5
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 4
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 3
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 2
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 1