This one felt like a run-of-the-mill episode with some good season arc story building but also questionable side plots that had me raise an eyebrow. In the grand scheme of things, I liked the episode as such, but with only ten episodes to wrap up the whole series, it seemed like potential was being wasted.

The Technicalities

Written by Thomas L. Moran
Directed by James Glenn
Original airdate 19 Mar 2024

Patient Cases

Patient #1 – Phillip “Phipps” Moore

Treating physicians: Dr. Shaun Murphy, Dr. Jared Kalu, Dr. Asher Wolke, Charlene Lukaitis

Diagnosis: Left-sided hearing loss, undefined oesophageal mass, temporary disorientation with suspected TIA, acalculous cholecystitis resulting in cholecystectomy, tonsil infection and carotid artery irritation, ultimately all caused by accidental swallowing of two metal bristles from a barbecue grill brush

Patient #2 – Jason

Treating physicians: Dr. Alex Park, Dr. Audrey Lim, Dominick Hubank

Diagnosis: Massive damage to lower arm from being caught in a meat grinder, resulting in amputation and later reattachment of the hand

The Episode Plots In A Nutshell

The Episode Plots In A Nutshell

Shaun, Lea & Steve

Not much happening on the Murphy family front. After the first month with their newborn son, Lea and Shaun seem to have established a routine that works for them (despite the lack of sleep) and family dinners now include Grampa Glassy. That’s pretty much all we learn about the Murphy family life this week. And that they eat salad with rainbow carrots.

Shaun & Charlie

With Charlie being assigned to Shaun as a mentor (and Dom assigned to Park), she is following Shaun’s cases. And while Shaun is convinced he is a good teacher, his experience with Charlie shows us that he has more to learn and understand about himself than he likes to admit.

Charlie’s personality and her autistic traits are clearly different from Shaun’s, which he struggles with since he finds her methods and habits annoying and counterproductive. He reprimands her for it several times, including in front of patients. It’s almost painful to watch when Charlie tries to communicate her needs to Shaun, and he just bluntly shuts her down. It’s telling that it has to be Shaun’s residents who actually praise Charlie’s skills rather than her mentor himself.

Things escalate when Shaun tells Charlie in a 1-on-1 conversation that he thinks she will be an excellent pathologist but that she should never be a surgeon. When Lim and Glassman get wind of the situation, they sit Shaun down to talk to him about his mentoring approach and needing to cater more to Charlie’s needs, but the walls immediately come up and Shaun shuts down.

Huffily, Shaun refuses to acknowledge that Charlie could thrive if certain accommodations were made for her, like they were made for Shaun himself. He even misguidedly refuses to acknowledge that accommodations were made for him at all during his time at St. Bonaventure, and ends the conversation on the notion that, as attending and Charlie’s mentor, he has authority over how she is being taught, full stop.

Clearly, Charlie is incredibly disappointed and feels humiliated and treated unfairly, all the while Shaun is stewing over being told off that his teaching skills are lacking.

Alex & Morgan

Morgan approaches Lea over a mother-to-mother chat whether she and Shaun would agree to become Eden’s guardians if something ever happened to her. Lea is happy to discuss it with Shaun, but there’s a snag.

Morgan also wants to the both of them to become guardians if only Morgan became incapable of being a parent but Alex was still there. This makes Lea uncomfortable, knowing that Alex also loves Eden and is committed to raising her as his own child.

Of course Morgan also knows that this is a controversial take, especially since she hasn’t actually told Alex any of this. That makes Lea even more uncomfortable and she tells Morgan no.

What makes Morgan reconsider that approach is a conversation with Dominick, who gives her his own perspective on what kind of man Alex is and that he is sure Alex will be a great father. In the end, Morgan admits to Alex that she previously lied to him about becoming Eden’s guardian in case something happened to her, but that she has now changed her mind.

Asher & Jerome

Asher is repeatedly making excuses to accompany Jerome to their family gatherings, and clearly there’s some emotional baggage there. Asher has never been close with his family and can’t picture himself being part of a loving family dynamic. Perhaps it’s also not just that, it’s also a fear of commitment and fear of rejection.

