Hospital Playlist Retrospective Season 1 Episode 7

If you haven't seen the drama, it behooves me to warn you that this retrospective contains many spoilers for this episode and subsequent ones.

This is another one of those episodes that seems flow much more cohesively the second time round now that all the key pieces have been given to us. Within the episode there's a theme related to "pride" running right through the episode which occurred to me only during the re-watch. There are number of quite significant parallels at work here.

The reason(s) for Ahn Chi-hong's unceremonious departure from the military up to this point had been something of a mystery to his peers. Speculation as to why he had to give up his brilliant career and change tracks has been rife but the man has steadily maintained his silence all this while. There are hints of what the catalyst was early on in the episode when he makes a mess of his first attempt at the EVD procedure, much to the surprise of his instructor and colleagues especially when he had put so much preparation time in. Later on, a patient diagnosed with a brain tumour is brought in. He is a young police officer who has lost heart because he has more than an inkling that the prognosis means the end of his career in the force. This is a huge blow to him because it had been a childhood dream and he is now lost because of an uncertain future ahead of him.

During the surgery, Chi-hong in the attempt to encourage the discouraged younger man, finally tells his story of how he had to give up the military and change careers at the age of 29. He tells the patient that if he could start again, anyone could. It's never too late. Everyone within earshot looks on in surprise at Chi-hong's candid self-revelation. He'd never told them that story and yet, here he was pouring his heart to a relative stranger. Later when he's having his debrief with Song-hwa he tells her that he never meant to be especially mysterious about it but it hurt his pride to have to tell people about his sob-story and handicap. Presumably he didn't want people feeling sorry for him and giving him special treatment because of his situation.

A liver transplant patient of Ik-jun's has been refusing medication for rejection issues because she recently discovered that her husband, who donated his liver to her, had been cheating on her. She is convinced that the whole matter has been one big lie to cover up his sins and she has lost the will to live. Everyone's trying to persuade her to change her mind but she bitterly (and ungraciously) turns on each person. To her mind no one can understand how she feels. Especially doctors and nurses. How could they? They are the privileged ones. So she wallows in self-pity clinging to the notion that she has been dealt a terrible blow that someone like Ik-jun could never understand.

So one night before heading home, Ik-jun goes and visits her in another bid to make her change her mind. He tells her about his divorce and how he found out that his wife had been having an affair with her friend's husband. He was so embarrassed about the entire situation that he kept it to himself. It had been a blow to his pride. Life felt harder and harder. One day he decided that he was wasting his time feeling sorry for himself and realised that he couldn't allow that event to determine how he should live. He advises her to do the same. Whatever the husband's intentions were at the time, it was still an amazing gesture. It gave her a second lease on life and now she should live her life to the fullest without resentment.

I suppose people assume that just because Ik-jun is a good-looking, charming and optimistic doctor that his life has been a bed of roses. They can't imagine what he's been through because as far as they can tell, he's so professional and upbeat. The reality is that he doesn't open up easily even to his friends but to save a woman's life, he feels compelled to open up and tell his story of survival. The thing that's admirable about both Chi-hong and Ik-jun is that they refuse to play the victim and be defined by the baggage of that status. It is a fascinating parallel in juxtaposition considering later developments seeing them as rivals for Song-hwa's affections.

There are many lessons that can be gained from these stories. For one, we should never be too quick to jump to conclusions about people. It's the old adage of never judging a book by it's cover. A person should never be judged by outward markers. In all likelihood it won't tell you much about who they are as individuals, where they've been and what they're going through. As long as you don't know their story, you can't assume anything about them. Even if you're a victim of some description. However, being a victim doesn't give you some special right to judge others without the facts or condemn them. Moreover you can't assume that you're the only person in the world that has been a victim or suffered injustice. It's a kind of reverse superiority complex, framing people by how much they have or haven't suffered.

