After a first half of the season that largely focused on the plight of its central characters, “Hospital Playlist” takes a moment to show some love to its junior doctors as 2021 gets underway. As they navigate successes and failures, the interns and residents will learn valuable lessons about what it means to be a doctor.
Korean Title: 슬기로운 의사생활 시즌2
Genre: Friendship, Comedy, Life, Drama, Medical
Channel: tvN, Netflix
Episode Number: Episode 6
Episode Length: 80 minutes
It’s morning at Yulje, and newly minted interns Yunbok and Hongdo are grabbing a coffee at the hospital cafe. Much to the poor barista’s confusion, they order “iced hot” cappuccinos. A reminder that these two are doctors.
As the twins order their drinks, Jaehak and Seonbin have a conversation over coffee about the influx of new interns. Jaehak sympathises with the anxiety the youngsters must be facing, and hopes for an “uneventful year.” Don’t jinx it! Seonbin asks Jaehak if he caused a lot of trouble as an intern, and he confesses that he once cried four times in a single day. Yunbok and Hongdo approach the senior doctors to greet them, and Jaehak asks where they’re interning. Hongdo is starting off in OB-GYN, and Yunbok is going to surgery. Jaehak sings a parody of “My Name is Yesol” (picking up on these obscure Korean references is getting harder), and urges Yunbok to choose CS. He doesn’t bother trying to persuade Hongdo, because he confirms that he’s definitely choosing CS. Phew, it looks like Junwan didn’t scare him off. However, Yunbok says that she has her heart set on neurosurgery, prompting Seonbin to spring up and offer to buy her some cake. I think the twins’ choices are pretty predictable, but ultimately the most fitting for them.
After Seonbin ushers the interns away, Gyeoul approaches Jaehak’s table with coffee in hand. The fellows discuss the fact that GS has unexpectedly got three new residents, much to Gyeoul’s delight. Jaehak pouts jealously, observing that in NS, “even the ones who left came back.” He’s referring to Seokmin, who’s returning with Seonbin. I’m still confused as heck about why Seokmin left, where he went, or what that even added to the story, but whatever.
Over at Junwan and Jeongwon’s place, Junwan is on his way out the door to a conference, too busy to eat breakfast. A sympathetic Jeongwon tosses him a banana, and the scent of coffee draws him back to the dining table. As Junwan has “just a sip” of the coffee, the guys discuss the late hour at which Jeongwon came home last night after hanging out with Gyeoul. Junwan stares at his friend blankly, and asks when he’s getting married. Jeongwon shares that he plans to propose soon (WHAT?), and Junwan pokes him with a banana, asking if he’s allowed to live with them too. Jeongwon just snatches back the banana and calls his friend a crazy prick, so I’m guessing no.
On his way to work, Ikjun is happily humming along to the radio and arguing with his car’s GPS system when he receives a call from Songhwa. Before she even has a chance to say anything, Ikjun requests an iced vanilla latte, please and thank you. The pair make plans to meet at the cafe, and Ikjun smiles.
Seonbin, Jaehak, Seokmin, and Gyeoul continue their discussion at the cafe, and Seokmin explains his reasoning for returning to Yulje. He regretted leaving the hospital in the first place, so when a fellowship opportunity cropped up, he jumped at the chance. We get a little background into Seokmin’s disappearance – he went to another hospital where he was told to specialise in spine surgeries and cerebrovascular disease, but lacked the experience to keep up with the demands of the work. In order to build the skills he needs, he plans to stay at Yulje for a couple more years and learn from Songhwa. He admits that he doesn’t yet have the confidence to perform surgery on his own, and the others agree. Seokmin adds that if he can become a more qualified and experienced surgeon, he’ll make more money. Seonbin appears to open an old wound by sharply asking Seokmin if all he cares about is money, but this time, his response is more patient and mild. He explains that he wants to let his parents live comfortably, and also get married. Seonbin’s expression is shocked, and Jaehak asks Gyeoul in a whisper why they have to witness his proposal. Seonbin nonchalantly says that she has the money for a wedding, and the two doctors leave for some privacy.
