Okay, so. Yes. I rewrote some of this recap. My first version of it was what Kelli called “TeeJay’s hilarious shred of Crazytown”. And I guess it was exactly that. I have left it up on the blog, in case you wanna delve into how much I hated the episode on the first viewing.
I have since had many discussions with fans via various channels, and my stance as softened somewhat because I see the merit of the overall direction and character arcs. I still don’t particularly like the episode, and I still feel it had many shortcomings and weaknesses, but I love this show too much not to at least try and pay homage to the episode’s positive aspects, so here’s a less acerbic and snarky version sans meme overload.
Please be proud of me, because it meant I had to watch the episode again.
Written by Sam Chanse & Jessica Grasl
Directed by Rebecca Moline
Original airdate Nov 01, 2021
Patient #1 is Rosa Castillo. She was sent by Dr. Rendón (currently on an urgent medical relief mission in Guatemala) to St. Bonaventure Hospital because she needs immediate bypass surgery for acute kidney failure. She was treated for renal artery stenosis three years ago and her stent is failing. Lim and Wolke see her, for Lim to perform the surgery.
Rosa discloses that she used to date Mateo back in Guatemala and she’s still on friendly terms with him. They were together for six months, but he’s always been flighty, spontaneous and not particularly reliable.
They operate on Rosa to fix her renal artery, but they find out during the surgery that she has a condition called fibromuscular dysplasia that caused several aneurysms to develop in her heart, brain and other major vessels. Each of the aneurysms would have to be repaired separately, which is risky. However, if she doesn’t have additional surgery, the aneurysms could rupture at any time.
Lim and Wolke are surprised to find the next day that Andrews transferred Rosa to County Hospital that morning, seeing how she was stable and didn’t have medical insurance. Lim decides to still treat Rosa and do the operation at County instead since she has surgical privileges there.
While Lim treats Rosa and talks to her, she learns a lot about the kind of person Mateo is, and she goes home with a lot of food for thought what that means regarding her own intentions towards being in a relationship with Mateo.
The surgery to fix Rosa’s aneurysms goes well, Lim manages to repair each of the aneurysms (I’m surprised they could do this all in one surgery in one day, but…. shrug). Rosa should be able to fly home in a week or less.
Side Note: It’s fairly obvious that Rosa’s story was more or less a means to the end of writing Osvaldo Benavides out of the series, seeing how the actor had decided to leave. We don’t know how spontaneous this decision was and how much they had to rework this particular episode script on short notice. Overall, the Rosa story was still pretty well done, and made for a decent Mateo send-off in the absence of Mateo himself.
Patient #2 is Leonard Song, a man of Asian descent brought to the ER with a fractured jaw and contusions to the right side of his face. Leonard keeps insisting it was an accident, but his daughter Emily says it was a hate crime, that he was pushed by some kids who attacked him, accusing him he was spreading COVID.
While they examine him, Leonard has to be intubated as his airway is blocked. He is then transferred to the OR to surgically repair the jaw. Leonard has a drastic drop in blood pressure and heart rate during surgery, which they manage to stabilise. They’re not sure what caused it, it may have been an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic.
After Leonard wakes up from the surgery, Emily keeps insisting that he has to report the hate crime, but Leonard doesn’t want to. He doesn’t see any merit to doing so, and thinks that it will only make things worse. He’s afraid of retaliation, especially since it could affect his daughter, too.
Leonard’s heartrate drops again as they are talking to him, and they realise it’s not a heart problem but a brain tumour. And it’s inoperable because they can’t determine where tumour ends and healthy brain tissue begins. However, Shaun gets inspired by a buzzing neon light during his and Park’s tux fitting appointment, and Shaun suggests using a fluorescence marker guided surgery that would highly increase the chances of being able to remove the tumour.
They suggest the option to Leonard, but he refuses. He doesn’t want to run the risk of ending up needing help for the rest of his life and rather make the most of the year he still has if they treat the cancer more conservatively. They continue trying to find alternative ways to treat the cancer and they also encourage Leonard to talk to his daughter about the situation. He wants to protect her and wants to be strong for her. He finally does talk to Emily, but she decides to support her father not to have the surgery, which bothers Shaun quite a bit because he thinks that decision is wrong.
Leonard’s condition worsens and they have to put him in a medically induced coma, which leaves Emily with the hard choice whether to go against her father’s wishes to have the surgery after all. With Shaun’s (inadequately blunt) insistence on the surgery being the right thing to do, Emily comes around and asks them to operate on her father.
The surgery goes according to plan, and Leonard wakes up, albeit left with diminished motor strength in his left arm and leg. Despite the surgery having been done against his wishes, he’s proud of his daughter for making a difficult decision that took a lot of strength.
Side Note: I felt that the hate crime aspect of Leonard’s storyline was sadly underused and fell flat. They seemed to have crammed a little too much into this whole patient story and how it affected Shaun, Jordan and Park. Sometimes less is more, you know.
Shaun & Lea
Shaun’s big struggle this time around is the new client review system that Salen is instituting. Patients are now encouraged to rate their experience at the hospital via a 5-star review interface and doctors’ performances will be monitored and measured.
“Think of these not as a report card, but a window into the minds of your clients, their families and support persons. And also as a window into yourselves. To see your greatest strengths, and the areas where you have the greatest opportunity for growth.”
Shaun isn’t really paying attention, though, because he’s worry-texting Glassman about the tux fitting appointment he hasn’t confirmed yet.
Shaun reviews his first set of scores, and he’s even more worried. He voices his concerns to Lea, because he has the lowest ranking in the entire surgical department.
