Okay, mixed feelings about this one. I thought it had potential to be major cringe, and thankfully it wasn’t that. On the first viewing, it gave me all the happy feels, but the more I think about it and discuss it with others, the more I feel they could have done so much better with this one. Let’s take a look at the details.
Written by Tracy Taylor
Directed by David Straiton
Original airdate May 2, 2022
Patient #1 is Dana Bradley, she’s Shaun’s attending evaluation case, he’s treating her together with Jordan. (I love it when they pair Shaun with Jordan, they are a really good team because she’s kickass and doesn’t shy away from calling Shaun on his shit.) Dana is 34, comes in with burns to her head and left forearm over at least 10% total body surface area. Her face is severely burned, Shaun examines her wounds and classifies them as second degree burns, he orders a bunch of tests and pain meds. Then they take her to debride the wounds and place the needed skin grafts.
Side Note: Didn’t they say just a few episodes ago that Shaun still had a year to go in his residency? Suddenly he’s being evaluated how fit he is to be attending? How does that track with the timeline? Are they now handwaving that Shaun started his residency later than the other surgical residents in his year?
The whole thing is being filmed by Sophie’s film team, including the surgery where Shaun explains that they’re now starting with the excision. They work in concentration for a while until the monitors indicate that Dana is going into ventricular tachycardia (her heart is beating too fast to keep pumping blood). She is starting to bleed profusely from her facial wounds that Shaun is debriding. He stops for a moment, it looks like he’s having one of his Mind Palace moments. Andrews explains it to Sophie up on the gallery.
Though is he really having a vision? This is looks more like he’s freezing up. It’s the cameras, the lights are in his eyes. The camera operator switches them off and steps back. That gets Shaun back into his rhythm and he instructs the team that Dana is hypothermic and they need to feed rewarming fluids into her. It gets her stabilised.
Shaun reporting back that the surgery was a success and they were able to eliminate all non-viable tissue and use autografts is also being filmed (meaning they transferred skin tissue from another part of Dana’s body to her face). However, when Shaun does a post-op exam, Dana is in extreme pain despite the strong IV narcotics, and there is significant swelling and oedema. It has Shaun worried, her face should not be this painful and swollen.
Dana does look significantly disfigured in her current state. The right side of her face is extensively covered in grafts and her eye is almost swollen shut. Her husband and daughter Nicole come into the room right that moment, and apparently no one prepared the daughter, because she is revolted and scared by how her mother looks and shies away, says she wants to go home. That hurts Dana beyond belief.
The medical conundrum sends Shaun into a research frenzy. Why are the grafts this swollen, it doesn’t make any sense? He goes over Dana’s charts again, the grafting technique, her meds. They did everything right, the grafts should not be failing. (Side Note: I love that they put Dennis Lloyd’s song Nevermind over this Shaun montage, I shall add it to my The Good Doctor Spotify playlist forthwith.)
Shaun questions Jordan whether she kept the wound dressings moistened, which she did. Shaun wants her to double-check Dana’s labs, but Jordan is sure she did everything right, too. Shaun enquires about adequate fluid resuscitation and replacement for losses. Which Jordan also did. Or did she? She might have skipped one of the tests because Dana was so uncomfortable. That doesn’t fly, Shaun tells her she shouldn’t have skipped steps and needs to recheck all the labs.
Jordan promptly does so at the nurses’ station in the surgical ward, and she’s clearly upset over it. Lim, who is standing right there, sees it and asks what’s wrong. Jordan divulges that she’s upset Shaun called her incompetent in front of the running cameras, and she’s also angry at herself for skipping one of the lab exams. Lim takes it in with a raised eyebrow, but Jordan realises with relief that she didn’t actually cause Dana’s skin graft issues.
When Jordan goes to Shaun with it, it’s good to know Jordan didn’t make any mistakes, but they’re still none the wiser as to why Dana’s grafts are failing. Shaun has a good idea: He wants to review all of Sophie’s footage to retrace their steps. They re-review the surgery, but everything seems A-okay there. They rewind to when Dana is being brought into the ER and Shaun performs his initial exam. And that’s where they find the culprit.
Shaun palpated her burns, and it didn’t hurt when he pressed on them, which second degree burns would have, which also means they were third degree burns. Shaun was too distracted at the time by the cameras and everything going on around him to notice, so he misdiagnosed and treated them as second degree and he didn’t debride deeply enough. It was his mistake.
Shaun and Jordan break the news to Dana that Shaun wasn’t thorough enough the first time around and they need to embark on another surgery to fix it. And of course he does it in his usual no-nonsense “this is what it is and we need to fix it” style.
