Happy Halloween! Okay, not anymore, but this episode aired on Halloween, and it shall also be noted that none other than Daniel Dae Kim directed this one. Overall I daresay a pretty solid episode, and definitely lots of character development and interesting aspects to explore. I definitely liked this one.
Written by Peter Blake
Directed by Daniel Dae Kim
Original airdate 31 Oct 2022
Patient #1 – Skyler
Shaun Murphy, Asher Wolke, Danica Powell
Hemochromatosis resulting in cardiomyopathy, requiring a pacemaker and liver failure
- Skyler passed out during her Halloween pageant rehearsal, ECG suggests a slow heart rhythm, caused by what they later find out is a hereditary condition called hemochromatosis which can lead to cardiomyopathy (inability of the heart muscle to function normally).
- The surgical team implants a pacemaker to mitigate the heart dysfunction.
- Genetic testing confirms that Skyler has a condition called hemochromatosis where excess iron builds up in the body. It has also caused damage to her liver which isn’t concerning at first.
- Hemochromatosis is recessively inherited, meaning both parents need to carry the gene in order for the child to develop the condition. According to the genetic testing, Skyler’s father isn’t a carrier of the gene, which indicates that he’s not Skyler’s biological father.
- Skyler’s mother Daisy had an affair with an old college friend who appears to be Skyler’s biological father which her husband doesn’t know about.
- Skyler’s biological father Mick is asked to come to the hospital so they can recommend that he gets his family tested as well. He isn’t aware he has a daughter with Daisy but finds out when Daisy’s husband Jacob passes by.
- Skyler’s liver starts failing and she develops jaundice. (Shaun’s medical explanation is that hypotension from the heart block caused unexpected shock liver.) She needs a liver transplant immediately or she will die.
- Skyler’s mother is not a good match, the medical team then tries to convince the biological father who is reluctant to donate part of his liver to a stranger.
- It takes three attempts to turn Mick around, but in the end it’s Lea who convinces him to save Skyler’s life. The transplant goes well and Skyler recovers with the two families also starting to bond.
Patient #2 – Olli McGowan
Alex Park, Jordan Allen, Daniel Perez
Laceration on his arm requiring stitches
- Ollie is admitted to the ER with a cut on his arm he sustained when he got dizzy, the dizziness being a long term effect from a brain injury during his childhood.
- Danny sutures the wound and Ollie is quickly discharged.
I’m not even sure why Park and Danny are suturing up this patient. That’s not something they’d have to call a surgical consult for. It could have easily been done by an ER resident. Handwavy plot device stuff, for sure.
Patient #3 – Chris McGowan
Alex Park, Jordan Allen, Daniel Perez
Pancreatic cancer (initially diagnosed as stage 3, later confirmed to be stage 4)
- Chris, Ollie’s older brother, is encouraged to be examined at the hospital when he indicates he has back pain and Park mentions that, according to his loose fitting trousers, he has lost weight.
- A CT scan indicates that Chris has stage 3 pancreatic cancer (a 3 cm mass that’s partially compressing the bile duct) that has spread to his lymph nodes but hasn’t metastasised yet. The team advises one of two treatment options:
- Chemotherapy, radiation and molecular therapy which they estimate will give Chris roughly another 8 months to live.
- An extensive and risky surgery (a Whipple procedure) with only a small chance of success and shorter survival time if it’s unsuccessful.
- Chris opts for the Whipple procedure since it’s his fault that Ollie sustained the brain injury and he has promised him to take care of him.
- During the surgery they find that the cancer has spread to the abdominal wall, it is now classified as stage 4 and is inoperable. They close Chris up without resecting the tumour. His survival time is now considerably shorter than originally anticipated.
- Chris decides he wants to try treatment at a clinic in Mexico that offers a cure for pancreatic cancer. Jordan explains these clinics are scams preying on desperate people. Danny encourages him to use the remaining time he has with his brother and tell him the truth. Despite his cognitive deficits, he will understand.
- Chris explains to Ollie that there is nothing that can be done for him medically, and Ollie will have to find a way to go through the rest of his life without his brother, which Ollie takes surprisingly well.
- Shaun encourages both brothers when he talks to them about his own experiences as a child in the foster system after Park asked him for help.
We dive right in with Shaun’s new idea how to reverse Lim’s paralysis. Apparently he’s only now figured out (really?) that her paralysis isn’t actually caused by damage to her spinal cord but by too much curvature of the spinal column. The theory is that if they release some of the tension on the cord, her nerves can heal and the paralysis would be reversed.
Is that really how it works? I don’t know enough about spinal cord injuries to speak to this, but it seems… far-fetched at best.
Shaun and Glassman run the surgical approach that Shaun has devised by Lim and Andrews. When given the chance to contribute, Glassman actually speaks up that he’s not in favour of the operation, that he thinks the odds aren’t good enough for him to endorse the idea. Since Glassman is the neurosurgeon here, that means it’s a no-go, so Andrews tells him and Shaun to better the odds. Shaun has a new mission.
Remember when I said last week that Shaun would most likely hyperfixate on making the surgery work? Yep, we’re definitely headed that way.
