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

Season 6 Recap: 6×04 Shrapnel

I have mixed feelings about this one, although overall I came away with a positive impression after the first viewing. Lots of stuff was covered, new things were learned, and it seems the direction of some important aspects just got a serious course adjustment. There’s certainly many things to ponder, so let’s get to it.

The Technicalities

Written by Thomas L. Moran and Tristan Thai
Directed by Allison Liddi Brown
Original airdate 24 Oct 2022

Patient Cases

Patient #1 – Charlie Lindgren

Treating physicians:
Shaun Murphy, Asher Wolke, Danica Powell

Burns and shrapnel wounds from being too close to exploding fireworks, subsequent bone, tissue, nerve and blood vessel damage from a second explosion going off inside his shoulder during surgery

Case notes:

  • Charlie was admitted to the ER with powder burns and a penetrating shrapnel wound from an unintended fireworks explosion during a historical battle re-enactment.
  • Shaun determines the humerus isn’t fractured, he orders Danica and Asher to irrigate with antibiotics and a CT to locate the fireworks fragments.
  • During the surgery to remove the fragments in Charlie’s shoulder, Danni notices that some of the shrapnel is from a propulsive charge. They don’t shut off the electrocautery quickly enough and Shaun causes still active charges left in Charlie’s shoulder to explode.
  • The explosion shreds Charlie’s brachial artery and shatters his humerus. There’s now significantly more damage than before, including substantial bleeding. Further tests also indicate severe trauma to the distal subclavian artery.
  • Danni finds that several nerves have been severed in the explosion, which means the arm would be immobile without sensation if they managed to actually fix the broken bones and restore blood flow. A decision has to be made whether to amputate or not.
  • Shaun proposes external fixation for the broken bone, a subclavian artery bypass and to repair the nerves with sural grafts from Charlie’s leg. The plan gets refined when Shaun suggests biopolymer grafts to repair the multiple nerves that are involved.
  • The team performs the surgery and managed to repair all the damage. With lots of physical therapy, Charlie should be able to regain full function to his arm.

Okay, but can we talk about how Shaun screws up once again with this case and gets away with it? When Danni realises that there’s still explosive material left in Charlie’s shoulder, she assertively and urgently orders for the electrocautery to be shut off. Shaun, with his newfound “I am now the infallible attending, and what I say is gospel” attitude ignores it with a statement that there’s still bleeding and applies the electrocautery anyway. It makes shit explode and fucks up Charlie’s shoulder to the point where they almost have to amputate.

Honestly, that’s a pretty big deal that could have been avoided if Shaun had just taken a step back and listened to his resident rather than play surgeon god. He even has the audacity to brag to Charlie that he was very lucky that the charge didn’t explode in the field where he would have bled to death.

Arrgh, this is so frustrating, and right now I wanna slap some sense into Shaun. That said, it might explain why Shaun was so insistent on not wanting to amputate Charlie’s arm. Possibly he did feel somewhat responsible, and didn’t want to have to be held accountable for ruining yet another person’s ability to have functional limbs.

Patient #2 – Andy

Treating physicians:
Alex Park, Morgan Reznick, Jordan Allen, Daniel Perez

Amputated foot from a speed boat accident

Case notes:

  • Andy is admitted to the ER with an amputated foot, in and out of consciousness. BP is very low from massive blood loss. Andy got run over by a speed boat during a pre-dawn skinny dip on a first date.
  • Park orders a transfusion of packed red blood cells, he wants to replant the foot if it can be found in time, which becomes a gamble because the foot is still at the bottom of the lake.
  • Jordan and Danny go to the lake to start as quickly as possible with antibiotic irrigation, pulse lavage and perfusion after the foot is found to increase chances of successful replanting.
  • While they wait for the foot, Andy develops an active bleed at the debridement site and his blood pressure drops. It’s getting riskier by the minute to keep the stump exposed and the blood vessels open.
  • They’re about to start with a full amputation when the foot is found. Jordan and Danny manage to prep and perfuse it en-route and they start to reattach the foot when it arrives at St. Bonaventure.
  • During the surgery, they discover there’s thrombosis in Andy’s thigh which now obstructs blood flow to the rest of the leg, however they manage to restore the blood flow and replant the foot successfully. With six months of PT, Andy should be able to walk again.

Shaun’s Journey

Shaun is up before the alarm again, inadvertently waking Lea when the TV is still on high volume from her watching Hairspray the night before. Lea knows what’s up. Shaun doesn’t sleep well when something’s gnawing at him, so she goes to check. Her concern is met with chastisement that damage to the inner ear is very possible at these high TV volumes.

Kinda love it how Lea tells him, “Daddy, chill,” here. 🙂 Also, thank you for putting Lea in a t-shirt and not those god-awful grandma pyjamas for this episode!

The way Lea asks, “Cannot sleep again?” speaks volumes (put not intended) because apparently that has been happening a lot lately. She’s worried. He’s clearly told her that Lim called it quits on their friendship, she knows that must be bothering him. Shaun, however, is in classic denial mode. No, he’s not anxious or upset, he really needed to read these medical journals.

Yes, of course he’s anxious and upset, he just doesn’t want to admit or face that, hence evasion and redirection to medicine – his happy place.

Lea makes another attempt, tells him that Lim probably just needs some time to adjust and it’s going to get better if Shaun is patient. Shaun goes right into denial mode again. It’s fine, he has other friends and mentors who support him, he doesn’t need Lim. Also, Lim can go screw herself, because if she doesn’t want to be his friend, then that’s her loss.

While this can be a healthy attitude to have when you have toxic or energy-draining people in your life, this is clear evasion and deflection again. Steve’s old mantra is good advice when you’re talking about strangers or people who are bullying you or are otherwise unfavourable in your life, but Shaun is saying this about a person he considers a friend, a person he cares deeply about. So here it comes across as kind of a sulky toddler response. He should be trying to reflect on what happened and understand and deal with it, but instead he’s pushing it away with an, “Alright, fine then, I don’t need you.”

