Hmpf. I’m kinda bummed, because while somewhat enjoyable and entertaining to watch, this episode was just so… uninspired. I was hoping it would make up for what The Shaun Show lacked, and instead it was just more lacking, plus tropes galore, a not very cleverly recycled patient story, and predictable mediocrity. Did I mention tropes?
Written by David Hoselton and David Renaud
Directed by Steven DePaul
Original airdate May 9, 2022
Just one patient this episode, young Lucho Zamora, whom Claire had flown in from Guatemala. He has kidney tumours, but not the kind you’d expect, he actually has a huge, visible lump coming out of his back. He’s happy to be in the US where Claire’s friends can save his life. Shaun is super happy he gets to utilise his perfect Spaniard Spanish again, and that he’s being put on the complicated tumour surgery case where he can hopefully shine and save lives.
When they perform an ultrasound, Shaun states that the tumours have been growing for many years, stemming from the fact that Lucho is from a small village with poor access to medical care. Lucho is also a huge football fan (the one that the Americans call soccer) and hopes he can play it again soon. We shall see.
They take Lucho to get imagining scans since they never managed to get him scanned in Guatemala. It reveals that the kidney tumours have marked vascularity, which will make it harder to avoid major bleeds during removal surgery. They also find a small but hard to access tumour in the heart and a large one in the brain. That’s not good.
Andrews assembles a full surgery team that will have to work in a coordinated effort to save Lucho’s life, because now they actually require three complex surgeries that are all urgent. Dres. Glassman, Browne and Murphy are on Team Brain, Dres. Lim and Wolke are on Team Heart, and Dres. Park and Andrews on Team Kidney. I’m happy Shaun is working with Glassy again!
When Lim asks who would be best suited to oversee the entire process, Claire immediately volunteers. Lim isn’t sure that’s such a good idea. They need someone experienced and impartial, and Claire is the least impartial person here. However, she insists that she can do it, and so it is decided.
Andrews and Park first practice the kidney surgery on a dummy, and they run into repeated cardiac arrest warnings. When Claire drops by to check in, Andrews says they won’t be able to perform the surgery without excessive bleeding, and Park adds that removing the kidney altogether is the safest option. Claire, however, doesn’t want Lucho to have to go on dialysis for the rest of his life, especially in a country like Guatemala. They’ll have to find another way.
The heart surgery is also tricky. Their best access point means that it would weaken the heart muscle and decrease cardiac output. Morgan suggests a non-surgical approach to shrink the tumour with medication, but that would take months to take effect. Right now, it seems like the best option, so they go with it. Thus Lim is being bumped up to Team Brain.
The next step is to do an angiogram of the brain to figure out where the blood vessels are and what the best access route to the tumour is. Shaun comments that the approach suggested by Glassman will not give them full access, but Glassman counters that the alternative is to burrow through the whole brain, which is obviously not the preferred method, either. “If we don’t excise all of the tumour, your surgery will be a waste of time,” Shaun remarks. Glassman knows to take the blunt statement with a grain of salt.
Lucho launches into a seizure as they close him up, caused by the tumour obstructing cerebrospinal fluid flow, which makes the brain tumour removal more urgent. When they regroup to discuss this, Andrews states that the kidney tumour removal is just as urgent because of possible complications. It’s a catch-22 because now both surgeries have priority, and the choice which to tackle first is a difficult one.
Everyone looks to Claire, and she makes the decision based on an emotional rationale. She knows how much it means to Lucho to be able to play football (i.e. soccer) again. She wants to go with the approach that will make it more likely for Lucho to have a full recovery, which means kidney first. “That’s a lot of weight to put on playing soccer,” Lim remarks. But Claire has made a decision and they’ll go with that.
The operating room gets pretty crowded with such a large team during the actual surgery. Lucho goes into hypotensive crisis when the renal vein starts bleeding. Brain perfusion is also lowering, Lucho’s state quickly deteriorates to critical. Andrews thinks it’s futile, they need to take the whole kidney to make this work, but Claire calls out, “Stop!” She asks for a Satinsky clamp, takes over and manages to stop the bleeder.
Lucho makes it through the kidney surgery, but it was touch and go there for a while. While in recovery, he has a brain bleed that they manage to control for now, but Lucho has now developed a blood clot in the area that was their only access to his tumour. They should have done the brain surgery first, which Claire is now also painfully aware of.
Shaun goes to his Mind Palace to look for a solution. But nada. Lucho is going to die. Claire has to break the news to Lucho, who takes it with courage while Claire is crying. Shaun watches her through the window with a stricken face.
Thankfully, Shaun has a eureka moment as they’re about to embark on his stag night, and they return to the hospital to save Lucho with a photothermic laser therapy approach. They operate through the night, and in the early morning hours Lucho comes out of the anaesthesia with Claire by his bedside. Lucho asks how it went, and Claire tells him that very soon he’ll be scoring against the goalkeeper while she hands him an actual football. Lucho is gonna make it!
Shaun & Lea
With The Shaun & Lea Show still being filmed, Sophie is interviewing Claire in Shaun and Lea’s guest room to hear about her friendship with Shaun; she wants to know how she first met him. We are taken back to the pilot when Claire retells how she met wet and cold and lost puppy Shaun as he came to St. Bonaventure and saved a young boy’s life on his very first day. They are interrupted when Shaun announces from the kitchen that the pancakes are ready, so I think we can assume that Claire is staying at the Murphylallo apartment for her brief stint in San Jose.