Dana is less concerned with a second surgery and more with how she looks, because this is the first time she sees her face as a reflection in the camera lens. She’s shocked and shaken. “I’m a monster.” Shaun’s first concern is Dana’s medical status, her emotional struggle seems secondary. “How you look doesn’t impact your health,” he tells her when she refuses another surgery if it means her face will look even worse afterwards. Jordan watches it with growing concern. Shaun’s unemotional pragmatism isn’t helping at all. When Jordan enquires whether Dana would like to see her husband, she declines. “No. Nicole needs him.”
Jordan runs after Shaun to talk to him about the surgical approach. She doesn’t think Dana is ready for the free tissue flap reconstruction. It’s a tricky surgery with a risk of bleeding and necrosis, and Jordan is worried that the psychological effects of her facial disfigurement are having a more significant impact on her status than Shaun is realising. He’s only focused on the medical details, on fixing his error as quickly as possible, and Jordan is concerned about that. “You missed what the patient was feeling in your initial diagnosis, and it affected her outcome. You could be wrong about this, too.”
Shaun considers it for a long moment, but his first instinct is still to fix the medical side of things. I think Shaun is smack in the middle of in this stress response personality profile here – under stress he tends to disregard emotionality even more in favour of goal accomplishment (I can relate very much), and so his answer is, “The free tissue flap surgery will correct the damage from her burns. I am the attending, this is my decision.” He nods several times to underline his point. Jordan can only watch him fold his hands and walk off.
Shaun goes to tell Dana that everything’s set for the second surgery and the nurse will come get her soon. Jordan watches helplessly that Dana is still struggling with all of it with zero support from anyone. (Yeah, what is with that? This seemed so odd that they’d just leave her alone with all of that.) Sophie is there as Shaun gives her his little, “We’ll be operating on you now,” thing, and she also sees the struggle. She apologises for adding to her pain with the cameras being around. Dana is bitter and in despair. Even if Nicole will get over her mother looking like a monster, she is afraid her daughter will be bullied for how her mother will look like in front of other people.
This is something that Sophie can definitely relate to. “People have bullied me my whole life, and it hurt for a long time. And I was too ashamed to tell anyone. I finally told my mom. She taught me how to stick up for myself. You can be an example of how to get back up when life knocks you down. Your strength will make her more compassionate than most people, and more powerful than any bully.” And that definitely resounds with Dana.
Jordan goes to talk to Nicole and her father in the waiting area, tells Nicole that she will come and get them when her mother is awake, but Nicole doesn’t want to see her. Jordan asks Nicole if it’s really so important how her mother looks, because her hugs will still be the same, and will still give her the same kind of comfort and love. And that makes Nicole feel better.
In surgery as they start to remove the original grafts, Dana starts bleeding profusely from the surgical site. It becomes clear that they can’t proceed working with the excision knife, it’s going to cause too much bleeding. Trying to find a better approach, Shaun goes to his Mind Palace to look for options. And there is one. He suggests using a VERSAJET hydrosurgery device for the excision, it will debride the area with less bleeding. And so it shall be done.
The surgery is a success and they manage to debride all the damaged tissue and place new grafts. When they remove the wound dressings, Dana’s face looks so much better, there’s only minor swelling and the grafts are taking well. “With restorative surgery, you’ll have an adequate aesthetic outcome,” Shaun remarks.
Nicole and Dana’s husband are coming to see her, and Nicole walks up to her, taking a good look at her face. Which honestly looks a thousand times better than before when it was swollen all over. “I look different, huh?” Dana says. Yes, she does, but her eyes are the same. They look like Nicole’s. Dana gives her a big hug, and there is all the love and comfort that Jordan spoke about earlier. Shaun and Jordan watch the happy reunion from a few steps away.
Patient #2 is Grant Ferlin, a 44-year-old firefighter. He’s a level 2 trauma with multiple injuries from a fall and being pinned by a beam. He is Park’s attending evaluation case, he is being paired with Asher. Grant is unconscious and bleeding in his abdomen, so they need to open him up. He is being taken to the OR.
During surgery they find Grant had a duodenal (small intestine) rupture. As they repair it, Grant’s blood pressure drops due to a bleeder that Park manages to stop. Lim and Morgan watch from the gallery.
When Asher and Park see Grant after the surgery, Grant shares that he heard Park used to be a brother in arms, so to speak. Yes, Park walked the beat for fifteen years before he changed careers, but he has bad news for Grant. They saw on the CT that he has an unstable fracture in his lower spine. They can operate on it and fuse those broken vertebrae, but it would mean he can’t work as a firefighter anymore afterwards.
