A crazy amount of tension brewed in episode three, and this week, it unapologetically boils over. Buckle up, because shocks, laughs, and tears are aplenty in what feels something like a comeback episode for “Hospital Playlist 2.”
Korean Title: 슬기로운 의사생활 시즌2
Genre: Friendship, Comedy, Life, Drama, Medical
Channel: tvN, Netflix
Number of Episodes: 12
Episode Length: 90 minutes
Episode Number: 4
I half-jokingly wrote that last week’s episode immediately kicked off with drama, but it was nothing compared to the dilemma Junwan’s faced with in the opening scene of episode four. We continue his phone call from last week, and watch him grapple with the revelation that Sekyung, Iksun’s closest friend in the UK, is a man. After the initial shock wears off, Junwan requests that Iksun call him as soon as she’s able to do so, and hangs up with a tired expression on his face. On the couch, he downs a can of beer, and declines a sleepy Jeongwon’s company. Iksun finally calls Junwan to reassure him that she’s fine, and he tells her to take it easy, not bringing up Sekyung.
The next morning, Jeongwon and Gyeoul check up on a patient named Bada. A nurse explains to Jeongwon that Bada’s mother is a little panicked about the surgery, and he reasons that to mothers, there are no simple operations. The nurse guesses that Jeongwon must have a child of his own, and when he replies that he considers all of his patients to be his own kids, she whispers to Gyeoul in amazement over his saintly nature. Before following them into the room, Gyeoul quietly agrees with a smile. By Bada’s bed, Jeongwon explains to her parents approximately how big her surgical scar will be with his pinky finger. As he does so, Bada intertwines her small finger with his. (Pinky promises are apparently her thing these days.) Everyone laughs, and Jeongwon “pinky promises” to do a good job with the surgery.
While this is going on, we’re given brief glimpses into the other departments. Junwan and Jaehak operate on a patient, Ikjun has a consultation, Songhwa helps Seonbin out with her thesis draft, and obstetrics have a meeting, where Seokhyeong makes sure to give Minha ample time to ask all of her burning questions.
Songhwa finishes helping Seonbin go over her thesis, and Seonbin tentatively asks her if she enjoys all the studying that comes with being a neurosurgeon. Songhwa awkwardly lies that she doesn’t (“how can studying be fun?”), but eventually admits that she really does love it. She asks Seonbin if she thinks she’s a weirdo, and her junior just sips her coffee.
After finishing his surgery, Junwan receives a phone call, and heads into the ICU, where visitors are milling in. Hongdo is waiting inside, and is told off for greeting Junwan twice like a loser. He apologises, and Junwan once again ambushes him with a quiz, which he naturally fails. This is going to go on all season, isn’t it? Junwan’s gaze sweeps through the ICU, and he watches the visitors attend to their loved ones. He approaches Gyeongmi’s empty room, and gives her a sad wave, which appears to console her somewhat.
After exiting the ICU, Junwan is promptly called to the PICU to brief the parents of a patient, Rubin, on how their child’s surgery went. Then, he heads off to tell Minchan’s parents some good news. Jaehak follows him, claiming to be in need of a bit of “healing.” Junwan asks who’s going to heal him, but that’s not Jaehak’s problem. Junwan and Jaehak inform Minchan’s parents that their son is recovering from the heart transplant nicely, and he’ll soon be moved to a general ward. They weep and express that they wish they could legally take Junwan out to a fancy dinner, and he tells them that the sentiment is more than enough. Jaehak follows Junwan out with a giggle, asking him to have lunch with him, and Junwan shoves him off playfully. I love them.
In the cafeteria, Jaehak gossips about Yoo Gyeongjin’s hospital fees, and Junwan tells him to be less nosy. Songhwa appears and Junwan offers to pay for her lunch, not realising that she’s brought four guests with her, lol. Jaehak fawns over the delicious lunch menu (chicken drumsticks), but he notices that his professor doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite. Holding up his chicken sadly, Junwan sighs that Iksun loves drumsticks too. Oops, he’s just exposed himself. Junwan ferociously insists to a surprised Jaehak that he said “Ikjun,” and the resident gives in, adding that there must be someone called Iksun out there somewhere. Junwan agrees that there must be… maybe they’re on the other side of the world.
