After a stormy and sombre season premiere, the gang return for episode two with more spring in their steps. This week, romance is on the back-burner as they deal with some tricky patients, achieving varying levels of success. Although the episode is perhaps more reminiscent of the first season of “Hospital Playlist,” whether it delivers the same level of vigour is questionable.
Korean Title: 슬기로운 의사생활 시즌2
Genre: Friendship, Comedy, Life, Drama, Medical
Channel: tvN, Netflix
Episode Number: Episode 2
Episode Length: 80 minutes
According to hints littered throughout this week’s episode, about a month has passed since the events of the season premiere. If you ask me, there appear to be some slight inconsistencies in the timeline, but thinking too hard about that would probably just drive me insane, so I won’t.
Bright and early at Yulje’s second floor cafe, CS intern Im Changmin greets Gyeoul, where she tramples on the triumph he feels over having arrived five minutes early (“just on time” in her book) at the “crack of dawn” (it’s basically morning, she says). Gyeoul orders coffee for both herself and Changmin, paying with a professor’s card.
In the hospital parking lot, Junwan is video calling Iksun, as per usual. He’s in the middle of bragging about how cute he remembers her being as a kid, but Iksun tells him Ikjun’s dobbed him in for getting her confused with their dog Micky, who like, died. Iksun asks Junwan why he’s not commuting with Jeongwon, and he tells her that since Jeongwon had an emergency surgery, he’s buying him a coffee. Iksun teases Junwan for taking such good care of Jeongwon, and he replies that he wishes he could look after her instead of “Father Andrea.”
Junwan crosses paths with Father Andrea in the cafe, where they greet Gyeoul and Changmin. Part of me wants to applaud Winter Garden’s professionalism for being so subtle in their interactions, and the other part of me is a hungry shipper who wants them to make eye contact for just half a second. Anyway, it turns out that the card Gyeoul is paying with is Ikjun’s. Junwan teases that love seems to be blooming over at GS, earning a slight stink eye from Jeongwon, who’s been cuddled up against his arm (cute). Junwan and Jeongwon swoop in and steal Ikjun’s card, planning to order virtually everything on the menu.
On his way through the parking lot, Ikjun receives a text updating him on his bank balance, and he stumbles off in such a huff that his shoe falls off. In front of the elevator, Ikjun ponders what Gyeoul could’ve possibly eaten at the cafe for breakfast to spend upwards of 180,000 won.
We revisit Kim Soojung, a patient at the maternal fetal intensive care unit, where Seokhyeong and Minha hesitantly inform her that her baby is in a dire position, potentially requiring emergency surgery. Privately, Seokhyeong emphasises to Minha that she has to keep a close eye on Soojung, and she quietly checks up on her, smiling as her doting husband attends to her.
Meanwhile, Junwan is deeply focused at his desk when Jeongwon wheels over in his chair and tells him that he has something to tell the gang on the weekend. The weekend finally rolls around, and everyone enjoys ramyeon and strawberries at Seokhyeong’s house. Jeongwon makes an attempt to share his big news with the group, but they’re more interested in Songhwa’s upcoming VIP surgery on a famous violinist, Yoo Gyeongjin. When they’re finally done gossiping, they ask an exhausted Jeongwon why he’s not saying a word. He tells them to let him speak, and they obliviously retort that nobody said he couldn’t. Finally, Jeongwon is able to confess that he’s dating Gyeoul, and everyone reassures him that they’re happy for him and won’t say a word. Ikjun is especially thrilled, admitting that he wishes he could tell the world, but will hold himself back so that “our Gyeoul” won’t have a hard time. Jeongwon tells Ikjun not to push it, but Ikjun quips that if anyone’s allowed to show affection for Gyeoul, it’s him. There are suppressed giggles all around as everyone goes back to enjoying their strawberries.
