Dr. Stranger commits every narrative crime in the book, and then some, as it barrels its way towards an ending that portends everything that no one wants to see. Does it understand logic? It never did from the get go and later on it started to get amnesia on top of that. Does it have an emotional core? Not anymore right now, when it chucks the central romance between Hoon and Jae Hee to allow noble idiocy to rear its head so the obstinate second lead shippers can cling to lies as a safety raft of hope. Jae Hee wearing the undercover mission name of Han Seung Hee decides that Hoon’s life and safety is tantamount to anything, including his own choice in the matter, and throws him at Soo Hyun like a crazy Central Park Lady feeding a ravenous pigeon. The conversation of romance has destroyed this drama to the point that nothing will make either side happy, and ultimately I loathe all four leads equally and no longer does Soo Hyun stand alone as the emotionally-driven idiot. I was hoping Jae Joon and Hoon would have an epiphany-esque discussion about how their fathers are connected on the same side and they are fighting the same enemy.
That would be too easy, and instead a discussion centered around a “friend” leads Jae Joon and Hoon to keep talking around each other while their enemies are stoking a bonfire with no cops around to douse the out-of-control flames. PD Jin claimed the later drama narrative revisions were to lessen the spy elements and increase the human medical drama, but this case-of-the-episode involving lothario Dr. Kim’s sister was as lame and logic deprived as any of the medical cases shown so far. Why bother claiming to focus on the medicine when each case is still about some surgery battle and the stakes are ultimately nil when Surgery Jesus will ALWAYS make the right decision and save the day? Recapping Dr. Stranger was rather cathartic in the middle episodes when things started going to hell in a handbasket, but now it’s fully a tedious and soul-crushing endeavor that I pray will have some sort of payoff when it’s all done. Like my drama girlfriends taking me out for a all night alcohol-fueled bender where my favorite drama oppas show up topless to comfort me for sticking to the end with this.
Episode 17 recap:
Surgery Jesus has resurrected and is ready to save another life! Okay, maybe Hoon didn’t exactly die and come back to life, but this time he’s proactively made a decision to return to Myung Woo come hell or high water. Or come to win the right for a a presidential heart surgery assassination attempt. Completely incompetent Dr. Moon is ecstatic and relieved to see his savior come extricate him from an impending table death.
Hoon gets to work easy peasy as usual, though he sighs at the big ole’ mess Dr. Moon did in the patient’s chest cavity already. Ooops. Chairman Oh is furious and bug-eyed that Park Hoon is back and actually calls right down to the OR demanding to speak to Dr. Yang. He then orders Dr. Yang to intentionally tank Hoon’s surgery at all costs. You know, just your regular run of the mill phone call where the chairman of the hospital commits murder by ordering the failure of a surgery. Dr. Yang hesitates and then says he understands.
Hoon is busy slicing and dicing away and Dr. Yang immediately makes one goof and Hoon warns him that he let things go before but this is it. Dr. Yang makes an excuse and then blatantly commits another so-called mistake not three seconds later. It’s just so face-palm worthy on every level. Nurse Min stares at Dr. Yang with disappointment and censure while Hoon orders him to leave and switches out his number two to Dr. Moon. I suppose overwhelming incompetence beats intentional commitment of surgical murder any day.
Dr. Yang leaves the OR and Hoon resumes his surgery only to have the patient’s vitals suddenly drop precipitously. He yells at the anesthesiologist we’ve never seen before to get the patient stabilized but this dude is clearly an amateur because he just starts calling for a cardiac specialist anesthesiologist. The OR door slides open and Seung Hee walks in since her surgery with Jae Joon is done and she’s the only anesthesiologist around who can fix things. She immediately stabilizes the patient and Hoon finishes the surgery successfully.
Soo Hyun walks over to look through the window into the OR as Hoon and Seung Hee are working together to wrap up the surgery. Jae Joon walks over and stares at Soo Hyun staring at Hoon and Seung Hee. It’s a linear starefest where I really want to pump one bullet through all four of their brains and save the other three bullets from being wasted.
Seung Hee pulls Hoon off to talk once the surgery is wrapped up (leaving Dr. Moon to sew up the poor patient) and the two of them are clearly on two different planets. Hoon is happy for once, with a content smile of someone who really thought things through and made his own decision. Seung Hee is angry that he can smile but he’s all like “what else can I do at at time like this?” I suppose if a meteor was going to hit Earth tomorrow I would spend my last day smiling, too, so he has a point. Seung Hee still wants Hoon to leave and she’ll do the surgery with Han Jae Joon.
