Episode 11 of RDTK was its best yet. While the show has been good, it isn’t exactly the most exciting, but this week’s cliffhanger ending and trailer make me very excited to see what’s going to happen next – looks like it’s going to be an epic showdown!
Before going into the good stuff, I just want to say that the show has certainly been very miserly in giving us more backstory between Master Kim and his student, Jang Hyun-Joo. Given last week’s ending, I was thinking we’d get more insight in this episode, but what we have is simply Seo Jung finding out what we as viewers already knew as early as episode 3. Nonetheless, we do get some insights into the emotional impact it had on Master Kim through the paralleling of Seo Jung and Hyun Joo. When Master Kim tells her that he doesn’t take students, she persistently tells him that she’ll be his student regardless. However, what she doesn’t see is the pain that underlying that comment, that he no longer wants to take students because he was scarred by what happened to Hyun Joo. He deliberately keeps his distance, remaining harsh and difficult as a means of protection for himself from getting too attached and vulnerable. I really wish that backstory would be portrayed more vividly because it’s so fundamental in us understanding how Master Kim became who he is today.
On a broader note, I do wish the show was able to juggle its various threads better and develop them simultaneously, rather than introducing them in one episode then waiting several episodes to reintroduce it. By this, I’m specifically referring to the storyline about Yeon-hwa, who conveniently disappeared in both last week’s episode and this. Also, the thread on Master Kim’s big plans was not mentioned in this episode. What happened also to the earlier storyline about Master Kim lurking around in the casinos? Also, Dong Joo’s mum, who was relatively prominent in earlier episodes, has disappeared from the show.
Moving on to what really worked in this episode, I thought that putting Dong Joo at the centre of the conflict between President Do and Master Kim was just brilliant. Dong Joo has made much progress during his time at Doldam. Although he was competent and capable, topping his class, he came into Doldam blaming the system, with a “whole world against me” mentality. He looked down on Doldam and its backwardness, and insisted on shifting to a place where he’d get promoted faster. He was arrogant and lacked humility, and on a deeper level, he even lacked a sense of purpose, focusing just on doing the “best job”, but without warmth and humanity in the way he carried out his duties. He has since grown to appreciate Doldam for its strengths and become a valuable member of the team because he’s been humbled by Master Kim. He now faces the true test of growth as he’s given the choice to go back to Geodae, with a salary increase and a research fund. While Seo Jung says she would turn it down without even considering, things are not so straightforward for Dong Joo and there’s some part of him that still yearns power and rising up the ranks.
There’s also some part of Dong Joo that needs to feel “wanted”, which he hints at when speaking to Master Kim. Although Nurse Oh objects to Master Kim’s treatment of Dong Joo, I completely agree with his actions because it’s exactly the kind of growth that Dong Joo needs. While he has certainly grown in competence and humility in Doldam, the question now is whether he has grown “deep” to realise his motivations for becoming a doctor, which also guide the decisions he makes. Ultimately, in deciding whether to go to Doldam, Dong Joo needs to dig deep and understand his values, not just as a doctor, but as a person. While I’m glad the show has not overly foregrounded its romance elements, I did feel that this whole conflict was an opportunity for a more extended, deep conversation between Seo Jung and Dong Joo but the two of them barely interacted throughout the entire episode.
Moving on to Seo Jung – she definitely gets to shine in this episode. To say she has regained her confidence following the PTSD incident is an understatement as she really goes all out to defend herself and is unflinching and unwavering in her convictions. While it’s true that doctors are not meant to be judges (something which Master Kim claims himself), we have seen how Master Kim has taken judgement into his own hands earlier. Seo Jung also takes things into her own hands her. While she’s unable to do anything legally, she is able to make the drunk driver confront the consequences of his actions, which also leads to him apologising to the ICU patients. It’s a bit too rosy of an ending, but it did work emotionally. What struck me too was how “alone” Seo Jung was in the whole storyline, without the backing of any other staff in Doldam during the confrontations with the mum. Yet she stood her ground firmly, never backed down and even went on the offensive. It’s nice that the show does not completely condone her actions, as Master Kim tells her that she should be impartial with her patients, yet we can’t help but admire her for her courage in overstepping some boundaries when her moral convictions tell her to do so.
This episode also puts an interesting spin on the relationship between President Do and Master Kim. Beyond being adversaries, President Do was actually also responsible for creating brand name of the legendary surgeon for Master Kim. While he might not be completely truthful, I also would say it’s not completely false as such branding cannot be generated by individual surgeons and require an institution and organised publicity to carry it out. If that’s the case, then I’m intrigued to find out exactly what went down between President Do and Master Kim.
The show has certainly made great strides moving ahead in recent weeks with genuinely interesting and meaningful plot developments. As it moves ahead confidently, let’s hope it also doesn’t forget the other threads it has introduced along the way. Am excited for the next episode!