Songhwa excitedly informs Ikjun about the drumsticks, but sadly he tells her that he’s got a lunch meeting. No, it’s not a conference, but an “important tteokbokki meeting” that’s been in the works for a while. The pair make plans to have coffee in the evening, and Ikjun heads over to his lunch. Minchan’s parents are also in the middle of eating, elated over their son’s improved condition. However, Minchan’s mother appears conscious of Eunji’s mother, who’s sitting alone at a nearby table.
Back at the “tteokbokki meeting,” Minha (or “our chuchu,” according to Ikjun) delivers the goods. Ikjun thinks she’s ordered too much, but Gyeoul insists it’s just the right amount. Ikjun observes that Gyeoul’s eating a particularly spicy serving, worrying over the incompatibility of her tastes with Jeongwon’s. Remembering that Minha’s also in the room, he panics, but Gyeoul reassures him that she already knows about their relationship. Minha and Ikjun praise Gyeoul for “beating God,” and wait for a mystery guest in anticipation.
Seokhyeong arrives, and Minha’s face lights up. When Seokhyeong says that he likes spicy food, Minha eyes Gyeoul’s dish, but she hugs it protectively. After observing Seokhyeong and Minha’s interactions knowingly, Ikjun turns to Gyeoul and commences a countdown. Right on cue, Jeongwon arrives. Damn, Ikjun has single-handedly devised the double date of our dreams. Ikjun reprimands Jeongwon for his tardiness, asking if he does all of the hospital’s pediatric surgeries. Jeongwon settles in, reminding Ikjun that he does in fact do literally all of them. Ikjun receives a call from Songhwa, and heads out for a quasi-date of his own. Ikjun is truly the hero we all need but don’t deserve.
Over coffee, Junwan and Jaehak discuss the fact that Junwan is taking over three of Professor Cheon’s patients for a week while he’s away at a conference. Good, maybe they can get some decent care for a change. A nurse informs Gyeongmi that Junwan will be taking care of her for the time being, assuring that he checks up on his patients often, adding that she must already know that. The nurse asks Gyeongmi if she isn’t lonely, and Gyeongmi mouths back that she is.
Outside for a stroll, Songhwa vents to Ikjun about her mother sending her an excessive number of side dishes to both Seoul and Sokcho. Ikjun understands her predicament perfectly, given that his own mother resides in Busan. He ropes Songhwa into agreeing to a side-dish-swap, and we revisit Junwan and Jaehak in the courtyard.
Jaehak is gushing over his wife’s social media, and offers to teach Junwan how to fill his empty account. Junwan explains that his girlfriend created his account for him before departing to the UK, and he only uses it to look at her posts. Jaehak encourages Junwan to share his daily life on SNS, but Junwan only says that all he has to share is a monotonous routine. Jaehak swoops in and snaps a picture of his professor, which Junwan suggests he caption “Kim Junwan,” or “Yulje Cardiothoracic Surgery’s Professor Kim Junwan.” Jaehak rejects these suggestions, deciding that “this is for my girlfriend” is more fitting. After Jaehak explains to Junwan what the heck hashtags are for (they’re not necessary anyway, Junwan only wants Iksun to see it), the post is complete. Jaehak tells Junwan that he can ask for advice on how to use SNS whenever he wants, but Junwan tells him that won’t be necessary. Or will it?
Back in his dimly lit office, Junwan crashes on the couch before hesitantly reaching for his phone. We see him nervously scroll through Iksun’s instagram feed, lingering on a selfie she took with Sekyung and a picture of a gift he got her. (Ironically, the gift was a thank you present for arranging a blind date for him.) After putting down his phone, Junwan lies down once more.