Lea makes a comment that Shaun’s brother was very smart, but very clearly, she’s not happy that she’s hitting all kinds of brick walls that have “DENIAL” on them in large graffiti letters. She’s still worried. Maybe even more so than before she got out of bed that morning.

Shaun is off to the hospital to meet Dr. Glassman for pancakes. Or so he thinks, because Glassman is a no-show. Well no, that’s not exactly true. Glassman does show up, sees Shaun sitting there, hesitates a moment, then decides he doesn’t want to face a likely prickly and evasive Shaun, particularly since he’s having mixed feelings about what happened with Lim. So he makes up a bogus excuse that he texts to Shaun’s phone.

Shaun being stood up by Glassman doesn’t help his state of mind, so he falls back on his deflection patterns. Rather than deal with the actual root of the problem, he goes and rearranges furniture in his shared office to minimise distractions, starting with strategically placing one of the lamps so that it blocks Shaun’s view of Park’s desk. Alex comes in and isn’t happy that Shaun is messing with the furniture without his consent, but he lets it slide for now.

In the meantime, Lea seeks out Glassman to talk about Shaun. Yes, she’s worried about him, worried that he’s in denial and avoidance mode and that it’s not good for him. Glassman tells her to talk to Shaun about it, but she’s tried that, hasn’t she?

Lea questions why Glassman thinks Shaun would have to take responsibility for his decision in the OR, because what he did didn’t actually hurt Lim. Glassman remarks that it’s not so cut-and-dried, certainly not to Lim. Lea gets the clear sense that Glassman is also conflicted, that perhaps Shaun isn’t to expect full backing from Glassman this time around. And I guess now we know where Lea stands, because to her it does seem pretty cut-and-dried, same as for Shaun.

Shaun is now on another deflection quest: His office. He’s convinced there are too many distractions to be able to work effectively if he has to share his office with Park – his back stretching, his pencil sharpening, his looking at Shaun and his… mere breathing, apparently. Andrews tells him the hospital currently doesn’t have the space or budget to give Shaun his own office and that both Park and Shaun need to make compromises.

Shaun’s idea of mutual compromises is to move Park’s desk around so that it faces the window, to put an actual shelf in the middle of the room to obstruct the view, and to move his own desk several inches further into the room. Park is less than thrilled, hates the new arrangement and tells Shaun point-blank that he is not to touch Park’s stuff again without his consent.

Obviously that didn’t go as Shaun planned, so he huffily packs his case notes and documents and leaves. Looks like he went and quizzed a few nurses, including Nurse Hawks who pointed out that “Medical Supply Room 3” hasn’t been used by anyone in months. That’s Shaun’s perfect solution, and his new office!

Andrews finds him setting it up and inquires what Shaun is doing, and after initial protest, he allows Shaun to actually set up shop in the tiny and cramped space – among all the temporarily discarded hospital and office supplies. Shaun is elated and emphatically thanks Andrews.

Glassman must have heard about Shaun moving into his “new office” and alarm bells go off. He seeks Shaun out in his closet office. Shaun is super proud of it, asks Glassman if he likes it. No. No, he very much doesn’t. Shaun launches into an immediate explanation that both he and Park will do much better work if they don’t distract each other, but Glassman knows that’s not the main reason that Shaun made this move.

Glassman asks Shaun why he’s isolating himself, but Shaun immediately denies that notion. When Shaun mentions the cancelled breakfast, Glassman gives his best to have an actual conversation about all the underlying issues, tells Shaun that he’s angry with him, that he feels dismay at Shaun falling back into old habits of seclusion and deflection and avoidance.

When Lim’s surgery is mentioned again, the walls come right up. Shaun broken-records that he made the right choice, that he did nothing wrong, that he saved her life. Glassman tries valiantly to make Shaun see that her paralysis isn’t something you can just ignore and shrug off, that Shaun has to take some kind of responsibility for that outcome.

Shaun gets all bristly, denial, denial, denial, and Glassman raises his voice because he’s seen it several times in the past how Shaun runs away, how he shrinks his world around him, how he retreats. It hits that brick wall and ricochets back into Glassman’s face. Shaun throws Glassman out of his office after he tells him he’s being unfair and mean, how he doesn’t appreciate being called a child.

After a long moment of hesitation, Glassman turns and leaves. He probably knows better than anyone that there’s no punching through that wall right now, that it’s futile to keep trying until Shaun is in a better headspace. Shaun briefly watches him walk away, then throws the door shut. I read this as a harbinger of how it’ll only get worse from here.

Before I had seen the episode, there had been all these vague hints at Shaun and Glassman being at odds with each other this season, and as the season started progressing, we slowly realised that it was going to be Lim’s surgery and the outcome of it.

After last week’s episode, I was fairly convinced that the angle of this was going to be seeing Shaun in more of a victim role, him feeling betrayed when he learned that Glassman was siding with Lim and was questioning Shaun’s OR decision. But instead it’s now Shaun who’s pushing Glassman away. I wasn’t expecting that, but I like this direction as well. Well, okay, I never like it when Shaun acts like an irrationally stubborn child, but I think I like where this is going and the potential it has.

Back at home, it’s bedtime for Shaun and Lea. Shaun is clearly nerves and tension, even when he’s lying in bed with Lea gently caressing his collarbone. His legs are jittering, he has his hands folded across his chest. He tries very hard to convince himself that he should be happy because he saved his patient’s arm today, so there’s at least some semblance of awareness that he’s not actually happy.

Lea questions whether perhaps his fight with Glassman may be weighing on him, but there are the quickly erected walls again, up before Lea can even attempt to put a dent in them. Shaun doesn’t want to hear anything that may even remotely require him to acknowledge his emotions, so he goes to his happy place – medicine.

“I’m thinking about my patient’s shoulder,” he tells Lea, and it’s like he’s saying, “Nope, not going to go where you want me to go, I’ll just pointlessly reroute to that surgery that I should have already filed away because it’s over and done with and doesn’t need to be revisited.”

