This episode is all about confrontations, and in a way, the shouting matches we get this hour prove to be therapeutic for characters who didn’t previously have an outlet to pour out all their frustrations. Now that they can be truthful about their issues, the plot pacing has picked up, with new characters being introduced and different story arcs taking shape. Hopefully, the writers will continue ramping up the tension along with the pace.
CHAPTER 4: “Necessary and Sufficient Condition”
Seo-jung drops her phone as she soon as she sees Teacher Kim. He knows what’s going on, but ignores her to attend to the more immediate problem: the patient. He heads into the hybrid room, and finishes the burn treatment that Dong-joo started. Covered with soot marks, the gangster chef who held Dong-joo’s arm down in the casino rushes into the emergency room calling for Teacher Kim.
Distraught, the chef asks about the current state of his line cooks. Dong-joo silently notices a tattoo on his burn victim that matches the one on the cook that tried to take off his hand. Teacher Kim calms the head chef down, only to be interrupted by a flashy newcomer.
Dressed in a sharp business suit and followed by two hulking henchmen, the newcomer states to Teacher Kim that all the costs incurred for treating the burn victims will be paid by their company.
Teacher Kim isn’t impressed, and says that he’ll be filing a claim for the bruise on his face as well. She tells him that the CEO wants to see him again, but Teacher Kim refuses, saying that he’s busy with his patients.
Furthermore, he adds that if the CEO is so desperate, he should come to the hospital. Dr. Nam remarks to Nurse Oh that the lady in the power suit is the general manager of the casino that Teacher Kim frequents.
The scene flashes back to three hours ago. Teacher Kim is in the casino with his medicine bag when he notices a sweaty man rubbing his arm. He surreptitiously tests the man’s reflexes by holding out a water bottle, and when the man fails to catch it, he tells the security guard to call 911.
In the CCTV room, an elderly gentleman sitting in a wheelchair watches the scene unfold. The potential patient faints almost immediately after his encounter with Teacher Kim, and an ambulance is called. The general manager walks up to Teacher Kim after the unconscious man is taken away by emergency workers.
When she tells him that the CEO would like to see him, Teacher Kim follows, but as soon as they turn the corner, he’s suddenly assaulted by two suited goons. The lady turns around and apologizes, saying that this is all being done under the CEO’s orders.
We cut back to the rich elderly man, who is revealed to be the CEO. When Teacher Kim is forcefully brought to his knees in front of him, CEO SHIN eats his expensive steak and calmly tells Teacher Kim that he knows that he’s been secretly going around treating VIP casino clients for extra cash.
Teacher Kim responds that in terms of bad deeds, CEO Shin is worse, since at least he treats his patients for payment — CEO Shin just takes their money. CEO Shin asks if Teacher Kim’s skills are as excellent as the stories say. The doctor truthfully and arrogantly states that he saves more people than he kills, so the CEO offers Teacher Kim a job as his personal physician while ordering another steak to be brought to him.
In the kitchen, the cooks receive the order, but a gas accident causes a major explosion to occur. Meanwhile, Teacher Kim tells CEO Shin that he would only consider it if the CEO were willing to hand over all his wealth.
As he turns to leave, a guard barges in and notifies the CEO of the kitchen fire. Teacher Kim runs to the site of the fire, where all of his gangster-cook friends are fighting a losing battle with the inferno. Without regard for his own safety, Teacher Kim plunges a cloth in water and starts batting out the flames. This is where the flashback ends.
In the present, we return to the hospital, where the gangster head chef boards the helicopter taking his severely burnt underling to a specialized treatment center.
As the Friday ER patients clear out, Dong-joo confronts Teacher Kim about Seo-jung helping him with the patient. Saying that he had never treated a burn victim before, he claims he needed Seo-jung’s advice to properly treat the patient. Dong-joo claims that this was solely his decision, and not Seo-jung’s fault.
Teacher Kim calls him out for his bullshit. The furious doctor humiliates Dong-joo in front of the entire ER by claiming that Dong-joo is just a coward who hides behind other people like Seo-jung because he is too afraid to own up to his mistakes.
He orders Dong-joo never to posture again in front of him, adding that he’s sick of how Dong-joo acts like a know-it-all and a heroic doctor when he’s just doing what every physician must do. Telling Dong-joo to not make up more excuses, Teacher Kim walks away.