The next morning, Jaehak cheerfully heads into the PICU, and is told by a nurse that Eunji is having motor control issues on her left side. As he runs off to check on her, Ikjun and Junwan run into each other on their way into surgery. A nurse frantically runs up to Junwan with a call from Jaehak, who informs Junwan of Eunji’s situation. Junwan hastily delivers instructions, and promises to be there as soon as his surgery is over.
Seonbin is chatting to Songhwa once again, and suggests she let some of the other professors share her VIP surgery workload. Songhwa insists she can handle it, and diverts the conversation to Seonbin and Seokmin’s relationship. The couple have been fighting over Seonbin criticising Seokmin’s decision to give up neurosurgery (so is Seokmin not a doctor anymore? I’m confused), and Seokmin retorting that growing up privileged has prevented Seonbin from seeing things his way. Songhwa advises Seonbin to bide her time and wait for an organic opening, rather than try to force a reconciliation.
At the credit union, Jeongwon is taking out a loan. As he’s wrapping up, he politely asks for a complimentary plushie (lmao), and the worker remarks that he must have a child. Once again, Jeongwon clarifies that he doesn’t, and the worker gives him two, telling him that he can give one to his girlfriend. (Is it just me, or does all this talk about kids feel like foreshadowing?) Evidently he gives her both, as in the GS office, Gyeoul is enjoying playing with her plushies. A senior doctor enters and implies that he’d like to give one to his kid as a birthday gift, but Gyeoul dodges his request by faking a phone call.
Junwan’s surgery is over at last, and he heads over to check on Eunji. Her condition seems to have improved, but Eunji’s mother is still heavily shaken. He does admit that time is probably running out for Eunji, and she tearfully asks if they should just consider giving up. However, Junwan and Eunji’s father urge her to continue to stay strong. Once they leave, Junwan checks on Eunji with a sad expression.
Night has fallen, and Jeongwon and Songhwa are going over plans to lease a house as a “shelter” for guardians and patients in need to stay in. Ah, so that’s what the loan was for. Ikjun comes in, and they share their plan with him. Jeongwon explains that the director has agreed to help support Jeongwon’s projects in exchange for him remaining at the hospital. He adds that the shelter is just the first phase, with his ultimate goal being to build a pediatric hospital. When Jeongwon estimates that it’ll cost around four hundred billion won, Ikjun forms the character “wa” with his hands and agape mouth, cracking up Songhwa. Ikjun heads off to check on a patient, and the other two friends continue their meeting.
The patient Ikjun is checking on his Choi Hana, a woman who hasn’t had any bowel movements, concerning Gyeoul. Luckily, Ikjun explains to Gyeoul that the patient is just feeling self-conscious about having someone help her relieve herself due to her heightened alertness. Gyeoul apologises, but Ikjun reassures her that it’s fine. On his way out of the ICU, he runs into Junwan, who asks to have coffee with him. Ikjun asks if he’s eaten an actual meal, and a frazzled Junwan admits he doesn’t know.
Over dinner, Ikjun tells Junwan to cut back his workload, suggesting that he talk to his chief. Junwan reminds Ikjun that he is the chief, and shares that he’s more concerned about his personal life than his work. He goes over his worries in depth, from Eunji’s desperate need for a donor to his failure to wish his father a happy birthday, but he doesn’t mention his love life. A concerned Ikjun tells Junwan to go home and sleep, but Junwan replies that he’s on duty. Ikjun is too, so at least he won’t be lonely. Ikjun promises to stop by Junwan’s office later, but Junwan promises that he’s fine. Ikjun clarifies that he’s not worried, he just has his eye on some of Junwan’s new snacks.
On the phone to Iksun in his office, Junwan expresses concern over his girlfriend’s recurring headaches and fever. He tells her to go to the hospital, and she reassures him that she went last week and got a full check-up, though she’s still waiting for the results. Iksun asks if Junwan’s doing okay, and he replies that everything is fine. She accepts his lie easily, and moves the conversation to how she got the highest score on a test. Junwan congratulates her profusely, and we move back to see Ikjun standing in the doorway, looking worried. As Junwan’s forced smiles continue, Ikjun quietly shuts the door and leaves.