Side Note: Hey, looks like they finally put a real bed in the guest room. About time!
And then it’s pancake time at Casa de Murphylallo, with Shaun proudly announcing that each pancake has exactly 11 chocolate chips. Lea is explaining to Claire how Sophie has set up the wedding do – Lea gets to pick a theme with accompanying colour palette, and then Sophie’s team will arrange the wedding in that exact style. Lea has yet to pick what to go with. Seems like Shaun doesn’t really care all that much about the wedding details.
Side Note: Why is Shaun carrying an egg carton when there’s also a package of ready-made pancake mix on the counter that he apparently used? Doesn’t that stuff already have powdered egg in it? Also, why is Shaun using ready-mix crap in the first place? It’s not like making pancakes from scratch is a huge feat or takes an inordinate amount of time, and I’m sure it would taste much better than the ready-mix.
There’s a knock on the door and it’s Audrey, dropping by to say hi to Claire and bring a cup of her favourite chai latte. They learn that they offered Claire the job of Chief of Surgery in Guatemala, but she hasn’t decided yet whether to take it or not.
It’s 52 hours and counting to wedded bliss, so they have to get a move on. Lea is being swept away in a limo bus to get manicured, massaged and fitted for her dream dress. Poor puppy dog Shaun is so sad that no one wants his pancakes. Lea can’t help but notice his stricken face, so she grabs one to go and gives the soon-to-be husband a much deserved loving peck on the cheek.
When Claire announces that Lucho has landed, Shaun thinks it might be Claire’s boyfriend and he inquires what his wedding food preferences will be. But it’s not Claire’s boyfriend, it’s the patient she had flown in from Guatemala. Interestingly, Lucho’s trip was paid for by Sophie, seeing how Claire didn’t have an actual plus one and managed to persuade Sophie to make Lucho that.
The limo bus takes Lea and Jordan to the spa, and as they clink champagne glasses, Lea goes back to the wedding theme. What should she choose? Lea’s not rustic, traditional feels too stuffy, glam could be fun but is too over the top, tropical is out because she doesn’t want to wear a coconut shell bra. Sophie wants her in a 50’s dress and Shaun as Buddy Holly for the retro theme, but Lea thinks it’s too Happy Days.
Lea would prefer something more sophisticated, so nautical is out, as well as celestial. Harry Potter may be an option. But nope. Too nerdy. Then they see Upscale Elegance, and that’s the one. Lea loves it. Classic white dress for the bride, dark blue suit for the groom, colour theme all in muted pink and old rose.
At the same time, Shaun and Claire are waiting for imaging scans with Shaun discussing wedding rings for Lea. Sophie gave him 94 options to pick from, but they’re all very expensive and Lea would rather have a new laptop. Claire asks if Shaun is sure about that. An eternal symbol of the unbreakable bond of love vs. a faster processor, shouldn’t that choice be obvious? I mean… I’d pick the laptop, too. But I’m a tomboy geek, so I probably don’t count.
Shaun’s answer is that Lea can sell the ring and buy two laptops with the money. Yep, Shaun is always the one for the pragmatic solutions.
As Sophie pulls together everything for the Upscale Elegance wedding, she questions why there are 48 guests confirmed for Lea’s side and only nine for Shaun. Lea isn’t surprised, she explains that Shaun’s father and brother passed and Shaun doesn’t talk to his mom, so there’s no extended family to speak of. “That’s hard,” Sophie comments, but it’s not a problem. They’ll just put seat fillers there. Jordan gives Lea a look. That sounds awkward, but Lea doesn’t seem to see it as a big issue.
Side Note: Sophie said that she’d have a camera crew waiting at the airport to welcome Lea’s parents, and I’m kinda miffed that we were deprived of seeing that. Of course I get why they didn’t invite Julie Warner and Barclay Hope back for this episode, but dammit, I wanna see Pam and Mike again. Donnie wasn’t mentioned. Wouldn’t he also be coming? Come on, we wanna meet Donnie!
During the angiogram in the cath lab, Shaun announces to his colleagues and friends that Lea texted him the suit he is supposed to wear for the wedding. It’s called “The Gosling”. I wonder if Shaun knows who Ryan Gosling is. Shaun isn’t fond of the idea of wearing a cummerbund since that will be restrictive. And he doesn’t like gel in his hair, either.
He asks Glassy for advice, and while Glassman tells Shaun he doesn’t have to wear the suit if he doesn’t want to, maybe his own marriages would have turned out a little bit differently he’d, you know, “worn the suit”. I’m proud of Shaun that he actually gets the metaphor right away, but his face falls. He’d rather not be miserable for his wedding.
Claire sees it too and tells him he should communicate that to Lea, because Lea would want to know how he feels about this. It gives Shaun a lot to think about and sparks the conundrum of, ‘Do I suck it up and be a good husband, or do I tell her I want my sensory processing disorder to be accommodated?’