And, hey, it’s Halloween, and apparently Shaun doesn’t know the concept of getting dressed up for it, otherwise he wouldn’t have asked Asher why he was in a Grogu costume. Because, come on, Shaun is not stupid, he’d know this, particularly since Lea was also in a costume, which we can only assume she put on at home where Shaun would have seen it. And she’d have discussed with Shaun in the weeks or days leading up to Halloween that people were going to go to work in costume, seeing how so many colleagues were doing it. She’d totally have asked Shaun’s opinion which costume to go with, right?
So, yeah, I dunno. Shaun asking Asher why he was green seemed… odd. I really don’t like it when they make Shaun look like a clueless dork who isn’t aware of traditions or pop culture.
Not a surprise, though, that Shaun wouldn’t dress up for Halloween. Lea’s costume, however, was pretty awesome. As a big sci-fi nerd who likes Star Wars, Ahsoka was a great choice. A strong kickass woman and a rebel leader – I approve. Shaun is visibly unperturbed by the wannabe Jedi Padawan sitting across from him in the cafeteria and gets annoyed when she waves her fake lightsaber over his precious tablet in an attempt to reroute his attention to her. It’s not really working.
Shaun has little interest in whom Lea may or may not be hiring as new assistant or whether they have septum rings or strange content on their TikToks, he is laser-focused on Lim’s surgery, although he claims he is also actually listening to his wife at the same time. No Shaun, you’re not. Men are notoriously bad at multitasking, although maybe ASD-brained Shaun may be better equipped at this than other persons of the XY chromosome persuasion.
This turns into a conversation about professional delegation. While Shaun, as a surgeon, can’t so much delegate the actual surgery, Lea advises that he should figure out the parts of his job that only he can do, and then delegate the rest. That’s not such bad advice, is it?
Seems like, however, that Shaun isn’t quite so well-versed in the knowledge of Star Wars quotes. When Lea finishes their conversation off with, “The Force is with me,” I can only interpret his confused expression as him not quite getting the reference. Come on, you can’t tell me Glassy has never at least shown him the original trilogy. Honestly, I do think that he’d actually like the movies and appreciate the depth of Lucas’s world building.
Shaun immediately finds a way to apply the advice about delegation and passes on the responsibility of addressing an emotionally complex and sensitive matter to his residents Asher and Danni. Not the worst thing for Shaun to be delegating, although we can perhaps already imagine it might not turn out to be the huge success Shaun is hoping for in his new role as mentor and attending.
A large chunk of Shaun’s day job (and likely also free time) is now spent on trying to figure out how to make Lim’s surgery a viable option, so there’s research, and more research, and yet more research. He attempts to brainstorm a new idea with Glassman while the latter treats a patient with clogged ears, but Glassman brushes him off that it’s still too risky. Back to the drawing board, Shaun.
In the meantime, Shaun’s delegation of authority didn’t go so well. Danni and Asher had their patient’s stepfather and biological father get in a physical altercation that resulted in broken noses and face punches on all sides, and so Shaun orders his pupils into his closet office for an earful and detention.
I kinda love how Shaun just goes, “You done fucked up. Now leave, I have shit to do,” and both Danni and Asher just take it on the chin like pros. Of course Asher has been around Shaun for a good few years now and knows how to run things through the Shaun filter, but I’m impressed at how unflustered Danni is with Shaun’s peculiarities and bluntness.
Meanwhile, Shaun does more research on the Lim surgery and then hurries to Glassman’s office with his new findings to excitedly tell him about his next idea. Something about going in posteriorly rather than anteriorly. Glassman isn’t convinced, it’s still too risky. He also asks if Shaun has even apologised to Lim yet, but Shaun says he has nothing to apologise for, so that’s a no.
That has Glassman go into another tirade that Shaun will have to accept responsibility, and they’re still at an impasse on this, but now Shaun is onto something when he says Glassman just keeps shooting down his ideas because he’s still mad at Shaun. Although Glassman denies that and says he just rationally thinks they’re still too risky and that his emotions for Shaun have nothing to do with it.
Shaun’s somewhat naïve approach here is kinda sweet. He goes, “I want you to stop being mad at me so you will like my ideas again.” Yeah, well, don’t we all wish we could just switch that on and off? When Glassman tells Shaun it doesn’t quite work that way, it becomes almost humorous with Shaun asking, “The how does it work, how long are you going to be mad at me?” For another two days, five hours and 46 minutes, okay? Oh Shaun. Glassman walks out in a huff, leaving a crestfallen Shaun sitting in Glassman’s office. Clearly not what he wanted to hear.
Interestingly, Melissa Reiner talked about this scene in her latest episode insights and how she suggested a specific change in the dialogue to make it more relatable to Shaun’s way of processing, which the writers took to heart and which we can see play out in the actual episode.
Alex thinks that Shaun could help with his own patient case of the older brother with terminal cancer who is afraid that his younger brother with a mental deficit will have to live the rest of his life in a group home. He goes to Shaun and asks him if he’d be willing to talk to the two brothers, share his own experiences of how he grew up in the foster system after his brother died, how Shaun is now a prospering adult with a successful career despite the challenges he faced growing up.
Shaun immediately rejects the request, arguing that his own situation was nothing like what Alex is describing, that what he experienced has no relevance to what the two brothers are going through. He brushes Alex off with not even a hint of consideration of the idea, claiming it’s way more important to work on Lim’s surgery approach.
