I understand that for many people Hospital Playlist is their happy pill. The weekly 90 minutes of comfort food hitting the spot in a world that seems to be in a constant state of flux. Many of our regular readers have said as much and I would concur. But I always thought that the show also had a streak of ruthless realism running right through it. The humour certainly helps the medicine go down but this is a show has always been a show where life and death hangs in a balance and people don’t always act in a way that works in their interest.
I’ve been thinking a little bit more about bidulgi largely because of poor Jun-wan and because I saw some criticism of Ik-jun (somewhere) for not being more supportive of his friend by telling him that Ik-sun was back in Korea or that she was in town.
My immediate inclination is to defend Ik-jun because at the end of the day he didn’t know what happened or how serious things were between them. I don’t think he wanted to get involved in a land war between his long-time best friend and his own sister who was seriously ill at the time. He certainly had no interest in taking sides and probably thought it was none of his business. I supposed it looked like he prioritized her only because she was unwell and didn’t need the stress of having to deal with Jun-wan on top of everything else she was going through. What I would say right now is that Ik-jun respected his sister’s wishes because she seemed genuinely distressed at the time. For a man with his experiences, he knew that these sorts of situations are usually more complex than meets the eye. For someone who can be a busybody, he can be discrete.
So why one year? Why only after a year does Jun-wan finally find out via Ik-jun that Ik-sun is back from her overseas stint? Why does Jun-wan have to go through trial by fire and tears all this time? It seems so unfair that he has to suffer all by his lonesome self while his best friends are happily off doing their own thing without him.
I was reminded of the fact that in S1 Jun-wan was presented as something of a serial dater. If that’s the right word for it. Although he was actively in the game, they seldom lasted longer than weeks. We were even privy to the latest one before he broke it off rather unceremoniously. I seem to remember Ik-jun making a comment that he was impressed that Jun-wan’s latest had lasted longer than usual and that he must be really serious about her. Jun-wan, if memory serves, immediately said that he was.
By now the vast majority of the audience wants Jun-wan to move on. He’s too pitiful. He’s suffered enough. He deserves better and Ik-sun is yesterday’s news. Blah blah blah. However the reality is that Jun-wan can’t move on because in his mind… she is the real deal. The one in a 50 million. That after years and years of looking, he’s found her and he still can’t understand how things ended up the way they did. His brain can’t compute the dissonance between the belief and the outcome. He must be thinking that the whole thing is a mistake, a nightmare from which he hopes to wake up from. The fact that he isn’t over her and feels helpless suggests to me that it is proof not just to himself but the people around him that this is the real deal. So this entire fiasco isn’t about Ik-sun and her noble idiocy but about proving Jun-wan. It isn’t just Ik-sun that needs to know that this was no flash in the pan that a few nasty words could end but also for Ik-jun to know that his friend is truly sincere about his sister considering his history.
As the show progresses my thinking is that the one year as brutal as it has been to Jun-wan seems almost necessary on hindsight. As I’ve been saying I don’t know if Jun-wan and Ik-sun will get back together. The end of Episode 7 seems to be an opening that is meant to lead somewhere I imagine. What that somewhere is, I have no idea as yet. But on the matter of suffering, a lot more can be said.
Until very recently in many cultures and belief systems, suffering has always been perceived as a necessary evil. There are hostile forces at work ( eg. in nature and scary powerful people) and of course we ourselves are often our own worst enemies. Our ancestors knew this better than we do because before industrialisation they had to live off the land and had very little control over the elements. But the wisdom of the ages has always taught us that suffering can act to purify us, to mature us like nothing else. This is what I think is going on here with Jun-wan. For him to be a better doctor… to live up to the post of Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery… this is his path. We know he is skilled but being a doctor is more than cutting people up and putting them back together again. Empathy has always been hard for him but what he’s been going through this past year is taking him apart and putting him back together in a way that nothing else could have. All those women he’s had to deal with so far this season shows how much he has changed compared last season where he was alternating between brusque and verbose. He tells them they’ve done their best and to keep going or not. He talks about the lonely and dying Chang-min. He tells his resident that it’s okay to cry but still do his job. It’s a complete change not only of language for him but thinking. This is his journey to learn to show empathy, compassion for what the people who are looking to him have to go through.
I’m also now wondering if the show is saying to us that Jeong-won can’t marry until Jun-wan finds his way out of his despair and find “love’s true path”. Forgive the cheesy archaic inflection. But the timing of the two events is suggestive. The joke about Jun-wan wanting to move in with the WG couple after they marry springs to mind. Perhaps Jeong-won can’t leave the flat until Jun-wan leaves the tunnel. Their individual trajectories have always intersected on some level and it wouldn’t surprise me if they arrive at that destination roughly at the same time via different routes.
WinterGarden. I never seem to run out of things to say even when I think I have. Reader AA Battery made the point that there’s something off about the fact that Jeong-won has never brought Gyeo-ul to see Rosa since they’ve started dating. We certainly have to wonder why. He’s been to visit Rosa on his own. Busy or not, I’m sure they could have made time to do so if they wanted to. Even if it were just the one time. I am wondering now if he knew or suspected that she had family issues. He is very sensitive and perceptive so I’m sure he has. Especially when she went after the DV husband with a vengeance. Which is why he said what he said… did she have something to tell him? Normally placid and easy going, she was an emotional wreck on that occasion. It wasn’t like her. But he undoubtedly observed that there was something about domestic abuse that pushed one of her buttons.
Supposing Jeong-won knows this and he’s known for some time that family is a sore spot for her. Supposing she never talks about her parents much because there is an ugly skeleton in that cupboard that she’s not wanting to open. It’s more than possible he is fully aware and is just waiting for her to tell him. She on the other hand, is very naive about relationships and she was even talking about lying to her colleagues that she’d broken up with her boyfriend. The average person would just deal with it or announce it to everyone. As other people have noted, she’s probably not got a positive perspective on matrimony because of her parents and I think it’s still a cultural taboo among Asians to badmouth your parents to other people even if you’re just stating facts. It feels disrespectful and disloyal.
So there’s certainly a lot to unpack even in Episode 7. There are definitely bubbles that need to be burst in days to come. I think Jeong-won genuinely wants only good things for Gyeo-ul and vice versa. She obviously doesn’t want the spectre of her family’s situation to affect their beautiful doting relationship and she thinks she can do this by avoidance. You and I know that it’s a bad idea but she’s relatively inexperienced in such matters hence the naivete. As far as I’m concerned that horse has already bolted. It doesn’t matter how well she’s come out of it, it will have an impact on her marriage one way or another. But then maybe she’s too busy and too tired working long crazy hours to think long term.