Life isn’t fair, or easy to understand. These simple, common themes are at the heart of “Oliver,” whether one is struggling to understand an uncommunicative coworker, or struggling to understand rules that won’t forgive a dying poor man a single slip – while letting a sick rich man get away with unhealthy behavior.
There are three main storylines in “Oliver.”
A Lifesaving Mission
Shaun is still doing scut work, but in this episode the errand is a vital one: transporting a liver for transplant into a dying patient. He travels with Claire by helicopter to pick up the liver at a hospital in San Francisco, but due to the Bay Area’s foggy weather patterns they’re forced to return to San Jose by police car.
The trip gives Claire several opportunities to ask Shaun questions, and to become very frustrated in her efforts to understand him when he never answers her. Her frustration grows to the point where she calls Shaun’s mentor, who merely tells her she has to find her own way in.
As do we all, in all our interactions. Even without the challenges of autism.
I do give Claire credit, though. She’s been doing her homework, knowing early on that the noise of the helicopter could be a problem, seeing that the flashing lights of a police car make him catatonic, and figuring out (after asking a million questions) that Shaun doesn’t like questions.
The road trip includes a couple of MacGyver moments, from submerging the donor liver in blue raspberry Icee mix, to roadside surgery. The latter strains credulity just a bit, but you can’t help but agree with the cop who says, “This is better than having a baby in my car!”
But the frantic rush may be in vain.
What Harm Can One Little Drink Do?
Apparently, a lot. While Shaun and Claire are racing the clock to deliver the liver, the would-be recipient, Chuck, fails an important lab test. His blood work shows alcohol, and he admits to having had one glass of champagne to celebrate his daughter’s college graduation.
That one glass could be enough to knock Chuck to the bottom of the transplant registry.
This case takes surgical attending Dr. Melendez from “Dr. Arrogant” status to that of a sympathetic character. He doesn’t want this patient sent to the bottom of the list; it would be a six month wait and Chuck doesn’t have that long to live. Melendez literally runs the numbers on the blood alcohol content to assure himself that it was indeed a one-time thing, and makes an impassioned plea, but it doesn’t succeed.
“Without the rules we’re playing God. We need the rules,” Dr. Andrews argues.
Chuck is sent home, presumably to die in three months, and Melendez himself goes home for a sleepless night… but not before assisting in another surgery that proves another old adage true:
The third and smallest storyline of the episode revolves around a wealthy patient who needs a facial skin graft after having had a tumor removed from his cheek very recently. The brush with cancer doesn’t seem to have impressed him; he still drinks and smokes, even with a gaping hole in his face.
The hospital’s main concern is that his surgery goes perfectly. The execs see big money coming their way if it does. It doesn’t go quite perfectly; there’s a complication, but not one so severe that they’ll miss out on the payday. But it’s very galling to see the rich man being handed a cigar as he’s wheeled down the hospital corridor, while Chuck and his family are leaving.
It’s an ending that left me more angry than sad.
Some random notes:
The episode title, “Oliver,” comes from the name Claire arbitrarily gives when Shaun asks for the name of the organ donor.
Flashbacks continue to give us insight to the relationship between Shaun and Dr. Glassman.
Dr. Andrews may be rethinking moving into the upper ranks, after being advised by Dr. Glassman that he needs to make a choice of whether to be a top surgeon or be a hospital president.
I really felt for Dr. Melendez in his last scene tonight. He may be very arrogant, but he is beginning to prove that he’s also very human.
“The Good Doctor” airs Monday nights at 10/9c on ABC.