That’s the worst news you can give a seasoned firefighter, so Grant urges Park to find another solution. He’s not afraid of a risk. After all, he and his teammates run into burning buildings for a living. Park runs the case by Lim. There’s a very risky approach they could take by placing a cage around the fractured bones, but it will be tricky to get to with Grant’s abdominal injuries, and it would run a risk of significant nerve damage. Lim looks at the case file briefly, then says, “Your patient, your call.” These are the kinds of decisions he’d have to make as an attending.
Park practices the cage placement surgery on a dummy, but it’s not going well. The dummy goes into cardiac arrest, and Park is getting frustrated. He wants to help Grant stay in his job, but what good is that when he dies on the table? Morgan joins him to see how he’s faring, and soon realises it’s not going exactly peachy.
She gives him some well-meant advice to adjust his surgical approach, or, you know, tell his patient he’s being an idiot and he should not prioritise his health over his career. She would know, wouldn’t she? But Alex gets it. For people like policemen or firefighters, the job is often more than just a job. It’s a family you’re leaving behind. Morgan actually listens this time around and decides to support Alex’s decision. She helps him by assisting with the dummy surgery.
Alex takes the case back to Lim afterwards. He’s only managed to successfully perform the surgery on the dummy once with Morgan’s help, and Grant deserves the best shot he has to make it through—which isn’t him, it’s the Chief of Surgery, so he wants to hand the case over to Lim.
Lim tells him he’ll be failing the attending test if he hands over the case, does he really want to risk his career to save that of Grant? Yes, he does, because he wants to act in the interest of the patient and not his own.
Side Note: To be honest, I don’t get it why Alex is seen as such a big failure by handing over the case to Lim. Isn’t that also a true sign of leadership and professional strength—knowing when you’re not the right person to save someone’s life? Yes, the test was tied to evaluation in the OR as the lead on a surgery, which in this case then wasn’t going to happen, but at the very least Alex should deserve another shot at this point. Just felt weird that he was being punished for wanting to make the best medical decision for his patient.
They start with the surgery and Lim asks Park to dictate the steps to follow, gives him a chance to show what he knows and how to guide the surgery. As they place the expandable cage, a vessel tears and Grant’s blood pressure starts dropping.
Lim manages to stop the bleeding, but now it’s too risky to finish the surgery the way it was originally planned. It’s Park who makes the decision to change the surgical plan. They’re no longer going to go with the cage approach, they will fuse the vertebrae, even if it ends Grant’s career as a firefighter. Lim asks if he’s sure, and he tells her, “My patient, my call.” Lim hands the surgical tool over to him and he gets to lead the surgery after all.
Park breaks the news to Grant after the surgery, and he doesn’t take it very well. He accuses Park with the words, “I trusted you.” Park doesn’t know what to respond to that, and in the end he just nods and leaves wordlessly. What is there to say? It was a difficult decision, and not one that Park made lightly. In the end, raising the odds of saving the life was more important than doubtfully trying to save the career.
At the end of the day, Alex sits alone in the empty cafeteria while staff cleans up in the background. Morgan joins him at the table, and takes his hand to intertwine their fingers. She heard from Lim that he passed his test. Alex just sighs and leans against her arm. A successful surgery and he’s well on the way to become attending, yet not exactly a good day.
Shaun & Lea (and the Cameras)
Not surprisingly, we’re witnessing Shaun and Lea being shadowed by cameras throughout the next few days. We first zero in on Shaun and his bathroom thing in the morning, his phone timers, his meticulously planned and never deviating routine. Brushing and flossing teeth, hair brushing, the unmistakable Steve tousle. Every item has its place, needs to be in the exact right spot. Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World provides a soothing musical backdrop.
Then a complete change of pace. A fast rock cover of What a Wonderful World, Lea going through her morning routine, and it’s total uncoordinated mayhem. Foamy teeth scrubbing, throat gurgling, a quick dab of lip gloss, whoops – something fell to the floor, and finally a messy hair ruffle, ready to brave the day.
Next up is breakfast, Shaun made pancakes (of course). Lea meets him by the kitchen island, plants a kiss on his cheek with a cheerful, “Morning!” Shaun is disconcerted that’s she wearing lip gloss for breakfast and is already wiping it off his cheek. She tries to downplay it, it’s just her normal lip gloss, but of course Shaun is oblivious and remarks that she doesn’t normally wear it for breakfast. Busted!