That’s not surprising, or is it? I mean, we all know Shaun is socially and conversationally awkward at the best of times. Lea can also immediately see how anxious Shaun is over not being well ranked. “I made five people very uncomfortable, seven patients said I talked weird, and one woman was a little creeped out by my manner.” Lea frowns, and her Protect-Shaun-Mode is immediately switched on.
Lea’s suggested solution to this is to change the algorithm of the review system and remove the blind spots. Stubborn I-Strive-To-Be-A-Better-Doctor Shaun doesn’t want that, though. “I will learn how to make people feel comfortable and improve my scores.” Both Lea and I forebodingly know that this is usually a recipe for disaster.
The rating scores quickly become a true fixation for Shaun, and he starts pestering anyone about it who will listen. It becomes a topic during surgery, and he makes sure that he asks anyone he can find for advice how to improve his scores.
One of the people he consults is their wedding florist, who is discussing flower choices for the wedding with him, Jordan and Lea. Lea is fond of the yellow gerberas that look “wild” and according to Jordan go well with Lea’s complexion (which I would politely disagree with), but Shaun is concerned about gerberas’ high pollen count which can trigger migraines.
The florist congratulates Lea and Shaun on being such a fabulous couple, and Shaun inquires if she’s using hyperbolic language on purpose to pay a compliment. She gives him some hints about appeasing and affirming and Shaun immediately writes it down in his notebook. Awkward looks ensue. We can already guess that Shaun will try to apply this advice in all the wrong ways.
He gets his chance to do just that when they next talk to his patient and the daughter, and his clumsy attempts are honestly pretty painful to watch because, expectedly, he kinda fucks it up when he doesn’t truly listen but just doles out awkward compliments at the wrong time that totally miss the mark. This was meant to make the viewer uncomfortable, and it definitely did. Shaun’s struggle here is definitely tangible.
Shaun and Park leave the hospital to go to their tux fitting appointment. The fact that Alex is with him tells us Shaun has chosen Alex as his Best Man. I approve. Awesome choice, and I know lots of fans were hoping for this. Sweet!
Since they still need to figure out their patient’s brain problem, Shaun uses the opportunity to combine the tux fitting with medical problem solving. And of course also more advice seeking. The men’s clothier’s approach to get good customer ratings is to be brutally honest but then follow up with an honest compliment. Shaun is taking more mental notes, for sure.
Not all that surprisingly, Glassman is a no-show for the tux fitting. What is somewhat surprising is that he’s actually answering his phone when Shaun calls him. He’s at a petrol station in Montana, filling up the Roadster. “I’m heading towards a little town called Paradise, and I’m thinking about hunkering down there for a little while.”
Shaun asks him if he’ll be done hunkering by Wednesday, and Glassman says, sure, he’ll see what he can do. (Uhm, Shaun, that’s a no.) When Shaun pencils Glassman in for a replacement appointment for Wednesday, the buzzing overhead neon light inspires him to come up with a solution to their patient’s surgical approach. At least the tux fitting was good for something… (And I shall add that Shaun/Freddie looked very snazzy in the tux, and I really really hope they’re not gonna do some awkward slicked back hair thing on him for the actual wedding.)
As soon as I heard that buzzing sound of the neon light, my initial thought was “Quarantine callback”. Because do you remember, back in season 2, a buzzing neon light was what eventually sent Shaun into sensory overload and a pretty hefty meltdown. Perhaps it speaks to Shaun’s personal growth, or perhaps it was just the generally less stressful environment, because here the buzzing neon light doesn’t actually bother Shaun very much.
Back at the hospital the next day, Shaun gets to apply the advice that the clothier gave him when the patient’s daughter seeks them out in the surgeons’ break room to inquire about her father’s condition. Of course Shaun fucks it up again. Royally. Even Jordan and Alex vicariously cringe. Shaun is going at this rating score improvement thing way too hard. I wish someone had the guts to tell him that.
In order to find out how Shaun can improve his likeability, he keeps probing however he can. He inquires with Alex how he managed to bond with Emily when Shaun couldn’t, seeing how they’re all outsiders. But it turns out that Alex’s bonding didn’t result in the desired outcome. Mr. Song still doesn’t want the surgery, and his daughter is going to support that decision. And Shaun thinks that’s wrong.
We’ve had the right vs. wrong debates a lot in the past few episodes. Yes, from the standpoint of a physician whose ultimate goal is to help their patients’ medical condition improve, I can see why Shaun would insist on it. But when the daughter says she respects her father’s decision not to have the surgery, Shaun immediately judges her, making it sound like this decision is contemptible.
As I mentioned before, I think this patient story and its impact on Shaun could have been stronger if they’d focused more on Shaun learning how to sympathise with the patients rather than blunt-force trauma his client review obsession into it with unrelenting resolve.
Shaun makes another attempt at seeking Lea’s advice, and she tries valiantly to break him out of his fixation cycle. He is still struggling with how to make people like him. Lea seems to have a perpetual frown etched into her forehead these days when she talks to Shaun. She tries to compliment him on how good he looks in the tux, but Shaun’s mind is elsewhere. (Yes, the review scores, of course.)
When Lea inquires where Glassman is, Shaun tells her he’s “hunkering down in Paradise.” That earns Shaun a questioningly confused look from Lea, but Shaun isn’t even noticing. More ranting from Shaun about likeability, and that his seems non-existent.
