Hospital Playlist: Episode 4
We learn a bit more about Seok-hyung this episode, slowly peeling back the layers of his character and how he came to be the person he is now. Like his friends, there’s more to the socially awkward doctor than what meets the eyes. Though these five friends may already be forty, when they’re together, it’s 1999 all over again.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Ik-joon meets with an elderly, liver-transplant patient who describes all the changes he’s experienced since the surgery, but most of his new symptoms are a result of old age. The elderly patient admits to Ik-joon that he is 84, and the two of them share a laugh.
After meeting his patients, Ik-joon waits for the elevator with Gyu-wool, but when it arrives, he tells her to ride the next one. He draws a heart on the glass doors before going up, and Gyu-wool belatedly realizes what he meant as Jung-won appears right next to her. They greet each other briefly and then wait in silence for the next elevator.
Ik-joon visits his sister who’s staying in the hospital and scoffs when he finds her scarfing down an array of take-out food. She complains to him about Joon-wan’s frequent visits, and right on cue, he enters for the fifth time. Playing a little joke, Ik-soon introduces her doctor to her brother, and Ik-joon plays along, even using a fake voice. Heh.
Unfazed by the sibling’s joke, Joon-wan hands Ik-soon a coffee and asks if she’s returning to her post soon. Ik-joon explains that she’s on her break and will be staying at his place since they’re keeping her hospitalization a secret from their mother. Ik-soon suddenly tells them that there’s birds in her room (effectively scaring Joon-wan) and then makes her hands flutter like a bird. Hahaha, she’s definitely Ik-joon’s sister.
Ik-soon tells her brother to come down to her base to eat jajangmyun (black bean noodles), but he complains about the long trip. They bicker about whether or not he should still visit, and their long-winded arguments sound like a rap battle. Joon-wan comments on their rapping ability, and they inform him of their unsuccessful rap careers where they auditioned as a comedy duo. These two are a riot.
Ik-joon asks his sister who she came to see at the hospital, and she tells him that her best friend works here. Ik-joon wonders if it’s a boyfriend, but Ik-soon says that they’re just friends, “Like you and Song-hwa.”
Her best friend turns out to be Chi-hong, and Ik-joon jumps at the chance to play matchmaker, expressing his approval of the couple. Joon-wan all but drags Ik-joon out of the room, but Ik-joon turns back to let Chi-hong know that his little sister might be rough but… she’s funny. Pffft.
Gyu-wool buys the GS intern a drink at the café, and Min-ha (the OB/GYN resident) joins them after her lunch date with her seven-years younger boyfriend. Dr. Bong joins them as well, and explains to Gyu-wool that he’ll divulge any information about the five friends for a small price: a cup of coffee. Though she was busy before, Gyu-wool stays put and stares at Dr. Bong, clearly enthralled by the offer.
Seok-hyung meets with a mother and daughter about the latter’s bleeding, and the mother describes her daughter as innocent and shy. However, as soon as the mother steps out of the room, the daughter drops her meek act and asks if she’s pregnant. Taken aback by her tough demeanor, Seok-hyung nervously answers all her questions in honorifics. Heh.
Ik-joon is the last to arrive at the meeting where the other GS intern hands out lunchboxes to the general surgeons. He somehow knows everything about the intern already (from his girlfriend to his favorite mixed drink), and talks up a storm by himself. From the end of the table, the oldest surgeon complains about the boxed lunch, and the intern tenses up.
In the emergency room, Chi-hong learns from Nurse Seonwoo that his patient asked to be discharged because he can’t afford the bill. Unfortunately, since he lacks a passport, the hospital cannot help him financially.
Back in the café, Dr. Bong calls the friend group the five “naught” because they’re all missing something. First up is Song-hwa, the emotional pillar of the group and the flawless one. He describes her as the perfect nerd who loves to party.
Cut to Song-hwa. Chi-hong explains his situation to her, and she immediately calls Joon-wan to ask about the “Grandpa-Long-Legs” program at his old hospital. She makes all the necessary arrangements for the surgery and orders Chi-hong to concentrate on preparing the operating room.
Next on Dr. Bong’s list is Joon-wan: the best surgeon who’s also a jerk. In an operating room, Joon-wan quizzes Jae-hak about the operation, but his chief resident is fast asleep. He barks at Jae-hak to wake up and asks if his surgery is boring. Still sleepy, Jae-hak accidentally admits that it’s a little boring and then dozes off again. Joon-wan glares at Jae-hak and assigns him more study materials to reflect on his actions.
