A page dedicated to the Shaun/Lea Pairing of ABC’s "The Good Doctor"

Season 6 Commentary: Shaun’s Journey So Far

With just about a week to go until The Good Doctor returns to our screens, I’d love to take a look back at the nine episodes out of season 6 that have already aired and review Shaun’s journey to look closer at the scenes that stood out to me. Come along for the ride!

6×01 Afterparty

Clearly, the big shocker from the previous season finale was on everyone’s mind as we went into season 6. While Shaun and Lea were joyfully dancing on the hospital roof as husband and wife, Lim and Villanueva were bleeding out on the break room floor below. How was the newlywed couple going to learn about the dire situation a few floors down?

Basking in the afterglow of their most special evening, Shaun and Lea discuss what being married may feel like, and both agree that it doesn’t really seem much different than before. They still love each other, and they’re still very happy.

As we know, good things don’t usually last on The Good Doctor, and good things definitely didn’t last for Shaun and Lea’s wedding. News about Owen running amok travels fast, and saving Lim and Villanueva’s life becomes the paramount aspect of focus for the available surgeons, plus Lea filling in as impromptu circulating nurse.

Lim’s situation is precarious, and her life hangs in the balance, especially when things go from bad to worse because of limited resources and a lack of life-supporting machinery. When Lim’s blood pressure tanks during surgery, the team needs to act fast to save her life. Shaun, who usually thinks quick on his feet, is still struggling with resurfacing memories of his brother’s traumatic injury and how he can’t bear the thought of losing another dear member of his chosen family.

Shaun’s inability to concentrate on the matter at hand and a disruptive outburst get him forcefully extricated from the OR, and it’s gut-wrenching and painful to watch him go into what eventually becomes a catatonic episode that renders him unable to focus and move.

Those soft, defeated, self-loathing words he says to Steve hit so deeply. “I couldn’t save you. You died because of me.” Shaun has been carrying this guilt for Steve’s death with him for over fifteen years, and now seeing Lim bleeding and dying is bringing it all bubbling right to the surface.

Shaun brings this full circle when he has the courage to talk to Lea about it in his very matter-of-fact, no-frills manner after the crisis is over.

When Shaun talks about his vision of Steve, Lea asks him if he’s ready to forgive himself. His answer? “I’m… trying.” It’s a long road yet for Shaun to come to accept that he is not to blame for his brother’s fatal accident, and that’s probably not something that he’ll ever fully reconcile. Yet, it’s beautiful that we know Shaun is on the path to forgiveness and that he’s healing, bit by bit.

We also bring full circle what it feels like to be married, because the love Shaun has for Lea was only reinforced by how she was there for him when he had the shutdown outside of the OR and how she managed to get him through and out of it. Shaun definitely feels married now, and this whole disaster, as terrible as it was, has only strengthened their love for each other.

6×02 Change of Perspective

There were no scenes from this episode that stood out to me. The time jump, while necessary between seasons to make the timing work, left a lot to be desired and also let a lot fall by the wayside that fans actually cared about. Shaun has been promoted to attending, which was unglamorously and in my opinion undeservedly glossed over. There was no mention as to which specialty he chose, since specialties aren’t really much of a thing on this show anyway.

Most notably, Shaun clashes with new junior resident Danica and almost fires her when she refuses to partake in a pig heart transplant due to personal reasons. In my opinion, this storyline was badly handled and executed, particularly the part where Lea recommends to Shaun to fire this new resident without even knowing the backstory or the resident.

6×03 A Big Sign

Shaun’s next leg of his journey is to navigate the new challenges of married life. There’s a debate in the Murphy-Dilallo household as to how rigorously dishes have to be cleaned before they go in the dishwasher or how exactly the laundry is best folded. Or maybe not so much a debate as more Shaun telling Lea she’s doing it wrong.

When it is pointed out to Shaun by his colleagues that it might have upset Lea that he insisted on everything being done the way he thinks is right, he confronts Lea about it. Lea has such immense patience with Shaun sometimes but I’m not sure it’s going to be healthy for their marriage in the long run if she’s most always the one to take it on the chin so Shaun can have his way or so there’s no open conflict.

I’m glad she tells Shaun that she’s frustrated with how he often implies her way of doing things is inadequate, how he makes her think she can’t do right by him sometimes. There’s a reference to the episode title when she mentions that she feels he’s sometimes holding up a big sign that says, “You’re doing everything wrong.”

The one thing I love about this scene—and it’s almost a throwaway line—is when Shaun has this brief self-denigrating moment of “my ASD makes everything difficult”, and Lea quickly reassures him with this super simple but very powerful line, “I love your brain, Shaun.”

