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Season 5 Recap: 5×15 My Way

I will say that I didn’t like this episode much after the first viewing because it felt like the direction of where this was headed could be major cringe. However, I may have changed my mind in the meantime, because it could open up new and interesting avenues to explore. So I’m trying to keep an open mind and hope that the writers don’t disappoint.

The Technicalities

Written by Adam Scott Weissman & Tristan Thai
Directed by Aaron Rottinghaus
Original airdate Apr 18, 2022

Patient Stories

Patient #1 is Kevin Dolin. He is being seen in the ER by Morgan who called in Andrews for a consult. It’s fairly clear Kevin has been beaten up, though Kevin vehemently denies it. He lives in a boys’ home where he got into a fight, which he also denies. He will most likely need reconstructive surgery.

When Andrews asks him to lift up his shirt, Kevin says no and calls Andrews ‘Carlton’—a reference to the character Carlton Banks from the 90’s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air who bears a certain visual resemblance. According to Wikipedia (because I will admit I’ve never watched the show), he was the preppy and politically conservative cousin, main foil, and eventual close friend to the show’s lead character.

Andrews takes it on the chin and tells Kevin he’ll do the Carlton for Kevin if he lets him finish the exam. Morgan wants to see it, too. Kevin reluctantly agrees and he reveals a large bruise all over his ribcage. Still asserting he’s fine, Andrews orders a CT. When he’s done, Kevin insists he keep his word about the Carlton dance. Andrews complies, but only after he draws the curtain so that Morgan and the group home lady won’t see it. Morgan is not amused.

Andrews’ Carlton dance is definitely amusing. Kevin seems to think so as well, it even elicits a grin and a chuckle, which is a nice change from his previously grim demeanour. This week’s take on the title theme music we transition into is also pretty cool.

As they look at Kevin’s scans, the surgeon posse shares their rebel fighter stories. Asher has always been the type to avoid fistfights, which wasn’t easy as a Hasidic jew in situations where they’d leave the community. Park got his butt kicked in 5th grade and his dad wanted him to go back and finish the fight like a real man. Park got his ass whooped twice that time. Andrews is very anti-violence. He was taught that it’s better to use words to prevent fights.

They detect three broken ribs in Kevin’s scans, and evidence that he’s had rib fractures before that didn’t heal properly. Andrews goes to Kevin and tries to get him to talk about who’s repeatedly brutally insulting him, but Kevin still refuses to volunteer any information. He’s scared of something. Or ashamed. Or maybe both.

When Andrews drops by again later to check Kevin’s heart function, he eyes Kevin’s sketchbook and asks if he can take a look. Kevin reluctantly hands it to him, and Andrews leafs through it. It’s self-portraits of Kevin—each one in a different style of an artist he admires.

They nerd out over art a little bit, and then Andrews makes an interesting observation when he gets to the Picasso page. Did Kevin know that Picasso was dyslexic? Apparently that’s in Kevin’s medical records, and Andrews insists that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. He himself is dyslexic, too. And he still made it through med school and is now hospital president, plus some of history’s greatest geniuses were dyslexic. He thought he was getting somewhere, making a connection, but Kevin shuts Andrews down again and puts up the walls when Andrews says he wants to help. Kevin’s a hard nut to crack.

They operate on Kevin’s ribs. In post-op, his incision and also his fractured cheek bone look fine, he can be discharged the next day. Andrews offers to help with getting Kevin a reading tutor and learning techniques that have helped him cope with his dyslexia. He puts his private phone number on a card and hands it to Kevin if he wants to talk through them, or for anything else. Morgan remarks that not even she has Andrews’ personal number, so Kevin eventually takes it.

Andrews is called to tend to Kevin a little while later. He’s bleeding profusely from his incision site. The sutures are torn, Andrews realises that Kevin did this to himself. While Andrews fixes Kevin up, he gets to the real heart of the matter. Kevin wants to stay at the hospital, he doesn’t want to go back to the group home, which is why he messed with his sutures. And finally, Kevin opens up.

There’s a group of five bullies who corner him every Friday to play a game called Happy Hour. They make fun of his dyslexia and beat him up when he can’t read or spell words right. “I’m stupid,” Kevin concludes, but Andrews doesn’t agree. “You’re brilliant. You’re just dyslexic.”

That day, Andrews goes out to the boys’ home to talk to the owner. She’s aware of the Happy Hour game, but it’s hard to put a stop to with the few staff they have. She will try to do her best, but she also mentions that Kevin isn’t quite the victim he may have come across. He himself tends to provoke other kids sometimes, so it’s not as easy to help him as Andrews may think.

What about foster families, Andrews asks. Well, teenagers are tough to place, especially if they’re already known to be difficult to handle. At this point, many of us have probably wondered if they’ll go the adoption trope route—Andrews considering to adopt or foster Kevin… I know that I did. I’m kinda glad they didn’t, cause that would have been, well… tropey and corny.