Then again, it’s not all that pointless, and perhaps a blessing in disguise, because as Shaun ponders the nerve repair they did, it gets him to actually build a bridge to Lim’s predicament, but not through an emotional but instead a medical connection. The nerve repair they used on Charlie may just as well be Lim’s salvation!

He jumps out of bed like a scalded cat, grabs his stuff and off he is. We learn that he made a beeline to Glassman’s house, in his pyjamas, possibly on foot, who knows, and hammers on the door until a bathrobe-clad Aaron comes to the door to see what the sudden commotion is about. Certainly not the first time an over-excited or distressed or otherwise bestowed with an urgent need Shaun is dragging him out of bed.

Excitedly, Shaun hurries inside and sits down at the table, extracting stuff from his backpack. “I know how to fix it,” he says, “I know how to fix everything. There’s a surgery that will cure Lim’s paralysis.” And there’s that self-satisfied smile that we always see when he thinks he’s going to fix it, when he has the ultimate solution that will make it all better.

But will it really? We shall see on Monday, I guess.

Fun fact, before I had seen the episode or knew anything about this, I wrote the following in a DM to Daniela. Genius flash of intuition or just me knowing too well how these TV writers think? Hm, probably the latter. lol

Lim’s Journey

Lim seems to have had a bit of a positive upswing in her life, perhaps also fuelled by her telling Shaun that she doesn’t want to deal with him beyond the bare necessities. She opens the curtains to a new sunny day, runs into the same guy in the hallway again on the way to work who helped her out with the wheelchair in the parking garage.

Random garage guy is somewhat flirty, definitely interested, and Lim is flattered by the attention but doesn’t take it any further than that.

When I was watching this the first time around, I was like, YES! I hope they hook up. He seems like a nice guy, and he seems cool with the wheelchair.

Lim runs into random garage guy (according to IMDb, his name is Curtis) again. In the garage, of course. Lim just splurged on delicatessen for her home-cooked dinner she has planned for the night, almost dropping the $70 bottle of olive oil as she closes her car door. And whaddayaknow? She invites Curtis for dinner.

They have dinner that night in Lim’s apartment. They small talk a bit, we learn that Curtis is a marketing exec, and then he invites her to dinner at that Chilean restaurant that Lim has always wanted to try. It’s a date!

The Newbies

I find it amusing that Kelli calls Danica “Combat Danni” in her State of the Shea reviews. 🙂 I’m not gonna start using that term, but it’s apt here because Danni’s story this week revolved around a patient who thought re-enacting real-life combat was a fun hobby, which Danni doesn’t take kindly to because she’s seen first-hand what that does to people and how it takes lives.

Somewhat inappropriately, she directs her judgement verbally at said patient, making passive-aggressive remarks about how it’s unbecoming to pretend to play war.

At the same time, Asher takes a vested interest in Danni’s military history, peppers her with questions about why she joined the Naval Academy, what was her motivation to enlist, did she hope it would help with her medical career? Danni expertly evades or ignores most of the questions. She does explain, however, that she didn’t enlist. She was offered an officer’s commission after graduation.

Asher’s quiz times continue when he and Danni discuss the nerve damage treatment approach for their patient, but at some point Danni has had enough of the 20 Questions. She snaps at Asher why he’s being so nosy. Danni is convinced he has some type of judgmental notion about the type of people who join the military. He says he’s not judging, he’s genuinely impressed, but Danni’s offended by that, too. Because what? He’s impressed that she can treat a puncture wound, read a CT or that she can do all these things as an amputee? Shaun interrupts before they can finish that conversation.

Later that night in the locker room, Asher apologises to Danni that he offended her, explains that he grew up very sheltered and knows nothing about the military and is merely curious. Danni’s way of accepting his apology is to tell him that her dream had always been to play Division One soccer. She worked towards that goal, had several offers for scholarships. And then she tore her ACL during a game, and there went all those scholarships.

The Naval Academy was kind of a stopgap at the time, Danni had no real affiliation with the military except that they paid for the tuition and she could still play soccer. And then things changed when she was deployed to Afghanistan after graduation. Asher thinks that’s horrible, but Danni doesn’t see it that way. Joining the Navy was the best decision she ever made. She leaves a pensive Asher standing by the lockers with a smile on her face.

Jordan & Danny’s Tryst

These two get some alone time when Park sends them on the trip to the lake to help rescue the amputated foot, and, well, bit of a predictable move here because of course this is gonna be their chance to get to know each other better and get those sweet sexual chemistry juices flowing.

And get to know each other, they do. Jordan is not a skinny-dipper, she doesn’t do outdoor naked or outdoor hook-ups. Or cars, airplanes or elevators. I get it. Jordan’s the private and comfy type. Danny mentions tractor combines again. What is his deal with combines? We learn that the farm he grew up on grew alfalfa. And he thinks Jordan is way too cynical.

Later in the OR, Danny divulges that most of the people he knows who are in happy relationships had super rocky starts. Jordan and Park both raise their eyebrows at that.

Looks like Jordan and Danny return to the lake that night after their successful replanting surgery for a leisurely stroll. Sparks definitely fly as they talk about dating, and they lean in for a first kiss, but it’s Danny who pulls back before their lips touch. He apologises, swallows, says he can’t, leaving a bewildered and confused Jordan behind.

I guess we’ll learn later what that was about. And old love he’s not over yet? A partner who died? Is he married? What skeletons does he have in the closet?

Alex & Morgan’s Journey

Well, it’s not really their mutual journey anymore now, is it? With everything that’s going on, we’re not seeing a whole lot of focus on either of them right around now, but we learn that Alex is dipping toes back into the dating game. Unfortunately, his first date doesn’t go so well, or rather doesn’t end so well. He had fun, would love to see her again, but she divulges that she’s not from the area and, oh, by the way, she’s also married.

Alex and Morgan are still at each other’s throats when they do actually meet, bickering over this and that. Morgan makes snide remarks over Alex sleeping with other women, and Danny raises his eyebrows at their antipathetic behaviour in front of patients – and rightly so. Bickering Central it shall be.