And in true Shaun fashion, he solicits opinions and advice from all sorts of people, most of all the marriage therapist patient he’s treating for brain cancer, who shares with him that the most important thing for a healthy, lasting marriage is to keep telling the partner how much you love them, and everything else will fall into place.

In a super sweet way, Shaun expresses his love for Lea when he tells her after a casual dinner at home that she should do the dishes and he won’t interfere or teach her his technique. Instead, he goes and picks up the big sign he made that he holds up to her. “You’re doing everything right! I love you!” Aww.

While things seem to be running smoothly now in the Murphy-Dilallo love department, this is very much not so with Shaun and Lim. Adjusting to her new life has been and keeps being a struggle, and it doesn’t help that the person who is in some way responsible for this situation but refuses to acknowledge that is her colleague and subordinate she has to work with every day. As a consequence, she decides it’s best for her to keep her relationship with Shaun purely professional and tells him not to talk to her about anything other than work and medicine.

This is a pretty big blow for Shaun, it clearly comes out of the blue, and it made for quite a bit of animosity in the fandom. Many fans were taking sides, either vehemently defending Lim by saying Shaun was a 100% at fault for her paralysis and should be openly blamed and condemned for it, or vehemently defending Shaun by saying Lim had no right to be angry at him because he saved her life and she should be grateful.

Personally, I think a lot of people are missing the point that Glassman tried to make in an earlier scene in this episode, when Lim conveyed gratefulness to Glassman that finally someone was seeing her side, and Glassman telling her, “It’s not either or.” Both Shaun and Lim’s feelings and behaviours are valid within the context of their personal situations. There is no right or wrong here. They both have the right to feel hurt and betrayed. They were both put into impossible situations that had no good way out. And now all that’s left is the fallout and finding ways how to deal with it. Which both are doing in their own way.

6×04 Shrapnel

At work, Shaun struggles with the ongoing rejection he feels from Dr. Glassman over the fact that Shaun is steadfast convinced he did nothing wrong when they operated on Lim, and that his saving Lim’s life should absolve him of any responsibility for emotional fallout or resentment.

As is often Shaun’s MO, instead of facing and acknowledging his own emotional struggle with the situation, he deflects and reroutes it so it becomes easier to ignore. His way of channelling his emotions away from Lim and Glassman is to hyperfocus on the idea of needing his own office space that has no other permanent residents and no distractions. He ends up taking up residence in an unused tiny storage space.

Glassman sees the warning signs and comes to talk to Shaun, confronts him with the fact that Shaun is isolating himself, that he’s retreating and shutting the world out, and that it’s not good for him. Glassman has seen this several times in the past, citing instances in high school or the beginning of med school, and Glassman knows this isn’t healthy and will most likely not end well.

Shaun isn’t at all receptive to the criticism at this stage, gets angry and aggressive with Glassman and eventually throws him out of his new closet office.

I think by this time it’s become increasingly clear that there will have to be a learning curve for Shaun, one that hopefully doesn’t involve things crashing and burning before he can learn his lesson that denial is not the answer, that he will need to take some kind of responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

6×05 Growth Opportunities

After Shaun ran an idea by Dr. Glassman how to potentially restore Lim’s spinal deformities that might result in her being able to walk again, Shaun has another thing to hyperfocus on: Finding the best approach to said surgery.

Glassman isn’t in favour of the idea, he thinks Shaun’s suggestion is too risky to even suggest it to Lim, which Shaun is of course not happy with. He thinks Glassman is only rejecting his ideas because he’s still angry at Shaun, and so Shaun wants to know when Glassman will stop being mad at him and like his ideas again. It would be really nice if it were that simple, wouldn’t it?

The whole thing gives Glassman pause as well, because he certainly isn’t happy with the fact that fact that he and Shaun are at odds. It makes him think back to a situation he handled badly when he yelled at his daughter Maddie, and it prompts him to go and talk to Shaun again.

There’s a super sweet moment between the two of them where Glassman tells Shaun that, no matter how mad he may be at Shaun, he’ll never stop loving him. Shaun is visibly confused by this statement and isn’t sure what Dr. Glassman is trying to tell him. This was probably more for Glassman’s benefit than for Shaun’s to reassure himself Shaun knew he would always be loved, but it’s still such a wholesome moment when Shaun thinks for a long moment after Glassman tells him he loves him, and then softly says, “I do, too.”

They work together on refining the surgery for Dr. Lim and eventually come to a workable solution, which they run by Lim. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, after some deliberation, Lim declines. This upsets Shaun. He’s worked so hard on finding a solution that wouldn’t just restore Lim’s leg function, it would also redeem him and, in Shaun’s mind, solve all the friction between them and clear all the negativity with one fell swoop.

