Some episodes, I watch and feel energized about and immediately wanna run off and discuss ALL THE THINGS™ with other people. This one, not so much. This was one of those that I had to let sit for a bit and ruminate, and sort out my thoughts.
For some reason, it left a sour aftertaste in my mouth, and I can’t even really put my finger on it why. I don’t mean this in a “I really hated it” way. Because that’s not the case at all. I think it may have to do with the fact that I’m a hurt/comfort girl, and this episode was somehow all hurt and no comfort. That felt wholly unsatisfying.
But let’s not dwell on that too much and look at the actual details, shall we?
Written by Peter Blake & Tristan Thai
Directed by David Straiton
Original airdate Oct 25, 2021
Patient #1 is Holly Taylor, a girl who presents at the hospital with chronic gastrointestinal issues. Her father Walt has already had her see nineteen doctors, and they have yet to receive a meaningful diagnosis or a treatment that helps. Walt has self-diagnosed it as visceral myopathy (a rare hereditary disease where GI and urinary tract degeneration causes pseudo-obstruction), but Shaun doesn’t think so as Holly’s symptoms aren’t consistent with that diagnosis (If this is a rare disease, I’m amazed that Shaun immediately knows all these details.)
Ironic, somehow that Shaun had only just talked to Andrews and Mateo about anchoring bias (initial impression of a patient’s condition can make doctors ignore contrary evidence). Isn’t that exactly what Shaun is doing here? He’s seen Holly, made a decision about what he thinks her diagnosis is, and then shuts Walt down when he gives him a contrary suggestion for another diagnosis. Heh.
Little quip here from Shaun that makes me smile. “And… looking up diseases on the internet is very unreliable.” Yes, indeed it is.
Shaun diagnoses a bowel obstruction, and Holly is put on the shortlist for surgery to clear the obstruction, which Andrews, Mateo and Shaun perform and it goes well. Pathology results from the biopsy confirm that it actually is visceral myopathy, much to Shaun’s surprise. Shaun doesn’t like his diagnostic skills being challenged and subsequently proven wrong. At all.
When he and Andrews go and see Holly and Walt, Salen is also there, full of admiration at how Walt took pre-med college classes to do everything in his power to solve Holly’s medical puzzle. And now it turns out that his initial diagnosis was right, and so all his knowledge should factor into Holly’s further course of treatment.
What Salen then decides is controversial (and in a real life setting I wonder if she could be sued for it). “Treat Walt like a consulting physician. Involve this man in all medical discussions, let him watch surgeries, hell, give him a fitness tracker.” Andrews clearly isn’t down with that turn of events, and Shaun even less so.
They run after Salen, Shaun is very fidgety, because clearly he’s upset. He challenges Salen, but she insists that Walt has a right to be there every step of the way, not lastly because she herself knows what it’s like to go from physician to physician to finally receive a correct diagnosis for her scleroderma. And it’s not just that. She also wants to share via the hospital’s Twitter feed how inspirational Holly and Walt’s story is. But as much as Shaun and Marcus hate the idea, Salen is the boss, and so it will have to be done.
The surgical team now consisting of Marcus, Mateo, Shaun and Walt starts brainstorming on how to approach Holly’s treatment plan. Shaun and Marcus think it best to resect part of Holly’s bowel, but Walt is appalled at the idea of large parts of his daughter’s intestine being removed. Instead, he suggests to treat her motility issues with rituximab, which Shaun thinks is a bad idea because it could backfire in a drastic way and exacerbate Holly’s condition even worse than she is now. Marcus makes a judgment call to go with Walt’s idea, because Walt would not approve the surgical approach anyway.
They administer the monoclonal antibody as suggested, but the complications that Shaun had warned of occur. Holly starts vomiting up blood, her bowel has perforated and she needs immediate surgery. Walt is distraught. He was wrong.
It’s difficult to watch Walt tell his daughter that most of her bowel will have to be removed, and she’ll have to have an ostomy bag for the rest of her life. Shaun is off the case now after his outburst towards Walt earlier, and he’s not in the room to witness it, but he’s watching from the nurse’s station with a heavy heart.
Andrews and Mateo start with the surgery, and they’re just about to resect the bowel when Shaun comes bursting into the gallery, hammering on the windows to get the surgical team’s attention. Walt is about to extricate him from the room, but Shaun’s urgency is soon clarified as wanting to actually help Holly and save her bowel function.
Shaun tells Andrews about his eureka idea, and Andrews and Mateo soon understand what Shaun’s trying to suggest. Inserting a percutaneous endoscopic colostomy tube to the colon as an outflow mechanism will regulate the extra pressure and they can increase contractility and movement like Walt had indicated initially. It would mean they don’t have to remove any actual bowel.
Andrews tells Walt, “I’d like to revise the surgical plan and invite Dr. Murphy to scrub in.” Walt immediately agrees to both. The surgery goes well and Holly won’t need a colostomy bag quite yet.
When Holly asks Shaun if he thinks her father would make a good doctor, Shaun says he’s not sure. One thing he is sure about, though: Walt is a very good father. “One of the best I have met.”
