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

Season 6 Recap: 6×14 Hard Heart

Can’t say I was very impressed with this one. While mildly amusing at times, it was more than mildly frustrating at others, with patient stories that should have been heartfelt but somehow didn’t deliver on the emotional depth they should have had.

The Technicalities

Written by Garrett Lerner
Directed by James Genn
Original airdate 27 Feb 2023

Patient Cases

Patient #1 – Nathan Nayer

Treating physicians:
Alex Park, Shaun Murphy, Daniel Perez

Stroke as a result of primary CNS vasculitis, later revealed to be Moyamoya disease

Case notes:

  • Nathan is admitted to the hospital with a suspected concussion after hitting his head two days ago
  • Park examines Nathan and diagnoses a stroke, based on Nathan’s loss of function of his left arm and hand
  • After running more tests, Nathan is initially diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that will required life-long treatment and several rounds of aggressive chemotherapy
  • During surgery, they find that the main vessels feeding blood to the brain are all smaller than usual and scarred—the haemorrhage in the brain was not from Nathan hitting his head
  • Park and Shaun diagnose primary CNS vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disorder that is treatable with cyclophosphamide (an aggressive chemotherapy drug) and long-term immunosuppression
  • They get Nathan started on the cyclophosphamide infusions right away
  • When they check the treatment success via brain imaging, Shaun realises that Nathan doesn’t have CNS vasculitis, he actually has Moyamoya disease, a rare blood vessel disorder in which the carotid artery in the skull becomes blocked or narrowed, reducing blood flow to the brain
  • The new course of treatment is a series of brain surgeries, the first of which they will do the next day
  • The first surgery goes very well and Park suggests that they also do the bypass in the other hemisphere since they’re an hour ahead of schedule and it would save Nathan and his family another procedure
  • Shaun recommends an encephalo-duro-arterio-synangiosis of the left side since it would be relatively low risk
  • The surgery goes well and Nathan can begin the process of recovery

Patient #2 – Evelyn Allen

Treating physicians:
Audrey Lim, Asher Wolke, (Jordan Allen)

Constrictive pericarditis with complete dystrophic atrial wall calcification (“Coconut Heart”)

Case notes:

  • Evelyn is Jordan’s grandmother (Grandma E), and she presents in the ER with tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and swollen ankles, she has a history of cancer
  • Her own doctors in Oakland had told her that her ascites (fluid build-up in the abdomen) indicated she had liver cirrhosis, but she wants a second opinion (and top shelf care at St. Bon’s)
  • Asher notices distended jugular veins with increased jugular venous pulse (JVP), Kussmaul’s sign (paradoxical increase in JVP during inspiration) and pulsus paradoxus (exaggerated fall in a patient’s blood pressure during inspiration)
  • Ultrasound indicates that the sac around Evelyn’s heart is inflamed and calcified
  • Evelyn loses consciousness and is taken to the OR for a pericardiotomy to drain excess fluid around the heart
  • When Lim wants to cut through the pericardium with a scalpel, the blade breaks and they find that the pericardium is completely calcified – they can’t drain it like this
  • The condition is what’s known as a “coconut heart”, complete dystrophic atrial wall calcification
  • Lim and Asher weigh different partial removal options while Jordan suggests complete removal of the heart, which is an extensive high risk procedure and Lim thinks is not even a viable enough option to present it to the patient
  • Against Lim’s explicit instructions, Jordan tells Evelyn she recommends not using Lim’s approach but do a full removal instead, which Evelyn then insists on
  • Lim has Jordan speak to Evelyn again to retract her demand, and Evelyn agrees to the partial removal
  • Evelyn becomes hypotensive, her heart starts failing, she has to go back into surgery
  • The surgical team didn’t have enough time to practice the surgery, so they have to improvise in the OR – it doesn’t go that well and complications arise when they try to pierce the calcifications
  • Jordan suggests a new approach called waffle procedure where dense calcified plaques can be scored into multiple cross-hatched sections, she walks Lim and the team through it
  • Evelyn wakes up from the surgery and says for the first time in a long time, she feels like she can breathe again

The Shaun & Lea Family Journey

Lea is now getting into that late phase of the pregnancy where the baby bump is starting to make everything extra hard. The baby is pressing on her bladder, so she has to pee approximately 78 times every night. Which, in turn, robs Shaun of his sleep as well. But, since they’re both awake, maybe they can talk about baby names.

Lea has her mind set on Kelly, but Shaun tells her that it reminds him of a Kelly clamp and he doesn’t want to think about tissue or vessels every time he’s holding their son. Addison is out too, since Addison’s disease makes him think about levels of cortisol or aldosterone. Lea tells Shaun to go back to sleep, he’s not helping.

