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Hospital Playlist Retrospective Season 1 Episode 5
This post contains many spoilers for the episode under discussion and subsequent episodes. It is an analysis of the episode from the perspective of one who has seen the entire drama.
The episode opens with a continuation of the domestic violence saga. Under the show's moral universe there are legitimate reasons to spotlight the issue certainly as it relates to family dynamics sprinkled all throughout this episode in particular. Most would echo Jeong-won's words, "What kind of sick [choose your expletive] would do this to a kid?" It's a rhetorical question because the answer is never given. There's no rationale or justification offered. But can there be? The shocking part is that bad dad remains unrepentant. It's a rhetorical question also because Ahn Jeong-won is a man who loves children as we can attest. His love of children also poses a nagging question to my mind regarding the priesthood issue. Can he really give up pediatrics that readily? Can he really embark on a life of religious celibacy without regrets?
What's puzzling and suspicious though is his behaviour towards Dr Winter aka Gyeo-ul after the bad defiant dad gets carted off by the coppers. He praises the ever-efficient Bae Jin-hui but makes no comment -- negative or positive -- to the eager-to-please Gyeo-ul who sprinted across the hospital to nab bad dad who was desperately trying to do a runner. Jeong-won doesn't compliment her for making the effort nor does he chide her for putting herself in harm's way. In fact, he makes no reference to what she did one way or another. All he does is tell her to scrub up and prep for the surgery.
I don't doubt that it's an action he doesn't want to condone or encourage in general. It was somewhat reckless and potentially life-threatening although in the heat of the moment it's not difficult to see why she did took that particular course of action. But he doesn't look particularly exasperated either. In light of the missing ER flashback scene that we got in the finale, these days I'm inclined to think that telling her to prep for surgery was his way of expressing his concern rather than displeasure. To me he was saying, "I am worried about you. I need to have you next to me where I can see you."
The incident also sheds light on the kind of person she is and why perhaps Jeong-won might find that attractive. She is a wildcard both in his trajectory and in the bigger picture. That unpredictable anomaly that grabs his attention and ends up disrupting his own. Moreover, she is already enamoured with him and being praised by him would send her over the moon and back. There's the rub. Jeong-won has to maintain some semblance of neutrality and he can't give any kind of impression of favouritism or... God forbid... romantic interest in a woman especially if he's headed for the priesthood.
It's always a treat when the Five get together for meals because the banter is gold. However the BBQ event here was revealing in several ways. First of all, we see the other side to Jeong-won as we usually do when he's with his besties. As Ik-jun pointed out, he is a different man when he's with them. The manchild that lurks underneath the super pediatrician facade is given full reign. In the domestic violence case, he is the Boss... the master and commander of the ship. But when he's among friends, the pubescent male in him emerges. On this occasion every one makes disparaging remarks about Seok-hyeong's really bad dad. His infidelity, his general propensity to flout the law and use his wealth to do highly objectionable deeds. But our favourite pediatric surgeon remains quiet while busying himself with the BBQ and so Ik-jun invites him to say his piece about Really Bad Dad. Hilariously, Jeong-won recounts how Really Bad Dad once sent him out to buy a particular brand of cigarettes when he was at Uni and didn't pay him back. Jeong-won's been holding a grudge since.
On a more serious side, one does feel for Seok-hyeong because Really Bad Dad's doings is taking a toll on him. One senses from the BBQ scene when he's coating meat in bean powder that he's craving for a functional family. One senses too that his loner facade is something he holds onto because he feels that his family is more of a curse than a blessing. It is undoubtedly why he avoids female company as much as possible. In his mind entanglements with the opposite sex is something to steer clear of. As if Seok-hyeong doesn't have enough on his plate already, Really Bad Dad's mistress pays him a visit at work to persuade him to talk to his mother about a divorce. The woman who seems to push all the wrong buttons, is 3 months pregnant. Witnessing this exchange is Min-ha, who is now clearly showing that Seok-hyeong is the man she's crushing on and wants to confess to.
While we have Really Bad Dads on one side, this episode also features Decent Dads who clearly serve as exemplary narrative contrasts. What does a good father look like then? Transplant story of the week sees a former detective O Jae-il refusing his daughter's liver because he is racked with guilt at the thought he has to rely on her to survive. It's deeply moving storyline that had me tearing up. I imagine the show wants to say this is what a loving family looks like. Even the normally unflappable Ik-jun was in tears because of the family's interaction. The other dad that the show highlights is the father of the endocarditis patient, Kim Tae-jin. These are not wealthy people by any stretch of the imagination. The father himself has been undergoing chemo. The procedure, the insertion of a prosthetic valve will cost them and yet the father immediately takes hold of Jun-wan's hand and begs him to use the best and the most expensive valve money can buy. This is how people who love each other act. Money is no object. Self-sacrifice is not even considered to be as such.
