Faithful viewers of “The Good Doctor” can name more than one episode of the medical drama about so much more than medicine that lingers in the soul and psyche. Even considering that roster, the October 15, fourth episode of Season 2, “Tough Titmouse,” carries such an emotional punch, without a hint of self-pity, that even the most stone-hearted, casual viewer will find it hard not to put this one on repeat, at least once.

After Lea (Paige Spara) gave Shaun (Freddie Highmore) the full shower of her hurt feelings in well deserved late-night chat to close his long shift, he is still trying everything he knows to make amends, including leaving her a glazed doughnut for breakfast.

When she reveals that she plans to be out of his apartment in 48 hours, and doesn't think to be neighbors again, (in Kenny's old apartment, since he's been arrested) is a good option, she also adds that a doughnut hardly fixes this rift.

Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff) doesn’t want to allow himself the necessary sleep for healing so long as he has the comfort of his vision of Maddie (Holly Taylor) to relive their wonderful memories together until she reminds him that her purpose is to take him through the most horrible remembrance of his life. Meanwhile, Dr. Brown (Antonia Thomas) is asked to be the go-between for an injured rock climber and her parents, who want to keep her alive, regardless of whether it means sacrificing her life passion.

Nicholas Gonzalez gives his finest, most multidimensional performance as Dr. Neil Melendez, who guides the loving mother of a patient with Fragile X syndrome to come to a wrenching but necessary decision. In the process, he comes to appreciate a family connection that fans have not seen until now.

Shaun’s recollection of his past experiences in foster care help him to reach Mac, the same patient, in a very powerful way, preparing him for the separation to come, while the good doctor himself learns that sincerity and caring are the deepest gestures of friendship.

Every doctor, just like patients, brings the baggage of their lives into their profession, and that weight can be transformed into a blessing under the right circumstances, skill, and compassion.

Heart-to-heart in the OR

Shaun instantly relates to Mac, understanding what is seen and unseen in the young patient. Dr. Melendez assures him and his mother that the injuries to his shoulder can be surgically repaired, and he will go home that day.

Nicole, Mac’s mother, was hoping for a respite of at least one night away from her son and realizes that she may be judged harshly for that wish. In one tender exchange, Shaun rushes to return Mac’s stuffed zebra to his arms before surgery.

As Shaun is often prone to do, he asks his biggest questions of his colleagues and supervisors in the OR, and this time, he inquires about making a new friend. Since everyone knows about his situation with Lea, Dr. Park (Will Yun Lee) advises to “go big,” offering a beautiful gesture to sweep Lea off her feet. On the other extreme, Dr. Melendez retorts that if she doesn't accept Shaun’s apology, he should just let her leave. The “dazzle them or dump them” comparisons quickly draw critiques from the wise anesthesiologist.

Kitty lives for the summits of her solo rock climbing, using no ropes or safety protections, exclaiming that when she reaches her peaks, “every roadblock in my life disappears.” While that effect is remarkable, her body is taking a terrible toll, and this time, she is suffering from a broken back and neck. Claire presents the option of spinal fusion surgery, which will limit movement and mean that she cannot be a climber again. Dr. Reznick (Fiona Gubelmann) offers a procedure with screws that are far more risky, with no guaranteed outcome, but can give the possibility of returning to her dangerous passion.

Kitty instantly wants to opt for the screwing procedure, but her parents vehemently insist on the fusion, feeling that they are saving their daughter's future.

Due to her past injuries, the debate becomes so heated that the hospital psychologist is called on the case to determine who will decide on the procedure. During her interviews with the doctors, Dr. Reznick rightly assigns Dr. Brown's views as being influenced by her drug-addicted mother. Dr. Brown goes to Dr. Lim (Christina Chang) for counsel and is told that the role of knowing the future and “being God” is not something doctors should lose sleep over. She muses with Dr. Melendez from the balcony on a sunny afternoon about how doctors can stop their personal issues and past from being part of their decisions. Dr. Melendez responds that if that baggage informs and guides decisions in a good way, it has a purpose, but no one has a certain answer.

When Mac's mother returns the next day with a severe arm injury, the residents on her case all realize that her son’s outburst is a likely cause, despite her insistence to the contrary. Mac also takes quite a swipe at Shaun. Dr. Park urges Dr. Melendez to release her from the pain and guilt of putting her son in a facility. The discussions prompt Shaun to reflect back on his time with “Bill,” short for Cybil, in his third foster home. She tells Shaun that she swears, sleeps with different men, and doesn't go to church on their first meeting, but she understands Shaun’s aversion to a substitute teacher, and gives him strength for coping with hard situations in her own way, saying “tough titmouse.” When she tells Shaun that he has to leave when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he responds with the phrase back to her.

Dr. Melendez explains that Nichole’s decision to place her son in professional care will be the hardest choice that she will ever make, and she will be judged for it, but her son will be the beneficiary in the end. Shaun talks with Mac, who relies on his zebra much the way Shaun does on his toy scalpel. Shaun gives Mac the “tough titmouse” adage and assures the mother that her son will not hate her.

Pushing past the past

Dr. Brown is put in the unenviable position of telling Kitty’s parents that she doesn't want them there after her surgery. They oblige, still sure that their choice has given their daughter a future of possibilities that never would happen in pursuit of her passion. The surgical resident reveals her own struggles a self-destructive person in her life, and how forcing treatment would have meant losing her.

Claire reminds Kitty that her parents love her very much, and Kitty replies that she knows.

Maddie tells her father that she is not there just to celebrate the happy memories that are “like a song.” She remembers the night of her “being high for the umpteenth time,” and her dad dragging her out of the house and locking the door. She didn't go to Jessica's or Aunt Becky's that night-- she died. Dr. Glassman shrieks that “I died, too, that night-- I died, too.” At last, father and daughter come to a closure on that undying pain, as Maddie tells her dad that she loves him. Desperate times and desperate situations provoke imperfect people to desperate measures, but those cannot erase the bonds of love.

Shaun gives his own credit to Dr. Glassman the next morning, reminding him that he has slept 13 hours straight, and hearing that Maddie told her father that she loved him. “That's very good,” Shaun answers, before telling his mentor that “you always tell the truth.”

The most tender revelation of the story comes as Dr. Melendez pays a visit to his own intellectually- challenged sister, Gabby, in a group home. Nicholas Gonzalez exquisitely conveys a side of his character never seen before, putting a puzzle together that was a present from their parents. She asks him if they are coming to take her home that day. He answers “No,” with a tender kiss, reminding her of all the fun she has where she is.

Still, a child's longing to belong is always there.

Lea is non-appreciative of Shaun’s effort to “go big” by re-creating a full karaoke lounge and “Islands in the Stream” in his living room. She tells him that Hershey “meant everything to me” and then just went away, without Shaun ever asking what happened. She is about to head for a rented room the next evening when Shaun returns home. He asks her what happened in Hershey, saying he doesn't know how to answer the question of what will make her happy, saying that “everyone likes doughnuts.” She asks him to simply be honest-- the same kind, honest friend she had before she left. She asks if he cares about Hershey. “I care that you care,” he responds.

“You want to try that song again?” she asks. His eyes light up, and he starts the lights and music as they sing. He tells her that he got the bigger apartment “for us to share” just before the credits roll, to Lea’s startled, big eyes.

With subjects and stories this deep, Season 2 is sure to be the most satisfying thus far for “The Good Doctor.”