In the morning, Glassman treats Shaun and Lea to Dutch baby pancakes, freshly baked in the oven (which oven – do they even have one?), topped lightly with fresh fruit and powdered sugar. Shaun supplies some extra helpful trivia that they’re also called Bismarcks, Dutch puffs or Hootenannies.

Look at that, Shaun knows how to use Wikipedia.

He forgot the German pancakes, though. Which is weird, cause we don’t make pancakes that way. We fry them in a pan. You know, like most people do. But okay, moving on.

And Glassman agrees that Kelly and Addison are not great names for the Peanut since apparently Shaun had told him about it. Glassman suggests Munchhausen or Parkinson, and I think Shaun actually gets the joke. Lea is not amused, however. Their bedroom conversations are meant to be private, upon which Shaun innocently asks, “All of them?” Yes, Shaun.

That night, Shaun and Lea go out to dinner and come home a little later in the evening. They find a slightly drunk Glassman trying to babyproof their apartment, putting blue tape stickers on everything he feels isn’t going to be safe for a baby to be around.

He’s also bought three highchairs in different designs – one for Shaun and Lea to keep, the other two they don’t like to take back. He finds that the apartment is death trap for Nicholas, which is his new placeholder name for the Peanut. They can call him Nick or Nicky, and Shaun really likes that. Lea, however, very much does not. Nor does she like that Glassman is suddenly taking over the role of parenting coach, including his purchase of a nanny cam inside a teddy bear and the must-read parenting literature recommendation.

Through all this, Shaun is hanging on Glassy’s lips, all-in with the name suggestions and the baby product suggestions and the necessities of baby proofing. He thinks it’s the bee’s knees to have Daddy Glassy here and helping with everything.

Lea gets even more annoyed when she has to go pee again the next night and finds that the lid of the toilet is now childproofed with some kind of contraption she can’t quite figure out in the middle of the night. She ends up peeing into the bathtub and makes sure that she shakes Shaun awake to tell him that Glassman has to go.

Shaun takes that to Glassman right the next day with the charming opening line, “You are annoying.” Kudos to Glassman that he knows how to take that and replies, “Well, nice to see you too, Shaun.” This isn’t really about Shaun, though. It’s about Lea feeling that Glassman’s presence has taken over the apartment and Lea wanting her space back.

Glassman gets it—he overstepped. But it was fun, thinking about the Peanut on the way and having a distraction for a while to forget about the big disaster of losing everything. Shaun tells him, “Dr. Glassman, you are not exactly my family…” and Glassman fully expects Shaun to go on and tell him he overstepped when he had no right to, but that’s not what this is, because Shaun continues, “But I consider you to be the baby’s grandfather.”

That leaves Glassman speechless for a long moment, he definitely hadn’t expected that. “Wow,” he says. His voice is a little teary when he confesses to Shaun that he never thought that would happen for him. Without preamble, he goes and draws Shaun’s into a hug, which the latter embraces without question.

I’m not sure Shaun was fully aware of how big a thing that was for Glassman, but he must realise it when Glassman really clings on, so Shaun says he will tell Lea how important this is to Glassman and he’ll get her to change her mind. Glassman, however, insists that he will go, even though he doesn’t know yet where. I guess there’s always a hotel or Airbnb…

When Lea gets home from work a day or two later, she asks Shaun where Glassy is. He tells her that Glassman won’t be staying with them anymore, and Lea immediately has the suspicion that Shaun shared Lea’s complaints with him, which then prompted Glassman to move out. Which of course Shaun did. Because that’s what Shaun does, and how is it that Lea doesn’t know and expect that?

But Shaun also tells her she doesn’t need to feel bad. Dr. Glassman found a vacant apartment just down the hall and is now their neighbour’s neighbour. Which Shaun is really excited about, but Lea very much is not.

Park’s Journey

Park’s young patient Nathan is a particularly impactful case. To be suffering a stroke at such a young age is pretty tragic, and Nathan’s mother Linda needs to hold it together on her own since Nathan’s father Rick is a firefighter and currently stuck in Alabama for much needed hurricane relief.

Linda has Rick on the phone. He is concerned for his son and unsure how to prioritise, seeing how they’re still searching for survivors in the wake of the hurricane. Park talks to him to explain his son’s condition and reassures him that he’ll work on helping his son get better, his wife also telling him he should stay and help, that she’d be fine on her own.

During the surgical procedure on Nathan’s brain, Shaun remarks that a father’s priority should be the crisis of his son and not that of strangers, but of course Rick didn’t know that his son would be suffering a stroke when he went to Alabama.

Things become more dire when they find that the stroke is just one symptom of a more severe underlying condition. The initial diagnosis is a rare CNS autoimmune disorder that requires aggressive chemo and life-long immunosuppression.

