Dr. Stranger is a drama that not even a spell from a magic wand can save. If this drama ends with Hoon and Jae Hee happily every after and all the bad guys punished, it still wouldn’t be a good drama since the entire middle section was tanked by circular wheel spinning. If this drama ends with Hoon suddenly falling for Soo Hyun in the last episode and all the bad guys are punished, it still can’t make it any worse than seeing all four leads written haphazardly with the emotional lines popping off on odd tangents from time-to-time. The only saving grace of the last two episodes for me is the incremental puttering of this broken down dramatic vehicle across the correct finish line and going straight ahead. No more detours, breakdowns, or stopping to shoot the breeze, just get this jalopy to the end and I’ll disembark with relief. I’m thrilled to announce that episode 19 was the episode that should have followed episode 9 after Jae Hee and Hoon reunited.
This drama needed to skip the 10-episodes in between consisting of never ending surgical battles, Soo Hyun turning into a one-sided lovelorn faucet, Jae Joon competing with Hoon for no stakes since Hoon was going to do the presidential surgery in the end anyways, and of Hoon and Jae Hee going their misunderstanding plus pushing-you-away-for-your-own-good noble idiocy routines. It’s time to rejoice as the big surgery arrives and all the leads are on the same page as to their feelings and each other’s feelings. Hoon and Jae Hee finally get back to just loving each other without any attempt to try and do what’s best for the other behind their back. Hoon tells Soo Hyun once again that he doesn’t like her, and this time she takes it like a big girl and then does her part to bring together the two people who do love each other, namely Jae Hee and Hoon. Lastly, the President does more than sit back and watch others plan out his surgery, and while there was too much PM Jang in this episode it was needed to hoist him on his own petard at the end.
Episode 19 recap:
Jae Joon informs Chairman Oh that he’s Lee Sang Hoon from twenty years ago and thanks him for letting him have a purpose in life, i.e. revenge. Chairman Oh promptly has an apoplexy and Jae Joon stands there while Chairman Oh flounders around for help. We see Jae Joon’s feet walk over to Chairman Oh while outside Soo Hyun is pounding on the door screaming for her dad.
The secretary finally finds the keys and Soo Hyun opens the door and barges in to find her dad laying unconscious on the ground with Jae Joon standing over him. Soo Hyun finds a pulse and orders the secretary to ready an OR immediately. She tearfully asks Jae Joon what he did to him? Jae Joon looks pretty distraught and doesn’t answer her.
Soo Hyun helps her dad onto a stretcher before declaring to Jae Joon that she will never ever forgive him for this. After she leaves, Jae Joon stumbles to the edge of a seat and sits down to look really sad.
Park Hoon is operating on Chairman Oh and can tell Soo Hyun is really upset. He tells her to go outside since the surgery is almost done and she’s distracting him being inside looking all woebegone. Soo Hyun walks out and storms to Jae Joon’s office.
Jae Joon asks first how Chairman Oh is doing and Soo Hyun says he’s fine but clearly that’s not good news to Jae Joon. She demands to know if his goal all along was to kill her dad? Jae Joon explains that he never thought Chairman Oh would have an attack and he locked the door so that they were not disturbed during their talk. Soo Hyun keeps insisting Jae Joon intended to kill her dad but he denies that, all he wanted was an apology from Chairman Oh. Soo Hyun refuses to listen to him because if she hadn’t gotten inside then her dad would be dead now!
Soo Hyun calls Jae Joon a murderer and not a doctor. Jae Joon accepts that he’s a murderer, he’s just a murderer who wanted revenge. So can Soo Hyun understand him because her feelings right now are what Jae Joon felt twenty years ago when he lost his parents. Soo Hyun claims Ja Joon did this to her so she has no empathy for him. She can’t do it so he needs to immediately scram from the hospital. Jae Joon sadly says yes.
Soo Hyun and Park Hoon check on the still unconscious Chairman Oh and she thanks him for operating on her dad. Hoon smiles and points out that if the emergency life saving measures were done any later on Chairman Oh when he first collapsed, then it would have been too late. Soo Hyun ignores what he said and just walks away.
