Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 20 (Final)
D-Day has arrived, and our underdog Doldam heroes deliver a well-deserved knockdown to the other side. I love how this drama never failed to surpass my expectations since the first episode, since we’re given beautiful conclusions to all the interwoven storylines that we’ve grown attached to. Despite there being three separate endings, each captures a different poignant sentiment and complements each other to create the feeling of a well-finished drama.
Note: Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim aired a Bonus Episode after the finale, and because it’s actually an episode containing more story with our main characters, we’ll be recapping it. So it’s not really over…
Chapter 20: “Guide to Preserving Romantic Ideals”
The Doldam team charge into Geodae Hospital with purpose in their stridea, and when they enter the banquet hall, Teacher Kim is greeted by Dr. Do’s shocked face. With reporters capturing everything on camera, the two archenemies have their final standoff. The Doldam peanut gallery watches from the sidelines, cheering on their beloved mentor from afar.
Dr. Ahn (the Geodae cardiovascular surgeon introduced by Dr. Do in Episode 17) lights up and waves a small hello when he sees Seo-jung, and she acknowledges him with a small bow of her head. Once again the green monster of jealousy rises in Dong-joo, and he steps in front of her to shield her from the other doctor’s view. He then turns around to grumble at her for flirting with her eyes.
Surprisingly, Dr. Do takes Teacher Kim’s entrance in stride; he accepts Teacher Kim’s presence with aplomb, and even welcomes him back into the fold. Saying that he wants to work with the best and that Teacher Kim proved himself once again through CEO Shin’s surgery, Dr. Do extends him an offer for a future paved in gold.
He suggests a mutually beneficial relationship, calling it a “win-win” situation, but Teacher Kim rejects Dr. Do without hesitation, calling him a son of a gun. Saying that he was also a fool for all the years that he spent pretending that Dr. Do and his kind didn’t exist, Teacher Kim declares that he won’t take it anymore.
Even though he knew about the wrongdoings, Teacher Kim tells Dr. Do that he was silent and shut his eyes to them all this time because he just wanted to live his own life and didn’t want to be bothered. But now, his conscience won’t let him continue to live this way. He pushes the manila folder from Reporter Oh at Dr. Do, who glances at the documents inside.
Noticing that the legal statute of limitation is well over its expiration, Dr. Do scoffs at Teacher Kim, saying that it will never hold up in court. But that was never Teacher Kim’s motive, as he says that even if those documents don’t have legal power, it would still make it hard for Dr. Do to maintain his position at Geodae Hospital. All the cameras around them flash and capture their tense conversation.
In a last-ditch attempt to appeal to Teacher Kim’s greed, Dr. Do promises him the trauma center that he wanted. When he refuses, Dr. Do finally raises his voice and demands to know what Teacher Kim’s conditions are. He yells right back that all he wants is for Dr. Do to step down from power and clean up the mess that he’s made with other people’s lives. (The direct translation was: “Clean up your own shit,” and the coarse language made everyone laugh.) At that mic-dropping comment, Nurse Oh, Ki-tae, and Dr. Nam do a group fist bump.
Teacher Kim turns to walk away, but he’s bombarded by his juniors who are in awe of him and reporters that can’t wait to learn more about his story. Watching Teacher Kim lauded thus and seething with fury, Dr. Do walks up to him and plants a solid hook, which leads to an all-out brawl between the two physicians. Neither gets the upper hand, but their tussling causes an ice sculpture to topple over them, leading to injuries for both.
In-bum rushes to his father, who rises slowly in confusion, while Dong-joo and Seo-jung go to their mentor’s side. Teacher Kim has lost consciousness after being hit by the ice, and we see that he has lacerations on both his head and his wrist. They hurry to the Geodae ER to get him treated, and when the staff see Seo-jung again, everyone is delighted, while Dong-joo receives a decidedly cooler reception.
In-bum picks up the manila folder detailing his father’s corrupt and dishonest hospital business practices. Dr. Do’s regular retinue follows him to his office where they try to treat him, but he’s still irate from his confrontation with Teacher Kim. In-bum walks in like a prince coming into his father’s throne room, and the others clear a path for him.
He orders that they leave, and starts treating his father’s wound himself. Although Dr. Do wouldn’t let anyone else touch him, he doesn’t protest his son’s gentle administration of the antiseptic.
Seo-jung and Dong-joo are right beside the bed when Teacher Kim wakes up in the ER, confused and in pain. When a Geodae ER doc comes in to discuss the X-ray results, the concerned pair want to stay to make sure he’s all right, but he ushers them to leave. Knowing his iron will, Seo-jung and Dong-joo file out reluctantly, and they go back to the waiting room where Nurse Oh, Ki-tae, and Dr. Nam are pacing back and forth while waiting to hear about Teacher Kim’s condition.