With Rick away, Linda has to shoulder their son’s care and the sudden shock of the dire diagnosis all on her own. Park check in with them and she snaps at Park, which he knows not to take personally. He tells her maybe she shouldn’t be doing all this on her own, and he’s happy to call Rick and tell him he should be coming back to California to be with his family.

After the first round of chemo, they check the effects of the treatment via brain imaging, and Nathan tells Park how much he hates the chemo. Park feels badly, there’s nothing he can do about it.

When the new and final diagnosis of Moyamoya disease comes to light, the family is understandably distraught and unsettled by the fact that Nathan will need multiple brain surgeries now. The good news is that he won’t need any further chemotherapy. Unfortunately Rick’s flight got cancelled and he won’t be there until later the next day.

Shaun isn’t exactly helping either, because when Nathan asks if they can also do the surgery on his Dalmatian toy friend Patches, Shaun unceremoniously brings out his ASD charm and tells Nathan that, no, they can’t, because Patches is a stuffed animal and doesn’t have a brain. Park rolls his eyes, because that definitely wasn’t conducive to the situation.

While they try to plot out Nathan’s cranial blood vessel geometry, Park has some well-meant personal advice for Shaun. The next time a child asks him to perform surgery on their stuffed animal so that they feel less scared, say yes. Shaun himself is about to be a father, and he needs to grasp the concept that children are illogical and don’t necessarily respond well to brutal honesty.

Shaun explains that, according to his own experience, he was very logical as a child and he didn’t like being lied to or treated as if he was dumb. But it’s not really that, Park adds, it’s that if you embrace another person’s thought process, that can strengthen the relationship.

Shaun immediately applies that to his own personal mini crisis, or rather Lea’s mini crisis, sharing with Park that he understands Lea’s thought process very well that she doesn’t like to pee in the tub. He leaves a very confused Park with that notion before he walks away.

Nathan’s father still has trouble getting into San Jose. He had to fly into San Francisco and is now getting a cab while Nathan is ready for his first brain surgery. He catches Park on the phone as they are scrubbing in and Rick asks if they can hold the surgery, but the risk for another bleed is too large. Rick is worried that this may be his last chance to speak to his son, but Park promises he will treat Nathan like he was his own child.

The surgery goes swimmingly and they’re even ahead of schedule and can repair more in one surgery than was initially planned. When Park tells Rick and Linda that everything went well, the relief is tangible, and Rick even hugs Park to thank him. Nathan is on the road to recovery and the family now have a path forward.

Shaun surprises everyone when Nathan wakes up from the surgery and asks after Patches, and Shaun presents the dalmatian with a bandage around its head and a fake IV attached to its leg that Shaun fixed up. Nathan is surprised they did the brain surgery on the toy after all, but Shaun says, no, he just put the bandages on so that Nathan would feel better. Nice try, Shaun, although Nathan says he does feel better.

Jordan’s Journey

Andrews approaches Jordan with a request to recruit her as a speaker for a series of online talks to high schoolers about careers in medicine, specifically young women of colour. Andrews thought she’d jump at the chance, but Jordan actually does the opposite. She turns the opportunity down very unenthusiastically, saying it’s not her responsibility to be the one these kids see.

That was… weird. Right? I dunno, it felt kinda out of character for Jordan. I can’t even really say why because I don’t think we’ve seen her talk about POC representation before, so we don’t know how exactly she feels about the subject, but her flat-out refusing to do it and being all ‘screw you, not my problem’ seemed uncharacteristically callous of Jordan. Sure, some of it gets explained throughout the episode in relationship to her grandmother, but it just didn’t sit right with me since we’ve only ever seen Jordan as a confident, outspoken, entrepreneurial and strong woman before.

Asher also takes a stab at trying to convince Jordan that it’s a welcome opportunity that she should be jumping at, but Jordan is adamant that it’s not her job to take on extra work just because she has a different skin colour.

We also learn that Jordan is being called Quinque (not Queen Kay) by her grandmother for being the fifth child of six. And Grandma E drove her like a drill sergeant from the day she was born. Of course Joran loves her grandmother all the same, so she tries to weasel her way into the case with Lim explicitly telling her she cannot be part of the case and she shouldn’t be giving medical input on it.

Grandma E learns of the fact that Jordan refused to do Andrews’ mentorship program and disapproves of that choice. But the issue at hand is not Jordan right now, it’s how to treat Grandma E’s heart condition. Even though Lim clearly said that full removal was something she would not present to the patient as a viable option, Jordan heavily implies in front of Grandma E that she doesn’t agree with Dr. Lim’s suggested approach. This then has her grandmother enquire what Jordan’s preferred course of treatment is.

Lim, of course, is pissed. Jordan should not have presented the option to her grandmother, because now her grandmother wants the full removal surgery since her granddaughter sold it so well. Lim tells Jordan in no uncertain terms that she needs to convince her grandmother that the full removal is way too risky and that partial resection is the way to go – or find another hospital.