Min-ha asks Dr. Bong to talk about Seok-hyung next, but they both know what he’s like: “He lacks social skills.” Seok-hyung waits for the elevator, but when he notices the crowd already inside, he pretends to take a call (though he’s busted when his phone rings). In the end, Seok-hyung takes the private elevator reserved for the maintenance staff and chortles in the back as he watches his variety show.
Gyu-wool visibly deflates when Dr. Bong mentions Ik-joon next, and he explains that Ik-joon entered at the top of their class and graduated at the top, too (while living in the clubs, hahaha). Due to being great at everything, Ik-joon doesn’t have any semblance of an inferiority complex or prejudice.
Returning back to the GS meeting, Ik-joon tells the older doctor to enjoy the prepared food and suggests that the doctor be fined 10,000 won (roughly $8) for ever complaint. The doctor immediately grumbles, and Ik-joon merrily puts down his fingers to count each grievance uttered. After the fourth count, the older doctor laughs and agrees not to complain anymore.
Last but not least is Jung-won who Dr. Bong describes as lacking greed for worldly possessions. Standing in front of an atm, Jung-won transfers money over for the Daddy-Long-Legs program, and from behind, Joon-wan gasps at his measly balance of 305,000 won (roughly $249).
Jung-won sighs about their VIP ward since there haven’t been much patients, but Joon-wan informs him that Politician Shim recently reserved all four VIP rooms for him and his son. Jung-won is surprised to hear that the politician’s son is donating his kidney to his father since he used to always go clubbing with Ik-joon back in college, but according to Ik-joon, the son has changed.
Since Jung-won is off to meet Seok-hyung, Joon-wan warns him to keep quiet about the politician in front of their friend, but Seok-hyung is already reading the article. He looks particularly melancholy as he reads the section about Politician Shim’s sexual assault of a caddy while at a golf course with Chairman Yang Tae-yang. A call from his mom pops up on his phone, and Seok-hyung puts on a smile as he answers.
In the café, Gyu-wool asks about Jung-won’s dating life, but before she can hear the answer, she realizes that she’s late and runs out. Meanwhile, OB/GYN Resident Eun-won explains to the twin medical students about their upcoming meeting with the pediatric surgery department, and Hong-do worries if it’s alright for them to attend (“In dramas, the meetings are always so scary.”)
Contrary to our drama-loving student’s expectations, the meeting is far from scary as Jung-won pouts and acts cute to convince Seok-hyung to perform a C-section. Seok-hyung relays the mother’s wishes for a natural birth, but he got her to agree to inducing labor. Jung-won sighs in relief while Seok-hyung chuckles at his friend.
Wrapping up the meeting, Seok-hyung asks if their friends are available today, and Jung-won tells him that Ik-joon is busy monitoring Politician Shim. He realizes his mistake too late as Seok-hyung accuses the politician for putting on a “show” and leaves the room. Meanwhile, Gyu-wool can barely breath since Jung-won slid a few snacks towards her at the end of the meeting.
The GS nurses finally get to sit down and eat their boxed dinners, but alas, each of them is called away to help patients. Only Chief Nurse Song Soo-bin is left behind, but a patient calls for her to fix his bed. When she steps out, the patient is nowhere to be found and only Ik-joon is there to ask her a question.
He wants to know Politician Shim’s son’s room number, but Nurse Song tells him that only the designated nurse is allowed to see him. Apparently, the son is cranky, and rumors are that it’s because the politician is forcing his son to donate.
Ik-joon asks what Nurse Song is looking up, and she mentions the patient with the broken bed. He tells her that he already fixed it and offers to watch the front desk so she can eat. She tells him to go home to his son since he’s a single father now and asks if it’s hard to raise his child while working. Ik-joon admits that it’s difficult, but smiles, “I like him so much.”
Over the weekend, Ik-joon takes Woo-joo out for lunch, and as Woo-joo picks out the sandwiches, Ik-joon makes a pun, saying that he’s a Woo-joo-holic. Adorable little Woo-joo replies, “Woo-joo is a Dad-holic.” He’s so cute!
After hearing that Woo-joo has already been here with his girlfriend and her mom, Ik-joon brings up Woo-joo’s mom. He assures his son that his mom will come visit him whenever he wants to see her, but Woo-joo’s response breaks my heart: “If mom doesn’t miss Woo-joo, then Woo-joo doesn’t miss mom.”
Ik-joon tells his son that his mom asks about Woo-joo every day, but Woo-joo says that he only needs his dad. To Woo-joo, his dad is most favorite person in the entire universe (another pun since Woo-joo means universe). Ik-joon holds back his tears but then laughs when Woo-joo asks for another sandwich.