Patient #2 is Gina Campbell. Gina is being seen at the clinic by Morgan, she complains of a cough and shortness of breath. She normally resides in India, having found spirituality there, living a simple life and trying to help others. Her symptoms drew her back home to the US to get them examined.
Morgan tells Gina it’s a good thing she might have been paranoid, because her left lung is already near failing, and she will have to be treated immediately.
Park diagnoses Gina with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. What that basically means is that the lung becomes less or eventually non-functional because healthy tissue is being replaced with scar tissue, for no apparent reason or cause. Her left lung is heavily scarred, and the right is also already damaged. Her prognosis is grim, they give her a month or two to live, unless she can get a lung transplant.
Gina says she should probably contact her son. What makes this very complicated is that he was 12 when she left for India, and she hasn’t been in contact with him since. That was 17 years ago.
Gina’s son Henry comes to see his mother at the hospital. He’s grown so much (duh). He wonders why he’s there. Is she dying? Well, yes, probably. Not surprisingly, Henry is full of resentment. His mother up and left when he was just a kid, and nary a word since. And just at that moment, they get the news that there might be a potential match for a lung transplant.
Unfortunately, there’s a cancerous lesion in the donor organ, so the transplant can’t go ahead and they have to find another way to prolong Gina’s life. Her condition is rapidly worsening, so that she won’t be a transplant candidate anymore in a few days’ time. A bit out of the blue, Morgan suggests that Henry could donate a part of his own lung to save his mother’s life. Alex is anything but delighted and tries to dissuade Henry, who says he needs to think it over. Which is understandable.
A while later, Henry comes back to the hospital to tell his mother that he’s agreeing to the living donor transplant, but Gina won’t have any of it. She won’t have him hurt himself to help her after she abandoned him. She’d rather die.
This makes Henry understandably angry. For years, she didn’t seem to care about him, and suddenly she does? Gina explains to him what was going on, and it sounds like this was a case of severe post-partum depression. When Henry was a baby, she hated herself for not getting him to latch on, she couldn’t connect with him, resented him, and then herself for resenting her child. She finally chose her own happiness over constantly investing the energy in trying to deal with her depression.
Gina goes into respiratory failure, and quick action is needed. Gina is being placed on a ventilator and ECMO to keep her blood oxygenated. And now that she’s unconscious, Henry has power of attorney over her medical decisions and could theoretically overrule Gina’s decision about living donor transplant. They take the case to Dr. Lim, because there might be a conflict of interest here on Henry’s part, and Gina clearly said she didn’t consent to the procedure.
Park is advocating strongly for Gina. Morgan is advocating for Henry. Lim decides they should still do the transplant. When Gina wakes up from the surgery, she’s shocked to find that Henry donated one lobe of his lung to save her life. She wants to make it up to Henry, wants to move back to California, but he doesn’t want that.
Gina doesn’t think she deserves to be happy, but to Henry, that doesn’t matter. His father taught him that parents love their children, no matter what they do or who they are. Henry will love his mother like that, because she’s his mom. They hold hands, and during my initial viewing of this episode, I was crying at this point. This story was really touching, and I had to smile to myself a little, because I wrote a The Good Doctor fan fiction not too long ago that had a patient story that was somewhat reminiscent of this case.
One last thing about the medical aspects of Gina’s condition: What puzzles me a little about this one and the way they present Gina’s case is that she deteriorates incredibly rapidly. Fibrosis is usually not something that happens in a matter of hours. It’s a slow building process. So that part about her suddenly needing a lung transplant from one minute to the next seemed a bit iffy. Though the Mayo Clinic website does talk about rapid exacerbation, so maybe I’m wrong about this. Admittedly, I’m not invested enough to do literature research on this, so maybe I’ll just take the writers’ word for it.
Shaun & Lea
Here we are, Shaun and Lea are getting their first glimpse at the billboard that advertises larger than life that Shaun is now the autistic physician poster boy for St. Bonaventure. Shaun has an unmistakable frown on his face. Lea tries feeble damage control by remarking that it’s a nice photo. Shaun fidgets with his folded hands, then turns on his heel and hurries inside without a word. He doesn’t have to verbalise it. He’s not in favour. Not by a long shot. (No surprise there, obviously.)
His first stop is… you guessed it: Salen. Weirdly, she seems to have adopted the staircase as her private working out space (how does Shaun know? whom did he ask, who knew she would be in the staircase?). Question I’m asking myself here: Why on earth would she want to do yoga on a concrete landing? Oh well, it’s Salen, so never mind.
“I did not approve that billboard,” Shaun blurts out without preamble. Salen rattles off the applicable paragraph in his work contract about approved use of his image for publicity and marketing purposes. It’s interesting that Shaun doesn’t mention anything about it being illegal to disclose his autism status. Shaunie, you better brush up on that stuff if you don’t want to be the star of Salen’s ad campaign.
“Are you ashamed of your ASD?” she asks him. He doesn’t even have to consider that answer. “No,” he says immediately. Salen thinks the billboard will inspire so many neurodiverse people, but Shaun thinks differently. “The billboard will inspire no one.”