All the while, Seo-jung worries about the consequences of helping Dong-joo, since she had already been fired by Teacher Kim when she helped out.
Seo-jung steps in front of Teacher Kim as he leaves the ER and kneels to beg for forgiveness, vowing that she’ll stay kneeling until Teacher Kim reinstates her at the hospital. Tiredly, he repeats that his mind is made up, but adds that she can do whatever she wants.
For Dong-joo, seeing the woman he loves (or at least wants to sleep with) on her knees in front of the jerk who has just insulted him is the last straw. He grabs Seo-jung’s wrist and pulls her up.
He runs after Teacher Kim with fists swinging, which the older man easily evades. Seo-jung tries to stop the fight, but Nurse Oh blocks her, saying that this is something that needs to be resolved between the two of them.
In a rage, Dong-joo yells that even if he is older, Teacher Kim doesn’t have any right to lecture him because he knows nothing about him and his hardship-filled life. He insults Teacher Kim by saying he’s an old codger.
Teacher Kim snaps back, “Yes, an adult shouldn’t do that. Even if he has lived longer, it doesn’t mean that he knows more. I don’t know anything about you. But after living this long, I’ve learned how to tell whether a person is fake or real, whether they’ll make it or break.”
In reply, Dong-joo asks, “Are you saying that I’m fake? That I’ll break?” When Teacher Kim fails to answer, Dong-joo tackles him again. At that point, a burly orderly pulls Dong-joo into a bear hug while Dong-joo struggles uselessly to break free. (His legs can’t even reach the ground, ha.)
That’s when Nurse Oh lets out a fearsome scream for the fighting to cease. She reprimands both the doctors for behaving like little children, and rebukes Teacher Kim for being so hard on Dong-joo as well as for his stubbornness regarding Seo-jung. She demands that Teacher Kim reinstate Seo-jung despite his feeble protestations.
At Geodae Hospital, trouble is brewing. Other general surgery specialists are interviewing for Dong-joo’s position, meaning that perhaps his relegation to the rural Doldam Hospital might have been a permanent move.
After being apprised of these facts by his friend and recalling his lost opportunity at the bigwig dinner, Dong-joo firmly resolves to quit Doldam once and for all and find somewhere else that will properly appreciate a doctor of his stature.
As he goes to give his notice, he encounters Seo-jung standing outside Director Yeo’s room. Teacher Kim, Director Yeo, Nurse Oh, and Ki-tae are in the middle of deliberating Seo-jung’s situation.
That’s when Dong-joo barges in and throws down his resignation letter, ready to give them all a piece of his mind before he quits. Disgusted with Dong-joo’s attitude, Teacher Kim says that they shouldn’t hold onto someone who wants to leave.
At that, Dong-joo acknowledges that he is a craven brown-noser who studies out of fear that he won’t be able to become successful. Nonetheless, he asks why he should be blamed for being ignorant and cowardly when it’s codgers like Teacher Kim who are responsible for creating a dirty world where nepotism and obsequious kowtowing are the only ways to get to the top.
He tells Teacher Kim, “You don’t know what it is to live right, so don’t try to tell me how to live my life. It’s nauseatingly hypocritical.”
On his way out of the room, Dong-joo bumps into Seo-jung, who has been eavesdropping on the entire conversation. He offers to take her with him when he leaves, but Ki-tae trails him and tries to pacify him into staying. Dong-joo replies that it’s not just Teacher Kim who is the problem, it’s the entire hospital with its hazy department jurisdictions, dirty facilities, and ancient equipment.
Seo-jung comes down the steps after them and puts her two cents in. She scoffs at Dong-joo and his offer, asking why she would want to work at a hospital where she would have to be more afraid of her superiors than the patients. Dong-joo snarks that if she wants to live a long life working at this hellhole of a hospital (referring to Doldam), she’s welcome to do so.
She snipes back that he’s messed up, and that he should stop playing the victim. After a few more sarcastic quips, she leaves him. Dong-joo also turns to go, but Ki-tae grabs him from behind in attempt to get him to stay at the hospital.