In the morning, Junwan runs into Jaehak. He’s just visited the hospital credit union, where he finalised a loan that’ll help him be closer to his wife. Junwan cautiously asks about the status of the man who scammed Jaehak and his wife, and Jaehak tells him that he’s still at large. He heads over to the PICU to check on a patient named Minchan, while Hongdo nervously goes over what a VAD is, hoping to impress Junwan later. Junwan informs Minchan’s mother that her son will likely eventually need a heart transplant, and while she’s badly shaken up, Eunji’s mother makes an effort to comfort her. She assures Minchan’s mother that although Junwan is a little prickly, he’s a meticulous doctor and a good person who will do his best to save her kid. When Junwan steps out of the PICU, Hongdo leaps up, determined to regurgitate what he’s learned, but Juwan catches on and changes his quiz questions accordingly. Naturally, Hongdo can’t answer, and he’s left looking dazed.
Over at neurosurgery, Seonbin warns Songhwa that the VIP patient Yoo Gyeongjin’s mother is disrespectful and difficult to deal with, but Songhwa simply tells her to head to the ER, where she’s needed. When Songhwa finally checks up on Gyeongjin, she’s indeed treated like a pushover, but she takes it in her stride. After Songhwa walks away, Gyeongjin’s mother expresses frustration over the fact that all of these incompetent young ‘uns are attending to her daughter. Gyeongjin and her mother speculate that the operating professor will probably arrive in the evening, not knowing that the woman they just treated so frostily was that very professor. Mess. Later, Jeongwon pops into Songhwa’s office, and they discuss the future of the Daddy-Long-Legs program. Ikjun joins the conversation, and reveals that he knows that Jeongwon runs the program. Surprised, they tell him that Songhwa has taken over.
On their way over to see Gyeongjin again, Seonbin tells Songhwa that Seokmin will be helping out with the surgery in the place of an exhausted fellow. In Gyeongjin’s room, Songhwa goes over the details for her surgery, but her mother simply asks to see the professor. Flustered, Songhwa tells Gyeongjin’s mother that she is the operating professor, and her attitude immediately does a complete 180. Before exiting, Songhwa tells her that the residents she’s been dismissing are fully qualified neurosurgeons with years of experience, leaving her looking embarrassed, and us feeling very satisfied indeed.
The next day, Minha checks up on Kim Soojung, to find that she needs emergency surgery. Unfortunately, Seokhyeong is unable to save the baby, which dies immediately after being extracted. Songhwa commences her VIP operation, and Junwan heads into a risky surgery.
While the high-stakes operations are going on, Ikjun reprimands a liver transplant patient, Kim Jangho, for resuming drinking. Ikjun points out that Jangho has had two donations in three years from his daughters, and refuses to see him again now that he’s slipped back into old habits. Eventually, Junwan and Songhwa wrap up their surgeries with optimal results.
Attending to his outpatients, Jeongwon attempts to remove stitches from the back of a recovered cancer patient named Seungwon. Cradled in his mother’s arms, Seungwon screams and fusses whenever Jeongwon’s fingers so much as go near him, making it nearly impossible to begin. Jeongwon suggests to Seungwon’s parents that they leave, reassuring them that they can come back a little later when their son has calmed down. Seungwon comes back shortly after, but continues to be uncooperative again. Seungwon’s mother shouts at him in frustration, pointing out that Jeongwon saved his life.
As Songhwa and Junwan’s surgeries continue, Seokhyeong apologises to the couple who lost their baby, and they bawl in devastation. Later, as the sun sets in the hospital courtyard, Ikjun sits with Seokhyeong, empathising with the rough day he’s had. Seokhyeong seems incredibly worn out, admitting that he doesn’t feel up to doing his rounds, and can’t seem to find the words to comfort his patient. This isn’t exactly a new conversation in medical dramas, but it’s one that’s beautifully acted by Kim Daemyung and Jo Jungseok in what’s probably the best scene of the episode.