I actually cheered out loud in front of the television when Shaun mentions that the poster inverts his image and his hair is parted on the wrong side. I did go on about that in my last recap, didn’t I? Little did I know then that it would actually be a minor plot point to the episode. Well done, writers. I’m glad this wasn’t just a totally meaningless graphics editing choice, and actually had some relevance.
Salen presents Shaun with another challenge. She will revisit her decision to put up the billboard if he does the same — but based on rationality (see what I did there?) and not emotion. She gives Shaun 48 hours to put together a list of arguments, and then they’ll talk.
And Shaun immediately gets on the task to collect opinions and data. Andrews is all for the minority representation. There aren’t enough black doctors out there, and it’s important to spark public discussion about it. (Side Note: Was it ever explained why Andrews’ lab coat is shorter than everyone else’s?) Mateo sees it differently. He thinks it’s tokenism, seeing how Salen didn’t actually hire more neurodiverse staff, she just exploited the ones already there.
Meanwhile, Shaun is watching some kind of TED Talk Salen did on cognitive biases and perceptual errors affecting the business community. There’s a thing called anchoring bias that doctors are especially prone to. He never gets to expand on it because there’s a patient who has specifically asked for Shaun. His face falls. Oh dear, the billboard is already doing its bidding.
Interestingly, the patient’s father doesn’t want Shaun because he may be somewhat of a celebrity, he wants Shaun because he co-authored 23 papers, 8 of which were for paediatric cases and 4 on gastrointestinal issues. Wow, Shaun’s been a busy little bee, hasn’t he? That’s actually a pretty impressive resume. When does he do all this?
Side Note: Fans online have questioned what specialty Shaun will choose after his residency ends. There seems to be a predominant tendency towards paediatrics, because he has a pretty good rapport with children and we’ve seen him being pretty comfortable around them. (Potentially because children generally tend not to have as many preconceptions about “being different” — at least the younger ones. Potentially also because it’s a challenging specialty, and Shaun likes stimulating and complex medical cases.) Shaun having co-authored a larger number of paediatric papers might be another subtle hint that this is gonna be his career track. I think Shaun would be a great paediatric surgeon. I approve.
In his ongoing search for a strategy to get on Salen’s good side, Shaun conducts a classic negotiation training exercise during surgery. I’ve done this exact same thing as roleplay during a “How to Better Negotiate” soft skills training once. Interesting. (I suck at negotiation, btw. The training didn’t help.) Shaun offers Andrews 10 dollars to split them with Mateo however he wants. If Mateo agrees to the split, they get the money. If he doesn’t, neither gets anything.
It’s a curious excursion, because I’m trying to figure out what the point of this scene was. This exercise is usually not about offering up a split and then calling it quits when one party doesn’t immediately agree. You’re supposed to then negotiate and hone your communication skills to come to a mutual agreement that both parties are happy with. Which doesn’t happen here. Mateo says no to the rather unfair split that was offered, and Shaun is like, okay, then you both lose, please explain.
Though the discussion then meanders into fairness and unfairness aversion bias, and Mateo questioning why you should reward greed. Not sure how that relates to Salen. Was she greedy when she put up the billboard with Shaun on it? Hm. In a way, I suppose, she was.
Shaun runs his list of existing biases by Lea in the cafeteria to try and outline his arguments he can present later to Salen. There’s also pro-innovation bias and loss aversion. Lea isn’t afraid to point out that all of Shaun’s long list seems to support his point of view, and none Salen’s. Lea summarises where Shaun is going wrong very well. “You might have misunderstood the assignment. I don’t think it’s about proving her wrong, she wants to see you’ve re-examined your own assumptions.”
They can’t go into it further because Mateo drops by with Holly’s pathology results, and Shaun needs to go take care of that.
We consequently witness that Shaun still struggles in his everyday work as an aftereffect of Salen keeping to mess with how things are done at St. Bonaventure now. Walt being allowed to consult on Holly’s case does not sit well with Shaun. Walt’s ideas and suggestions, while based on well-grounded medical facts, are not those of a surgeon with years of experience and studying under his belt.
Walt also tends to snap his fingers because it helps him think. It sure doesn’t help Shaun think — quite the opposite. Andrews making a judgment call that may be more in Salen’s than Holly’s interest doesn’t help matters either. We already know it’s only gonna be a matter of time until Shaun snaps.
And snap, he does. Holly deteriorates and they need new solutions. Everyone is on edge, and Walt is pacing, snapping his fingers again, insisting on some kind of odd solution that doesn’t make sense to Shaun or the other surgeons. Shaun is fed up with this man challenging their every move, and the finger snapping sends him flying into sensory overdrive. “Stop it, stop it, please stop it,” he pleads, he just wants to help Walt’s daughter.
Side Note: The finger snapping as a characteristic that would upset Shaun was actually suggested by the show’s autism consultant Melissa Reiner, which she talks about in her episode insights that she uploads to YouTube on a regular basis.