In the meantime, Lea and Jordan have advanced to the wedding dress fitting stage. Sophie is asking whether they should get Olympia or Kumamoto oysters for the wedding. Ew. I would say neither. Never understood the appeal of them, same as caviar. So apparently I’m a food dilettante. I think Shaun would hate them, too.
When Lea comes out of the changing room in the wedding dress that she thinks is ‘the one’, Jordan asks, “Really?” It’s a strapless elegant white dress with an embroidered flowers and sequins corset, a long, wavy-flowy, floor-length skirt and a tulle train. You know, kind of like that fairy tale princess wedding dress. It’s doesn’t really say Lea, but she explains it’s not really about it being ‘her’. It’s about showing that a person on the spectrum can marry a neurotypical partner in the most perfect, magical frickin’ awesome wedding of all time.
The next morning, Shaun makes breakfast for him and Lea. Well, more for Lea since it’s huevos rancheros con salsa verde. Shaun hates it and thinks it’s repulsive, but it’s Lea favourite. Which apparently means he has to eat it in order to signal that he’s a good husband and willing to compromise and not put himself first. Not sure why he has that idea in his head, but okay.
Lea gets it right away that this isn’t about breakfast, it’s about Shaun’s wedding look. He hates the suit, but he wants so badly to please her. When he asks her if upscale elegance will make her happy, Lea asserts that she thinks everything will look amazing, but she needs Shaun to be okay with it. He says he is, and he tries very hard to eat the repulsive salsa, clearly hating it every step of the way.
It’s interesting that Lea evades the question whether she’s happy with the wedding theme, because in truth she’s not really feeling it, either. So who are they doing this for? The television production? By this point, I know exactly how this is gonna end.
Side Note: This is a fun one, cause look at the shoe rack. Shaun has two of the same pair of shoes. He’s such a dork. I mean, it’s not even like I don’t get it. I have bought the same clothes twice because I really liked them, but usually in different colours. And yeah, it’s probably a Shaun thing. Cause if you’ve found the perfect pair of shoes that’s super comfortable, you want to have a spare pair, just in case, right?
Vincent the tailor was invited to the surgeon’s lounge and tries to fit Shaun into the Gosling suit while they’re still figuring out the approach to Lucho’s brain surgery. And Shaun hates the suit with a passion. It’s too tight everywhere and the cummerbund is restricting the blood flow to his rectus abdominus. He’s probably exaggerating a little, but we get the point.
Vincent is getting impatient with Shaun because he is squirming so much, and while clearly not okay with it, Shaun is convinced he needs to make it work for Lea. It gets to the point where he gets extremely fidgety and makes a wrong movement, and the seam in the back of the suit jacket splits apart. He rips the jacket and the cummerbund off of him and his hand goes into his hair, while still insisting he wants the suit. Well. How is that gonna work, Shaun?
Next up is stag night for Shaun. He and his friends are in the limo bus, toasting with Tequila. But Shaun isn’t quite in the mood for jovial celebration. He’s still stuck on the fact that he’s failed to save Lucho’s life, just like he failed at wearing the suit and like he’s gonna fail as a husband. Whoa, Shaun, what the hell? You’ve been with Lea for almost two years, and you made it through losing a baby. Where is this coming from?
Claire chimes in that love isn’t measured by accomplishments, it’s measured by how much you care and how much you try. And Shaun sure as hell cares and tries a great deal. Their destination is a good old strip club. Whose idea was this? Clearly not someone who wanted Shaun to have fun on his stag night. Glassy sees it, too. “You’re kidding, right?” He turns to Shaun. “You don’t have to do this, we can go to dinner… Where do you get the linguini?”
Shaun hesitates, tries to decide if he wants to push through this too, seeing how it’s part of the whole TV show shebang. His eyes fall upon a flickering neon sign of a stylized naked woman, and an idea forms in his head. Intermittent photothermic laser light therapy. That’s what’s gonna save Lucho. Claire, Shaun and Glassy hop back on the bus and return to St. Bonaventure. Stag night in the OR with surrogate dad and a good friend to save a life. I daresay that’s very Shaun.
Side Note: I’m pretty sure that Asher’s little comment about Shaun becoming Mr. Lea Dilallo was not supposed to be a hint that Shaun will take Lea’s last name, for the simple reason that people in academia who have their names attached to previous journal publications will want to stick with that name to stay recognisable in the scientific community. Then again, the show has never prided itself on being overly realistic with these things.
After their nightly surgery, Shaun waits for Claire at the nurse’s station. She comes to join him after having made sure Lucho came out of the anaesthesia okay, sits down in the chair next to him. Shaun makes sure to scooch a bit closer, because he loves having Claire back. It’s always with the small gestures that say a lot with Shaun.
She asks if he remembers when they first met. Of course he does. He was very wet. She tears up when she says he saved that little boy’s life that day, too. Shaun is confused, why is she crying? “Because I’m so happy. And I’m a little bit sad.” That doesn’t help, though. Because how can she be happy and sad at the same time?
“I’m happy for you. For how far you’ve come, and for the joy you found, the amazing man you’ve become.” Aw, look at that sweet deliberate Shaun eye contact right there. She adds, “And I’m sad because I miss you.”
Shaun misses her, too. She invites him in for a hug, and Shaun is there for it all the way. Another Claire hug, he really loves having her around and having her close.