Shaun keeps insisting it’s not fair that Lim said no, that she robbed him of this chance make things right, and Glassman says all the right things when he calmly offers Shaun the chance to explain what he doesn’t understand about Lim’s decision. If we didn’t think that Glassman had accepted his explicit father role to Shaun until now, this episode really solidified it.

6×06 Hot and Bothered

We dig more into Shaun’s role as attending and mentor, and we also pick back up on the rocky start he’s had with Danica. She’s assigned to the case he’s now working on that requires a whole lot of creative problem solving since the patient’s symptoms are diffuse and they have yet to find a diagnosis.

The underlying issue with Danni is not just that she’s headstrong, vocal and opinionated, it’s also that she actively advised Lim against doing the surgery Shaun suggested. I suspect that part of Shaun’s deflection technique to forget about the Lim friction is to deny that Danni’s contrariness and stubbornness may be a mirror to his own personality traits, and instead attribute his dislike of Danni to something more tangible: The strong smell of her hand lotion.

While trying to make inroads with Danni and clearing away some of that friction between them, Shaun is given the advice to find common ground. As expected, he struggles quite a bit with the idea, and until Danni herself has to spell it out for him, he doesn’t quite realise that a massive area of common ground is that they’re both outsiders having faced discrimination based on a disability or disorder.

One of my favourite lines from this episode is when Danni tells Shaun, “I’ve seen you get distracted when something irritates your sensibilities. Never seen that make you a jackass.” He doesn’t seem to be taking it to heart much, however, because he and Danni go another round of verbal sparring in the OR later.

It’s the heat wave crisis that brings them together. When the power goes out and they need to rapidly brainstorm how to save their patient’s life, they discover there are both surgical history buffs and use an old-school heat-on-metal cauterisation technique that’s from the civil war.

Ironically, Shaun still ultimately attributes his differences with Danica to her hand lotion, because when she changes it, he is suddenly a lot more open to trying to bond with her over the common ground they actually do have.

While I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time we’ll see Shaun and Danni clash over something, I’m not as sure that Shaun has really internalised the learnings here – that he and Danni have fundamental aspects in common related to how they’re both outside the norm based on a physical or mental condition.

6×07 Boys Don’t Cry

It’s been a long time coming, so we’re finally at the point where the topic of offspring and conception is being revisited. Now that Lea is off the anti-coagulants after her miscarriage, they can try to conceive again, hoping that their OB-GYN appointment will confirm that everything’s fine.

Everything is not fine, as they later find out. An ultrasound indicates that Lea has developed Asherman’s syndrome as a complication from the foetoscopic surgery back in season 4. Her uterus is affected in a way that getting pregnant again right now wouldn’t be safe for either her or the baby.

The news is pretty devastating for both Shaun and Lea, they were so excited to try for a baby again, and we’ll see this further play out along the season.

One of the more subtle moments from this episode that stood out to me was the short moment of bonding between Shaun and Danny. He asks Shaun how their OB-GYN appointment went, seeing how Shaun had told him about it earlier. The way Shaun admits that he’s pretty upset is very understated and very Shaun—him just giving Danny a curt, “No,” as a response to Danny’s inquiry if he’s okay, but I think Danny knows Shaun well enough by now to read plenty into that.

6×08 Sorry, Not Sorry

After a third of the season building up to this point, Shaun is confronted again with Lim’s ongoing resentment and how much it bleeds into his professional life. When she brusquely sends him away even when he comes to her with a medical question and Shaun turns to Dr. Glassman with his case instead, Glassman is also painfully reminded once more how much the friction between Shaun and Lim is impeding a positive working environment for either of them.

What complicates the matter is that with all that’s going on, Shaun is suddenly full of self-doubts – not just where his social skills are concerned but now he’s no longer confident that he can make good medical decisions on his own and shoulder the responsibility for them. Glassman’s alarm bells certainly go off because medicine has always been Shaun’s safe space, the one area in his life where he knew what he was capable of, that he excelled at. With that now being compromised on top of everything, that’s a big concern.

After Shaun asks Glassman to scrub in on his RSI surgery so that someone more senior could be there and after Shaun gets a bit flaky during the surgery, Glassman’s alarm bells ring even louder. He goes to seek Shaun out in his closet office to try and talk Shaun into having an honest conversation with Lim. Just like before, Shaun doesn’t want to hear it. He has nothing to say to Lim, nothing to apologise for.

It’s Shaun’s patient and her wife who finally get him to understand where he’s gone wrong all this time. Like his patient’s wife, Shaun was so focused on defending himself, he wasn’t thinking about what Lim was going through.

Glassman told him that he should go to Lim and tell her how he feels, and then hope for forgiveness. Or at least… something. So Shaun gathers the courage to do just that, and I think we’re all glad he took that step, because the beautiful and honest conversation between the two of them is what has long been needed and what moved many of us to tears.