Shaun’s next concern is that someone moved his apple. Sophie mentions that it was blocking the shot and hands it back to him, reminding him to please not look directly at the camera. Oh dear. This isn’t gonna go too well, is it? How much are you regretting your decision right now, Shaun?
They film the two of them as they walk to the hospital entrance, Sophie asks the question how they met and fell in love. Lea volunteers, “First we were neighbors, then we became friends, then roomies. We bonded over our love of pancakes and karaoke, and before we knew it, we were having our first kiss.”
Shaun helpfully adds, “When we were drunk from Tequila and I vomited immediately after.” (This is true, but it was oh-so iconic, Shaunie. You really couldn’t hold your liquor.) He also adds that Lea first thought they could never be more than friends because of his autism and he thought she was superficial and prejudiced. (This is also true. And seems to be the not-quite-dead-yet horse we’re beating this second half of the season.)
And then Shaun does his trademark, “I have to go,” thing. And poof – gone. Lea is left standing, smiling awkwardly at the camera in front of the St. Bon’s entrance. It says, ‘Yes, that’s Shaun in all his quirky glory.’ Welcome to The Shaun Show.
Side Note: They bonded over pancakes? When did that happen? There were batteries, and apples and a donut. And later pine trees and Tequila and karaoke. There were no pancakes. Where is this coming from?
As Shaun is walking up the hospital stairs with Asher, Park and Sophie, they are met by Jordan who doesn’t want to be on The Shaun Show (gratuitous ep title drop), so she hasn’t signed the release form. If she doesn’t, Sophie explains, they’ll blur out her face. Asher manages to persuade her and she looks at Shaun as she signs the release. “All this for you.”
Dr. Andrews is making use of the opportunity for positive publicity and is already giving an inspiring speech in front of the camera. St. Bon’s rigorous residency program is one of the most sought after in the country, only the best make it through, bla bla bla. It gets interesting when he mentions that their residency program culminates in a test to see if those residents that do make it through are prepared to be attendings. And it’s Shaun’s and Park’s test day today, in fact.
Both of them will be given a surgical case and will be measured by OR performance, ability to delegate responsibility, manage junior residents, and how well they think on their feet. Next surgical cases to come through the ER doors will be all theirs. And come they do, as per the Patient Stories section above.
While Shaun is busy in the OR with his attending evaluation case, Sophie is up on the gallery, interviewing Dr. Andrews, who speaks very highly of Shaun. “Shaun would be an asset to any hospital. He views the world a bit differently, and therefore sees patients a little bit differently. But we accept him just as he is.” Sophie asks if it has always been that way, and Andrews grudgingly has to admit it hasn’t, but luckily he’s had his arm twisted and has since understood how much Shaun has to offer as a surgeon and a person.
When Sophie interviews Asher and Jordan, they talk about Shaun and his visions. Jordan says, “It’s his superpower.” Yeah, it is pretty awesome. “Like he has an x-ray, MRI and CT all in his head all at the same time.” She also learned from Shaun to figure out what you’re good at and to lean into that.
Sophie wants to know more about Lea and Shaun’s relationship dynamic, so she sits them down in the break room to interview them together. She asks Lea what she loves most about Shaun. “I can’t choose. He’s brilliant. And he’s so funny. He makes me feel… safe. I know no matter what happens, he’s there for me. And he’s super cute.” Aww. Don’t we all agree, though?
“Shaun, what do you love the most about Lea?” Sophie asks him. Shaun’s attention is on something else, though, his mind is miles away. I wonder if he even heard all those lovely things Lea said, but he’s most likely worried about Dana and her failing skin grafts, going through possible solutions in his head. His jittery leg speaks to it as well.
Lea knows these patterns all too well by now. She gently places her hand on his shaking knee, and he instinctively puts his own hand on top of hers, focuses his attention on her. Turns out he did hear Sophie, because he answers the question. “I love that her eyes crinkle when she’s happy or sad or angry or worried.” Shaun has always loved the simple things, right? Proudly, he adds, “And I know which one means what.” These two are so in tune, and I love it. They’re about to share a sweet little kiss, but Jordan interrupts. (Rude!) And then Shaun needs to go figure out his medical thing, so no sweet little kisses that time. sad trombone
When Sophie interviews Morgan and Alex about Shaun, Morgan says he’s very good with the medicine, but clueless with the romance. She claims credit for taking Shaun to romance boot camp (say what?) before he and Lea got together. I wonder if this was a reference to Carly without actually saying her name. Man, they really should have touched a little more on Shaun’s history with Carly. But anyway…
Alex interrupts that Morgan hardly deserves credit for Shaun and Lea getting together (thank you, Alex), she barely gets credits for Alex and herself getting together. And then he walks off to prep his surgery. Isn’t that usually the typical Shaun move? (“I have to go.”)
