Hospital Playlist Retrospective Season 1 Episode 10
This analysis of the episode in question contains spoilers and references various events in the entire drama.
Episode 10 is undoubtedly the first of the monster episodes. On my first viewing I proclaimed it a "an over-stuffed sausage". While my feelings about it are far more positive this time round, there's no changing my mind that there's plenty going on here primarily because the show is headed into wrap-up mode.
The drama continues in the vein of Ik-jun as the "fix it" man of Yulje Medical Centre while establishing him as the archetypal Trickster/ Joker. There were instances of that in the previous episode as well, particularly when he was pranking Jeong-won. Although there are obvious elements of the Sage lurking in the fringes of his personality. They're all part of the persona of the super liver transplant specialist as his spreads his boundless cheer wherever he treads, much to the occasional annoyance of his friends. Moreover, he's becoming a celebrity doctor in his own right, bringing in wealthy clients for the VIP suites and raking in the big bucks to keep the Daddy-Long-Legs programme afloat.
There's a delightful scene between Jun-wan and Jeong-wan driving in the car talking about the fact that they struggle to understand their friends. Jeong-won then says that he finds Ik-jun in particular hard to understand. Jun-wan flatly tells him not to bother because Ik-jun is a lunatic pure and simple. Jeong-won agrees heartily.
(What's noteworthy is that Jeong-won makes this comment after the bouquet prank in the GS room so I speculate that he somehow found out that Ik-jun was the instigator of it)
On another occasion Ik-jun drops by Seok-hyeong's office to find out the song for band practice. Meanwhile Seok-hyeong has got Vivaldi's L'estro Armonico on speakers and then out of curiosity Ik-jun asks what manner of music it is. Seok-hyeong expresses surprise and say it's a pretty famous piece which leads Ik-jun to do a side-splitting impersonation of a train announcer, indicating that L'estro Armonico is background music for the subway announcements. When Seok-hyeong tries to close the door on him repeatedly, Ik-jun continues popping back into the room like automated jack-in-the-box. In the end Seok-hyeong has to lean against the door to prevent Ik-jun from coming back in. Facing the camera Seok-hyeong declares unequivocally, "He is crazy."
There is method to the madness as we're given to believe. It's in part his way of "fixing" the world around him. He uses humour to disarm and charm, as well as pranks to distract from the humdrum of life. Perhaps he styles himself after Patch Adams, the US physician and comedian. However, when he's deadly serious, as he is when he's indirectly confessing to Song-hwa, the trickster in him has a rest.
Aside from providing quality medical care as a prolific liver transplant surgeon, there's perhaps no bigger problem in his mind that requires "fixing" than the push-pull between Jeong-won and Gyeo-ul. By now, after a time of observation, he's quite certain that his friend is in love with his favourite GS resident to the point that the latter is having serious doubts about the priesthood.
First, he comes up with a prank to stir Jeong-won to action by attempting to play the jealousy card. He gets Gyeo-ul a bouquet of flowers to pretend that she's been "proposed to" by her mysterious boyfriend to get a reaction out of Jeong-won. The incident ends up hilariously back-firing on him. When that doesn't work, he confronts Jeong-won directly one evening.
This is one of my favourite sequences in the drama for a whole range of reasons. The nuanced performance of Yoo Yeon Seok being one of them. Moreover, it is a profoundly meaningful (and revealing) moment. Ik-jun initiates this line of thought by asking his friend if he tells lies. Why does he do that? Because Ik-jun, the prankster knows only too well that Jeong-won has been a bit of a naughty boy... doing a fair bit lying and keeping all kinds of secrets. On multiple levels. Even while he is looking to become a priest. He knows that Jeong-won lied to Gyeo-ul about going to Yangpyeong for the weekend to see his mother. In so doing, he has implicitly been hiding his real feelings for her and giving her reason to believe that he has no romantic interest in her. That has of course other ramifications in terms of the priesthood question. Can Jeong-won, in all honesty be a priest while he has romantic thoughts about a woman? That is the question that Ik-jun wants to hammer home.
"Just follow your heart then you won't regret it. Don't make your decisions rashly and end up like me. Think carefully. Thinking that you'll be fine is asking of luck. And that kind of luck doesn't happen."
More than that, Ik-jun wants to reassure his friend that there is nothing inherently wrong with falling in love with Gyeo-ul. He claims to be her advocate (or as he says, "manager") and prattles off her CV. when Jeong-won says to him, "Are you her representative?" (Which also suggests to me that he knows about the bouquet prank)
Of course Ik-jun doesn't say anything that Jeong-won doesn't already know. So why does he do it? I'm coming around to the idea at least in part it's because he believes she is absolutely the perfect fit for Jeong-won. Her temperament ("She never shows how hard it is", "She doesn't give up or complain"), her work ethic and her career goals ("I admire her mindset as a surgeon") etc all point to that. She is a fellow traveller in medicine and could potentially be a life partner for him. Falling in love with her isn't a sin or a bad thing, so says Ik-jun. As far as he's concerned she's more than qualified to be with his friend. They can both complement each other in work and life.
At this point in time Ik-jun sees two miserable people working alongside each other who are hiding their feelings from each other like it's some guilty secret they both have to protect. He doesn't see the sense of maintaining the facade because they have nothing to feel guilty about. It's an unnecessary deception that Jeong-won is perpetrating and Gyeo-ul is inadvertently caught in its web. He speaks as a man who knows what it is like to have regrets about love, about not acting when he should have a long time ago. He's speaking up (and doing the crazy stuff) out of concern because he doesn't want his friend to go through what he's had to go through.