As the couple head off on their walk, the camera pans to Songhwa, who’s waiting in line to buy the cups of coffee. As she orders them, Ikjun bounces up to her and surprises her with his familiarity with the barista. He explains that they’re “inchins” (instagram friends), but obviously his trendy slang is indecipherable to Songhwa. When the two friends sit down to drink their coffee, Songhwa shares her busy schedule with a sympathetic Ikjun, packed to the brim with conferences, lectures, and surgeries. Suddenly, Jun and Professor Cheon appear, and Professor Cheon asks Songhwa to take care of a surgery for him. Of course, she obliges. Once the senior doctors disappear, a frustrated Ikjun sits Songhwa down and tells her that she needs to learn how to say no to people. However, she receives an emergency call before she can be persuaded, and has to leave.
Over at obstetrics, Minha is delivering strict instructions to Hongdo about his role in an upcoming birth. All he needs to do is hold a retractor, and remove it when he’s told to. Minha emphasises this to Hongdo, like, a million times, and he nods.
Ikjun is informed that a patient named Baek Huido’s drainage output is especially low, and Yunbok is tasked with replacing his nasogastric tube. She finishes attending to a patient in the ER, then heads over. Kwanghyun and Seongyoung approach the ER patient, whose name is Hwang Duna, and discuss the cause of her injuries – she was in a motorcycle accident with her boyfriend who violated road rules, but he was the only one wearing a helmet, and he dipped after he got treated.
In the general ward, Yunbok changes Baek Huido’s tube expertly and calmly. Except for one thing – she doesn’t actually remove the old clogged one, so now this guy has two tubes shoved up his nose. Meanwhile, her brother is assisting Seokhyeong’s surgery, holding the richardson retractor and anxiously waiting to remove it like Minha instructed. When his time to shine finally comes, Hongdo exchanges a determined glance with Minha, and removes the retractor. He manages to do the job, but he goes an unsolicited extra mile when he walks out of the OR, retractors in hand. Minha is visibly angry, and she promises to train the intern again properly. Clueless, Hongdo stands outside the OR and peeks in.
Yunbok reports to a nurse that she’s changed Huido’s tube and requests an X-ray, but Gyeoul is nearby and says that she’ll check on the patient instead. When she finds the old tube still in the patient’s nose, she’s shocked, and removes one immediately. Gyeoul and Yunbok apologise, but Huido is forgiving, explaining that his eldest child also started working recently, and probably makes just as many mistakes.
As Songhwa operates on Hwang Duna, Seongyoung explains the boyfriend situation to the professor. Meanwhile, Duna’s parents sob as they wait. After the surgery finishes up, Songhwa informs them that their daughter suffered from a severe cerebral hemorrhage, and she can’t guarantee that she’ll wake up.
In Songhwa’s office, Ikjun is playing games on his phone when he receives a call from Woojoo. Once again, Woojoo expresses his desire to go camping, and Ikjun promises that they will. Woojoo demands to know when they’ll go, and Ikjun says they can go “before the cicadas start singing.” Woojoo points out that won’t be for ages, so Songhwa suggests that they go “before the cicadas molt.” Ikjun doubts that his son will know what “molt” even means, but soon enough, Woojoo is rambling about “imago phases,” and the camping trip is a done deal. After Ikjun hangs up, the hungry friends decide to eat, and Songhwa suggests naengmyeon with a side of dumplings. The pair aliken Songhwa’s ability to spontaneously compose dinner menus to the ability of Beethoven or Mozart to compose songs. Okay then.
Before he heads home, Jeongwon enters the GS office, where Gyeoul is going over some work. The couple start getting physically affectionate, but leap away from each other when a bunch of residents enter the room. Jeongwon impresses the doctors with how he’s already memorised all of their names, and Gyeoul explains that she’s taking them out to dinner. Before leaving, Jeongwon awkwardly gives Gyeoul his card, and she tells the residents to get changed and meet her in the lobby. As she slips through the door, she hears one resident tell another that the unmarried Jeongwon is “just her type,” and she frowns.
As the friends eat dinner, Ikjun nibbles at a dumpling while Songhwa and Junwan wolf down their food. He urges Junwan to slow down, but he’s already finished eating. He also points out that Junwan isn’t even on duty and could’ve eaten elsewhere, but Junwan says that he doesn’t want to go home when he knows Jeongwon probably won’t be there, and Jaehak wasn’t available. Songhwa tiredly tells Junwan that he should get a girlfriend too, offering to set him up with her hoobae. However, he declines, admitting that he’s still not over his ex. As Junwan shares that he still thinks about her constantly, Ikjun appears troubled, and steps out for a smoke when Junwan asks him why he can’t forget her.