Meanwhile, Seonbin is monitoring a patient in the ICU. She notices that his pupil is slightly dilated, and informs her superior that she suspects a distal branch may have been damaged during a biopsy. She suggests that the issue be investigated with further tests, but the fellow dismisses her.
Later, Junwan runs into Jaheak and asks him if he “has some time” in the same fashion that Jaehak suggested Junwan adopt in order to ask him for SNS advice. Jaehak’s look of confusion quickly becomes one of excitement, and the duo head off. Once they’ve sat down, Junwan states that he wants to solely post a caption. Jaehak tells him that, uh, isn’t a thing. He coaches Junwan through the posting process, excited that he’s even feeling adventurous enough to use hashtags. Junwan seems to have a grand plan, piquing Jaehak’s curiosity.
Seonbin is still troubled by her patient, whom she’s been checking up on at frequent intervals. This time, his motor responses seem especially poor, alarming Seonbin. She reports back to her superior that the patient likely has a bleed in the MCA distal branch, but once again, he disregards her theory.
In his office, Ikjun picks up a facetime call from his Iksun. He tells her that he and the gang are doing fine, and she casually asks about Junwan. To her shock, Ikjun informs her that Junwan appears to be under a lot of stress. He blames it on Junwan’s girlfriend and her lack of consideration, startling her even further. Ouch. I guess Ikjun really didn’t know the truth after all. Clearly hurt, Iksun ends the conversation, and Ikjun hangs up. Iksun remains on the call for a while longer, and when she hangs up, we finally see her outside of the screen for the first time, looking troubled.
Only five minutes have passed since Seonbin last saw her patient, but she checks up on him again regardless. Good thing she does, because he’s in a stupor with highly dilated pupils and poor motor responses. She calls the fellow urgently to inform him of the situation, yelling that there’s no time for him to verify the situation – she’s calling the professor right away. In the OR, the fellow basically takes all the credit for Seonbin’s diligence, and the professor warns the pair that it’s on them if something goes wrong with the patient. Once the surgery is over, Seonbin sits by the patient’s side, and a nurse reassures her that she was correct to contradict her superior, even if she might face some repercussions for it.
We revisit Iksun’s place, where she’s seated in exactly the same spot as she was when she hung up the call earlier. She appears to be in deep thought, and lets out a deep sigh.
In her office, Songhwa discusses Seonbin’s incident with her. Seonbin reports that the patient is doing better, and should regain consciousness soon. Songhwa commends Seonbin for having doubts about the patient’s condition, but says that other than that, she was at fault. Seonbin apologises, agreeing that she shouldn’t have been so rude to a senior doctor. Songhwa shakes her head and says that she wasn’t referring to Seonbin’s lack of courtesy, but the fact that she didn’t fight harder for her patient. She emphasises the need to make firm, hasty decisions in order to save patients, bringing tears to Seonbin’s eyes.
Junwan wraps up his appointments for the day, and receives a call from Iksun. He notes that it’s still incredibly early in the UK, and deduces that she mustn’t have slept. Iksun asks Junwan if he has time to talk, and tells him to call her when he’s in his office. He agrees, and hurries out. Once he’s sat at his desk, Junwan calls Iksun back, and asks her what’s going on. When Iksun has trouble forming a sentence, Junwan realises that something must be seriously wrong, and his worst fears are realised when she says she’s fallen for someone else. Obviously dumbfounded, Junwan asks what on earth she’s talking about, but Iksun just apologises. Junwan asks if it’s Sekyung she likes, and we cut to Iksun, who’s clearly trying to hold back tears. She apologises once more, and hangs up. Junwan sits at his desk, clearly devastated.
The gang are having lunch, but Junwan is noticeably missing. Songhwa asks Jeongwon if something’s up with Junwan, pointing out that he’s lost a lot of weight, and Seokhyeong correctly guesses that he might’ve broken up with his girlfriend. Jeongwon says that he doesn’t know everything about Junwan just because they’re housemates, and Songhwa suggests that he move out and get his own place. Jeongwon says that he’s tried, but Junwan seems too lonely to handle him leaving.