Hoon refuses because he will never let Seung Hee walk into an OR by herself again. He knows it’s dangerous and he wants to be with her. Hoon actually says something really awesome next so here goes. He confesses that he was really angry with her when she let go of his hand in Budapest. He was angry that she chose to die so that he could live. He was even more angry that he couldn’t dive in with her because living alone without her has been a painful experience. He doesn’t want to experience that again. Does she understand?
Hoon points out that Jae Joon is a good guy and shouldn’t be swept up into the conspiracy. Seung Hee can’t believe Hoon has time to worry about others. Hoon promises that he will successfully complete the surgery so that Seung Hee can see the President and complete her original plan. Seung Hee is touched but she is clearly not swayed, by hook or crook she is going to keep Hoon safe. Hoon does ask for one favor in a dire situation like this, he wants to see his mom.
Secretary Kim calls Seung Hee to report that Park Hoon went back to Myung Woo so what the hell are they going to do next? Seung Hee insists that it doesn’t matter, she’s going forward with her plan to do the surgery with Jae Joon and keep Hoon out of it.
Hoon walks into Chang Yi’s yard to find her dusting after his mom’s Hoon replacement teddy bear. Chang Yi tries to hide the bear and act like she has no idea about any mom around here but Hoon just smiles and takes the bear before heading inside.
Hoon hands the bear back to his mom who still talks to the bear like it’s Hoon and apologizes to him. Hoon hears it and says he’s the one who did wrong. His mom lifts her head and asks who he is? Hoon tries to tell her who he is but she thinks her Hoon is still 8 years old. Hoon apologizes for believing she didn’t want him and it hurts to see what happened to her because of him. Hoon embraces his mom and cries. Hoon leaves his mom with Chang Yi and asks her to take good care of his mom. She’s worried about keeping his mom safe since others will be looking for her but Hoon just assumes Chang Yi can handle it.
Chairman Oh meets with PM Jang and asks how Park Hoon showed up in time for the surgery? Didn’t PM Jang say he will get rid of Park Hoon. Chairman Oh doesn’t want to keep battling anymore and would rather give up the surgery rights. PM Jang comes clean and reveals that the patient getting the surgery is the President of South Korea and the rewards of the doing the surgery is even greater in money and prestige.
Dr. Moon wonders why Park Hoon kicked Dr. Yang out of the OR and buys his lame excuses. He heads over to ask Chairman Oh who won this surgical battle and hears its another tie. Chairman Oh has found two patients that need the same heart valve repair surgery, one a man in his forties and another a woman in her twenties. He wants Jae Hoon and Hoon to do the battle and this one will be timed again so the person who does it fastest wins.
Hoon looks at the patient’s x-ray and agrees to do it. He’s confident he can win even if his patient is in worse condition than Jae Joon’s patient. Nurse Min demands to hear why Dr. Yang keeps pulling shady shit in Hoon’s OR. Hoon simply pulls Dr. Yang from his surgeries in the future and doesn’t ask for a reason. Dr. Yang volunteers that he didn’t do it for money, he did it because he can’t stand Hoon’s arrogant genius attitude. He has to work hard to get where he is but Hoon just waltzes in and saves the day. He’s even had to do dirty deeds to survive. Hoon reveals he’s done his share of dirty deeds himself which is why he pulled Dr. Yang because if Dr. Yang continues down this path he will ruin himself. Hoon doesn’t want to see that happen to Dr. Yang.
Chairman Oh encourages Jae Joon to do the surgery and offers Jae Joon the acting chairman position once he gets chosen for the surgery. Chairman Oh then rubs his chest (omo does he have a heart problem, too? How convenient) and waves Jae Joon aside.
Jae Joon broods in his office and tells his dead parents that his big revenge plan has almost arrived. Hoon drops by to ask Jae Joon to drop out of the surgery battle and gets laughed at by Jae Joon since last time when Jae Joon asked Hoon to drop out at least he offered money. Hoon thinks Jae Joon’s future as a doctor is a more powerful reason than money but doesn’t elaborate. Jae Joon turns him down with a curt and final NO.
Hoon asks again that he drop out and alludes to the surgery for PM Jang as a dirty mess. Jae Joon asks if it’s akin to Park Hoon’s dad going to the North to do the surgery for the leader. Hoon recollects he never mentioned this to Jae Joon and asks how he knows? Jae Joon shows Hoon a copy of the lawsuit and claims he met a friend in the US named Lee Seung Hoon who is the orphan of the patient who died in that surgery back in ’94.
