I’ve been trying to find the production dates for the winter finale of The Good Doctor, because it had a very “ripped from the headlines” feel. Recently we’ve heard story after story of powerful men harassing women in the workplace – in Hollywood studios, New York City newsrooms and the halls of power in Washington, D.C. “Sacrifices” gives us its own #MeToo story, and the quandary that too many women find themselves in when they are the targets of a harasser.
And that wasn’t even supposed to be the main story! But the writers and cast have done such an excellent job of developing the characters of St. Bonaventure Hospital that I am growing to love Claire Brown, Jared Kalu and even Neal Melendez as much as the character who brought me to the party in the first place – Shaun Murphy. And their stories now matter to me as much as Shaun’s own, which takes a very worrisome turn. We’ll get into that in a bit; let’s start with Claire.
“Treat me with the respect you would give a man”
Claire’s been assigned to work with a Dr. Coyle to treat a woman at risk of losing one or both legs due to overdoing it at a spinning class.
Yeah, I thought that sounded a bit preposterous too. Then I researched the procedure and what it’s used for: a condition called compartment syndrome which WebMD says can indeed be caused by “extremely vigorous exercise, especially eccentric movements (extension under pressure).”
Wow. I learned something there. I also learned about something called “cankles,” a term I’d never heard before this episode and a condition I apparently have, according to its definition. I am in a position not to be worried about it, but Hazel, the patient, feels she is not. She’s an entrepreneur seeking investment funding, and says, “There’s an inverse relationship between the size of my ass and how much money I can raise.”
Another wow moment, and not the good kind of wow, but one that unfortunately rings all too true. Hazel nearly spins herself to an amputation because she feels she needs the “tech bros” and their money on her side. She says calling them out on their sexism will get her labeled “a bitch or worse.”
Similarly, Claire doesn’t feel she can call out Dr. Coyle for his behavior. Instead, she does what women have done for decades, trying to find a back door out of the situation. She asks Jared and Shaun if they will trade patients with her, so she doesn’t have to deal with Coyle. When she tells Jared – her boyfriend, mind you – that Coyle patted her back in a way that was “too friendly,” Jared only suggests that perhaps Coyle was trying to build rapport. Jared has about as much empathy for Claire in this situation as Shaun does. We’re not surprised by Shaun’s lack of empathy; we already know he has trouble understanding social interactions. But Jared’s dismissiveness is disappointing to us and to Claire.
With no option for trade, Claire continues her treatment of Hazel, and Coyle makes an overt move with an offer of drinks, a massage and a killer omelette in the morning. Claire is firm in her rejection of him, but doesn’t want to take her action further than that. “I file a complaint and I get labeled hostile and difficult,” she tells Jared. “They will shift the blame to me, just as you did.”
It is true that it is difficult to report harassment. NPR recently reported that such cases are often rejected by courts. We may say #BelieveWomen, but all too often it’s no more than a slogan.
Claire does take action after getting praised by Hazel for rejecting Coyle as she did. She reports him to the chief of surgery, and learns that Jared has taken action of his own – confronting Coyle and shoving him up against some lockers. It’s a Neanderthal move that Claire doesn’t appreciate, but her disapproval is not Jared’s only problem. He’s been fired for assaulting Coyle.
It’s one of the “where do we go from here?” moments of the show, and like I said, it’s just the secondary storyline.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do”
Shaun just wants to do his job. He does not want to see the therapist Dr. Glassman has hired for him, so he avoids going home at night, sleeping in a hospital broom closet. Shaun’s stubbornness gets bolstered by the patient he and Jared have been helping to treat, a professional gamer named Bobby who believes Shaun is not respected by his fellow doctors. “Doing whatever the hell you feel like doing is always an option,” Bobby tells Shaun.
While Bobby is pressuring Shaun on the one side, Dr. Glassman is pressuring him on the other. He believes the therapist will help Shaun, but he can’t make Shaun go. Shaun is an adult and has to make his own decisions.
So Glassman resorts to a tool familiar to any parent: Bribery. He offers a surround sound system in exchange for a session. But Shaun is an adult, and as much as he may want that sound system, he wants to make his own decisions even more.
Shaun is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, without a firm grasp of the emotional tools needed to handle those opposing points of view. The resulting explosive argument in the hospital lobby is exactly the sort of thing Glassman has been fearing, with Shaun actually striking Glassman before storming out. The episode ends with another “where do we go from here” scene, when Glassman goes to Shaun’s apartment and finds Shaun has packed up and left.
In both of these main stories, Jared and Glassman have both pushed a little too far for the people they care about. There is a third storyline that also ends with a “where do we go from here” moment, but it’s the result of Dr. Melendez not having pushed far enough in the past.
Dinner with Dad
Melendez’ engagement to hospital attorney Jessica Preston has been one of the back stories of the season. In fact, Jessica has seemed to be one of the filler characters, visible whenever there are risks to the hospital to be managed. We know she’s engaged to Melendez, we know she had a friendship to someone who was important to Glassman. But until this episode, we didn’t know that Jessica is a trust fund baby. She doesn’t have to do what she does, her father points out during a very uncomfortable dinner in which he offers to pay for their wedding. The dinner conversation continues with Dad pushing Jessica to give up her work, saying she won’t have time once she has children. Melendez asks Dad if he wants Jessica to become a lazy parasite.
Somehow, the dinner doesn’t end with Dad hauling off and hitting Melendez. But the real fallout doesn’t come from Dad. It comes from Jessica, who confesses to Melendez that she doesn’t want children.
That news seems to hit Melendez harder than Dad could have done, and leaves us wondering whether the engagement will survive to the new year. Note to anyone thinking about getting engaged: Please settle the kids issue FIRST. It’s a deal breaker.
“Sacrifices” does everything a mid-season finale should do, giving us an interesting story and whetting our appetite for the series’ return next month.
The Good Doctor returns to ABC on Monday, January 6 at 10/9 Central.