After the ending of last week’s episode, I was wondering what the stress of having cameras following him everywhere would do to Shaun, and we’re seeing some of that eventually when he has to face the fact that he made a mistake in diagnosing his patient. After he tells Jordan that it’s his decision not to wait any longer with Dana’s second surgery, he rushes into Glassman’s office, all flustered and upset and insecure. And he makes sure to tell the camera crew, “No,” and shuts the door in their faces. He needs Glassy all for himself.
He nervously closes all the blinds, he needs a safe space, and Glassman can practically feel the anxiety radiating off of Shaun. “Shaun, what’s going on?” He launches into a speech of how he missed the third degree burns and that therefore he has to put the patient through another surgery. Glassman doesn’t really see the issue. “So do another surgery.”
But that’s not the point. Shaun made a mistake. He should not be making mistakes. Glassman still doesn’t think it’s that big a deal. They’ve all made mistakes, even attendings make mistakes. And as much as it shouldn’t happen, the most important thing is that the patient doesn’t die. And Dana isn’t dying.
But Shaun insists that he’s not like other doctors, other attendings. And as much as that shouldn’t happen either, he may be held to a higher standard because of his autism. “I am different than you and Claire and Dr. Park. I do not get to make mistakes.”
Heh, that stumps Glassy for a moment. He asks Shaun if this is about the film crew, because he can just call it quits on the whole thing if it bothers him or distracts him too much. Glassman sits down in the chair next to Shaun because he needs to understand this, too. “And another thing. Shaun, you can’t expect to be perfect all the time. It doesn’t happen. Ever. For anyone.”
Shaun takes a moment to digest that, and we get a brief glimpse of meaningful eye contact here to indicate Shaun wants to desperately try and believe his mentor. I wish they’d stayed on that detail for just a second longer before cutting to black.
Side Note: It’s interesting that Claire is being mentioned in this scene twice. A bit of intra-episode foreshadowing? Jogging the viewers’ memory a little. ‘Hey, remember Claire? The resident who was here for four seasons?’ We’ll know why by the end of the episode.
And while we’re on the topic of Glassy, he is being interviewed next, and it’s super heart-warming. No, he doesn’t see himself as Shaun’s protector anymore. He’s incredibly proud of Shaun and relieved that Shaun’s gonna make it—and that feels great. “What changed?” Sophie asks. “He did. He changed. He grew up. And met Lea.” Glassman’s voice is so full of pride and reverence, and I’m tearing up. Proud Daddy Glassy gets me every time.
Speaking of Lea, she tells Sophie right out that they need to back off Shaun a little bit. They’re stressing him out, and instead of putting the focus on the wedding, they’re exploiting his autism. Well, drama makes for good TV, right? But Sophie is not unreasonable, and Lea has a point that it shouldn’t be about reducing Shaun solely to a collection of quirks and a single mistake in front of a large television audience.
Side Note: I loved Lea’s play here with the, ‘If you don’t switch off the camera, I’ll take all my clothes off.’ She can also think quick on her feet, and I love it when Lea gets sassy!
We find out that it gave Sophie some food for thought, because she approaches Shaun while he is reviewing some of the footage again, particularly the part where he admits to having made a mistake with Dana’s diagnosis. It surely doesn’t feel good to have the whole world seeing him as the failure he didn’t want to be.
Sophie wants to reassure him that she’s not gonna use any of the footage related to his mistake, but that doesn’t feel right to Shaun either. “I do not want to be dishonest,” he tells her. But Sophie doesn’t see it as that. “It’s focused. On you and Lea and your relationship and your amazing career as a surgeon, surrounded by all of these people who support you. That is what will give hope to people who feel different and alone.” It very much resonates with Shaun, and we get a little bit of magical Shaun eye contact. He must feel relieved, too.
They interview Lea and Shaun again together, asking if they have any cold feet about the wedding. Lea doesn’t. She knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Shaun is her person. When it’s Shaun’s turn to answer, he instead asks a question of his own that he’s obviously ruminated on. Does Lea think he should let Sophie remove his medical mistake from the show?
And instead of telling him what she thinks he should do, she empowers him to make that decision. “How do you feel about it?” she asks him. Shaun says it feels like a lie, but the question is, is it more important to give people truth or hope? Very good question, also in the context of having to make that decision around his patients many times. Of course we Shaun is pretty much always the truth guy.
