Hospital Playlist – Finale

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Hospital Playlist delivers a mega-finale of almost two hours long with medical cases and movements in all the love stories involving our five core members and their residents. Most of the developments pave the way for a second season (which has just been confirmed – YAY!) and it’s only Jeong-Won and Gyu-wool’s long-drawn “courtship” that gets a happy ending in this episode. While I felt the finale suffered a little in pacing due to the long length and way too many cases to follow, it was a heartwarming and heartfelt end to what has been a very enjoyable series.

One idea that tied many of our characters’ stories together in the finale was that of crossroads. Many of them are at decisive points in their lives, where they need to make critical decisions that will affect their professional lives, their love lives or both.

For Song-Hwa, she has already made that decision in Episode 11 on her own to move to Sokcho branch to rest and fix her neck problem. I always enjoy the confidence of her character, which comes from a position of moral clarity as she knows what is right and what needs to be done. Because of that, all her residents even line up to see her for advice above their research, about their love life or about work in general.

It is only with Ik-jun’s recent confessions of liking her that that she has been more tongue-tied lately, where her usual eloquence is replaced by an uncertain silence. She was similarly silent with Chi-hong’s awkward act of placing his hands on her shoulders last week, but that silence conveyed discomfort and unease. However, with Ik-Jun, I saw her silence revealing a sense of dilemma.

Throughout the series, Song-hwa has been so strongly independent and comfortable with spending time alone. What she’s struggling with also is admitting to her feelings and therefore becoming more vulnerable. I really liked the camera work in this scene – portraying both Ik-Jun and Song-Hwa as being at the ‘borders’ of the middle windowpane – they are clearly in separate spaces, but they are now in that in-between space, whether to move forward and be together, or to move out and therefore be separated again. What’s even more brilliant is that we can see Ik-Jun has moved more towards the centre, slightly away from the border, with his confession – whereas Song-hwa is at the border. My hope in Season 2 is for Song-hwa to agree to exploring the relationship and then seeing how they move from close friends to lovers.

While Song-hwa and Ik-Jun handle more personal cross-roads, we see both Jeong-won and Seok-hyeong struggling with bigger decisions. For Jeong-won, he finally makes about whether to take on priesthood and stay at the hospital. His friends, his parents and the hospital are all clear on what the better choice is. For him, it has been such a huge struggle as he sees priesthood as the best way to honour God. However, he has realised that staying in the hospital allows him to serve God and do good as much. As Song Hwa tells him, “Stay here and save more lives.” The episode certainly affirmed that with his tireless care of the girl for four days, and the whole family noticing and observing it.

Part of me was fearful that the show would go down the over-sentimental line of him struggling and then finally deciding when Gyu-wool cries in front of him. However, the show took a much better route by allowing Jeong-won to make that decision first, and then deciding that Gyu-wool was one of the first he wanted to tell, even before the other guy friends.

Yet in deciding to stay on, he is not abandoning God or his religion – and once again, I enjoy the camera-work and directing of the show as the rosary that Jeong-won carries on his wrist is often highlighted or zoomed in on at critical moments, an affirmation too that kindness and love comes from his desire and love for God.

Seok-hyung has similarly big decisions to make in this episode, both professionally and personally. Regarding the decision to take over his dad’s company, though he was placed in a dilemma, all along we knew what choice he would make. Him going through the thinking process also gave him clarity on what he wants in life and what he want.

As he tells his friends, “I don’t want to waste time. My time is too precious for that. I want to live doing the things I like and the things I want to do right now. That’s why I wanted to start a band. I used you guys.” His touching moment makes everyone silent and awkward, and this is broken by Ik-Jun when he says “As if”, and everyone laughs together. These wonderful friendship moments are what make this show shine.

While making the right choice professionally, Seok-hyung still wavers in his love life, not because he was hurt by his divorce, but because of how much he felt his ex-wife, Sin-hye, was hurt by him. He tells Ik-jun that he does not want Min-Ah to be hurt and that he asked her to date someone better, because his life is complicated. As a caring and loving friend, Ik-jun offers him a different perspective gently – “If you weren’t divorced and in this complicated situation, you would have dated Dr. Chu” and he advises Seok-hyung to open up himself to love again.

Seok-hyung thinks him and Min-ah are back to a professional relationship after he turned her down. However, it certainly is not. This is where the production of this show shines – as Seok-hwa voices over about how the friends differ in terms of how they like to eat, she and Jeong-won share that Seok-hyung loves eating ramyeon by himself while watching videos. However, we see him genuinely smiling even as Min-ah barges into his office with a drink and fishcakes and he enjoys eating together with her.

At the end of the finale, he is faced with a dilemma – whether to open himself up and agree to have dinner with Min-ah, or to protect himself and reject her. He decides to turn her down, and gets a call from Sin-hye. This is one storyline I’m keen to see in Season 2, because Seok-hyung obviously was very affected by this experience. What Season 1 hasn’t been so good at doing is to show us how our characters who have been hurt have healed emotionally. We are aware that there are characters like Ik-Sun, Ik-Jun, Seok-hyung who have experienced pain in their love life. With a second season, let’s hope the show can go more in depth to explore these areas.