Andrews sees the meltdown coming and asks Shaun to leave while he still can without causing a huge scene. “No,” Shaun shouts at Walt in teary anger, “I do not need to leave, he does! He made us give her rituximab, and it made her sicker, why are you even here?! You are not a doctor!!” He throws the textbook forcefully onto the table to make his point, but manages to just collect himself enough not to fly completely off the handle.
“Get out of here now, Shaun,” Andrews says, with no ambiguity whatsoever that this is an order. Shaun leaves without another word, and knowing looks are exchanged among those left in the room. At least Andrews has the guts to tell Walt that, while Shaun was out of line, he was right.
Someone must have called Glassman to tell him about Shaun (I hope it was Lea!), because he actually graces St. Bonaventure with his presence. He went straight to Andrews to make sure Shaun didn’t end up with a reprimand in his file, and then he asks Shaun to meet him in the cafeteria.
“How you doing?” Glassman inquires when he meets up with Shaun. Shaun answers truthfully–of course no one expected anything less. “Very badly,” he says. He looks like he’s been crying, and the flat tone of his voice speaks volumes. “I have been put on a billboard and kicked off a case.”
Glassman reassures Shaun that there’s not gonna be a note in his file or anything like that. Then he asks about “the other stuff”. The whole time Shaun tells Glassman about his Salen predicament, he’s got a persistent frown creasing his brow that is very uncharacteristic of Shaun. His tone of voice is as dejected and defeated as we’ve never heard it in the past, and it’s incredibly evident just how heavily all of this is weighing on his mind. And Glassman sees it from miles away, too.
Shaun is also uncharacteristically lethargic. There’s no problem solving mode, no “I can fix this” mindset. It’s like someone ripped out Shaun’s spirit and threw it to the Ethicure wolves. He laments his failure to try and convince Walt, and he knows he won’t be succeeding with Salen either. Glassman quietly listens as Shaun’s eyes tear up. “I keep knowing I’m right, but I can’t change anyone’s mind.”
Geez. Kick me right in the gut full force, why don’tcha? The whole scene is such an epic gut-puncher. Shaun is so incredibly apprehensive and dejected. Breaks my heart to see him like that. Broke Glassy’s heart, too.
And I don’t ever recall seeing Shaun so crestfallen and disheartened. He’s such a positive, unfaltering and inspiring person (which Freddie Highmore talks about frequently in interviews). Him actually admitting that he’s failed and will not be able to succeed, no matter how hard he tries, is a huge blow, and that translated across the screen in billowing waves of vicarious agony.
And yes, this will have to drift into Schiff/Highmore gushing again, cause these two together are just such an absolute delight to watch, even when the scene is super heavy and fraught with tension and hopelessness. Or maybe especially then. Admiration mode on, all dials to super-boost.
I think this scene had so much power because we’d seen Glassman being so detached from everything, so detached from Shaun especially. It was like he’d given up on ever wanting to be a father again to Shaun, and now he’s here, and he’s seeing his surrogate son suffer, and finally (fucking finally!) it’s kicking him into protective father mode. Man, we’ve all missed this. So much.
The part I found very poignant, is how much, despite all the previous misguided aloofness, Glassman is in tune with Shaun. He knows to give him space, knows to just quietly sit and listen, and let Shaun verbalise what’s on his mind. There’s a lot of Shaun-talking in this scene, a lot of pregnant pauses, but then also a lot of Glassy-listening and (hallelujah!) a lot of the much needed and missed silent Glassy-attention paying.
Shaun’s teary-eyed, broken-hearted monologue and absolute defeat are just as tangible and gut-wrenching as Glassman’s quiet looks and expressions and reactions. Gushing mode on, because this is 100% Freddie Highmore and Richard Schiff, and I love all of it from the bottom of my heart. (Okay, the writing in this scene probably helped — much deserved credit also to this episode’s writing duo Peter Blake and Tristan Thai.)
What I found also noteworthy is how little eye contact with Glassman Shaun makes in this scene. Yes, that’s an ASD thing, but particularly over the last two seasons, there have been many moments where he’s been comfortable enough to occasionally meet people’s gazes (particularly people he’s close to and comfortable with). Even though it’s a small thing, they always add something special and meaningful to the moment or the dialogue when he does make and hold that eye contact, even if it’s just a couple of seconds.
In this scene, there’s maybe two or three split seconds where his eyes flick to Glassman’s face, but it’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, and there is zero connection there. I know that’s a somewhat nerdy thing to notice and quite possibly speaks to overzealous attention to detail on my part, but nevertheless underlines Shaun’s capitulated and disconnected state of mind in this scene.
Okay, enough with the gushing. Moving on.
What Glassman then does (and I will leave this here rather than move it to the Glassman section, because it still relates to Shaun), is go into full protective father mode. Glassy becomes our MVP, because he runs straight to Salen. Shaun is hurting, and it hurts to see Shaun hurting, and he needs to go do something about it. I wanted to cheer, but of course there was this niggling feeling at the back of mind that there was gonna be some sort of repercussion attached.