From the perspective of Jeong-won, Ik-jun acts as a sounding board, a counsellor while he wrestles with these issues. All Ik-jun does is bring to the surface what is already brewing. The war within him already exists. That tells me as it does Ik-jun, that he's already lost to the priesthood. Long ago. There's no point in putting up such a big fight for no good reason. Ahn Jeong-won has tried his best and there's no more need to have to prove himself. On top of that, can Jeong-won truly walk away from everything to be a priest? Kids, pediatrics and Gyeo-ul? Can he do it all with certainty... with no regrets?
Up to this point it's clear that Jeong-won has been avoiding the issue. He has a couple of months to sit on it and he takes advantage of that. He himself knows that Ik-jun is largely right in his assessment. It is a dilemma that consumes him to the point that he needs tokens of reminder of where his priorities have to be. This is exemplified in a phone conversation with Rosa, his mother.
When Rosa is noticeably thrilled about the fact that Jeong-won is having lunch with Song-hwa, he quickly pours cold water on the fact that there's anything between them. "It's not Song-hwa. You got it wrong." But Rosa's quick on her feet... ah... but there is someone... she surmises from the way he phrases his objection. As long as there's someone, she's happy. Then she urges him to get married as soon as possible. Jeong-won then tells her that there's really no one and it was a mere slip of the tongue.
The main difficulty with trying to perpetuate a deception is having to stay on script all throughout especially when you're emotionally sensitive. It's one thing to tell white lies but it's another to pretend that you're not in love with a woman that you work with, that's beside you routinely. You may be able to fool her if she's simple-minded and inexperienced in matters of the heart but you can't fool the people closest to you. That's the Jeong-won dilemma.
This brief scene outside a pediatrics ward encapsulates so symbolically the fact that they are a two-person team. From him, she learns how to have a better bedside manner. From her, he learns how to keep calm. His anxiety achieves nothing here. What is really interesting too is he stands dangerously close to her that she feels obliged to shift away. No matter how much he tries to maintain some measure of stoicism in front of her, when his emotions leave him unguarded, he leaks. His part in the "Confession is not Flashy" track provides us insight into his life. It also telegraphs a significant moment in the finale when he finally opens his heart to Gyeo-ul.
You're my loved one
I will make a silent promise
That I will protect you
Until your tears run dry...
In the distant future
When we reminisce about this day
If we can give each other a kiss
In the whole wide world
For a very long time
Out of all the people
I will only love you
In the whole wide world
For a very long time
Out of all the people
I am grateful that I met you
More evidence of that comes later in the episode when Jeong-won comes across Gyeo-ul later in a waiting area and greets her informally. Ik-jun is present and picks up on his change of habit. But Jeong-won is in complete denial mode.
Jeong-won dodges the issue when Song-hwa tells him to get married because he loves children so much. Even the merest hint that he's compromised on the issue of whether he's coming or going sees him on the defensive.
Even though Rosa's approach to keeping Jeong-won away from the priesthood seems crude, she knows her son and she understands his personality. Medicine and pediatric surgery were good choices that she approved of so she's not being entirely self-centred in her objections to his entering the priesthood. I don't think she's trying to cling to him either because she does have a life outside of him. She's generally independent and tries to be as much as possible. She doesn't demand he spend all his free time with her or try to set him up on blind dates. What I think she's resentful about is that her cloistered children are lost to her... she has no access to them. In her mind they're almost as good as dead.
Avoidance is the name of the game throughout the episode. It isn't just Jeong-won who is avoiding coming to a definitive conclusion. So is Rosa. She adamantly refuses to talk about the priesthood if they meet socially. In fact, humorously enough, this is what Jong-su recommends that she do. He advises her that she should go abroad somewhere so she avoids him and doesn't have to deal with it. "Time is the key to some problems." The idea is not entirely without merit. There are times when playing the waiting game is the key and the solution can present itself without intervention. But the application of that aphorism does require wisdom. To what situations is it applicable? There's the rub.
Ik-jun seems to be jumping on the avoidance bandwagon when Jun-wan wants to get him privately to talk about his relationship with Ik-sun. He seems very reluctant to make the time. Does he know something? Does he not approve and wants to avoid saying so? That seems to be a bit of a mystery.
Do Jae-hak can't avoid the responsibility of the consequences, however, when his DCMP patient Kim Hae-beom refuses to be given an enema (an injection of fluid into the bowel by way of the rectum). Prof Cheon gives up on the patient and storms off but even Jae-hak knows that this isn't right. So he goes to Jun-wan who tells him to use anything he can think of to make the patient agree to the enema. In the end, as he tells Chi-hong and Seok-min, he goes down on his knees and begs the patient to do it because if something happened, he (Jae-hak) would lose his job. 8 episodes later, Jae-hak has come a long way. Under the tutelage of Jun-wan and life itself, he's learned to take the job more seriously. This was his moment to shine. Cometh the man, cometh the hour.
Jun-wan can't avoid the fact that Ik-sun has been offered a lifetime opportunity of living and working overseas in a doctorate programme. He hears it from Chi-hong at work who has been talking to her. Aside from the fact he hears it from someone else, it is the news he fears while he wants to appear supportive in her career goals. But he knows that there's no skirting this one and takes the bull by the horns.
It's doubtful Song-hwa can indefinitely avoid having to deal with both Ik-jun and Chi-hong now becoming more overt in their intentions towards her although perhaps she will take Jong-su's line of reasoning and let time do all the sorting out.