Dr. Stranger challenges me as a recapper to find new and fun ways to describe how random, repetitive, and/or wildly ridiculous it is. Today’s episode was like the best of all three of its fatal flaws combined into one handy dandy nugget. The will he operate-won’t he operate mind-changing over the first operation battle in episodes 8 literally got a fresh coat of pain in the form of a new patient and the entire pointless endeavor got rehashed right down to the same conundrums. The medical incompetency and cover-up at Myung Woo Hospital is so extreme and so openly done I’m surprised this hospital has managed to survive its previous medical malpractice suits to last as long as it has. I’m less invested in the political side of the story about what PM Jang has up his sleeve to become President since I don’t think he’s necessarily any better or worse than any politician around. The medical aspect of the story now has a much more hiss-worthy villain in Chairman Oh, a man who won’t blink an eye to sign a patient’s death warrant simply to avoid the possibility of being held accountable.
I want his ass taken down so badly, and it’ll save a lot of wasted plot time if it’s possible to nail all the baddies in one fell swoop. Comrade Cha continues to come in and out of the hospital as he pleases, threatening Hoon subtly or openly depending on his mood and whether he wants to switch it up to keep it fresh. Part of me wants Hoon to tell Comrade Cha to shove it and do whatever he wants as a doctor because he’s clearly vital to whatever big plan needs him so he can’t be eliminated that easily. It’s laughable how this drama revels in making things seem like such a big deal only to then solve it with an easy mind change and zero consequences. By turning the mood of the drama back to intense scenarios wrapped around lighthearted goofing off, the story is now a series of events without any emotional purpose other than what the writer wants to manipulate. All four leads have no character consistency and simply say whatever dialogue is required at a given moment. I miss the early days when DS was nonsensical but at least consistent within it’s nonsensical world. Now it’s just loony tunes and I’m in it for the awkward buzz after each ride trying to figure out what the heck was it that I just watched?
Episode 12 recap:
Jae Joon finally exerts his head of the cardiothoracic department power trip in a positive way by telling the slimy internist professor to stand down just as he’s about to raise hell over Hoon and Soo Hyun sneaking the heart patient out for covert heart surgery. This whole dust-up is so wack I can’t even. Dr. Moon calms the internist down since the surgery hasn’t taken place yet so no harm no foul. The patient is wheeled back to her hospital room, as if she was merely wheeled out for a walk around the courtyard rather than almost having her heart cut open.
Hoon lights upon a brilliant idea and picks this patient as the next surgical battle choice. He explains that patient’s stent is leaking blood which usually can clot and doesn’t need surgery again but in her condition it might not clot and she could die. Jae Joon is game to take on this case and asks Hoon how to determine win or lose? Hoon will concede defeat if Jae Joon operates on her and fixes her properly.
Seung Hee and Hoon walk out together nudging each other comfortably ever so slightly. Seung Hee wonders if Hoon’s plan is a smart move but Hoon doesn’t care as long as the patient gets operated on. He trusts Jae Joon has the skills to do the surgery and even if Jae Joon evens the score with one win in his pocket, there is still the final deciding round three ahead. He trusts himself to win the final round. Seung Hee appears relieved to hear that.
Jae Joon chats with Soo Hyun and he’s onboard with Hoon’s proposal. Soo Hyun raises another worry, that the internist department has been vocally opposing the operation because the stents were not inserted correctly the first time around during surgery at this hospital. There might be a malpractice lawsuit waiting to happen if the patient is operated on and the mistakes of the first operation is uncovered.
Lo and behold, that is exactly what happened and over at the office lair of Chairman Oh, he’s unleashing a can of whoop ass on a third year resident who performed the heart stent surgery in lieu of an attending. The patient’s family was never made aware of that so operating on her now will indeed open the hospital up to a potential malpractice lawsuit. The Chairman orders that the patient is NOT to be operated on, if she dies then it can be chalked up to unavoidable complications. Ugh, this guy is a grade-A inhuman asswipe.
Hoon goes by the hospital room of the patient and sees the son tending to his awake mother. Hoon assures the son that his mother will be operated on, either by himself or by the head of the department Dr. Han Jae Joon. He assures the kid that Dr. Han may have a terrible personality but is very skilled.
Secretary Kim is headed somewhere with a giant teddy bear in tow. He gets a call to head back to PM Jang’s office but Secretary Kim needs to finish this errand first. When asked where he is, he says to convey to PM Jang that he’s making a teddy bear delivery and the PM will know where he is. Secretary Kim walks into a hospital room of sorts and inside is the locked up mother of Park Hoon. She’s clearly mentally not all there as she asks if Hoon is here and reaches out for the teddy bear to hug like it’s Park Hoon. Her room is also full of the exact same bears.
