The Good Doctor s3 ep 7

After a couple of weeks when The Good Doctor was, perhaps, treading water just a little, this was every inch a return to form. In particular, the storylines of both Patients of the Week had a real emotional heft. Patient 1 is Charlie, a twelve-year-old boy who is, on the face of it, remarkably sanguine and good-humoured about the fact that he is about to have his one functioning eye removed because of cancer, rendering him permanently blind. Charlie disappears before surgery, but Claire and Morgan track him down and let him have a bit of fun. Then Claire is kinda mean to him – yeah, OK, Claire, but he’s a child who is not only about to go blind for ever, but who knows he’s about to go blind for ever – and he decides not to have the operation after all, before she talks him round.

I was expecting the usual Good Doctor last-minute miracle surgery, but we, and Charlie, don’t get it at all: he wakes up from surgery, he’s blind, and he wants to speak to Claire, who’s not there. Morgan finds Claire at a bar, where she’s presumably brooding again about the loss of her useless mother, and suggests that Claire should have been there when Charlie woke up because she connected with him emotionally – well maybe, Morgan, but you’re the one who flashed him, as a last sighted-world treat. “Deal with your crap”, snaps Morgan at Claire, “before this is who you really become”. Co-signed.

Patient 2, meantime, is endearingly acerbic Tara, who is not “the girl in the bubble”, except that she totally is: she has SCID, severe immunodeficiency, which means that she needs to stay in an isolation chamber, even when being operated on. She takes to Shaun’s kind of plain speaking: he, like her, is isolated in a way, although for different reasons. Tara even helps Shaun reply to Carly’s texts: she is, she explains, good at phone sex, that being the only sort she can have.

But here comes this week’s miracle cure, sort of: Park proposes a form of gene therapy, high-risk for sure, but which if successful might give Tara a chance at a normal life. Melendez, however, is gun-shy after last week’s tragedy, and declines to push the treatment, which isn’t like him; he’s normally all over flashy interventions which might succeed spectacularly. (This isn’t Claire and her stupid mother, I’m fine with the after-effects of something like this lingering for a while.) Shaun persuades Tara to go ahead, and it looks as if it’s successful: by the end of the episode, she takes her first steps outside her bubble, and contemplates the world. Coming in the same episode as Charlie’s last sight of the world, it’s quite moving. 

The quick subplots work this week as well – Glassman is an idiot for thinking that he can work with Debbie, who orders him around, acts out to Lim, then quits; Lim and Melendez are doing their very best to negotiate their relationship, even though Melendez is refusing to admit that he’s not coping well with what happened last week; and Shaun is still learning how to be in a romantic relationship with someone neurotypical, this time in particular that texts which don’t appear to need a reply actually do need one. And his final text to Carly – simply “I’m here” – is, frankly, what we all need to hear at some time or another. Wonderful.

The Good Doctor s3 ep 6

I have no real idea why, but for the first time this season I wasn’t feeling it with this episode. After last week’s false start, Shaun is once more lined up for his first lead surgery: this time, it’s an appendectomy, and as we don’t know anything about the patient that’s a reasonable steer that we’re not expected to get too invested in whether she or he lives or dies. And, indeed, it’s a success; right up, that is, to the point where Shaun throws a strop because poor Nurse Hawks doesn’t hand him a clamp in precisely the way he wants it. He then kicks her out of the ER, watched all the while by Andrews and his told-you-so face. Lim tells Shaun to apologise to Hawks. Instead, he tries to mansplain to Hawks why he was right all along. Nuh-uh, says Lim; now she’s filed a complaint, and if you do that again Imma kick you out.

The main surgical event of the week, though, is on Melendez’s table: it’s Patty, a woman who is 23 weeks pregnant and also has a non-malignant ovarian tumour. The first attempt to remove the tumour and leave the baby fails, whereupon Patty and her husband need to make some tough choices: Patty favours a risky surgery which offers a chance of saving her baby; Mr Patty wants, first and foremost, to save his wife; and Melendez needs to remember to run big decisions past his boss, who is also his bae. This one goes very wrong, and Melendez takes it badly. And, unfortunately, much as I like Lim and Melendez as a couple, I don’t see that lasting too much longer either.

The personal life stuff doesn’t quite grab me this week: as I feared, Claire is still behaving self-destructively, and I really wish she wouldn’t. Debbie is fired from the hospital coffee shop and wants to come and work with Glassman in his clinic. Glassman is clearly reluctant. I’m with you, dude. And Shaun manages to get some apology practice in with Carly, when she – rightly – points out that if he has a problem, she always hears about it from Claire or Morgan rather than from him. But she confirms that they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, which is a happy ending for Shaun at least.

