Season 4 Rewatch: 4×02 Frontline (Part 2)

The Good Doctor Argentina on Twitter (@TheGoodDoctorAr) is currently running a ’20 Days Countdown to The Good Doctor Season 5’, and on Day 2 I’m going to be taking a closer look at 4×02 Frontline (Part 2).

COVID-19

This episode continues the COVID-19 storylines from the season 4 premiere, seamlessly connecting the two episodes throughout the weeks of California being in a state of emergency.

What we can still feel very tangibly is the despair of the situation, both for healthcare workers and families and close friends. So many patients dying from a disease that’s still an unknown commodity, with doctors standing by, relatives on video calls, ventillators being switched off. “He/she/they are gone,” becomes the ever repeating chorus of a song that no one wants to dance to.

However, over the weeks and weeks, nurses and doctors finally learn more about this strange new disease, are getting better at handling the patients and treating them. New clinical trials are testing and finding more avenues of treatment and patient management, a strange kind of routine is being settled into.

By the time the episode ends, we slowly see the pandemic ebbing, the situation finally improves, and miraculously, eventually, lives go back to normal. We know that we’re not quite there yet in our real lives, but don’t we all dream of that world?

That said, as a scientist and advocate of medical science, I’d like to take a quick stand and ask: Please still wear your masks, please still be cautious with physical contact, and please get vaccinated if you can. This virus is still a real threat, and we’ll never get it in check if we don’t all do our part.

Patient Stories

We keep following the same patients from the season premiere and learn what their fates ultimately become through the COVID crisis.

Martin’s health keep declining, it seems he develops all the difficult complications. He has to have emergency procedures several times, and he nearly dies more than once. His wife does the best that she can, a constant companion on Martin’s phone on his nightstand.

At some point, Shaun can’t help it and gets overbearing with the wife, telling her it’s her fault that Martin is in such poor health. Yes, they’re all stressed and overwhelmed, and Shaun gets a good telling off from Andrews about it. A good lesson for sure, but not one that gives us warm, fuzzy Shaun-gets-to-grow feelings. Things come to a head when Martin develops a blood clot in his leg, and in order to save his life, they need to amputate his foot and ankle.

Martin is one of the COVID patients who gets a (relatively) happy ending. He eventually recovers and is released from the hospital with his wife finally by his side.

Nurse Petringa, however, is not so lucky. Morgan and the other doctors keep fighting for her, but her status steadily declines, to the point where intubation is inevitable. There’s a beautiful scene where Dr. Lim gets to tell her how much she appreciates that Petringa stood up for her as a young doctor in a difficult situation. The team eventually has to take her off life support to helplessly watch her pass away — another tragic victim of a global crisis that took away too many lives.

Ambar, the pregnant woman, finds her own way back, but it’s a long fight that she has, in part, Alex Park to thank for. They have to take rather drastic measures of significantly lowering her body temperature to take the strain off her heart, and in the end she makes it, and gets to hold her baby in her arms whom she names Aria. One more good outcome, at last.

Shaun & Lea

Shaun and Lea continue to struggle with the burden of social distancing and the growing feeling of loneliness and separation. Shaun wakes up in bed alone, with Lea at the other end of a computer screen. He tells her, “I wish you were here.” We’ve all been there, Shaun. It sucks.

The next big worry comes rolling in when Lea develops a sore throat and Shaun immediately worries it’s COVID. They tried so hard to segregate, and yet she still might have caught the virus. And what then? It also hits close to home for all of us viewers. I daresay most of us have had moments of, “Oh my God, what do I do if it happens to me or a love one?” or, “Is that scratchy throat my allergy acting up, or am I showing early signs?” It’s scary, for sure.

It’s a little adorable when Shaun goes to Dr. Glassman’s house to throw stones. Well, no, not like that! Just to get attention, okay? In true Shaun fashion, he vents — unbridled no-filter Shaun-needs-help-with-his-feelings. I love it every time. “I think I may be cranky. I’ve never been cranky before. I don’t like it.” Oh Shaun, I’m sure you have. You just didn’t realise it at the time, maybe? Also, who loves being cranky?

I like the contrasting notion of Shaun missing Lea, and Glassman very much not missing Debbie. Aaron wouldn’t be Aaron if he didn’t have some sage advice at the ready, though. “Best I can say is: Be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to everyone. Because what else is there?” While that’s awesome advice (and I wish we saw more of that on social media sometimes), he should take it himself, shouldn’t he?