Lea wonders if this incessant fixation has to do with Shaun’s childhood. “Shaun, I know you grew up not feeling accepted, you didn’t have many friends…” He interrupts her. “N-no. I did not have any friends.” Wrong, though. You had Steve. “Maybe the scores are bringing up some of those old, painful feelings?” Shaun considers that for a split second, but the connection is not there. “The scores are providing useful data… to help me track my progress.” Then he redirects. “Many people like you. Why do you think that is?”
Lea doesn’t know how to break him out of the cycle. “Shaun… Obsessing over whether or not people like you is a guaranteed trip to Crazytown.” It’s so sad to see Shaun this stranded. “That is easy to say when you are likeable.”
And then we get to the real heart of the matter. Lea blames it all on the poorly written algorithm. She thinks it may be easier to just take it to Salen and improve the system so that Shaun’s ratings go up. But Shaun finds the root of the issue and asks her outright, “Do you think that I can’t improve my scores?” Of course he can, Lea assures him. But is that really what she believes? Saved by the bell, because Shaun gets called away by a page.
What I like about this is when Shaun subtly calls Lea on her doubt about his ability to improve his scores. And honestly? Yes, I think she does very much doubt that he can work around his ASD to suddenly become Dr. Amiable. Or even to elevate his scores enough to be up to par with the lower ranking colleagues in the department.
In her State of the Shea blog post about this episode, Kelli mentioned that, back in episode 3×19, we had the scene with Shaun and Imaginary-Steve, where Imaginary-Steve tells Shaun, “[Lea] thinks you’re limited. You are.” And it’s incredibly apt and relevant. This whole thing also hearkens back to what was already covered in season 3 with Lea’s initial rejection of Shaun – the realisation of the harsh truth for Shaun that there will just be things he will never truly excel at because of his ASD, no matter how hard he tries.
I want to briefly remind you of what Salen said in the very beginning of the episode: “Think of these not as a report card, but a window into the minds of your clients, their families and support persons. And also as a window into yourselves. To see your greatest strengths, and the areas where you have the greatest opportunity for growth.”
Jorg mentioned this to me, and it’s a real eye-opener if you think about it. They are setting Salen up both as a disturbing force in Shaun’s life, but also as a quasi-mentor. She is dissecting his life right now and painfully pulling at all the pieces that hurt. At the same time, she’s guiding him along, throwing breadcrumbs in just the right places for him to find his way. And it’s for Shaun to figure out what to do with those breadcrumbs.
In hindsight, and I only realised this on the fourth or so viewing of this scene, that line of dialogue carries an incredible weight in the context of Shaun’s cringe-worthy stumble through the whole review scores fixation. Because this time, Shaun doesn’t really get it. He’s not picking up the breadcrumbs, or maybe the wrong ones that taste stale and speak of growing mould.
What Salen is actually telling us with that line I bolded is that it’s not the review scores that matter, it’s what you do with them, and the journey you choose to embark on from there. So really, what Shaun should be doing, is not fixate on sledgehammer-forcing the numbers on his scorecard to rise, it’s finding the spaces in between that he can positively influence and thus truly grow.
Salen’s appeal to the colleagues here is to look at the feedback and apply it to themselves, reflect on it, and read it in the context of where every individual has weaknesses to then work on them. Shaun already knows many of the weaknesses that his ASD brings with it. And he may just be embarking on a futile mission here to overcome the wrong ones, those that he will likely never be able to do much about, no matter how hard he tries. Instead, he should be trying to really look at the client feedback and try to work out where those weaknesses are that he can successfully work on, and also play to this strengths.
Shaun is at his best when he gives people enough room to figure him out and learn to appreciate what he can do rather than what he’s not so good at. He needs room to truly listen to people and reflect on their viewpoints and motivations and then parse them into his own way of thinking. Now, with all the Ethicure upheaval and performance pressure, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find that space and freedom that he needs in order to get there.
I also want to talk about this line from Shaun in this particular scene: “My clients are finally in agreement with each other, but against me.”
Since when is medical treatment a competition? Yes, we know Shaun tends to have a certain black and white view on things, and we know he doesn’t necessarily understand why someone would refuse a life-saving surgery because of personal principles.
I feel that the episode could have been a lot stronger if they’d made it more about Shaun coming to an understanding that personal choice doesn’t always fit into his black and white world view, and that other people can have other principles that are not necessarily “wrong” in the context of their own situation in life.
It also seems odd that Shaun wouldn’t have realised this by now; we’ve had several instances in the past where he’s come to that understanding and embraced that learning (Rio being transgender in episode 4×09 being just one example of many). It’s almost like they’re erasing or ignoring part of Shaun’s previous character growth.
I also wanna come back for a moment to the childhood talk. I really wish Lea and Shaun could have had this conversation at home, in a more relaxed environment with more time to delve deeper. There are a lot of deeply rooted issues for Shaun that have less to do with his ASD and very much with his terrible family situation. The fear of abandonment, his initial rejection of Dr. Glassman having a father role in his life… I would really love to see a conversation with Lea and Shaun about these things.
But back to Shaun’s current predicament. You’d hope that Lea’s attempt to indicate to him that the review scores aren’t the be-all and end-all in this world bore some fruit, but when Shaun becomes preoccupied with something, he doesn’t tend to let go until it’s resolved.
He and Park make another attempt at talking to Emily about her father’s treatment. It’s again hard to stomach when Shaun fails to build a true connection and instead clumsily repeats Lea’s statement about guaranteed trips to Crazytown to Emily. She is appalled by Shaun’s inappropriateness, and there’s a heavy pause fraught with awkwardness where you’d think perhaps there was room for a redeeming moment. But no. Shaun deals the death blow to the whole conversation by telling Emily that her watch is a really nice shade of orange.