Funnily enough, it’s Jared who points that out to him, and it makes Asher reconsider. He agrees to go with Jerome to his niece’s confirmation afterparty, and perhaps somewhat to his positive surprise, it is actually super fun and welcoming and Asher seems to be accepted into the family without question.

Dominick’s Struggles

Dom’s ongoing haemophilia is still a big sticking point. It’s becoming a frequent occurrence that he throws up when seeing blood, and clearly a case of a mangled arm stuck in a meat grinder is not the ideal case for him to be following.

Yet, Park is supportive and even offers Dom the option of making the surgery rotation minimal effort and focusing more on theoretical exercises and practicing in the skills lab, but Dom says he’s not a quitter and he will do everything he can to push through, which Park is also supportive of.

The Hospital Presidency

The responsibility ping-pong between Lim and Glassman as co-presidents continues – each having a very different strategy as to how to handle the hospital board. Lim’s approach is more proactive while Glassman is the wait-and-see type who knows that some problems have a tendency to solve themselves if you wait long enough.

Since neither Glassman nor Lim seem to be inclined to relocate to the now vacant president’s office, Glassman unceremoniously decides that they can repurpose it into a president’s lounge (i.e. a gaming room), and he’s populating it with a pool table to start with.

Glassman’s and Lim’s approaches to the hospital presidency are also mirrored in how they advise Shaun to deal with his mentorship of Charlie – Glassman suggesting to Shaun to be more patient, Lim giving conflicting advice to be more proactive. Not surprisingly, this backfires pretty hard. Daniela aptly questioned what person in their right mind would push Shaun to be proactive? It’s disaster waiting to happen.

The Patient Cases

Our first Patient-of-the-Week is a college frat boy with strange symptoms that only become stranger and more abundant as the days go on. They have a true medical mystery on their hands, and we know how much Shaun loves these! Ultimately, it is also Shaun who figures it all out, not lastly thanks to some very helpful contributions from Charlie. The solution to the mystery is two swallowed bristles from a metal grill brush that Shaun and the team manage to remove.

Patient number two is a man whose arm got caught in a meat grinder. The damage is deemed to be severe enough to amputate the hand, but after the amputation is performed, they realise that the damage isn’t as massive as expected and they decide it would be worth the risk to try and reattach the hand. In order to keep the hand perfused and oxygenated while they wait for a local infection on the arm to clear, the hand is attached to the blood supply on the patient’s ankle where they keep it for a day or two until they can start with the reattachment procedure.

Both cases are based on actual medical cases that have happened in real life: Grill brush bristlesAnkle-hand.

Things to Further Dissect

We Are Family

While this episode drove a few things forward, there were also some parts that felt a bit disjointed. Like, what was the point of that very first Shea scene about getting older, swear jars, rock stars and night jobs? As I was reflecting on the episode the day after I saw it to write up the recap summary, I couldn’t even remember what Shaun and Lea talked about here until I rewatched it.

I’m the last person to complain about more domestic Shea scenes, but this one felt like it was just a randomly thrown breadcrumb to appease the Shea fans. I’m still failing to see how it ties into anything later on in the episode. Shouldn’t they maybe have used that full minute of screen time on something of a little more importance? On a positive note, it has now been canon-confirmed that Shaun is 31 years old.

Side Note: Are they really suggesting that spaghetti-armed Shaun does 50 push-ups every morning? I’ll believe it when I see it. (Sorry, Freddie.) And why is he doing his workout in his PJs? (Also, I’ll openly admit, I have spaghetti arms and can’t even do 10 push-ups, so kudos to Shaun!)

What I did like about the few Shea family scenes in this episode: It was lovely to see that Grampa Glassy is now an active part of the family unit. One of the upsides of them wrapping up the Shaun & Glassman friction a little too quickly. (And I’m guessing Shaun & Lea love it when Grampa Glassy is doing all the cooking.)

The Good Teacher (not)

The recurring theme in terms of my reaction to this episode was… wtf, Shaun?! I even said it out loud after he told Charlie she should never be a surgeon. Cuz wtf, Shaun?!