It’s Sophie who pushes them in the direction of rather sticking with the topic of their relationship and the wedding. Does Shaun have any nerves about that? He absolutely doesn’t. He has known for a very long time that Lea is also his person. Aw, Shaunie.
He then has to leave to prep for his surgery, and Sophie revisits an earlier topic – one that we’ve touched a few times since Shaun’s meltdown in Expired. There was a time when Lea wasn’t sure that Shaun was her person. Why did she change her mind? However, Lea is done with this question. He takes off the mic and stomps off without another word.
Sophie runs after her, but Lea is pissed. She asked Sophie to back off of Shaun, so now she’s going after Lea’s dirt? Yes. Kind of. She wants the conflict, she wants to showcase the obstacles they had to overcome as a couple. She wants to tell the real story of how they got together and not some sugarcoated fairy tale where everything is peachy all the time.
Honestly, I don’t really blame her, and Lea’s reaction seemed a little out of proportion. Kinda like the first time they brought this up, with Lea exploding in Shaun’s face and threatening to move out over it. What is up with these somewhat baseless explosions?
The question whether Shaun’s mistake makes him any less of a person and a capable surgeon still floats around in his head as he scrubs in for the second skin graft surgery. Jordan joins him, and he asks her if she still trusts his judgement, even if he made a mistake. And, yes, she very much does. “You’re a great doctor. I hope one day I’m even close to as good as you. Your mistake just made you more… inspirational. It gave me the confidence that I’ll find my superpower, too.”
Shaun is happy to hear it, and with renewed energy, he tells the film crew they can’t film this surgery because he can’t have the distraction. Sophie accepts it and they leave to wait outside the OR for the outcome. Which Shaun doesn’t hesitate to tell for the cameras after they finish. With a little self-satisfied smile and shrug he says that the surgery was a success. Sophie thinks it’s a bummer that she missed Shaun having one of his visions, but it’s most important that he saved the day—and the patient.
And it is there and then that he decides that Sophie can use his mistake for the documentary. “Great surgeons can make mistakes and still be inspirational.” Jordan smiles. Yes, this was also a little bit her doing.
While Shaun wraps up his medical case, Lea also has a change of mind and agrees to talk to Sophie about her initial rejection of Shaun as a romantic partner. “For a long time, I didn’t think I could be with someone like Shaun. I thought we were too different, that I would have to compromise too much. And I worried about what people would think of us, of me. And I didn’t wanna be seen as different.”
Sophie asks one of her trademark questions which she also asked Glassman before: “What changed?” The answer is simple. “Me. Because of how Shaun saw me, he made me believe that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. And that together, we are enough. More than enough.” Lea is still looking at the camera, but Shaun is standing there to the side, commenting, “That was very nice.” I hope he heard all of that.
Shaun also asks if it’s now time for the surprise. Oooh, we’re gonna have a surprise? Go on! They put blindfolds on Shaun and Lea and guide them to what I assume is somewhere in the hospital that they set up with dimmed down light displays (which have the lettering ‘Shaun loves Lea’ on them), a karaoke setup, and all their closest friends and colleagues there waiting for them. (Side Note: The song playing as they enter is Islands in the Stream – which Shaun and Lea sung karaoke to during their road trip in Islands, Part 1.)
They take off the blindfolds, and Shaun loves it—the lights are very soothing and he likes karaoke. It’s a very nice surprise. Jordan hands them both a shot glass with what we can only assume is Tequila. It’s kinda cute that Daddy Glassman walks up to Shaun to quickly check in with him if he’s okay, but yes, he very much is. This is definitely Happy!Shaun as he clinks glasses with the members of his tribe.
But that’s not all, the big surprise is yet to come. There’s a voice coming from the stage area—one that should be familiar. “Congratulations, Shaun and Lea. This song is for you, guys.” The spotlight shines on the singer, and it’s…. CLAIRE! It takes a moment for everyone to register. Shaun and Lea exchange disbelieving glances, is this really her, and YES, IT IS!
Shaun bobs up and down a few times, his little, cute happy jumps. Lea has the biggest smile on her face, squeals a little in delight, and Claire eventually gets off the stage and walks right up to Shaun to envelop him in a big hug. And hug, he does, because it’s Claire, and she definitely has hugging rights. Everyone is giddy with excitement, and Claire goes around and embraces everyone, including a second hug and a little joyful spin for Shaun because they’re just so happy to see each other again!