He steals a glance at his watch, and it’s 5 am. He’s getting married in five hours. He better go! Wow, our boy is getting wedded on zero sleep after an exhausting several-hour middle-of-the-night surgery. We can only hope at least Glassman went home and caught some sleep after they were done operating.
Of course it’s raining as everyone arrives at the church (the old Vancouver vs. San Jose conundrum). Jordan and Sophie are with Lea as she gets a last look at her full wedding outfit. They gave her hair extensions, and the dress comes with a matching tulle and embroidered flowers veil over the tail. I love that they went with a pretty understated make-up, Lea has enough natural beauty to make it work wonderfully.
Lea looks stunning and Sophie remarks, “Meghan Markle is so jealous right now.” However, you can see that Lea is not a 100% sold as she scrutinises herself in the mirror. Trouble in paradise is brewing, I can feel it.
Shaun is also getting ready to make the trip to the altar. He presents himself to Daddy Glassy who is waiting in a backroom somewhere. Shaun looks dapper in The Gosling, and even Glassy has a, “Wow, you look great,” tumbling across his lips.
Shaun proudly proclaims he has practiced wearing the suit, and he managed to get up to 44 minutes. If they hurry though the ceremony and Shaun skips the redundant parts of his vows, they should be able to make it. Glassy looks like the proudest father in the world as he pins the pink rose to Shaun’s lapel.
There’s a knock on the door, and before he opens, Glassy turns to Shaun. “You ready?” Yes, Shaun is ready. Glassman smiles. “Yeah, you are.” And does that maybe sound more like a self-assurance that he’s ready to hand his protégé over into the loving arms of a new patron? I’m sure Glassman has mixed feelings, with hopefully joy and pride predominating.
The person who knocked was Lea, and she’s clearly got something on her mind. “We need to talk,” she says to Shaun. Ah, here it comes. The ‘this isn’t us, let’s call this off’ speech that I smelled a mile and twenty minutes ago.
Sophie is now starting to get nervous. All the guests are seated, everything is ready, where are the bride and groom? In the backroom, Lea gives Shaun a once-over. “You look so handsome,” she tells him with a smile on her face, and Shaun can’t help but state that Lea also looks beautiful. “Gosling and Markle,” Lea confirms, “but not Shaun and Lea.”
She really wanted to make this work, she wanted to show the world what an amazing couple they are, but she can also see how uncomfortable Shaun is. “I can only last for another 39 minutes,” he confirms. She loves him so much, and she can’t wait to marry him, but it shouldn’t be like this. Shaun is very relieved. He doesn’t wanna get married like this, either.
Sophie interrupts, asks if everything is okay. Yes, Lea says, but there’s not gonna be a wedding. “Not today,” Shaun underlines as he takes the cummerbund off with a sigh of relief. Lea apologises to Sophie that they’re ruining her show. “Wedding show without a wedding. Yeah, pretty much.” Lea explains that she really wanted it to be bigger than them, but it’s also important that their wedding day is special in a way that they want. Shaun immediately ruffles his gelled hair into an unruly tousle.
Thankfully, Sophie isn’t mad. She gives them an understanding smile. “Go be happy. Go be you.” Lea and Shaun are grateful and leave. Sophie turns to the camera. “Hell of a twist.”
In true Shaun and Lea fashion, we next see them sitting in the back row of a public transit bus to what I assume is their home, still dressed in their wedding outfits. Giddy and happy, they smile and hold hands—what a turbulent day, and what an ending to it. Now all we can hope for is that the actual wedding will be soon and cosy and blissful and all “them”! Season finale, here we come.
Dr. Claire Browne, Future Chief of Surgery
With Claire having been offered the job of Chief of Surgery in Guatemala, she would like to get Audrey’s input on whether she’d make a good chief. Shaun can’t help but comment that Lim often leaves before he does, so it can’t be that hard. But Audrey counters that maybe it’s her making it look easy. They get to the heart of the matter when Audrey shares that maybe Claire might struggle with the emotional piece, because some days may be hard and you’d have to put your emotions aside and be a hardass.
After Lucho’s first surgery that didn’t go as well as planned, Lim and Claire have a bit of a heart-to-heart about Claire’s leadership style. Lim thinks Claire made the wrong call on choosing the kidney as the first surgery for Lucho because he almost died in exactly the way they predicted. So does that mean that Claire isn’t fit to be Chief of Surgery because she considers emotional aspects in her decisions? Or is it maybe just a different style of leadership?
Lim puts this into perspective by giving Villanueva’s current struggle as an example, and that being chief sometimes means making the objective and not the emotional call. Claire isn’t sure she sees it that way. She used to admire Lim for putting her career first, but her year in Guatemala has given her a new viewpoint. She isn’t so sure she admires that choice anymore now. And she mentions that maybe Lim has changed too, but not for the better. That gives Lim quite a bit to think about.
The question remains whether it’s quite so wrong to be emotionally attached to your patients. As they wheel Lucho into the OR, he says he’s scared, and Claire asks them to stop for a moment so she can give Lucho a hug and reassure him. (Side Note: Claire’s little elbow touch on Shaun was sweet, and I love that he realised right away what was happening.)
