‘The Good Doctor’ 2×06 Review: ‘Two-Ply (or not Two-Ply)’

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Moving in together can be the hardest thing two people ever do, even if they’re in a platonic relationship. Divvying up the chores, holding up your end of the finances… dealing with your roommate’s quirks. Add unresolved sexual tension and it becomes even more difficult.

Then throw autism into the mix!

Now, I’ve said before that autism manifests differently for every person on the spectrum. In the case of Shaun Murphy, it shows as exacting standards of cleanliness and organization that make Felix Unger look like a slob.

(And if you didn’t understand that reference, please look up The Odd Couple. I favor the original.)

How Do You Hang The Toilet Paper?

Shaun and Lea have officially moved in together, as “just friends.” It’s an uneasy living arrangement at the moment. Shaun is very used to being on his own, organizing things in very specific ways and having certain things stocked.

Like two-ply toilet paper.

Lea is a bit looser about things.She doesn’t rinse out her coffee mug. She puts the cups on the “wrong” side of the plates. She’s not careful about putting the remote away. And one-ply toilet paper is fine by her, since it’s cheaper. Shaun struggles with all of these things, but what seems to break him is how Lea hangs the toilet paper. He is an “over” person while she is an “under” person.

Sound ridiculous? Would you believe that it was the subject of a national debate back in 1986? Not a political one, but in the Ann Landers daily advice column, printed in thousands of newspapers around the world. It was the most responded-to and controversial issue in the column’s history, back in the days before the internet. For some reason, people were passionate about toilet paper.

And so is Shaun, as trivial as it is. He investigates how toilet paper is hung in the hospital restrooms and asks people how they hang it.

But really, this isn’t about toilet paper. It’s about being able to compromise. Even neurotypical people struggle with it, and Shaun struggles even more. Not because he is arrogant or because he must be right all the time, but because of the way his brain is wired. Change and compromise are even more difficult for him than for the neurotypical. His concession that maybe the cups can go to the right of the plates is bigger than it seems. But this will be a great struggle for Lea. “I’m trying hard to be accommodating, but you’re not cutting me any slack!” she tells him in a mid-episode blowup.

Welcome to life on the spectrum, Lea.

Morgan’s Bitter Lesson

Last season, I’d been hoping Dr. Morgan Resnick would get a comeuppance. But at the time I thought that might be a little too easy. Well, they say to be careful what you wish for. She got her comeuppance, at the cost of another woman’s career.

Morgan’s story is also one of compromise. As vital as it is for two people living together, it’s even more so for two doctors working to cure a patient. Morgan is uncompromising when Shaun keeps insisting their patient needs to be tested for flesh-eating bacteria. Her intentions are good; the patient is a violinist and the test could impact her hand’s mobility.

But there’s a reason they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The patient does have the bacteria, and the delay in testing leads to the eventual need to amputate the patient’s arm – an emergency decision made while the woman is unconscious.

As if that’s not painful enough – Morgan has to stay with the patient in a locked hyperbaric chamber for oxygen therapy treatment. She has to tell the woman that her arm is gone, and explain phantom pain. And when the patient orders her to leave, she cannot escape because they are in that locked chamber.

It is a bitter, bitter lesson for Morgan, who had been so competitive and disrespectful to her fellow residents. And for the viewer, there’s no Schadenfreude here, no satisfaction over this failure.

Life-Saving Stubbornness

On the other hand, an unwillingness to compromise can make all the difference. That’s what happens with Claire and Park, who are treating a teenager for what appears to be a severe nosebleed. The young girl has had a series of medical issues, which her divorced parents believe are all psychosomatic.

Park takes the parents’ side, but Claire isn’t quite so willing to settle. She pushes and pushes for tests and scans. They eventually discover the girl has a Lego brick in her lung! It had been there for years, dating back to a time when she chewed on her toys while her not-yet-divorced parents were fighting.

And I thought stepping on a Lego brick barefoot was the worst that could happen!

You could take the moral of these two stories as, “Always do every possible test.” But it’s not that simple. Morgan was trying to work in her patient’s best interest, just as Claire was. I think the bigger message is that one must always talk it out, with the patient or their parents. That happened with Claire, and did not with Morgan.

Perhaps we will see Morgan begin to look at Claire as an ally rather than an adversary.

Other Notes

  • Doctors still make lousy patients. Aaron is home from the hospital and is very crotchety toward his home health care nurse. That’s not unexpected. But he’s also crotchety toward Debbie, the woman he’d been on a date with when his whole tumor saga started. It was sad to see, but also understandable. He doesn’t want Debbie to become his caretaker.
  • So, Melendez and Lim were residents together, and Lim was a nerd! Nice little detail!
  • A lot of times things don’t need to be either/or; they can be both/and. Lea proves that with her solution to the toilet paper question: Two hangers and rolls. One over, one under. If only all our conflicts could be resolved this easily!

The Good Doctor airs Monday nights at 10/9 Central on ABC.




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