It appears his friends have every reason to be worried, because Junwan is just lying listlessly in his office (again) when he receives a call from Jeongwon. He sits up and buries his head in his hands, too out of it to pick up the phone.
We visit Jongsu and Rosa, who are heading outside to go hiking. Jongsu teases Rosa for wearing a straw hat, but he eventually tells her that she’s the prettiest scarecrow he’s ever seen. I’m not exactly sure what the point of this scene was, but they’re cute.
Songhwa and Ikjun are also out for a stroll, and they discuss Woojoo’s girlfriend Mone. Ikjun tells Songhwa that Mone is Hongdo and Yoonbok’s cousin, surprising her. Songhwa points out that Hongdo and Yoonbok bear some resemblance to their old selves, but Ikjun insists that he was smarter than Hongdo. Songhwa agrees, but adds that he was also more of a loser than Hongdo. Ikjun protests that he was totally stylish, but Songhwa cuts him off by singing “Couple” by Sechskies. She sounds like a dying cat, but Ikjun seems to like her song choice. Songhwa’s performance seems to drag on forever, and when she reaches the rap verse, Ikjun turns around and waits for it to be over, lmao.
Junwan is still moping in his office when he receives another phone call. He really doesn’t seem to want to answer it, but when he reluctantly does, there’s good news waiting on the other end of the line. A donor has miraculously been found for Eunji, so Junwan leaps up and heads over to inform her mother. Upon hearing that her daughter is receiving a heart, Eunji’s mother is elated, and Junwan commends her for exercising the patience and resilience necessary to finally reach this day.
In the NS office, a bouquet of flowers is dropped at Seonbin’s desk, and she looks up to see Seokmin apologetically standing before her. He delivers the classic “I just had them lying around” line, but it turns out his parents are actually florists, haha. Seokmin asks Seonbin if she’s okay, and reassures her that she did the right thing. He then apologises to her, admitting that he was too harsh on her and probably has a complex of sorts. He tells Seonbin that the flowers he’s given her symbolise forgiveness and reconciliation, and goes to pick up some kimbap for her. Before leaving, Seokmin circles back to give Seonbin a hug, and she smiles. After he leaves, she sniffs the bouquet happily, finally at peace. Looks like Songhwa was right. I mean, when is she not?
Before heading into surgery, Junwan briefs Eunji’s parents, and promises not to let their patience be in vain. As the parents head to the waiting room, they run into Minchan’s mother, who tearfully tells Eunji’s mother not to worry. The friends embrace, and weep happily together.
In the courtyard, Ikjun tells Junwan that he looks sickly, but he insists that he’s fine. After Junwan gets roped into a conversation, Ikjun receives a call from Iksun. He greets his sister perkily, but her reply is shaky. He asks her what the matter is, and she tells him about her recent checkup. She’s gotten the results back, and apparently her liver somatic index is over 300, and her bile ducts are swollen. Ikjun calmly instructs Iksun to come home immediately, emphasising the seriousness of the situation. When she starts to sob, he tells her not to worry, promising to make things better. Iksun agrees to come home, but asks Ikjun not to tell anyone. He’s baffled by her priorities, but she insists that he can’t tell their parents, or any of his friends – especially Junwan. As if on cue, Junwan comes back, and Ikjun stares at him in shock.
It’s finally band practice time, and this week’s track is Kim Wansun’s “Let’s Forget It.” Ikjun and Junwan take the lead on vocals, and a montage of Junwan and Iksun’s relationship plays as the song climaxes. The last stretch of the song plays as we head into the ICU, where Lee Gyeongmi is getting plenty of visitors. It turns out Junwan put his social media coaching from Jaehak to good use by asking for volunteers to look after her online. With a smile, Jaehak remarks that Junwan is impossible to figure out. In Gyeongmi’s room, she smiles, with somebody finally by her side.
