After focusing on Dong-joo for quite a few episodes, our focus this episode is on Seo-Jung as we witness her growth in making decisions and taking actions to save lives.
Seo-Jung’s sincerity has never been in question. Being a doctor is her passion and it consumes her entire being in a good way. When treating a patient, her eyes light up and she becomes fully engaged, doing everything she can for her patients. Unlike Dong-joo whose journey is really about getting his motivations right, Seo-Jung’s motivations have never been in doubt. For her, the journey was about gaining confidence and assertiveness. While I do appreciate her humility and respect towards Master Kim, I did feel that she’s too subservient to him, allowing him to put her down continually. In this episode, she looks Master Kim in the eye and defends her choice to let Do In-bum operate even though that’s clearly a violation of the rules. It’s a moment of courage that we haven’t seen from her and I like that Master Kim withholds any outright affirmation because he’s not one for kind words. She finds her own affirmation when she sees the wife of the patient she saved, hugging him in gratitude and tears.
We also get explanation of why she looked at Im-bum with such a stunned look at the end of the previous episode as it is revealed that she is President Do’s daughter. While I found this a little too neat, I hope it suggests that we can eliminate Do In-bum as a love rival for her because the last thing I want to see on this show is a love triangle. Her backstory is used to reinforce her growth. When recounting her first meeting with In-bum as a child, she tells us that her dream was not to be a good doctor, but to be acknowledged by President Do. This is followed by a scene of him walking down the stairs, expressing his disappointment in her. She looks shaken by his words. When she finally sees the patient she’s treated and says “It’s okay. That’s enough. I did the right thing. I did”, she’s responding to both Master Kim and President Do’s comments about her over the day. She’s now gained the confidence to judge when she’s done a good job, without needing the acknowledgement of others. Seo Hyun-Jin really shines in this episode as she portrays the emotional journey of Seo-jung so subtly yet powerfully through all her facial expressions.
On the note of President Do, I continue to be unconvinced by the simplistic portrayal of him as an evil villain who mercilessly pursues profits and self-gain. And worse of all, he’s also a terrible father, giving his son a slap without recognising that his son saved someone’s life. Because of this, I’m also less invested in the ongoing battle between him and Master Kim, which he was already evidently losing even before this episode. I really hope we get more humanising moments, so that the character of President Do is more believable.
Related to the tussle between the two characters, I found the portrayal of Master Kim in this episode to be rather jarring and I’m not sure where his character is really heading. I get that Master Kim is not a clear cut good guy and that he’s ruthlessly pursuing vengeance for what was done to him. However, I’ve always thought that he was meant to celebrate the heart of what medicine, which is about saving lives, and that Doldam Hospital was supposed to represent a return to that simplicity of treating patients through the skillfulness of the doctor’s hands, rather than relying on protocol and modern technology. As such, Master Kim’s continual manipulation of CEO Shin by requesting for modern equipment, almost at the expense of CEO Shin’s life, seemed to be rather inconsistent with his message about putting patients’ lives first. I was equally concerned by the ending, where we see Dr Song and his team coming to join Doldam Hospital and Master Kim smiling. It seems as if Master Kim is trying to convert Doldam Hospital into a mini-version of Geodae Hospital, with all its protocol and modern technology.
Part of me is also concerned because I did appreciate the tight focus we had on our three protagonists at Doldam Hospital for the past few episodes and there’s so much more potential to further explore their journeys and their relationships. With even more characters being thrown into the mix, it may dilute the focus on the core relationships of the show which have been steadily unfolding. Master Kim’s relationship with both Seo-Jung and Dong-joo has been largely well-handled thus far and I appreciate that we don’t get an overflow of heart-warming, touching scenes between them, but really quiet moments of affirmation which come only after hard-fought battles are done and the dust is settled. We finally see Master Kim express some affirmation for both Dong-joo and Seo-jung. For Dong-Joo, it happens quietly without fanfare, as Master Kim tells him matter of factly that he will now check if Dong-joo is around before he heads off and that things were simpler when he was the only surgeon. It’s an acknowledgement that Master Kim now sees Dong-joo as an important part of Doldam’s workings and that he needs to coordinate his efforts with Dong-joo. As for Seo-jung, Master Kim expresses his affirmation through a nice scene between him, Dr. Nam and Nurse Oh at the end, where he recounts how she spoke up to him with a hint of a smile on his face.
With ratings going up, there is evidently growing attention on this series and I would argue that it’s not the medical aspects that are drawing people to the show, but really the characters. My greatest wish for subsequent episodes is that we get more clarity on where exactly the character of Master Kim is heading, because he is really the core of the show. In doing so, I hope the show also sheds more light on what the “Romantic Doctor” in the title means.