Last time I watched The Good Doctor, they had successfully completed open-heart surgery on a young boy (against the odds of course because this is dramatised medicine) and Shaun was learning flirting rituals (and trying to distinguish them from ringworm). The Good Doctor has started it’s third season now so I am very behind.
Drawing straws to decide on the surgery they assist on… Insensitive, yes. Does it happen in real life? Possibly…probably. Anyway, Shaun and Jared assist Chief of Surgery, Marcus Andrews while Claire assists Doctor Matt Coyle. Whether the writers intended it or not (sometimes I question writing decisions in this show so maybe they got lucky, maybe it was intentional), the fall-out from this simple drawing of straws continues to have an impact all the way up to where I have got to so far in Season 2.
Glassman hasn’t given up on his insistence about Shaun needing more help than he can provide. Despite Shaun exhibiting some quite apparent discomfort and dysregulation from even the first time Glassman introduces him to a potential therapist, Glassman pushes throughout the entire episode. This eventually ends in a quite significant meltdown in what would have been the original release schedules Winter Finale.
Dr Hill, Shaun and Jared work on a case with a competitive gamer, Bobby, who is going under for a relatively minor surgery for torn ligaments. This being the show it is, they soon discover the situation is far more serious when Shaun insists they carry out an MRI scan. When it turns out that Bobby has cancer in multiple places, including what appears to be an inoperable one on his brain stem, the team approach Glassman for options. Eventually Glassman comes up with an idea which, if it works, will still leave Bobby with partial paralysis. Since Bobby’s entire outlook is that life is worth fighting for, he tells them to go ahead.
“Doing whatever the hell you feel like doing is always an option”
Claire’s storyline is, in many ways, less about the patient and more about the behaviour of the doctor she is assisting, Coyle. They are operating on a woman who has Compartment Syndrome following an intense work-out session. During her work with Coyle on this case, Claire becomes increasingly uncomfortable about the way Coyle treats her as he steps over boundaries and then turns offensive and nasty when Claire turns him down. Despite her insisting he doesn’t get involved, Jared assaults Coyle (after initially not believing Claire) and gets fired.
“I do that and I get labelled hostile and difficult, neither of which works well for my complexion or gender”
The episode ends with both patients with good prognoses, Jared fired, Shaun slapping Glassman during a meltdown and then disappearing, and Claire’s storyline set to go deeper into how woman and particularly Black women are treated in medicine.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode because it opened up two vitally important topics which continue throughout future episodes. Firstly, while the conversation between Shaun and Bobby was weird at times (and there’s some underlying thoughts about how so many patients feel it’s their responsibility to give Shaun adulting advice), it did make a clear point about the ableism Shaun experiences. This is reinforced every time Glassman refuses to let Shaun make his own mind up about things and bullies, bribes and tries to force him into doing something he has been quite clear he doesn’t want to do.
Shaun doesn’t know how to cope with the invasion of his privacy and the fact that his clear “No” is being ignored so goes to extreme lengths like sleeping on a mattress in a cleaning cupboard. When Glassman chastises him for doing so, he seems to fail to realise that it’s his overbearing demands that are pushing Shaun to behave like he is.
Shaun: Are you satisfied with what you’ve done with your life? Would you be happy if you died tomorrow?
Paul: Happy… I mean… I clean a building but I married the woman I love, we had three beautiful children and I was good to people, or at least I think I was
Shaun: That’s a good answer
The second topic opened up is that of sexism, and the intersection between sexism and racism, in the medical field. Claire’s concerns are dismissed by Jared, who comes up with excuses (that many women will be familiar with) for why Coyle touched Claire inappropriately. Then when Claire pushes back against outright offensive suggestions from Coyle, she is met with aggressive shaming for her relationship with Jared and outright verbal abuse for not agreeing to go out with Coyle. Then, to top all of that off, Jared completely ignores her request for him to stay out of it and charges in and assaults Coyle. Claire learns about this when she makes the decision to report Coyle to Dr Hill. By charging in and trying to save the day to make up for his own guilt, Jared ended up putting Claire in an incredibly difficult position.
As I said above, these two main topics in this episode echo throughout multiple episodes going forward.
Autistic Rep Review
I’m going to use this part just to discuss Shaun’s episode long dysregulation and the eventual meltdown that resulted from it. Shaun was pushed and pushed into a situation that he clearly and repeatedly said he did not want to be a part of. This wasn’t something he had to do, the way he was living his life was not impacting his work, and Glassman massively overstepped from his role of mentor into outright interfering with Shaun’s autonomy.
Shaun’s efforts to self-regulate are apparent throughout the episode. He paces more, he ruffles his own hair (like his brother used to do), he repeats himself, and he is visibly agitated in many scenes. The camera work is set-up to enhance the imagery that Shaun is struggling to stay regulated.
The meltdown at the end, while shocking to some people, was quite accurate. Is is okay that Shaun slapped Dr Glassman? No. Having a meltdown doesn’t automatically make violence okay, but a meltdown is a complete and total loss of control due to overload and dysregulation. This eventual meltdown was well built up to. Shaun was having his autonomy taken away, ableism was impacting him on cases and being noticed by patients, his routine was disrupted, and Glassman made Shaun feel like he wasn’t even safe to go home. Backed into a corner, it is possible to understand how Shaun reacted how he did without saying that it’s okay to hit people during meltdowns.