Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim Episode 8: Manifestation of Humanism

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In my previous review, I mentioned that it was good that the show was extending the patients’ storylines across more than one episode, as it would give us an opportunity to know them better. Yet today, for both the hostage situation and the family who couldn’t afford to treatment, I found the emotional impact rather lacking. For both, there was a lot of fury, a lot of shouting and physicality, but at the end of both mini-storylines, I was left feeling that the emotional impact would have been stronger if there was less on-screen intensity.

For the poor family storyline, I actually found the previous episode’s simple exchange between Seo-jung and the mum and daughter more powerful, because the performances were more measured thus allowing the emotions to really speak for themselves. All the shouting, crying and slapping got rather grating after a while. As for the whole hostage storyline, the sequences were so frenetic and over-the-top that I couldn’t connect to the situation and feel for the whole situation. We have the father holding Seo-jung at knife point, repeatedly threatening to slash her throat (after about the 2nd or 3rd time, you knew he wasn’t going to do it). Then, we have a whole troop of police forces storming the hospital, scenes of the hospital being evacuated (against the background music of “Hey Jude”) and then his wife and daughter arriving. If there was less scuffling within the operating room and removal of the scenes of patients being evacuated, there could have been more focus on the turmoil of both the father and the surgeons.

What I did like a lot about the hostage sequence though was how there was so much conveyed through the eyes of the surgeons, because they all had their masks on. Nurse Oh’s expressions were certainly fascinating to watch as she moves from concern, to uncertainty, to relief. There’s also meaningful exploration through both storylines of the roles of doctors within society – what is within their sphere of influence and what isn’t, and whether they should try to over-step those boundaries. In the hostage storyline, the issue is whether it’s the doctor’s choice to decide who to treat. As they are bound by their oath, they can’t make that choice, yet Master Kim does thread a very thin line. When he leaves the man in the operating room on his own, he leaves the patient open to danger. Even though we can argue that Master Kim knows that the man won’t kill him, his decision to walk out is a step towards playing the role of a judge. We later learn through Nurse Oh and In Bum that he also missed out a critical step – the dura repair. I tried googling it and came up with nothing useful, so I’d appreciate if anyone could help enlighten me here! Nonetheless, it is strongly hinted that Master Kim does not fully treat the rapist and leaves him permanently disabled, thus in a way taking justice into his own hands.

There’s also something really beautiful and almost romantic about the way Master Kim protects the sanctity of the operating room through getting all the surgeons to stay in their positions and maintaining his dominant presence over what’s going on. Even while the father continues to get angrier and threaten with greater vehemence, Master Kim remains unruffled in his negotiations and because of his stability, nobody else moves from their position. As he completes the surgery, he’s in total control and he gradually dispatches people out of the room, before he leaves too while appealing to the man’s heart of a father. It’s intelligent the way he takes what motivates the man’s violence to turn it against him, by telling him that murdering the rapist will not allow him to be the father that he should be to his daughter. There’s such an quiet, steady heroism in Master Kim throughout the incident that you can’t help but be drawn to him.

Following the hostage situation, we get to see the core relationships in the show moving ahead. We’re really starting to see Master Kim smile more and the exchange between him and Seo Jung was really quite heartwarming, where he scolds her for being so submissive to him and blaming herself, yet he also praises her:

You did well. You dealt with it well.” (Master Kim to Seo Jung)

Han Suk Kyu is an amazing actor and he conveys so much through his entire body language, like the shrug of his shoulders, the furrowing of his brows. Seo Hyun-Jin fares very well in this scene too and her childlike delight when being praised by Master Kim is such a joy to watch.

While Dong-joo as a character is difficult to like, I always enjoy his exchanges with Master Kim because they are so raw and energetic. Dong-joo’s unabashed honesty elicits similar bluntness from Master Kim and in this episode, we learn that he could barely keep himself in control, but he tries his best to wrap things up without anyone getting hurt. We finally hear him talk about his romantic ideals, and while it’s not romantic in Dong-joo’s sense, Master Kim’s concept of ‘romantic’ is more aligned with romanticism, which is associated a return to what makes us human, like passion, intuition and wonder. Dong-joo once again invites upon himself some scathing criticism as Master Kim tells him that he can’t stand to see Dong-joo’s sense of inferiority and self-accusation, which causes him to struggle with being defeated. He points out Dong-joo’s flaw in focusing on doing a good job, without thinking about the meaning behind it. Dong-joo’s expression upon hearing that is so telling – he has nothing else left to say and looks as if a quiet revelation has come upon him. He realises he may have been so caught up proving himself to be the “best” doctor, that he has lost sight of what it really means to just be a doctor. It’s a very meaningful lesson and personally a powerful one for me too in my own profession.

Another huge fall-out from the hostage incident is President Do sending a team to investigate the incident and Seo-Jung’s PTSD with the ultimate aim of shutting down Doldam hospital. Once again, the show displays no qualms in painting President Do as being completely evil as he advises the psychologist to push Seo-Jung hard, even if it causes her to crumble. As expected, Seo-Jung emerges victorious through the questioning and is able to keep her PTSD under control. However, this wasn’t as glorious a moment for me because I felt that we were shortchanged from observing her whole journey of overcoming that. Given that her PTSD was rooted in what happened with her boyfriend and she hears voices from him, it would have been good if the show explored how she relieved herself of that guilt and made peace with it. On a related note, we still don’t know what happened in the five years between her falling down in the mountains and us meeting her again in Doldam Hospital. How did her relationship with Master Kim begin? Actually, it would be really nice if such backstory was juxtaposed against Master Kim’s praise of her in this episode.

While Seo Jung experiences victory, Master Kim doesn’t seem to fare so well and it seems like his fate is on the line. Just then, Dong-joo wheels in Chairman Shin, which throws a wrench in Dr Song’s plans to prevent Master Kim from operating on Chairman Shin. What’s going to happen next? I have to say I’m genuinely keen to find out more. The series has been doing well thus far ratings-wise and this episode in particular performed excellently, ranked first at at the nation-wide and Seoul AGB ratings at 23.3%! It’s not hard to see why because the characters are ultimately compelling and the storylines are relatively straightforward, while exploring meaningful ethical issues. As long as it continues to tighten up its focus on its characters and build them up more fully, I can foresee that it will continue to attract more viewers to join in the ride.

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