Hoon realizes the wrong conclusion was reached and explains that his dad didn’t go to the North for money and glory, he went to prevent a war. He also was tricked into going by Chairman Oh and PM Jang. Jae Joon refuses to believe that reason and Hoon asks to speak with Lee Seung Hoon to explain. Jae Joon claims he lost touch with that friend now.
Hoon spots Soo Hyun avoiding him so texts her, all the better for the production to keep the PPL on the LINE texting app. Hoon asks why Soo Hyun is avoiding him and she claims not to be avoiding him. Hoon catches up to her and apologizes again and also wants her to stop worrying about what her dad did since she didn’t do it. He returns to joking with her, massaging her head to ask if she’s working on her hair loss problem and then trying to tickle her to show that he can still act normal around her.
Jae Joon happens to see Hoon teasing Soo Hyun (again) and then runs into Soo Hyun in the elevator. He mentions how he’s willing to act like nothing is wrong between them so her dad doesn’t get upset at her. But it can’t be Park Hoon. Soo Hyun knows that and brings up how Hoon only loves Jae Hee.
Soo Hyun talks with Seung Hee and is ready to ask all the questions and get some answers instead of running away. Seung Hee then launches into a bucket full of made up shit so bear with me as I translate. Soo Hyun asks if Seung Hee came from the North and is doing the PM Jang surgery for ulterior reasons? If so then Soo Hyun won’t let that happen or let Seung Hee get away with it because it puts Hoon in danger. Seung Hee explains that she met Hoon in North Korea but she’s actually a Korean living in Japan. Buh? After she broke up with Hoon, she returned to Japan and finished med school there. Double buh? She didn’t immediately reunite with Hoon because her kidney transplant was done by Hoon using her dad’s kidney. It saved her life but killed her dad so she doesn’t know if she can return to loving Hoon. Triple buh? Then what the hell was that last voicemail you left the dude, Seung Hee?
Seung Hee tells Soo Hyun that Hoon likes Soo Hyun. Seung Hee claims that she can feel it. Mwahahahaha, either of you care to ask Hoon directly about that? Seung Hee wonders if her love with Hoon is tainted by guilt and responsibility whereas his feelings for Soo Hyun is pure and carefree. Seung Hee assures Soo Hyun that after all is done with the PM Jang surgery, she’s returning to Japan. At that time Hoon will pick Soo Hyun so all Soo Hyun needs to do is wait. Seung Hee believes that if it wasn’t for Chairman Oh, Hoon would definitely pick Soo Hyun. Soo Hyun says no, Hoon only loves Jae Hee. Seung Hee smiles and tells Soo Hyun to wait and after Seung Hee leaves then Soo Hyun will see who Hoon really loves. Soo Hyun seems rather stirred by this but at least has a tiny bit of her brain still working because she remains hesitant to buy whatever Seung Hee is selling even with Park Hoon as a prize at the end.
More plot filler as Park Hoon brings groceries to Chang Yi’s place and has her cook a dinner with him and his mom. Where did Chang Yi’s mom go? The great pasture in the sky where Dr. Choi went? The meal is bittersweet as Hoon tries not to cry as he eats food that his mom places on his spoon.
Hoon is at the hospital and teasingly calling Soo Hyun a quack again which gets the other nurses to laugh. Soo Hyun asks him afterwards to not call her such names anymore. Hoon explains he just wants to keep their interactions easygoing and casual but Soo Hyun wonders if that’s possible.
Dr. Kim’s sister (I’ll call her Sister Kim) is a patient at the hospital and watches the interaction between Hoon and Soo Hyun. Afterwards she walks up to Hoon and asks if that doctor likes him? He wonders why she is and tries to send her back to her room and not wander around the hospital.
Dr. Kim gets into a sibling fight with Sister Kim over her ratting his interest in Chang Yi out to their mom while she’s just annoyed with his playboy ways. She reveals that she’s reformed and will be getting married next month. He insults her as using her wiles to land a man and she takes off her sky high heels to wallop him before it ends up in a hair pulling session on the floor. Jae Joon walks in shocked to see this scene and hears that the patient is Dr. Kim’s younger sister.
Jae Joon explains to Sister Kim that she needs heart surgery to repair a broken valve and Sister Kim keeps asking if there is any other option other than surgery. Both Jae Joon and Dr. Kim tell her surgery is her only option.