The next day, after conducting an ultrasound, Seokhyeong and Minha inform a preeclampsia patient named Kim Soyeong that her baby likely has esophageal atresia. They explain to the expectant couple that it’ll be helpful for them to consult with pediatric surgery, and Seokhyeong informs a nurse that he’ll talk to Jeongwon directly.
Meanwhile, Seongyoung is being especially attentive to Hwang Duna, but Songhwa and Seokmin shoo him out and tell him to get some work done so that he can rest. The camera pans to the info posted on the end of her bed, and it’s revealed that she’s an eighteen-year-old college freshman. (For anyone else who found this curious, I did some research, and it turns out that the medical field entirely does away with the Korean age system for consistency reasons. It makes sense – if you’re trying to treat someone and you can’t figure out if they’re eighteen, nineteen, or twenty, it could get problematic.)
Seokmin also adds that she’s from Chuncheon like Seongyoung, hence why he’s so concerned about her. Songhwa comments that it’s only natural for inexperienced doctors to feel attachment to patients who have things like names, ages, or hometowns in common with them. She admits that even she was like that once, and tells Seokmin not to be too hard on Seongyoung, as those feelings will numb with experience. Seokmin tells Songhwa that it feels as though she was always a professor, but she assures him that even she made plenty of mistakes in the past.
Seokhyeong and Minha run into Jeongwon in an elevator, and Seokhyeong informs him of Kim Soyeong’s situation. Not only is there the issue of the esophageal atresia, but the patient’s preeclampsia means that the baby will probably be born preterm, increasing the risk of the surgery. Jeongwon sighs, predicting that there will be a “big meeting” soon. Jeongwon talks this through with Soyeong and her husband, but reassures them that the surgery will likely be a success and that if it is, their baby will be able to live a normal life.
Heading out for another walk, Jongsu and Rosa philosophise over their aging and exchange some banter. It culminates in Rosa playfully punching Jongsu and chasing him around, and we return to Yulje. Can these two please be written into the story in a useful way?
The “big meeting” takes place, and a collective of doctors from OB-GYN and pediatrics share some PPL cookies before they start. The discussion gets heated quickly, as Seokhyeong wants to get the baby out ASAP for the sake of the mother, but Jeongwon wants to delay the birth for the sake of the baby. The friends are going around in circles, so the junior doctors leave. Shortly after, Jeongwon seems to accept Seokhyeong’s position after hearing about Soyeong’s efforts to hold out as long as possible, barely moving all day. With the professional business out of the way, the guys smile and get up to grab a coffee.
In the PICU, Changmin informs Junwan that a patient, also named Changmin, is extremely close to dying. Junwan asks Changmin if he wants to accompany him to talk to the baby’s mother, given how closely he’s been attending to him (are you sensing a bit of a theme here?), but he declines. As Changmin leaves to prepare for a surgery, Junwan glances at him, obviously confused by how unaffected he appears to be.
Later, Junwan is sitting in the courtyard and eating a brioche bun when Jaehak sneaks up on him and drapes his coat over his shoulders. Jaehak tells his professor that he’s precious, so he doesn’t want him to catch a cold – it looks like that myth is so persistent in Korea that even literal doctors don’t question it. Jaehak asks Junwan how Changmin’s mother is coping with the news, and unsurprisingly, he replies that she’s devastated. Jaehak sighs that their Changmin must be upset too, but Junwan tells him that he seemed surprisingly calm. Jaehak is impressed, and admits that when he was a junior resident, he couldn’t cope with the loss of young patients. The doctors remark that “kids these days must be different,” but I think we all know by now that in this drama, it’s the seemingly stone-hearted people that eventually break down the hardest. Junwan asks Jaehak if he wants to have a beer, but the fellow is on duty tonight. Junwan yells that he almost always seems to be on duty, and becomes even more frustrated when he says that he’s busy tomorrow night too.
The next day, Jeongwon is walking through the halls, chatting to a pediatric fellow about her thesis when he receives a call informing him that Kim Soyeong has gone into surgery. As the baby is being delivered, the pediatric surgeons wait on standby anxiously. After the surgery wraps up, Jeongwon finds Soyeong’s mother and husband hovering outside the ICU, and pulls them aside to update them on the situation. As suspected, the baby has esophageal atresia and will undergo surgery the next day. Since the baby is so small, the surgery will have to be open-chest. Tearfully, Soyeong’s mother asks Jeongwon to save the infant, explaining that it’s the first grandchild to be born on either side of the family, and he promises to do his very best.