But as much as Park is trying to move on, is he really over Morgan? He comes across her profile on his dating app, and he looks long and hard at her photo. There’s still something there, so what does that mean?

Things to Further Dissect

Shaun’s Denial

Let’s talk about dear Shaun and how, while I love him dearly, I wanna shake him by the lapels right now to instil some sense into him.

Even though a number of people don’t seem to see it this way, Shaun’s current answer how to deal with his deeply rooted and also the more recent guilt isn’t healthy. Right now Shaun is trying to completely ignore that what happened with Lim affects him emotionally, he’s trying very hard to push aside any kind of emotional repercussions attached to that, blindly reiterating that it’s not his fault and that he saved her life.

But the thing is, even if Shaun may not be technically at fault for causing Lim’s paralysis (other than having ignored a superior’s orders), we need to consider that emotional fallout of a situation and fault in causing the situation aren’t necessarily connected. You can be deeply affected emotionally by something terrible happening, even if it’s not your own fault, especially if it involves someone you’re personally close to and care about.

If Shrapnel taught us anything at all, it’s that Shaun is glaringly in denial of said emotional fallout, that he’s employing all the textbook deflection and suppression techniques. I already quoted the interview with Freddie on The Lede last week where he speaks to exactly this. At the risk of repeating myself, let me quote Freddie again:

Lea was seeing it very clearly, both at the very beginning of the episode and the very end. She prompted him twice to talk about it, to open up the tiniest tear in the fabric of denial he’s so tightly wrapped around himself, and he totally shut her down both times.

Lea even went to Glassman with her concern that Shaun was shutting her out, that he’s struggling to deal with the emotional side of the whole situation, but Glassman is also in a tricky spot that doesn’t allow him to unconditionally support Shaun at the moment.

Yet, he was concerned enough (like any decent parent would) when he heard that Shaun was totally isolating himself, was trying to wall himself off from anyone and everyone, was running away and shielding himself from more potential reminders of all the things that he subconsciously feels guilty about but doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Just like with Lea, Shaun immediately erected the wall when Glassman tried to address Shaun’s avoidance tactics, turned his denial into anger and shut Glassman out. There have been voices in the fandom who were saying Glassman was out of line when he confronted Shaun in his closet office, that they were glad Shaun stood up for himself. But, like, really?

Aren’t you seeing what is happening here? Glassman has known Shaun for around fifteen years, he’s seen how Shaun gets sometimes, how things eventually crash and burn when Shaun falls back on those old patterns of denial and evasion. Because those emotions are clearly there for Shaun, simmering dangerously under the surface, he’s just pretty good at keeping a lid on them. Until they explode, and then you have the big meltdowns that are devastating and at worst can destroy relationships or have professional ramifications.

And Glassman just really doesn’t want for Shaun to get to that point. That’s what his closet office visit was about – not Glassman wanting to exude authority or superiority over Shaun, belittle or berate Shaun, or push him around.

Hasn’t the show shown us over the past five years that Glassman is, for all intents and purposes, Shaun’s father, that he cares deeply about his wellbeing, that he wants Shaun to do well? That just doesn’t track with people saying that Glassman’s main motivation here was to patronise Shaun. Granted, Glassman may in the past not always have gone about it the best way, he has been a little too overbearing and judgemental at times. But no parent out there is ever perfect.

But I digress, I’m talking about Glassman. What I really wanted to talk about was…

Shaun’s Guilt

Obviously there’s nuances to guilt in this situation. There’s the residual guilt that Shaun still feels over Steve’s death, which was eloquently reiterated in Afterparty. And now we’re piling new crap onto the already steaming muckhill – Shaun’s decision regarding Lim’s surgery.

The residual guilt sits deep with Shaun, even after all these years. And it’ll be hard for Shaun to ever fully resolve that, to completely accept that Steve’s death wasn’t, in some way, also his fault. I have a feeling that this season will be all about learning that guilt can be a great motivator to learn and do better next time. Glassman even said that to Shaun in season 2, Faces: “Maybe [guilt is] a deterrent so we do the right thing the next time.”

Now, of course where Steve is concerned, it’s difficult to apply learnings here at this stage. Shaun can’t exactly go, “Okay, next time I’ll have less shitty parents or I’ll have less autism so that we don’t need to run away from home which ultimately got my brother killed.”

The situation with Lim’s surgery is different, however. Here we can have Shaun truly learn a lesson about accountability and taking responsibility for your decisions. What he most urgently needs to learn right now is to say, “I may have made a wrong call during surgery and next time I will make an effort to listen to or collaborate with my peers and superiors rather than go rogue because I alone am convinced it’s the right thing to do.”

Shaun’s Lessons

There’s a lot of fandom sentiment out there right now where Shaun is being painted as an infallible surgical god who can do no wrong, and that’s just not accurate. Yes, Shaun is, from a surgical-technical aspect, probably one of the best surgeons they have at St. Bonaventure. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make mistakes or can’t make bad decisions. In fact, he has in the past, several times, to the point where patients had more severe complications from them.

I think it’s been clearly established that Shaun is not a Mary Sue. He’s not infallible, and he can do wrong. And he has, and he will keep doing so. Isn’t that the whole point of having him as titular character with autism – to see him mess up and then see him learn from that?

What Shaun is going through right now presents huge learning opportunities for him, and I think, as viewers, we’re supposed to be following him along the journey of navigating the lessons and then internalise and apply the learnings from them.

When we look at where he currently stands, there’s these three main lessons that he could very well benefit learning from:

  • A lesson about autoregulation and how to adequately respond to certain social situations, particularly in terms of patient and caregiver communication. He can’t address every distressed spouse or parent with, “You shouldn’t be mad or angry with me that your spouse or child had complications, because those were not my fault.”
  • A lesson about his own abandonment issues and insecurities. Shaun needs to learn knowing that even if he screws up, he will always be loved as a husband, a son and a friend. He also needs to acknowledge that he still has residual guilt over what happened with Steve, that he is afraid of abandonment, and that sometimes that has a negative effect on how he reacts and responds to certain situations.
  • A lesson in humility. He needs to learn that there are things that are more important than being right, that he actually isn’t always right, and that even when he does the right thing, it can result in complications and emotional fallout.