The next day, Kevin is ready to be discharged, but Andrews hasn’t been idle. He made some calls to DCFS and managed to get Kevin placed in a different home. When Kevin asks how long that’ll take, Andrews knowingly looks at Morgan. He checks Kevin’s incision site again. It looks infected. Doesn’t it look infected? Yeah, that’s definitely infected. And they’ll need to keep Kevin under observation for another week or so. (wink wink) Heh. Well played, Marcus.

Patient #2 is Joan. Lim and Shaun are treating her, and this case immediately has my interest piqued. Joan is a polio survivor who is living her life in what is called an iron lung. It may be time for a little medical excursion here because this is an interesting history lesson.

Poliomyelitis, or polio for short, is a disease caused by a virus that ravaged the world before an effective vaccine was developed back in the 1950’s. There are two vaccines available today that are routinely administered to children worldwide, and thus polio has basically been eradicated by now.

The polio virus affects the central nervous system and leads to muscle weakness. This can present in different ways, and symptoms can affect different areas of the body. While a large percentage of patients may have milder symptoms and often fully recover, there is a subset of patients who can develop delayed effects called post-polio syndrome, which includes symptoms such as decreasing muscular function or acute weakness with pain and fatigue.

The iron lung comes into play when we look at a very small percentage of patients who have a severe form of the disease referred to as paralytic polio, which means actual paralysis occurs due to lasting damage of nerve cells. A form of this called bulbospinal polio will affect the ability to breathe as it involves the upper part of the cervical spinal cord and paralyses the diaphragm. This will lead to difficulty or inability of the patient to breathe without the support of a ventilator.

Back in the 1950’s, the modern ventilators we have today were not available, and what is colloquially referred to as an iron long is usually more technically termed a Drinker and Shaw tank. Developed in 1928 originally, it’s a type of negative pressure ventilator—a mechanical respirator which changes air pressure in a body-sized tube so that the ribcage basically moves up and down to aid lung expansion and compression. I guess you could compare it a little bit to how an accordion produces music.

You can actually see this fairly well on the show (I wonder if this was a rebuilt prop or an actual vintage iron lung), with the mechanical diaphragm tarp being pulled outwards by a motor to create negative pressure inside the iron lung cylinder. The Wiki article has some graphics to illustrate this if you’d like to take a closer look.

Before the existence of iron lungs, such a severe form of paralytic polio meant a death sentence for patients who couldn’t breathe on their own. Those patients who were lucky enough to actually secure an iron lung for themselves would have to be confined to it for the rest of their lives, usually also with paralysed limbs, needing around the clock care. The device often had a mirror affixed to it so that the patient lying in it could see what was happening around or behind them.

Joan is in the hospital for chest tightness. Lim orders an EKG, CTA and echo, and while Shaun is taking notes, he is also perturbed by the noise of the iron lung device. It’s very distracting to his sensitive ears, but there’s nothing they can do since Joan needs it to live.

Tests reveal that Joan has narrowing in her aortic valve, they recommend a valve replacement. Joan is worried that she’ll have to go on a trach afterwards (a breathing tube through the windpipe into her lungs). She had one 20 years ago and it kept getting infected. She’d rather go back to the iron lung, which Shaun seems to support. She would probably be dead by now if she’d been on a trach all these years.

When Joan explains that she’s named her iron lung Frank Sinatra for his warm embrace, her niece Sophie joins them. Sophie is also Joan’s roommate and probably somewhat of a caretaker. She has a type of dwarfism called achondroplasia and stands barely over 4 feet tall, but you can already tell she’s feisty and kickass. I like her!

Joan is a renown physics researcher while Sophie is a documentary filmmaker, and Shaun remarks that Joan’s research is more impressive than Sophie’s career. This earns him a half impressed, half questioning look from Sophie, and Shaun is his usual brutally honest self. “The discussion of how polio destroyed the cells in your spinal cord was oversimplified, but I did like the archival footage.”

The valve replacement surgery goes well and Joan awakes, back in her iron lung. As Joan and Sophie bicker a little bit about what it’s like to live together, the iron lung’s motor gives out and stops working. They need to intubate Joan and figure out how to fix the thing.

Our resident IT person/car mechanic to the rescue! Shaun calls in Lea and she tries to figure out how to repair the machine. Shaun has some complaints how Lea doesn’t like to follow instructions and tends to improvise, but Lea tries to teach Shaun that improvising can also lead to pretty neat and useful results.

The repair takes a while, and that’s a problem because Joan’s body is starting to fight the vent. If it comes to the stage where they have to chemically paralyse her, it could mean she can never go back to the iron lung, and that’s not good. Props to Lea for speaking her mind, because she outright tells Shaun that he’s scaring Sophie. And it’s unnecessary because Lea has fixed the darn thing. Frank whirrs back to life when she switches him on.