It hadn't occurred to me before but this time round I would add the pregnancy story of the week to that mix. I think of this couple as Jack Sprat and his wife for obvious reasons. This is another example of an attentive husband and father as he humorously sings in the delivery room after the birth of their child, much to the chagrin of his wife.
In this episode we are introduced to a new recurring character Professor Cheon Myeong-tae of CS who seems to epitomize whatever's bad about medicine as a profession. I'm not even sure how he got hired in the first place. Perhaps through his connections on the board. But he is undoubtedly meant to be a contrast to Jun-wan even though on the surface they seem to be similarly abrasive. But Jae-hak mediates that comparison for us when he preferences Jun-wan, telling him "Don't abandon me otherwise I'll be sold to another hospital." Although he often gets reprimanded by Jun-wan, he still understands that there is a difference, that Jun-wan is generally well-meaning as a clinician. He does his best for his patients and is the lesser of two unequal evils. Cheon Myeong-tae feels entirely like a seat warmer that goes through the motions with none of the passion for patient-centred care.
By now the 3 distinct romance threads being formed between professors and residence are set. It's clear on hindsight that not all student-teacher relationships are equal. Or I should say, all love lines are not formed with equal certainty of outcome. While the show promotes them as possibilities, the endgame at this point remains uncertain. The residents are driven to make the connections but the response of the professors are unlikely to come quickly or favourably. My thought was always that the Winter-Garden dynamic appeared to be the most promising in terms of getting a resolution in this first season because of its integration with the priesthood issue. Even though Chi-hong gets to be the first to confess largely because his actions are becoming increasingly pointed, he sees himself rejected by Song-hwa.
What is especially telling is that the love lines of Min-ha and Gyeo-ul intersect due to their friendship over pop music and the lifelong friendship between Jeong-won and Seok-hyeong. It is a nice cozy set-up for future interaction patterns. If anything good happens for these four people, they can easily maintain that closeness and familiarity without a great deal of adjustment.
The 3-way conversation among Min-ha, Gyeo-ul and Nurse Han where they're discussing Min-ha's love life takes on greater significance in terms of how it foreshadows outcomes in the season finale. Min-ha has just broken up with her scummy boyfriend and now her goal to be kissed before the end of the year has received a crushing blow. Gyeo-ul pipes up while chomping through her toasted sandwich that she's never been kissed before either. In response Min-ha scornfully remarks that the goal was to get her first kiss that year declaring that she's hardly a novice in that department. Gyeo-ul's inexperience with romance is instructive here. The designation of Jeong-won as the "Virgin" by Ik-jun would apply to her as well so her set-up with Jeong-won and why he might find her wide-eyed innocence attractive is made more meaningful by this seemingly throwaway line.
Much more experienced and eager is Jun-wan who makes his confession to Ik-sun unceremoniously in front of the toasted sandwich food truck before she returns to base. He smoothly throws out a rhetorical question "Have I ever told you that I like you?" and then urges her to go out with him. This is a man who is actively seeking a dating relationship which leads to marriage. In a way he doesn't mess around either. On appearance he seems like a player but in actual fact he dates frequently because ironically he is in search of the right woman.
Both the parallel track that Jun-wan and Jeong-won extend to Ik-sun and Gyeo-ul (their respective potential romance partners) as we see both women eating toasted sandwiches here. One receives an unexpected confession and the other talks about her inexperience with romance.
Of course no analysis of this episode can be complete without making reference to the gathering at Rosa's place. There is so much to love about it from the set-up starting with Jeong-won's chastisement of his mother's poor eating habits and over reliance of supplements to the side-splitting climax of the Mafia game. For me the absolute highlight is just watching these rich and powerful people doing ordinary things like deveining anchovies, eating noodles and playing parlour games. Jong-su is such joy and delight to behold because he is at his core, a down-to-earth grandfatherly man. He is, for a man in his position, an authentic human being. Unlike the other chairman referenced to here, he is the real deal. A good friend, a father and a loving grandfather. To watch him and Director Ju cower before the mighty Rosa and then bicker with her is its own brand of good humour because when he's not at the hospital, he wears a completely different hat. In his mother's house, Ahn Jeong-won is just a recalcitrant mamchild who dodges the marriage question. Director Ju is just Jong-su's cousin a guest of Rosa's hospitality. This is why Seok-hyeong's mum who dresses like Audrey Hepburn regardless of the occasion, is drawn to all of this good-natured frollicking. When the real thing manifests itself... a woman who has been living the lie, revels in it.