On my first viewing of this episode, I wanted to flip tables by this point, because I felt like they were doing such an injustice to Shaun’s character growth over the last four plus years. I still have my issues and misgivings about the writing in this episode, particularly certain pieces of dialogue that feel very out of character for Shaun. However, after discussing back and forth with different fans (a million thanks, guys, you’re the best), I may have acclimatised to the idea somewhat that a) Shaun’s fixation and cringe-inducing knee-jerk reactions aren’t all that out of place, and b) there is good reason why the writers wanted us to have a lingering feeling of unease throughout the whole episode.
Trying to come to terms with his continuing failure to get on his clients’ good side, Shaun tries to call Dr. Glassman again. Glassman still hasn’t accepted the rescheduled appointment for the tux fitting. (No surprise there, someone should tell Shaun he needs to stop hoping Glassman will show up.) He’s rattling off his frustration to Glassman’s voicemail about his lack of progress to improve his performance, when Emily interrupts and actually tells Shaun he has managed to change her mind about the surgery.
And wow, where did that come from? That seemed a little out of the blue. Hm. Well, I’m kinda beyond trying to understand motivations in this episode, so I’m just gonna shrug and accept it for what it is — a win for Shaun. Doesn’t feel very deserved, though. Or maybe that’s just me.
Lea gets pulled into the whole mess as well when she’s in her office and gets a notification about another review for Shaun coming in. It’s from Emily. She’s given Shaun several ‘very poor’ and ‘poor’ ratings and only one ‘average’ out of those we can see on the screen. Shaun’s overall average score is 6 out of 10.
When you read Emily’s verbatim review text, quite honestly, you can’t even blame her. She paints an accurate picture of what happened. Nothing she says is unreasonable. Words like jarring, disturbing, unsettling, disrespectful, insensitive, insulted, awkward, weird, irrational. They all align with how Shaun acted, and how your regular neurotypical person would perceive him in that situation.
Lea reads it, and she’s concerned. She knows Shaun will hate it. She knows it will make him sad and feel like, despite his best efforts, he’s failed. She calls Glassman, because maybe there some last-ditch attempt he could make from a thousand miles away to reassure Shaun. Of course she only gets his voicemail.
And then she hits a key and the system prompts her whether she wants to omit the selected records from the database. She wavers for few long seconds over the decision, then clicks ‘Yes’. Oh shit. We all know it won’t end there and it’ll come back to bite her in the arse.
The real kicker comes when Shaun waits for her at home and presents her with surprise ranunculus in Delano Yellow (i.e. a bouquet of yellow-orange flowers). They’re vibrant and lovely and “wild”, and have very low pollen count. Lea loves them.
Shaun wants to celebrate his success of his doctor review score going up by 2.3 points. He’s elated. He’s done something right. “My efforts to improve my performance have been effective after all,” he beams proudly at Lea. “And no one said I was weird.”
Oh boy. Good thing Shaun’s not great at reading facial expressions, because that frown on Lea’s face says it all. She did him a dirty, it was patronising as hell, and it has done absolutely nothing to help Shaun. And then the screen fades to black and leaves every viewer on the planet with a super huge knot in their stomach at how big a disaster the fallout will be. Because we all know it will be coming.
I don’t normally mingle these recaps with fan fiction very much, because fan fiction can be a weird and sometimes awkward medium which often doesn’t mesh with canon-compliance, but… (Yes, of course there was a but coming.) Some of you may know I’ve been trying my best at writing canon-compliant gap fillers for the season 5 episodes. I finished writing the ones for 5×04 before 5×05 aired, and I just need to mention how freaking ironic it is that I foreshadowed something in fanfic that I didn’t even know was coming.
Maybe that means they subtly set it up in earlier episodes already and I got a subliminal inkling before it was explicitly outlined on screen. Maybe it was just coincidence. Or maybe it means I am way too deeply engrossed in the hearts and minds of these characters. Either way, I find it uncanny that I wrote this thing here between Shaun and Lea where they talk about Glassman:
“[…] He also said that he spoke to Dr. Andrews about me getting kicked off the case, and that there wasn’t going to be a note in my file about it. I’m not sure if I should consider that patronizing, either.”
“Yeah, I can see how it could be. But I think he’s just trying to help you.”
“Is it helping me if other people try to solve my problems for me because they think I’m not capable to do it myself?”
Oh wow, now Shaun was really digging deep. But he also had a point. And Lea wondered if she was included in that statement. She probably was. And maybe she’d have to pay more attention to that in the future.
“You know, Shaun, it probably is, but remember how we talked about grey zones? Sometimes it’s really hard to figure out where to draw the line between being supportive and patronizing. But it’s brought up a good point. I think it’s really important that we talk about these things. If you feel I’m being patronizing or condescending with you, I wanna know about that.”
Like, hello?! Little did I know how incredibly relevant the whole discussion about patronising behaviour would become. And now I hate myself for writing that. Because that surely wasn’t what I wanted.
Check out the Speculation Corner section further down for more on this.
That said, I wanna add something that I only realised quite a while after I had first seen the episode, when I was trying to sort out what all was wrong with this episode. We’ve had episodes before where Shaun fixated on something, read all the signals incorrectly, and then overcompensated, and did all the wrong things to try and solve it.
What is interesting is that, in the past, Shaun usually managed to redeem himself in some way. He’d come to a realisation that his approach was wrong, that he took a wrong turn somewhere, or that he should have done things differently. And then he’d voice that and say or do something sweet or lovable that saves the day.