Glassy is the first person (fuck yes!) to actually point out that publicly disclosing Shaun’s medical record data, i.e. his autism status is illegal, and he asks Salen to take the billboard down.
Salen gets prickly, because she fires shots back, accusing Glassman that he’s coddling Shaun. “No one made accommodations for my ADHD. That was hard, but it made me stronger, smarter, more resourceful. We have different problems and different strengths, but I know, if you keep patronizing him, it’ll backfire.” Glassman doesn’t take this well. Salen barely knows Shaun, and he’s known him for 15 years. And Salen knows where it’s at. She’s looked into everyone who’s anything at this hospital. “You’re like a dad to him. But sometimes parents make the wrong choices when it comes to their kids, despite loving them. Or maybe because they love them.” Do you have kids, Salen? I’m guessing no…
Glassman is momentarily stunned. And yeah, here’s yet another person who’s holding a mirror in front of his face to impart that he’s practically Shaun’s father. It’s quite possibly out of sheer defiance or spite, but he’s not about to listen to Salen’s doled out wisdom. “I’ll tell you what,” he informs her, “I’ll do the interviews. And when Shaun comes to see you, you’ll make him believe that he convinced you, and you’ll do what he wants you to do.” Salen easily agrees. She got something out of this that’s more important than the Shaun billboard — a (albeit faked) piece of Glassman’s public support. Quid pro quo for Salen every time.
This whole scene had me both inwardly cheer and cringe. I’m in love with the idea that Glassman did what was in his power to help alleviate some of Shaun’s pain, the way any parent will try to do if they love their kids. It was a great show of the fact that he’s not completely dead inside, and the sign that a lot of us had been waiting for ever since that terrible engagement party speech.
On the other hand, Salen is right, because it is a rather condescending thing to do to go behind Shaun’s back and make him think he accomplished something, when it’s actually not Shaun’s accomplishment at all, but a result of bribery Shaun had no part of. Remember when Morgan was talking to Lea about not handling Shaun with kid gloves, and now Glassman is doing just that? Ultimately, that won’t help Shaun. You really don’t know if you should love or hate Glassman right at this moment, do you?
Isn’t it super interesting that it’s not Lea or Shaun who finally make Glassman realise how much of a father he actually is to Shaun, that’s it’s the somewhat villainous Salen?
Go back to the beginning of the episode for a moment. Remember when Shaun ran to Salen, all riled up, telling her that the billboard will inspire no one? He was wrong. Because as Holly gets wheeled to the OR, they pass by Shaun, and she tells him that she was the one who specifically asked for Shaun. Because when she saw the billboard, she knew he was different. And they really needed someone different in order to help her. That’s quite an eye-opener for Shaun, because there are more people out there than he may think who don’t see his autism as a flaw.
He goes to see Lea to talk about exactly this, to sort out all that has happened and what it means. She’s happy to see him, giving him a wide smile and a happy, “Hi,” but this isn’t Shaun stopping by to “take another look” or to run wedding preparations by her. He’s clearly troubled.
“I was wrong about the billboard,” he tells her, pushing down the lid of her laptop to indicate he wants her full attention. Shaun’s clearly thought about this, with a healthy portion of self-reflection. If he was wrong about the billboard because his emotions got in the way, would that perhaps also mean he was wrong about shutting Walt’s ideas down prematurely?
Lea tries to gently challenge that perhaps he’s judging himself a little harshly, but Shaun is convinced he took a wrong turn somewhere, didn’t stop to listen at the right time. Lea eventually realises he doesn’t want the validation, he just wants to work out his thought process while someone he’s comfortable with listens. And he figures it out while Lea silently looks on.
There’s a moment where she’s about to contribute something, but she can see Shaun’s already got one foot in the door to his mind palace, and she stays silent and lets him do his thing. The solution to Holly’s bowel condition is right there, and Shaun’s finally found it. Without a word, he hurries away and runs to the OR, hoping and praying it’s not too late.
And you know what? It’s left me questioning if Lea, in this particular instance, was a substitute for Glassman. Because were Glassman not MIA from his presidential position at the hospital, would Shaun not have gone to him instead of Lea to figure this out?
When talking to Daniela about this, we discussed that this dynamic has interesting aspects of role reversal, and underlines what Glassman still has to fully understand: Lea will never replace the role he has in Shaun’s life as a father figure. Lea can fill the void to some extent, but she’s Shaun’s fiancé, not his parent. I really hope we’ll see this being verbalised at some point this season.
A few last words about Shaun’s role in the story of Holly and Walt: It’s quite possibly on purpose that Shaun got assigned to the case where we’re seeing a parent being so blinded by their love to their child that they’re not making decisions that are in the best interest of the child. (Sound familiar? Glassman, anyone?)
Think about it, though. Both medical cases in this episode were about parenting. The Walt & Holly story was an inversely mirrored parallel to Shaun’s relationship with his father. Shaun’s line about Walt being one of the best fathers he’s met surely had some relevance here, with the subtext of, “I wish mine had had a fraction of his compassion and dedication to his children.”
