It’s such a refreshing change of recapping pace to tackle a drama like Dr. Stranger. This drama hits all the right spots for me but in a different way than the other dramas I’ve recapped recently. It’s action-packed and emotionally stirring, with a great OTP romance that fairly cries out for defying all odds, plus tons of easy to hate villains to juice up the joint. It remains a hodge-podge of themes and narrative tones that somehow blends together into a delicious but impossible to describe drama shake. I think the closest comparison would be The King 2 Hearts, a drama that was hard to figure out what it could be about but ended up working magnificently in its own unique way. I’m already rooting a billion percent for Park Hoon and Jae Hee to find a way back to each other, but not in a way where they are together only to be torn asunder again. This drama could even be renamed The Invincible Song Jae Hee with the way she survives a political concentration camp, kidney failure followed by kidney transplant surgery, getting her heart stopped and then restarted, getting shot in the shoulder, and finally falling into the Danube River.
The drama isn’t realistically possible is an understatement, what works is how fast everything shoot by so it’s easy to buy into it and then move on. I rarely see such a tortured OTP that has already undergone so many challenges and painful separations in just two episodes of a drama. Jae Hee isn’t so much Park Hoon’s first love that he can somehow move on in the future to someone else, she is literally his sole reason for existing now. What I want to see is Park Hoon both save his beloved and reach his full potential as a doctor. Let’s not forget this drama is about a genius doctor’s strange journey and the set up is so very meaty to tackle what with Park Hoon once being a doctor who killed under orders of the North Korean government. The South Koreans aren’t much better and there is already a numero uno enemy over there in PM Jang, the dude who sent daddy Park Chul to North Korea and then abandoned the Park father-son there to die. Park Hae Jin and Kang Sora showed up towards the end of episode 2 and it’s a delight to see them though narratively their characters have yet to be fleshed out. This episode was less scary and more fun than the first so I have high hopes it’ll keep getting more addicting to watch.
Episode 2 recap:
Daddy Park Chul tries to convince son Park Hoon to go to Budapest to attempt an escape of North Korea but he refuses because even if he can save himself and his beloved Jae Hee it’s not possible to save his dad as well. Dad takes matters into his own hands and walks out into the courtyard to get shot by the guards and therefore with his death sever the remaining tie Park Hoon has with North Korea. Guh, daddy is the saddest and the best.
Park Hoon watches in horror as his dad is executed right before his eyes and he can’t do anything other than scream because he’s locked on the other side of the gate. He finally slams the gate open and runs out to embrace his dying father. He screams for the OR to be prepped for surgery but Dad knows it’s too late and just asks Hoon to promise him one thing. Hoon cries and Dad says “In the future, never forget that you are a doctor.” Dad dies rather peacefully after having lived a rough second half of his life in the service of the country that betrayed him.
Hoon holds his dad and screams in horror and grief as he’s surrounded by a circle of guards.
Hoon is standing outside the medical facility and staring at the gate where he watched his dad get shot. He looks down sadly at his dad’s glasses in his hands. The scary North Korean comrade is named Cha Jin Soo so I’ll call him Comrade Cha – he walks over to order Park Hoon to do well in this medical presentation in exchange for medical equipment. He takes daddy Park Chul’s glasses and says if Hoon does well he won’t end up like his dad. Hoon leaves with the medical convoy and afterwards Comrade Cha asks a subordinate to find out what the medical patient Song Jae Hee’s relationship is with Park Hoon. Jeez, he’s scary and smart, definitely not a good combo for Hoon to battle.
The action moves to Budapest, Hungary where currently South Korean Prime Minister Jang Seok Joo is arriving at a rousing speech assembly. His secretary Kim Tae Sool (the guy that little Park Hoon gave a lollipop to) hears something whispered in his ear.
An ambulance pulls up outside a hospital in Budapest and nurses run out to bring a sedated Jae Hee inside. Suddenly Hoon hears Comrade Cha call his name and turns to see in shock that his nemesis has showed up in Budapest as well. Comrade Cha claims he’s here for the medical equipment donation negotiations and then reveals that he was surprised to hear that this female patient was Park Hoon’s classmate during his days in Pyongyang. He leaves with a smirk and Park Hoon looking concerned.