Dr. Moon finds Hoon and reveals that the patient operation likely won’t be permitted because there is a mistake in the first stent surgery so if the repair surgery takes place then it opens the hospital up to legal risk. Jae Joon talks with the third year resident who did the heart stent surgery and confirms the inexperienced young doctor performed it against protocol.
Jae Joon meets with Chairman Oh to request that he approve the patient surgery as the second round battle between him and Park Hoon. The Chairman is about to agree until he realizes which patient it is and immediately shuts the proposal down. Jae Joon tries to plead with the Chairman to allow it, if the patient is saved and the hospital admits the fault in the first surgery but asks the family for forgiveness, then no lawsuit will be forthcoming. Chairman Oh refuses to believe that’s the case.
Finally the Chairman summons Dr. Moon, Hoon, and Jae Joon and the four of them head to the patient’s hospital room together. Chairman Oh declares right then and there that this patient will indeed be the subject of the second round battle. BUT the winner is the surgeon who doesn’t operate on her before the end of tomorrow, and the one who operates on her loses the battle. What the fuck?
Dr. Moon tries to drag Hoon out of the hospital to keep him away from the surgery, giving him today and tomorrow off. Hoon escapes from Dr. Moon easily and runs into Seung Hee coming down the stairs.
He adorably calls out “Jae Hee-ah” before remembering to call her Dr. Han. Seung Hee hears that Hoon will still do the surgery regardless of losing the second battle. Hoon doesn’t care since he’ll work extra hard to win the third round. Seung Hee looks mightily worried and the reason why shows up immediately.
Comrade Cha is flirting with the nurses at the nurses station and Hoon storms over to drag him off. Comrade Cha had introduced himself as Hoon’s sunbae in medical school in North Korea and delights the nurses with his saturi and slang from the North.
Hoon drags Comrade Cha off and the two guys go back to his medical clinic for a powwow. Comrade Cha is there to warn Hoon not to operate on the patient and he doesn’t care of Hoon believes he’ll win the final round. He reminds Hoon how powerful he is that he managed to bring Song Jae Hee here, and he can send her right back. All he cares about is his mission and because of the failure of his last mission this one is infinitely more important now. If Hoon succeeds then perhaps the North will be magnanimous with him and Jae Hee. Allow both of them to be free from the clutches of the North forever and live somewhere safe and outside of surveillance. Maybe even give them money to live comfortably.
Jae Joon sends off Chairman Oh for the night and the two men pause to look up at Myung Woo Hospital. Chairman Oh declares that the hospital has grown so big and saved so many people because he kept it safe. Jae Joon sits in his office and stares at his model castle and ponders what to do. He remembers sending his father off to the surgery and how he wished his father got sick years later when he already became a doctor.
Jae Joon visits the patient’s bedside the apologizes that he can’t do the surgery because he needs to take down the castle first. The patient’s son arrives and the two sit down to discuss the patient’s surgery. The son reveals Dr. Park mentioned a Dr. Han who is very skilled and has a nice personality who could operate on his mom. Jae Joon scoffs at Hoon saying he has a good personality and the son confesses Dr. Park said Dr. Han has a difficult personality. He asks if Jae Joon can operate on his mom if Dr. Park ends up not doing it? Jae Joon assures the son that if Dr. Park said he’ll do it then he’ll follow through but the son asks if Dr. Han can do it in case Dr. Park can’t.
Seung Hee and Soo Hyun discuss how Jae Joon isn’t doing the surgery and Hoon will do it. The way Soo Hyun talks about Hoon clearly shows Seung Hee that she has feelings for him. When asked Soo Hyun stammers that she totally wants to punch Hoon whenever she sees him, he’s just this odd adult-kid hybrid that is hard to pinpoint.
Jae Joon looks at his model castle while Hoon sits at his desk and just stares at the Jae Hee in prison video. He stands up after a long time and smiles at the Jae Hee in the video.
PM Jang and Secretary Kim discuss how South Korean life has gone back to normal despite the threat of nuclear tests from the North. PM Jang wants an update on the surgery battle and hears that round two might be today or else if it doesn’t go through then a later time. PM Jang wants the battle to be as fierce as possible to lure the fish to bite. Since the two contestants are battling then he’s ready to start his preparations. Secretary Kim hands over all the brochures for the hospitals vying for his heart surgery.