Hoon meets with his patient and explains his upcoming heart valve repair surgery. Sister Kim hears his explanation and likes his way of talking with patients so pulls him aside to get a second opinion. Hoon also says the same thing, her only option is surgery. Sister Kim reveals that she’s getting married next month and with this surgery will come complications with getting pregnant in the future. She mentions her fiancee as her fated person because they have the same heartbeat. That makes Hoon smile. She pulls out her LINE app to show Hoon pictures of her wedding dress and the baby clothes she already bought for a currently nonexistent baby. Maybe she needs to see a psychiatrist as well.
Sister Kim rages at her fate to have to suffer with heart surgery and make becoming a mom harder. She asks Hoon to pull up her x-ray so she can yell at the offending broken heart valve. Hoon pulls up the x-ray and while she’s yelling at it, his eyes widen as he notices something strange.
Hoon goes to see Jae Joon to ask if he noticed that Sister Kim has Marfan Syndrome along with her heart problem? If so then she doesn’t need surgery right away. The surgery can wait until her heart enlarges and when doing that operation can also do this valve repair at the same time. She can probably wait a few to ten years until the surgery is absolutely necessary, during which time she can lead a normal life and have kids. Jae Joon doesn’t agree, not operating means she’s at risk for heart failure at any time if there is an aortic dissection.
Dr. Kim overhears the two surgeons arguing over his sister’s medical condition. Hoon wants Jae Joon not to operate on Sister Kim but he refuses since he’ll forfeit if he does so since this is the final battle. The final, final, final, FINAL battle. Jae Joon offers to switch patients with Hoon if Hoon is so sure Sister Kim doesn’t need the operation, that way Hoon can be the one to forfeit the surgery. Hoon says nothing and Jae Joon sneers that Hoon also doesn’t want to lose, right?
Dr. Kim goes to ask Jae Joon if his sister really needs the surgery. Jae Joon is certain she does because without it her daily life will be more difficult. Dr. Kim brings up how Hoon has a different doctor opinion but Jae Joon refutes that because without repair the condition can get worse at any time. Dr. Kim wonders if Jae Joon’s opinion is because he has to do this surgery and Jae Joon points out that all the other hospitals have given Sister Kim the same opinion that she needs surgery. Jae Joon also has the opinion that even after surgery she can have kids, it will just be more difficult.
Dr. Moon reveals to Hoon that Dr. Kim is going around asking all the doctors at the hospital if his sister needs surgery. Sister Kim has heard and storms to ask Hoon if it’s true that she doesn’t absolutely need surgery. Hoon admits that is his opinion. Dr. Kim arrives and says Harvard-trained Jae Joon says she needs the surgery. Sister Kim leaves the decision with her brother and Dr. Kim thinks long and hard before telling his sister to do the surgery.
It’s surgery day (again) and Hoon wheels his male patient to the OR and passes by Sister Kim sitting there in a daze waiting for her surgery. Dr. Kim asks if his sister needs anything and she hands her phone to Dr. Kim and asks him to answer her calls because the wedding hall reservation will be cancelled today.
The nurses and doctors all settle in to watch the surgery battle, like this hospital really has no patients who need to be tended to. The President and PM Jang also sit down to watch and the President asks what will happen if it’s a tie again? PM Jang says Chairman Oh will pick then.
Hoon runs into Seung Hee heading into her surgery with Jae Joon. She’s cold towards him which confuses him, as it does everyone watching this stupid drama. He wonders what the heck is going on with her and Seung Hee retorts about how he can not know what he did to her? He asks directly what she’s talking about and Seung Hee says she’ll tell him after the surgery is done and walks inside.
Hoon asks Dr. Moon why Seung Hee is the anesthesiologist for Jae Joon’s team again. Dr. Moon tells Hoon to beat Jae Joon and they can get Seung Hee back. Hoon watches Sister Kim wheeled into Jae Joon’s OR and she looks at him sadly. Jae Joon gets scrubbed in for the surgery and sends Dr. Kim out. Dr. Kim asks Jae Joon to please take care of his sister before leaving.
Hoon’s side is getting ready for his surgery but all he can think about is what Seung Hee just said to him outside, asking if he knows what he did to her? Dr. Kim stares at his sister getting ready for her surgery and gets a text on her phone from her fiancee confirming that the wedding hall reservation has been cancelled. He scrolls through her LINE account and stares tearily at pictures of her in her wedding dress and baby clothes pictures.