Jordan goes to talk to Grandma E, tells her that she was wrong to suggest the riskier surgery and that, upon further reflection, Dr. Lim’s plan is the best option. When Grandma E asks why Jordan changed her mind, she tells her that she always felt like she had to impress her grandmother, that she always had to “do extra” and be a hero. She’s still striving to be good enough for her. Sure, that’s a lot of pressure, but it’s what the world requires of people like them.

When Grandma E wakes up after her emergency surgery, Jordan is a little smug when she can tell her grandmother that her innovative surgical idea saved her life. And finally Grandma E can tell Jordan she’s really proud of her that she’s made all these wonderful achievements.

Grandma E’s encouragement also has Jordan rethink the invite from Andrews, so she eventually agrees to do the online presentation series, Andrews of course being happy and supportive about it.

Danny’s Journey

Danny is on his way to report in to Shaun this morning, and of course Shaun chides him right off the bat that he’s late. One minute late. Shaun also recounts several behavioural indicators that worry him Danny might be using again, but Danny promises that he’s clean and happy to pee in a cup to prove it.

The drug test comes back negative, so Shaun trusts Danny that he hasn’t lied and lets him participate in their medical case. The next morning, Danny is late again, and he knows it. He parkours through the busy hospital hallways, slide-diving underneath medication carts, jumping over patient beds, to make it into Shaun’s office a minute or two late again. Shaun is not impressed.

Apparently this was meant to be an homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, including the music they used for this scene. Since I hadn’t seen that movie, this whole scene felt really over the top, overly slapsticky and out of place for me. However, let it be said that I’m not a fan of the slapsticky in-your-face comedy anyway, so possibly other people found this little insert amusing. At the very least, it gave Fiona Gubelmann her one and only line in this episode.

When Shaun asks why Danny is late again, he tells Shaun that the reason for his tardiness is that he’s going to meetings every morning, which are out of the way and there’s morning traffic, so it’s always a bit of a struggle to come in on time. Shaun agrees that support is very important, but he’s still not impressed enough to let Danny participate in the virtual reality 3D brain mapping procedure.

When Jordan runs into Danny taking her grandmother for a lap around the hospital floor for a change of scenery, he easily admits to Grandma E that his nickname Speedy stems from being late for work twice that week because of the Narcotics Anonymous meetings he goes to every morning and them being kinda far away. The one meeting that’s closer is run by people whose approach to sobriety Danny doesn’t agree with, so Grandma E has a simple solution: Danny should start his own meetings, right here at the hospital.

Danny isn’t so sure, he doesn’t see himself as a leader. But Grandma E says there’s no such thing. Leaders lead, easy as that. Danny takes that to heart and starts hanging notices that there’s now NA meetings daily except Sundays at St. Bon’s. Andrews fully supports the notion, telling Danny he should use a conference room up on the sixth floor that has blinds.

The next morning, Danny is sitting in said conference room, and even though it’s already a few minutes after 7, he’s the only one there. Until the door opens and Nurse Hawks pokes her head in. Danny thinks it may be a misunderstanding, but she asks if this isn’t the NA meeting. It took her a few minutes to gather the courage to come in.

Hawks hesitantly sits down, there’s an awkward silence, but Danny starts, “Uhm, hi, I’m Danny. I… am an addict.” Leaders lead, right?

Things to Further Dissect

Out-of-character much?

When I first watched this episode, I actually mostly enjoyed it. Probably because it was light-hearted and had a few chuckle moments and it amused me at times. It was good entertainment. But then I started digging deeper, and from discussions with other fans, topics emerged that leave me feeling more and more frustrated.

It’s not the first time we see it happening that writers bend the characters to their will, just to satisfy certain storylines and make a certain tonality work. I guess you could argue that, in its core, that’s what fictional writing is about, but if you’ve got a TV show that’s over 100 episodes strong with most characters established over five whole seasons, it can get tricky when you push these characters outside of known boundaries and ignore previously established character traits and learnings. And this episode had a whole lot of that, mostly where Lea is concerned.

Just in the previous few episodes, there had been a whole lot of Lea and Glassman bonding going on. In The Good Boy, the two of them had a sweet and loving conversation about how much they care for each other, Glassman even verbalised how much he loves both Shaun and Lea. After Glassman lost the house, Lea was notably concerned about Glassman and his emotional state of mind, to the point where she brought him food and sat with him to reminisce old memories and where she made sure that Shaun knew how much Glassman was hurting. She talked to Jordan about how Glassman was going to be her son’s grandfather.