Prime Minister Jang gives a speech about the South Korean economic recovery since the IMF crisis. Secretary Kim goes outside and accepts a bag full of cash from an unseen donor to help with PM Jang’s re-election campaign. He heads back to the hotel room to deposit the bag of cash and is shown a video of the North Korean medical convoy arriving in Budapest. Secretary Kim recognizes Comrade Cha as the North Korean government official that handles South Korean liaisons. He sees footage of Park Hoon and asks why the South Korean embassy is keeping tabs on this group? He’s surprised to hear that someone in the group has requested asylum with the South.
At the hospital, Park Hoon is secretly handed two vials of medicine that the Hungarian doctor has prepared for him. Clearly is the doctor is involved with Hoon’s plan to escape and seek asylum with the South. Whew, at least he has some help.
Hoon goes to check on Jae Hee and sighs deeply. He cleans her wound and makes her comfortable again which is when Jae Hee opens her eyes. She immediately recognizes him and calls out “Hoon-ah”. Hoon confirms she recognizes him and they both start crying. She asks about her dad and Hoon looks down and says nothing which is answer enough. Hoon asks Jae Hee to trust him no matter what’s going to happen. She nods and he snaps open a vial and drops it in her eyes. Jae Hee immediately falls asleep.
Comrade Cha barges in to tell Park Hoon that he heard rumors that someone has applied for asylum with the South. He warns that it better not be Hoon otherwise both Hoon and this chick may disappear without a trace. I totally believe his threat. Hoon isn’t scared and stares back at Comrade Cha while grabbing Jae Hee’s hand tightly. After Comrade Cha leaves the hospital room, he announces that Park Hoon has to be the guy who asked for asylum. His subordinates want to take him away now but Comrade Cha can’t afford to have this deal scuttled so orders Park Hoon kept under closer watch until the medical treatment is finished.
Park Hoon secretly injects the second vial into Jae Hee’s IV line and thinks to himself that her heart will stop in three hours time and she needs to hang in there through this.
PM Jang meets with Secretary Kim and admires the bag of cash collected for his re-election campaign. Secretary Kim asks if PM Jang remembers Park Hoon, the son of Dr. Park Chul? PM Jang looks shocked to hear that name and even more surprised to hear that Hoon is in Budapest right now.
Jae Hee codes when her heart stops and the doctors are summoned to revive her. Park Hoon tries to shock her heart into beating again but it doesn’t work and her eyes have dilated. Comrade Cha demands to know why Jae Hee died and the Hungarian doctor comes in and confirms her death. Comrade Cha runs out after him to try and save the medical equipment donation deal. The nurses wheel Jae Hee out while Park Hoon remembers what the Hungarian doctor said – after Jae Hee’s heart stops he had only 5 minutes to restart it.
Hoon fights with the remaining two North Korea guards to get to Jae Hee, taking one out with a syringe full of medicine and another with a pole to the head. He princess carries Jae Hee off to find a safe place to restart her heart while Comrade Cha leads his minions to capture him. Hoon manages to evade them and ducks into a bathroom though he drops his North Korean flag pin on the ground.
Hoon first wets Jae Hee’s chest area with only a minute left then gives her mouth-to-mouth as well as chest strikes to restart her heart. She starts coughing and Hoon almost cries in relief. Comrade Cha finds the dropped pin on the floor and tracks Hoon down to the bathroom. By the time he arrives Hoon and Jae Hee have taken off. Comrade Cha screams a kill on sight order for Hoon!
Hoon and Jae Hee run to a waiting car outside and start to drive off. Too bad they get into a car accident right outside the hospital before they even drive one block. LOL whut? Park Hoon’s evasive skills continue to impress as he manages to steal a motorcyle and gets on with Jae Hee riding behind him. LOL double whut? She woke up moments ago and now can ride on a motorcycle? Thankfully Park Hoon isn’t an idiot and has managed to tie a strip of cloth around them both so to secure her rightly behind him.
Hoon rides through Budapest evading his North Korean comrades in cars. Jae Hee is alert now and she grabs on tightly. Hoon drives through buildings and down staircases to shake his pursuers but Comrade Cha remains hot on his tail. He’s finally cornered between two cars in an alleyway when suddenly he grabs Jae Hee’s hand reassuringly before revving his engine and riding straight up the staircase towards Comrade Cha and flies over his head. Comrade Cha orders his minions to head straight for the South Korean embassy.