Shaun looks at Lea. “I was right. Calling you was a good idea.” I say! She walks over to him and gives him a hug. “Calling me is always a good idea.” Sophie looks on with curiosity at how comfortable Shaun is with the physical contact. However, their happiness doesn’t last long. Frank suddenly goes into overdrive and starts throwing sparks when the motor starts turning way too fast. The gear box just blew. Lea can probably fix it, but the parts she needs are now 70 years old. Where to get them?

No worries, Lea’s got it all figured out. She and Sophie take the Striped Tomato and drive it out to some vintage car afficionado’s garage nearby who had an old gearbox advertised on Reddit.

The guy is a bit of a dick when they get there. He thinks Lea and Sophie are just making up some wild sob story about an iron lung so they can get his gearbox and use it to beat him in a vintage car competition, seeing how Lea just drove up in a 1975 Gran Torino and clearly has a vested interest in classic cars.

The two women are appalled, but quite obviously the guy can’t be approached on an emotional level, so they need to find some other angle. Lea thinks quick on her feet and casually mentions that they got a call from some big name in the vintage car business and that Sophie is in talks about producing a show with him. They offer the seller that they might get him into The Great American Car Show, which would surely boost his business way more than some local car competition. That gets the job done, he offers to sell the gear box to them for 500 bucks. It’s a deal, and I wanna cheer the two ladies on for being sassy and kickass!

Sophie proudly introduces Lea to Aunt Joan as the woman who fixed Frank with a gearbox from a ’38 Chevy, and she’s also engaged to Dr. Murphy whose surgical talents are matched by his skills in the bedroom. It’s a shame we don’t see Shaun’s expression here, because Lea’s is on fire.

It seems Shaun isn’t quite as perturbed by the public mention of his sexual prowess. “It is important to me that Lea is sexually satisfied. And she is also very skilled.” Joan is also impressed, and she figures that Sophie wants the two of them for her next pilot – a reality wedding series for Hulu about atypical couples – mismatched, yet perfect together. Yep, that’s Shaun and Lea. Another perk is that they’d pay for the wedding—up to 150,000 dollars. It does sound tempting, doesn’t it?

Before Shaun and Lea can really give an answer, Joan starts to gasp for air. Something’s wrong, Joan has a bronchial rupture and needs to go back into surgery.

They try to repair her airway as best as they can, but she has too many weak spots, and it looks like she won’t be able to go back to the iron lung, no matter what they try.

Shaun has an alternative suggestion: They could put her on a biphasic cuirass ventilator. It’s a good idea, but Joan’s spine is not strong enough for that device. Shaun takes a moment to venture into his Mind Palace. And there’s another solution there. They can insert kyphoplasties into Joan’s spine—fill her cracked vertebrae with spinal cement. Lim endorses the idea.

When they run it by Joan, she’s not actually thrilled at the prospect. Sophie mentions that it would give her a whole new outlook on life. She could be mobile, do a college lecture tour, they could go to Vegas! Even when they outline to Joan that in her current medical state, she would only have a few months left to live, she refuses the surgery. Joan has had a good life. She’s achieved everything she wanted to achieve, she’s at the finish line. Maybe it’s time that the race ended.

Sophie seeks Shaun and Lea’s advice on what else can be done since Joan is refusing the surgery, but there isn’t anything. Just hospice care. But then Lea has an idea when Sophie talks about her documentary. Those people who needed the inspiration of Aunt Joan as a brave and strong polio survivor, now Joan needs them.

When they wheel a TV into Joan’s room, she says, “Uh oh, not another one of your director’s cuts.” No, not quite. They bring up a video conference on the screen, there are countless people waving at Joan. Each of them tells Joan their story of how she inspired them to do something courageous and trying.

And maybe that’s the thing. Joan has spent so many decades in that machine. She’s scared of a life outside, a life of relative freedom and mobility. And maybe a little bit of regret over what she may have missed if she looked back. Joan sighs as she looks at Sophie. “If I could feel my ass, you’d be such a pain in it.” (It takes Shaun a moment to get the metaphor.) And she agrees to do the damn surgery if Sophie just shuts up about it. Everyone is smiling.

Joan recovers well and she’s already named her new plastic lungs. They’re not Frank Jr., they’re Gene Kelly – light on his feet. What a great ending for both Joan and Sophie. I hope they take all the trips to Vegas and universities and wherever else it may take them!

And can I just say that Hollis Jane Andrews was a true delight to watch? She was such a perfect choice for the role, I love her sass and attitude in this role. And I’m excited that we’ll be seeing more of her in the next two episodes, too. Hooray!

Let me leave you with a few lovely behind the scenes photos she shared on her social media and a very insightful article from 2015 she wrote on Hollywood’s problematic approach to dwarfism in reality TV. Which is actually slightly ironic, considering that in her role as Sophie, she is now producing a reality show herself.