Soo Hyun sits on the stairs and flashes back to her happy memories with Jae Joon like him kissing her in the car juxtaposed with seeing him standing over her collapsed dad.
Jae Joon packs up his office and turns to take a final look at his toy castle display. He raises his name plate to demolish it but can’t bring himself to do it. Dr. Kim comes to ask if the recent hospital rumor is true that Jae Joon is the son of a hospital victim and he’s here for revenge. Jae Joon admits it’s true and reveals he’s leaving, this place was never suited for him. He encourages Dr. Kim to keep on learning and become a good doctor one day.
Jae Joon walks around the hospital sadly and remembers his happy memories with Soo Hyun here. He passes by Chairman Oh laying in the recovery ward and stares at him. Soo Hyun walks up and demands to know why he’s here? Jae Joon tells her that he submitted his resignation letter. Soo Hyun demands that he leave immediately then, don’t ever show up in front of her or anywhere near the hospital. Jae Joon sadly walks away and Soo Hyun turns to stare at him with tears in her eyes. Soo Hyun sits with her dad and hears from the doctor that he should be regaining consciousness soon.
Jae Joon finds Park Hoon to have a final chat. Hoon asks if Jae Joon feels better now? Jae Joon reveals his revenge failed but Hoon points out he gave up the revenge because he loves Soo Hyun. Jae Joon tries to claim that’s not what happened but Hoon tells him to stop lying. He knows Jae Joon did emergency CPR on Chairman Oh and saved his life. Hoon encourages Jae Joon to tell the truth to Soo Hyun otherwise she’ll mistakenly hate him forever.
Jae Joon would prefer it that way so she’ll forget him faster. He’s here to say goodbye to Park Hoon because he’s resigned as a doctor. He doesn’t have a right to be a doctor anymore because he became one for revenge. He used to think Hoon was the Dr. Stranger but come to think of it, he’s the real Dr. Stranger around here. Jae Joon learned this from Hoon so Hoon asks him to stay put so that one day Soo Hyun will understand Jae Joon as well. Jae Joon can’t forgive himself and he can’t return to this hospital.
Jae Joon says Soo Hyun really likes Hoon and wants to ask Hoon to accept her but Hoon just sighs before saying that he already found his Jae Hee. He can’t go into specifics but he already found her again. So Hoon won’t like another girl and hasn’t the time for it right now anyways. Jae Joon then asks Hoon to treat Soo Hyun like a good friend before leaving.
Chairman Oh wakes up and looks around for Jae Joon. Soo Hyun tells her dad that Jae Joon is gone now. Chairman Oh wants her to bring Jae Joon back, he has something to say to him. Chairman Oh reveals that it was Jae Joon who saved his life. Flashback to Jae Joon frantically doing CPR on Chairman Oh and saving his life. Chairman Oh heard Jae Joon tell him that he did this for Soo Hyun. She can’t believe it especially since Jae Joon said nothing to her. Chairman Oh keeps asking her to bring Jae Joon back to see him.
Soo Hyun calls Jae Joon over and over but he doesn’t answer her call. He takes his briefcase and leaves his white coat behind as he walks out of the hospital. Soo Hyun rushes to Jae Joon’s office but he’s already left. She runs around the hospital and rushes to the lobby just in time to see Jae Joon drive off. Soo Hyun chases behind his car and tearfully apologizes to him.
PM Jang is informed that Chairman Oh collapsed but is now recovering. The hospital will be choosing a new chairman soon because Han Jae Joon has left. After Secretary Kim walks outside, he is informed that Comrade Cha’s body was never recovered from the lake. Secretary Kim orders that it be found because Comrade Cha has to be dead since he was hit by a bullet and fell in the water.
We see totally NOT DEAD (and back by popular demand) Comrade Cha walking through Hoon’s apartment and later walking through Jae Hee and Soo Hyun’s apartment. He cackles to himself maniacally as he appears to be looking for someone or something. Secretary Kim calls his subordinate to warn that Comrade Cha may still be alive and to be alert. The subordinate is keeping watch over Hoon’s mom.