6×09 Broken Or Not

With the plans of having children having been forcefully tabled for a while, Shaun and Lea have found a new hobby: Fake house-hunting. Lea had this idea that looking at open houses that they couldn’t afford might be a fun thing to do, perhaps with some kind of an ulterior motive that made it more tangible that at some point in the future, they could be owning a home they might eventually raise kids in.

Things get a little more complicated when they look at a house that Lea really likes, and that she thinks they should consider buying in earnest because it had this cute little reading nook, and the thought of renovating a somewhat decrepit house seems like a great new project that will also move their relationship a step forward.

Shaun isn’t quite so enthusiastic. He doesn’t think their mutual finances are in a place where affording a mortgage on a Bay Area home is a good idea. When Glassman suggests to Shaun that maybe the house is just a distraction for Lea to divert attention away from their conception issues, his solution is to focus Lea’s distractions on something that’s a little more productive. He asks Dr. Andrews to assign Lea a new work project that will keep her busy in a way that she doesn’t need the house anymore.

Understandably, Lea is annoyed that Shaun is making decisions for her that aren’t his to make, and she wishes Shaun could try to also see that the house could be a place where they could be happy together. Shaun isn’t quite there yet, but he says he’ll think about it.

When Shaun listens to a conversation at their patient’s bedside where Danny talks about how sometimes people just need to be loved, broken or not, Shaun is reminded that a big part of marriage is to compromise and put your partner’s needs over your own if you can live with the consequences and if it’s something that’s truly important for the other person.

He goes to seek out Lea to tell her he’s fine with buying that house if it will make her happy, but it also makes Lea see that she was pushing for something that wasn’t in their mutual interest. She and Shaun agree that the better approach is to look for a house they both love.

The big surprise for them comes when they want to get imaging of Lea’s hand that she injured earlier. The pregnancy test that they took as a precaution came back positive – Lea is pregnant again!

She calls Shaun just before he’s about to go into the spinal surgery on Dr. Lim that she finally agreed to and breaks the surprising news. She’s really scared now, because her OB-GYN told her a pregnancy at this time would be dangerous for both her and baby.

Neither of them expected that, and I think we’re supposed to assume this happened when they were having sex before Lea’s OB-GYN appointment in Boys Don’t Cry. Being the positive person that he is, Shaun tries to make the best of the situation and tells Lea he will try to imagine what could be, and they should both hope for the best – together.

Episode 6×10 Quiet and Loud will air in just about a week’s time (Jan 23, 2023 on ABC, 10 | 9c), and if you’ve seen the promo for the episode, you’ll know that we’ll be progressing quite a bit with the pregnancy story, and there’s going to be a good level of intensity in one way or another. Bring it on!

Please remember that I would like to remain spoiler free for upcoming episodes, so if you wish to comment, I’d like to ask that you don’t mention any future plot points from promos, stills or behind-the-scenes footage and photos. Thanks!

1 Comment

  1. Julianna

    Shaun has grown a lot in Season 6 so far, personally and professionally. From moving forward to at least trying to forgive himself, and recognizing that he has blamed himself for Steve’s death, to learning to manage marriage and his relationship with Lea in general, it really is amazing.

    I agree about the glossing over Shaun’s becoming an attending. It’s a huge step; he’s finally a full doctor with all that entails. As for a specialty, you’d know this better than me, teejay; do doctors always declare a specialty immediately after their residency is completed? Also, is General Surgery a specialty? Shaun loves different surgical challenges so that may be his choice if that’s a.thing.

    I LOVED A Big Sign, both for the sign itself and for what Shaun has learned. He’s never going to be able to love the way Lea does things; their styles are VERY different. But he does love Lea.

    As for the Shaun/Danica antipathy; I’ve said it before, I don’t see that it’s all on Shaun’s side; he’s just more blunt about it. She’s antagonistic by nature, and she said herself that she has a problem with authority, or as she called it, chain of command. I’m glad they finally connected on something, although they’ll never be exactly besties.

    BTW, I’m writing this after we’ve seen “Quiet and Loud”. Did anyone notice (or care) that Danni was nowhere to be seen in that episode?

    I’m loving the father/son relationship between Glassy and Shaun, both tough love and gruff tenderness.

    Sorry Not Sorry was one of my favorite episodes all time. That beautiful scene with Shaun and Lim…my god! Freddie and Christina just crushed it. Yes, my face was wet!

    I guess Shaun and Lea are tabling house hunting for awhile. I’m kinda glad; I’d miss that loft. I wish I had one…or rather could afford one! They’re making decent money now, so they obviously can afford it.

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