Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim 3: Episodes 5-6
Ready the gauze, because it’s about to get messy in the OR! With the new Trauma Center up and running, our hero’s adamant he won’t be joining the staff — not with his mentor barred from the premises. Still, Friday is at hand, and as the emergencies come piling on, something’s got to give…
Woo-jin’s walkout is not without consequences. As he turns his back on the Trauma Center, Dr. Cha calls after him with all the finesse of a schoolyard bully: what are you, a coward? Too busy standing in Bu Yong-ju’s shadow to hang with the surgical big boys? Woo-jin’s not buying it. But if he expected Teacher Kim to respect this gesture, he’s got another thing coming. His mentor utters a truth universally known by anyone who’s had coworkers: sometimes, you’ve got to handle not liking them. Woo-jin, he asserts, is being narrow-minded. There are patients out there that need saving, don’t you know!
Unfortunately, if Teacher Kim is stubborn, the pupil surpasses the master. Even Eun-jae can’t convince Woo-jin to give the Trauma Center — and making nice with his future father-in-law — a try. In fact, the mood at the coffee machine is decidedly tepid. Woo-jin is convinced that Eun-jae is ashamed to introduce him as her partner. And so, despite everyone’s best efforts, Woo-jin is out. It’s time for a dark horse candidate to step proudly into the spotlight! Or rather, to be dragged there kicking and screaming. That’s right: it’s the inimitable, the unbeatable, the utterly incompetent… Dr. Yang!
Friday approaches — and with it, three car crash victims. This is bad news for our unlikely hero, Dr. Yang, who I am convinced has spent the past three years hiding under his office desk, to be yoinked out only when Director Park needs someone to carry his briefcase. Two patients are in critical condition: one in cardiac arrest; the other, in a coma. With his lungs and liver a punctured mess, the second needs urgent surgery. Dr. Yang is to assist Dr. Cha. Nobody is pleased by this, not least the man of the hour. When Dr. Cha demands to know his plan for the operating room, our guy heroically mumbles something about maybe… cutting away… the damaged area… probably. Then, he finds a quiet corner and frantically cries for backup.
His hand forced, our true hero rises to the occasion. Turns out, Woo-jin is an expert in all things hepato-pancreato-biliary, in addition to, well, everything else. He’s a man of many specialisms, unlike someone we could mention. And so, Woo-jin and Dr. Cha talk diaphragm complications. In doing so, they realize, to their mutual astonishment, that they can keep up with one another. The following surgery is a perfect symphony. Back at Doldam, Teacher Kim and Director Park exchange conspiratorial looks. They knew that if anything could spur Woo-jin into action, it would be the threat of Dr. Yang wielding a scalpel.
Not everything goes smoothly. There’s a third car crash victim: a cheerfully conscious teenager, who reassures Nurse Oh that he’s feeling fine. She tells Dr. Jung to check on him when he can. But Dr. Jung’s tied up with wrangling his patient out of cardiac arrest. It’s Eun-jae who discovers the boy in bed, the pulse-oximeter slipped from his finger. He’s flatlined. To add an extra pinch of awful to the situation, it turns out his mother is ASSEMBLYWOMAN KO (Park Ha-joon), the politician in charge of funding the Trauma Center.
Assemblywoman Ko is full of fury and recrimination. Moments ago, she was speaking to her son on the phone. Now, she intends to charge the hospital with his murder. As the staff gather in guilty despair, Dr. Cha’s expression hardens — but not for the reason you’d expect. The team, he declares, weren’t in the wrong. They simply prioritized the more urgent cases. Turning to the distraught Dr. Jung, he urges him to hold his head high. Then, to Assemblywoman Ko: if she stirs up trouble, he’ll return it a thousandfold. Does she really want it revealed in court that she used government employees as her son’s personal taxi service?
Assemblywoman Ko knows when she’s lost the battle. Still, she warns Teacher Kim to be prepared for all-out war. She’ll force them to repent for this. Besides, not everyone is pleased by Dr. Cha coming out to bat for them. Nurse Oh is appalled at his treatment of a grieving mother. As for Dr. Jung? He’s determined to take full responsibility.