In his office, Junwan is attending to pot plants and chatting on the phone to Iksun, whose low-spirited tone cuts his celebratory anecdote about his successful surgery short. Iksun confides in Junwan that she encountered a racist in the UK, who mocked her accent by feigning a lack of understanding when she ordered a latte at a cafe. Iksun shifts the conversation back to what Junwan was trying to tell her earlier, but he’s visibly disturbed.
Songhwa updates Gyeongjin’s parents on their daughter’s condition; her tumour is totally gone, and she’s in the midst of waking up. Almost a different person from before, Gyeongjin’s mother humbly thanks Songhwa, and watches her leave with a guilty gaze.
Everyone’s evenings begin to wrap up – Songhwa collapses in her office in exhaustion, Seokhyeong courageously begins his rounds, and Junwan stares at his phone worriedly. Jeongwon talks with Seungwon’s mother, reassuring her that since her son has endured the pain of cancer surgery and recovery, removing some stitches will be nothing. She expresses gratitude and amazement over his kindliness, and asks if the rumour that he’s leaving the hospital is true. He reassures her that it isn’t, and she’s relieved, admitting that the idea of him leaving the hospital concerns her more than the idea of her own husband quitting his job. Lol, Gyeoul is a true hero.
At band practice, the group cover Yoon Dohyun’s “Autumn Outside The Post Office,” which features a vocal solo from none other than Seokhyeong, omg. The song is about the fragility and mortality of beauty, lyrically befitting Seokhyeong’s arc in this episode.
The next morning, talking to Seungjoo and Eunwon in front of the elevator, Minha tiredly sighs that she doesn’t think the hospital’s coffee has any actual caffeine in it. Eunwon feels the need to jump in and say that she only drinks decaf, earning a scowl from Minha. The doors of the elevator open, where Seokhyeong is standing inside with Shinhye. Awkward. Ikjun enters the elevator at the last possible minute with an abundance of energy, giving Shinhye a curious look when he notices her.
Songhwa receives a call from the hospital director asking if she’d like to do an interview about Gyeongjin’s surgery, but she declines because Seonbin and Seokmin don’t have time to do the interview with her. Aw. Over at Seokhyeong’s office, Ikjun asks if he’s rekindling his relationship with Shinhye. Seokhyeong promises that he isn’t, and there’s a flashback to the dinner scene from last week, when Shinhye asked to see Seokhyeong regularly. As it turns out, he flat out rejected her. THANK. GOD. Things are looking good for our girl Minha.
Obstetrics receives flowers and a card from Soojung, which are handed over to Seokhyeong. He apparently asked Minha for Soojung’s contact information, reaching out to a patient personally for the first time in years. Hongdo’s twin sister Yoonbok is also notably lurking in the background at obstetrics and supposedly was in the last episode too – I just didn’t see her. Can the girl have some lines please? She’s probably doing more interesting things than repeatedly failing impromptu quizzes anyway.
In the halls, Seonbin bounds up to Songhwa, Ikjun, and Junwan, excitedly telling them that a German TV station wants to interview Songhwa. Songhwa explains to Seonbin that she already knows about the interview but turned it down because she didn’t want to hog the spotlight, shocking the resident and her friends with her selflessness.
In his office, Seokhyeong reads the card Soojung sent him. She admits that she’s devastated over the loss of her unborn child, but thanks him for doing everything he could and promises to come to him if she’s lucky enough to fall pregnant again. She also shares that her husband printed and framed a quote that Seokhyeong texted her. On the first page of his obstetrics textbook, it seems that Seokhyeong finally found the words to comfort his patient; “bad things at times do happen to good people.”
Meanwhile, Songhwa is having a coffee with Gyeongjin’s mother, who wants to set her up with her son, a man around her age who owns a pharmacy in Gangnam. Poor Songhwa, everyone wants her as a daughter-in-law. She looks uncomfortable, but we don’t directly hear her say no.