Shaun & Lea

It’s the early morning hours, the first remnants of daylight are barely peeking through the windows, our lovely engaged couple are deep in REM sleep in their bed, and then Lea’s phone alarm goes off. 4:30 am. WTF? Okay, doesn’t seem to be anything pressing, Lea hits the snooze button. Both stir tiredly and go back to a slumber.

4:45, the next alarm goes off. Lea snoozes it again. Shaun lifts his head, his eyes now open. 5:00. Beep. Snooze. Shaun is awake now. 5:15. Beep. Snooze. Lea dozes off again. By this point, Shaun is definitely wide awake—and annoyed. 5:30. Beep. Shaun has had enough. He gets out of bed with a mopey pout.

He spends his early morning watching The Weather Channel. Looks like the weather in the Bay Area is going to be lovely – low to mid 70’s and partly to mostly sunny. Well, light rain for this Monday, it seems.

Lea emerges from the bedroom with a panicked, “I slept through my alarm!” Shaun is all too aware. “Yes, many times. So I turned it off.” Lea isn’t happy. She was supposed to review Jordan’s business plan. Shaun goes all scientist on her. It would be better if she worked late at night because waking every 15 minutes impedes stage 4 in REM sleep. He can show her the research.

She says she’ll try not hit snooze as much, and Shaun is grateful. And even though he was obviously miffed at the morning routine disruption, he still made her coffee in a thermos. Shaunie. You’re a godsend. But maybe not as much as Lea had hoped, because it’s decaf. “Caffeine interferes with deep sleep,” he adds by way of explanation. I wonder if he did all this sleeping patterns research while Lea was still snoozing earlier.

Side Note #1: Can I just say… I hate Shaun’s bathrobe. I don’t know. Gives me ‘grandpa’ vibes. Just like Lea’s way too conservative pyjamas, though at least they gave her cuter ones with stars this time around.

Side Note #2: The segue to the next scene is masterfully done because we transition from Lea disdainfully looking at her decaf coffee mug to Glassman closing the lid of a to-go coffee cup in coffee bar.

Shaun takes the alarm dispute to his colleagues to get some more opinions on the matter while they operate on Joan’s aortic valve. Lim only needs one alarm, she’s the up-and-at-‘em type, just like Shaun. Jordan has mastered her circadian rhymth and doesn’t need any alarms. No one on Team Snooze here, it seems. I raise my hand. One for Team Snooze, please!

Lim suggests earplugs, but (not surprinsingly) Shaun doesn’t like objects in his ears. Jordan advocates for Lea by making Shaun aware he probably disrupted her whole morning by switching off her alarm, and that Lea would have been as annoyed by that as he was for her waking him too early.

We get a bit of a glimpse at Shaun and Lea’s dynamic when Lea is trying to repair the iron lung, and it makes me smile because there’s a few subteties that I think are easily missed. First of all, we have the discussion around following instructions (totally Shaun) vs. improvising (totally Lea). That makes me grin, because can you imagine these two trying to put together IKEA furniture? It would probably end in a fight, and then Shaun trying to figure out a compromise that would make it work for both of them. Or maybe Lea would just tell him to go away and let her do her own thing.

When Shaun negates in front of Sophie that Lea is a mechanic, Lea shoots Shaun one of those chastising ‘Shaun!’ looks, and he immediately gets that he better shut up. They definitely have their non-verbal communication in tune. I got a bit of a, ‘Shaun, I don’t want you to speak for me’ vibe here, though I’m not sure that was what was going on. Shaun’s not usually the type to do so, and I could imagine that he’s actually been on the receiving end of that because of his autism a few times when others tried to speak for him.

It’s also very telling that Lea chooses to ignore Shaun’s comment that her garage venture with her brother failed and instead just tells Sophie that she knows what she’s doing. By now, she knows all too well it’s just one of those Shaun quirks that’s not worth the effort to get upset over.

Sophie is pretty perceptive where Shaun and Lea’s dynamic is concerned. When she rides with Lea out to buy the vintage gearbox, she asks Lea all kinds of questions about their relationship. How is it that Shaun is comfortable with physical touch? How is Shaun in bed? Lea can’t believe Sophie just asked her that, but Sophie isn’t ashamed. A documentarian has different boundaries. And Lea’s answer is very diplomatic. “Shaun is very focused and determined. In all areas.” Sophie chuckles. “Good for him. And for you.”