Shaun excitedly turns to face the camera and gives another little happy jump, proclaiming loudly and proudly, “It’s Claire!” Yes, we can see that. 😀 Aw, I had the biggest smile on my face too, because this was just such a perfect surprise!
Side Note #1: Okay, gotta admit, I’m also a little scared because Claire said, “This song is for you, guys.” And then she starts singing a rendition of I’ll Be Missing You, which if I’m not mistaken is a song about someone losing a loved one. Of course it doesn’t have to mean anything, but the songs they use on the show often do, which doesn’t bode well. I hope they don’t kill anyone off in the next episode or two. (And yes, I heard there was some big hoo-ha about big spoilers in the CTV promo for 5×17, so please please please, if you want to comment on this blog post here or on Twitter, don’t mention any spoilers!)
Side Note #2: I just wanna share this with you, because this is one of the times where my spoiler avoiding paranoia really pays off, and I’m so happy about it! Some of you may know I do my utmost to not know anything at all about upcoming episodes, and so I didn’t know that Claire was going to return in this one. (Yes, I knew she would come back this season for a guest spot, but I assumed it would be at the actual wedding. Apparently I don’t pay attention to the title theme captions either since Antonia was listed there as guest star and I missed it, which worked in my favour!)
I went into this last scene completely blindly, and when Claire appeared on stage, I had such a lovely and adulterated joy moment along with everyone on screen. It’s probably hard to understand for most fans, but these moments are magical and special to me, and they make everything I’m missing out on in the fandom so very worth it!
Lim & Villanueva
As they are treating patients in the ER, Lim notices how Nurse Villanueva is on her private phone, standing to the side. Lim reprimands her that they need all hands on deck, which prompts her to hang up and wipe away her tears. Clearly, something’s going on in her life, but she makes sure to put away her phone and joins Alex and Asher to treat their surgical case.
We later see Villanueva going to Lim with a request to sign off on something, apologising that she was late this morning because she had a rough day. Lim looks at the tablet and remarks that she can’t sign off on this since Villanueva is still using the old software system. They switched to a new one a week ago, but Villanueva missed the training session for that, too. Lim is pissed off, Villanueva has been off her game lately, and she better get her shit together.
The next time Lim talks to Villanueva, she calls her to her office and gives her a written statement. No, it’s not a letter of termination, but it’s a written reprimand in her file. Lim needs to be able to count on her, and right now, she can’t. Yes, Villanueva understands that, but things at home are… She stops there, close to tears, and Lim invites her to sit down.
Villanueva hesitantly divulges that he husband is very controlling. He gets mad when she doesn’t answer his calls. He checks her mileage and her phone, how much make-up she wears. She realised that she was also a victim of domestic abuse when she went through a checklist with a patient, and now she’s scared and not sure what to do with that. Lim, of course is sympathetic. Boy, this is a tough one. Lim tells Villanueva they’ll figure this out.
Reality Show People –
The (Not Really) Lea & Shaun Show
If you remember what I said last week about the reality TV format possibly being a blessing in disguise because it could open up so many possibilities for cool stuff, well… I wish it weren’t so, but in this respect I feel the writers disappointed a great deal.
If I may quote from my previous recap:
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.
Looking back at the actual episode, which admittedly I really liked on the first viewing because it was compelling and interesting and emotional, I like it less now because it just seems like there is so much that we didn’t see and I wish we had.
Because instead of what an interesting reality show would focus on, which is drama and emotional button pushing, as in Shaun’s sad and tragic childhood, Glassy’s heroic and selfless “rescue” of Shaun, all the dirt on their dating history (batteries, apples, road trip, roomies, Carly, almost takings bats to vintage cars, losing an unborn child, impromptu proposal in Guatemala, father figure almost leaving, a twice called off wedding, …) what we got instead was a low to moderately interesting medical case that Shaun was working on with a bit of also moderately interesting Shea stuff sprinkled in.
To me, it seems like an odd choice to focus a reality TV show on the question, “Are successful and skilled surgeons allowed to make mistakes?” Or perhaps even “Is a surgeon with ASD expected to make less mistakes than a neurotypical surgeon?” But, like… haven’t they covered that angle in enough other episodes in the past?
This wasn’t by far the first episode in which Shaun fucked up, and it turned out okay in the end. It also wasn’t the first time that Glassman told Shaun that no one is perfect and that he will make mistakes along the way.