Another important thing is that life is really too short. It is far too short for anyone to perpetually play the victim or conduct silent revenge. More often than not it ends up being counterproductive. Like we see here, it is a waste of whatever time you have but it could end up destroying you slowly. A case of cutting off your nose to spite your face

To this point I also refer to Seok--hyeong's mother who seems to be a figure of indecision especially in this farcical back and forth with her scurrilous husband. Although it was mildly entertaining seeing her tip a bucket of cold water over the mistress and landing a precise wet rag hit at her errant spouse, at the end of the day it was purely an angry gesture that didn't see any advancement in her position. It isn't as if divorce will solve all her problems but her insatiable need for vengeance sees her stuck on a treadmill that leads to nowhere. Sadly she's inadvertently dragging Seok-hyeong along for the ride.

During its original run as the show was unfolding there were many voices claiming that Dr Winter's (Jang Gyeo-ul) infatuation with Dr Garden (Ahn Jeong-won) was one-sided. The general argument went like this: Jeong-won was a Mr Nice Guy that didn't seem to distinguish Dr Winter. He treated everyone with the same degree of affability. They might have been on to something except for the fact that the show gave us this particular exchange so deliberately.

After asking Jeong-won out to the movies, Bae Jun-hui tells the ER nurse, Hui-su that she's gone out alone with him before and in everyday clothes. When pressed, she says that she was the one who initiated the transactions. Hui-su puts everything into perspective by saying that Jeong-won has gone out with many female staff members when asked. So she shouldn't attach any particular significance to those events. Gyeo-ul overhears their conversation with keen interest unaware that such happenings revolving around the object of her desire have been occuring. It gives her ideas and bolsters her courage to act. Some time later, she hangs around outside his office to ask for a dinner date, with just the two of them. It does somewhat confirm what Dr Bong told his little gossip group that whoever wants to date Jeong-won will have to beat God first. Those outings with the women working at the hospital were really not "dates" in his mind. But what's even more fascinating is Hui-su's immediate attempt to clarify things with Jun-hui especially with Gyeo-ul within earshot. It does beg the question in light of the finale as to whether or not Hui-su knew that there was something brewing between Jeong-won and Gyeo-ul.

For us it is helpful that Jeong-won enjoys a certain degree of popularity with the ladies at the hospital. Whether it's for his good looks or his generosity, he seems generally well-liked. But he shows no particular attraction towards any of them. Maybe it's just an extension of work for him or just his affable nature surfacing. He does it so freely and easily as someone who is headed for the priesthood. That does suggest to me that none of them are important enough to shake his confidence regarding his present trajectory. When he's with them, he feels in no particular danger of being tempted or "led astray". By that logic then, Ahn Jeong-won should have no trouble agreeing to Gyeo-ul when she approaches him. But his reaction to her request lacks the easy-going (almost glib) response he gives to Jin-hui.

However, the show reassures the viewer that this is a pairing that hasn't lost it viability when during the band practice, the camera cuts from a shot of Jeong-won at the drums to her sitting on her bed mulling over recent events.

Jun-wan, on the other hand, goes from strength to strength. There is something about love that's wonderfully transformative for him. As he becomes a doting boyfriend and leaves old habits like golf behind, he sees the world in a different way. While he surely lives up to the hype as a hotshot surgeon, he has much to learn with regard to communicating with patients. He learns that from his interactions with Jae-hak who knows only too well that Jun-wan's bark is worse than his bite especially in comparison with the deeply unlikeable Professor Cheon. As they become more comfortable with each other, Jae-hak begins to take a few liberties and sorts his beloved professor out. At the end of the day Jae-hak is meant to be a counterbalance to Jun-wan. What the one lacks is complemented by the other.

In the OBGYN department we become privy to an spoken rivalry simmering just below the surface between Min-ha (the bear) and Myung Eun-won (the fox) as observed from the perspective of Nurse Han. Eun-won's propensities to take the easy way out or dodge responsibilities cast her in dim light. This rivalry and its ramifications reaches its climax in the following episode in terms of outcomes for patient care.