And what about day-to-day life? Where does he struggle? Lea gives the example of the snooze alarm and how that screwed up his morning routine. The solution Lea suggests for this particular struggle is for her to sleep in the guest room when she has to wake up early, but Sophie questions whether that’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t only be one of the partners who does all the accomodating. Though Lea doesn’t think that Shaun feels patronised when she accomodates him. Maybe this’ll warrant a discussion between them later…

When Sophie makes the offer to Shaun and Lea to be one of the atypical couples featured on the TV show she’s producing, that sparks some interest for Shaun. He gets opinions from his colleagues, and Jordan wonders whether Shaun is a reality show person. What’s a reality show person, he wonders. Well, someone who loves attention, even when it’s bad. Like those folks on The Bacherlorette.

Lim offers another angle: The money isn’t really a factor of how great a wedding will be. It’s the guests that make it or break it, not the amount of dollars you spend on the preparation. Her advice to Shaun is simple. “If someone else is paying, go for it.”

Back home that night, Lea and Shaun are in the bathroom, going through their dental hygiene rituals. Shaun is being super meticulous with the dental flossing, and it’s very endearing. Lea has obviously thought a lot about what Sophie told her earlier about accomodating for Shaun’s quirks, and she tells him outright that she has to get up early the next day but she won’t be sleeping in the guest room and she won’t be turning off her alarm. Shaun better deal with it, or he sleep in the guest room.

He wordlessly walks out, and Lea follows to where he’s sitting on their bed with a square box in his hands. “Shaun?” she asks. He holds it out to her. “I got you a wrist alarm. It uses silent vibration to wake you up. It has a snooze button.” He hands it to her with the words, “I don’t want you to sleep in the guest room.” Aw, Shaunie. Lea loves the compromise, too.

Side Note: Remember 5×05 Crazytown and Shaun awkwardly complimenting Emily on her watch after having laid into her for making the wrong choice about her father’s treatment? “Your watch is a very nice shade of orange.” I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but the wristband on Lea’s new alarm watch is also orange.

Shaun poses a question to Lea to gauge where she stands on the documentary offer. “Are we reality show people?” Would they really enjoy the attention, or even like it enough to want to do it? Lea is a bit uncertain and asks Shaun what he thinks. “Neurotypicals consider me strange, so I am used to people staring at me, especially after Salen put me on that billboard. Would the attention bother you?” Lea still isn’t sure.

Shaun mentions it would come with the perk of not having to plan the wedding, and having someone else foot the bill. “I don’t think money should be the deciding factor of the start of our life together,” Lea remarks. Shaun is cool with that, and his tiny fingertap on her upper arm to confirm he’s fine with her decision is super sweet. What bothers me a little, though, is that Lea is talking about the start of their life together. Haven’t they had a life together for almost two years now?

Sophie asks Shaun and Lea again the next day if they’ve considered doing her show. Shaun wordlessly looks to Lea to answer this question. She evades by saying they haven’t decided yet. Sophie gives Shaun a pregnant look. “I made my documentary because people like me need to know that someone like Aunt Joan exists. There are people who need to know you exist, Shaun.” He meets her eyes briefly. That resonated with him.

Standing by Joan’s bedside after her succesful surgery later, Sophie makes one last attempt to ask Shaun and Lea for their final answer about the reality wedding show. Lea is about to make another vague excuse that they haven’t had a chance to discuss it yet, but Shaun interrupts with one of those aw-Shaunie speeches. “You are beautiful, smart and kind. When I was younger, I would have liked to see a TV show about a man like me lucky enough to marry a woman like you. But you don’t want to do it, and that is okay.”

She takes a long look at him, obviously this has become important to Shaun now. And she changes her mind. “Shaun, you have inspired me. And I want us to inspire other people. And planning a wedding sucks.”

He agrees. It does suck. She gives him that smile, the one that says, ‘Let’s do this, Shaunie!’ He breaks into a happy smile, underlines it with an, “Oh, yeh.” They are going to be reality show people! And both are now really excited about it. A new adventure. Yay!

Glassman & The Ladies

Aaron seems to be more of an eating-out-breakfast kind of person, because he’s grabbing a coffee and a muffin on the way to work at a coffee bar. The irony is not lost on me that the name on Glassy-the-Grouch’s cup sleeve has a smiley for an O.

The place is pretty busy, all the tables are occupied. He looks around, and a young woman notices him. She gets up, offering her seat for him, but Aaron declines because she’s not done eating. She says it’s okay, she can stand and eat, but now Aaron gets annoyed. He’s not that old.

The young lady adds the cherry on top. “I was just on BART with my grandfather. No one gave up their seat.” (Side Note: BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit public transport system.) Aaron is definitely annoyed now. Seems to be the morning of annoyance for everyone. “I will take this to go,” he says and leaves.

Side Note: So here’s an interesting question. Is the reference to Glassman being a grandfather a bit of foreshadowing? Are we going to see him become an actual grandfather in season 6? It would be so neat. Imagine him being all happy with a tiny, poopy Murphylallo baby in his arms. And Shaun coming to him in a panic because he can’t figure out why the baby is crying when he’s done everything he can think of, and Glassy giving the least helpful advice of, “You know, Shaun, sometimes babies cry for no reason other than that they’re cranky.”