And now? Within the space of a few days or maybe a week, suddenly she’s massively annoyed that Glassman is crowding their space, feels that he’s intrusive, nosy and overbearing, which she frustratedly complains to Shaun about and asks him to throw Glassman out of their apartment. Which Shaun does, and instead of her being happy he’s out of her immediate orbit but just a few doors down the hall to be close and help out when the baby comes (presuming he will still live there then), she gives us a ‘thx, I hate it’ look.

Pregnancy hormones notwithstanding, but that was an unexpected 0 to 60 U-turn in a way that the inconsistency gives me whiplash. 😳

And it wasn’t just that. There were more raised-eyebrow inducing moments that, upon closer inspection, were frustrating to the avid viewer. It’s not that far-fetched that Lea might be annoyed with Glassman when he’s making all these decisions about them parenting their son, when he buys baby equipment and childproofs their apartment without running it by them first. I’d be annoyed at that, too.

Yet, Glassman was slightly drunk at the time, which may have influenced his going a little overboard. Is that enough reason for Lea to more or less slam the door in his and Shaun’s faces? Glassman actually going ahead and putting up childproofing contraptions was certainly also overcaricatured and out of character, and the idea that Lea, a woman who repairs cars, can’t figure out how to open a childproof toilet lid doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies – middle of the night or not.

Side Note: Another thing that felt off was that Shaun was so happy with Glassman having bought the highchairs. I feel like Shaun would have rather preferred to do some research on recommended safety and ergonomic aspects of different types of highchairs before committing to anything. He would have totally gone to Lea with a list of chairs and said: This is what I’ve researched to be suitable options, let’s go over the pros and cons for each and make a decision.

Let’s also talk about the whole baby naming conversation and what followed in its wake. First of all, Lea wanting to name their kid Kelly or Addison was incredibly shoehorned and inorganic writing. It was super obvious (at least to me) that those names were only put in there so that Shaun could make a comment that they reminded him of medical terminology, that someone had sat down and googled vaguely male names that might have medical connections. Because I’d like to believe that Lea would never actually want to name her kid Kelly Murphy, especially if it’s a boy.

The scene that followed this was equally discordant. Not just did Glassman’s Munchhausen and Parkinson joke fall flat, it was also odd that Lea was surprised and annoyed that Shaun was oversharing with Glassman. After living with the guy for how many years now, how is Lea not already accustomed to Shaun being oblivious and prone to the concept of inappropriately oversharing? Let’s remember previous incidents such as…

  • Lea being well aware that was Shaun was polling his colleagues about whether or not they should be having shower sex
  • Shaun discussing with Lea how he was asking everyone and their grandmother at the hospital how they could get over their sexual activity dry spell
  • Lea learning about Shaun having mentioned her explosive diarrhoea intolerance to garlic

There’s probably more examples, but the point I’m trying to make is that Shaun is notorious and well known for not having much of a radar for what personal information is appropriate to share with others, which especially Lea would already know. Her being agape at Shaun sharing the baby names with Glassman was odd, especially since that wasn’t even a super secretive or sensitive topic. Perhaps not the worst thing to remind Shaun that he shouldn’t be sharing these conversations with everyone, or even with Glassman, but her marked annoyance seemed very over the top.

The same could be said about Lea being surprised and annoyed at Shaun telling Glassman that Lea was aggravated by his overstepping. First of all, wouldn’t Glassman have enough EQ to be able to tell that himself? Second of all, again, why is Lea surprised that Shaun would have told Glassman about her irritation without sugar-coating it. That’s what Shaun does, that’s what Shaun has always done.

I get that the episode was supposed to be light-hearted, and I get that Lea’s annoyance with Glassman was part of playing the comic relief card. There was a definite portion of overamplifying Lea’s and Glassman’s behaviours and reactions, caricaturing them in a way to fuel the humorous effect. It may have worked for some, but it didn’t work for me because I care about Lea, and I care about her relationship with Shaun and Glassman.

Heading for an envy storyline?

Daniela had this somewhat alarming thought that perhaps what they were trying to do here was setting up a new character arc where Lea feels left out, now that Shaun and Glassman are having such a strong bond, amplified by the physical proximity of having Glassman live in the same household.

Perhaps we’re overanalysing this, but all throughout the episode and in previous episodes this season, there were indications of how closely attuned Shaun and Glassman are. There was the realisation from Lea how much Glassman’s domestic habits mirror Shaun’s, and all throughout Hard Heart, Shaun was incredibly in tune with Glassman’s ideas and suggestions, while Lea was very much not in favour of any of them.