There was no redemption remotely on the horizon in this episode, and one can’t help but wonder what rock bottom in this whole scenario will look like. I guess we’ll see where it’ll lead us over the next few episodes, and where and when exactly we’ll see a turning point spark light up.
Another interesting thought from Daniela to mention: Again, we see a father as a patient for the case that Shaun is involved in, and a good one at that, who loves his daughter and wants to protect her at all cost. Not just that, we see a daughter who is told that, this time, she is the one who is supposed to support her dad, rather than the parent protecting the child. Somehow, every single episode this season has been themed around parenting and parent/child relationships. Epic level foreshadowing for what is to come with either Glassman and Shaun and/or Shaun and Marcie?
Not too much to mention here that I’ve not already said. Glassman is still Roadstering somewhere out in the northwest. It looks like his trip took him from California through Nevada and Idaho into Montana. He’s thinking about hunkering down in a small town called Paradise. (Yes, I’m sure that name was not coincidental.)
“Small” town is an overstatement. It’s tiny. At the 2000 census, they counted 184 inhabitants. They have, like, 12 streets, probably zero traffic lights, two churches, a cemetery, a local bar and train tracks running right next to it. It’s the epitome of the American boondocks.
Not sure where he’ll sleep, it doesn’t look like there’s any motel or hotel there. Good luck with your hunkering, Glassy. Unless maybe he knows someone local he can stay with. Or he goes Airbnb and rents the one small cabin that seems to be rentable just outside of it. I’m probably asking too many questions. They merely picked this town so that they could add the pun to Shaun’s line of, “Dr. Glassman is hunkering down in Paradise.”
I’m glad he’s at least answering his phone, though. Sometimes. But only when it’s Shaun, and only when it’s convenient. The choice of the words “hunkering down” is also interesting. Who is he hiding from, then? Or maybe we need to ask what is he hiding from?
But what’s pretty clear is that he won’t be turning up for any tux fittings soon. And it seems he doesn’t have the guts to tell Shaun that. With the way things are going, it’s looking more and more like Shaun will have to come to Glassy, rather than the other way round. I’m curious how this will play out.
The Second Year Residents
Asher has an interesting role in this episode, with him being assigned to Rosa’s case together with Dr. Lim. He gets to see the Mateo drama first hand, and then draws his own conclusions.
Though is it just me, or is this a little out of place to see second year Asher offering well-meant romance advice to the Chief of Surgery? Seems somewhat awkward, but I guess “awkward” is the theme this episode is going with… I mean, yes, the atmosphere in the surgical team has always been jovial and open, but this seemed all a bit… too frivolous. Not gonna lie, though. I love that Asher is candid and sassy.
In an attempt to ease Lim’s situation, he even offers to do Rosa’s surgery with her at County after Andrews transfers her there, but since Asher doesn’t have privileges there, that’s out of the question. Lim appreciates the offer, though.
It’s also Asher who says it out loud. “You don’t know when Dr. Rendón is coming back, do you?” The pep talk he gives Lim is kinda cute, but seemed so out of the blue. I get that they needed someone to guide Lim through the whole Mateo disaster. But was Asher the right choice? I guess in the absence of Claire, it was hard to find someone else who fit the bill.
As for Jordan, I’m happy to see her helping Lea out with the wedding planning and decisions. I think she will be an awesome confidant to Lea. I’m glad they’re going this route. And I’m glad she chose not to be upset over Shaun’s rude interlude there during the flower discussion. “Text me,” she told Lea, and I’m sure that Lea did.
Alex & Morgan
Not only Shaun gets a little obsessive over the client ratings, Morgan jumps on that same train, too. She is trying to aim high and isn’t above faking it to get good reviews. She’s concerned, however, that Alex is getting no more than average reviews. Doesn’t he want to perform well? It’s driving Morgan crazy, so she asks him, “You’re not average, but you shy away from the spotlight. You’re a hot Korean martial artist surgeon, and your face isn’t on a poster. Why do you think that is? I just want you to reach your full potential. Don’t you want that for yourself?” Well, Morgan, the answer is actually no.
We learn a little bit more about Park’s past. He talks about how his father told him he was weak for quitting his job as a police officer and changing his career path to medicine. His father didn’t talk to him for a year afterwards, and it cost Alex a lot to get to where he is now.
He loves his work, his colleagues, his girlfriend, and he’s happy where he is. He doesn’t need the top ranking scores or the prestigious surgery or the chief of whatever department to recognise his name or his face. He just wants to be happy, and no one has the right to tell him that’s not enough.
He knows, however, that it’s different for Morgan. Achievement is everything, striving for more is the name of the game.
He needs to know that good is gonna be good enough for her where Alex is concerned. “I’m ambitious, that doesn’t mean I’m broken,” she tells him. But Alex thinks she’s unhappy. Is the next rung of the ladder ever going to be enough for her? I don’t think Morgan knows the answer to that, either.
There’s a clear direction in this episode of making everyone end up bad places, and no one being truly happy. It leaves the question hanging in the air: Is this the beginning of the end of their romantic relationship? I guess we’ll find out.
In terms of Lim, or rather Matlim, this one was a difficult episode to stomach. Mateo’s absence came pretty out of the blue for me, since I try to avoid spoilers. I had seen some rumours floating around about some actor making a rapid exit from the show, and had I yelled at everyone not to tell me who, but it quickly became apparent in this episode that Osvaldo was whom they had been talking about.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the story surrounding Dr. Mateo Rendón where the end to his short stint at St. Bonaventure is concerned.