Let’s briefly skip back to the mask monkey Shaun got from Lea, shall we? We see him wear it whenever he has a mask on now, and I’m sure he treasures it as a token of their love and connection. The show is all about the little indicators of symbolism, isn’t it? The baseball was one of them. Lea’s mask monkey is another. Let’s keep a lookout if it will ever make a cameo reappearance somewhere (or did it, and I missed it?).

As the pandemic slowly nears its end, Lea comes to the apartment, and this time Shaun opens the door. “I have everything I need to stay overnight, including this: negative for COVID. I know negative tests are unreliable, but it’s my third in three days….”

I hope you all saw this, but it’s absolutely beautiful how Shaun never says a single word in that whole scene. He just opens his arms and envelops her worldlessly in an embrace. They’re both so happy to be able to hold each other again. His silent invite with a single glance for them to watch his beloved Weather Channel together is everything.

Glassman & Debbie

Aaron’s weirdly disagreeable streak continues throughout this episode. We see him engaging in some fantasy MMORPG video game (wait, what?), which very much isn’t Uncharted–like his line about the Tusk of Ganesh may wish to imply. (Callback to Lea borrowing batteries when her PS3 controller died while she was playing Uncharted in season 1?)

Aaron now takes advice from 15-year-old gamer nerds (no offense whatsoever, I’m one myself, though considerably older than 15). “Welcome to COVID, everything sucks.”

The advice he gets is to apologize to his wife, even if he thinks he did nothing wrong. Which he promptly does, and it backfires hard. However, he and Debbie finally have an honest talk about his struggles with the situation, and him feeling like a coward. She accepts his apology and they make up, but that whole thing still felt so inorganic and awkward af.

Also, I wanna say Debbie is kind of an arse. “Thank you to let me know that you actually need me.” So what she really wants from Aaron is to be needed? That seems like a weird basis for a relationship. Not a fan. (But, hey, fast forward to episode 4×18 — are we really surprised?)

The Others

Picking up the thread from the previous epsiode, Claire finds a worthy mission of her own. While looking for something among the patient belongings, she comes across a set of military dog tags that carry the name Donald Sulkin. The apparition of Melendez is there all the way through it, trying to discourage her from going on a wild goose chase that seems bereft of purpose. “You’re fixating on dead people, that’s not a life,” he tells her. “You want a happy ending for this guy because you and I didn’t have one. Because we’ll never know how our story would have ended.”

Claire gets frusrated with this version of Neil she’s seeing, because he’s not telling her what she wants to hear. “I need to not feel sad. Because everything sucks. Everything hurts like hell!” She’s angry that he left. But unlike with her mother, this time she’s facing it, grieving, healing.

Claire’s dog tag journey does find that happy ending. After much digging and searching and phone calling, she locates Donald Sulkin, and can return the tags to their rightful owner. Maybe the mission wasn’t so futile after all, she just managed to close a chapter in someone else’s life, now it’s time to do the same for herself. In the car in front of Sulkin’s houe, she says her final goodbye to Neil.

This episode plants the seeds for Audrey’s season 4 journey — she’s not coping well with all the losses that COVID dealt them. It’s going to haunt her for a while. Meanwhile, at the end of the episode, Claire and Audrey decide it’s time to stop the get-togethers to talk about Neil. Claire tells her, “He changed me. And that’s not gonna go away.” (Interesting nod here, Audrey is wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. I love it.)

We also pick back up with Alex and his family. It’s a pretty huge realisation that Alex comes to, with the help of Shaun, that he doesn’t actually really love Mia. He’s only gotten back together with her because of their mutal love for their son, and the connection that he’s making between the two of them. Another seed planted for what we see play out in the following episodes.

An old issue gets rekindled when Alex tells Kellan he won’t be able to attend his graduation because he’s now devoting all his time to Ambar and her newborn daughter who needs care and love. Kellan is upset, one more indication that his father loves his job more than his own son.

The two of them have a beautiful conversation about it, though. And Kellan finally does understand that what his dad does is important, and that sometimes priorities may shift, but that loving your job and loving your son don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Kellan apologizes to Alex, and they talk about commitment and that Kellan is Alex’s best friend, that he loves him, and that he’s the most important thing in his life.

When Alex has a video call with Mia, he probes into her motivations for being together. Interestingly, she confirms what Shaun so poignantly put out there for Alex previously. Mia and Alex love Kellan but not each other. And that’s a pretty huge milestone, if perhaps not the happiest it could be. But sometimes you just have to clear obstacles out of the way to create new paths you can follow.

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