Watching the grave expression on the ER doctor and Teacher Kim’s faces through the glass doors, Seo-jung worries that the injury might be worse than expected. But before she can investigate further, she’s interrupted by Nurse Ji, the Geodae nurse who was seen arguing with Dr. Moon in Episode 1. When Dong-joo returns with coffee for the both of them, Seo-jung is nowhere to be seen, because she’s having tea with her old colleague.
They talk about their lives now and about Seo-jung’s disappearance six years ago. Seo-jung surreptitiously touches her sleeve at that, but says she’s doing well working at a good hospital full of great people. Nurse Ji tells her that all the nurses at Geodae knew that Dong-joo was in love with her and that she’s happy that they found each other.
When a text lights up Nurse Ji’s phone, Seo-jung sees that the background wallpaper is a little boy. Nurse Ji says that it’s her five-year-old son who resembles his father so much, and she carefully looks to see Seo-jung’s reaction, but since she never found out about Nurse Ji and Dr. Moon’s relationship, she doesn’t react. With a face that reveals relief mixed with leftover guilt, Nurse Ji sincerely wishes Seo-jung happiness in her future.
Dr. Do commands In-bum to return to Geodae Hospital now that CEO Shin’s surgery is over. In-bum starts telling his father a story – growing up, he was always more proud to be called his father’s son than by his own name. When he began working at Doldam Hospital, he was mildly disconcerted because it was the first time people were calling him more by his given name rather than “Dr. Do’s son.”
At Doldam Hospital, his father’s influence and power didn’t matter, and it was then that In-bum realized his own worth. After patching up his father’s wound lovingly, In-bum opposes his father for the first time in his life. He states his wishes to live as himself and to be recognized for his own worth as Do In-bum.
Disbelievingly, Dr. Do asks if that means he wants to stay at Doldam Hospital, and In-bum says yes. Brave tears roll down his face as he disobeys his godlike father, but In-bum stays resolute in his determination. Dr. Do pitifully calls him back, but In-bum doesn’t look back as he leaves the room.
Nurse Oh, Ki-tae, and Dr. Nam worry over Teacher Kim’s wrist while they eat a pizza dinner. Ki-tae tries to get Nurse Oh to eat something while gobbling up much of the pie himself.
Dong-joo and Seo-jung spy into Teacher Kim’s room, where doctors discuss his condition. When they see neurologists and orthopedic surgeons gathered, they naturally suspect the worst. They try to ask about Teacher Kim, but citing doctor-patient confidentiality, no one tells them anything.
The next day at Doldam, a patient refuses to see anyone but Teacher Kim for his treatment. His rotund manager stands outside the curtain, guarding his singer from public view. Dr. Song demands to know what the hullabaloo is about, and is delighted when Yeon-hwa says the name of the singer is Nam Jin. He recognizes it as the famous trot star from the 70’s, and is excited to meet the celebrity, but the patient demands to see Teacher Kim only.
Dr. Song brings him Teacher Kim, but when the curtains are pulled back, Nam Jin is not the Nam Jin that he expected. It’s a lookalike club singer/Nam Jin copycat who goes by the name Num Jin. He explains that he has a bad case of hemorrhoids, and Nurse Oh and Ki-tae hide their smirks.
But Teacher Kim turns his attention to Num Jin’s manager, who looks to be severely jaundiced. After asking a couple more questions, he orders Dr. Song to take care of Num Jin’s recovery while the manager is more carefully examined.
In the ICU, CEO Shin watches his neighbor patient, the manhwa artist, scribbling away desperately. When he asks what he’s doing, the manhwa artist tells him that he wants to draw while he still has energy left in him, because he doesn’t know which will be his last masterpiece before he dies.
He continues drawing when Seo-jung comes in to check up on the CEO. She tells him that he can be discharged to a non-ICU ward, and he’s pleased by the good news. When he quietly asks her what’s wrong with the manhwa artist fellow, she explains that the man needs heart surgery, but unlike CEO Shin, he doesn’t have the money for it. This gets the CEO to ponder about his blessed situation.
In the ER, a patient goes into anaphylactic shock, but is quickly stabilized due to the quick efforts of In-bum and In-soo. Looking over the patient chart, In-bum realizes that Yeon-hwa was supposed to document the patient’s allergies, but nothing was recorded. When he calls her over, he berates her harshly (for the umpteenth time) for making careless mistakes. Nurse Assistant Park defends her vigorously, and they have to take their argument outside.
Dong-joo and Teacher Kim discuss a CT scan of a pancreatic cancer patient in his room. Determining that Dong-joo is ready for the responsibility of this surgery, Teacher Kim gives him the opportunity to lead the operation, because he’s out of commission anyway for a couple weeks while his wrist heals.