And finally, we have Jun-Wan. While he’s professionally adept and makes good decisions, we see him this episode that Jae-hak, who has been under his mentorship, rises to the occasion and makes a critical decision to save the man with a punctured aorta. It is also Jae-hak that helps Jun-wan to make an important decision on the relationship to send Ik-sun a ring. It was endearing to see Jun-wan being so lost and uncertain.

He makes the decision to send her the ring. However, the package he has sent to her is returned. They are such a sweet and adorable couple that we really want the best for them, so let’s hope Season 2 explores them working out these issues in a mature and healthy manner.

The song “You to Me, Me to You” that ties the finale together is a fitting ensemble piece that celebrates how relationships of all sorts – friendship, colleagues, family, love – have been at the core of this wonderful show. While many questions remain unanswered at the end of this season, what we are left with is a comforting sense that these friends will always be there for each other and their friendship is definitely something I’m looking forward to enjoying once again in Season 2. Thank you Hospital Playlist for a wonderful journey. Ending off this review with the song that ends off this season.

The King Eternal Monarch Episode 12: Key Moments

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The King Eternal Monarch slows down in Episode 12, giving us much more OTP moments and some interesting revelations. There’s not much in terms of plot movement, but that is not a bad thing as we get more invested in our characters. Here were some key moments for me:

Court Lady Noh

The biggest revelation in this episode came like a punch at the end, in a quiet conversation between Tae-eul and Head Lady Noh.

She walks through her family history, telling Tae-eul that her name is Noh Ok-nam, her father is Noh Gi-seop, her mother is Shin Jeong-ae and her sister is Noh Yeong-nam. She was born in 1932, in Pyoksong of Hwanghae Province and she left her hometown at 17. Since then, she has not heard any news regarding her hometown for 67 years.

This opens up a huge storyline about what happened to Ok-Nam, why she came over to Corea and how that ties to the story of Lee Rim and Lee Gon’s parents. Of course, this also reveals that Lee Rim was not the first to travel across the universe and Head Lady Noh must be familiar with the use of the flute to travel across universes and its consequences. I am interested to see where this takes us.

Prime Minister Koo & The consequences of travelling

We were earlier led to believe that Lee Rim and Lee Gon were the only ones who experienced pain when there was lightning and thunder. However, in this episode, we see that it’s no longer just them, but also Lee Rim’s henchman. And not just them – but also Prime Minster Koo! This confirms that she was the one in the car that Yeong was chasing. And therefore that she too is somehow involved in Lee Rim’s bigger plans, as she drove away when Yeong was shot.

I’m still a little uncertain about Prime Minister Koo’s motivations and grand plans. Her scenes thus far have been brief and focused on her wanting to be married to Lee Gon – but why? We know in this episode that she is status-conscious and her term is running out soon. Once her term ends, she’ll be back to just being the daughter of a fish-monger. Yes, so we know she wants to marry him to continue having power and status. Why are these so important to her? Her character has not been fleshed out much and currently just seems like another chess piece in Lee Rim’s big plan.

There are many theories about why the pain from lightning and thunder only affect a few, but not others – like Shinjae, Tae-eul, Luna, Yeung or Eunseob. Right now, we can see that these are the four who have moved across the universe, but have not attempted to disrupt the order. They have not been involved in taking out anybody in the other universe and largely been there to maintain order. However, the pain also affects Gon. This points to the possibility that Gon may have also done some things to affect the order of both worlds, but this has not been shown to us yet.

Our OTP: Lee Gon and Tae-Eul

While I’m taking to them as a couple more, the timelines are getting wildly confusing. The scene where Lee Gon confesses his love to Tae-eul caused much confusion earlier as to whether it actually happened, given that he just disappeared. Thus far, we are led to believe that the confession and the flowers were given before the events in Episode 11 and 12.

Strangely, in this episode, Tae-eul says to Lee Gon after she’s first seen by the doctor that she was afraid that their moment in the bamboo forest would be their last. Okay, so that confession and flower-giving moment has not happened yet? However, later on, when Tae-eul is asked to choose her clothes, she sees the coat that Lee Gon is wearing being hung up and she remembers the moment he came to her with the flowers and confessed to her. If that’s a scene from the future, then why does Tae-eul remember it? Or was it a dream?

That point notwithstanding, I enjoyed their other interactions. Like mentioned before, Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Eun do have good chemistry and they are very natural and relaxed around each other. In terms of the writing, we see them getting to know each other more as they walked towards the church and took their first photograph together.

The time pauses are getting longer as we learnt in the previous episode. However, because these time pauses take Lee Gon away from Tae-Eul, he ends up feeling more lonely and a sense of loss during them. In this episode, as he is right next to Tae-eul, the reality of being forever in a time pause dawns upon him, which leads to him tearing.

Announcing my first webinar!

Having written over 200 blog entries, I have decided to launch a webinar very soon titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon.