We learn early on in the episode that Mateo was called away on an urgent medical relief mission to Guatemala. Salen isn’t happy about it and berates Lim for not telling her in advance. He didn’t leave without a “present”, though. He sent patient Rosa up from Guatemala to get surgery they can’t perform down there. She becomes Lim’s patient, and Rosa confides in Lim and Wolke that she used to date Mateo.
Over the course of her treatment, Rosa is not afraid to share her romantic experience with Lim. Mateo moves fast when he knows what he wants, he moved in quickly with Rosa, too. He’s also always been impulsive, leaving on medical missions short notice when it suited him. He’s now ghosting Audrey, while at the same time he keeps in touch with Rosa, and there is definitely trouble in paradise here.
Learning more and more from Rosa about the kind of person Mateo is, Audrey eventually realises that he never had much intention to put down roots in San Jose. She also realises she doesn’t want to be like Rosa — left sitting at home with a bottle of wine he left behind, waiting until he might or might not come back.
Audrey deals Mateo the death blow by leaving him a voicemail that she will see him on Thursday if he wants to come back for the work, but if he plans to come back for her, he shouldn’t bother.
Now, purely from an episode storytelling point of view, they left it open whether Mateo would return or not. But we know from online articles and his not being credited in the opening titles anymore that Osvaldo Benavides has left the cast, and so it’s pretty much confirmed that Mateo will not come back to San Jose, and Lim is a free woman yet again.
While this is a bit of a blow (I actually loved Mateo and the idea of Matlim), it is what it is, and I’m open to seeing new possibilities for Lim in the future.
(For further reading, there’s a Newsweek article that talks about Benavides’ departure, but there is very little information about his motivations and reasons for the decision. Personally I am going to refrain from engaging in speculation as to why and how Osvaldo Benavides left. Nothing has been officially communicated and I don’t see adding to rumours as being helpful or appropriate.)
Where Andrews is concerned, Jorg aptly said to me, “Andrews is doing 50 shades of WTF.” He is, isn’t he? I’m sure there’s been more than a few eyebrow raises among viewers over him unsolicited transferring non-billable Rosa away from St. Bonaventure and thus majorly pissing off Lim. He’s becoming opportunist jerk par excellence, isn’t he? I don’t like it.
And then the dinner date with Salen? Theme “awkward” continues. So… does Andrews have an end game with Salen? Is he smelling the first whiffs of Glassman’s position becoming vacant again? Or some other kind of promotion opportunity? Is he gunning for getting the Chief of Surgery chair back? Do not want.
The Client Rating Thing
This one didn’t really come as much of a surprise, seeing how they introduced the smiley machines all over the hospital early on in season 5. And it’s not like healthcare professional provider review systems haven’t been in place before elsewhere. I think a lot of us are aware of the problems inherent in such systems. Reviews can be extremely subjective, and they can also be faked and meddled with. Judging a physician solely on user reviews is not a good performance evaluation method.
Take Mateo, for instance. They say in this episode that he’s the top ranked surgeon in the department. Is that because he’s the best surgeon they have? I daresay no. He’s good looking, he’s charming, and he always wants the best for his patients. Sometimes overly so.
Jorg reminded me of the medical case from 5×02, where he offered the experimental T-cell therapy to the patient as somewhat of a “magical solution”. Of course the patient would be happy with that, and it depicts Mateo as the out-of-the-box thinking hero who saved her life. But at the end of the day, Mateo broke protocol, suggested a dangerous, unproven treatment without running it through the proper channels and by his superiors, and not to mention never gave Shaun credit for suggesting the idea in the first place.
He’s a charmer and a renegade and him just up and leaving with his relationship with Audrey in the balance also shows us he’s inherently selfish. But patients love him. Shaun is probably, from a purely diagnostic and medical-technical aspect, the best surgeon that they have at St. Bonaventure. Yet, he’s lowest ranked among patients. See where the system is screwy?
A good performance review system ranks not only the soft skills, but takes all the required skills into account, and then adjusts the system to factor in adequate prioritisation of the required skills and their scores. And while I agree bedside manner and communication should factor into how well a surgeon performs at their job, I wouldn’t necessarily see these as the chief skill to have to be a good doctor. So why is Salen putting so much focus on the soft skill side of things?
It’s not a bad thing to have checks and balances in place to help your employees aim higher and maximise their potential. But Lea is probably right that Salen’s focus on merely the communication aspect is not fair. I wish they’d challenged that in this episode somehow. Maybe they still will in the future.
Glassman’s Road Trip
So Glassman is up in Montana now. Montana is adjacent to Wyoming. You know, just sayin’. Paradise, MT is still 700-ish miles from Casper, so who knows if that means he’ll eventually end up there. It’s still very much up in the air and I wouldn’t want to say yea or nay until they add more meat to those bones in upcoming episodes.
Let’s talk about the omitted review. Because, seriously? What the hell, Lea? I mean, I get that she wants to protect Shaun, that it hurts her to see Shaun struggle, that she wants him to just have one little win. But does that justify what she did?
Technically, she also falsified hospital data. Granted, it wasn’t medical patient records or clinical trial data or anything like that, but still. Also, patronising af. I mean, sure, it’s not like we don’t get it. She hates seeing Shaun hurt, and she wants to do what she can to make that go away.
It’s also, partly, Glassman’s fault. With Glassy being AWOL and out of reach, Lea is basically Shaun’s only support system right now. And she’s out of her depth and overcompensating, resorting to measures that are more drastic than warranted. It was more or less an act of desperation. A question Daniela has been posing: Would Lea have done what she did if Glassman had answered her call? We’ll never know.