  • Shaun being excited about Glassman’s Dutch baby pancakes (Lea not as much)
  • Shaun happily sharing baby name suggestions with Glassman (Lea being annoyed that Shaun did)
  • Shaun finding Glassman’s joke about the medical baby names amusing (Lea not so much)
  • Shaun loving that Glassman had bought them random highchairs and a nanny cam (Lea hating it)
  • Shaun eagerly endorsing Glassman’s idea of childproofing the apartment and immediately joining in (Lea finding it condescending)
  • Shaun telling Glassman that he considers him his son’s grandfather (granted, Lea wasn’t privy to this conversation but Shaun may have told her about it later)
  • Shaun being excited that Glassman has moved into an apartment in their building (Lea hating it)

Is there an element of envy that the writers are starting to build out? Is Lea irrationally envious of Shaun that he now has a loving parental figure in his life who cares about and is going to be involved in raising their child? And if it’s not that (because, honestly, that would feel really petty), is Lea feeling left out because, for a long time, she was the most important person in Shaun’s life, and Glassman is now encroaching on that territory?

Honestly, if that’s their plan, I’m not sure I’m gonna like it. Daniela made a good point that it feels like they would perpetuate the idea that you need to rank the people closest to you by importance. Loved ones in your life can be equally or similarly important for different reasons. And the idea of more or less forcing Shaun to have to choose between Lea and Glassman feels totally wrong and childish. I really really hope we’re wrong and they’re not gonna go that route.

Shaun’s learning curve

This was kinda subtle and something that might be prone to getting overlooked, but autism consultant Melissa Reiner talked about Shaun’s learning curve in this episode that was tied to Patches, the toy dalmatian.

We’ve seen these kinds of situations so many times before, particularly with children, and here it is again. Someone asks an innocent question that requires a white lie or playing pretend, and Shaun is autism-driven unaware and gives a truthful but situationally inappropriate answer. In this case, it was Nathan, the young child with the brain disorder who asked if they could also perform the brain surgery on his plush dog.

I don’t know if you noticed, but there was a good amount of aggressive eyerolling going on from Park in this scene where Shaun says no, they won’t do brain surgery on a stuffed animal because it doesn’t have a brain.

Rightfully, Park later addressed this with Shaun in private, telling him that sometimes the right thing to do to make a child feel better is to not tell the harsh truth. Shaun justified his reaction with recounting his own experience as a child, but Park offers up the insight that it can strengthen a relationship if you try to see the other person’s perspective.

It’s interesting that they come back to this, because it has also been addressed in the past, and it has actually been established that Shaun’s ASD makes it hard for him to put himself in the shoes of others. So asking him to imagine what it’s like for someone else will be so much harder for him, which is likely one of the reasons why he gave Nathan the realistic view rather than the imaginary child world one.

But Shaun wouldn’t be Shaun if he didn’t try to take that advice to heart, so his first learning here is that he tries to put himself in Lea’s shoes, because probably when he hears the word “relationship”, that’s the first thing he thinks about. Even for Shaun it’s easy to imagine that having to pee in the bathtub rather than the toilet because of Glassman’s overzealous babyproofing isn’t conducive to a having a stress-free marriage. It may have played a part in Shaun deciding that he wanted Dr. Glassman to move out of their apartment.

When he tells Glassman that, Glassman is, of course, receptive, but then Shaun probably realises from the unexpected hug that being part of the baby’s life means a lot more to Glassman than Shaun had initially surmised. He might even have tried to see Glassman’s perspective in that moment, which may have led to him telling Glassman he can stay and Shaun would make sure to convince Lea it will be fine.

The ultimate learning curve is with Nathan and his toy dalmatian, because Shaun ends up putting bandages around the dog’s head, seeing the merit of helping Nathan feel better. Although, of course, Shaun can’t quite help himself and has to comment that they didn’t do actual brain surgery on the dog and that the bandages are just pretence. Let’s hope he keeps this in mind when he raises his own child.

And as cute as this little Shaun interlude was, in the grand scheme of things, it was fairly unnecessary. Not just because it wasn’t the first time we’ve seen this exact thing and learning from Shaun, but also because they really could have used the extra screen time much better on other things, such as focusing more on the emotional struggle that Nathan’s parents were going through.

And by the way, I think that last scene would have worked better and been a tad more impactful if Shaun instead of saying, “No, I just put bandages on its head to make you feel better,” had said, “I put bandages on his head so you can imagine he also had brain surgery.” That would have indicated just as much that Shaun still didn’t believe in lying to a child but made it a little less disenchanting for Nathan.

I used to hate hugs…

Yes, I also have something positive to say about the episode, because how sweet was that scene between Shaun and Glassman in Glassman’s office? Five years we’d been hoping that they’d address how much Glassman is actually Shaun’s father, and then we had the beautiful scene with the rings in the season 5 finale, and more bits and pieces throughout season 6.

It’s been heart-warming to see both Shaun and Glassman actually talking about their bond, and it was incredibly rewarding to see Shaun closing that last gap and telling Glassman that he considers him his son’s grandfather.