The webinar will cover my Genre, Characterisation, Technical Details approach using dramas like Healer, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Legend of the Blue Sea, Goblin, Suspicious Partner, Hotel Del Luna and The World of the Married. If you are interested to sign up, please indicate your interest by clicking this link and you will be placed on a mailing list to be notified once the webinar is up. Spaces will be limited since it is my first run. Thank you!

Hospital Playlist Episode 10 (II): Song-hwa

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Thinking about my review for Episode 10 yesterday, I realised I completely forgot to capture the scenes with Song-hwa and residents, which were some of my favourite scenes in the episode!

At the end of the previous episode, we were led to believe that she was meeting only Chi-hong for dinner, i.e. it was a date. However, we learn in this episode that it’s it’s not just two of them as Seok-min and Seon-bin join them as well. We see a lot of the four of them in this episode and besides our 5 friends, this is the next group of people I love in this show. At the restaurant, they take turns to tease each other – first poking fun of Song-hwa for her speed of eating, then there’s a fun exchange where Chi-hong and Song-hwa call Seok-min and Seon-bin out for dating, which finally leads to a confession. Their interactions are so natural and relaxed that it’s fun to watch.

Later on, after a discussion is over, they tell her about the intern who got scolded, which leads to yet another cute exchange where they challenge her to swear. She gamely takes up the challenge, yet her ‘swearing’ is so sweet that Seon-Bin and Chi-hong teasingly tell her that they feel blessed by it. Her saintliness is then reinforced by when they realise that she is actually taking the intern out for dinner. And that isn’t all! Later on, when they see a full moon, she asks them to make a wish and her wish is not for herself, but the intern to become a good surgeon. Her only self-centred wish is to get a good spot for her weekend solitary camping.

Let’s make a wish!

Seok-hwa’s almost overwhelming goodness and kindness could easily come off as unconvincing and bland in another show, yet somehow it’s believable and we buy it in this show. This is because of how the dynamics have been set up, such that the show does not overly exalt her goodness and uses her residents to mimic our reactions to her. In some strange way, the fact that the residents tease her for her goodness and find it amazing makes it easier for us to accept. It’s both heartwarming and funny to watch.

A show that is willing to poke fun at its own characters is always fun, and while we know Song-hwa is virtuous and selfless, she’s also has quirks that both bewilder her friends and endear her to them, like the ravenous way in which she gobbles down her food. She’s also human in the way she takes care of herself by buying a wood stove for herself, and then a rack for logs. These little touches of characterisation make these characters more complete and relatable.

Although I know the show is moving towards a Song-Hwa and Ik-joon relationship, I’d be equally satisfied if Song-hwa ends up in the series without being paired with someone. Not because I feel she does not deserve it, but because I know she’ll continue to be happy and fulfilled leading her life the way she wants to, as she knows how to care for herself. It’s no wonder that almost every mother wants their child to be with her!

Hospital Playlist Episode 10

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U-Ju being absolutely adorable!

It’s really rare to have a show that can create so many charming and lovable characters, but Hospital Playlist has accomplished this feat. You would think having five main characters to focus on is difficult enough, but the show is still able to give its side characters meaningful storylines that allow us to feel for and relate to them.

I particularly enjoyed Jae-hak’s storyline this week. Stuck between his patient and Professor Cheon, Jae-hak is at a complete loss. Professor Cheon knows what’s right for his patient, but refuses to insist on doing it. When the patient refuses to get an enema, Professor Cheon just lets him be. In desperation, Jae-hak runs to Jun-wan to get advice. Jun-wan tells him firmly and sternly to do whatever he can to ensure the patient gets the enema, because “if the doctor gives up on a patient, he isn’t a doctor anymore.”

Jae-hak runs off immediately and the next time we see him, he’s with Seok-min and Chi-hong and he tells them he managed to convince the patient. They ask him how he did it, expecting some impressive tale, but Jae-hak tells them awkwardly that he did so by begging the patient, telling him that he would lose his job if he didn’t do it. He’s ashamed to share it, but Chi-hong affirms him of his efforts and he is encouraged. The biggest affirmation comes when he receives a note of thanks from the patient, thanking him for not giving up on him. He breaks down and cries, which was a really touching scene. I enjoy how Hospital Playlist plays up the vulnerabilities of these doctors and doesn’t aim to show them as supremely brilliant or competent. Just like how Gyu-Wool learnt how to explain the case better to a patient, Jae-hak also learns through this situation how to protect the life of his through his genuine care and willingness to learn.

Besides Jae-Hak’s story, I also appreciated how the show started to show more of Jung-won’s tensions in this episode. While he has decided to become a priest, we also know he’s an excellent doctor and relates so well to children. This is affirmed by Jong-So and Rosa’s conversation, but also by the many scenes we’ve seen in the series of his interactions with children. He truly has a good heart and wants Song-hwa to take over as ‘Daddy Long Legs’, so that the good work he has started can continue even as he leaves the hospital. He has also made arrangements such that funding can continue.