These learnings, however, can only really come to fruition if Shaun gets out of his cycle of avoidance and denial. And, really, could there be a better metaphor for Shaun’s denial than him forcefully shutting the door after watching the person who had just tried to confront him with his guilt walk away?

Fellow fan Daniela wrote a wonderful article about a lot of these topics the other day that I recommend you look at, because I 100% agree with what she said. This whole new storyline that we’re seeing unfold in season 6 has many nuances, and I encourage anyone who’s currently just debating fault and blame to examine all the underlying angles.

Glassman, the Villain

So are we back to that point where Glassman is being painted as the villain of the story? I’ve had people trying to convince me long and hard that Glassman was a terrible father figure to Shaun and a terrible person for trying to get Shaun to accept help from a therapist in season 1. We’ve had Glassman be fairly opposed to the idea of Lea as a romantic partner to Shaun, basically until they got married. Now we hear all the backlash that Glassman is being controlling and patronizing, trying to make Shaun feel useless and weak.

I dunno, my view on this is very different, and I already spoke to it above (and in my recap last week). Obviously this scene in Shaun’s closet office was important, and it incited a number of fans who are only seeing Shaun’s side of the coin.

Glassman is worried about Shaun, is seeing the old patterns he’s seen multiple times in the past that he knows are bad for Shaun and are going to erupt and blow up in his face in a way that is not conducive to his wellbeing and could have ramifications in more than one way. That’s Glassman’s main motivation right now: Worry and concern for a person he loves like a son, despite the fact that this son messed up and he’s not happy with him because he blatantly ignored advice and instructions in a professional setting.

Many people are also worried that the writers are pitting all the characters against each other this season in a way that relationships are being irreparably damaged. While I’m not sure about the Shaun/Lim dynamic in the long-term, Shaun and Glassman will be fine. We already saw that at play at the end of Shrapnel.

Shaun was angry and upset with Glassman, yelled in his face that he was wrong to question and challenge his behaviour, that he was mad that he called him a child. He even slammed the door shut after Glassman. Yet, who is the first person Shaun runs to in the middle of the night—in his PJs—when he has the idea about the surgery that could cure Lim? Yes, Glassman. Cause that’s how it works with parents. You hate them when they call you on your shit, but you know they’re always there when you need them, no matter what.

So clearly Shaun still trusts Glassman, wants his guidance and advice, wants his validation and approval for something that can fix everything. And when Shaun explicitly “everything”, he meant exactly that. Not just Lim’s paralysis, but all the emotional stuff that came with it. He wants things to go back how they were before so that he doesn’t have to deal with any of the fallout. And his way of getting there is to reverse the paralysis and fix it. Shaun is the fixer, remember?

Fixing Everything

But will it really be as easy as that? Is there a good chance for a miracle surgery that can reverse the nerve damage, that can restore things back to the status quo before the assault? Hm. Unlikely.

Merely from a medical point of view, it’s not all that probable that there could be a surgery that will restore full function to Lim’s legs and have her return to full use as it was pre-assault.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but literature indicates that paralysis and nerve damage usually isn’t as clear cut (pun not intended) as severing of limb-controlling spinal nerves. There’s often secondary nerve damage and degeneration, and that can happen within three months. So if Shaun’s brilliant surgical idea is to go and reconnect nerves somehow to hope that everything will miraculously go back to how it was, that doesn’t strike me as particularly realistic.

Although, honestly, I wouldn’t put it past the show to try that just for the sake of convenience. I would hope they don’t go that route, but this is also drama TV, and I’ve seen worse things done for the sake of storytelling.

But let’s indulge that pipe dream for a moment, shall we? From Shaun’s somewhat naïve point of view, he thinks that if he manages to give Lim function of her legs back, it will magically reverse time and restore their interpersonal relationship back to how it was, including the friction that there’s currently also with Glassman and perhaps Lea’s concern that he may or may not have noticed.

I think we all know that won’t be the case. The surgical complications still happened, Lim still went through hell for three or four months, and she’s undoubtedly a changed woman. These memories and experiences will never be completely erased, and eventually she may even feel like she’s better off for it (depending on how this eventually plays out).

Glassman’s anger at Shaun won’t go away either, because Shaun still fucked up, Shaun still thinks he did nothing wrong, and now he expects to be praised for another miracle on top of his unerring decision that saved Lim’s life. And all of that will probably leave Shaun stumped all over again, because why isn’t everything back to normal? Why are people still upset with him? I’d like to think that’s how it would go if they decided to revert Lim back to full leg function.

Of course there are many other possibilities of how this could play out:

  • Shaun’s suggested surgery is hugely risky and/or with a limited chance of success. Glassman will reject the idea as soon as Shaun proposes it. Shaun suggests it to Lim anyway but she doesn’t approve and doesn’t go through with it.
  • Shaun’s suggested surgery is majorly risky and/or there’s a limited chance of success. Glassman will reject the idea but Shaun suggests it to Lim anyway. She considers it and wants to take the risk.
  • Glassman will endorse the surgery and they run it by Lim but Lim rejects it because she doesn’t want to take the risk for further complications and she’s finally gotten to a point where she thinks her new life in a wheelchair is something she can live with.
  • Glassman will endorse the surgery and they run it by Lim, she agrees to try it.

If the surgery happens, we might see one of the following outcomes:

  • There’s complications and it doesn’t go exactly as planned, or it goes as planned but the outcome is poor and Lim doesn’t regain any or only very limited leg function.
  • Everything goes well, Lim regains enough functionality in her legs to be able to walk again, but only with limited motor function, possibly needing mobility aids such as a walker, crutches or a cane.
  • Everything goes peachy and Lim regains full mobility and function. In my opinion, this is the least likely outcome, medically.