The case with Gina, who basically abandoned her teenage son and is now trying reconcile is also incredibly relevant to Shaun and his family history. This is Speculation Corner stuff, but let me just briefly mention here that I’m thinking it might just foreshadow what’s possibly to come with Marcie Murphy later in the season.
There was the mention of the alcoholic brother in episode 5×01, which gave us (perhaps?) a first hint at Shaun’s family history playing a role this season. That was substantiated somewhat with the Save-the-Date card in episode 5×03, and Lea’s comment about Shaun and his mother still having a lot to work through. Now we have a patient case of a mother abandoning her son to later meet again and try and resolve their issues. That can’t be a coincidence, right?
On a wholly other note, I talked about Shaun and eye contact before. In the scene where Shaun tells Holly that Walt is one of the best fathers he’s ever met, there, right at the end, after Shaun says it, there’s purposeful eye contact with Walt that he explicitly holds. It’s a special moment, and Shaun tells us that very evidently if you really pay attention.
Jumping back to the Shaun billboard thing, Glassman eventually learns that, apparently, Salen didn’t take the billboard down like he asked. Or rather, like he thought Shaun would ask. When Glassman learns about this through a phone interview at home, he drives post-haste to the hospital to confront Salen about it.
When he gets there, Shaun’s likeness is still sagaciously looking out over the emergency entrance, proudly proclaiming that some doctors are different. And Glassman is furious. This was supposed to have been taken down by now, dammit!
He storms in to berate Salen about it, and she turns around and asks him to calm down. She reveals to him that Shaun was the one who asked her to keep the billboard up, but Glassman refuses to believe that. She then shows him the actual e-mail that Shaun sent.
I have changed my mind about the billboard, it can stay up, as long as you fix the image so that my hair part is on the correct side.
Side Note: The hair part/image mirroring of the billboard is also mentioned in Melissa Reiner’s episode insight for 5×04, which I find somewhat amusing since it bothered me so much when I noticed it back in episode 5×03 already.
Glassman stares at the e-mail for way too long, trying to figure out what that means. Let’s give Salen some credit that she’s not overly gloaty here. She tells Glassman, “He handled this on his own, without you, and he’s better off because of it.”
Glassman lets that sink in, the gears turning in his head. I think he’s coming to realise that perhaps Salen had a point here. And I kinda hate that she actually did, and that, while validating that Glassman’s approach was perhaps not the right way to go about Shaun’s billboard issue, it sent the wrong damn message for Glassman. Because it manifests as something that he’s been trying to tell himself so hard over the last few weeks: Shaun doesn’t need him. And now Salen’s dialling that up a notch by saying not only doesn’t Shaun need him, Shaun’s life is actually better if Glassman isn’t in it.
I. Really. Effin’. Hate. This.
There. I said it. I hate it. I don’t want Glassman out of Shaun’s life. Neither does Shaun. Neither does Lea. Or anyone. The thing is, you can’t even blame Glassman. Salen was totally right in pointing out the signals that were clearly there to be interpreted. But the right thing for Glassman at that time would have been to go to Shaun and communicate about why he changed his mind, rather than just assume something and drive off without so much as a goodbye.
I know, I know, I’m over-dramatizing. Rationally, I know it will be resolved, and there’s gonna be some event, some happenstance, some thing that will make Glassman be reinserted into Shaun’s life in a meaningful way — possibly the wedding, possibly something even before that.
But there’s more, we haven’t reached the end of the episode yet.
When Shaun and Lea leave work together for the day, we see almost the exact same shot the episode started with — both of them standing in front of the emergency entrance, looking up at Shaun’s billboard. “Maybe I was wrong,” he tells Lea. “Maybe I don’t need them to fix my hair.” (Yes, you do, Shaun.) Lea makes a face. She doesn’t like it. He looks a little off. (Yes, he does.) His arm comes around her, and hers around him, and everything seems to have worked out after all with the billboard.
A few more things from this episode that I want to elaborate on:
We’ve had a lot of ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ on Shaun’s part these past few episodes. The server room scene in 5×03 was all about that. The scene between Shaun and Glassman in the cafeteria in this episode was all about that. However, what we’re seeing by the end of this episode is that Shaun realises (perhaps for the first time?) that when he was previously a 100% sure he was right, it turns out he actually wasn’t.
And it’s Lea whom he talks to about it. “I was wrong… about the billboard.” That’s the first admission of him not having been right, and it’s underlined by Shaun actively closing Lea’s laptop lid to have her pay attention, because this is a really important thing. And then he recognises that he was also wrong about dismissing Walt’s input, and he admits that, too. That’s character growth for Shaun right here.
And can we also pick back up on how Glassy never once went back to check in with Shaun about changing his mind about the billboard? (And, no, I don’t think this happened off-screen.) The decent thing for him to do after Salen showed him Shaun’s e-mail would have been talk to Shaun about it, probe into his motivations for changing his mind. So why didn’t Glassman?
Yes, I get that his pride got hurt, and that he truly feels right now like Shaun is better off without him. But dammit, there’s a time where you have to swallow said pride and go talk to your children. I really hope this happens down the road. Please let it happen down the road, okay?