Soo Hyun walks into the Myung Woo Hospital board meeting and all the directors stand up to clap for her as the new interim chairman during the time her father Chairman Oh is recovery. She promises to do her best to guide the hospital. Soo Hyun stands in her father’s office and orders Dr. Moon to list out the doctors that will be sent down to the secondary hospital. Dr. Moon confirms that he’s the new head of the cardiothoracic surgery department and giddily flounces off.
Dr. Moon is polishing his new name plate and pleased as a peach to be back in his rightful position. Dr. Moon goes on a long lecture to his team about the future of the department. Hoon gets a call from Soo Hyun and walks out of the meeting to go see her.
Soo Hyun reveals to Hoon that Jae Hee said something weird to her. She asks if Hoon did the kidney transplant on Jae Hee? If so then Jae Hee genuinely still loves Hoon. She explains that Jae Hee felt like she doesn’t know how to face Hoon plus she thinks Hoon likes Soo Hyun. Hoon emphatically tells Soo Hyun that he doesn’t like her, which is why he apologized to her for it. Soo Hyun snidely thanks him for confirming he doesn’t like her one more time! Soo Hyun then gets to the point, which is that Jae Hee appears to be trying to give Hoon to Soo Hyun. What Soo Hyun says helps Hoon understand what is behind Jae Hee’s sudden about face in attitude.
Hoon rushes to see Jae Hee and asks why she lied to him? She knew about Hoon doing the kidney transplant a long time ago and not just recently. Plus why did she try to pass Hoon onto Soo Hyun? Hoon asks if Jae Hee is doing this on purpose, to act like she’s angry at him and push him away. Jae Hee keeps lying that she’s pushing him away because she can’t live with the guilt of having her dad die because of her, and all of this was done by Hoon to her. Jae Hee claims that she’s never once loved him. If that’s clear to him then he needs to leave now!
Hoon plays Jae Hee’s voicemail and asks what this means then? Jae Hee listens to it and starts crying as does Hoon. Jae Hee turns around to leave but Hoon grabs her hand and forces her to keep on listening. Hoon forces Jae Hee to look at him in the eyes and says that she doesn’t really love him. Jae Hee says yes. Hoon screams at her to say it again, to say she doesn’t love him!
Jae Hee finally screams that she likes him, she loves him, okay! To have to pretend she hates him is painful and all she does everyday is imagine them living a happy life together. Hoon pulls Jae Hee in for a tight embrace and she cries in his arms. Hoon asks why she did all that? Jae Hee felt that she was blocking his true calling as a doctor, and only by sending him away can he be safe and happy. She apologizes and says he’s in danger all because of her. Hoon is confused and Jae Hee explains that she made a wrong decision, a decision that she greatly regrets now.
Flashback to Jae Hee in the prison labor camp where Comrade Cha approaches her and asks if she wants to see Park Hoon? Jae Hee takes his hand and his offer. Jae Hee tells Hoon that she missed him so much and wanted to see him, she had no idea it would be such a dangerous mission. She just wanted one more chance to see him. Hoon pulls Jae Hee into his arms and the two of them tightly embrace.
Hoon tells Jae Hee that PM Jang took Hoon’s mom into detention again to control Hoon to do as he orders. Hoon plans to meet with Secretary Kim and asks him to help, to convince him to betray PM Jang. He thinks it’s worth a shot and Jae Hee supports him trying.
Hoon pushes Secretary Kim to betray PM Jang because a man like that does not have the right to lead a nation. Hoon asks Secretary Kim to help because he as a plan to stop everything. Secretary Kim reveals that he’s a soldier and loyalty is the most important thing for him. PM Jang knows that why is why he kept Secretary Kim by his side this whole time. Hoon asks why Secretary Kim saved him in Budapest and helped take care of his mom for the last twenty years? Secretary Kim hands him a lollipop and says it’s to repay a debt.
The President informs PM Jang that he will be paying him a visit at the hospital tomorrow. PM Jang reads the paper where he’s leading the polls in the future presidential election.