Alex isn’t stupid either, he’s known Shaun for years, considers him a friend, and he, too, can see that Shaun is erecting all these walls. He makes a valiant attempt at asking Shaun why he’s hiding out in this closet office, but Shaun’s classic evasion tactics get deployed immediately. He dodges any further opportunity to discuss that topic by dodging and running, giving Alex a bogus excuse that he has a meeting he needs to be at.
Perhaps the meeting wasn’t bogus and Shaun went to talk to Lea, because Lea seeks out Glassman in the clinic and tells him in no uncertain terms that he’s upsetting Shaun by keeping to raise the issue that Shaun needs to apologise to Lim. Glassman isn’t oblivious to that effect and says he’ll just try to stay away from Shaun for that reason, but Lea tells him that’s not the right approach either. Someone needs to make the first move, and they both know it won’t be Shaun.
It might not have been the worst thing for Lea to remind Glassman that Shaun’s ASD will get in the way of behaving like a “grown man” and that he’s Glassman’s son. It certainly gives Glassman some pause.
With his liver failure patient deteriorating, Shaun and his team need to find a liver for the girl. Her biological father who only just found out he has a daughter is less than willing to donate part of his liver, so Shaun feels he needs to take it upon himself to convince him, seeing how his residents failed spectacularly at it. Shaun’s purely rational approach of “your sperm made this kid, you have a responsibility to her” falls on deaf ears too, though.
With Lea’s appeal to Glassman about making the first move, it has certainly provided some food for thought, because when he witnesses a father chastising his daughter near the coffee bar, he recalls a memory of old, many years ago, when he lectured his own daughter Maddie about hitting a girl in school who was mean to her, forcefully ordering her to her room with Maddie accusing him that he never listens to her and that she hates him.
We see Shaun taking something away from his learning curve when he realises that Asher, Danni and he all failed in getting the father Mick to donate his liver to his biological daughter. They need a different approach, and Shaun suggests that this time around, they work together to find a solution. And, spoiler alert, in the end that’s the one that actually yields the result they were hoping for.
Glassman must have done some introspection of his own, because he seeks out Shaun in his new closet office that seems to become more homely every time we see it – or as homely as a tiny storage closet cluttered with unused hospital equipment can get. Glassman has something on his mind that he thinks Shaun needs to know, that he needs to verbally express because he isn’t sure that Shaun really knows this or can read between the lines.
“I am mad at you, and for good reason, but no matter how mad I get, I never stop loving you. I didn’t tell that to Maddie enough,” Glassman divulges almost shyly. Shaun takes that in for a long moment, is confused why Glassman is telling him that. “I… don’t know what you want me to take away from that,” he tells him. Isn’t that obvious, though? Maybe too obvious. Glassman elaborates, “That I love you…?” Oh. Well. Duh. Shaun probably thinks that’s nice and touching. He ponders this for a moment, then replies softy, “I do, too.”
Aw, this was so sweet, I was totally touched during this scene, and it was beautifully played by Richard and Freddie.
What Glassman also needs Shaun to know is that his rejecting of Shaun’s medical ideas wasn’t necessarily linked to his personal feelings, that he had good reasons to say no to the ideas, but that he thinks maybe Shaun may be on to something with the endoscopic approach he talked about. Together, they look at Lim’s CT scans to refine those ideas.
Why do they still have the CT scans on physical film? They usually visualize and analyse these on computers. Why doesn’t Shaun just open his laptop and they look at it there? That would have served the exact same purpose than them huddling together in front of the lamp, which was an awkward way of looking at a CT scan. I’m confused.
Lea has her moment of glory when she is the one sent to try and convince Mick to donate his liver to his daughter. She seeks him out at a bar where Mick performs as a singer-songwriter. She casually addresses him during a break, strikes up a conversation and then shows him a video on her phone of Skyler singing. When Mick asks if that’s Lea’s daughter, she says, no, it’s his. That gets him to thinking…
Okay, but wtf? Sending Lea in on this mission is all kinds of ethically questionable. First of all, if I’m not mistaken, it breaks HIPAA regulations. Sure, it’s possible that Skyler’s parents may have agreed to tell Lea about their daughter’s condition, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not allowed to tell her who Skyler’s biological father is and then have her stalk him to emotionally blackmail him into donating part of his liver. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that, but this whole thing just seemed weird and fabricated. Could they not have sent Jordan or Danny with the same outcome? Still would have been somewhat questionable, but a little less awkward. Lea seemed like a really odd choice here.
Shaun and Glassman have put their heads together to come up with a surgical plan for Lim that both think can work and presents an acceptable amount of risk. Shaun explains it as, “We’ll go in posteriorly with minimally invasive percutaneous screws and do a complete vertebral column resection at the maximally kyphosed segments, then reconstruct the vertebral bodies with an expandable cage. […] It’s the safest way to remove the tension in your cord and let your body do its work.”
They all listen to the idea, Glassman says it’s not crazy to try it, and Lim says she’ll think on it.
I’m not a neurosurgeon or even close to that field, but if I understand correctly what they’re trying to do here is that they actually remove some of Lim’s vertebrae and replace them with these expandable cages, which are basically replacements for the vertebrae made out of metal that are adjustable in height.
Apparently the theory is that the alignment of the curvature of the spine will reduce pressure on Lim’s spinal nerves, which would allow nerve regeneration and thus reversal of the paralysis. I do wonder if it’s as easy as that, though. Nerve healing is a fickle business and I’ve read that damage to the spinal cord is actually irreparable. I think the chances that Lim would regain full function and mobility even if the surgery technically turned out a success would be relatively low.