However, just as he decides to go, we also get hints that he may be developing feelings for Gyu-wool. Ik-Joon, being the big-hearted friend that he is, also tries to engineer a situation for Jung-won to come clean with his feelings by asking Gyu-wool to bring in a bouquet of roses and pretend she was proposed to. Jung-won’s aloof reaction and refusal to join in the toast suggests he likes her. Later on, when Ik-Joon asks him point blank about it, Jung-Won does not deny anything as well. Ik-Joon tells him that God will understand if he decides to follow his heart. Jung-Won appears conflicted and uncertain after Ik-Joon leaves. What decision will he ultimately make in the end? It’s not clear cut at the moment, given that we know he’s been wanting to become a priest for a really long time.

While Ik-Joon helps Jung-won with his love life, he seems to be having some good developments with Song-hwa. At this moment, the friendship they share is so strong and they are so comfortable with each other that Song Hwa has probably never even considered him as a boyfriend. To me, it’s quite clear that Ik-Joon still has feelings for her, though he might not be actively pursuing her. In a most telling conversation, he tells her that having a meal with her, or coffee with her, is the way he gives himself a treat. There’s a moment of awkwardness, but perhaps that will be the turning point for Song-hwa to start even considering him as a potential love interest. They would certainly be so cute together and they have great chemistry.

As for Jun-Wan, I am liking his character even more when I see how he handles his relationship with Ik-Soon. He handles it so maturely, even after he learns through Chi-hong that she has been accepted to the medical programme overseas. He does not react rashly, or ask her why she never told him. Instead, he tells her in a voice message that it does not matter how he found out and they can chat more about it when they meet. Even in the last episode, when he saw a message appear on Ik-soon’s phone, he did not react with jealousy. It’s heartening to see such maturity and trust in a relationship, where potential moments for conflict are avoided because our characters know how to deal with them properly.

What I’ve appreciated about Hospital Playlist is that it tugs at our heartstrings through very genuine moments of connection, without unnecessary melodrama, tears or dramatic scores. The characters do not have easy lives by any count – their work is stressful where lives are at stake and they have personal and family issues to grapple with. However, their positive outlook on life and their unwavering support for each other help them get through each day with a smile on their face. I will truly miss these characters and their friendship when the series is over.

Episode Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Upcoming K-Drama Analysis Webinar [update on 23 May 2020]

Analysing k-drama has helped me realise how much work goes into these shows and appreciate them so much more. Having blogged on k-drama for a few years, I would like to share my approach on how to analyse k-dramas so as to enjoy them so much more.

I will be launching a webinar very shortly titled “Unlocking the Keys to K-drama” soon. The webinar will cover my Genre, Characterisation, Technical Details approachusing dramas like Healer, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Legend of the Blue Sea, Goblin, Hotel Del Luna and The World of the Married. If you are interested to sign up, please indicate your interest by clicking this link and you will be placed on a mailing list to be notified once the webinar is up. Spaces will be limited since it is my first run. Thank you!

Hospital Playlist Episode 9

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I really enjoyed this week’s energetic upbeat OST contribution, Songolmae’s “Met you by chance”. The song was fun, and everyone looked like they were really having fun, with smiles on their faces. Rosa clapping and singing along cheerfully added to the joy and Joong-Soo being aloof while tapping along quietly was a nice touch. I’m sharing it here because I loved it so much.

Mirroring this week’s OST, this week’s episode was definitely more light-hearted and more light-touch. Some potentially heavy topics like divorce, depression and marriage were raised, but not explored further. We have small movements in relationships like Song-Hwa meeting Chi Hong for dinner (or are they really – we’re not sure if they are smiling or waving at each other?), and Jung-wan smiling at Gyu-wool, but no clarity as to where the show is really taking this. I much preferred entries like Episode 8 where we explored two characters in greater depth, whereas Episode 9 felt a little touch and go, with no clear sense as to where our characters were heading.

That’s not to say there weren’t enjoyable moments in the episode. Overall, it was still an enjoyable episode, because there’s such chemistry and camaraderie amongst the cast. I always enjoy scenes of all five of them together chatting, teasing, bantering and just being comfortable with each other. Even conversations between the residents like Min ha and Gyu Wool, and our elderly characters like Rosa and Joong-Soo are fun to watch.

The character who had more screen time this episode was Ik-Joon and he is such a lovable character. He’s such a reliable and encouraging friend to have around, as he fetches Song Hwa back to hospital when she has an emergency, runs out of the car to close her door for her, and then waits for her. The case of the father losing weight and changing his lifestyle so he can donate his liver makes Ik-Joon reflect on him wrongly thinking that he knew everything about the world and its people. He then decides to understand more from Chi-hong about what happened to Ik-Soon and pays her a surprise visit at her army camp, which was a very sweet and touching scene.

I’m largely enjoying the show, but if there’s one complaint I have, it is that many difficult conversations or emotional scenes seem to take place off-screen. It would have been powerful to see how Seok-hyung finally convinced his mum to get the divorce, given how we saw her so vehemently opposing it previously. Similarly, Joon Wan and Ik-Soon’s conversation ended abruptly when he asks if they will have to break off, and she has no answer. Surely, that was not how the conversation ended?