Elsewhere, Eun-jae catches Woo-jin. She isn’t ashamed of him. He’s the coolest person she knows. Still, ask any daughter in Korea: it’s hard to introduce your dad to the guy you love! Woo-jin, softening, reels her into a hug. Later, Dr. Cha assures Woo-jin that he is in no way oblivious to what’s going on, and he’s withholding approval for now. Still, he was awed by Woo-jin’s performance in the OR. Stunned, Woo-jin accepts his invitation to sit and talk surgery. Dr. Cha considers, with surprise, just how much he admires Teacher Kim’s star-studded team… and how badly he’s determined to possess what his rival has achieved.
Meanwhile, our new fellows are fighting for their lives in the ER. Sun-woong, still drooping from last week’s surgical flop, is keen to take super-mentor Eun-jae’s advice: nothing beats hands-on experience. Dong-hwa’s day has been an endless stream of gaffes — it’s one thing to mistake a pregnancy for a malignant tumor, but it’s another to double down and yell at Nurse Park about it. (Many a greater surgeon has been felled by that flat, disapproving stare.)
Desperate measures are required: it’s time to… er, actually learn something. This would be deeply charming, if it didn’t involve my (increasingly common) pet peeve: gay jokes. We’re bait-and-switched by the “hilarious” possibility of our interns getting intimate — but of course, they’re just practicing their ultrasound skills on the sly. Sorry to be a killjoy, folks, but I dislike it when shows suggest queerness can only exist as a punchline. It’s the one blip in an otherwise excellent episode!
Ah-reum, walking in on the debacle, immediately realizes what’s up. She’s rattled from losing a patient earlier, but she plasters on her habitual megawatt smile, taking the boys under her wing. Dong-hwa regards her in dazed awe. It’s not the first time Doldam’s seen a fumbling newbie imprint on a charismatic sunbae… but it’s the first time Nurse Park’s had anything to say about it. When Dong-hwa loudly interrogates him about Ah-reum’s (obviously terrible) boyfriend, his look is icy enough to cause internal damage. Good thing they’re already in hospital.
Later, in the dead of evening, Doldam receives a serious-looking visitor. She’s on a crucial mission: find the man calling himself Teacher Kim. She also happens to be nine years old. Staff watch in perplexity as their chief greets the girl who — who can’t be his daughter, surely? No time for speculation (unless you’re Manager Jang, in which case your entire evening schedule constitutes investigating this gossip): the kid arrived alongside another emergency patient.
A woman has been hit by a car, leaving her with a ruptured spleen. Trouble is, she suffers from pulmonary hypertension, rendering death on the operating table a virtual certainty. Woo-jin scarcely hesitates: without surgery, she’ll be gone in the hour. Besides, this is Doldam: it’d be weirder if they weren’t facing impossible odds armed with romantic ideals, a richardson retractor, and their own bare wits! But he’s stopped short as Dr. Cha begs him to reconsider. There’s no hope. Woo-jin’s simply courting another lawsuit.
It’s at this moment that the patient’s mother walks in, looking horrified. She recognizes Dr. Cha. Lunging forward, she slaps him, hard. Years ago, he issued a medical opinion, concluding it was impossible to tell whether a faulty hospital humidifier caused her daughter’s asthma. Due to this, they were denied compensation. Now, she collapses to the floor, utterly undone. Soon, Teacher Kim is at her shoulder, gently informing her that, yes, her daughter’s position looks grim. Still, he promises they’ll try to save her. Dr. Cha scoffs: this is lunacy! How many students has Teacher Kim seen raked across the coals of malpractice suits? He sees the patient, sure — but not the doctor.
As Teacher Kim stands adamant, Woo-jin pushes past to wheel the patient into surgery. The following splenectomy is a messy fight for survival, amid spurting blood and hastily-poured saline. Woo-jin is so tense that his scalpel slips against his finger. Still, at the end of it, the patient lives.
Afterwards, Eun-jae approaches her boyfriend with a tenderly-brandished needle. Show me your butt, she commands. No? Okay, fine. He can get his tetanus shot in the arm, like everyone else. Woo-jin playfully grumbles that she hasn’t gotten any gentler since they were trainees, and he offered up his own arm for practice. (An utterly unhinged romantic gesture, by the way.) Eun-jae snorts. Don’t hurt yourself, she admonishes. Your blood and bones are mine, after all! (Equally unhinged. They really are soulmates.)