The Good Doctor s3 ep 5

It’s Shaun’s turn to get his first lead case: Beth, a good-natured woman who requires apparently straightforward surgery for oesophageal cancer. Unsurprisingly, it becomes more complicated, and when Shaun’s patient communication skills aren’t quite up to the mark Beth requests that he be taken off the case. Lim – who hand-picked this case for Shaun, which troubles Andrews – intercedes and Shaun is reinstated, but when the surgery actually starts Shaun appears to be having a meltdown. Andrews and Lim eventually discern that Shaun has actually found a way of performing the surgery which will be better for the patient, but which is too complex for him to perform. Thus Beth’s life is improved, Shaun loses his lead surgery, and Andrews and Lim can debate whether Shaun is worth the trouble.

Meantime, Claire and Morgan are treating Curtis, an alcoholic who has been sober for six years, he says. He has all the symptoms of intoxication, though, and Claire doesn’t believe him. Even when Curtis’s wife says that she stands by her husband, Claire isn’t remotely convinced. We kind of know how this one’s going to go as well: sure enough, Curtis has a medical condition which is causing his intoxication. Of course, all of this business about refusing to believe an alcoholic is off the drink is bound up, so far as Claire is concerned, with her Coming To Terms with the Loss of her Mother, something about which I truly don’t care, because her mother was appalling. I really, really hope that this won’t go on for too much longer.

And Glassman’s new wife Debbie has a gun. Glassman is appalled; Debbie says it’s her thing and she’s not giving it up. Relationship counsellor Shaun prescribes second base to Glassman, this being an experience he’s presently enjoying with Carly. It works for Glassman. And, presumably, Debbie and Carly. It’s not The Good Doctor at its absolute best – the Cases of the Week are a little too predictable – but it’s perfectly fine.

The Good Doctor s3 ep 4

St Bonaventure has a patient on the “celebrity track”: one Mitchell Stewart, conspiracy theorist, played with brio and star quality by our old friend Joshua Malina. (Unfortunately he doesn’t appear in any scenes with Richard Schiff. How hard could it be to contrive that, folks?) He has a genetic liver problem, but insists he’s being poisoned by – well, who knows? Someone determined to stop him from spreading his batshit ideas about “crisis actors” and the like. Nor does he trust any of the hospital staff; apart from Shaun, that is, as he realises that Shaun would find it very difficult to lie to him. Even if he claims that Shaun’s autism was caused by vaccination, something Shaun immediately debunks. Anyway, Stewart is being poisoned, after all, but not by who or what he thinks.

It’s an entertaining diversion from the rest of the episode, which is loosely themed around the question of whether we can ever know someone. Well, can we? Can we? Patient of the Week number 2 is Lily, who doesn’t really think there’s much wrong with her, until she turns out to have a ruptured appendix of which she was entirely unaware. She can’t, it transpires, feel physical pain. And just as I was thinking we’d probably seen this before in a medical procedural or two, her story takes an intriguing twist: she can’t feel emotional pain either. Well, well, well. This leaves Lily’s husband somewhat adrift: does she actually love him? Can you love someone without the possibility of loss, and the pain which ensues, hanging over you? This, of course, is a topic close to Claire’s heart this week, given that her useless mother checked out last time round. I’m not mad on the final scene, in which Claire numbs the pain with meaningless sex: I mean, I’m all for numbing pain with meaningless sex, but if this is going to turn into a season-long exploration of destructive behaviour, then count me out.

Meantime, Glassman is just about to get married to Debbie, when he’s thrown by the discovery that Shaun and Carly are working their way through a whole list of topics designed to ensure that they know as much as they can about each other. How much does he actually know about Debbie, and what the hell crazy kind of idea is it to leap into marriage anyway? And Shaun negotiates, with Carly, the tricky business of hand-holding: she wants to, he doesn’t. It’s a likeable and engaging episode, if not quite as good as this show is capable of being.

The Good Doctor s3 ep 3

It looks as if Claire’s first patient as lead surgeon is going to be Michelle, a troubled teenage girl whose gallbladder will need to be removed, but she has plenty of distractions. Shaun wants her to speak to Carly and sort out his love life. (She eventually does, and Carly tells her to mind her own.) She needs to go to therapy with her waste-of-space mom. And Michelle’s mom (Traci Thoms, currently playing another kind of annoying character in 9-1-1) is pretty appalling herself: she has three foster children who Michelle seems to be expected to bring up, and Michelle is unhappy to the point where, unknown to her mother, she’s been self-harming. So Claire arranges for a psych consult for Michelle; Michelle’s mom finds out and complains; and Lim takes her off the surgery.

But then Michelle insists on Claire performing the surgery, and she gets to do it after all. The surgery itself, which goes wrong towards the end but not fatally, is a quite terrific sequence – I’ve seen hundreds of these on TV before but never one quite like this – and Claire’s little dance of triumph afterwards is earned by the character and the show. 