At any rate, the surgery sounds pretty tricky, and I can understand why Glassman was wary of the approach. It basically involves spinal fusion, meaning the spine will no longer have flexibility in that area and she’d have a few vertebrae made out of metal in her back, which can bring all kinds of other issues with it. Maybe there is an element here of “well, it can’t get much worse than paralysis, right?” but I’m not so sure, because maybe there could be things that are worse if it goes wrong.
I guess we can’t blame Lim that it’s a hard decision to make, but she comes back to them the next day to tell them she’s decided against the surgery. Shaun doesn’t understand. Why would she say no? Andrews says Lim doesn’t owe them an explanation, but Shaun begs to differ, because he tried so hard all week to get this refined, has spent all his time and energy to make it work.
It would fix everything, would fix not just Lim’s resentment, but also all the dark clouds that are hovering around him right now, so she can’t say no. If she says no, nothing will get fixed. It’s not fair, and he vehemently expresses that. He drones on, insists that he can look into less invasive methods and more options that would speed up recovery time. Lim’s eyes tear up at his very emotionally charged plea, but she’s made her decision. As she leaves the room, Glassman vehemently tells Shaun to stop. He’s making this worse, and when Glassman gets loud, Shaun yields to the command to stop talking.
I thought it was really interesting that Lim was tearing up here. It tells us that she doesn’t truly despise Shaun, that she doesn’t feel a deeply rooted hate for him. She saw how much he was struggling with her “no”, how hurt he was when she shot down what he thought was going to salvage what he broke. That, paired with her complicated feelings about his involvement in her surgery, probably brought a lot of emotional dissonance with it that culminated in strong emotions and tears.
Andrews leaves Glassman and Shaun alone in his office to sort this out. Shaun looks at Glassman, and in a voice laced with emotion, reiterates that it’s not fair. Glassman must have remembered Lea’s plea to be a father more than a professional mentor, and he aces it this time. In a calm and reassuring voice, he says he’s sorry and asks Shaun to tell him the reasons why he thinks it’s not fair and he’ll try to explain.
We don’t know how the rest of that conversation went, but Shaun must have come to some kind of understanding, or at the very least Glassman got him to get out of his immediate agitation because when Lea comes to check in with Shaun in his office later, he’s rearranging items and setting up shelves with decoration and medical journals. Probably a bit of a coping mechanism, trying to bring order to physical items to counteract the jumble of thoughts and emotions inside of him.
Lea shares something with him that she thinks is relevant, that when she went to Hershey four or five years ago, she was hoping it could fix her family’s business and the relationship with her parents and her brother. It did none of those things and she failed at all three, but she’s glad she did it.
Shaun questions that that makes no sense, but Lea would rather have done her best and failed than regret not having tried. She takes Shaun’s hands and tells him that it only makes it braver if you try to help people, even if you think it won’t change anything.
That must have made Shaun ponder what it means to be courageous, because he reflected on Alex’s ask from earlier and decides to try and help, even if he may think it’s pointless. He seeks out the two brothers who Alex is helping get discharged, hesitating before he enters their room. Alex is surprised to see that Shaun changed his mind and thanks him for coming.
Shaun introduces himself and explains that Dr. Park asked him to talk about his life, that he doesn’t know if it will help, but that he is going to try. He rolls up the stool that’s there, sits down and starts talking. We don’t know what exactly he says, but it probably starts with something like, “When I was 14 years old, my brother and I ran away from home because my parents didn’t care about me…”
When you think about it, one of the really beautiful things of this scene is that Alex is there the whole time that Shaun tells his story, even if we’re not privy to it. We know Alex was aware of the basics of what happened in Shaun’s childhood surrounding Steve’s death, but surely he wouldn’t know the more intricate details of both the accident and Shaun’s life after it, or Shaun’s journey with Dr. Glassman. And with Shaun talking to Ollie and Chris about his experiences, Alex is witness to that. Shaun didn’t ask him to leave, so he must be comfortable Alex hearing all of that, which I think will strengthen their friendship more.
Lim has quite the journey this time and lots to think about. Shaun is offering her a surgical option that could potentially reverse her paralysis. Although the suggestion may be promising, it’s also risky. Too risky initially, so Shaun and Glassman go back to the drawing board to work on a better solution. By the end of the episode, they have found an approach that may be viable, but is Lim ready to take that plunge?
Along the way, there are different experiences and situations that shape her final decision, one of them being her flirty neighbour Curtis who invites her to dinner, presumably at that Chilean restaurant they had talked about before.
Lim isn’t very sure it’s a date, although her colleagues are all in favour that it is. Dalisay tries to give her dating attire advice, but Morgan is the real queen of fashion, so she offers to come to Lim’s place and help her pick out the perfect combo. They finally settle on a pair of tight shiny pants, paired with a Louis Vuitton blouse and a pair of high heels. But is she ready to even start dating again?
She’s all snazzed up by the time the date or maybe non-date comes, and already it starts off rocky with the restaurant having a set of steps that aren’t wheelchair accessible. The staff offers to carry the chair up the stairs, but Curtis has a better suggestion of them having the meal out on the cute little courtyard by the entrance.