Woo-jin realizes the plaster she put on his finger has “WJ <3 EJ” scrawled on it. It’s been a rocky few days, but as he takes her by the hand into a nearby office, it’s clear our OTP are back to what they do best: making out in the workplace! Or, okay… technically, they could have been doing anything behind those doors. Paperwork. Tax returns. Reviewing Eun-jae’s chore list. Let’s go with that.
Meanwhile, our intrepid nine-year-old wanders the corridors of Doldam, having slipped out of Teacher Kim’s office. Like all good fairy tales, this is the part where she meets a giant. Mr. Gu, guardian of the halls, has once again saved the day! As they stroll together, Dr. Jung pushes past, tearful, on the phone. His daughter, BYUL, is missing. Frantic, he lashes out at his wife on the phone, blaming her — only to slump, defeated. He doesn’t want to fight again. Down the hall, his truant daughter munches a lollipop with sad eyes.
Soon, Dr. Jung is racing towards Teacher Kim’s office, where Byul sleeps, worn out from the day’s adventure. As her father recovers from his panic, Teacher Kim quietly contemplates what she told him. Why, he asks, eventually, didn’t you say that you and your wife were separated? I was embarrassed, Dr. Jung admits. You shouldn’t be worrying about this kind of thing. Later, Teacher Kim paces through the empty halls. He thinks of Woo-jin, so nervous that he hurt himself. He thinks of Dr. Jung, desperate to take the fall for a patient’s death. He thinks of Dr Cha’s accusations. And he lowers his head in defeat.
The car crash patient is in desperate need of a lung transplant. Ordinarily, this would be Teacher Kim’s territory, but Director Park has a different suggestion. What if Dr. Cha conducts the operation? After his resistance to operating on the patient, he lost the staff’s sympathy. This could win them back.
Dr. Cha is perplexed — even more so, when his phone rings. He looks across the balcony. There stands Teacher Kim, his own phone in hand. Why, Dr. Cha begins, are you ordering me to conduct this performance? Teacher Kim considers. I know, he says, that in some people’s eyes, I’m reckless. Dangerous. A lunatic, even. I never cared. But now? I’m not so sure the others are okay with it. So, help me. Show me your solution. Return this patient’s life to her, and begin anew.
The patient’s mother is far from happy at this turn of events. When Dr. Cha approaches her, he refuses to apologize; he’s convinced he made the right call all those years ago. Nonetheless, he’ll do his best to save his patient. Without prejudice. Without fuss. Furious but desperate, the mother agrees. And so, nervously, Eun-jae scrubs in to assist her father in surgery for the very first time. Watching them, with avid eyes above surgical masks, is every single doctor in the Trauma Center.
For two whole seasons, in the face of chaos, career loss, corporate takeover, and multiple vehicular pile-ups, Teacher Kim and his ideals have stood firm. Now the cracks are finally beginning to show. But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that Doldam is a place in which doctors are broken down and remade. Loss, failure, doubt — these become learning tools. Teacher Kim hasn’t stayed static: we’ve seen him grow as an educator, honing his patience and empathy. But we’ve never seen him be a student before. Now, he’s brave enough to become one on purpose.
I guess this touches on last week’s question: what happens when Teacher Kim has to educate a peer? Arguments. Posturing. But, perhaps, if they can swallow their pride, a learning opportunity for both. Interestingly, the best teacher this season by far has been Eun-jae. She’s kind in the face of Sun-woong’s mistakes, and happy to fess up to her own. And above all, she contends that no matter how much you know in theory, nothing beats experience. If you cower behind your colon specialism like Dr. Yang, you’ll wilt in the face of the unknown. Better to stay humble, pencil in some ultrasound practice, and, above all, be nice to your nurses! Following that line of logic — I’m positive that, in experiencing doubt for the first time in years, Teacher Kim will learn how to tackle it head on. If not? I guess Nurse Park can always death glare everyone back into order!