One of my favourite things about the franchise is how it brings together two strangers who would otherwise never meet save for a common cause and spins a poignant tale about a connection that is not defined by blood but pathos and community. I am of course referring to the two PICU mothers whose stories have unfolded and intersected in these last 4 episodes. You can imagine my relief and joy, equal to that of Jun-wan, when Eun-ji gets her heart. We’ve been on this journey of fear, frustration, camaraderie with them for some time and privy to all the emotions. The ladies who play the mothers give wonderful, relatable performances eliciting a great deal of sympathy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s something magical about the Shin-Lee collaboration that has been so effective in being able to tug at the heart strings from casting out mere snapshots of people who walk the corridors of the hospital no matter how briefly. We come to care deeply for these women and want the best for them. Eun-ji’s mother who was determined at the start, mentoring the newbie, Min-chan’s mum is in possibly the biggest fight of her life. A battle of the mind. She’s beginning to lose hope and faith because others have come and left the PICU and she’s still a fixture. It’s an all too human state to be in. And a very lonely one too. When you’re facing something of this magnitude, it feels that you’re all alone. Things aren’t happening according to plan and it seems unfair that someone who came later got picked first. Needless to say, it’s a joyous occasion when Eun-ji’s mother gets the good news and Min-chan’s mother comes along to congratulate her. The two women embrace and I am sitting in front of the iPad bawling my eyes out. The waiting game is finally over.
This is why I like Hospital Playlist. Not because it turns on the waterworks. But because it deals with the unpredictability of life in such a down-to-earth, surprisingly ordinary way. The drama is in the interactions. Spending time at hospital means something untoward has happened and it certainly makes the difference when the staff is professional, meticulous, and has the human touch. Suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition but it can be made less unbearable if the people around you have enough humility and circumspection to share that burden with you. No everyone can completely know how you feel but they can help you walk through the struggle and the grief.
I’m so glad we got such a strong Jun-wan centred episode because of all the flawed five, he has perhaps the most perceptible growth arc. The last time we saw this much of Jun-wan was last season in Episode 7, I think. He’s not as brusque or verbose with patients as he was previously but that’s been playing out for much of this new season. His relationship with his favourite offsider, Jae-hak continues to evolve in positive ways for both of them. Jae-hak is a much needed sounding board for a very busy and exhausted chief of cardiothoracic surgery. In short, Jun-wan is exhausted and no matter how difficult things get, the last thing he needs is someone playing noble idiocy with him.
As I’ve said in another post, I am not a fan of noble idiocy. In fiction and in life. To me it’s a blunt instrument and short-term remedy to serious issue. A cure that is worse than the disease. In other words, it’s a cop out. On the surface it appears self-sacrificing but it is a form of deception couched in fine-sounding words. More importantly it shows a complete disrespect for the other party because one party thinks they know what is best for the both of them. The decision is made and the other party doesn’t get to decide. That’s not how relationships work. Clearly Ik-sun has fallen someone else and telling Jun-wan fibs however well-intentioned at his most stressful isn’t helpful. Relationships aren’t a bed of roses under any circumstances but thinking that the other people in your life can’t handle bad news and need to be cocooned is no way of dealing with negative events. Sure we’d like to let others enjoy a worryless existence but it’s much worse when they find out the truth some other way or when they could have been part of the journey but wasn’t allowed to. Life is meant to be lived with people. For better or for worse. It’s how we grow into adults. Jun-wan and Ik-sun have to work it through especially because Jun-wan has invested so much time on it and he does “deserve” to know what’s really going on. That’s what makes noble idiocy selfish. It’s as if the other person’s opinions don’t matter.
I should get off my bully pulpit and say that I loved what they did with Jun-wan here with Eun-ji’s mother and the lonely lass trapped in the ICU unable to speak. Whatever life dishes out to him, even when he is at his most fatigued, he is the consummate professional. It’s 100% for his patients. Even if he’s clueless about his friends, he has a finger on the pulse in his area of expertise. It was also a brilliant idea to call for volunteer visitors over social media.
Jeong-won on the other hand is absolutely glowing now that he’s found a reason to stay. I happily echo Ik-jun’s “Wow”. He has plans for Daddy-Long-Legs and seems to be going along a trajectory that I thought he might showing leadership and initiative. He really is his father’s son. The entrepreneurial spirit of Chairman Ahn continues in the only child who hasn’t gone into a life of religious celibacy. Well saved I might add. No Gyeo-ul didn’t beat God. God used Gyeo-ul to stop Jeong-won from making the biggest mistake of his life.
The tteokbokki club meeting was adorable. I particularly appreciated how the camera was focused on Ik-jun observing the two couples with his shrewd eye and just being really happy for his friends. If the show wants me to stop rooting for Seok-hyeong and Min-ha, they should stop giving us scenes like these. Seok-hyeong should stop pretending he’s not interested. That said, I think his rejection of his ex was genuine because there’s a lot of past baggage there that she’s associated with. Min-ha is different because she’s someone doesn’t have anything to do with his more angsty past. She signals a fresh start and she’s also someone who is a little bit more pushy which I think is what’s needed here.
All that talk about perilla leaves between Song-hwa and Ik-jun is more fodder for shippers to hold on to I imagine. I believe and I heard this last year on another platform that there’s some kind of romantic innuendo associated with perilla but I am not 100% sure on this. For those who care it seems that the friends becoming lovers trajectory continues to hum along in this episode.
I am thrilled to bits that we’re getting so much WinterGarden cute. Note too that Jeong-won says “I’m not married yet” when asked about kids and the bank teller says “I’ll give you two. You can give it to your girlfriend.” It’s a different answer to the one he gave the nurse when she asked him about kids. I am aware that there are those who think they’re cringey and immature but I don’t and I’m an ahjumma who has been watching gritty crime dramas for a really long time. I’m revelling in all the WG that we get because this relationship does them both a lot of good. This garden is just blossoming beautifully and it’s spreading so much goodwill that’s translated into good deeds just because Jeong-won has all kinds of goals and ambitions now that he has come to grips with his true calling.
So how many kids do we think the WG couple will end up having? Hmm… Can the little toy piggies act as a point of reference?