Also, for Ik-Joon, how about his divorce and its impact on him and U-ju? I’m ok that the divorce happened off-screen and given that he was already living as a single dad, it likely did not have much impact on him. But how about U-ju? So far, we’ve only seen sweet and adorable scenes of him, but it wouldn’t harm to show the impact of the divorce on him. Jung-wan hasn’t had much of a sustained storyline as well, except for the one-sided romance, of which we have no idea how he feels at all.

Hospital Playlist still remains my bright spot of the week, and one of the more light-hearted and enjoyable offerings currently. Nonetheless, since the show has already created such lovable characters with such strong bonds, it wouldn’t harm if they allowed us to know and connect with them on a deeper level. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for this as the show enters its final few episodes.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Hospital Playlist Episode 8

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Funniest moment of the episode!

What is so enjoyable at Hospital Playlist is that with each episode, we get deeper insights into our characters as we peel away the layers and see the love and warmth inside of them. This was particularly necessary for the two characters who seem cold and aloof on the outside – Seok-hyung and Joon-Wan.

Seok-hyung is often awkward and seems like he is unaware of how others are feeling – which frustrates Minha, adding emotional strain on top of her physical strain that causes her to almost collapse. Kudos to her that even in her most anxious, most stressful moments of self-doubt – she holds on to that shred of strength and willpower within her, and gives her best to her patient and her child. Later on, Seok-hyung affirms her, and tells her that her responsibility – and not her wisdom – is what will make her a good doctor. He expresses his trust in her – that seems to be a running theme of the show, because this is what Song Hwa told Chi-Hong last week as well.

On a more touching note, Min-ha thanks Seok-hyung for the food the other day and asks why he did not mention it earlier. Seok-hyung may seem aloof, but he is watching out for others, and we know this is true in how he expressed his care for Song-hwa the last episode by calling her so early in the morning.

While Seok-hyung seems aloof and unaware, Joon-Wan is intimidating and may appear cruel. However, when push comes to shove, he stands up for Jae-Hak and puts himself forward so that Jae-Hak can avoid punishment. We know from the start that Joon-Wan is reluctant to take up the Chief position. However, when Jae-Hak gets a sticky situation because a patient’s daughter is unhappy with his comments, Joon-Wan steps up to the position, apologises to the daughter and takes responsibility for his resident. When Jae-Hak goes to Joon-Wan with tears in his eyes, I was expecting a touching scene where we see the softer side of Joon-Wan. However, true to himself, Joon-Wan maintains his stern and unyielding exterior and simply asks Jae-Hak to change into a suit, so they can go attend the wake of the baby.

While it may seem cruel for Joon-Wan to ask the parents for the heart of their baby, he has the bigger picture in mind and will not put aside his mission to save lives just so as not to offend someone. Yet in attending the wake, he shows in his own stoic way that he cares, and is there for the parents during their grieving.

Besides these heartwarming and sad moments, there were plenty of humorous, fun moments to provide that nice balance. I enjoyed Jung-Won’s excitement over the baby’s green poop, which causes Song-hwa and Jun-Wan to hide his bread from him. LOL. Then later, we have Ik-Joon’s accident with Song-Hwa’s hot flask, that causes her to wrap his fingers till they resembles Demetan Croaker, a frog in a Japanese anime series. Besides those moments, their tteokbokki dinner and their car ride to their rehearsal were both hilarious, where they discussed serious matters while teasing and joking with each other.

Besides Jun-Wan and Ik-soon, there are several other potential couplings in the show that have been hinted at, but not realised. However, I have no complaints about this because there’s so much love and warmth in all the friendships, work relationships and the parent-child relationships that make Hospital Playlist such an enjoyable watch.

Episode Rating:

Hospital Playlist Episode 7

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Given that so many things happen in each episode, I’m going to change the way I review the episodes by writing about moments I liked and what I didn’t like.

What I liked

1. The camaraderie between the five friends

The five are always such a riot when they are together. The scene with them in the car grilling Jung-Wan about who he is dating was just hilarious, especially when Ik-Joon mentioned that the car smells like “nature”, which means the girlfriend works in outside of the city or a job that makes her sweat. Immediately, Jung-Wan’s phone rings and “My love” appears. I suspect Ik-Joon already knows and is just giving Jung-wan a hard time, but it’s so much fun watching it.

At dinner, we once again witness how tight these friends are as they take turns to offer Seok-Hyung advice regarding his mum’s situation. As all close friends do, they tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. He resists and is still uncertain when the guys tell him to let his mum know, but finally agrees when Song-hwa also agrees that his mum needs to know. The scenes are edited really well, with the necessary reaction shots to show the flow of conversation and gradual softening of Seok-Hyung’s refusal. It’s a really simple scene, but it says so much.

2. Doctors relating to their parents as humans

While we have seen the doctors consoling and supporting their patients emotionally, this episode really showed how doctors helped their patients by relating their personal pain to them. I thought the two instances of these in the episode were really well done.

The first was Chi-hong’s sharing with the police officer during his brain surgery about that he left the military due to an injury, but is now still living well and leading a meaningful life. We can see the hope reawakening in the patient as he ends the conversation by wishing Chi-hong good luck.