Apparently the dinner goes pretty well, so they end up in Lim’s apartment afterwards, geeking out over what the best Star Wars movies are. Curtis has a soft spot for Rogue One, and as they settle on the couch with a beer, he asks what they’re watching. Lim leans in for a tentative kiss, but he immediately indicates that, no, that was never what he wanted out of this. He wanted platonic friendship at best. This was never supposed to be a date.
It’s a slap in Lim’s face, and he bails pretty fast when Lim says it would be best if he left. So, yeah, not a date, and a huge disappointment that definitely hurts.
She runs into Danni the next morning, and Danni asks if she think it would help if she shared a similar experience she had after her amputation. Lim isn’t particularly receptive to the idea, and there’s an awkward silence, but then Danni prompts her not to do the surgery. Whatever Shaun is suggesting, she should really think about her motives. Is this all driven solely by her wanting her old life back?
Danni puts forward that there’s no such thing as “her old life”, and that something good and positive could come out of the whole experience. Danni says she’s been where Lim is, and that while she wished for a long time she could have her leg back, she doesn’t anymore. She likes where and who she is now. She recommends that Lim give herself time.
Danni’s advice is probably the most influential trigger that had Lim come to her final decision about the surgery. While she definitely sees how much effort Shaun has put into finding a viable solution that could have her regain leg function, she says no, decides not to go through with it and give herself more time to adjust.
We delve more into Danny’s mysterious past and the reason why things got all weird between him and Jordan when he didn’t want to kiss her. Jordan invites him to a pub crawl for Halloween, but he declines, but he does acknowledge that he knows he made things weird between them the night before with the aborted kiss.
They try to talk about it again, and he keeps things vague, tells her it’s a line he can’t cross, and it’s not because they work together. He can’t date anyone right now, but he wants to stay friends. Jordan isn’t real cool with that approach, so yeah, things are kinda weird between them.
Treating their pancreatic cancer patient who struggles with the idea that he’ll have to let his brother down by not being able to take care of him any longer, Danny shares a personal family story, tells the patient that his own brother slid into heroin addiction after getting hooked on oxycodone. His family eventually had to cut his brother loose which had him hit rock bottom before he could get back up and rebuild his life. What got his brother through was his family’s love and support.
His brother is now five years sober, which he hopes serves as an inspiration that their patient’s brother can handle the bad news, that he’ll get through it because his brother taught him what he needs to know and taught him what love is.
Jordan is there to listen, and she tears up when she realises that perhaps Danny isn’t talking about his brother at all. She confronts him about it in the locker room after work, says, “Five years sober, huh?” Danny admits that she’s on the right track, that Danny himself is the addict.
He’s been five years sober, but it’s still a struggle every single day. He almost relapsed six months ago when he bought some heroin. He didn’t take it, but it made him realise that there’s no room in his life right now for anything other trying to stay sober and becoming a surgeon. Jordan thanks him for trusting her and now knowing his struggle, she’s committed to being just friends.
Wow, this scene made me tear up, and it’s a backstory I certainly didn’t expect. Definitely has potential, and I’m interested in seeing what they’ll do with it in the future. Perfect Danny Boy isn’t quite so perfect, and I’m down with that.
That said, this was very timely for me, since I had only recently watched the Hulu show Dopesick from last year, which showcases America’s struggle with opioid addiction and the very sordid and eye-opening history of oxycontin and its clever and very illegitimate marketing strategy that got millions of Americans hooked on opioids. Danny’s story is one that many other individuals went through in the past, sliding from oxy dependence into heroin addiction. It’s pretty shocking and tragic, and I’m glad that Purdue Pharma finally got exposed for all the illegal and massively unethical shit they almost got away with.
Things to Further Dissect
The episode’s Halloween theme was cute, and I loved the costumes that they picked. For those who couldn’t quite tell, here’s what I got:
- Asher: Grogu (Star Wars)
- Lea: Ahsoka (Star Wars)
- Park: Wolverine (X-Men)
- Danni: Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
- Danny: Sulley (Monsters Inc.)
- Dalisay: Mickey Mouse
- Morgan: Werewolf?
Danni’s pirate costume was very apropos (peg leg and all), and I love the tongue-in-cheek humour. If anyone knows if Morgan was supposed to be a specific werewolf or some other iconic creature, please let me know.
I wanna know what’s on Shaun’s sandwiches. What is that brown stuff? Chocolate spread? PB&J? Please don’t let it be Marmite or Vegemite.
This one thing, however, bugged me a little. I already mentioned it above, but why is Shaun asking why Asher is green?
a) Shaun is not stupid, he’d be able to make the leap of Halloween = costumes or vice versa, and
b) Lea was dressed up, we need to assume she put that on in the morning where Shaun would have seen it (presuming they saw each other that morning), plus very probable conversations leading up to Halloween about going to work in costume.
Unless Shaun’s question was supposed to be, “Why did you paint your whole face? Putting on a costume would have been good enough, this makes you look very unprofessional.”
This may become a standing section for a while, because Shaun is still knee-deep in denial, and likely this will play out for another few episodes. We keep being reminded of it through Glassman, who keeps nudging Shaun that he needs to take responsibility for what happened with Lim’s surgery, and Shaun still keeps insisting he did nothing wrong and has nothing to apologise for.