Just at that moment, CEO Shin wheels in with his general manager at his side. He comments that in his day, two men did not back-hug each other in public. He then goes to Teacher Kim’s office, where they have a long-awaited discussion regarding the imminent dangers to his health.
CEO Shin reveals that he had a heart operation two years ago, resulting in an external pacemaker with a transcutaneous implant being put in while he waited for a matching organ transplant donor. He asks Teacher Kim to do his follow-up surgery.
He says he needs someone he can trust, and his discerning eye, which has never failed him in business, has recognized Teacher Kim as the real deal. Teacher Kim replies that the CEO must be growing old, which is when Ki-tae comes in with a tea cart to serve cafeteria tea as if it’s a gourmet selection, providing a much-needed comic break.
In the doctors’ break room, Seo-jung pretends to study while Dong-joo noisily gathers his things to leave. As he is about to leave, Dong-joo asks Seo-jung whether she even missed him in the past five years.
She stalls, saying that she was busy with rehabilitation and studying, but just as he turns his back, she admits that she thought of him. On a parting note, she reminds him of his duty as a doctor.
Seo-jung: “Even though success and climbing the ladder are important, remember that we’re doctors.”
Dong-joo: “So what?”
Seo-jung: “Yeah, so what — nothing changes. But just remember, we are doctors.”
Dong-joo takes one last look around the hospital, but is interrupted when Nurse Oh asks him to sew up one last laceration patient before he leaves. She helps him put on his gown, while surreptitiously ordering Nursing Assistant Park to quickly hide his stuff.
As Dong-joo works on the patient, Nurse Oh asks him why he hates Doldam Hospital. First, he says, he hates Teacher Kim, and doesn’t like the hospital because he can’t see a future here. He adds that his goal is to become the most skillful doctor, not a good doctor. Nurse Oh asks just one more question: Does he think Teacher Kim is a skillful doctor, or a good doctor? At that, he pauses.
In Teacher Kim’s office, Seo-jung awaits his final decision on her pending employment. Instead of talking about work, he asks to see her wrist. Then, he tells her to give him three reasons explaining why she should stay.
All her three reasons are the same: She wants to learn under Teacher Kim. Her dream is to collaborate on a surgery with him. He allows her to stay at the hospital on one condition — she can only serve in the capacity of an orderly (essentially a nurse’s helper). She thinks about protesting when talking it over with Nurse Oh, but quickly reverses the notion as Teacher Kim threatens to revoke her reinstatement.
Evil head honcho of Geodae Hospital, Dr. Do, lays out the impressive resumes of his potential hires in front of CEO Shin, showing him the best doctors who could perform his surgery. CEO Shin informs him that regretfully, he has already personally chosen a doctor for himself.
At which point, conveniently, Teacher Kim calls CEO Shin, bargaining to obtain several exorbitantly expensive pieces of equipment for the hospital. Teacher Kim also adds that they’ll need to build a clean room at Doldam Hospital if the CEO wants to continue receiving treatment there after his first surgery with Teacher Kim.
The president says not to worry about price, and that he will take care of any needs that Teacher Kim might have. Seeing this generous contribution, Dr. Do’s feathers are understandably a bit ruffled, and he asks CEO Shin whether he gave him any reason to doubt him or his hospital staff.
The CEO shows him the footage of Teacher Kim putting his life on the line to save the burn victims during the kitchen fire, asking the doctor to tell him what he sees. Predictably, Dr. Do doesn’t see the life-saving efforts of the man in the video as anything extraordinary.
CEO Shin explains that he doesn’t want a rule-following, dime-a-dozen doctor to do his surgery — he wants a doctor that will take crazy risks to save a patient’s life to operate on him. Looking closer at the blurred video, a spark of recognition lights in Dr. Do’s eyes.
An unresponsive car crash patient arrives in the Doldam ER, and Dong-joo starts CPR right away. Teacher Kim arrives when Dong-joo has been performing chest compressions for over three minutes. Even after defibrillating, the patient has no pulse, and Dong-joo shocks him again.
This time, the pulse jumps back to a normal rhythm, but the patient still has a dislocated hip. Teacher Kim asks Dong-joo whether he’s treated a dislocated hip before, and Dong-joo says he hasn’t, but that he has read about it and knows the standard procedure. Once again, Teacher Kim surprises him by performing a reduction with cloth bandages in an innovative yet relatively simple method.