Jung-won’s oldest brother waters the garden when another priest informs him of a visitor. Hyung says that it’s his little brother, but the younger priest doubts it since the visitor is good looking. (Someone has obviously not seen younger Sung Dong-il.)
Sitting in the pews, hyung asks if Jung-won told their mom about him becoming a priest, and Jung-won tells him that he’s informing her today. Jung-won thinks that their mom will support his decision, but hyung seems to wonder if they’re talking about the same person. Cut to Jung-won standing outside his mom’s house as she chucks his shoes outside. Hahaha!
Seok-hyung’s mom prays at a Buddhist temple, and after she finishes, Seok-hyung offers to carry her down the steps. She finally relents at his insistence, and as they discuss what to eat for lunch, mom suggests that they invite Song-hwa over. Heh.
At church, Song-hwa performs the motions for the praise team, and in the crowd, the twin medical students watch in amazement. They wonder if this song was always this fun as Song-hwa immerses herself into the music.
A new week arrives, and Ik-joon makes sure that Woo-joo is ready for school before leaving the house in a hurry. When he arrives at the hospital parking lot, he nearly gets hit as Song-hwa zooms into the spot next to him. Then Jung-won almost mows down the two friends with his car as he asks them to park for him.
Min-ha is elated to see the return of OB/GYN Nurse Han Seung-joo who’s been on maternity leave. Getting right back to work, Nurse Han asks about the anencephaly case which Eun-won is assisting. Eun-won explains to the confused medical students that since abortion is technically illegal, the mother decided to carry the child to term and will be giving birth later today.
Seok-hyung enters the room, looking for whoever will be free during the anencephaly case. Since Min-ha is available, he asks her privately to cover the baby’s mouth during the birth so that the cries aren’t heard.
Jung-won rushes to the emergency room since a child’s mother was looking for him, and after checking on the patient, he notices Joon-hee examining another little boy. The father tells the doctors that his son fell from a table, and from the child’s pain, it seems that he hurt his chest as well.
Ik-joon meets with Politician Shim who has his wife by his bed. He informs them of the operation, including information about their son (the donor), but the wife only asks about her husband’s condition. Ik-joon mentions what a noble deed their son is doing for the father, but the parents don’t pay him any attention.
Min-ha complains to Nurse Han and Eun-won about Seok-hyung’s request, clearly interpreting his orders as cruel and selfish. However, as Nurse Han hears her talk, she tells Min-ha to listen carefully.
The mother who was supposed to be induced next week is suddenly at the hospital due to labor pains, and Eun-won calls Seok-hyung. He rushes over to her room and tells the worried husband that all will be well before going inside to check on the mother.
Ik-joon stands outside the son’s door, which has a notice forbidding any visitors. The designated nurse comes by and expresses her concerns to Ik-joon about the son running away. He reassures her that the donor won’t, but when he turns around, he doesn’t look convinced either.
Since the mother isn’t fully dilated, Seok-hyung tells Eun-won to wait before calling Jung-won, but as soon as she returns to her office, Eun-won receives a call that the baby is coming. Eun-won worries that Jung-won will be too late since she didn’t call him, but the nurse on duty tells her that he’s already here.
Seok-hyung goes to his second delivery for the day, and in the room, music plays over the speaker. As the baby is born, the music swells, and Min-ha covers the baby’s mouth just as requested. Seok-hyung goes to the mother’s side, comforting her as she cries and apologizes to her child. He tells her that she did her best and even holds her hand.
Going back to earlier, Nurse Han told Min-ha that she had been worried about the mother and went to speak to her before the delivery. She asked if the mother wanted to see the child, but after dwelling on it for a while, the mother said that she couldn’t bear to see her baby.
After her conversation with the mother, Nurse Han found Seok-hyung waiting for her in the hall. In case his other favor wasn’t met, he wanted Nurse Han to play music if the baby cried during the delivery. Though she knew the reason for his request, Nurse Han still asked why, and Seok-hyung answered that no matter how prepared the mother is for her child’s death, hearing the cries will traumatize her for life. For a mother who’s been through so much, he didn’t want her to experience that trauma as well.
Joon-wan and Ik-joon eat lunch with Song-hwa in her office, and they share how much they’ve changed because of age. Song-hwa has cat allergies, Joon-wan is nearsighted, and Ik-joon has over 6,000 photos of flowers because of his sentimentality. However, they all agree that Seok-hyung has changed the most: the brusque son suddenly turned into a mama’s boy.
Song-hwa reasons that anyone would change drastically after experiencing what Seok-hyung went through—his sister died, his father was having an affair with a young woman, and his mom had a stroke. Ik-joon asks about Seok-hyung’s mom since she had an appointment today, and Song-hwa tells them that Seok-hyung was going to see her after his deliveries.