When the cover ends, Junwan calmly says, “next song,” and Jeongwon drums the opening beats of the show’s outro song.
Episode in review:
Let’s acknowledge that clever ending real quick. Okay, moving on – that was a lengthy episode and I have many thoughts.
So… that was a lot. Iksun’s ill-health doesn’t necessarily come as a shock – season one revealed that she suffers from biliary atresia, and she’s been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks. However, this is certainly a very cruel plot point, and it may very well break Ikjun and Junwan. It’s already breaking me, who evidently spoke way too soon last week with my “haha-thank-god-they’re-not-killing-Iksun-off-lol.”
What I’m most curious about is how Ikjun is going to approach this situation. Iksun’s condition is dire, and it’d be near impossible to keep it a secret from everyone if she were to be admitted to Yulje. Then again, I don’t think her brother would want her to get treated at a different hospital. I’m also honestly super shocked that Ikjun didn’t know about Junwan and Iksun’s relationship – I thought for sure they were going to play it off comedically. Even that phone call between the two siblings had me thinking that Ikjun was knowingly hinting to Iksun that she should change her behaviour, but it would appear not.
I’ve also noticed that Iksun and Junwan’s break-up seems to be polarising among fans. Some believe that Iksun dumped Junwan in the hope of relieving his burdens, whereas others think that Iksun really is in love with Sekyung. I’m personally of the camp that she did it for his sake, and I think that’s made fairly obvious through her phone calls with Ikjun throughout the episode. (A lot of people are also saying that Shin and Lee are above the noble idiocy trope, but I’d argue that several of their dramas have featured break-ups of passion if you watch closely.)
That aside, I truly want to commend the way in which Iksun and Junwan’s story was told visually this episode. The decisions to show Iksun outside of the screen for the first time to make her emotions feel more authentic and palpable and have most of Junwan’s solo shots take place in a dark room to represent his emotional state were brilliant. Jung Kyungho’s performance in this episode was also terrific, from start to finish. Junwan stands out as a particularly complex and interesting character, and that’s arguably largely owed to the actor he’s portrayed by.
In spite of the heaviness of the aforementioned arc, this episode was perfectly balanced tonally, and it finally felt like the “Hospital Playlist” we all know and love. I adored the familiar humour that was layered between the more intense moments, from the “tteokbokki meeting” to Songhwa’s spontaneous singing. Seonbin’s storyline was also great this episode, with her internal conflict and subsequent decision to stand up to a senior doctor feeling very plausible in a real hospital setting. Songhwa’s advice to “let nature take its course” with relationships also seemed to imply that her relationship with Ikjun will progress organically, so that’s a good sign too.
Finally, I really admired the decision to have things work out for Eunji and her mother. It would’ve cliched for the show to have her to die in order to make a point about the luck and unfairness involved in the organ donation process, but instead, things ended joyfully and peacefully. The story of the two mothers was refreshingly void of cynicism, and it promoted the message that sometimes, patience and optimism really can get you through hard times. Ultimately, Episode 4 stuck all the right chords, and for that reason, it’s my favourite of the season so far.
This week’s playlist:
It doesn’t look like a cover of Kim Wansun’s “Let’s Forget It” is being added to the OST, likely because it was already covered by Yeo Eun for “Reply 1988.” I do enjoy the little musical nods to older Shin-Lee dramas throughout the show (such as Songhwa’s rendition of “Couple” this episode), but I’m not sure how I feel about songs being reused in what’s supposed to be the highlight of the show. However, the cover did feel stylistically entirely different to the original (in a good way), and Kyungho’s vocal part was depressingly fitting. Plus, Jungseok’s falsetto was sort of awesome. All in all, I think it’s acceptable this week, but given that the show has the power to revive old hits, I hope they focus on fresher tracks from here on out.
Without a doubt, the most valuable MD this week is Seonbin. Despite being dismissed several times, she overcame her intimidation and did the right thing, learning a valuable lesson about “fighting” for patients.
Delivering a powerful double dose of both drama and humour, the fourth episode is the strongest yet of the second season.