The hug that followed was the first time that Glassman hugged Shaun on his own accord without actual consent from Shaun, and while Shaun didn’t go all-in like you’d expect of a neurotypical person, he definitely welcomed and endorsed it, and returned it after overcoming the initial surprise.

What this scene also showed was that, for Shaun it was by now kind of a no-brainer that Glassman was part of the family and that Shaun wants him involved in his son’s life, but that Glassman wasn’t quite as aware of that. When Shaun started with, “You are not exactly my family,” Glassman was fully expecting rejection. Instead, Shaun gave him that beautiful endorsement that he considered him part of the Murphylallo family.

It also showed us just how much healing Glassman still has to do, not just from losing his daughter but also from losing all his belongings. Having Shaun give Glassman the official full invitation into the family was a missing piece and a rather large one, at that. But with Lea’s current state of mind, it remains to be seen just how and how much Glassman is going to be integrated into raising the Peanut.

By the way, the heading of this section refers to a Shaun quote from early season 2 where Shaun tries to outline to Lea how people can change: “I used to hate hugs, but now, sometimes I don’t.”

The child abuse story that wasn’t

This is probably a very unique and somewhat odd viewpoint, but hear me out. Let me preface this by explaining that I must be among the biggest spoiler avoiders on the planet because I try very hard not to know anything about upcoming episode plots or content. I don’t follow any of the fan accounts or the TGD hashtags or fan groups while the show is airing and I don’t look at the 30 second promos or the stills for upcoming episodes.

I always go into the episodes as blindly as possible without knowing what’s to come, thus I hadn’t seen any of the articles about the episode being a tribute to Will Yun Lee’s very personal journey that he went through with his own son.

Just for context, the story with Nathan is basically what Will Yun Lee and his wife went through with their own son Cash. Cash suffered a stroke at three years old, was diagnosed with CNS vasculitis and received chemotherapy for a year before another physician diagnosed Moyamoya. Will was shooting for a project in New York at the time, so he couldn’t be with his wife and son through a lot of the terrible experience, and The Good Doctor took this story and transformed it into an episode of the show.

If you wanna know more about Will’s story, there’s a TV Line print interview where he talks about it and a short ABC video interview as well.

So back to this episode, and the fact that I had no idea what this story with the little boy was going to be. And there I was, watching a young child whom they had said had hit his head from a fall shrink back when a (male) doctor was trying to touch him, and a mother being very guarded about the father being out of state and trying to convince him that he should stay away. And my mind immediately went: The father is an abuser and the mother is trying to protect her child from the dad.

I dunno, is that so far-fetched with the information we were given at the time? I kept waiting and waiting the whole episode for this to develop, but of course it didn’t because the story was actually supposed to be the exact opposite – a loving and caring father struggling with the fact that he couldn’t be with his own son during a medical crisis.

That left me dissatisfied, because somewhere in the writing or the directing or the acting there were gaps not making it clear enough what was happening here and what the viewer was supposed to be understanding and taking away. Even more so because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be clever writing à la, “let’s make the viewer think this at first, and then we’ll present a twist later on to tell them they’re wrong”.

Now having the knowledge that the story was paying homage to Will’s own life story, it leaves me even more dissatisfied, because if you make the viewer initially think that the father might be molesting their child, it will be incredibly hard to have them switch from that to, oh, okay, he’s actually loving superdad who is caught in a bad situation whom we should feel massive empathy for.

It’s actually sad that this story didn’t work for me at all and that I felt no sympathy for this father until maybe the very end. I didn’t even tangibly feel any of his or the wife’s struggle with this whole situation, if I’m being honest. And that’s sad, knowing how much it must have meant for Will to have the show feature this very personal experience he and his wife and child went through.

What’s somewhat curious here is that this episode was directed by James Genn, the same director who worked on Quiet and Loud. This is curious because I had the same issue in Quiet and Loud, which I felt lacked emotional depth in a way that the stories being told didn’t resonate on an emotioal level and failed to draw me in. Is it a coincidence that I felt the exact same way about Nathan’s story in this episode? Maybe not.

Random bits and pieces

The medical and procedural inaccuracies on this show are sometimes so obviously baffling. Yes, by now we should have come to a stage of acceptance that, while some of the surgeons do have actual surgical specialties, they don’t mean a damn thing. Because did you notice how Shaun and Park were performing brain surgery on their young patient, and there was neither a paediatric nor a neurosurgeon present?

Imo, the Jordan storyline wasn’t well executed either. Jordan felt out of character with flat-out refusing to do something good, and the whole thing with feeling inadequate and like she had to prove something to her grandmother came very out of the blue.

Not to mention that Jordan was very much overstepping with Lim—her boss and the chief of frickin’ surgery. I also saw a comment somewhere, I think it was on Reddit, where someone was saying that Lim seems oddly inept at her job of Chief of Surgery this season, with this now being the second time a resident was telling her how best to approach a surgery, which should be her part and her expertise.