Following that, we have a scene between Ik-joon and a patient who refuses to take care of herself because she is convinced her husband donated his liver to her out of guilt. It is so significant that he goes to see her not in his scrubs, but in his regular clothes, showing that he is relating to her not as a doctor, but a fellow human. We have not really seen Ik-joon sharing about his divorce so far, but his heartfelt sharing about how he decided not to waste his own life wins over our hearts and the patient’s heart.

3. Song-hwa and Chi-hong

I’m really enjoying the dynamic between Song-hwa and Chi-hong and how their friendship still has space to develop meaningfully even though Song-hwa does not like him. After Chi-hong shares with the patient about him quitting the military, we find out that Song-hwa already knew about it and she knew about it much earlier when Chi-hong could not do the lead surgery well. Yet, she assures him that she trusts him, because she knows he works hard and tries to understand his patients. At the end of their conversation, she also clearly establishes that she cares for him as a friend. It’s really nice to see that both their working relationship and friendship can still grow, even after the awkward encounter.

What I did not like

1. Joon-Wan and Gyu-Wool

I’m finding most of their scenes so painful to watch because Gyu-Wool keeps putting herself out there despite Joon-Wan being so aloof and cold towards her. I was already rather displeased when he refused to credit her for running after the abusive father, but in today’s episode, him turning down her offer when he has been kind to others just seemed hurtful. Unfortunately, this is also causing my opinion of Joon-Wan to dip, hence I hope the show gives us some clear indication of how Joon-Wan feels very soon. Is he deliberately shunning her because he likes her, but knows that it interferes with his desire to become a priest? Or does he really not like her and is unaware of how to express it? If it is the latter, then I hope the show also explains why.

2. Seok-Hyung’s dad and his mistress

I find it problematic the way Seok-Hyung’s dad in particular is being portrayed as being so downright terrible – not only does he cheat on his wife, he also checks into a VIP suite to avoid the law and asks the medical personnel to bring him an IV drip. The splashing of dirty water on the mistress felt unnecessary and I personally do not enjoy seeing people being humiliated as such.

In spite of the above two minor things, it was yet another enjoyable episode as the show weaved together its medical cases meaningfully with the different character’s personal journeys. We did not go back in time this episode, but there is plenty for us to look forward to as we see relationships growing and the strong friendship shared. Hospital Playlist is truly one of the few shows that makes full use of its one and a half hour run time to draw us into the lives of its characters. I’m loving it!

Hospital Playlist Episode 6

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Hospital Playlist‘s sixth episode deliver more laughs and heartwarming moments as relationships deepen and the characters journey through difficult times together. While many things happened in Episode 6, the key event was Song-Hwa finding out the results of her core biopsy.

Song-hwa confides in her friends

Even before the dinner, Jung-won already can tell something is off even though she acts as if everything is fine. It is particularly telling of how close they are that Song-hwa chooses to tell them about her biopsy the day before the results are out, rather than after the event. She shares her fears with them in her typical Song-hwa manner – calm, collected yet also vulnerable and real. When she talks about how the shape scared her a bit and gives a laugh, Joon-wan asks her how she can joke about it.

As doctors and professionals in the field, her friends all offer to help her – Jung-won tells her that him or Ik-jun could have settled it for her, Seok-hyung offers to call his cousin who works at Jae-an Medical centre, Joon-wan offers to be there and berates her for not rescheduling her appointments. However, she does not need all of that – just being able to share it with them is sufficient. And unlike other scenes of them eating together while they talk while eating, they offer her that listening ear and do not touch the food, until Seok-hyung tells them to start eating.

Ik-Joon, who is the quietest when she breaks the news, turns out to be the one who takes the most action as he rushes down the next day to Jae-an Medical Centre even after a night of surgery. This is after he says during the dinner that he could never wake up that early. I liked how Ik-Joon’s words of comfort had such a calming and reassuring effect on Song-hwa, but also made her reflect on how doctors should avoid promising anything as it would be devastating if anything went wrong. Ik-Joon and Song-hwa then reminisce on the Seok-hyung’s past crush on her after Seok-hyung gives her a call, which surprises both of them. Even though Ik-Joon and Song-hwa are seated one seat apart, their closeness is certainly evident.

We learn in this episode too that Ik-Joon himself had a crush on Song-hwa and may still love her more than a friend. Such a development is definitely welcome, but for now, the genuine friendship shared amongst the five friends provides sufficient cheer. We do not see the results being told to Song-hwa, but we immediately switch to her happily tidying up her desk and it is clear things are fine. We then get the four friends opening her door one after the other to check in on her. It’s sweet, funny and heartwarming.

On the heartwarming front, we also the budding romance between Joon-Wan and Ik-Soon. I appreciate how the show finds the right balance of what happens onscreen versus what happens offscreen and what we need to see for ourselves versus what we can be told. We do not see her at all in this episode and a lot about Ik-Soon through the conversations between Joon-Wan, Ik-Joon and Chi-hong. While she is popular, she was also very hurt by her previous relationship and seems unlikely to want to embark on a relationship again. However, this makes all her responses to Joon-Wan even sweeter. All that we “see” of her are her text message replies to him and that simple “Yes” from her is so much more meaningful, especially coming after Chi-hong tells Ik-Joon of how she would take some time to trust again. Joon-Wan’s dance of joy and silly smile says it all.