So now Glassman has moved on to vintage cars to keep him occupied. And, see, this? This actually makes sense, because we already know he’s into vintage cars. Jorg and Google tell me it might be a British MG Roadster Cabriolet from the 1960’s (because I know jack-shit about vintage cars). Whatever the exact make and model, it looks spiffy. Except it’s covered in brown muck from bonnet to boot. (Or hood to trunk, for you American folks.)
The car is jacked up on bricks while he’s trying to fix it from its underbelly. He bangs his head when Salen drops in for a surprise visit. She wants to know why he’s not answering his phone, seeing how it’s right next to him. Salen, can you not take a hint?
She’s scheduled a bunch of press interviews for him that he has absolutely zero interest or zest in giving. She just needs him to present a few nice thoughts on Ethicure, and he’ll be done with the press tour. He tells her outright, “I don’t have a few nice thoughts, but I’ll give you the thoughts I do have.” Salen would rather have him read from her script. Glassman basically tells her to go screw her interview script and buzz off by lowering the garage door right in front of her face. (Go Glassy!) To no one’s surprise, Salen’s not happy.
The car fixing isn’t going well, which isn’t all that surprising because apparently Glassman’s doing it with the instructions given in YouTube videos. What a stroke of luck that his future daughter-in-law (ish) knows how to repair old cars, right? Because she drops by at just the right moment and tries to tell Glassy that the key is to get the jets super clean. “You did clean them, right?” she asks incredulously. Nope, apparently not.
They use the welcome opportunity to talk about Shaun, and I’m cheering a little because it’s Glassy who’s inquiring about how Shaun is dealing with the whole poster thing. So finally we get some inclination that Glassman still cares about Shaun. Thank you! We really needed that. (And I really mean that. That came as a huge relief.)
Lea thinks Salen is setting Shaun up with the whole “you have 48 hours to change my mind” thing, and she’s concerned that Shaun will eventually hit a roadblock that he won’t be able to clear away. “Either way, he can’t keep asking his boss to bend to him,” she voices to Glassman. He counters, “What’s she gonna do, fire him? She put him on a poster.” Well, Glassman has a point. What is Salen’s endgame here?
Lea asks Glassman to talk to Shaun, to feel him out. For whatever reason, Glassman still goes with the whole “he’ll be just fine” spiel. No, Aaron, he will not. Grow a bloody backbone and help your son. Geez, this frustrates me so much. Lea sees it as well. And she finally calls Glassman on it. Yes, we needed that, too!
“Why are you still in town? Work? Obviously not. Seeing friends? Obviously… not. Grape stomping, you’d be in Tuscany, not your garage. You’re here for Shaun. So why are you not helping him?” Man, I hope that rattles something loose in your bone-headed brain, Glassy! He doesn’t give her a verbal answer, but the look he gives Lea says everything. She’s right. And he better get on that.
Ugh, lol, awkward Glassy phone interview is awkward. Made me laugh, though. He’s so uncomfortable, reading off of Salen’s script, or at least giving it his very best shot. This is a 100% grumpy Glassy, and I love it.
When Glassman gets home after his trip to the hospital to confront Salen, he finds a nice little surprise in his garage. Lea has fixed up and cleaned up his Roadster. It’s spick-and-span, shiny dark green, the chrome gleaming like new, and a note on the windscreen that says, “Glassy… I cleaned the jets and a couple other things… Lea”
The car starts on the first try with a rich hum of the engine, and it gives him an idea. Lea had planted the seed, Shaun poured water on it, Salen’s fertiliser made it grow, and now it’s bearing fruit. Glassman ventures inside and starts packing his bags. We see Glassman loading luggage into the car, and then he drives off into the dark San Jose night.
Ugh. I hate it. I bet he told no one. And I bet Shaun will be stunned and taken aback when he learns Glassman left town without so much as a word. Yes, to some degree I want to trust the writers that they’ll handle the rest of this Shaun & Glassy arc with care, but there’s gonna be Rant Central hell to pay if they don’t. And that’s a threat.
Let it be pointed out that Glassman’s road trip is also a noteworthy callback to season 1. In 1×11 Islands, Lea takes Shaun on an impromptu road trip. Shaun was not on speaking terms with Glassman at the time, because Glassman wanted to force seeing a therapist on Shaun. Lea prompted Shaun to take a break and clear his head, so they just up and left without telling anyone, and Glassman was left behind, worrying about Shaun’s whereabouts.
So now we have Glassman scarpering without notice to get some perspective (in a vintage car, no less, same as with Shaun and Lea’s trip), and we’ll likely have a worried Shaun left in his wake. The Good Doctor really likes doing this — taking a previous premise and turning it on its head.
Talking about turning things on their head… Jorg mentioned that this is the third time that Salen and Glassman are climbing in the figurative ring to fight it out, and it’s the third time that Glassman comes out on the losing side. At the same time, Salen is doing the same thing with Shaun, challenging him to fights, and Shaun so far has always come out on top, while Glassman (who should have superior experience and fighting skills) keeps failing.