I mean, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. In my last episode commentary I talked about how Shaun became the New Melendez. Even worse, Shaun has now become the New Han, and that’s just… wow.

Shaun, did you forget how you felt when Han told you to your face that you were transferred to pathology against your will because he thought you could never be a surgeon?

Did you forget that you repeatedly told Han that you wanted to be a surgeon and not a pathologist and how it felt when Han kept refusing you?

Did you forget how you totally crumbled and broke your toy scalpel after Han fired you because you tried to advocate for yourself?

How do you not remember that? Or how do you maybe remember that and still stand there to tell Charlie to her face that you don’t think she’s capable of becoming a surgeon, single-handedly crushing her life’s dream? Wtf, Shaun?!

That said, of course all of this is on brand for Shaun. We know he has massive blind spots when it comes to his judgement and to handling social situations in an elegant and delicate manner. We know he has shortcomings when it comes to cognitive empathy and perspective taking. But what we’re seeing here goes beyond that. He is even openly and clearly told that he is treating Charlie unfairly and that he is acting exactly like the people who wronged him and who he despised and rebelled against.

Somehow, Shaun became a bit of an arrogant arse as soon as he graduated to attending, and that’s a bit puzzling, knowing all of Shaun’s history. Where did the Shaun go who acknowledged that being autistic would come with ongoing struggles in a neurotypical world? The Shaun who was always striving to become a better person, a better doctor, a better teacher? The Shaun who acknowledged that being autistic would mean that he had to work harder to be all those things?

Does he now think that becoming an attending is the ultimate goal in life, and having reached that goal means that he is suddenly perfect at every interpersonal skill? It’s strange and somewhat illogical to think that Shaun is suddenly figuring being an attending also means he has nothing more to learn.

A lot of Shaun’s current struggles with Charlie hearken to earlier seasons, particularly 4 and 6 where they focused quite a bit on Shaun’s mentoring skills (or lack thereof). In season 4, he was well aware that he had trouble reading his mentees (Jordan, Asher and Olivia) and trouble catering to their needs in order to be a good teacher.

By the time he became an attending in season 6, he suddenly seemed to have this massive overconfidence in his mentoring skills (re. Daniel and Danica). Weren’t his frequent clashes with Danica supposed to teach him that he wasn’t quite as skilled a mentor as he pegged himself to be? I guess none of those learnings took hold, and that hurts a little. Because we want Shaun to succeed, and we want Shaun to be a good person, right?

There were some interesting parallels here if you paid close attention and remember some of the details from seasons 1 and 2. Like Melendez, Shaun put his autistic mentee on scut work rather than teaching her. Like Han, Shaun told his mentee that, because she is autistic, she will never become a surgeon. It’s so ironic that Shaun has now become the people he hated and who doing their best to destroying his lifelong dream.

It’s not just that, though. What I found fascinating was also to see Shaun’s massive bias and misconceptions of how much support and accommodations he was given during the five cumulative years of his residency. He confidently tells Lim point-blank that no one ever made things easier for him or went out of their way to make accommodations for him. Wow, Shaun. If only you knew.

Another interesting detail, and a great juxtaposition of Shaun and Charlie – she fully accepts her ASD as an obstacle that will make things harder for her, and certain accommodations should be made for her in order to thrive. Shaun always rejected the idea of his ASD making him any less functional and would never expect to be offered any special support (with the exception of asking Salen to allow him to wear the old scrubs in season 5).

Did you notice how Shaun visibly bristled when Charlie called ASD a disability in front of Shaun? Did you notice how he immediately rejected the notion and then got huffy and went to punish her for saying something so preposterous? Tsk tsk tsk, Shaun. Look in the mirror. Really look. You might not like what you see.

Despite my misgivings about Shaun becoming all the things that he hated about the people who treated him unfairly, I’m super invested in this storyline. We haven’t really seen Shaun being off-kilter like this for a while. When did we last see him being upset enough to reach into his hair as a stim to calm himself? Which happened twice in this episode.