The call comes down from Chairman Oh to start the surgery. Dr. Kim runs into Hoon’s OR to ask him to trade patients with Jae Joon and then not operate on Sister Kim. He wants his sister to live an ordinary life after getting married and begs Hoon to help him be a good older brother. Dr. Moon has him dragged out while reminding Hoon that if he switches patients then it’s all over for their side.
Surgery starts for Jae Joon and he takes the scalpel and is about to cut. Hoon is handed his scalpel and he suddenly remembers his dad’s dying reminder that Hoon is a doctor. He remembers telling Seung Hee that he will win and they will do the surgery together. The two conflicting thoughts plague him for what feels like an eternity and everyone watching on the live feed wonder what is going on with Hoon.
Jae Joon is about to cut into Sister Kim when Hoon’s hand grabs his scalpel hand to prevent him from slicing. Jae Joon asks what Hoon is doing and Hoon asks what else could he be doing? I don’t know, maybe pull Jae Joon in for a kiss next? Because that will really be awesome, and this show hasn’t been awesome since episode 2.
Thoughts of Mine:
The Sister Kim medical case taken alone was just lame and pointless. She was never at death’s door and anything could be tabled for further discussion as to whether she should have surgery now, or come back for periodic diagnosis to schedule it for a later time. Because she was part of the surgery battle, it had to be Jae Joon insisting on the surgery versus Hoon wanting what’s best for her. Why is this drama all about forced extremes when really all four leads could comfortable exist in the middle. Soo Hyun could like Hoon, after a short month or so getting to know him, but not act like it her world ended that he didn’t like her back and Jae Hee was around. Jae Joon’s revenge on Chairman Oh and Myung Woo feels so overblown, he’s waited this long why can’t he assess the current situation and change tactics? He likes Soo Hyun now, so what’s to stop him from not getting revenge but instead doing something positive and transforming Myung Woo into an institution of adhering to medical ethics. Hoon’s decision to come back to Myung Woo and stand with Seung Hee was actually understandable, especially his reason why. He really wished he jumped in river with her in Budapest, his life without her was interminable and empty. However much his love seems idealistic and all-consuming, it was all Hoon had growing up in North Korea. I can accept Hoon falling for Soo Hyun one day, I’ve never had a problem with that. My issue was the romance would have to come after Hoon lost Jae Hee either in death or she chose another man. Otherwise Hoon would never fall out of love with her. It makes Seung Hee’s ridiculous lame reasoning to Soo Hyun all the more laughable. Hoon currently DOES NOT like Soo Hyun, Hoon himself has exhibited zero feelings for her other than as a friend. He wants to maintain their casual friendship, but its Seung Hee who wants Hoon to go to Soo Hyun once Seung Hee goes on her one-way suicide mission. I suppose Dr. Stranger did teach me a new trope which is “going back to Japan soon” is a stand-in for “imma going to die for my man now so you have him after I’m gone.”
I feel so terrible for all four leads, especially Lee Jong Seok for getting this drama saddled on his shoulders as the lead. Park Jae Jin has been so underwritten and randomly inserted he’s basically just getting a paycheck and giving DS an added boost when it releases the C-movie in China since he’s so popular. But both female leads are, IMO, completely wrecked by this particular hot mess. Jin Se Yeon may not be the best actress but she’s actually doing well here. I’ve seen her suck and she’s improved immensely, plus she is one of those leading ladies that always has chemistry with her male lead. That means a lot, trust me, because the opposite is when an actress who can act sucks up all the romantic chemistry with her male lead that it makes for watching a nun sing along appealing. She just has a difficult character to play, Jae Hee wasn’t developed when she took a swim in the river and Seung Hee was purposely kept under wraps for the conspiracy story. Kang Sora really hasn’t shown anywhere near her range or charisma here so I don’t understand the viewers who are either her fan or simply like her performance/character to keep harping on how great she is. She merely doesn’t suck, the same way Jin Se Yeon doesn’t suck, and ultimately both female leads are bottom of the barrel crappy in how they fit into this story. One is woe-be-gone over a guy she just met recently and the other thinks obfuscation and noble idiocy is love. The only redeeming part of episode 17 was Hoon’s monologue to Seung Hee about why he came back. Finally the man speaks directly about what Jae Hee means to him and what his life is like without her. Even if Seung Hee wants to keep Hoon alive, I say let the man decide his own fate for once. He’s really not a prize to be passed around to the best possible winner.
Click here to watch Dr. Stranger.