Whatever happens, I think Shaun will hyperfixate on wanting to fix Lim’s spine, because to him that’s the one thing that will resolve it all in one fell swoop through what he does best—medicine. If Lim agrees to the surgery, then probably we won’t have to see much of a struggle here, but if she doesn’t, then likely Shaun will get obsessed with trying to convince everyone around him that this needs to be done. Yep, I could totally see that.

When I try to ponder which of these options is most likely from a drama TV screenwriting point of view, I’m honestly drawing a blank. I think all options can work and create more interesting dynamics to explore. Personally, would prefer one of the options where the surgery happens but the outcome is less than ideal. The resulting struggles and emotional and moral complexities will give us more food for thought.

Which brings me to another thing I was thinking about.

The Good Lawyer

You know, I think it was a pretty natural conclusion to jump to that Shaun will need a (good) lawyer later in the season because he will be sued by Lim. Now that we’re here, I’m not even all that sure anymore that that’s what’s gonna happen. It’s still a possibility, depending on how this goes, but now I think it’s become perhaps just a little less probable that this is the obvious conclusion to draw.

It could still be a very interesting journey to follow, but it would also throw a huge wrench in how Shaun and Lim can still work together in any kind of halfway amiable way. So maybe it won’t be Lim who will take legal action. Could also explain why they’ll be dragging that out until apparently episode 6×13. We will wait with bated breath.

Lim’s Stages of Grief

Probably a little bit of what we’ll be seeing this season is Lim cycling through the stages of grief. Part of what we saw in Change of Perspective and A Big Sign was anger (which is stage 2 in the 5-stages model), usually that’s followed by bargaining, then depression, then acceptance. This episode made us think that perhaps she’s now migrated to the acceptance stage, but I don’t actually think that’s what we were seeing. It’s more likely this is still the bargaining stage, she’s bargaining with herself that if she can approach life with a more positive outlook, she can eventually come to terms with what has happened.

Probably her conversation with Shaun at the end of A Big Sign was a catalyst for it, a situation where she took the initiative to express her anger towards one of the main parties that led to her current predicament. It gave her a feeling of control, had her take charge to steer in a direction with a more positive outcome for her – namely that she wouldn’t have to deal or speak with Shaun more than she absolutely had to. It would explain why she is suddenly so upbeat and optimistic. When we take control over something, it gives us a feeling of accomplishment, an impetus to approach life with a more positive outlook.

Some may feel like it was unfair for her to unload on Shaun and then leave him to his own devices to deal with the fallout. Sure, if you see it from Shaun’s lens, it might look that way. But if you look at it from Lim’s lens, she was trying to find ways to get a grip on this massively frustrating and life-changing position she’s in. It was part of a coping mechanism, something she felt she had to do in order to move on. And we can see that, for Lim, it definitely worked.

So does that make it a wrong or terrible thing to do? Some will say yes. I say no. It was necessary—for her. And to be honest, it was also necessary for Shaun, because he needs to face this reality of his involvement in Lim’s surgical outcome, needs to face the emotional implications of it. Which I’ve already talked about above at length, but think it’s important to reiterate because many people are still mad at Lim.

I would like to add one very important thing. Can we please remember that the actors are not to blame for certain storylines or plots (unless they are also producers or writers)? Christina Chang is not the person to direct discontent at over current developments surrounding Lim. Christina is being handed scripts with dialogue written by someone else that she learns and then portrays. She is not the person who decides larger storylines like the one surrounding her paralysis. Directing any kind of aggression over the episode content at her is misdirected and wrong, please don’t do that.

If you wish to utter criticism over current storylines, let the producers and the writers know, not the actors. But please do it in a polite and constructive manner. It’s fine to be unhappy with current plot developments, but angry-yelling on social media doesn’t help anything – all it will do is create resentment from the people you’re yelling at, which can result in resentment towards the fandom as a whole and then lead to an overarching reluctance to interact with or do anything nice for fans in the future at all.

Remember that we reap what we sow, and if you choose to aggressively attack someone on social media, it is unlikely that person will have much of a desire to listen to you or take your feedback to heart. At the risk of overabundance of proverbs, but you really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. So please be respectful when you utter criticism. It will yield much better results, trust me.

Favourite Lines and Dialogues

“Daddy, chill, it was only for the last song.”

Haha, go Lea! We got a Shaun muffin face out of that one.

“Actually, I could use a ride to the airport tomorrow, I have a 6am flight.”

Hehe, well played! I love that Curtis has a deadpan sense of humour. I hope we see him again.

“What’s weird is, this isn’t much different than when they were dating.”

This episode had so many great one-liners. And Jordan is sadly right.

“Thank you, Dr. Andrews!”

Shaun being happy makes me happy, short-lasting as it was. But just the way he joyfully said that was great and made me smile.

“I’m ang— I’m angry… with you.”

That line was really beautifully delivered, and I love how softly Richard was saying it. It’s a difficult discussion to have, particularly with someone like Shaun, and I think this was the most perfect ‘in’ to what should have been a meaningful conversation, had Shaun not immediately erected all those walls.

Sorely Missing

Not a whole lot this episode either that I thought was sorely missing, but the one thing was that Lea knew about Shaun’s fight with Glassy since she alluded to it when she and Shaun were lying in bed. I get why they didn’t want to waste time having Shaun recount events to Lea of something we’d already seen, but man, I wish we could have been privy to that conversation.

Best Shaun Muffin Face

Uh oh, my old slider plugin broke, so I had to go hunt for a new one that at least kind of works. I think it looks iffy on mobile devices, so maybe I’ll go hunt for a better one down the line. For now, I hope we can make do with this one.

And then my Table of Contents plugin randomly swallowed up all the apostrophes throughout the whole blog post. Eep. I did not need all these technical issues tonight! But I hope everything is fixed now. Oh, the joys of technology…

No Spoilers, please!

Quick reminder that I love feedback but try very hard to actively avoid any kind of spoilers for upcoming episodes. Please don’t mention any spoilers in your comments, which includes information from episode promos, stills and other official promo material. Thanks, guys!