The next day, Jeongwon briefs Soyeong’s husband and his mother before the surgery. Unlike Soyeong’s mother, the husband’s mother is entirely unsympathetic, telling her son that he and his wife should’ve gotten checkups before getting married. After overhearing, a disapproving Jeongwon asks another doctor about her identity. Once the surgery begins, it’s the subject of great interest from many doctors and nurses, who gather around to observe. Gyeoul explains to a curious Yunbok that the pediatrics fellow who’s desperately trying to help won’t have much of an opportunity in a surgery like this one, where the space to work is so small. Jeongwon assures the fellow that she doesn’t have to try so hard, since she doesn’t have a clear view, which she awkwardly accepts.
The surgery is a success, and Jeongwon heads over to Seoyong’s room to update her, along with her mother and mother-in-law. After reassuring Seoyeong, Jeongwon pretends to mistake her mother-in-law for her mother, and explains that the baby’s condition was nobody’s fault – “it just happened.” He commends Seoyong for holding out so well, and asks the mothers to take good care of her.
In his office, Junwan receives a call informing him that baby Changmin’s heart rate is rapidly dropping. Jeongwon overhears Junwan’s call and asks about the situation, and Junwan tells him about the resident’s attachment to the child and the doctors’ rapport with his mother. Jeongwon then asks Junwan if he doesn’t have to get going, and Junwan expresses his reluctance to leave before he finally does. When he informs Changmin’s parents that their son is about to die, they sob violently. Junwan then talks to the resident Changmin, and asks him to pronounce the baby’s death. Changmin agrees, but when the time comes, he’s too overcome with tears to manage. Eventually, Junwan comes in and turns the machine off, reporting the time of death to the nurse personally. Changmin apologises to his professor, and leaves in tears.
An opportunity arises for Gyeoul when a busy Ikjun allows her to perform a full liver mobilisation on her own. Although she’s visibly nervous, she accepts. Meanwhile, as Junwan is eating lunch, Changmin comes in to apologise for his earlier failure to pronounce the patient’s death. Junwan tells the resident that he doesn’t need to be sorry for showing his emotions – “doctors are human too,” he reminds him. However, he emphasises to Changmin that he should nonetheless make sure that he can do his job properly.
After forty minutes have passed, Gyeoul’s surgery has barely made any progress. Though she tries her best, she’s eventually forced to call Ikjun and ask for his assistance. Later on, Ikjun comforts Gyeoul and promises her that she’ll improve after she gains more experience. Unmoved, Gyeoul tells her professor that she’ll feel better if he tells her about a mistake he once made. Ikjun replies that he thinks it’d be more “impactful” to hear about the mistakes made by people like Jeongwon and Songhwa. He starts off his anecdote by characterising Jeongwon as a perfectionist, but Gyeoul insists that it’s just Jeongwon himself that’s perfect. Grossed out, Ikjun continues his story by sharing that the all-knowing Jeongwon made an embarrassing blunder when he was interning in surgery. His professor asked him to fetch a “seorapja,” but he instead returned with a “seorap,” or a drawer.
Ikjun tells the story once more over dinner at Seokhyeong’s house, but a sulky Jeongwon reveals that it was actually Ikjun who made the mistake. Ikjun tries to rationalise his lie by saying that it was more fun than what actually happened, and that a story about himself would’ve been too banal. Jeongwon gets up in a huff to call Gyeoul, and the rest of the friends swap similar stories about their past mistakes. As they laugh, Jeongwon does his utmost to convince his girlfriend that it wasn’t him who screwed up, but she doesn’t seem to believe him.
As Jeongwon continues to protest, the group reminisce over Seokhyeong’s failure to pronounce a patient’s death as a resident, a story remarkably similar to Changmin’s. The mood turns somber as Seokhyeong reveals the heartbreaking context around the incident, and how severely he was reprimanded by his professor for showing his emotions. Juwan sympathises, having gone through something similar. The friends agree that now they themselves are professors, they want to teach their juniors that it’s okay to express their emotions, so long as they remain professional.
It’s time for band practice, and the group performs Lee Hanchul’s “Superstar,” a positive and encouraging song about pushing through the hard times in order to reach a brighter future. As the song plays, we see the twins in a better place – Yunbok amicably says goodbye to Huido when he’s discharged, and a sleeping Hongdo receives an affectionate note and some snacks from Minha.