Shaun and Lim look on with curiosity or maybe a bit of judgment when Claire hugs Lucho. But that’s Claire for you, and Lim comes more and more to the realisation that compassion in the workplace isn’t necessarily always bad.
After Shaun and Lea call off the wedding, Lim sidles up to Claire in the church aisle. Claire is going back to Guatemala the next day. “You should take the job,” Lim tells her, “you’d make a fantastic chief.” After all, she made Lim a better one. They share a last hug before they walk out of the church.
Lim & Villanueva
Lim gets called to an urgent patient case. Jerome (yay, Jerome!) called her for a patient who’s in v-tach whose heart rhythm they can’t seem to get back to normal sinus. Lim administers medication and the heart rate goes back to normal.
She inquires why the patient crashed, he was stable on beta blockers earlier, and turns out that the patient didn’t get the needed dose of beta blockers the night before. Lim inquires why, and turns out that Villanueva was covering the floor that night. Lim asks Jerome to let her know when Villanueva comes in.
The big reprimand comes eventually when Lim orders Villanueva to her office. Villanueva knows that Lim doesn’t wanna hear excuses and it fully prepared that Lim will fire her, but that’s not what she’s prepared to do. She places Villanueva on administrative duties, seeing how a patient could have died because of her negligence.
Lim offers up an address of a really good shelter because Villanueva needs help, but you can already see that she’s not prepared to take that step yet. The whole thing is complicated, but it always is, isn’t it? Villanueva needed someone two years ago when her mother died and she was all alone, and her boyfriend Owen was there for her then. Now he’s going through something and is taking it out on her, so she feels like she owes hm something. Villanueva says she’ll call the shelter, but will she really?
The next day, Villanueva comes into Lim’s office and hands her a letter. It’s her resignation. She tried to call the shelter the night before but couldn’t do it. So she takes the drastic way out, and Lim accepts the letter with a grim nod.
They see each other again at the wedding, and Lim sits down in the pew next to Villanueva to hand her back the envelope. “I’m not accepting your resignation.” Villanueva says she can’t go back to work like this, but Claire showed Lim that being a good boss sometimes means to reach out with a helping hand beyond the workplace. She offers Villanueva to stay with her, to help her through the worst of it. “With my boss?” Villanueva asks. Lim responds, “With your friend. Please say yes.” Villanueva fights it for a moment, then nods. That’s beautiful. I’m glad Lim reached out, I was hoping for this.
Alex and Morgan discuss Shaun and Lea’s wedding present briefly during a short break. Morgan got them a bread maker, which Alex questions whether that’s actually an appropriate gift. Morgan says, “Everyone eats bread,” and Alex should thank her for taking care of it. Hm. I don’t really see Shaun and Lea eating that much bread outside of Shaun having the occasional ready-made sandwich (which Alex would know, seeing how he lived with Shaun for a while).
When Alex practices the kidney operation with Andrews, he asks what he’s getting Shaun and Lea as a wedding present, and Andrews says he picked a weekend in Napa at a working vineyard and dairy farm – Lea drinks wine, Shaun drinks 1%.
Side Note: We’ve seen Shaun drink wine too, so I think he wouldn’t necessarily go for the milk, but at least Andrews put some thought into it. And for those less familiar with holiday destinations in the US, Napa is a popular Californian tourist destination about 1 ½ hours outside of San Jose, known for its wineries, restaurants and arts culture.
While in the OR, Morgan tries to gauge Shaun’s predilection for bread. He’s good, as long as there is no cinnamon, nuts, seeds or berries. Or sprouted grains. Shaun, you’re such a nitpicker. Cause, dude, wholemeal bread with all the seeds is where it’s at. But this is coming from a person born and raised in the bread nation, so I’m probably biased. Not sure I give Shaun a pass on this, though.
The whole discussion veers away from whether a bread maker is a good gift for Shaun and Lea to Morgan heavily insinuating that Park doesn’t help out enough in the household and isn’t exactly appreciative of Morgan’s domestic chores efforts. Uh oh, trouble in paradise.
Asher contributes that he and Jerome are having a tiff of a different kind. Asher suggested they wear matching suits, which Jerome thought would just spell ‘tacky’, but Asher thinks it will be the cute kind of tacky and not the trash kind.
As the guests arrive at the church for the wedding, the camera team does some last minute interviews. Morgan and Park get to contribute again. Morgan calls Shaun and Lea the most adorable couple ever. Or maybe second. Alex gets snarky and comments that he really admires that they “respect each other for who they are” (spoken with air quotes without actually using air quotes).
Morgan gets the hint and cancels the bread maker. Instead they should be giving them something that represents Alex and Morgan. Marriage counselling sounds like the perfect gift. Boy, I hope Shaun and Lea won’t ever need that!
Jerome and Asher are indeed rocking the matching suits, both clad in maroon combos and identical shirt to top it off. I can’t decide if it’s cute tacky or trash tacky, but I think I’d tip the scale more towards cute than trashy. Asher says he ships Shaun and Lea, hashtag #Shea. Or hashtag pronounced Lee-Ash? No, that spells leash, Jerome hates it.
Asher wants to explain about the matching suits, but Jerome emphasizes that they’re fabulous and they look great in them. (They do!) However, Asher seems to have come to the realisation that he was wrong about the matchy-matchy vibe and they look like a couple of dorks. It’s okay, Asher. You’re still adorable. We love you.