I also wanna briefly mention Danny and that I liked what they did with the addiction story there. They were giving just enough information that Danny was still on the path to staying sober, and him opening his own NA group at St. Bon’s was a nice touch. Can’t say I really dug the Ferris Bueller parkouring thing, but that’s mainly because I’m not a fan of the episodes that lay the humour on a little thickly through over-exaggeration.

To me, The Good Doctor is a show that’s set in a universe and setting that is made to look realistic within the confines of today’s actual world. By and large, I could imagine St. Bonaventure being a real hospital in the real world we live in, and that’s my weekly 42 minute world of escapism immersion I love to visit. Whenever they do these episodes that are overly and unrealistically humorous and slapsticky, that totally kills my immersion.

Different topic, but I’ve moped about this before, and I think we’re back to the age-old problem that the show is trying to squeeze too much for all the characters into the short time they have each episode. I really liked the previous episode, 39 Differences, maybe because it finally felt like they were selectively picking and choosing what to focus on, and things didn’t feel so overcrowded and hurried.

Sadly, they forgot all of that for this episode and were trying to squeeze way too much into those 42 minutes, which made the storyline with the little boy feel way too rushed and superficial. There wasn’t time and room to get attached to the characters, to connect with the emotionality of the situation and the plight of the parents. I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it if it keeps being an issue: Sometimes less is more.

More timeline woes here as well, because Jordan says she’s a third year resident at St. Bon’s. Lea said in 6×07 that their miscarriage was a year ago, and the miscarriage was in episode 4×16. It’s now maybe six months after 6×07, so for Jordan three years have passed since the beginning of season 4 but for Shaun and Lea one and a half years have passed since middle of season 4? How does that work?

Favourite Scenes and Lines

  • Lea: “Shaun. Our bedroom conversations are meant to be private.”
    Shaun: “All of them?” lol Shaun. Yes, I daresay all of them.
  • Shaun telling Glassman that he considers him his son’s grandfather. That was super sweet and, along with Glassman, I got a little teary. Okay, maybe more than a little.
  • Shaun making sure to bandage up Patches so that Nathan would feel better, which was also sweet.
  • Danny setting up his own NA meeting and having Hawks there as his first participant. It’s probably not likely we’ll see more of these meetings, but I’d very much welcome little glimpses here and there.
  • Not exactly a favourite scene or line, but there’s some adorable behind-the-scenes photos from the episode with the little boy who played Nathan (Ashton Cressman) that totally made me smile.

Sorely Missing

Sorely missing in this episode was better consistency in character behaviour and better balancing of storylines, but other than that, I didn’t think there were specific scenes I would have wanted to see. I do wonder if there was a discussion between Shaun and Lea at some point about how Glassman should be their son’s grandfather, because I’m not sure how aware Lea is of the fact that Shaun wants that dynamic to be there. I sure hope Lea wouldn’t be against any of that.

Actually, on second thought, I think it would have been nice to have had a scene where Shaun is clandestinely taking Patches and applying bandages and a fake IV to a stuffed animal, and someone else coming into the room, asking him what he’s doing. His explanation would be simple and echolalic: “I am embracing my patient’s thought process.”

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!

1 Comment

  1. Daniela

    I agree with you about everything.
    At first I found the episode nice, not certainly one of their best, but not bad. However, the longer I thought about it, the less I liked it.
    This episode had a lot of problems. Specifically everything you mentioned in your analysis:
    – Too much comic relief
    – Too many storylines
    – Timeline and characters inconsistencies
    – Supposed to be very emotional storylines falling flat.
    I hate inconsistency with a passion and I hate even more when characters act ooc.

    That said, I really hope that all the Shea-Glassman family dynamic was only there to lighten the dramatic side of the episode a little.
    Pushing Shaun in the middle of a massive Lea-Glassy dramma would be the last thing I would want to see. And, as you said, all this stuff about making rankings of the important people in one’s life sounds childish and stupid. Even more so when it involves someone like Shaun, whose childhood was far from being ideal.
    It would also be a huge disservice to Lea’s character, since it would deny all the growth and maturing she went through, especially in the latest seasons.

    That said, I only want to add to what you’ve already perfectly explained, what Freddie has said in almost every single one of his season 6 interviews.
    About the relationship between Shaun and Glassman, Freddie said that it will go through some necessary adjustments, now that Shaun is married (nothing strange with that). Then he added that, up until very recently Dr. Glassman had been the most important person in Shaun’s life, and now that role belongs to Lea.
    So this is actually the part that triggered my fears about a possible storyline around Lea’s insecurities and Glassman’s closer presence in their life.

    Honestly, that shouldn’t be such a big deal. I mean, not a problem that open communication between the three of them can’t resolve. We’ll see where the writers go with this.

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