If we remember back to two episodes ago and Lea and Jordan going into business together with their gut sensor capsule, they are now discussing their progress. They’ve reduced the volume of the capsule by 25%, everything seems to be working, and they’re ready to shop it around. Lea wants to compile a list of venture capitalists so they can find someone who will help them get it into the market. However, Jordan is a little more guarded. Ideas like this in Silicon Valley are a dime a dozen, and they are basically two nobodies in the market. Plus, it doesn’t exactly help that they are both women, offering a technology solution in a very tech-bro dominated arena.

What Jordan thinks they need is someone with real clout to endorse their idea. She suggests Lea’s future kinda sorta almost father-in-law might just be the go-to person. But is it a good idea to go into business with your future kinda sorta almost father-in-law? Although they don’t really wanna go into business now, do they? They just want an endorsement.

They take their business plan to Glassman, and he’s actually impressed. (Side Note: Did you see his Aar🙂n coffee cup on his desk?) He offers to partner with them, and Lea thinks that would be amazing. She basically tells him yes right there. When they leave his office, Jordan isn’t happy. She wasn’t looking to partner, wasn’t that clear? Lea says she can try to backpedal, but Jordan is afraid that would mean losing Glassman’s support. So what now?

Their next meeting with Glassman doesn’t go so well. He has lots of questions about securing a patent and how they plan to answer questions that potential investors may ask. And then he launches into a pretty condescending speech about how the product needs to be retooled, how he knows best how the project should be approached, and they should go back to the drawing board because the sensor should have increased functionality to monitor more bodily functions.

There’s a good amount of eye-rolling going on from Lea and Jordan, and the looks they exchange say, ‘Is he serious?’ He suggests they sleep on it, because he’s sure this is the right way to go. Ugh. Patronising much, Glassy?

When Lea and Jordan are about to leave, Lea tells Jordan to go ahead and she goes back into Glassman’s office, closing the door behind her. This is going to be the ‘u done messed up, A-Arohn’ speech, I hope!

Yes, Lea’s look says it all. You done messed up, Aaron. She tells him he needs to be more respectful. And then he makes the mistake of insinuating that Jordan was maybe a little bit too sensitive. He doesn’t really see the issue. She can’t be suggesting that he’s being sexist, can she? He’s not sexist! It doesn’t help that he launches into a bout of mansplaining how Lea is supposed to feel, either. She leaves, clearly pissed off now, too.

It’s actually Morgan who gets Glassman’s head straight. She casually mentions that she ran into Jordan and that Jordan was pretty pissed off by his earlier treatment of her. “Yeah, I apparently offended her… and Lea because I offered an opinion that was overbearing and…” he takes a long moment, “pushy.” No, Morgan thinks the word he’s looking for is ‘sexist’. “I wasn’t looking for that word,” he says dryly.

It seems simple to Morgan. Glassman is from another generation—a generation that grew up being taught men were the centre of the universe and women weren’t quite as capable. His symptoms of toxic masculinity and boss syndrome can easily be cured by shutting up and listening, following the lead of the younger generation, irrespective of their gender. Despite Glassman’s quip of being a slow learner, I’d like to think he’ll take that to heart.

The next day, Glassman invites Lea and Jordan for another conversation. And he’s taking the easy way out, because he basically says he doesn’t wanna make the effort to actually accommodate a more respectful communication style, he wants to pull out and no longer deal with it, although he’ll still give his endorsement. Lea thinks it’s a good outcome, because wasn’t that what Jordan wanted?

But Jordan is now actually taken aback. Is he giving up on them? “It took me a while to get past the attitude,” she says, “but you’re right.” She actually likes the idea to expand the sensor’s capabilities. And she definitely likes the idea of making more money. So does Lea. Glassy is willing to give it a shot, too. They all smile. Okay then. It’s a deal!

Reality Show People – The Shea Show

Okay, so this is an interesting development, because I didn’t see this coming. And I will admit that I actually really hated the idea when I first watched the episode. Perhaps somewhat misguidedly so, because a) I really wanted the Shea wedding to be sweet and laid back and cosy, and now we’re gonna get some kind of public spectacle, and b) I was probably thinking a little too much of sensationalist shows like The Osbornes or The Kardashians.

However, after a good deal of reflection and going back and forth a little bit with different fans on it, I have done a 180°. I wanna trust that they’re not making this documentary into some kind of tropey, stereotypical daytime reality crap but actually have them spotlight an atypical couple in a more respectful way.

What’s more, this could be a blessing in disguise, because there are so many opportunities now to shine all the lights on Shaun and Lea’s mutual pasts, including interviews with friends and family, exploring their past lives and learn things we’ve never known. We might see Pam and Mike again, we might even finally get to know Donnie.