Jerome loves him, too. He’s all about men who can admit when they’re wrong, and Asher may look like a dork, but at least he’s his dork. Kiss already, you dorks! And they do. Aww.
Reality Show People –
The (Still Not Really) Lea & Shaun Show
I’m kinda sad. I already said it a few times before, but this reality show format had so much potential, and they used none of it. Or at best very very little of it.
I dunno, I just feel like it lacked substance, because the absolute best episodes of The Good Doctor have always been the ones where we found out more about the characters beyond their daily lives. Those episodes in which we learned about their past, their families, their personal motivations and all the deeply rooted stuff with big personal stakes for them, and to an extent those where the characters went on adventures outside of the workplace. First and foremost, Friends and Family from season 3 comes to mind. Islands and More from season 1, Tough Titmouse and Faces from season 2, Parenting from season 4, Expired from season 5.
This is why some of us got excited that we’d be delving back into Shaun and Lea’s past as Sophie started showcasing Shaun and Lea as an unconventional couple. Revisit some of those old and maybe scabbed over wounds, see Pam and Mike again, finally get to know Donnie, possibly go back to Marcie, have Glassman talk about Shaun’s teen and tween years, the struggles they’ve had, the wins and losses along the way, maybe even touch on the topic of Maddie. We were hoping for all of that.
And what we got was… a mildly interesting burn victim case and a professional mistake Shaun made, a metastasized cancer patient requiring a concerted team approach and the lead-in to what was supposed to be a glitz and glam wedding with a bit of lukewarm reheated Shaun and Lea drama on the side.
I was willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt after The Shaun Show, but The Lea Show felt like even more of a letdown. It was full of hackneyed tropes, predictable narratives that were mediocre at best, and just unoriginal, uninspired and inorganic storytelling. And why was this episode even called The Lea Show? It wasn’t much at all about Lea, was it?
And I daresay that the worst part of it is that the episode didn’t even feel that poorly written at first glance. It was fun and entertaining to watch on the surface, but if you scratch beneath the façade, there’s this resounding hollow space that wanted to be filled with substance and just wasn’t.
Not sure one episode is an indication for a trend, but it seems like the overall viewership felt just as disheartened. Ratings have come in at 3.1 million viewers, the lowest of the season so far, with a hefty 0.35m difference to the next lowest episode (5×08 Rebellion) and also the lowest 18-49 demographic rating for this one. In comparison, the season 5 average across previous episodes was 3.8m viewers, so this episode had an almost 20% drop in viewers.
And that’s not a great prospect, although I hear ABC made a questionable decision by choosing the Disney movie Moana as the lead-in programme to this week’s episode, and (unusually) a new episode of New Amsterdam was aired at the exact same time which may have drawn viewers away.
What’s particularly sad about this is that this was the big Claire comeback episode, the guest spot return of Antonia Thomas that even made the news in March this year. Hope was probably put on that drawing a lot of viewers back to the show. It looks like it very much did not do that.
I daresay if we wanna see steady interest from a general audience in season 6, the writers really need to up their game. And I don’t mean by making the show raunchier or more scandalous. Not that I can speak for the entirety of the viewership, but I think overall interest is significantly governed by how interesting and emotionally compelling the stories of these characters are whom we’ve grown to love and invest in over the past five years. And these last few episodes, we haven’t seen much that was interesting or emotionally compelling at a level you’d expect for the big build-up to the season climax.
The Claire Conundrum
As I mentioned, it was already announced earlier this year that Antonia Thomas would be back for a guest spot. To be honest, at the time I didn’t really expect that they’d centre a whole episode around her, but it became pretty apparent that that was where they were going at the end of the last episode.
So then here we are, with those precious, non-negotiable 42 minutes of screen time, and way too many loose ends to squeeze into them and wrap up in any kind of satisfactory way. It wasn’t a big surprise that a significant amount of screen time would be spent on whatever Claire’s storyline would be. And then more of the reality TV filming, the usual two medical cases (which they actually condensed to one and combined with the Claire story), and a high likelihood of the wedding also being featured. Turns out they crammed in more Villanueva, too.
What’s more is that the Claire story was incredibly unoriginal. All of that had been done in one way or another on the show before. We’ve had several stories with patients being flown in from a less privileged country for the patient to be (often last-minute) rescued by modern western healthcare. We’ve had cases before where different surgical teams had to work together to save a patient in a concerted effort. And we’ve had cases where difficult decisions as to the best treatment approach had to be made. None of this was new or unique or particularly compelling.
I already mentioned that Claire took away some screen time from other characters. Daniela mentioned to me that this was particularly apparent in the scene where she told Shaun that she was proud of the man he’d become. It was a sweet and emotional scene and definitely made me tear up, but if you think about it, a speech about the kind of man Shaun turned out to be would have made more sense coming from a parental figure than a friend.
Too Much Of Everything
In discussion with other fans, we all agree that they’re trying to do a little bit too much for all the characters this season. There are so many of them to juggle now, and they always want to give everyone screen time in every episode. But guys, sometimes less is more. Less cramming of each and every character into each and every episode could work in the show’s favour.