  1. Andreas

    Very well. Since the past episode seems to be covered, I will concentrate on the possible future in my comment. Just as a short pretext, over-confident Shaun is quite a familiar experience for anyone on the spectrum or close to such individuals.

    I guess it’s the peculiar mix of average or above intelligence and the ASD-related deficits in cognitive empathy (which means you can understand another person’s perspective) Something we have seen a lot with Shaun since season 1 and that has now reached a new level with Shaun having accomplished his residency and been given more responsibilities.

    Responsibilities that he clearly underestimates as the writers made clear with his comment that he does not see much of a difference in being a senior resident or attending. Learning this difference seems to be Shaun’s path for season 6 and it will be a rocky road for sure.

    Shaun is handling his new responsibilities as attending poorly, that the past episodes made clear on many levels. Not only is he over-confident in his medical abilities (see Lim’s surgery), he also (continues) to ignore proper protocols (making a storage room his new office without consulting Andrews BEFORE) and basic etiquette (moving Park’s things).

    This makes me think so something…

    When Lim got paralyzed in Shaun’s rouge surgery, my thought as well was that this might be the reason Shaun is said to need the services of th good laywer, but I stopped as well on the timing shortly after mid-season. Dragging out Lim’s storyline for such an extended period would be highly unusual for The Good Doctor’s style.

    But the rather short scene with Lim reminding Andrews of her ADA rights might have been some foreshadowing for Shaun’s journey!
    With Shaun aggravating people left and right and going rouge on a whim, it is quite possible that the times he got off easily might come to a painful end. He’s used to enjoy protection by the combination of his medical prowness, his ASD and his status as a resident.

    Yet, he’s no resident anymore. It’s now expected that he knows the ropes. With his current display of conduct, he might run in some trouble that forces his superiors’ hands to reprimand him. And Shaun, not understanding what went wrong, might want to take legal action under the presumption that his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated.
    Now, that would pose some quite interesting questions for a show about being disabled in an able world, more so than a malpractice lawsuit, at least.

    • TeeJay

      Those are all excellent points, and it’s great to have the extra explanation of the cognitive empathy deficits, which I think it hard to understand and grasp for neurotypical individuals.

      I also really like your take on what may happen with The Good Lawyer, and it would be a super interesting twist for sure, but the one thing that doesn’t quite track with your theory is that the Deadline article that introduced the show specifically mentions Joni being Shaun’s defense lawyer, which heavily implies that he is the party being sued and not the one suing someone else:

      The Good Lawyer will center on Joni, a 20-something woman who battles OCD but is a brilliant lawyer and gets to be a defense attorney for Dr. Shaun Murphy (Highmore) who finds himself in legal trouble.

      Relatively new to her upscale law firm, Joni, who is funny, eager, self-aware and a bit anxious, is part of Shaun’s (Highmore) legal defense team.

      That said, of course it’s not impossible that the article didn’t quite capture things correctly or that they’re trying to intentionally mislead us, although I’d find that a little too much misdirection. They could have phrased that article more neutrally if Shaun was the one suing, right?

      But I do agree with you that it’s becoming less likely that the lawsuit is going to be directly related to Lim’s surgery in the way that we easily assumed at the beginning of the season. Daniela was saying it may have been a clever marketing ploy to get the TGL information out there right at the start of season 6, because everyone was jumping to this conclusion and the fandom is animatedly discussing all the different possibilities. 🙂

    • Edward Kihanya

      Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this. Since this is a familiar experience for anyone on the spectrum or close to such individuals, and since it is something we’ve seen a lot with Shaun since season 1, and it has reached a new level now that Shaun is an attending, do you think that a therapist could help him with this at this point? I ask this because I can’t help but think that Shaun’s recent overconfidence is a consequence of his refusal to see a therapist, per Dr Glassman’s suggestion, back in Season 1. I say this while at the same acknowledging that it was right after this refusal that he went on the now famous season 1 Road Trip with Lea, which included the many firsts that served as the reasons Shaun fell in love with her, and believing that he and Lea make a great (now married) couple. I should mention that I am on the Autism Spectrum myself (I have Asperger’s). Am I wrong in thinking this? What your thoughts on this?

  2. Edward Kihanya


    Very well written recap. Thank you for continuing to do this. I agree 100% with all of it. Beyond what you’ve said here, I’d like say something about Lea in all of this. First of all, I’m concerned about, and wondering, how this situation between Shaun and Lim, and the resulting fallout in Shaun’s relationship with Glassman (even though you said this is going to be fine in the end), is going to affect Shaun and Lea’s marriage. Secondly, I know she’s his wife, but it looks to me like Lea is just blindly supporting Shaun without helping him understand the responsibility he needs to take for what he did (in Lim’s surgery) and the fact that Lim is hurting as a result. Then again, it also looks like she doesn’t fully understand the reason why Shaun needs to take this responsibility.

    What are your thoughts on the way Lea has dealt with this situation so far? How would you like to see her deal with it going forward?

    • TeeJay

      Thanks for your lovely comment, I always love when people share their own thoughts and takes and concerns! Let me try to answer your question and tell you my two cents.

      Just like Daniela, I wasn’t happy with how they portrayed Lea in 6×02, where she was blindly supporting Shaun without any knowledge of the situation or person he was about to fire. I wrote about it in my recap as well. I was curious where they were going to go with Lea and her take on the situation with Shaun and Lim, and it looks like they’ll be placing her mostly on Shaun’s end of the scale rather than Glassman’s or Lim’s, with her defending Shaun’s actions and supporting his mantra of “it’s not my fault” and “I didn’t do anything wrong”. She said as much to Glassman when she approached him, questioning why Shaun needs to take any responsiblity because the paralysis wasn’t his fault.

      Then again, we got a clear sense from her that she’s seeing Shaun’s patterns of deflection and avoidance to deal with any emotional ramifications, and it was obvious that had her worried because she, too, knows that’s not good for him and will backfire in the long run. Worried enough that she went to Glassman to check in, but then realising that Glassman wasn’t going to unconditionally support Shaun.