Jae Hee arrives to meet with PM Jang and notices the front page of the paper. She points out that he will get his dream come true if the election was held today. PM Jang plans to hold the North-South talks to further make the people idolize and want him to lead. He wonders why she’s here to see him and Jae Hee asks him to let Hoon see his mom otherwise he won’t operate on the President. To control a horse one needs to use a whip and a carrot. She points out that Hoon is PM Jang’s only option now that Jae Joon is gone so he has to give in a little.
The hospital is being swept by men in black and Hoon hears that the President is coming tomorrow to visit PM Jang. Dr. Moon is trying on ties to make sure he looks his best for a picture opportunity with the President. Hoon gets a call from Jae Hee to come home because his mom is there. Hoon goes back to Jae Hee’s place and tearfully embraces his mom who hugs him back. Jae Hee smiles to watch mother-son reunited.
The three sit down to dinner and Hoon holds out a spoonful of rice when he sees his mom wants to give him some vegetables. She takes another dish and Hoon nods at Jae Hee who smiles and holds out her spoonful of rice to accept the food. Jae Hee takes a bite and Hoon explains to his mom that this is Jae Hee his girlfriend. He asks Mom if Jae Hee is pretty and Mom smiles that agrees she’s pretty. Mom strokes Jae Hee’s cheek and she compliments Mom as pretty as well. Hoon teases that Mom is pretty since she’s his mom. The three of them continue eating dinner happily.
After dinner Secretary Kim arrives to take Hoon’s mom back. She pauses as she’s walking away and then goes back to hand her Hoon teddy bear to Hoon and hopes to see him later. Jae Hee walks over and holds Hoon’s hand to reassure him.
Hoon informs Jae Hee that he plans to meet privately with the President and tell him about PM Jang’s secret plans to off him. He asks Jae Hee to enlist Soo Hyun’s help so that Hoon can see the President alone.
The President arrives at the hospital and sits down with PM Jang to reveal his real reason for this visit. He wants to meet Park Hoon personally since he’s the surgeon operating on him. PM Jang worries about the news leaking since Park Hoon doesn’t know that he’s operating on the President yet. The President agrees and decides to just tour the hospital before leaving.
PM Jang orders Secretary Kim to personally keep Hoon and Jae Hee away from the President. Soo Hyun leads the President on a tour of the hospital. Hoon can see Secretary Kim keeping an eye on him. Hoon walks off and crosses paths with the President in the corridor but neither appears to acknowledge each other. Secretary Kim follows Hoon but then loses track of him. PM Jang is informed that Hoon’s gone and orders him found.
Soo Hyun remembers Jae Hee begging her to arrange for a private meeting with the President. She assures Soo Hyun that Hoon won’t bring danger to the hospital so can she please arrange it? Soo Hyun takes the President to the medical conference room where Hoon walks out to meet with the President. He asks for a private conversation and Soo Hyun leaves as does most of the bodyguards save for one person.
Before Hoon can say anything, PM Jang runs in and cuts him off. The President thanks Hoon for taking care of PM Jang during surgery and offers to shake him hand. Hoon shakes hands with the President and senses something and puts his hand rudely on the President’s chest to feel his heart. Hoon is pushed aside by the guard and the President and PM Jang leave.
PM Jang slaps Secretary Kim and accuses him of purposely letting Hoon off the hook. He screams that Secretary Kim is a betrayer in the way that he kept Hoon alive and took care of Hoon’s mom despite orders to get rid of them. Secretary Kim claims it wasn’t necessary to kill them. PM Jang rages that he doesn’t believe in Secretary Kim’s loyalty and if he’s doing this to become head of the presidential bodyguards after PM Jang becomes president, then he needs to go all the way and do exactly as PM Jang orders!
PM Jang is literally frothing at the mouth as he screams at him but his rant is interrupted by the phone ringing from the President. The President wants to change the surgery to another hospital since the Chairman of Myung Woo is sick and the son has been arrested. He suggests reconsidering the location of the surgery. Secretary Kim flashes back to all the things he did to help PM Jang and then being accused of not being loyal. He takes out a lollipop and remembers little Hoon giving it to him twenty years ago.