Hell, we may see Marcie again, or other people from Shaun’s past. And if we get really lucky, we may get an actual acknowledgement out of it that Glassman is, to all intents and purposes, Shaun’s father.

What we already know is that episode 5×16 will be called The Shaun Show and 5×17 The Lea Show. So there’s some speculation what that means.

My personal take is that we might see a different character emphasis in the two episodes. The Shaun Show might be all about Shaun’s side of things. His friends, his family, his path to how he came to be a 5th year resident in San Jose. The Lea Show may focus more on Lea, on her past and her family dynamics. And likely both episodes fall back on the old formula to intersperse all that with one or two patient cases to run in parallel and supplement those personal stories.

And then it’ll all culminate in the wedding, either towards the end of 5×17 or some time in 5×18. I really, really hope it’s not gonna be a disaster wedding. I want them to have a beautiful, positively memorable day filled with happiness and joy. A day we can all remember and that we want to screenshot and put as our desktop or phone wallpapers. Can we have that, please?

What I kept thinking the whole time when it became clear that Shaun wasn’t quite so averse to the idea of being featured on reality TV was: Shaun, have you thought this through? They’d constantly be filming around him, there’d be strangers and lights and cameras at work and, more importantly, in their home—his holy sanctuary where he doesn’t have to mask or adhere to social conventions and can be a 100% himself. That will be taken away when there’s a film crew there. What will that do to his stress level?

It was pretty clear towards the end of the episode that the representation aspect was important to Shaun. And that’s been quite a journey as well. They already suggested this to Shaun back in season 3 (3×14 Influence); he was asked to talk to reporters and share his story to inspire others. At the time, Shaun examined this from all possible angles and came to the conclusion that he wanted to be known as a good doctor and not a good autistic doctor. He said no.

If we look back to the beginning of season 5, Shaun was initially very against being put on a promotional billboard for Ethicure that disclosed his autism status. His words were, “The billboard will inspire no one.” However, he later changed his mind about it when it did actually inspire a patient he saw. He allowed Salen to keep the billboard up, and he grew more comfortable with the idea of his success as a surgeon being an inspiration to people.

It was Sophie in this episode unearthing the topic again, telling Shaun that people needed to hear his story, needed to know that someone like him exists. Salen’s billboard probably helped him see that awareness publicity isn’t always bad, and that he could be instrumental in conveying a positive message about neurodiversity. And so that became something he wanted to do, but only if Lea was comfortable with it, too. Which eventually she was, because she also saw how important it had become to Shaun.

What I want to say, though: I really hope they’re not gonna milk the angle of ‘Shaun is difficult to live with, and Lea is a saint for putting up with him’, as I’ve seen mentioned on Twitter. It irks me when people put Lea on a pedestal, because her relationship with Shaun has never been about that. She’s never thought of having to “put up with” Shaun. She loves him the way he is, and that includes his ASD and his quirks. Sure, sometimes his ASD traits might be bothersome and can get in the way, but just like in any other committed long-term relationship, you adjust and find compromises, or you talk about what is bothering you.

NiceNiceDevice said something to me that I think is very true:

Lea’s got her own uniqueness. She would get bored in a second in a marriage with a typical tech guy or a hot drummer, no offense to those guys. Weird loves weird. Shaun and Lea are both a little weird. He just has a diagnosis.

So what I’m hoping for is that the documentary will be respectful to both their angles, and not depict their relationship as Lea being a hero for having to accommodate Shaun’s autism. They both have equal stakes in making their marriage work, they both have to make concessions to happily live together. Their communication and behaviour around each other is very in tune by now, and I hope that the documentary will focus on how well they work rather than outline all of the things that don’t work as well.

Last but not least, what I find somewhat trippy is that idea that we’ll now be watching kind of an Inception style approach here. A TV show spotlighting an autistic person going through life inside a TV show spotlighting an autistic person going through life. I dig it and I’m curious.

State of the Shea

For further reading on the episode, please check out Kelli Lawrence’s post in her State of the Shea blog.

Missing Scenes

Will be added later, stay tuned.

Memes Galore

I had a bit of fun making memes from the episode because there were so many fun and cute moments.