Shaun is still no closer to acknowledging the idea that he may have made a misstep or that there are emotional repercussions to his decision during Lim’s surgery. His solution to that in this episode was just another avoidance tactic, namely what he was convinced would be fixing Lim’s spine through the surgery he proposed.
In Shaun’s mind, fixing her physical disability will make everything go away, will magically restore things to how they were, will reverse any kind of impact that the night of the assault had on everyone involved, that it will restore Glassman and everyone else’s faith and trust in him and his abilities. It’s Shaun way of thinking he’ll get his repentance, his way of making up for what he may have messed up. I think we all know that it doesn’t quite work that way, and Shaun might know that too, he just needs to allow himself to accept the realities of that.
What’s definitely noteworthy is that Shaun’s closet office is the perfect metaphor for his current situation and personal arc. It signifies and epitomises Shaun’s avoidance and isolation, offers the perfect hideout for him to run away from any kind of trigger that could punch through those carefully erected walls of denial. Even Park noticed it when he came to Shaun about his patient, asked him why he’s hiding away in that closet. And of course Shaun didn’t want to hear it from Park either.
Shaun certainly seems to have become comfortable with the idea that this is now is new home away from home, making the closet office more cosy by tidying it up and adorning it with personal mementos and memorabilia.
Glassman and Lea seem to have now resigned themselves to the idea that Shaun will be hiding out in that tiny closet space for a while, probably hoping he’ll eventually see his sidesteps and right his own course. It may not be the worst idea, because sometimes Shaun just needs to learn his own lessons, and he’s definitely not in the right headspace right now to be pushed, pressured or even gently nudged into anything.
I’m hoping that when Shaun finally does realise that he needs to face the emotional fallout of the situation surrounding Lim’s paralysis, he’ll eventually move out of the closet office again to open up and be more approachable.
Lesson of Love
One of the scenes that stood out most for me in this episode was when Glassman went to Shaun’s office to tell him he’ll always love him, no matter how mad he is at Shaun. Just last week I listed this out as one of the lessons that Shaun could benefit from learning, and I’m really glad that they addressed that very openly here.
However, one thing that Daniela and I were wondering about was why Shaun was asking Glassman to elaborate on what Shaun was supposed to be taking away from that statement. We both felt that Glassman’s message of “I’ll always love you, no matter what” was pretty obvious and unambiguous, so I went ahead and posed that question to autism consultant Melissa Reiner on her Instagram to hear her thoughts and insights. She did respond, and here’s what she said:
I would personally like to think that Shaun always believes that he’s loved by Glassman and the only confusion was why he was hearing about it again. He knows he’s loved and perhaps that was never in question for Shaun; it was Glassman who needed to say it more than it was for Shaun to hear it.
I followed that up with a question of how that aligns with the fact that Glassman fed into Shaun’s fear of abandonment in season 5 by leaving for Montana, and how that largely contributed to Shaun’s huge meltdown in 5×07 Expired. Did Glassman’s return to San Jose heal all those wounds and clear away those doubts, so that Shaun now knows he’s loved unconditionally, hence he was confused why Glassman was telling him that?
I don’t know if all those old wounds have completely healed, […] but, I do feel there was an important repair that took place between them. Even if we are scared or worried or stressed about a situation, and even if we need reassurance from time to time, I believe both Glassman and Shaun know that their bond and love for one another is strong and real.
That’s a really beautiful way of looking at it, and I think I put the fact a lot more into question that Shaun has truly internalised that Glassman loves him unconditionally the way a father loves his child. But, you know, with what Shaun went through as a child, I don’t think it hurts actually verbalising it to him every now and then that he’s loved despite some of the challenges that his ASD brings. And it’s beautiful that Shaun easily returned the gesture and told Glassman that he loves him too.
Speaking of Glassman, he has been accused in the past of being the only character on the show who never learns anything, who doesn’t grow and keeps repeating past mistakes. I wouldn’t actually agree with that assessment, and it certainly doesn’t apply here. Very clearly, Glassman is determined not to repeat the mistakes he’s made with Maddie, and very clearly he’s applied that here very beautifully in swallowing his pride and actually seeking out Shaun to, despite his current mixed feelings towards him, tell him he loves him. How is that not character growth?
The Whole World vs. Shaun Murphy
I don’t actually think that this is the case right now, but a vocal portion of the fandom seem to think it is. There are many comments and tweets floating around of fans who are upset that Shaun’s friends and colleagues didn’t immediately and fully embrace his surgical plan to “fix” Lim’s paralysis. Here’s an example.
Obviously I’m not a writer on the show or the actor portraying the character, so I can only speak to my own interpretations of the situation, but to me that seems a very naïve way of looking at it. Fans are assuming that the surgery to “fix” Lim’s paralysis will easily and fully reverse her disability and negate everything that happened. You know, kinda like what Shaun is expecting. But it’s hugely more complex than that.
First of all, I don’t think the surgery would really “fix” her. Not in a way that she’ll have full function and mobility back like she used to. It will also not magically make everything go away.
I didn’t get the feeling at all that no one cared. It’s a risky surgery with limited chance of success, which the surgeons all know. It’s not a routine hernia repair or appendectomy that they perform three times a week. It’s a very complicated, very individual surgery, and one that will have a severe impact, both if it goes right or wrong, and it will have more emotional repercussions in both cases. That’s a decision that rests with Lim alone, and not her colleagues or her friends or the person who played a part in putting her in a wheelchair and is now trying his best to make up for that.