That’s when Dong-joo asks Nurse Oh’s question to the man himself: Is Teacher Kim a good doctor, or the most skillful doctor? Teacher Kim replies that he uses all the knowledge he has to become whatever doctor the patient needs. He tells Dong-joo that in order to really win in the world, you should become a person who is needed — someone who doesn’t make excuses, but who proves himself with his skills.
When Teacher Kim adds, “If you don’t change yourself, then nothing will change,” it strikes a chord with Dong-joo. The speech reminds Dong-joo of the doctor who encouraged him after his father’s death and inspired him to walk the medical path.
He runs out after Teacher Kim and asks if he is Dr. Bu Yong-joo. Teacher Kim shows him the name embroidered on his gown, spelling out “Teacher Kim.” At Geodae Hospital, Dr. Do calls Director Yeo to confirm whether the man from the casino fire is Bu Yong-joo. Director Yeo neither confirms nor denies it.
Seo-jung, who is mulling over her future position as an orderly, finds Dong-joo’s things hidden under the nurses’ station. A photograph of his family falls out, and she smiles as she sees the letter on the back. A flashback to a young Dong-joo shows him at Geodae Hospital, looking for Dr. Bu Yong-joo to give him the photograph, where he’d written on the back:
“Dear Dr. Bu Yong-joo,
I am Kang Dong-joo. I would like to become a good doctor like you when I grow up, so that no cases of injustice like my father will ever happen again.”
In the present, Dong-joo isn’t convinced of Teacher Kim’s explanation, and and he seems very certain that the man in front of him is indeed Dr. Bu Yong-joo.
Whoa, that reveal happened quickly. Of course we knew who he was, but is Dong-joo mature enough to handle the fact that the doctor who put him on his current path is the same one who just called him a coward? I’m not too sure. I’m also not quite sure about Dong-joo sometimes — his character arc seems to be developing so erratically.
One moment, he’s making progress by choosing the ER patients over dinner with powerful hospital heads. The next moment, he’s blaming his failure on the world around him like an angsty teenager. Although he is taking it out on the wrong people, there is some truth to his ranting. In the drama, inherent corruption in Korea’s medical education system has resulted in the production of rule-following doctors who are more afraid of failing their superiors than of failing their patients.
I’m glad this episode took the time to work out all the different confrontations between our characters, since now we have a better understanding of where everyone is coming from. Dong-joo’s fight with Teacher Kim revealed his long-suppressed anger at being treated like trash. At Geodae Hospital, it was because of his lack of powerful backing. Here, it’s because the carefully cultivated skills that he prized are a far cry from Doctor Kim’s own prowess. But because he’s being treated the same way, he assumed the root cause is the same, and lashed (wrongfully) out at Teacher Kim for being part of the corruption. Then, his argument with Seo-jung showed his “If you can’t beat them, join them” attitude toward the system. Since he doesn’t think things will ever change, he figures he may as well join the rat race and fight to keep his place.
Dong-joo seems to have some anger management issues that need working out, but I trust that those will get sorted out in time. As far Teacher Kim though, the drama keeps telling me that he’s brilliant, but all the evidence I have of his genius is him performing surgical procedures in an unsanitized ER bed to save the few minutes it would take to transport the patient to a clean room.
Not to mention, where’s his romantic heart? He constantly rags on Dong-joo, who is admittedly an ambitious suck-up, but it doesn’t seem to come from a genuine desire to help improve Dong-joo as a humane doctor. How can he expect something else when Dong-joo has been conditioned his entire adult life by his mentors from the top hospitals to be the cookie-cutter sycophant he is now? I don’t know what magic Teacher Kim worked on Seo-jung to make her idolize him, but I am looking forward to the episodes that fill us in on their ambiguous teacher-student relationship.
And who knows, maybe after a few more episodes, the magic will rub off on Dong-joo, too. Most of all though, I miss all the delicious mysterious kookiness from Episode 2. The lighthearted Addams Family atmosphere added a truly unique touch to Romantic Doctor in a drama scene saturated with formulaic medical shows. Here’s hoping that they incorporate that back into the proceedings soon.