After yesterday’s lacklustre episode, the show turns in an excellent episode that keeps the politics on the sidelines and gives us very meaty, meaningful revelations about Master Kim’s past. Although it does seem like we’ve been waiting forever for some of the revelations to come to light, late is better than never and the show does a great job of tying together both Dong Joo and Master Kim’s growth into a cohesive and moving episode.
I’ve never been particularly impressed by Yoo Yeon Seok’s performance in this series – not that there’s anything wrong with his acting, it just hasn’t been fantastic. However, this episode was truly his show and he brings so much heart and soul into his performance. There’s a real depth to the character work done for Dong Joo in this episode as we really get to the core of his journey as a doctor. We’ve seen him excel in the art of surgery and he has certainly grown in putting lives ahead of promotion. However, the real challenge comes when the personal and professional intersect and he is forced to confront that when President Do reveals that Master Kim was the doctor who made the choice not to operate on his dad first.
While we were led to believe last week it was due to the other patients’ VIP status, Master Kim explains that his decision had nothing to do with status; it was based on his medical assessment of who was at higher risk of death. We learn later that this is not true, but what Master Kim shares pushes Dong Joo to really confront his beliefs as a doctor. As a doctor, he knows what Master Kim did was right – yet as a son, knowing Master Kim made that decision to neglect his dad causes him much pain, anguish and hurt. It’s this emotional turmoil that Yoo Yeon Seok manages to capture so well, as he gradually processes it step by step.
His first step forward is to tell Master Kim immediately after he learns the truth to go handle the patient with the aortic dissection, while he handles the one with a glass shard in his stomach. Dong Joo manages to put aside his feelings and emotions to focus on the operation, recovering well even after rupturing an artery. However, after the surgeries are completed, his pain is still unresolved and he talks to Master Kim to get some answers. The tone he adopts is not confrontational, but instead of one who needs assurance. He wants Master Kim to tell him it was the right decision, even though it feels awful to know that the right decision meant his dad’s death.
Master Kim tells him that he needs to find the answer within himself and realise he is no longer the helpless boy who’s dad died, but is now a doctor. It’s such a simple, yet powerful line. Dong Joo needs to stop seeing his dad’s death from the perspective of a son, because that would cause him to be upset. Instead, he should see it from a medical perspective that it was ultimately about a doctor doing his best to save lives, regardless of the outcome. Later on, Master Kim tells Dong Joo that the most common lines heard by surgeons are about how the patients were better before the surgery. He tells Dong Joo that doctors hold a heavy responsibility because they handle knives and operate on human lives. The most challenging thing for Dong Joo would be therefore to start seeing his dad’s death from the perspective of a doctor, rather than a son.
His encounters with the two patients help him make that shift as well, as he sees two guardians – one refusing to acknowledge that her husband’s drinking habit caused his death and blaming Dong Joo for her husband’s death and the other insisting that her husband be moved to ICU, not knowing the implications of her insistence. Regardless of how hard Dong Joo has worked to ensure both patients are well-handled, it’s always not enough for the patient’s guardians because they only see things from their perspective. Having experienced this as a surgeon, he understands Master Kim’s predicament and starts to feel less anger towards him. What completes the reconciliation process is that Master Kim stepped in to prevent a lawsuit against Dong Joo’s mum when he attacked the hospital staff. Dong Joo realises that while Master Kim may have made the decision that caused his dad’s death, he did all he could to make up for it. It’s a tightly constructed emotional journey for Dong Joo in this episode that ultimately ends on a satisfactory and meaningful note.
Master Kim also gets much-needed in this episode as we learn that his decision to change his name and leave was ultimately to protect those involved in the surgery. While it was noble and sacrificial, Master Kim also realises that it was a cowardly move because he chose not to take on President Do even though he knew the truth. While his initial response to President Do taking credit for the surgery is just to let it go, he decides he can no longer stay silent while President Do takes all the credit and hides the truth. He finally decides to come out of hiding, because he really has no reason to hide at all. That scene of him walking into Geodae Hospital with his Doldam team by his flanks had such a victorious, glorious feel to it. I loved it! The episode ends with Dr Boo Yong Joo out in the open, in front of fellow doctors at Geodae and the media, confronting President Do.
As much as he’s a teacher to those in Doldam, his team at Doldam has also helped him in his emergence from the shadows. Although we can foresee President Do’s downfall in the finale, it will still be an extremely satisfactory moment because really, the battle was never between President Do and Master Kim, but between Master Kim and himself. Master Kim always had the upper hand over President Do, but the question was whether he had the courage to exercise it in the public realm. The information provided from the Reporter is just additional ammunition to help him on the pathway to victory. We’re definitely in for a great finale next week!