PM Jang is surprised to hear that Park Hoon applied for asylum but relieved the embassy doesn’t yet know he’s the son of Park Chul. He wonders what happened to Park Hoon during this period of time?
Hoon and Jae Hee ride towards the South Korean embassy and they are smiling as they are finally free and headed towards safety. They are so adorable I could weep. Hoon pulls up to the South Korean embassy and runs to the gate to ask the guards to open up. He announces that he’s asylum seeker Park Hoon. The guard radios it in on his walkie talkie and starts to open the gate. Hoon and Jae Hee embrace in happiness.
PM Jang is getting dressed and tells Secretary Kim that the only reason he’s the only candidate for election in his party is because of the ’94 incident and he was the only hero to solved it. Secretary Kim asks if it was necessary to kill her and PM Jang says it was and thanks to Secretary Kim for dealing with her. Secretary Kim remembers taking Park Hoon’s mother away in handcuffs on the back of a car that night she stormed PM Jang’s campaign rally.
As the guard is opening the gate suddenly another guard runs up and tells him to wait. He whispers something in his ear and the guard closes the embassy gates again and locks it. Hoon demands to know what they are doing and screams for them to open up! Jae Hee looks resigned and we see the North Korean have arrived on scene. Comrade Cha screams out Park Hoon which makes Hoon and Jae Hee run for it. PM Jang stares at the scene happening outside the embassy and says after this election he’ll become President of South Korea and before then he can’t have any weakness. He asks what Secretary Kim would do now before walking out with a smile.
Secretary Kim is about to follow him when he looks down and sees a jar of lollipops on the table and remembers little Park Hoon offering him one.
Jae Hee and Hoon are running across a bridge and she tells him to leave her and runaway alone. He refuses but it’s too late anyway as they are cornered in the middle of the bridge. Hoon tries to fight off one guy while yelling at Jae Hee to run away. One North Korean pulls out his gun and stares at Comrade Cha who nods his head so the guy fires a shot at Jae Hee.
It turns quiet all of a sudden in Hoon’s perception and he sees Jae Hee is struck in the shoulder.
Jae Hee smiles at him before she wobbles and topples backward over the bridge. Hoon rushes forward and grabs her hand but she’s still injured and danging precariously over the bridge. The guy who shot Jae Hee walks up and points a gun to Hoon’s head. Suddenly he’s taken out by a long range rifle shot and he falls over the bridge.
We see awesome Secretary Kim perched in the distance with a sniper rifle and he shoots towards the North Koreans on the bridge to keep them away from Hoon. Comrade Cha screams in frustration that he can’t get to Hoon but manages to fire a shot from his gun that strikes Hoon in the shoulder.
Hoon screams in pain but keeps his hold on Jae Hee’s hand. Blood from Hoon’s shoulder wound trickles down his arm and onto her arm. Hoon begs Jae Hee to hold on but she shakes her head in agony before breaking into a smile. She asks him to never forget her while Hoon begs her not to do it. Jae Hee says “Goodbye, our doctor comrade Park Hoon” before she pulls her hand free from his.
Jae Hee falls into the river while Park Hoon cries in agony above. How many times does this boy have to watch his beloved get killed or injured in front of him? The North Koreans are prevented from capturing Park Hoon when the Hungarian officials arrive so they run for it. Park Hoon is taken away screaming and crying for his Jae Hee.
Another time jump of two years and the action now moves to Seoul. A heart surgery is currently in process led by Dr. Moon Hyun Wook where reporters are invited to watch the latest surgical technique. It leads to a discussion about PM Jang needing heart surgery soon so the hospital is selecting the best team to operate on him. Dr. Moon wants this in the news to lure the best and brightest heart surgeons to their hospital. He brings up how the President is concerned about the PM’s health but the reporters aren’t so sure since both men are up for the presidential election.