In the hospital lobby, Seok-hyung helps his mom walk to the restroom because she has a limp, but she waves him aside, telling him that she’ll be fine. Worried about his mom, he asks a stranger to keep an eye on her just to make sure she doesn’t fall, and waits outside patiently.
Joon-wan comments on what a piece of work Seok-hyung’s father is, and Ik-joon says that he doesn’t deserve to be called a father. He asks if the parents are still together, and according to Joon-wan, Seok-hyung’s mom is opposed to a divorce.
As Seok-hyung escorts his mom to a taxi, she asks if Song-hwa is available for a coffee which makes Seok-hyung sigh in exasperation. He tells her again that they’re just friends, but Mom teases him about acting so affronted when she only wanted to see Song-hwa.
December, 2018. Seok-hyung received a call from his aunt, telling him that his younger sister fell and died. He got on the first plane back to Korea, but on the plane, he witnessed his father’s affair. A month later, Seok-hyung confessed what he knew to his aunt, deciding to tell his mom the truth, but Mom already knew about the affair.
His father wanted a divorce, but Mom wasn’t going to let him have his happiness even if it meant being unhappy herself. The day they buried their daughter, his father still slept with his mistress that night, and the mere thought of them being happy together brought her to tears. She told Seok-hyung not to worry about her because his happiness was all she wanted.
As Seok-hyung left, he pulled his car to the curb and ran back towards his mom. Despite the heavy rain, Seok-hyung heard his mom wailing as she sat outside, begging her own mom to take her away. From a distance, Seok-hyung watched as the rain poured down on him.
A new face joins the “Bong Salon” after buying the others the most amount of pizza: Chi-hong. He asks Dr. Bong about Song-hwa’s hobbies while Gyu-wool inquires about Jung-won. Dr. Bong tells them that the five friends have a band and goes over each friend’s position. Chi-hong gawks when he hears that Song-hwa is the vocals since everyone knows that she can’t sing.
Back in 1999, she lied to the others that she was an excellent singer… she just coincidentally lost her voice before tryouts. Seok-hyung also claimed to play the piano, but Jung-won looked befuddled by his friend’s sudden musical talents. Ik-joon made him play a song, and to everyone’s surprise, Seok-hyung could play.
Seok-hyung could play both classical and pop, but only for the start of a song. Irate, Ik-joon beat him up off-screen as the others marveled at Joon-wan’s flip phone and joked about a future where people watch television on their phones.
Still determined to join the band, Seok-hyung told Ik-joon that he could play one song from start to finish because his sister taught him: “Canon.” As Seok-hyung played beyond the beginning tune, Ik-joon joined him on guitar, and Song-hwa looked over at them, riveted.
With their band formed, the five friends practiced in Seok-hyung’s basement, and whenever Joon-wan made himself ramyun, Seok-hyung or Ik-joon stole it from him. He finally learned his lesson after the second time and ran away before the others could get to his noodles. As Jung-won played the drums, the scene switches to the present, and the band plays “Canon” together.
Jung-won checks on a traffic accident patient and is taken aback by the familiar face (it looks like the same boy who fell from the table). The father explains that he has twins, but Jung-won seems suspicious. After asking the father to step out, Jung-won checks the boy and finds his body covered in bruises.
Ik-joon checks up on Politician Shim before his transplant surgery and the wife’s lack of concern for her son makes him question the whole situation. He calls for more security to be sent up, and then barges into the son’s room. Inside, he finds a strange man wearing hospital garbs along with the son.
At Ik-soon’s base, she runs out to greet Joon-wan who’s come down to visit. She wonders if he really came all this way to see her, and he casually says that he’s just here to eat jajangmyun.
The show does a good job balancing the narrative between all five friends, so everyone in the group feels like the protagonist. I especially enjoy how different all of them are, yet the show portrays everyone as great doctors in their own ways. This episode, we learn a bit more about Seok-hyung and who he is as a person and doctor. As was known, Seok-hyung is an awkward bear who hates social interactions, but despite his quietness and lack of social skills, he’s a caring doctor like his friends, just different. Ik-joon is friendly and has the ability to create a rapport with his patients; Jung-won is warm and able to comfort his young patients and their worried parents; Song-hwa is compassionate and composed, putting her patients at ease; and Joon-wan is aloof but caring, letting his actions speak louder than his words. As for Seok-hyung, he brings a calm to a department where noise is the norm, and though he appears dull, he’s actually quite observant and thoughtful. He doesn’t raise his voice to either his staff or his patients, and whatever emergency arises, he stays mellow and in control. For the first delivery, he runs to the room, looking slightly frazzled, but he never lets his panic or urgency show in front of others. He tells the father not to worry and doesn’t rush Eun-won either. As for the second delivery, Seok-hyung understands how hard it is for the mother to birth her child only to have them die, so he tries to minimize the impact of the traumatic event. He acknowledges the mother’s pain, and even goes out of his comfort zone to let his presence be known for her during her time of grief. He doesn’t minimize her hurt or give her empty words of encouragement. He simply tells her that she did her best and does the only thing he can for her in that moment: be there for her as she cries.