I hope they learn this lesson for next season, though I hear they are now adding two new residents as recurring characters in season 6. Great. Even more characters to give screen time to.
The whole thing with the wedding being called off (again!) was way too predictable and tropey. As soon as they introduced all those aspects of Shaun and Lea going against their natural grain just for the reality TV wedding, it became pretty apparent that there would be a 180° at the end, that they’d call it quits on the forced wedding setup and instead go with something that was a little less Markle and Gosling and a lot more Dilallo and Murphy. So that twist at the end wasn’t really much of a twist, at least where I was concerned.
Stop With The Shoehorning
I remarked last week that the Villanueva storyline felt very forced and might have been better placed in another episode where it could have had more room to breathe. Of course now it makes sense that they tied it to the Claire storyline, and I’m glad they fleshed that out and did something nice with it, but it was also incredibly tropey and predictable. I knew exactly how that story would play out as soon as Villanueva handed in her resignation.
Father Of The Groom
Yeah, where was Glassy? I believe there were interviews with Freddie and/or David Shore at the beginning of season 5 that specifically mentioned that Glassman would play an important role of father of the groom. We saw pretty much the opposite of that playing out in season 5, so what is up with that? Sure, he was there to pin a rose on Shaun’s lapel and to tell him he looked great, but that’s hardly what we expected when the Father of the Groom thing was teased.
What I’ve been wondering is whether Glassman should have pushed Shaun more in the direction of, “Are you really sure this is what you want?” He could clearly see that Shaun was uncomfortable and that it wasn’t his idea of their big and important day, but that he was trying to go along just for the sake of Lea and the TV show. Would have been nice to have him get a little more positive encouragement to stand up for what he wants, since Glassman is usually the first to tell him that.
However, in the grand scheme of things, this is not my biggest gripe with this episode. And since the title of next week’s episode is Sons, we could speculate that that has some kind of relevance, though honestly I don’t dare hope.
Lea, The Plot Device
This was an interesting mention from NiceNiceDevice, who also felt that the episode was the epitome of missed opportunities:
The best thing about it was Claire. Lea is written like a plot device this season. They use her randomly to get pissed and change the course of things. Or she just changes her mind on a whim when the script calls for it. It feels very willy-nilly.
These episodes were somehow entertaining, yet very badly written. Why is Claire the only one to get significant character development, but it all happened off-screen? Her inspiring Lim to be less of a hardass was actually cool. And Lim telling Claire she’d be kickass as chief in Guatemala felt big. Like, I was damn proud of her. I want that for Shaun. For Glassy. For Lea. But it all feels so superficial with them cause everyone needs their damn screentime.
Also we better be getting more Glassy/Lea/Jordan start-up in season 6. Because you can’t just establish that shit and drop it.
I can only underline the statement about the inconsistent writing for Lea. The two examples that come to mind were both of those explosions about her not accepting Shaun as a romantic partner back in season 3, because both times it came totally out of the blue and felt very much like an overreaction on Lea’s part. This episode I also felt her stance on “Let’s go with a glam wedding because that will look good on TV” was untrue to her character.
On one had they write her as strong and sassy, as in, “I’ll take my clothes off if you don’t switch off the cameras,” and on the other they write her as, “I’ll suck it up and do this really important thing I don’t want just to be nice.” Seems inconsistent.
Huevos Rancheros Con Salsa Verde
While we’re talking about sub-par writing, the scene with the huevos rancheros also comes to mind. I understand that they wanted a tangible analogy for Shaun’s willingness to compromise and show he’s good husband material, but food prepared in their own home was just a badly chosen example for it. It becomes bad writing when it’s this obvious that something was only devised in a certain way to bring across a dramatic point.
Shaun should not be eating food he doesn’t like when he’s at home. He could have just as easily made two different dishes—the huevos rancheros for Lea and something else for himself. Being in a partnership is also about not having to always do the exact same thing as the partner.
Add to that, Lea wouldn’t expect him to eat something he doesn’t like when they’re at home, especially if he’s doing it just to please her. Shaun’s gesture was well received for sure, but what I wish she would have said is, “Shaun, you hate huevos rancheros, please eat something else you actually like.” I feel like that should have been the conversation, and not her awkwardly watching him torture himself just for her sake.
Daniela had an interesting take on the episode title that I wanna talk about, because The Lea Show perhaps meant to imply figuratively that Lea was turning this into a kind of show (i.e. mess) it should never have become?
We could postulate that it was a little bit Lea’s fault that what should have been their big, once-in-a-lifetime day turned into a messy last minute wedding cancellation. However, we should also clearly outline that she wasn’t acting selfishly, and there were different factors at play.
Both Shaun and her actions in this episode came from a motivation that was a little misguided, not lastly because there was external peer pressure. If you want someone to blame, then I think it should be Sophie. She more or less manipulated Shaun into doing the TV show, with both Shaun and Lea having second thoughts along the way that were being kicked aside. I think Shaun may have romanticised the whole thing a little too much when he said yes, not fully thinking it through.
And once they had said yes—Lea more out of courtesy for Shaun than her own desire—there was all this external pressure to go through with it.