As the song fades out, Seongyoung checks up on Hwang Duna again. He urges her to wake up, reminding her that other university freshmen will be busy having fun with parties and orientation. He pats her shoulder, telling her not to spend the whole month just lying down, and she… nods? Startled, Seongyoung stands up a little taller, and asks Duna to try lifting her left hand, which she successfully raises slightly. Overcome with emotion, Seongyoung clasps a hand over his mouth, and runs off to fetch a professor.
In the PICU, Soyeong and her husband check on their baby, who is doing much better. They run into Jeongwon and thank him, revealing that they’ve named their son after him, in the hopes that he’ll grow up to be a doctor too. Jeongwon smiles, and tells them they’ve chosen a pretty name. He glances over his shoulder at the couple as he walks away, and then grins.
Episode in review:
This week’s episode was the kind of conceptual one that the show really excels at – it took a step back, and considered what the best stories to explore would be given where the show is in the timeline. The choice to focus on four junior doctors also highlighted the way in which having a large ensemble cast allows for flexible and realistic storytelling. Unlike a typical medical drama (or any drama, for that matter), the main characters are highly competent surgeons in their forties, providing a unique perspective on the younger doctors, who would normally occupy the spotlight. They’re imperfect and frequently make mistakes, but are provided guidance and support from their seniors in the field. I especially loved the professors’ discussion of how the attitude surrounding doctors showing emotions has changed. Another advantage of featuring older characters is the show’s ability to have complex discussion of how the culture of the medical field has progressed over the years, and it was done in a really heartfelt way this week.
Age-wise, the casting of the junior doctors does intrigue me though. Jo Yihyun and Bae Hyunsung were only twenty when they joined the cast last year, so they’re probably playing a little older than they actually are at 21 and 22 now. Similarly, Lee Chanhyung, who plays Seongyoung is 23, and Kim Kangmin who plays Changmin, is 22. Most medical school graduates in South Korea are around 24-26 years old when they start interning, so the fact that the second-year residents on the show are played by people who are even younger than that is interesting to me, especially since dramas usually cast older actors rather than younger. Maybe it’s to provide contrast to the youthful-looking main cast? Either way, they’re all skilled actors, so I’ve no complaints.
In terms of relationships, Jeongwon’s declaration that he’s gearing up to propose definitely threw me for a loop, and the fact that the viewers are hearing about this before Gyeoul does concerns me slightly. On the one hand, the fellow is growing restless because her boyfriend’s bachelor status means he’s susceptible to being crushed and hit on by his colleagues. On the other hand, I wonder if her implied history of family violence might make her wary of marriage.
Junwan’s situation continues to be devastating, and although his loneliness largely manifested in a humorous way this week, it was glaringly evident in all his scenes. I’m not sure if this is all building up to something darker, or is simply meant to highlight how much he misses Iksun, but it’s depressing nonetheless. Remember, this show moves fast, so this guy has been miserable for over a year. However, I think the fact that they’re dragging this out for so long means that the pair’s reconciliation is inevitable. They’re still in love, and there’s no longer an ocean between them, so I’d say it’s only a matter of time.
Overall, episode six delivered a warm and comforting message, allowing often overlooked characters to shine in an affectionate and humorous ode to rookies in the medical profession.
This week’s playlist:
Lee Hanchul’s “Superstar,” is a great song, and it’s one you’ve probably heard here and there on TV. This week’s cover is especially notable not only for that reason, but also because it joins the OST as the first track featuring every main cast member on vocals since season one’s “Me to You, You to Me.” Personally, I definitely prefer the live band version – without its trademark acoustic charm, the track borders on corny, but nonetheless catchy. This season, the attempts to reflect on each episode’s happenings through the song selections are a lot more obvious, and it’s something that’s really enhancing the show. “Superstar” was a great choice for this week in terms of both lyrics and its chirpier instrumentation, and it makes a strong case for the show sticking to late ‘90s and early 2000s tracks as intended (as opposed to last episode’s recycled 80s tune).
This week’s most valuable MD is Seongyoung, for going the extra mile for his patient, perhaps making all the difference in her recovery.
Episode six is perhaps the season’s warmest yet, presenting thought-provoking discussions on the struggles associated with entering the medical field. Though light on dramatic effect, the episode ultimately capitalised on the show’s strong ensemble cast and narrative format in a touching and impactful way.