An ICU code blue is called over the hospital and Dr. Moon runs off. We see Dr. Han Jae Joon (Park Hae Jin) calmly in his office assembling his model house unfazed by the activity outside. He then answers a call on his cellphone. Dr. Moon runs into the coding patient’s room and it’s the patient that he operated on earlier. Dr. Han is already there and calmly asks for this patient to be brought back to the OR. The reporters wonder if a mistake was made in the earlier operation which infuriates Dr. Moon to have his ability called into question. Hospital Chairman Oh Joon Kyu arrives and says mistakes do happen in operations. The reporters ask if he’s admitting to a mistake but Chairman Oh says the more important matter is to save the patient.
Chairman Oh looks at Dr. Han who nods and then calls using the hospital line to Dr. Oh Soo Hyun (Kang Sora) and summons her out to a surgery. Soo Hyun has another doctor finish up for her in the current surgery she’s doing and then heads out. Dr. Han calls two more of his trusted surgeons and their team of four gather together and head into surgery like a team of Fantastic Four. As they are about to commence Dr. Moon runs in demanding to do the surgery. Dr. Han curtly tells him to leave because this is his OR room. Dr. Moon looks up and sees Chairman Oh is not helping him and accepts defeat.
Dr. Moon tries to talk Chief Jeon into having him handle PM Jang’s upcoming heart surgery but Chairman Oh points out that he needs a good team around him. Dr. Moon says all the best are already on Dr. Han’s team which leads Chief Jang to tell him to assemble his own top-team if he wants to rival Dr. Han.
Park Hoon is let out of the detention center and is greeted by fellow North Korean Lee Chang Yi waiting for him outside. He manages to evade her trick tofu in the face and says he won’t fall for it again. He gets into her truck and on the drive he asks if she sold the hospital? She hasn’t because she invested half in it. He plans to sell it and take her half as well since she didn’t do as he ordered. Chang Yi sasses back that he’s just going to take the money to go to China and try to sneak back to North Korea. Does he want to keep doing it until he’s caught by the North Koreans?
Park Hoon wonders why she’s talking with a South Korean accent and Chang Yi is ready to be more like a local. Hoon is insistent on getting the money to sneak back to North Korea after hearing from a doctor that Jae Hee is alive and currently held in North Korea. Chang Yi says it doesn’t matter if Jae Hee is alive, she wants to bring her mom over and still can’t. She managed to earn $30K US dollars and given it to a North Korean defector Mr. Lim who is helping bring relatives over. Hoon scoffs at her gullibility in trusting that shyster.
They head to deliver bottles of water and Chang Yi tells Hoon to hurry up and earn more money if he wants that guy’s help. Hoon sees a coin on the ground and fights with a little girl over it. He notices that her hand has a fractured pinky when she goes to pick it up. He takes another kid’s ice-cream and finishes it before using the stick and her hairband to fasten a make-shift cast.
Hoon and Chang Yi head back to their little hospital and Chang Yi puts Hoon in a head lock to drag him back inside because news of the hospital’s re-opening has led to folks coming to wait for Hoon. They walk inside to find a group of gangsters waiting for Hoon. Chang Yi slips him a cell phone and slinks off to avoid the danger.
Hoon walks inside and asks a tough guy with a face scar if he’s injured anywhere? The guy says he’s fine so Hoon pulls him up by the collar and asks why he’s here at the hospital if he’s fine. The guy points to his gang boss laying in pain on the table and says the patient is over there. Hoon hears the patient has severe stomach pains along with a fever. He jabs the patient in side and diagnoses it as appendicitis and declares the patient needs immediately surgery.
As Hoon is treating the gang boss, Secretary Kim drives up outside the hospital and stares at it. Clearly he’s been keeping an eye on Park Hoon. Hoon finishes the surgery and asks for payment which is when the gang members try to menace him. He shows the still open wound and asks for payment for the surgery and then more for each suture to close the wound.
Hoon gets a call and finishes up the surgery to run off to meet Chang Yi at the North Korean snakehead’s Mr. Lim’s office. The guy reveals that Chang Yi’s mom has been found and brought over. He asks Chang Yi for the final payment and she pays it. The guy makes a call and soon a car pulls up and Chang Yi’s mom get out. Mother-daughter tearfully unite and Mr. Lim hands a hundred dollar bill back to them to get something to eat. Park Hoon watches in shock to see how it’s true Mr. Lim has a way to smuggle a specific person out of North Korea.