  1. Emsol

    Thank you for another great recap. For the reality show we’ll just have to wait and see. I hope they will be respectful of their relationship, that they’ll show an honnest portrait of Shaun, that we’ll learn how, when, why they fell in love with each other and that Lea like you said will not be put on a pedestal. She would not marry him if she thought he was difficult to live with and she had to put up with him. And to be honnest, she’s not always easy to live with either. He has to deal with her annoying habits as much as she has to deal with his. It goes both ways. In that morning scene I thought she was the annoying one with her snooze habit (sorry I kind of understood you have the same habit 😀) and they kind of made it seems like he was at fault in the situation. For me in that case he accomodated her and not the other way around like Lea, Sophie, Jordan implied. And at the end Lea wasn’t willing to compromise but Shaun found the best compromise with the watch. Kudos to him. Living with someone is not easy Asd involved or not. It’s all about compromise.
    Both medical cases were interesting and moving. I really liked the iron lung story and I too like Sophie and the actress who portrays her. Glad we’ll see her in the next episodes.
    I personnally don’t like the Lea Jordan partnership/friendship. I think it is an unnecessary storyline. I don’t see the point. I also find Lea and Jordan annoying when they are together, especially when they interact with Shaun. Lea seems to change personality when with Jordan and it’s not one I’m too fond of. So I didn’t like the Glassman/Lea/Jordan scene. Didn’t understand where it came from and why it was put in that episode.
    I am really happy that Paige gets more airtime because it’s well deserved and she is so good but I’m not sure I like Lea’s recent “superwoman” portrayal. She is everywhere, solves every situation (even high 😀 ) and in medical cases too. It’s seems very unrealistic. Wouldn’t there be insurance issues of letting your It manager/surgeon fiancee repair the iron lung just because she knows classic cars. Well at least it gave us very cute Lea/Shaun scenes and a great Lea line on their intimacy. It was great seeing them work together and how they know, love and respect each other. It bodes well for their future together.

    • TeeJay

      It’s not the first time that we’re having this dicussion about who of the Shea pairing is having to accommodate more or less than the other, which I’m honestly getting really tired of. Both Shaun and Lea have their own quirks, and this isn’t even a thing specific to an atypical couple. Every couple on the planet has these issues. Every person has their own idiosyncracies or mannerisms that might annoy the partner. Every relationship has to work those out to function well long term. Equally. So both Lea and Shaun are putting in the work, but each in somewhat different ways. Shaun is more the thinker and problem solver. He’ll find some clever and well researched solution to a problem they have. Lea is more the doer. She’ll take the next best practical approach and go for it. You know, like just sleeping in the guest room because it’s quick and easy. Shaun came up with the watch, which was in the end probably the better solution because it was a true compromise that would work for both of them. They both adapt to one another, and it’s not always just one or the other person. And that’s how it should be in a healthy relationship.

      Yes, I’m totally the Lea type who will snooze her alarm three million times. I’m just not a morning person, my brain needs time to wake up and function. I get super active in the evenings and never want to go to bed. But I don’t get the 15 minute snooze interval. Mine is on 5 minutes, and that works for me.

      It’s interesting that you don’t like Lea with Jordan. Personally, I like their dynamic. You’re right that Lea is a bit more boisterous around Jordan, perhaps even what you said with her being a “different person”. I think it brings out the more coltish side of her, something that isn’t really Shaun’s thing. And I think it’s healthy for her to have an outlet for that part of her personality, too. You know, if that’s not for Shaun, who says that Lea and Shaun have to spend 100% of their free time together. I think both of them are fine to let the other do their own thing every now and then. That’s a sign of a healthy relationship, too. Shaun is super introvert, he’d probably just hang at home and read or get engrossed in something. I don’t see a problem with that.

      Interesting take on the “superwoman” interpretation. I hadn’t really noticed it, but I guess you have a point. She’s been doing a lot of saving the day lately, but I also like it because it’s never wrong to have strong and capabable women represented on TV. After her big mistake with the score manipulation, she probably deserves a bit of a heroism. And I didn’t think there would be insurance issues. Those iron lungs are vintage pieces of machinery that are displayed in museums. There wouldn’t be companies anymore you can call for maintenance or have them insist on a warranty that would be broken. It’s a miracle to find anyone who can still even figure those things out enough to repair them, probably. I had zero issues with that storyline myself.

      • Emsol

        I do like Lea interacting with people other than Shaun. I too think it’s healthy for their relationship and Shaun needs to be alone also. The Lea and Jordan pairing just doesn’t work for me. I love fiery Lea but that’s not the personality I see when she’s around Jordan.
        Lea has always been portrayed as a strong independent and capable woman and it’s great to see on TV and in my opinion there’s no need to over do it if you want it to be realistic.
        Thanks for the exchange. I like reading your perspective especially if it’s different feom mine.

  2. N3

    The reality show angle is such an original way to burst all the emotional floodgates open without things seeming rushed or forced. I hope they play it right because it’s honestly brilliant and has so much potential. I’m excited! And I’m glad you’re warming up to the idea too. Short comment today because I’m holding on to my last brain cell, and I can’t form a thought. but you should know this recap was my relaxing read for today and helped me keep my sanity. So thank you 🙂

    • TeeJay

      I really hope they do the reality show thing right and that it doesn’t turn out to be the cringe it could be. And glad I was able to help keep someone’s sanity. That’s the least you’d ever hope for when you write for a blog. 😀

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