PM Jang meets with the President who also notes that the citizens are much calmer this time around even with the threat of nuclear tests form the North. PM Jang points out that increasing security has already cost them more than if they just paid the economic demands of the North. The President points out that PM Jang appears excited by this crisis but he claims to merely be thinking of discussion points in case there is a meeting in down the line. He hands over the hospital brochures to the President and when asked which hospital he prefers, the PM doesn’t pick Myung Woo and instead purposely recommends another.
More blatant PPL as Chang Yi works at her Dunkin Donuts gig and makes a breakfast sandwich and pours a hot cup of coffee. Dr. Kim arrives to woo her with a rose which earns him both the rose shoved back in his face as well as a swift kick in the nuts when he persists in following Chang Yi.
Chang Yi heads to the hospital to offer the breakfast sandwich and coffee to Hoon. He takes a bite and notices Dr. Yang and goes to ask for him to be on his surgical team for this surgery. Dr. Yang agrees but says Nurse Min is off this afternoon and to find another scrub nurse. Turns out Jae Joon called last night for Dr. Yang to agree to be on Hoon’s team and do his best, and Dr. Yang diverted Nurse Min from working this morning.
Hoon wants to ask Seung Hee to be the anesthesiologist for the heart surgery which is a surprise to her that he’s going to defy Comrade Cha’s explicit instructions. Hoon doesn’t care since he wants to save a life. Seung Hee pulls him aside and begs him not to do it. Hoon doesn’t want to let the people who are depending on him down. The omnipresent Comrade Cha shows up and barks at how dare Hoon disappoint him.
Comrade Cha drags Hoon and Seung Hee off to threaten Hoon even more forcefully. Hoon begs him to let him do this surgery and he promises to do his best in round three. Comrade Cha takes the direct route and puts Seung Hee in a headlock and threatens to snap her neck unless Hoon agrees not to do the surgery. Hoon has no choice but to agree not to do the surgery.
After Comrade Cha leaves, Hoon pulls Seung Hee in for a comforting embrace as she apologizes for being used as a hostage to keep him in line.
The patient starts to code again and the internist keeps lying to the patient’s husband about not knowing what’s wrong with her, blaming it on a hereditary condition or allergy to certain meds. The husband asks if there was a problem with the first stent surgery. The internist claims no such thing is possible.
Hoon pushes the son back to the hospital room and finds the patient just had another code situation. The son begs Hoon to help but Comrade Cha is standing right by the window and Hoon cannot accede to the son’s desperate requests to do the surgery for his mom. Hoon is walking away when the son tries to stop him and falls off the wheelchair. Hoon wants to go back and help him but stops himself because Comrade Cha is glaring at him. Hoon has no choice but to keep walking away.
Jae Joon hears from Dr. Yang that the surgery is off and the patient is in even more dire situation as she coded again today. Jae Joon finds the patient’s son waiting for him outside his office and begging him to operate on his mom because Dr. Park won’t do it now. Jae Joon tries to ignore him but remembers himself begging Chairman Oh to bring his father back to life.
Jae Joon can’t take it anymore and storms to demand Hoon do the surgery. Hoon says he can’t do the surgery and Jae Joon reminds Hoon that he’s supposed to be a doctor and promised to save a life. Hoon says he is merely pretending to be a doctor, he can’t lose so that is why he is just a pretend doctor. Jae Joon punches him out because he once thought Hoon was a real doctor and not like Jae Joon. Clearly he was wrong! Jae Joon makes a call and summons his surgical team.
The surgical team hear the circumstances of this risky surgery and how Chairman Oh is opposing it. Dr. Kim is ready to toss in the white flag but Dr. Eun stops him and asks if Jae Joon will take responsibility for all of them if they get fired after the surgery. Jae Joon promises to do everything he can. That’s good enough for Dr. Eun and with her in everyone else also agrees to do the surgery.
The patient is prepped for the surgery and the son thanks Jae Joon for doing the surgery. Soo Hyun is shocked to hear that Jae Joon is the one doing the surgery. Hoon sits in his office still in a daze from where he landed after Jae Joon’s punch. Dr. Moon finds him there and is super happy because the battle is over now with Jae Joon doing the surgery for that heart patient. Jae Joon changes into his surgical scrubs and Soo Hyun goes up to him and just stares. Jae Joon knows this is his last surgery at this hospital and he’s ready to accept the consequences.