There’s still a very prevalent notion in the fandom that Shaun’s extraordinary medical knowledge and skills make him infallible and elevate him above all the other surgeons. I already said this last week – he’s not infallible, and actually very far from it. Yet, Shaun himself thinks he cannot err, and it’s still a lesson he needs to learn that he is, in fact, sometimes very fallible, even in the surgical arena.
What some fans and probably Shaun himself should try to consider is that the shortcomings he undoubtedly has don’t diminish him as a person or as a doctor. They only mean that he is very human. Like we all are.
There’s also the repeating theme of people being angry at Dr. Glassman, many comments that villainise him for pushing Shaun to recognise he is evading and shutting down his emotions tied to this very traumatic experience from the night of the assault.
A lot of people are convinced that everyone hates Shaun because he has autism, that everyone around him right now wants him to fail. I honestly don’t see that. The people around Shaun are seeing that he’s in denial, that he’s locked into a pattern of avoidance and unhealthy compensation without a good way to help him out of it because he’s erected very strong walls around him. Which is why people keep him at arm’s length right now and are waiting until maybe they find some cracks in that wall that they can help trying to widen. But Shaun needs to get there first.
Glassman is also seeing it, I believe even Lea is seeing it, but she seems to be more focused on trying to keep Shaun at an even keel rather than push him against that wall, hence her unconditional support of Shaun. Maybe she’s waiting for the right moment to get her fingers in one of the cracks that will undoubtedly appear at some point. Right now Shaun is wearing blinders, and maybe he first needs to get his nose bloodied from running into his own obstacles before something more profound can happen.
A very interesting fact around this is that several autistic people in the fandom don’t share this general sentiment of wanting to defend Shaun and his actions at all costs. They know their own struggles more than any neurotypical person can ever understand or imagine. And quite possibly they also understand what is going on with Shaun and his denial a lot better than I ever could. I always value their comments and I think they add very pertinent insights to Shaun’s journey.
Irony of Ironies
Just a small observation, but I thought it was very ironic that Shaun was lecturing the biological father Mick on his responsibility to his daughter. What about your own responsibility that you’re currently denying, Shaun?
The Big 100
So now we’re on a short break with the show being preempted this following Monday, meaning 6×06 Hot and Bothered will air on Nov 14, 2022. I wouldn’t be mentioning this if this wasn’t a very extraordinary episode, namely the 100th one.
From what I can tell, the episode was definitely written to be a special one with showrunner David Shore directing, and so I think we can look forward to an exciting 42 minutes of entertainment, whatever it will turn out to be.
I wish I had saved more of the behind-the-scenes photos to show you, but there were a few cute ones where the cast was celebrating the ‘Episode 100’ milestone with a human heart adorned cake that almost looked a little too realistic. I’m sure these are still floating around on Twitter and Instagram if you wanna go look for them.
Here’s one of them to give you an idea. 🙂
Favourite Lines and Dialogues
Poor Freddie had to learn so much medical technobabble this episode, and then rattle it off at record speed. He’s always spot-on with the medical stuff, though. Two thumbs up, Mr. Highmore.
Shaun: “We will do bloodwork and electrophysiologic studies to find out, plus generic workups on all three of you. If it’s inherited, you might be at risk, too. … Happy Halloween!”
Geez, Shaun. lol Classic socially awkward Shaun right here.
Shaun: “Okay, residents, that did not work at all. […] You both did terrible jobs.”
We gotta work on your sugar-coating there, Shaun.
Shaun: “Then how does it work? How long are you going to be mad at me?”
Shaun had so many great lines this episode.
Glassman: “He’s a grown man and he is your husband.”
Lea: “He has ASD and he’s your son.”
As much as I’m not necessarily in favour or Lea’s blind support of Shaun right now, I loved this exchange right here.
Glassman: “I am mad at you, and for good reason. But no matter how mad I get, I never stop loving you. I didn’t tell that to Maddie enough.”
Shaun: “I don’t know what you want me to take away from that.”
Glassman: “That I love you.”
Shaun: “I do, too.”
I already talked about this, but I loved this scene. It was beautifully delivered by both Richard and Freddie. The Schiff/Highmore dream team is at it again.
Jordan: “Thank you for trusting me.”
Danny: “Really hope we can be friends.”
Jordan: “Yeah, we’re friends.”
I also loved this scene and how Brandon and Bria played it. Great work here, too.
A few scenes this episode that I wish we could have seen play out on screen.
First was when Shaun was talking to Danni and Asher about how to convince Skyler’s biological father to donate part of his liver. When Shaun said to the two of them, “We need to figure it out together this time,” it’s a shame we never saw how Shaun, Asher and Danni brainstormed this and found the solution of having Lea try (and succeed) to convince Mick to agree to the liver donation. I wonder if they actually filmed that scene and it ended up on the cutting room floor.
Second was when Shaun was getting agitated that Lim said no to the surgery, and Glassman tried to calm him down by saying, “Tell me the reasons why you think it’s not fair and I’ll try to explain.” I really wish we could have seen that scene play out further, but I can also see why it didn’t. If they’d done it right, it would have touched on a lot of the sticking points why Shaun is currently in denial, and it would have taken away from what we will undoubtedly see more of in upcoming episodes.