It makes me wonder how far this is gonna go. I have a feeling that the Shaun and Charlie relationship is going to escalate until Shaun needs some kind of forced intervention. Right now Shaun seems to be super sure that his biased view of his world is the absolute truth, and he won’t take kindly to being told he’s wrong and being forced into something that undermines his authority to make independent decisions.

We already saw Shaun was getting pretty agitated when this exact thing was suggested by Glassman and Lim. Are we headed for another meltdown? It would be super interesting if it happened in front of Charlie. The angst monster in me is a little hyped. I hope it’s gonna be good.

If they actually do decide to remove Charlie from Shaun’s team and swap her out with Dom, what I could see happen is that Shaun will do the same thing to Dom he’s doing to Charlie. He won’t be sympathetic Dom’s haemophobia, won’t be willing to give him any leeway or extend any courtesy, despite the fact that the phobia is an innate challenge that Dom has little control over. I’m pretty sure Shaun will just repeatedly tell Dom that he needs to either get over it or stop being involved in patient cases. And that’s an interesting dilemma too, because Shaun isn’t reacting that way on purpose either.

Side Note: Interestingly, Daniela had a wild theory that they could amp up the drama and go as far as Shaun’s rejection prompting Charlie to attempt suicide. There are studies that suggest that autistic people are up to seven times more likely to commit suicide compared to neurotypicals, particularly those without intellectual disabilities. Personally, I think it would be way too drastic a move, knowing we just have seven more episodes to delve into the repercussions of something big like that. Particularly since it’s the farewell season that I’d like to think they wanna end on a positive and hopeful note, but it’s an interesting concept for sure.

By the way, did you notice the callback to earlier seasons at the end of the episode? That scene of Shaun sitting on the bench outside of the hospital, stewing over something emotionally impactful while waiting for the bus was reminiscent of the many times we saw him do so before he became a family man – aptly also after Han told him that he had been transferred to pathology against his will. I love these little visual echoes.

Morgan’s Guardianship Thing

Okay, a total Morgan move, but what the hell even? How can they seriously suggest that Morgan would figure it’s a great idea that ripping a child away from the father she knows to then live with a different family who hasn’t nearly had the same amount of bonding?

Yes, Morgan says that she’ll revisit the plan in a year, so for now this will only apply if she dies within the next 12 months, but even so. That seems unnecessarily cruel, short-sighted and, honestly, stupid, especially since we know Alex would not be happy with it and might actually want to legally fight for custody.

Also a weird and uncalled for thing to dump on your (possibly only) mom-friend and expect her to keep a secret this big from her husband. I hated this storyline, not just because it felt way too shoe-horned just to create Morgan drama for the sake of drama. Unless they’re actually planning on killing Morgan off… Hm.

What I found a little disconcerting as well is that Park’s reaction to Morgan’s admission of having lied to him about such a big thing was just…. (shrug) ‘okay’. It’s pretty clear they didn’t have enough time left in the episode to go into a deeper conversation about that massive trust issue and they had to wrap it up quickly, but it felt very rushed and out of character for Alex to just run with it. Not a fan.

Random Observations

I thought it was a missed opportunity not to have Charlie ask about Shaun’s staring-into-space Mind Palace moment when he figured out the medical mystery. I’d love to know her reaction to Shaun’s 3D visualisation skill.

I’m still digging the Asher and Jerome dynamic and I really liked the little side story of Asher being reluctant to meet with Jerome’s family. And it was cute that Charlie totally pulled out the stereotypical straight guy card on Asher and him being amused by it. It’s a shame that I don’t think there will be enough time to witness an Asher and Jerome wedding. Or maybe in the series finale?

What neither Daniela nor I liked about the episode was the ongoing Glassman vs. Lim workplace skirmish and how becoming co-presidents seems to bring out the worst in both of them. Glassman’s solution seems to be to just ignore everything until it goes away or explodes, Lim seems to be all over the place – last episode refusing to support Park on a complicated surgery, this episode forcing a surgery onto Park that he wouldn’t have chosen himself.

Still not super invested in Dom as a character, I have to admit. I’m cool with Park trying to help him to get through this rotation and I like that Park is a stand-up guy like that.