Remember 5×01, the ending, what Shaun said to Lea? “This way, when it goes terribly wrong, it will be both our faults.” Well, now it’s going terribly wrong (not the wedding, more like a trust issue between them), and it’s solely Lea’s fault. Hm.
So where does that leave us? It’s pretty obvious that this will have repercussions in one way or another. And there’s a ton of different avenues this could go down. Let’s explore a some of them.
a) Unprompted Confession
The whole thing keeps weighing on Lea’s mind until she feels guilty enough to tell Shaun about it. He won’t be happy. Perhaps even resent her for it. They would hopefully talk about it and work it out, but there will be friction for an episode or two (or more).
b) Forced Confession
Something happens that forces Lea to seek out Shaun to tell him about it in order to avoid more negative consequences. Rest see above.
c) Shaun Finds Out
Not sure how, but Shaun finds out from an external source. He’ll be pissed and disappointed. Total friction time and lots of unhappy Shea fans.
Side Note: The prompt on Lea’s computer screen said “omit record” and not “delete record”. Which means the record is still there, it’s just not being counted into Shaun’s rating. Which totally indicates that someone will find out about it and Lea gets called out.
d) Salen Finds Out
Being a data cruncher, Salen somehow digs around in the client feedback metrics and investigates a discrepancy that leads her to discover Lea omitted the negative review. She’ll likely reprimand Lea (would hope she doesn’t fire her). For transparency reasons (and maybe to support Shaun’s emotional growth), she tells Shaun as well. Shaun will be pissed, friction time, see above.
e) Nothing Happens
Unlikely, but could be an option. Might be used to create more distance between Lea and Shaun, her dealing with guilt but not enough to actually tell him. I dunno. Personally, I hate this idea.
What does all of that mean for their upcoming wedding? We’d hope that it won’t break Shea apart. Cause that would just be cruel. It would also go against everything that the show has been setting up over the last four and a half seasons, so let’s assume a full force break-up is not in the cards.
Again, several options here how this could affect the wedding.
a) Drama, Drama, Wedding Drama
Shaun somehow finds out about it before the wedding (either from Lea herself or otherwise), and it throws a wrench in the wedding preparations or even the timing of the actual wedding. A more likely scenario than some others.
b) Running Away Drama
Shaun somehow finds out about it before the wedding, and gets upset to the point where he packs a bag and physically seeks out road tripping Glassman because he doesn’t know how to deal with or digest it on his own. I actually quite like this idea, and some behind the scenes photos I wasn’t able to avoid may suggest that this scenario is actually not that unlikely.
c) Super Amped Up Wedding Drama
Lea carries around the guilt until the very last minute and tells Shaun about it just as they’re about to tie the knot. He gets upset and runs off to digest the info. No wedding, at least not on the originally planned date. I dunno. That’s Grey’s Anatomy level drama. Hopefully this won’t happen, because I’d hate it with a passion.
Presuming that Lea’s misstep will come to light, and Glassman learns about it, I really wonder how he will react. Will he sympathise because he understands wanting to protect Shaun? Will he be resentful towards Lea because it was a hella condescending thing to do?
The one scenario I actually like and that may not be completely off-base is that I could see Shaun learning about Lea’s misstep, he gets really flustered and upset and actually takes off to meet with Glassman wherever he’s currently hunkering down. And then Glassman will do what he can to figure it out with Shaun, and help him glue things back together with Lea.
What I like about that scenario is that it brings Glassman’s own predicament back into focus and will be a really apt opportunity to reconnect with Shaun and Lea, prove that he’s not as useless as he currently thinks he is, and will give him positive validation and encourage him to regrow his roots in San Jose.
Of course it could also happen that Glassman ends up resenting Lea’s action towards Shaun, and that would make things really tricky. If he ends up being unsupportive of her, and her marrying Shaun, that’ll be an ongoing matter of contention for Glassman’s relationship with Shaun. I’m not sure how that would affect their dynamic long-term.
I know this is incredibly nit-picky, but there were so many inconsistencies and timing screw-ups in this episode, which became even more apparent when I tried to work out what missing scenes I could write to flesh out some of the gaps this episode left.
You can skip this section if you don’t care much about picking these things apart. 🙂
You are confirmed, goodbye.
Okay, but… what? This is the line that Shaun hangs up on when he talks to Glassman on the phone about the rescheduled tux fitting. And that’s not something I can ever picture Shaun saying in that situation. What the hell, writers?
There were a number of instances where I felt Shaun was written out of character in this episode. A lot of dialogue that I think could have been executed better, in a more organic and fitting way. I felt in a lot of ways that the writers were writing a character that they didn’t really know. (Or maybe it just means I don’t know Shaun as well as I think.)
Some fans have suggested that the writers tried to insert this particular line as a nod to the A&E show Bates Motel, in which Freddie Highmore played the lead role of Norman Bates. Norman and his mother run a motel and in later seasons Norman is frequently seen at the motel’s reception, checking guests in and out.
I…. don’t know. It seems like a real stretch. I can see the similarities, but if this was truly their intention, like so many other things, it fell really flat. I only recently watched Bates Motel (as in within the last three months), so it was still pretty fresh in my mind. I didn’t make the connection. Neither did other fans I’ve talked to who know both shows. C+ for effort, E for execution at best. Or maybe just F for sloppy writing.
What’s also interesting about this scene is that autism consultant Melissa Reiner disclosed that in the original draft of this scene, they had Shaun talking to Glassman on the phone in a more cool and nonchalant manner, and she advised the writers to have Shaun more worked up about the missed appointment and insisting on rescheduling him right there for a new appointment before he hung up.