While I’m largely enjoying the format of Hospital Playlist, I felt that today’s episode would have done better if it ended on a sweet note with either the Song-hwa storyline or the Joon-Wan storyline. The emotional impact was dampened when it ended with Jung-Won being told that the liver was too big for the baby patient. Of course, it brought home Song Hwa’s point about how doctors should not over-promise, but it seemed like an easy way to deliver a so-called cliffhanger. However, for me, it did not work because we hadn’t seen enough of that to connect emotionally to the case.

There were many big events happening for our five friends, but I also enjoyed the interactions between the minor characters. One pairing that’s really working so well for me is that of Rosa and Jong-Soo. The energy when these two characters are together is just overwhelmingly positive and joyful. They laugh unabashedly, tease each other mercilessly and just enjoy each other’s company so much. I’ve really grown to enjoy their scenes together.

And of course, as the title of the drama suggests, this show is very much about the music that our friends make together. This episode’s song was very apt – Zoo’s “At the Subway in Front of City Hall” – conveying a sense of nostalgic and aptly sung by Ik-Joon. This show certainly continues to win me over and I’m looking forward to spending more time with its vast yet all wonderful characters.

Hospital Playlist Episode 5

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Hospital Playlist continues to whiz from character to character and from storyline to storyline in its fifth episode. The issues dealt with get more weighty and heavy like abuse, divorce and possible cancer for one of the main characters, but there are also many light-hearted and cheerful moments throughout that make this show such an enjoyable watch.

Let’s talk about that mafia game scene between Jung-Won, his mum, Jong-Soo (the president of the Yulje Foundation), his cousin (the director of the hospital) and Seok Hyung’s mum. It was such an entertaining scene!

First of all, you had Jung-won trying to explain the rules to them and then his mum (Rosa) immediately spoiling their trial round by announcing she’s the mafia after he taps her. Following that, they play another round where Jong-Soo is the mafia but he manages to pin the suspicion on Rosa. What is funny is Rosa takes the game so seriously and makes jibes at Jong-Soo on how he is able to run a hospital if he’s so untrustworthy. When Jong-Soo finally wins the game, because the other players wrongly identify the mafia, Rosa gets so angry that she pushes Jong-Soo’s cup, making him spill water over himself. Seok Hyung’s mum even tells him later that she enjoyed herself a lot. It’s really nice to see the older generation having so much fun interacting and keeping each other company.

In that same mafia game, Jung-Won gets questioned about whether he likes anyone and he claims he is in love with the Lord, earning him a smack from his mum. On that note, I thought it was rather mean of him to completely ignore Gyu-Wool’s attempts to chase the abusive father; even if he does not like her, some form of acknowledgement would have been nice. Besides Gyu-Wool, we also have Chi-hong who’s not doing too well in the romance department as Song Hwa asks him point blank whether he likes her and asks him to stop liking her. He tells her honestly that this is not something he can just stop.

On a more positive note, we have some funny yet sweet moments between Joon Wan and Ik-Sun as she mistakes him as a thief and delivers the most vicious kick ever. However, the next morning, she forgets his phone and he delivers it to her and also asks her out at the same time. She seems surprised and we don’t get an answer in this episode, but let’s hope things move forward in the next because it wouldn’t harm to have more positive energy in the romance aspect of the show.

However, even without romance, this is definitely a show with a lot of heart as these are brought out through the medical cases. This week’s hospital cases, though brief, have certainly touched the hearts of the medical staff and also us viewers. The husband serenading upon the healthy birth of his child was certainly sweet and so was the scene of the daughter, her mother and father crumbling into tears after the successful liver transplant. Ik-Joon pulling his mask over his face to cover his tears just made it even more heartfelt and funny at the same time.

Moving from sweetness to sorrow, Seok Hyung’s problems certainly got even messier this week as his father’s mistress approaches him to persuade his mum to divorce, putting him in a difficult position. At a dinner early in the episode, he also speaks more of his divorce and how difficult it must have been for his ex-wife because of him and his family. Song Hwa is more detached from the group this week as she learns that she may have breast cancer. Thus far, we have seen the more confident and strong Song Hwa, able to handle matters and her emotions well on her own. With this news now looming, let’s hope she opens up so that her friends can journey together with her in finding out what is wrong.

Hospital Playlist does a really good job juggling and moving so many different plotlines. While each plotline is not particularly new, what is refreshing is how these storylines are intertwined such that we get a sense of our five friends journeying through the ups and downs of life together – whether as a group of five, or in smaller pairs or groups. I also enjoy seeing how supporting one another need not always be about big gestures, but can be done through small actions like offering sweets, collectively putting down someone your friend hates and simply providing a comfortable space to discuss heavy topics with ease.

Hospital Playlist: Episodes 1-4

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Hospital Playlist is the second in the Wise Life series following Prison Playbook. It is a collaboration between writer Lee Woo Jung and director Shin Won Ho, who came together also for the highly popular Reply series of dramas.