Remember 4×05 Fault? A distraught Shaun sought Glassman’s guidance when Shaun didn’t catch that Asher missed a vital physical examination and their patient died as a result. And Glassman basically told Shaun the same thing right there and then: “Shaun, you’re gonna do most things better than anyone else, and there are days when you’re gonna fail, like everyone else. Today might be one of those days.”
So why waste this opportunity on a story that has already been told with a lesson for Shaun that he should have already learnt? Perhaps the aspect of Shaun as an autistic person being held to a higher standard was new, or new-ish, but really not all that important to showcase because it’s been touched on in the past in one way or another.
I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. NiceNiceDevice brought up the example of the scene with Lea storming out of the interview when Sophie asked her about initially rejecting Shaun because of his autism:
I’m still kind of disappointed in 5×16. If they would’ve gone for a realistic reality show, they would’ve dug a lot deeper. Pushed more buttons. Shaun’s childhood, Lea’s childhood + dating history before Shaun (which they still might address), the loss of their baby… Reality crews want to push all the buttons, and it would’ve made so much more sense when Lea walked off if they had. Instead, they were just reviewing a case and Lea stormed off really dramatically over something that seemed too small to merit that reaction. I dunno.. I really wanted them to go there. But they didn’t.
Personally, I think part of their issue this season is that they are trying to do too much at the same time for all the characters. Every single episode apparently now needs to have a specific storyline for most of their seven supporting characters wedged in there, next to the already busy two patients per week format. That leads to too many stories needing to be introduced, coordinated, moved along and resolved, and none of them can be handled in a meaningful way because there just isn’t enough time in a 42-minute episode. Which makes a lot of these subplots seem shallow and unsatisfactory, which in turn leads to lack of immersion and emotional investment with viewers.
A good example for this is the domestic abuse story for Nurse Villanueva. Why was that even in there? While being an important topic as such and having great potential for emotional storytelling, it just seemed so out of place and superfluous in this episode. Those three scenes felt very shoehorned into the episode, as in a) a blatant lack of organic integration and connection to the overall episode arcs, and b) a regrettable lack of screen time to do much with the subplot to do it justice.
If you ask me (of course no one ever asks me, but hey…), those few minutes with Villanueva would have been better spent focusing on The Shaun & Lea Show aspect and then put the domestic abuse in another episode to open up and widen that subplot and give it more depth and meaning.
Better use of the screentime they spent on the Villanueva storyline would have been imo some follow-up on the attending evaluation of Shaun and Park. They made it such a big deal that there would be this test to determine if they were fit to be attendings, and then it was never even mentioned if Shaun actually passed the test (I guess we have to assume he did).
I would have liked to see a scene where Lim sits Shaun down and talks to him about lessons learned. For instance, Lim specifically said that he and Park would be evaluated on how to manage junior residents. She saw that Jordan was crying over Shaun having been his usual Shaun-rude to Jordan about the missed lab tests. That would be a point where Shaun could improve and where, if I were Lim, I would have given him negative points on his evaluation.
Shaun’s ASD also got in the way of being more receptive to the patient’s emotional struggle with the disfiguration from the facial burns. Lim could have talked to him about that. Shaun wasn’t open to listening to Jordan’s advice about Dana and basically told her, “I’m the boss and you do what I say.” Probably not what was going on in his head and what he wanted to convey at that particular moment, and Lim wasn’t there to witness it, but hopefully she would have spoken to Jordan about her experience working with Shaun on the case to help give an objective evaluation.
But as usual, it’s easy to complain after the fact as an outside viewer, because I’m not the one sitting in a writers’ room to make these decisions and work them into episode scripts. And I’m sure some of this also looks good on paper and maybe not as good anymore in the actual episode edit. Oh well.
That said, we still have next week’s episode that might shine a light on Shaun and Lea’s past, but with Claire now being back for an episode or two, I’m expecting some of The Lea Show to focus on her, and then we’re back to ‘there’s not enough screen time to do it all in a meaningful way’. And I wanna bet that, as usual, the actual episode will end being something very different from what I expect.
And because it’s too good not to share, here’s a super cute behind-the-scenes shot of Paige and Freddie.
Last but not least, I wanna extend a hearty high five to Hollis Jane Andrews for her d20 tattoo. Always awesome to see a fellow D&D nerd. I hope she rolls all the nat 20s!
Full disclosure: I want Shaun and Lea to play D&D so bad, because I think Shaun would be awesome at the character building and stats and the rule memorising, but bumble around awkwardly with the actual roleplaying. But hey. Fanfic opportunities!
State of the Shea
For further reading on the episode, please check out Kelli Lawrence’s post in her State of the Shea blog.
Will be added later, stay tuned.