Hospital Playlist Season 2 (2021) Episode 11: First Look

I was struck once again while watching this episode, at how clear the Shin-Lee team have been about their goals and what they’ve been striving towards all throughout. Whatever else the showrunners could be accused of, they can’t be accused of pulling a bait and switch with any of the dominant characters or their respective arcs. The course was clear to anyone in the audience who wasn’t in the grip of any kind of agenda which is why I’m sure there’s great rejoicing among certain fans today now that ships have hauled anchor and gone a-sailing. Patience has been rewarded with a full-throated confirmation. I’m rejoicing too because Kim Jun-han aka Ahn Chi-hong had a nice little cameo which reminded me for the nth time how different Neurosurgery feels without his modest affable self. Although he wasn’t destined to get the girl, Seon-bin is right in highlighting the importance of his presence in keeping her sane in those early years of her residency. Likewise, all throughout this season, I never once stopped thinking about how integral he was to the dynamic among the residents. And not just in NS either. I console myself that they’ve taken the time to celebrate his contribution to the Yulje family.

I can’t help gloating a little as I did in the finale of the first season that everything I and many others were speculating over has come to fruition. I spent far too much time defending the possibility of the WG in that first season and why I thought it was an integral part of the drama’s storytelling. It made perfect sense to me then and it makes perfect sense to me now. That’s why when a nervous Rosa moots the unlikely possibility of Jeong-won and Gyeo-ul breaking up when talk of marriage isn’t forthcoming, he quickly assures her that it won’t happen. There’s no reason not to believe him because it never occurred to me that Jeong-won was the kind of guy to not know his own mind or play the kind of dating games that other people do. Once upon a time this was the guy who aspired to be a priest who ended up doing a 180. Not overnight obviously. But he did make that paradigm shift and his sense of certainty is so clear that he is not in the least embarrass to talk about marriage and dowry. The fact too that the show consistently highlights his domestic capabilities as part of that entire future husband package is evidence as to where this relationship is headed. In terms of the lovelines, the show is actually fairly predictable — to the point of actually being relatively prosaic. There are no twists or turns or nasty surprises. It’s only a matter of when. It’s understandable that individuals have to sort out and work through their own obstacles (real or perceived) at their own pace.

Rosa’s response when she hears about Gyeo-ul’s family situation is consistent with who she is. Her remarks are obviously meant to be a contrast to the Ga-eul’s almost in-laws. The mother of a very Catholic family is able to see the bigger picture with a response that demonstrates graciousness that cannot be taken for granted. “I am proud of her and sorry for her.” I also mention this dialogue because I was somewhat surprised by Jeong-won’s encouragement to look after her future daughter-in-law by showering her with the planned dowry. This is followed by Rosa’s follow-up testimonial that her youngest son is “head over heels” for Jang Gyeo-ul. She confirms to us yet again. He likes her. A lot. So much so that even the normally unworldly Ahn Jeong-won encourages his mother to shower gifts on his future bride. But wouldn’t it be great to see them all have a meal together sometime? If we can’t get a stroll down the aisle to the tune of the bridal march, can we at least get that?

For me what’s highlighted in Song-hwa’s case is that there is a right time and a right place for everything. I saw a comment attributing Seok-hyeong as the primary reason for the delay in those two people coming together. To be frank I don’t think the show promotes that perspective at all. There are many reasons why Song-hwa and Ik-jun didn’t take the plunge sooner. She was hurt by his noble idiocy. They made all kinds of choices in the twenty something years prior that kept them apart. When one of them was single, the other was attached. I very much doubt Ik-jun regrets the birth of U-ju despite the failure of his marriage. Two people who may be destined to be together might have to undergo all other kinds of experiences before it all comes together for them. At the right time. They’re both in their forties now and it’s not as if they’ve never been with other people before. I’m sure they have regrets about past relationships and Song-hwa must want a certain amount of certainty before changing their dynamic to the point that it could potentially have unintended (and unwanted) consequences for the longevity of their group friendship.

I once said on another platform that the friends becoming lovers trope (which is a favourite incidentally) is not as easy to do as one might think. It needs deliberate, calculated development over time. Aside from consistency and persistence, what’s also needed is one of the pair to have feelings for the other and act on it. The most famous among these is the Taiwanese drama, In Time With You. Often imitated but never equalled much less superseded. How do two people who have been friends for most of their adult life finally realise that they want more than friendly chats and casual meals together? A crisis ( or an aha moment) has to occur in order for one to realise the enormousness of the loss if the other were to suddenly disappear from their lives. There’s not a lot of fanfare here. Just the real possibility of regret if she doesn’t do a carpe diem. I said then as I say now that there must be some undercurrent of feelings from at least one party — and who among us can deny that Ik-jun has been consistent in showing his feelings for her since last season. It couldn’t be anyone else among the Four.

I don’t mind the show using Ik-jun’s altercation with a rock from behind to push Song-hwa in an obvious direction because this incident with a mugger also served a number of narrative purposes. It also brought Ik-sun into the hospital facilitating more bidulgi interactions which seems to be stalled for some reason while also highlighting plenty of heartwarming flawed five moments. It also gave us a brief but lovely moment when the mostly recovered Ik-jun asks Seok-hyeong how things are going between him and Chu-Chu. It’s obvious that he was getting better from the impish grin but despite his own health issues, he’s still the resident lovable busybody whose happiness is tied to seeing other people happy. His first words to Ik-sun were: “Are you taking your meds?” And of course we caught a glimpse of the little sweetheart U-ju — the pride and joy of his father.

One thing I’ve noticed is how much Seok-hyeong laughs when he’s with Min-ha. Even his longtime friends don’t quite have that effect on him. He’s Mr Deadpan even on a good day. The only other time I see him laughing in the show is when he’s watching something on his smartphone. But he’s always amused at her idiosyncrasies and seemed charmed by them. Whatever it is he likes about her I’m genuinely glad that he’s finally giving himself this second chance because I was never all that convinced by his protestations that being in another relationship was not for him. These days he’s not only determined “to do what he wants” but he’s a man with a plan. Whatever plot he’s hatching should be fun because Mother Dear is such an uptight snob that is ripe for the picking. It’s that time again to occupy front row seats with preferred victuals.

This was another episode with the spotlight on the residents and their seemingly never ending struggles. In truth I don’t feel as connected with the new cohort as I was with the previous one. It could be that we haven’t had much to do with them and their relationship with the Five professors are mediated largely by the fellows and senior residents who are still being directly mentored by the professors. Two of them (Gyeo-ul and Min-ha) have love lines that are involved with two of the five. That said, residents are an integral part of the hospital landscape even while they’re run off their feet, sleep deprived and stressed. To prevent any kind of hubris or overconfidence, they have to contend with patients they can’t save and professors that are hard to please. What’s particularly pleasing is that Gyeo-ul is no longer the only junior doctor in the General Surgery staffroom. There’s a gradual build-up of a camaraderie among the new additions that’s based on empathy and thoughtfulness. The future of GS is somewhat assured with the injection of new blood that’s supportive from the top to the bottom. This time it’s Jeong-won who takes time out to debrief with Kim Geon who goes AWOL and then comes back shamefacedly to face the music. It’s tough to lose patients but it comes with the territory when dealing with life and death.

It’s a long road for Du-na with rehab. Her life was saved by the miracle of modern medicine after the traffic accident that’s left her seriously incapacitated but that was only really the beginning on this journey back to complete recovery. Although Hospital Playlist is a hopeful, positive drama it’s not a simplistic one. It will take time for Du-na and her long-suffering mother who is trying desperately to keep her on track. It’s easy for neither and good intentions aren’t enough.