Hoon sits in his office pondering stuff while Jae Hee is worried that he didn’t get to see the President privately and reveal PM Jang’s misdeeds. What if the President switches hospitals for his surgery now? Hoon confidently declares that will never happen because there is no other surgeon who can operate on the President except him. He asks Jae Hee to do something for him.
Hoon goes to see PM Jang who is enraged that the President is thinking of switching hospitals for the surgery. Hoon explains the President’s heart can last for at most one week otherwise he needs a heart transplant. The only surgery that can save him is the SAVER surgery which only Hoon has performed successfully. Hoon tells PM Jang that the President will reach out to and ask for Hoon to do the surgery. PM Jang gets a call from the President deciding that he has to do the surgery at Myung Woo after all.
Hoon informs Jae Hee that the President will be coming in for the surgery after all. Jae Hee smiles and the two of them embrace. He asks her to endure for a bit longer and then it’ll all be over.
Hoon meets with the President and PM Jang together to talk about the upcoming surgery. The President tells Hoon that he’s the patient and needs the SAVER surgery. He asks if the patient who Hoon did the procedure on is recovering still? Hoon confirms the patient is alive and well. Hoon is handed the President’s x-rays and they head to the conference room to confer.
Hoon reads the President’s x-rays and explains that his left side is much larger than the right. He can do the surgery but there is no 100% guaranteed success rate. He treats all his patients on the OR the same and will do his best. PM Jang gets a report that lots of guards are at the meeting so the President and Hoon can’t speak privately.
Hoon and the President return to PM Jang’s hospital room and plan to have the surgery next week. Suddenly the President collapses and Hoon feels his chest while the President clutches his arms and asks him to help. The President falls unconscious and is moved immediately to the OR. PM Jang tells the Presidential aide that under the law PM Jang is now interim president during the time the President is unconscious. He orders that all the ministers be summoned now to the Blue House for a meeting.
Hoon preps for the surgery while Jae Hee is sedating the President inside. Dr. Kim and Nurse Min arrive and Hoon orders them inside to start the operation. Hoon walks inside and grabs the scalpel before making an incision.
PM Jang informs the gathered ministers that the President collapsed and is in the middle of an emergency surgery. Some ministers wonder how this could have happened but PM Jang informs them that he’s interim president under the law. He gets a text and rushes back to Myung Woo hospital.
Hoon walks out of the OR and informs PM Jang that the surgery went according to what PM Jang ordered. He runs into the recovery room to find the President sedated and unconscious. PM Jang waves his hand over the President and pokes him a few times to make sure he’s totally gone. PM Jang is thrilled and launches into a speech about how his favorite King was Sejoo who killed his own nephew to become ruler. He likes someone powerful who steps on the weak to climb to power regardless of any emotion.
PM Jang laughs maniacally at the President and says he ought to have destroyed PM Jang when he found evidence of his corruption. But now it’s too late and PM Jang has won. Soon the presidential election will take place so the President needs to keep resting until then so PM Jang can arrange for the North-South talks. Afterwards then the President can go to sleep forever six feet under.
Suddenly the President’s eyes open and he pulls off his face mask. PM Jang lurches back in shock. Hoon and Jae Hee walk into the recovery room with the presidential bodyguards in tow and stare at PM Jang without fear.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m so freaking happy the presidential surgery plot got blown wide open at the end of this episode rather than dragged until the very dead bitter end tomorrow. It’s time for PM Jang to wake up and smell the roses that he’s not some omnipotent villain who can orchestrate a massively complex plot to become wrest the presidency for himself. If he was less maniacal then perhaps his agency might have some oomph but alas all I care about is wrecking his big conspiracy so he can get the fuck off my screen and the plot can wrap up tomorrow with conclusions for all the leads. There was no way he was going to succeed, and much like the never ending surgical battles in the middle of this drama that never affected anything substantive, it was a foregone ending that he would end up in the big clink for his power play.