Lea went along with the Upscale Elegance theme because she thought Shaun really wanted to inspire other neurodivergent people by showcasing a dream wedding of an atypical couple for TV. Shaun went along with the Upscale Elegance because he thought Lea really loved the way the wedding was being planned and was fully on board. Neither of them communicated how they truly felt about it until it was too late.
Although Shaun actually tried. He asked Lea if she loved the wedding setup, which she didn’t answer truthfully. She strung Shaun along by evading the question, counting on the fact that he wouldn’t be able to read between the lines. There should have been a honest discussion between the two of them at that point, and a realisation that both of them were less comfortable with the whole idea than they let on.
Daniela put it this way:
Lea tried to be selfless. She wanted to present the world with the fairy tale wedding of an atypical couple. And in doing that she denied everything that she and Shaun are and have accomplished together. Being open with one another and face challenges together is what made their relationship work. Instead, they did exactly the opposite through this whole reality show madness.
But, you know, of course them addressing the issue earlier would have made for less dramatic television, and clearly they wanted the drama of a last minute wedding cancellation for this episode. And so that’s where they went, and I can’t say I loved it all that much.
Post Script Addendum on Cohesion
This came to me after I initially posted the recap, but I’ll add it now anyway. I was trying to edit together a video cut of the scenes from 5×16 and 5×17 that were filmed reality TV style, and what I noticed is that the style of the two episodes was very different, which is likely a result of the episodes having different directors.
Seeing how these two episodes were so closely connected and should have been intertwined, it seems puzzling that they didn’t hire the same director for both, perhaps even the same writer(s). Because I think that would have worked wonders for the cohesion of the episodes.
With these different approaches by the two directors, it felt disjointed and disassociated. It was like we were watching two entirely separate episodes, and not something that should have felt like a harmonious and complementing unit. Another thing where I think this episode fell short.
It Wasn’t All Bad
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all dismal and terrible. There were some highlights, too.
It was nice having Claire back for a little while, and nicer yet to see Shaun being so happy to have her back. They got three hugs out of it, which is amazing, seeing how it took Shaun four years to give her the first one. In my headcanon they facetime each other regularly, because I want to hope that they do.
As NiceNiceDevice already mentioned, it was lovely to see Claire having grown and learned, for her to actually be able to teach seasoned Audrey something. I’d like to think she also gave Shaun a few reminders that making personal connections can be rewarding.
Asher and Jerome as a couple are always instant win. I stan them so much! We got a gratuitous #Shea pairing name drop out of them, and I daresay this was a nice nod to the fandom that says, “Yes guys, we see you.” Though now I wanna petition for renaming the paring #Leash, cause that’s 100% my twisted kind of humour.
My personal preference for The Shaun & Lea Show two-parter would have been:
- Less medical focus, more emphasis on Shaun and Lea’s personal lives and past
- More characters from their past being featured, e.g. the Dilallos, Marcie, other people or situations from Shaun’s past we don’t know yet
- More focus on Shaun’s existing relationships with the main characters
- More damn focus on Glassman being de-facto Shaun’s father
(Why is this still being blatantly ignored? It’s long overdue. I will rant about this forever if they don’t address it eventually.)
- No unnecessary side plots to give enough room for deeper exploration of personal aspects around Shaun and Lea for a change
- A wedding that would do them justice and not some forced glamorous pseudo TV version, including a stag night that Shaun would actually enjoy
- Did I mention more personal Shaun and Lea focus? And Glassman focus? More of that, pls
Could I have written these episodes better? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not a scriptwriter, nor do I claim to be. I’m not a showrunner either, and I don’t think I’d want to do that job. It sounds insanely hard and stressful to do it well.
An actual showrunner once told me that it’s not as rewarding as one might think, because you lose the objectivity that the viewers have, and you’re so deeply engrossed in all aspects that the final product loses its magic because you know and worked through all the ingredients and iterations that went into making it what it is. Which is an interesting take, and I totally believe it. One more reason not to want to be a showrunner, although I’m sure it comes with many rewards as well.
Behind the Scenes Goodness
We were treated with a few lovely behind the scenes stills for this episode, and Hollis Jane Andrews and Richard Schiff also shared some photos on social media. Take a look.
The End in Sight
So tomorrow will bring us the season finale, and I will openly admit I have mixed feelings. I tend to be pessimistic in nature, so I’m trying to keep my expectations low, seeing how I think the odds are stacked against this being a grand finale.
It sounds to me like the decision to shorten the season to 18 episodes rather than 20 and move the last two to season 6 was made relatively short notice. Which also means that they had planned out the last leg of the season differently initially, and needed to adjust the last few scripts to accommodate this change and force storylines into a new timeline and project plan.
It doesn’t necessarily have to mean a sub-par outcome, but if I’m being honest, it doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence, also considering that the episode was written by one of the writers whose work I’m not very fond of, in tandem with a writer who has never written a TGD script before. David Shore was involved in the teleplay for the episode and directed it, perhaps exactly because of all this reshuffling, and the fact that 5×18 was never meant to be the season finale in the first place. So I’m hoping that the finale will positively surprise me, and if it doesn’t, you can count on me angrily writing all the fix-it fan fiction during the summer hiatus.
State of the Shea
Kelli Lawrence’s thoughts on the episode are up on her State of the Shea blog if you’d like to hear other opinions.
Will be added later, stay tuned.