Lastly, the scene at the very end of the episode where Shaun tells the brothers about his childhood. Part of me is mad that they decided to fade to black before we could hear Shaun’s story being retold. I mean, sure, the avid viewer already knows what they need to know about Shaun’s childhood, but dammit, we all wanna know what actually happened with Shaun and Glassman after his foster mother Sybil had to send him away. We wanna know if Shaun ever actually lived with Glassman, and for how long. We wanna know about Shaun’s high school life, his graduation, his med school days. More insights into his past, please.
Best Shaun Muffin Face
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!
Great and as usual a very detailed commentary-
The Glassman/Shaun dynamic so far in Season 6 has been fascinating. It feels like they’re moving to a new level in their relationship. I was disturbed at Glassman’s distance; yes, he definitely had a right to be angry, but to Shaun it felt like rejection. I too loved the scene where Glassman told him that yes, he was angry, but he still loved him. After all, what father has never been angry at his son? And what son has never been rebellious?
As for Lim, it’s understandable why she would reject a risky surgery; I just wish she would have done so without Dani’s interjecting herself into that decision. Danni didn’t just suggest; she practically ordered Lim; ”Don’t do the surgery”. She compared it to her own experience when the outcome was nothing like Lim’s. Yes, she undoubtedly suffered, but she can walk; she’s not in a wheelchair with all the limitations that brings.
All in all, a solid episode. TGD writers are very good at keeping us wondering, and hungry for more.
Yes, very much agree that they’re doing great things with Shaun and Glassman this season. It’s heartwarming that they’re not just casting that father/son relationship dynamic aside (like they sometimes tend to do with things they establish and then forget) but that they’re strengthening it.
The idea that this is maybe Shaun going through a bit of a late rebellious streak is also interesting, although I’m not sure that’s what it is. I think it stems more from his ASD sometimes tending to blindspot certain aspects for him and then active refusal from him to dig deeper.
As for Danni, I think you have a point that it probably wasn’t really her place to insert herself so assertively into that matter, particularly since Lim is also the Chief of Surgery and more of an authority figure. But we also know Danni has little regard for authority, so… I don’t think it was out of line for her to point out parallels, but you’re also right that being confined to a wheelchair and having a prosthetic but still being able to walk are two different animals. Then again, we don’t know if perhaps Danni has spent some time in a wheelchair early on. She said she was in a coma for weeks, we don’t know what her recovery process was like.
Yes, it’s very much in character for Danni to ignore or outright challenge authority, and it’s getting annoying, particularly with Lim. That scene pissed me off. I admit I don’t like her, but she needs hard lessons in humility. I have a feeling Shaun is gonna be instrumental in doling that, particularly if he hears about her unsolicited advise to Lim.
I agree with you, Julianna. The Glassman-Shaun dynamic has indeed been fascinating so far. And they are really moving to a new level in their relationship. I confess that after Shaun finally acknowledged that he considered Glassman his father, in the season 5 finale, I was a little afraid that this huge milestone wouldn’t have had any specific follow-up. That Shaun and Glassman would resume their previous dynamic like anything had happened. Sadly, it’s been too often the case in the show, before: huge buildups with dead ends.
But I’m so glad to have been proven wrong about this. Because Shaun and Glassy didn’t resume their previous dynamic at all. Yes, there are certain patterns that are obviously the same. Still, after that wall of ambiguity finally fell, last season, those two are really bringing their relationship to a whole other level. They are not afraid to act on their true feelings anymore. And that’s a beautiful and fascinating process to witness.
Because of this I’m even more astonished by the amount of hateful comments I’ve been reading about Glassman. Most people apparently think that being a good parent means being condescending about any kind of wrong and/or unhealthy behavior of a child. As a mother, I think that it’s the worst disservice a parent can do to their children.
No one here is saying that Shaun willingly caused Lim’s paralysis, but it’s a fact that Lim is on a wheelchair after undergoing a surgery Shaun performed, against direct orders he received from a superior.
So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s true that Shaun saved Lim’s life, but he has two big problems to deal with:
a) Having disregarded orders
b) Refusing to acknowledge the realities of this situation, his own feelings, and Lim’s feelings.
This is especially tricky because, yes, Shaun has ASD and it’s difficult for him to handle this kind of nuanced emotions. But he has chosen a job with many emotional repercussions. Being a surgeon is not only about surgical techniques, it’s about knowing how to motivate a team, how to evaluate their emotional state and taking it into the right account. It’s about dealing with the feelings of the patients and their families. Not every single surgery Shaun performs will have a positive outcome. What happens when Shaun will be required to deliver bad news to a patient’s family? Will he say that he has nothing to apologize for because he didn’t do anything wrong? That he made the right call, even if the patient died or ended up compromised? Will he delegate the task to his residents?
Shaun struggles with these things, but he has a responsibility to himself and to others to try and learn how to cope. Instead, as TeeJay so eloquently explained, Shaun is in total denial mode and is erecting walls to keep everything and everyone out. Hiding in the closet office is an important clue of this process taking place. All of this is not only wrong, but unhealthy.
Glassman’s concerns about wanting Shaun to take responsibility for his decision are completely justified, since he’s now openly acting as a father and no longer as (only) a mentor. People calling him a jerk probably have trouble understanding that, not even after this latest episode, in which Glassman so beautifully told Shaun that he’s never going to stop loving him. Only a parent is capable of that kind of unconditional love.