Not only as a doctor, but as a person, Seok-hyung seems to understand that sometimes people need to express their grief in order to heal. When he found his mother crying in the rain, he silently watched from a distance. Part of it may be due to his still awkward relationship with his mother back then, but seeing how he treated his patients, I also think he knew that she needed space to cry. However, he wanted to be there for her, which is why he stayed in the rain, even if she would never know. I’m not too surprised that Seok-hyung is rich (which would also explain why he didn’t see the need to tell the others about Jung-won’s background), and I did suspect something happened to his little sister when she was first mentioned in episode one. However, I was surprised by the fact that he wasn’t always a mama’s boy and that his father is a piece of trash. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to find out your father’s affair (with a woman who’s around your age) on the day that you learn of your little sister’s death. Also, it seems like Seok-hyung’s father is a terrible businessman who associates himself with corrupt politicians and may be a bystander in a sexual assault case. No wonder he doesn’t consider him as his father.
As for his mom, her response to all this is heartbreaking because she’s still living in anger and spite. She would rather live in bitterness alongside her cheating husband than let him go on the off chance that he actually finds happiness. Watching his mom crumble was the turning point for Seok-hyung who essentially channeled the grief he experienced into his new mama’s boy persona in order to bring some sort of respite to her life. I think a part of him feels guilty for not being there for his mom when she needed him the most, so he’s making up for the past while trying to shoulder some of her pain. Seeing him with his mom and learning their history put a new light on his mama’s boy antics that make me appreciate his calls much more now. While it’s still funny that he calls her for everything, it’s not because he can’t do anything without her but because he wants to include her in every aspect of his life. Hopefully, both of them can heal together, because like the rest of the gang, I want Seok-hyung to be truly happy.
Despite having five main characters, the show is able to make every friend feel important by letting the gaps in the story fill in by themselves. By withholding certain information and letting events happen offscreen, the show makes room for the emotional beats that matter. For instance, the audience doesn’t see Ik-joon go through his divorce, but rather, the show depicts the aftermath and how it’s affecting him. We’re never given the chance to connect with his ex-wife, but from the few scenes shown, it establishes their relationship and gives enough context for the emotions following the divorce to affect the viewers. Since the show is already jam-packed with information and characters, I don’t really need to know more about the ex-wife than what’s needed in terms of the main friend group. She’s only needed in the story for Ik-joon’s arc, and how the creators used her was brilliant. It’s not really about her, per say, but how her actions have affected Ik-joon and Woo-joo. The process of divorce is necessary for the plot but doesn’t need to be shown. Instead, we get enough information from the small scene of Ik-joon hanging out with Woo-joo by himself and the conversation he has with his son. It’s a heartfelt moment that highlights how absent Woo-joo’s mom has been for his life and how he feels about it while emphasizing the close bond between father and son. There’s a lot of conflicting emotions happening in the scene with Ik-joon feeling guilty towards his son for making him experience these emotions while also feeling grateful for his son’s love. It’s these creative choices to take out certain moments while inserting others that helps the show build an emotional bond between the viewers and the characters while also moving its plot along without getting too bogged down by the details.
I also like the addition of the twins in the story since they act as the viewers’ “guide” through the hospital. Through them, we get information dumps (in the form of teaching) as well as a natural procession through the departments. It’s these seemingly minor decisions that make the whole work and show how much thought the writer and director have put into the show. Even Dr. Bong’s “salon” was an efficient way to plow through the five friends while being humorous, and watching the residents’ crushes was adorable. Hospital Playlist very much feels like a slice-of-life drama, and it never dwells on a single patient for too long. Instead, it’s the culmination of patients and circumstances that tell the story of these characters. As a result, there seems to be new characters introduced in every episode because with each passing hour, the world gets bigger. Besides fleshing out Seok-hyung’s department and family, we are introduced to Ik-joon’s sister who is fabulous. She’s very much like Ik-joon in terms of their silly personalities, and if the final scene was any indication, hopefully she’ll be sticking around.