The Second Year Residents
No Asher or Jordan at all this episode.
And this actually made me realise something else. As a Shaun/Shea fan, we’re getting really spoiled this season. This whole episode, aside from the medical exposition, the patient stories and the more minor Park/Reznick side story, this episode was pure, unadulterated Shaun and Glassman.
Of course I would love to learn more about the other characters and pairings as well (where’s my boy Asher at?), but if they would make every episode just about Shaun and the people in his life, I would still watch the show with rapt attention.
Alex & Morgan
What some may call petty bickering continues between Alex and Morgan, but this time it’s more over the actual medical case than any private disagreements. Morgan is full on defending Gina, the lung fibrosis patient, while Alex thinks she’s a terrible mother and shouldn’t be pardoned for her past actions.
Alex is a bit harsh here. “Because you’re all about empathy?” he challenges Morgan. They have a disagreement about how much parents should be giving up for their offspring, and Alex says both parents should give up their whole lives for their children. “And is that what you were doing when you ditched Kellan to do your residency here?” Ouch, Morgan. Shots fired! At least Alex stayed in his son’s life, which you can’t say for Gina.
There’s more friction between them when they discuss the living donor lung transplant, and Alex asks her what the hell she’s doing. Why has she been so unfair, so emotional? It makes Morgan break into tears, and Alex is stunned. This isn’t like Morgan. And he’s right.
She confides in him that she’s been injecting herself with HCG and Gonal-F so they could harvest her eggs, which is making her hormonal and overly emotional. This has been going on for a while, since before they got together, and Morgan isn’t even sure she wants to be a mother. But it’s given her a whole other perspective on Gina’s case, and she wanted to be the one person to defend Gina when no one else would, hoping someone would do the same for her if she fucked up as a parent. And now the whole thing makes a certain kind of sense.
Alex doesn’t know what to say, and Morgan quickly cuts anything he may have wanted to respond off with a, “I should go,” before she walks away, leaving a stunned Alex behind in the surgeon’s lounge.
Back home, Morgan picks up her hormone shot from the fridge, time for another injection. Alex is there and he wants to talk about this. “The truth is, I’m not young, and I never would have chosen to be a dad again, but I also didn’t choose to fall in love with you. So now I’ll do what it takes to make this relationship work.”
Morgan wants him to prove it. By injecting hormones into her butt cheek. Which he does. He also wants to tell her she’d be a great mom, but she would prefer to have that conversation when her bare behind isn’t quite that exposed. Can’t blame you there, Morgan.
And so let’s see if we’ll be having little Parnick babies some time in the future. I’m sure they’ll be super cute!
Maybe I should now call this section Glassman’s Road Trip. Cause where the fuck is he going? It’s been suggested that maybe he went to Portland to see Robin Demayne Scaplin (a.k.a. the Mallomars lady). Personally, I don’t think so. Romance is the last thing on his mind right now.
I think it’s actually much more likely he’ll end up in Casper. I mean, sure, that’s still 1,200 miles and a 20-ish hour drive away. Not undoable, though. And it would set up the Marcie story that I think will be happening in some shape or form later this season.
I’ve had some conversations with others about whether Glassman might pull a stunt and drive out to Casper and go talk to Marcie and then invite her to the wedding. I don’t think any of us likes that idea.
But consider this. What Glassman currently knows is: Shaun actively wanted to invite Marcie to the wedding. Lea didn’t want her there for purely selfish reasons, and she wasn’t sure how to talk to Shaun about it.
What Glassman doesn’t know is: Shaun wanting to invite Marcie was based on a misguided formality that he later realised was a mistake. It was then mutually agreed by Shaun and Lea not to invite her after all. So to Glassman, it 100% looks like Shaun wants her there, while Lea doesn’t, solely for selfish reasons.
Personally, I don’t think Glassman will make a dick move like that, even in his current state of mind. Or I very much hope he won’t! However, it’s an intriguing idea and fun to speculate about!
My mad spoiler avoidance skillz weren’t so mad this week, because I happened across a tweet that talked about Freddie Highmore indicating that an episode will take us back to Shaun’s university days. In the grand scheme of spoilery things, this one is fairly vague and not so bad, and I’m stupid excited for this, actually. And perhaps also an indication that Casper makes sense as Glassy’s final destination.
I’m a huge Netflix Daredevil fan, and the iconic season 1 episode where they took Matt and Foggy back to their college days is one of my favourites. So, TGD writers, please know that the bar is high, okay? I’ll be looking forward to this one for sure!
State of the Shea
Signal boost for other creative (and much more veteran) minds in this fandom: If you’d like to read Kelli Lawrence’s view on the episode, you can find her post about this episode here in her iconic State of the Shea blog.
I’ve written missing scenes in fan fiction form to glue together or expand on what we saw in this episode. Feel free to check out my fanfic titled ‘It’s Hard To Dance With A Devil On Your Back’ that I’ve posted on AO3 that’s a collection of gap fillers for all the season 5 episodes aired so far.