There is a lot he couldn’t say while he was here but right now he wants to tell Soo Hyun that his feelings for her were genuine. Jae Joon pulls Soo Hyun in for a last embrace and she looks really affected and watches Jae Joon until he’s walked out of sight. Hoon passes the father and son outside the OR and the son thinks Hoon is here to also help with the surgery and thanks him. Hoon whispers a “I’m sorry” and walks inside. Jae Joon is washing his hands when he is surprised by Soo Hyun in scrubs walking up to scrub in with him.
Chairman Oh is furious to hear that Jae Joon’s team is about to operate on the patient against his explicit threats. Jae Joon walks in to lead the surgery and everyone else is surprised to see Soo Hyun arrive as well. Team Jae Joon Assembled so let’s get this party started!
Jae Joon takes a scalpel and cuts into the patient just as Hoon arrives at the viewing deck above. He looks very chastened to be there and unable to operate. The entire group of horrible Myung Woo doctors all arrive and pass by the father-son waiting outside the OR.
Chairman Oh discovers the surgery has begun and his arrival worries the surgical team but Jae Joon barks at everyone to focus on the task at hand. Chairman Oh calls downstairs and is put on speaker. He screams at the surgery to stop IMMEDIATELY but Jae Joon refuses. He’ll operate on the patient and then tell the family everything before begging for their forgiveness. Chairman Oh demands he stop now and he’ll forgive Jae Joon for everything. When Jae Joon refuses, Chairman Oh screams that he’ll destroy the career of everyone else down in that OR if they continue to do the surgery.
Jae Joon looks up and asks what Chairman Oh is afraid of? If he tells the truth and beg the family’s understanding and forgiveness, then there will be no lawsuit. Chairman Oh screams that it has never happened in his entire career to have the family not pursue a malpractice claim. Jae Joon points out that the hospital has never sincerely apologized before. The surgery resumes but Dr. Keom is so frazzled that he cuts into the heart and the patient starts to bleed out.
Hoon watches all nerve-wracked and remembers the father-son handing their mother’s surgery to him. He hears Chairman Oh order Dr. Moon to get ready to blame everything on Jae Joon. If the patient dies on this OR table, then the hospital can cover up the first surgical mistake and blame the patient’s death on Jae Joon’s malpractice in this surgery. Hoon trips Dr. Moon before he can leave and walks off. The surgery is going downhill fast as Dr. Keom cannot concentrate anymore and even drops his scalpel. Suddenly the OR door opens and Hoon walks in all scrubbed and ready to join the operation.
Hoon walks right up to the patient with her heart cut open and tells the morose team to buck up. Everyone here are real doctors, the ones who should be ashamed of their profession are above in the viewing room. Everyone in the OR looks up at the bad and incompetent doctors in the viewing room looking down at them and it’s all very meaningful and such other than the fact that a patient is on the cusp of dying when while everyone is having a oh so symbolic staring contest.
Thoughts of Mine:
Why does this drama insist on making it appear like Hoon or Jae Joon is racked with doubts about whether to do the surgery when each changes their minds so quickly with just a bit of emotional tugging from the patient’s family? It’s as trifling as a person deciding whether to get up to buy some late night tacos but conflicted because laying on the sofa is just too comfortable. The process is reduced to a meaningless yes and no because we can tell it’s going to be yes ultimately. In the early parts of the drama I would be happy that Hoon was trying to be a good doctor and when his medical ethics came into conflict with being pressured by North Korea to do something, at least he felt the anxiety and pain. Now he’st just like a marionette dancing on strings. I appreciated the drama giving Jae Joon a personality finally aside from angry plotting but it felt so abrupt to see his good side shine through either as a doctor doing his duty or telling Soo Hyun that his feelings for her were genuine. Not two episodes ago he was yelling at Soo Hyun for always taking Hoon’s side and giving him the hand, as well as trying to pay Hoon to not do his job as a doctor. I like good guy Jae Joon, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like he was the nice twin that escaped being locked up in the closet all this time by the evil doppleganger. Soo Hyun continues to be easy to watch filler with nary any individual important in this particular drama narrative of torture, betrayal, death threats, medical malpractice, and vengeance galore. I feel like she wandered into the DS set from a genuine medical drama where her concerns about her medical skills and family strife struggles would fit in perfectly there. Here she sometimes seems like a deer in headlights or randomly inserted into a scene. I still can’t tell anything solid from Seung Hee/Jae Hee but it’s once again easier to believe she loves Hoon to pieces and anything and everything she is doing is to keep him alive and win a chance for their future together. The hows and whys remain elusive but I’ve stopped expecting answers now.
Click here to watch Dr. Stranger.