In the B-plot, Wilson out of House (Robert Sean Leonard) has a marlin hanging off his leg, Probably a dead marlin, although there’s a little doubt about that. Anyway, it would be reasonably straightforward to hack Brer Marlin in two, but that would mean it couldn’t be stuffed and mounted, something which Wilson is very keen to do. The marlin extraction isn’t straightforward, and Claire takes ten seconds off from everything else to provide a snap diagnosis of what else – apart from the marlin – might be wrong with Wilson. The fish is saved.

I suspect that we’re supposed to see the final scene as a tragedy. Thing is, I didn’t like that character at all, and I’m not remotely sorry to see her go. I just hope that Claire doesn’t beat herself up for weeks. That aside, though – and not for the first time – this is popular TV of the highest quality.

The Good Doctor s3 ep 2

Patient of the Week number 1, in an excellent episode, is Josh, who is what the British tabloids used to call – still do, for all I know – a “have-a-go hero”, who stepped in when a young woman was being harassed in public, and got a skateboard in the face for his trouble. This is every bit as messy as you might expect, and after exploratory surgery Marcus Andrews, back on the factory floor, concludes that Josh’s face can’t be reconstructed: his jaw will need to be wired shut, and he won’t be able to speak or eat solids ever again. This is explained to Josh, who accepts it stoically.

Hang on, though, says Andrews: we can do better, even if “better” means inventing a new kind of surgery more or less on the hoof. Shaun, of course, is your man for the Hail Mary, and together with Claire they come up with a plan. Andrews is driven, in part at least, by bitterness: he was Shaun’s have-a-go hero, and his reward was to get busted back to private, or whatever the equivalent is when you’re getting paid a salary which is presumably in the mid-to-high six-figures. But no-one ever said that motives need to be uncomplicated.

Meantime, Patient 2 is a newborn baby with some sort of digestive disorder. Melendez has already operated, but it didn’t work. The baby’s parents want another surgeon, and Lim offers herself, as Head of Surgery, observing en passant that Melendez might have erred on the side of caution. This doesn’t go down particularly well with Melendez. And the third years are being careful not to criticise Melendez to Lim’s face. Both Lim and Melendez acknowledge that this is all weird.

Patients 1 and 2 are being operated on simultaneously when their respective machines start beeping in the manner which portends trouble in medical dramas: will they survive? Will the gamble of an untried form of surgery on jaw dude pay off? Will Melendez be vindicated? And can Lim be Melendez’s boss and bae at the same time?

The least welcome development this week is the reappearance of Claire’s high-maintenance mother Breeze (sic). The mom-who-turns-up is almost never a favourite plot device of mine, and I’m not making an exception this time. I’m also not entirely sold on the rivalry among the third years about who will be the first to lead an operation, although it does mean that the unpleasant side of Reznick – successfully repressed for a season or so – is back, and competing with the equally unpleasant side of Park. Except it’s going to be Claire, losers. And Shaun is still reflecting on his first date with Carly, even though she’s told him that she had a good time. “I”, ripostes Shaun, “had a horrible time”. We learn that Carly has an autistic sister, which might explain her tolerance.

The Good Doctor s3 ep 1

Reassuringly, nothing much has changed at St Bonaventure. There are two Cases of the Week. In the better one Morgan and Park debate what to do with Harvey, a 70-year-old man with dementia, who has kidney cancer. Untreated, he’ll live for up to five years; alternatively, he can be operated on, and given radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He’ll probably live longer, but he’ll be distressed, since he’ll keep forgetting what’s happening to him and why, which in turn will place a considerable burden on his wife, although it’s a burden she’s willing to bear. I’m not sure what the right answer is here, which probably means I’m with Morgan.

In Case #2, Shaun and Claire have a young bride who, after exploratory surgery, turns out to have advanced cancer. Shaun is supposed to advise her that she’s going to die, but instead proposes radical, risky, unproven etc. surgery. This is of course entirely on brand for Shaun, so it’s no surprise that the patient agrees to go ahead, after discussion with her husband of like five minutes, and nor is the outcome.

Meantime, it being the first episode of the season, everyone needs to get sorted out for the year ahead. Lim is now chief of surgery, and she and Melendez advise HR that they have split up. HR doesn’t believe them but notes their position anyway. Andrews is sulking at home, so Lim hires him as her replacement as an attending. Glassman is working at a free clinic (I think; don’t ask me to explain the American healthcare system), until Aoki convinces him to return to St Bonaventure as president.

And Shaun insists that his first date with Carly was a disaster. The real story, told in several flashbacks, is more complicated: things went wrong; he had to make a lot of effort; he’s not sure if Carly was having fun; he’s pretty clear it’s not worth it. Eh, reply the neurotypical doctors to whom he’s recounting this, that’s dating for you, and if you stick in at it you might meet someone who’ll look after you when you need it, like both of the Cases of the Week. Not a spectacular start to the season, but an entirely satisfying one.