I was initially hesitant to start watching this series, because I did try watching the Reply series, starting with 1988 but couldn’t get into it because there were just too many characters to keep track. The ensemble style of casting and storytelling was also difficult to follow. I faced a similar issue for Hospital Playlist initially, but was drawn in by the snippets of hospital life, the funny moments, and the musical numbers.

Finally at Episode 4, I can say I’m hooked because I now feel I have a decent grasp of the 5 main characters of the cast. The narrative structure of episode 4 really helped, where we had the “Bong Salon” with Dr Bong gossiping about the five members, whom he describes as the five “nought” because they are all lacking something.

In summary, Hospital Playlist centres around the lives of five doctors who have been friends since medical school in 1999. Having been separated for some time, they are brought together at the Yulje Medical Centre in the first episode when Jung Won recruits his friends to be exclusive medical staff a the VIP ward. However, their ‘reunion’ is not just professional as Seok-hyung will only agree to the contract if the five also agree to form their band again. The setup is done swiftly and slickly in the first episode, setting the stage well for the rest of the series.

I’ve already introduced some of the characters in the paragraph above, but it would be good to do a proper introduction using the poster above. Starting from the left:

  1. Yang Seok Hyung (played by Kim Dae-myung): He is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and comes from a challenging family background. He lost his sister at a young age and his dad cheated on his mum. As such, he has a very close relationship with his mum, who recently suffered a stroke.
  2. Ahn Jung-won (played by Yoo Yeon-seok): He is an assistant professor of pediatric surgery whose dad passes away in the first episode. He comes from a family of priests. While not a priest himself, he is seen as having no desire for worldly possessions and does still aspire to be a priest.
  3. Chae Song-hwa (played by Jeon Mi-Do): She is an associate professor of neurosurgery. Known in the hospital for her drive and professionalism, she also strikes fear in her juniors. While at work, she handles matters with confidence and wisdom, she is completely free and expressive when in the world of music, be it at the band or in her church. She is completely comfortable with solitude and does not mind heading out for solitary camping trips. She is the lead vocalist of the band and often goes out of tune, which is ironic given that Jeon Mi-Do in real life is an award winning artiste.
  4. Kim Joon-wan (played by Jung Kyung-Ho): He is the chief professor of cardiothoracic surgery and is known to be cold-hearted yet excellent in his job. He is distant and issues medical advice without warmth, even when his patients are in very emotional situations. However, his actions speak louder than words. As of episode 4, we have hints of a budding love story between him and Ik-Joon’s sister, Ik-Soon, who serves in the military as a major.
  5. Lee Ik-Joon (played by Jo Jung-Suk): Ik-Joon is the character whose personal life has been the most fleshed out at the moment. As his wife was working overseas, he has single-handedly raised his son for most of his life and thus has a very close relationship with him. However, in Episode 3, his wife returns and they undergo a divorce. As a doctor, he is warm and friendly, building a rapport easily with his patients.

For shows like this, the chemistry in the core ensemble will make or break it and I have to say, it really works well. Besides making music together, there’s a beauty rhythm and energy in all the scenes when the five of them are together. They chat about the most trivial things (like how they have changed with age), banter with each other, squabble about which song is their favourite, while also opening their food packets, passing cutlery and eating their food. They are so comfortable with each other that they lie down while chatting, open each other’s drawers to help themselves to snacks or eat each other’s instant noodles. Professionally they work well together as well as Jung-won frees himself in spite of his many surgeries, so that he can be there to support Seok Hyung’s surgery.

Their scenes making music together are also so much fun, especially that hilarious Karaoke Scene in episode 3 where they sang “Aloha”. Their snazzier version of Canon at the end of Episode 4 was also very well-constructed as it started off with Seok Hyung’s audition when they first started their band in 1999, then we moved between past and present, as they grew in their musical skills together. Of course, the music is lent greater emotional weight because the songs feature prominently in the episode, like how Canon was played when the baby suffering from anencephaly was born, so that the mum would not hear the crying sounds.

As if having 5 characters to follow is not enough, the show has so many other characters like fellow doctors, nurses, medical students, family members and of course, all the patients. However, these different characters serve as a way for the show to shed further light on our main characters and are often well-used to deepen our understanding of them. This was particularly well done in Episode 4, where we understood the reserved and socially awkward Seok Hyung not only through his actions, but through what the other characters said about him, particularly Nurse Han who returns from her maternity who tells nurse Min-ha of when she complains about Seok Hyung’s request to cover the baby’s mouth.

Given that this is a medical drama, I cannot avoid talking about the cases our characters handle. I’m glad to see that Hospital Playlist has found the right balance between showing us enough of the medical cases for us to understand and feel for the characters, while also showing us how our key doctors handle the cases and weigh difficult decisions. Unlike Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, where we have extended scenes of medical procedures with very precise terminology and language used, Hospital Playlist keeps its surgery scenes brief, trying instead to show us the variety of cases and conundrums our doctors face. Rather than being overly focused on medical details, the series brings us through the daily lives of the doctors as they see patients, operate, eat food at the cafe or in their pantries and spend time with their families. Ultimately, this light-hearted drama shows us that relationships are what sustain us through each day.