I’m pretty sure Secretary Kim turned on him in the end, but it’s pretty lame that it took this long since loyalty means something only if PM Jang initially had good intentions gone awry except that was never the case. Secretary Kim was just a brainless lackey who had a sliver of a conscience, which meant Hoon got lucky but it was never about the good guys winning because of some sort of prevailing justice. I have no clue how Comrade Cha survived the bullet into the lake, but just like we were never given an explanation of how Jae Hee survived the bullet into the river, let’s just accept these farfetched survival tales and move on. I don’t know what Comrade Cha is back for other than to pump a bullet into Hoon’s brain purely for revenge. Let’s hope the next time he dies in episode 20, someone actually checks to make sure he’s really really dead.
Everything about Soo Hyun’s arc was just so lackluster for me, and now even her big epiphany around Jae Joon and the conclusion of her feelings for Hoon merely petered out to an unsatisfying end. I remember how much I liked her character in the beginning, more than I liked Jae Hee who always came across as merely Hoon’s lover, because Soo Hyun had her own agency to take over her dad’s hospital and be a good doctor. Stuff outside of romance. But then she tumbled into a one-sided love for Hoon and all of that got flushed down the drain, leaving her sobbing like her world ended because Hoon didn’t like her back. Except Hoon never ever said or showed that he liked her, and she knew how much he loves Jae Hee, so I can’t get over how crazy invested she was over a crush she knew was hopeless all along. She can like him, sure, but the intensity was ridiculous. Those who shipped Soo Hyun with Hoon came across as pushing for a narrative thread out of sheer hope and selective viewing of the drama, as if seeing Hoon flirting with her was some sort of confirmation that he had to like her down the road while ignoring all of Hoon’s explicitly stated words and actions that he only loves Jae Hee.
If the drama wanted to have Hoon move on to Soo Hyun, the early episodes showed they had great chemistry, but then the middle episodes needed to develop Hoon’s reciprocal feelings for Soo Hyun at the same time. That never happened which is why this drama trolling Soo Hyun shippers was just needlessly a waste of time and tanked the development of the reunion of Jae Hee and Hoon to unfurl properly. It threw in misunderstanding and angst between the engaged lovers what was resolved in one long conversation in episode 19 today. All the while failing to develop Soo Hyun and Jae Joon, who had great chemistry with each other as well and appeared to be mutually into each other until Hoon arrived to mystically entrance Soo Hyun away. Soo Hyun spent the first part of this episode being a judgmental wanker towards Jae Joon but then he allows it by not really trying to explain, only slinking away in sadness and resignation that his revenge plans puttered to an uneventful conclusion and he threw his heart in the process. It’s a bummer all around and everyone loses because now Jae Hee and Hoon are sorta just there but better than nothing since the other alternative doesn’t make any sense, and Soo Hyun and Jae Joon potentially getting back together after Chairman Oh turns good will lack any punch since Soo Hyun fell out of love with Jae Joon already.
Jae Joon’s revenge fell so flat for me from beginning to end because his character also had no consistency. Sometimes he was a driven ass wanting to bring Chairman Oh down, other times he waffled and wanted to be a good doctor and hold onto Soo Hyun. His ebb and flow changed depending on what the plot needed from him so his personality never felt fleshed out. I still don’t “get” Jae Joon at all, other than Park Hae Jin did as good a job as any leading man can with a character this thinly developed. All four leads were actually pretty badly written now that the ending is so near and we can take a look back and just sigh at the wasted opportunities and glimpse where it all went wrong. The audience needed to be told definitively that Seung Hee was Jae Hee around the time Hoon figured it out in episode 7, rather than trying to play tricks to lure the audience to keep watching for the reveal.
This drama also needed to better balance Jae Joon’s revenge with Hoon and Jae Hee’s danger with the presidential surgery threat. Or perhaps toss in another big plot driver so that the big surgery only arrived in the last few episodes, rather than being the one main engine with not enough power to drive the whole show. Good thrillers like The King 2 Hearts continue to up the stakes, one big crises averted is another one looming and each is different and grows the characters more. This drama was like the exactly same punchline played in a continuous loop, leaving the viewers looking for a way out of monotonous surgical misery. The end of DS arrives in just a few hours and I’m grateful the penultimate episode was so unexpectedly decent in comparison to so many recent episodes of pure crap. This is the first return of DS to being a non-aggravating watch where things at least somewhat make sense within its inherently nonsensical universe. For that, I thank thee, DS.
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