I’m still trying to figure out the significance of the episode title. What exactly did that refer to? Who was being given critical support? I mean, sure, we could theorise that it’s about Shaun not wanting to grant Charlie the support she’s asking for, but is that super “critical” at this stage? And while the Alex and Morgan thing was maybe also peripherally about ensuring support for Eden, it’s not exactly critical at this stage either. Not the aptest episode title they ever chose…

Side Note: Let me mention how infuriating it is that ABC is replacing The Good Doctor with another medical procedural. And one with a super stupid premise – a physician on a cruise ship. Wow. I hope it tanks. I certainly won’t be watching it.

Fandom Woes

From previous seasons, we know that the fandom has a tendency to pitch Team A against Team B with little to no capacity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Everything is always black and white, and complaints and verbal feuds are a dime a dozen. It’s a real shame that we see more and more of this on social media these days.

Right now we have Team Shaun vs. Team Charlie. Some fans are angry at Charlie, saying she is annoying and it’s aggravating that she uses her autism as an excuse for everything. Then of course there’s the people who are mad at Shaun for treating Charlie unfairly and condemn Shaun for his actions and decisions, sometimes conveniently forgetting that Shaun, too, is autistic and governed by his the way his brain works.

And then there’s the very predictable faction who says the character of Charlie is terrible autism representation because of xyz (insert generic autism representation argument we’ve heard a million times before). It’s so ironic when I think back to the many times I’ve tried to have a rational discussion with autistic people who claimed that autism could only be portrayed accurately if you hired an autistic actor. Is Kayla Cromer not autistic enough or something? Does she have the “wrong” kind of autism? I honestly don’t get it.

One of the episode recap articles that have been published online states: “This is hard to defend, but in Shaun’s defense, he really has tried to work with Charlie. It could be submitted that, considering what he had to go through to obtain the position, respect, and accommodations he got, he may not want Charlie to have a paved road. Shaun may not want her to benefit from what he had to go through or think anywhere she works will make it easy for her.”

What we shouldn’t forget, though, are the many examples we’ve seen where Shaun himself was given special treatment or support. To list just a few:

  1. His father figure and mentor used his authority as hospital president to push for Shaun being hired, which would otherwise not have happened
  2. His father figure and mentor convinced Melendez to take Shaun off of scut work and give him a chance
  3. His father figure and mentor covered for Shaun when Shaun inappropriately went AWOL to go on a road trip with Lea
  4. Andrews defended Shaun after he had an autistic shutdown due to overstimulation during an ER-wide quarantine
  5. Several of his close colleagues stood up for Shaun and tried to change Han’s mind after Shaun was transferred to pathology
  6. Andrews put his job on the line and actually got fired and then demoted in order to get Shaun reinstated as a surgical resident
  7. Lim repeatedly made accommodations for Shaun, including giving him a slam dunk case for his first lead surgery and letting him rehearse the surgery with a full team beforehand
  8. Several different people covered for Shaun when he behaved inappropriately at work, including repeated instances that should have gotten him fired
  9. Lim stood up for Shaun and told a patient that she’d make sure no one at St. Bonaventure would operate on her if she didn’t let Shaun be her surgeon
  10. Salen let Shaun wear the old scrubs and removed the hand dryers to accommodate Shaun
  11. Glassman spoke to Andrews about not putting a reprimand in Shaun’s file after Shaun threw a tantrum in front of a patient’s father
  12. Controversial one, but Lea deleted some of Shaun’s bad reviews so that his patient satisfaction score would go up
  13. Andrews had Shaun removed from an OR with impunity when he was disrupting the surgery
  14. Everyone indulged Shaun’s several weeks long closet office escapade without question

Right now the thing is that Shaun isn’t seeing any of that. He’s either not noticed or is conveniently repressing those memories. I think one of the learnings in this season is for Shaun to understand just how much leeway he was given, and that it would be the right thing to do to grant Charlie the same courtesy. Let’s hope he finally gets there without too many negative repercussions for either him or Charlie.

Best Shaun Muffin Face