      She’s now also caught between two fronts — wanting to support Shaun in his alleged blamelessness but also wanting him to acknowledge the emotional toll the situation has taken and is still taking on him. He’s currently deluding himself, denying that anything is wrong or he’s to blame for any missteps he may have made, even insists there were no missteps in the first place.

      Lea is perhaps in a more unique position, because she doesn’t know all the underlying medical aspects, she can only trust what other surgeons tell her about how Shaun may or may not be to blame for the paralysis. She chose to trust that Shaun did everything right medically, that he is not to blame for any of the outcomes. Then again, she also saw his blatant disregard in the OR of Glassman’s orders, even advised Shaun to check with Glassman before he did the embolization.

      I don’t really know where the writers are going to take this, or how it may bleed into the Shea marriage. My feeling is that the writers want Lea as a pillar of support for Shaun right now, so that it’s not “the whole world against Shaun”, while at the same time I hope that she will be instrumental in helping nudge Shaun out of the cycle of denial and avoidance, that she’ll be there when the walls finally come down, although it may end up being another meltdown when things finally crash and burn. Because that’s what Shaun tends to do, right?

      I find it hard to make predictions around this right now, because I really can’t tell how thick that wall of total denial is that Shaun keeps erecting at the tiniest trigger, and if Lea has a sledgehammer strong enough to punch through it and how much he’ll eventually let her, or when the time comes when or if that happens. I do hope that she’ll acknowledge that what he’s doing right now isn’t healthy, and that she’ll give her best to counteract it, that it’s not just gonna be Lea blindly supporting Shaun for the sake of being a loyal wife.

      In season 5, Lea and Shaun were at odds when the big meltdown happened — it was Glassman who was Shaun’s safety net at the time with Lea having been vehemently sidelined by Shaun. I would hope that if things come to head with Shaun and he ends up crumbling in some way, this time it’s Lea who will catch him as he falls. It’s something I’d personally want to see, at least. I hope that makes sense and answers your question. 🙂

      • Edward Kihanya

        You’re welcome. All of what you’ve said here does make sense and does answer my question. Thank you for that, and for telling me your two cents. I share the hopes you’ve expressed about Lea here.

        However, do you think a therapist, in addition to Lea, could also be instrumental (and effective) in helping nudge Shaun out of the cycle of denial and avoidance? Would you like to see Shaun in therapy? Do you think the writers would see the idea of Shaun in therapy as effectively fitting into the Shaun/Lim storyline? I ask these questions because I can’t help but think that Shaun’s current cycle of denial and avoidance is a consequence of his refusal to see a therapist, per Glassman’s suggestion, back in Season 1. I say this while acknowledging that it was after his refusal to see a therapist back then that he went on the now famous road trip with Lea that included the many firsts that served as the reasons he fell in love with Lea, and acknowledging my belief that they make a great (now married) couple. By the way, in saying this, I feel the need to mention that I am on the Autism Spectrum (I have Asperger’s). Am I wrong in thinking this? What are your thoughts on this?

        • TeeJay

          After having seen Growth Opportunities, I can’t quite decide whether I like where they’re putting Lea right now. Of course I want her to be supportive of Shaun, but somehow I still get the sense that she’s also ignoring the fact that Shaun will have to get out of that total denial mode and deal with the emotional fallout. It was good that she reminded Glassman that Shaun’s ASD makes him process and act on things differently, but I’m not sure it’s going to be healthy that she seems to want people to just let Shaun continue denying responsibility and enable his avoidance mode.

          In terms of Shaun seeing a therapist, if you’ve followed my season 5 recaps, I was already advocating for that back when all the Ethicure stuff was going on. Shaun was vehemently denying that his ASD was getting in the way of dealing with all the changes and the emotional impact of them, was getting angry and putting up walls whenever someone even mentioned that. Like, Shaun, dude. I love you, but I think you could really use some help in that arena.

          I would agree with you that seeing a therapist could really help him work through all of this and equip him with better tools and techniques to deal with difficult situations such as these. But just from a dramatic scriptwriting point of view, it doesn’t make sense to put him in therapy. I think we all want him to be better, want to see him succeed. That’s why we watch the show, right? But that’s also the mainstay of the show – we want to see Shaun struggle and learn.

          Now, if they have him see a therapist who will help him work through all the underlying trauma, the abandonment issues, help him notice the instinctive patterns and behaviours that aren’t always good for him and give him tools and techniques to counteract that, I think the show would become less interesting. If we see a Shaun who is always stable and mellow, who knows how to navigate a neurotypical world very well, who has learned how to fit in and find his perfect balance, then that’ll give the writers less juicy content for us to follow along, right? I know that’s not the best answer, but that’s just the rational aspect that comes with the fact that we’re watching scripted drama and not a documentary.

          I also believe that, should anyone suggest to Shaun right now to go into therapy, he is not in the right headspace to be open to that idea. He’d shoot that down just as quickly as anything that even remotely mentions his responsibility in the outcome of Lim’s surgery or him running away from the emotional fallout. He’d vehemently argue that he’s perfectly fine, he didn’t do anything wrong, and he doesn’t need therapy.

          That said, I think it could make for an awesome, super intense and emotionally riveting episode if they showed Shaun talking to a therapist to revisit his terrible childhood and his resulting abandonment issues, perhaps switching between the therapy session and flashbacks. But again, it might weaken the opportunities for future drama. Should the show ever get to a point where they know well in advance that they’re not gonna get any further seasons or should they actively decide on ending the show (which I hope won’t happen for a while), I could see this perhaps being a great episode to write for the very last arc for Shaun.

          • Edward Kihanya

            Thank you, TeeJay, for responding and sharing your thoughts on Growth Opportunities, the latest episode. Thank you also for agreeing with me on the benefits of therapy for Shaun, and for sharing your insights on this piece. I will share any further comments in response to what you’ve said here at another time.

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