The genius of the Shin-Lee collaboration lies in the way that they take simple moments in the story and imbue them with a wealth of meaning. The WG date featured in the first episode is a case in point. No one who pays any real attention to it can honestly conclude that it is any kind of egregious fan servicing in a show about doctors. The outing serves to highlight a number of outcomes that’s been achieved by their coming together. I started thinking along certain lines in a post at Janghaven Forums but I will extrapolate my points with screenshots here. I should also thank reader Roche for prompting me along these lines.
In this scene we are positioned as outsiders looking in and given special access, as it were, to how the dynamic is gradually playing out. We are invited to eavesdrop an intimate exchange. A dinner date is what many of us asked for last year and a dinner date is what we got. But like everything related to them the dinner isn’t just a celebration of a new era in their dynamic. Professional concerns are part and parcel of the synergy that’s being highlighted here.
It’s clear once again that the WG dynamic is essential to the development of both Jeong-won and Gyeo-ul’s individual arcs. In general it’s safe to say that the show doesn’t do romance for its own sake. Romance is a vehicle for character growth and the assumption underlying it is that it can be transformative. We’ve already gone into how transformative love is for Gyeo-ul in other posts — boosting her confidence and sensitizing her to the needs of patients. I don’t think it’s an accident — there are none in Hospital Playlist — that her interactions with Yeon-U’s mother and its ramifications show a palpable change in her development as a clinician due to Jeong-won’s presence in her life.
The date, on the other hand, also signals where Jeong-won has arrived in his journey as someone who claimed more than once that he wanted to quit pediatric surgery and enter the priesthood. In Episode 1 of the first season, we were shown a montage of humourous interactions he had with his eldest brother in a chicken and beer eatery where he mourns over the little ones he’d lost. In a fit of anguish he’d tell his brother that he was ready to throw in the towel. His metaphorical glass at that point was half empty. It couldn’t be met even by his existing friendships or family. Brother wisely kept mum and allowed him to vent because he believed Jeong-won would never really leave the vocation he loved behind.
The dinner date now serves as a delightful contrast with the Jeong-won of the past who found aspects of his job too painful. What the show always demonstrated was that it wasn’t necessarily a change of scenery Jeong-won needed but someone to hold his hand and give him something else to look forward to make work bearable — a variable to ease his burden of being one of the very rare breed of pediatric surgeons and to mitigate his sensitive nature.
The apparently stingy Jeong-won who had no money to buy chicken for his brother and whined about it is now having a nice hot pot dinner date with his newish almost always hungry girlfriend and attending assiduously to all her needs.
More than that, he is now in that position of what his brother was to him of being able to advise someone else about the emotionally gut-wrenching aspects of the job he was going to run away from. He can now be the sage to Gyeo-ul as well as the lover that she was missing before his arrival at Yulje.
I believe that we’re meant to think that they are becoming better and more effective doctors because they’ve found their way to each other. At the end of the day they are both to each other precisely what the doctor ordered.