Mr. Lim reveals that he pays the Chinese snakeheads who contacts their counterparts in North Korea. Money then exchanges hands and the person is rescued. Mr. Lim teases that with enough money he can bring over Kim Il Sung’s statue. Mr. Lim brings up the name Song Jae Hee and asks for payment from Park Hoon in US dollars. We see someone spying on them through the window.
Secretary Kim reports to PM Jang who is not content to be PM since he’s still one step below the president. PM Jang takes a pill for his heart problem and then asks about Park Hoon. Secretary Kim reveals that he came out of the detention center and PM Jang feels the irony that he now needs Park Hoon’s help as the top heart surgeon from North Korea. He knows it’s going to be hard to get Park Hoon to agree to help him. Secretary Kim hands PM Jang a flash drive.
Park Hoon hands Mr. Lim wads of US dollars as down payment to find Jae Hee. Mr. Lim says this isn’t enough even as down payment but he takes Park Hoon on credit knowing that as a doctor he can earn the money.
Park Hoon heads down into Mr. Lim’s secret basement and Mr. Lim plays a video recording off a flash drive. PM Jang is also watching the same recording in his office. The recording shows a clearly battered and bruised Jae Hee sitting in a prison cell. She looks into the camera and calls out “Hoon-ah” and reaches for him. Park Hoon cries and reaches his hand out to the Jae Hee in the recording to touch her hand. The camera pulls back and Jae Hee’s hand dejectedly drops. Hoon calls her name and looks determined now that he finally has confirmation she’s still alive.
Thoughts of Mine:
This was a jam-packed episode filled with hope and woe for Park Hoon and Jae Hee. How many times can this OTP suffer through trauma and suffering is beyond me. The way Hoon watched his father get executed followed by seeing his beloved fiancee get shot and then fall off the bridge in the river below, each event is devastating enough to merit its own drama much less have both happen in one episode and to the same guy. That afterwards Park Hoon remains functional and optimistic is so telling of his inner strength, and how much he loves Jae Hee. I don’t think he would kill himself after losing both his dad and Jae Hee, but it’s in his personality to track down Jae Hee until he either sees her dead body with his own eyes or finds her still alive. That she is still alive is ridiculous but let’s go with it since I like her well enough and she makes Hoon so happy.
It was crushing to see Hoon betrayed by South Korea again, more specifically PM Jang, but Secretary Kim as well as the embassy folks all went along with it. It’s scary that neither country is a safe haven for Hoon, no wonder he will turn the world upside down to find Jae Hee because she is the only solid rock in his life. I want PM Jang to get destroyed so badly, but think it’s yet early for him to suffer his comeuppance and will wait for him to climb higher so that he falls farther in his ultimate failure. I’m so thankful the action moves this fast in the drama, by the end of episode two the story has moved to South Korea and the hospital side of the story is finally getting started. I have a soft spot for hospital dramas and this one is presented with the usual insider politicking, genius doctors itching to perform complex surgeries, as well as the balance between saving lives and running a for-profit institution. I think Park Hoon will go work there as a member of Dr. Moon’s team and he’ll agree because he needs to money to bring Jae Hee out of North Korea.
It works for me because he can’t continue to run a little clinic on the side with his medical skills rusting doing appendicitis surgeries and bandaging pinkies. He promised his dad that he would never forget that he’s a doctor and I am rooting for him to show both the North and South that the very acting of saving lives is without political affiliation and is a priceless act of service. Kang So Ra’s Soo Hyun and Park Hae Jin’s Jae Joon are both gorgeous to stare at but I hope they have interesting personalities to back up their medical talents. Jae Hee is still underdeveloped since she spent most of the first two episodes unconscious or locked up, but so far Park Hoon’s personality and motivation is so well presented he anchors the entire story. Right now the drama belongs to Park Hoon and he’s a leading man that is so easy to root for. He’s conflicted but doesn’t wallow in misery, pressing forward with finding his Jae Hee again with conviction and hope. It would be even more awesome if the other three leads also get their screen time so that the drama can provide a quartet of main characters that collectively elevate the drama to a deeper level of entertainment.
Click here to watch Dr. Stranger.