Later, Songhwa oversleeps in her office, and discovers that the cafe has closed before she has a chance to grab a coffee. Luckily, there are two cups of coffee sitting on the hood of her car. Ooh, from Ikjun? According to the scrawl on the paper cups, one has an extra shot of espresso, whereas the other is decaf, enabling her to drink according to how tired she is. With a soft and affectionate chuckle, Songhwa grabs the coffee and turns around.
Episode in review:
I hate to say it, but I honestly feel as though the quality of the show has regressed somewhat since the season premiere. If there was one positive to be taken away from the first episode, it was its exploration of fresh angles, both tonally and narrative-wise. However, this episode was chock-full of recycled storylines. The rude and standoffish guardian who eventually crumbles, the fragile PICU parent, the “I-wish-I-could’ve-done-something” agonising – they’re all incredibly tired tropes, and they’re not doing a whole lot to justify “Hospital Playlist” being a seasonal series. There’s so much untapped potential in terms of the show’s hospital setting, and the fact that the incredible ensemble cast are being sorely underutilised is probably the biggest barrier to realising it.
There are so many interesting and important ideas to be explored, if only we could be afforded more than the bare minimum from each scene. For example, I was personally incredibly frustrated by the scene with Ikjun’s transplant patient, Jangho. Sure, his behaviour was self-destructive and selfish, but it was also arguably characteristic of an addict. That scene was the perfect opportunity for the show to address alcoholism and its intersectionality with other health issues, but instead it just ended with Ikjun turning away his patient. “Hospital Playlist” can be annoyingly paternalistic at times, and this episode really encapsulated that weakness. Most of the subplots were dedicated to portraying patients and their guardians as hysterical, uncooperative, and unreasonable, in need of consolation and education. There’s more to healthcare than people simply being annoying and ignorant, and although the show clearly knows that, it needs to do a better job of showing it.
On the bright side, things seem to be looking up for Songhwa and Ikjun. Her smile in that last scene basically says it all, but it’s difficult to tell exactly where things will go from here. I do want to mention that knowing the tricks Shin and Lee like to play, the coffee may very well be a red herring, though I’d like to think that Songhwa would recognise Ikjun’s handwriting. Seokhyeong and Minha’s future also looks bright, now that Shinhye is finally out of the picture. (As mean as I’ve been to Shinhye, I’m glad that she bowed out respectfully and wasn’t treated like some clingy antagonist, as female supporting characters too often are.) The most confusing couple right now is undoubtedly Junwan and Iksun; their long-distance relationship seems to be going strong, but there’s also a great deal of emotional disconnect between them. I also can’t help but wonder what that racism scene was meant to convey. Was it simply a nod to the discrimination that international students go through in the UK? Or was it an indication that Iksun might be coming home? I sincerely hope it’s the latter, as most of the pair’s phone scenes feel rather empty and random.
In fact, the show as a whole feels highly unfocused and disjointed currently, making for less than satisfying viewing. However, I do want to clarify that I’m particularly harsh on “Hospital Playlist” only because I love it; the cast is brilliant, the writing is witty, and the directing is innovative. It’s precisely because I love it so much that I want to see the show deliver more of what I know it’s capable of, and I’m confident that it eventually will.
This week’s playlist:
Yoon Dohyun’s “Autumn Outside The Post Office,” is indeed a pretty song, but it’s arguably somewhat lacking in impact. Nonetheless, it was a thematically appropriate choice, as was the decision to have Kim Daemyung perform the vocals. This episode was an emotional one for Seokhyeong, and those feelings really climaxed in his delivery of the song.
The most valuable MD this week goes to Seokhyeong, for making the best out of a hopeless situation, and nailing that solo.
This week’s episode delivers a diverse range of self-contained stories, though most of them are stained by tired tropes and contrived comedy. However, redemption can be found in the show’s persistent overarching quality, lending hope to the rest of the season.