Dong-joo initially hesitates, but when In-bum’s name is thrown in, he grabs the chance straight away. As he leaves the office, Dong-joo sees Teacher Kim rubbing his wrist, and wonders whether it’s a more serious injury than they were told. He shares his uncertain thoughts with Seo-jung, and they worry together.
Later, when Seo-jung sees Teacher Kim struggling with a computer mouse, her fear for his recovery increases. Although she answers all his questions about patients dutifully, she gives him apprehensive glances between her reports, and ends up asking him for details about his injury. He tells her not to worry, because if he says it’s all right, then it will be all right.
She’s reminded of all the times he told her those exact words: from her first wrist injury in the mountains, to her bumbling during CEO Shin’s surgery, to her PTSD-induced self-inflicted wrist cut. She realizes that she just has to continue to believe in Teacher Kim like she has all along, and everything will be all right. So she walks away from their encounter with her mood much buoyed.
He also reminisces about their past together, from her first days at Doldam Hospital as a patient to her trailing after him like his former student Jang Hyun-joo. He remembers how she proudly marched into his office with her first board certification in hand to ask him for a job, and how she tentatively asked him about earning a second specialty, obviously trying to emulate him. He smiles, recalling how far she’s come since then.
In-bum and Nurse Assistant Park have a shouting match outside the ER over Yeon-hwa. Seo-jung and Nurse Oh try to stop them, but nothing calms their irate tempers.
In-bum asks what right Nurse Assistant Park has to lecture him about his behavior toward Yeon-hwa, wondering if Nurse Assistant Park thinks he’s Yeon-hwa’s brother or boyfriend. The hospital staff (who were gathered to watch the fight) all turn their attention to the lady in question, who just bashfully shakes her head.
Dong-joo (who’s definitely on his way to becoming In-bum’s bestie) shoves In-bum into the break room and demands to know why he’s picking on their maknae rookie. He asks whether In-bum has a crush on her.
In another room, Seo-jung and Nurse Oh grill Yeon-hwa on her relationship to In-bum and/or Nurse Assistant Park. Seo-jung is deliciously scandalized at the first potential Doldam Hospital love triangle. Yeon-hwa denies it, and In-bum also says he doesn’t like Yeon-hwa that way.
In parallel conversations, In-bum and Yeon-hwa point at different people as their ideal partners: Seo-jung and Dong-joo, respectively. Both are stunned by the news, and the first thing they do is find each other to talk about the new revelations.
They each tell each other what they’ve discovered, and Dong-joo leads with the question: “Will this be a problem between us?” Seo-jung says no, still a bit dazed, and Dong-joo also affirms the same position. Having settled a potential romantic problem, she turns to leave, and he says “I love you” again, in that casual but sincere way of his. This time, she doesn’t push him away or tell him to stop saying embarrassing things, but accepts his love with a yes and grins on her way back to work.
As she heads to the ER, she sees and bows to Dr. Do when he arrives at Doldam Hospital, but he ignores her and passes by without returning her greeting. He heads to CEO Shin’s room, where the CEO and Teacher Kim are discussing his wrist injury. When CEO Shin asks about the tussle between Teacher Kim and Dr. Do, Teacher Kim replies that it’s not simply a personal matter or a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of one’s duty as a doctor.
But then Manager Joo announces Dr. Do’s entrance, and Teacher Kim takes his leave.
As soon as the door shuts behind him, Dr. Do gets on his knees to beg CEO Shin to forgive him for the false identity surgeries that Teacher Kim accused him of, but Teacher Kim never went into any specifics about Dr. Do’s wrongdoings, so this is the first time CEO Shin is hearing about them. Realizing that he has dug his own grave, Dr. Do winces and clenches his fist. Teacher Kim, who was eavesdropping outside, leaves after he hears Dr. Do admit to his own corrupt misconduct.
Ki-tae gives a rousing speech to the Doldam staff who are gathered at Dr. Nam’s batcave restaurant for a year-end celebration. Everyone gets into the mood with drinks and food, but Dr. Song notices that Teacher Kim isn’t there. He is at the ER, still attending to late-night patients. When he walks outside, he sees Dr. Do still sitting numbly in the Doldam Hospital lobby.
Still puzzled by this man whose morals can’t be moved by ambition or money, Dr. Do asks Teacher Kim what his motivations are, and asks what he means to accomplish at this tiny Doldam Hospital. Teacher Kim responds that he is a romantic at heart, and wants to be a doctor who saves lives.