It’s certainly possible that this is where that odd, “You are confirmed, goodbye,” line came from, but I still stand steadfast that Shaun could have said something else there that would have seemed more fitting, such as, “Please write down Wednesday, 12 pm.” Or, “Please do not forget again.” Or simply, “Okay, I have to go.”
Out of Whack Timing
You can tell by the clothing of the characters, that the episode is supposed to be taking part over two days. There are several things that don’t seem to fit well into this timeline.
- Shaun and Park’s tux fitting is on day 1. Lea only sees the photos and realises Glassman wasn’t there on day 2. Shaun was incredibly hung up on Glassman missing the tux fitting appointment. Do Shaun and Lea not talk to each other at home? It seems odd that Shaun wouldn’t have mentioned this to her before their scene in her office a day later. (Yes, we can explain this away by assuming Shaun worked and slept late, and they didn’t have much/any chance to talk at home.)
- Do Park and Reznick not live together? (I think that was never explicitly said or shown, so maybe they don’t…? I was assuming they do from all the domestic scenes we’ve been given.) If yes, then why do they only talk about the day 1 party in the parking lot on the morning of day 2? Do they also not talk to each other at home or in the car to work?
- More a dialogue than a timing inconsistency, but when Shaun and Park first talk to Mr. Song about the brain tumour, Park mentions that surgery will likely leave him with some paralysis on his right side. When Shaun reports back on the successful surgery at the end of the episode, he says that, as predicted, he will have some weakness on his left side. What is it now, left or right?
- Mr. Song gets admitted to the hospital on day 1. They perform what I assume is a multi-hour surgery that day to fix up his jaw. He is awake from the surgery the same day, fully alert and can talk without much issue. Considering he had a broken jaw that they screwed plates into to realign, that doesn’t seem super realistic.
- That same day, they discover he has a brain tumour, and Park says it’s inoperable, apparently only based on the imaging they have. In season 2, there was quite a bit of hoo-ha over Glassman needing a biopsy to confirm the exact kind of tumour he had in order to find the right treatment approach. It appears that they didn’t do a biopsy on Mr. Song, so how can they really tell what kind of tumour it is and how inoperable exactly it is? A biopsy would very definitely not fit into the two day timeline of this episode.
- Shaun suggests using 5-ALA fluorescent marker surgery that same evening on day 1 to remove the tumour. Mr. Song is offered the choice that very day and says no. The timing here is incredibly iffy. The tux fitting was at 4:30 pm, according to Shaun’s phone reminder. They went back to the hospital afterwards. You’d think they didn’t get back to the hospital much before 6 pm, if not later.
- I would assume they would have to do research on the technique and application to Mr. Song’s specific case and then present the surgical plan to Andrews and/or Lim before the can even suggest the surgery to Song. Yet, during the scene where they offer Song the surgical option, there is daylight outside. If we’re to assume that on the show it is also autumn right now, that doesn’t add up.
- And I know this is incredibly nerdy and nit-picky, but the 5-ALA surgery is not trivial. You need special equipment with light that can be emitted at different wavelengths for the fluorescence surgery technique to work. There is software calibration involved. This opens up the question whether St. Bonaventure has all of that readily available, including the 5-ALA fluorescence marker solution itself. The solution also apparently needs to be administered orally 3 hours before the surgery. So they can’t just say, “Okay, cool, let’s do the surgery right now.” It needs several hours prep time.
- 5-ALA was approved for use by the FDA in 2017, and judging by the number of publications, it seems to be fairly well established in the surgery community by now. Still, it is a relatively new technique, and I don’t think it’s something that every hospital has readily available or expertise with. To make us believe that Shaun could suggest it out of thin air (or rather out of random buzzing neon light), and then have everything readily researched, approved, planned and set up overnight is not particularly realistic.
Quite frankly, I don’t get why they just didn’t add another in-episode day or two to this story, just to make it more palatable and realistic. It’s puzzling and makes the episode feel really off if you care to look closely.
As you could probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of this episode. Don’t get me wrong, fundamentally the episode had great ideas, but I felt like the scriptwriting execution of them was considerably lacking. So much of the character behaviour and dialogue missed the mark. The hate crime/racism topic was important but felt like halfway through, they decided to sweep it under the rug and focus on less poignant story points instead.
They probably did the best they could with the Mateo situation, and I don’t have too many complaints there. However, the Asian patient story felt very unbalanced. There were too many issues they tried squeezing into this one patient story, some of the important points died on the vine, and the balance of dialogue between the father and the daughter was unevenly skewed way too much towards the daughter (and Shaun’s own issues).
Of course I understand that opinions and perception can widely differ from person to person. Of course I understand that, in a 20 episode season, I won’t love every episode the same. Overall, the episode seems to have been relatively well received among fans, and I think everyone is holding their breath to see where the overall character and story arcs are going, and when exactly Shaun will hit rock bottom. It’s just so painful to watch him take the slide, but I do hope it will be somewhat bittersweet to see him climb up again from there and see him be a little more victorious and a little less awkwardly bumbling along.
Here’s to better times ahead — both for us viewers and for Shaun and his friends and colleagues.
State of the Shea
If you wish to read Kelli Lawrence’s take on “Crazytown”, I can only encourage you to check out her State of the Shea blog post about it.
I’ve written missing scenes in fan fiction form to glue together or expand on what we saw in this episode. Feel free to check out my fanfic titled ‘It’s Hard To Dance With A Devil On Your Back’ that I’ve posted on AO3 that’s a collection of gap fillers for all the season 5 episodes aired so far.