He wants to believe that there are others like him out there that also want to become caring doctors instead of profit-driven ones. And he tells Dr. Do that he believes In-bum might be one of them, to which Dr. Do lets out a soft chuckle. They part on much more amicable terms than before, having more of a grasp on each other’s views.
Seo-jung dances and sings with a soju-spoon mic while Dong-joo films every moment (you can almost see the hearts shooting out of his eyes). Just as Nurse Oh remarks that it’s unusually quiet at the hospital, her phone rings, and she’s notified of a multi-vehicle accident.
Despite their cheery festivities a moment before, all the doctors and nurses, except for Dr. Song and Ki-tae, grab their coats to immediately go back to Doldam and perform their respective duties.
Teacher Kim divides tasks, assigns them different patients, and looks at his team proudly.
Dong-joo’s final voiceover in the background says:
“The principles that most people know exist but ignore while wishing that someone else would uphold them. To live is to walk a new road every day and deal with reality, whether it is wanted or unwanted. Even though there is no right answer to life’s every moment, Teacher Kim once said, ‘Never give up searching for why we live. If you forget your reason for living, your romantic ideals will end.'”
Sometime afterward, Manager Joo approaches the manhwa artist in the ICU to tell him about a benefactor who wants to buy his drawing in exchange for the cost of his surgery. He’s overcome by emotion as he realizes that now he’ll be able to live.
Later, Teacher Kim receives an illustrated storybook about a greedy moneylender (CEO Shin) who was disliked by everyone. One day, when he collapsed from a heart attack, no one came to help him. However, one moral doctor came along and saved him. The last question in the book is directed at Teacher Kim: “Do you remember who that was?” And Teacher Kim laughs, indicating that he does remember.
Epilogue. A woman (Kim Hye-soo) in a blue coat stops outside Doldam Hospital and enters while romantic music plays in the background. Teacher Kim sees her figure from down the hall, and his expression shows surprise and unresolved deep feelings. She turns around and greets him with, “Hello, it’s been a while.”
Her face lights up with a warm smile. A subtitle at the bottom says that Teacher Kim’s first love story will continue in the special prequel episode.
I know I’m going to spend my Tuesday night watching Teacher Kim and Officer Soo-hyun (Kim Hye-soo, Signal) make googly eyes at each other. But Han Seok-kyu didn’t even need a love interest to made his romantic doctor such a compelling and wonderful character. I came to respect him so much as an actor after seeing his micro expressions change from one moment to the next, reacting to even the smallest pieces of dialogue/plot shift. But it was his character, Teacher Kim, who really stole my heart. I loved how his relationships as a mentor to Seo-jung, Dong-joo, and In-bum were all different and developed so that he could help them become the best versions of themselves.
I enjoyed this drama because it didn’t just capture his “teaching,” but it also told the story of Teacher Kim’s own growth through his tragic downfall and eventual redemption. I loved how it showed all the characters having different complex sides to them, so that in the end, no one was two-dimensional, but rather fully fleshed individuals with different motivations and dreams. I especially liked how we got a better look at how Dr. Do became the immoral person he was throughout the drama. In his last conversation with Teacher Kim, he spoke about how Teacher Kim can’t change the world by staying at a tiny hospital like Doldam. If you read a little deeper into his comments, I think that Dr. Do had idealistic dreams of changing the world into a better place, but somewhere along the way, he lost sight of his reason for living, and the world changed him instead.
The way he smiled when Teacher Kim said In-bum might be an idealistic doctor as well let me know that maybe there is goodness in even the worst scum in the world, and it left me with hope that maybe In-bum might gain a better father after this ordeal. Speaking of my big puppy, I wanted to give him a huge hug after his confrontation with his father. It must not have been easy to refuse the one man who has ruled your life from birth, but In-bum’s courage to branch out onto his own path moved me to tears. I knew he could do it!
But of course, there was that scuffle with Nurse Assistant Park, which has me slightly suspecting that perhaps there could be a love triangle in the fictional future, but I’m fine with things ending as they did. When In-bum admitted his crush on Seo-jung and Yeon-hwa (finally) admitted hers on Dong-joo, I had an “Aha!” moment, because I had been wondering whether those arcs would ever be resolved. There weren’t many Seo-jung/Dong-joo scenes this episode either, but I think the low -keyness of their romance sprinkled with moments of unexpected heart-pounding gestures was part of their draw, and I thought the show finished their love story well.
The writers and production team even managed to give the talented manhwa artist and the curmudgeonly old CEO wonderful resolutions to their storylines, which I enjoyed. They definitely deserve major props for creating such an amazing drama that taught us to always remember our reasons for living good, upright lives. I’ll miss ending my Monday-Tuesday nights with Teacher Kim’s bright smiles lighting up my screen, but farewell, Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, I have loved thee well!
- 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