Once again, “The Good Doctor” demonstrated its unparalleled ability as a medical drama to confront social and interpersonal dilemmas while probing unique medical cases. The November 26 ninth episode for Season 2, “Empathy,” opens with Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) confronting the dearest mentor of his life. The first minutes find Shaun insisting that Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff) surrender his driver's license due to his memory “deficits.” Their dialogue is exquisitely real and gripping, as anyone who has ever faced a similar situation with a beloved senior can attest.

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Dr. Glassman feels ambushed and betrayed by Shaun sharing his “private” test with Dr. Blaize, and more offended that a nurse is standing watch to see that the license is handed off, “or I'll have to notify the DMV,” as Dr. Murphy declares.

Driving is a rite of passage that most adults hold as dearly as life itself, and Dr. Glassman doesn’t hold back his feelings of being “pi**ed” by the entire ordeal. When he says that he doesn't expect Shaun to understand how he feels, Shaun and Lea (Paige Spara) determine to put their attention to driving lessons again, with a different tack and a different purpose.

Dr. Murphy (Freddie Highmore) makes a decision that changes more than a patient's face on The Good Doctor. [Image source: TVPromos/YouTube]
Dr. Murphy (Freddie Highmore) makes a decision that changes more than a patient's face on The Good Doctor. [Image source: TVPromos/YouTube]

Dr. Brown (Antonia Thomas) and Dr. Reznick (Fiona Gubelmann) are challenged by a patient. George (Tyler Ritter-son of John Ritter), who presents to the ER with stroke symptoms that are discovered, in surgery, to be caused by anti-androgens. George says he has hyperplasia, but Claire suspects that he is transitioning genders. What he confesses, after considerable push, is something quite different - a potential danger to society. The two doctors are on very different sides between humane and criminal divides, and Dr.

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Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) is left with the ultimate determination.

Billy (Mason Gooding) is a teen from juvenile detention who takes far more than his share of beatings because of his facial deformity. Dr. Park (Will Yun Lee) proposes that a cosmetic repair would change his life for the better, while Dr. Murphy contends that the procedure is too expensive and “not medically necessary,” until the rest of the story changes his view.

The issues of the medical cases are surrounded by the most hotly contested, and highly-wagered question for the hospital - who will be named the chief of surgery? The final decision surprises everyone.

Not on the first drive

Lea tries her Zen approach to help Shaun conquer his issues, on the road, with meta-visualizations and a “focus on you” approach. Shaun has a major freeze over disobedient drivers around him and improper use of the bike lane. That day was a debacle, but she doesn't give up.

George confesses that he has pedophilic impulses, but he stops himself from acting on them, hence the use of drugs. He tells the doctors that he hates himself and his urges, and refuses drug treatment.

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Dr. Brown pleads that after psychological testing and clearance lasting a few months, he can be approved for a medically-justified castration. He escapes from the hospital, and later returns, having mutilated himself. The decision comes during surgery that he needs his testicles to survive, and he says that he will “do it your way,” but he makes another fateful escape.

Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper) doesn't seem satisfied that any of the contenders for chief of surgery are as good as he was, and still is.

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With his perspective slanted, he has two days to announce his decision. He imposes himself wherever he can--in surgery, in private consults, everywhere he can play mind games. His presence is so looming that Dr. Melendez and Dr. Lim (Christina Chang) agree on the wording to tell him to excuse himself, but don't make the request as a united front.

Dr. Murphy consults his colleagues on the value of empathy to a surgeon, with well thought out but mixed responses. As Shaun frankly explains, he does not have the physiological and psychological brain connections for empathy. What he does have, however, are vivid memories of his life experiences, and a circle of very significant people in his life who offer honest answers. That makes a crucial difference.

One more try

Dr. Lim proposes that Dr. Park sees giving Billy a better life as a sort of atonement for all the youths he sent to juvenile detention during his days as a cop. He doesn't disagree. Shaun maintains his strictly medical position, until Billy explains how his injury came, under the anger of his father, and turns away in hearing the story. He understands that paternal rage.

In the middle of surgery, Shaun proposes a breastplate for Billy, which could then justify his facial repair. Preparations are made, and a gel implant is inserted in the boy’s face before a life-threatening cardiac arrest nearly takes his life. Dr. Lim and the whole team desperately use every measure to bring him back to stable. Shaun thinks his idea was a mistake and tells Billy so. Dr. Park, though, relates that the entire procedure probably saved the young man's life.

Dr. Melendez stands firm that removal of viable tissue or organs is not an option, so George has no choice but to follow the proper psychological process. He escapes again, and this time, he doesn't come back, throwing himself into traffic to be run over by a bus. Doctors Brown and Reznick see the grisly collision, and down to the final minutes of “The Good Doctor” in this episode, they contemplate whether the world is worse or better for the outcome.

Lea revises her strategy, using a surgical approach, and all the unexpected mishaps that can happen in an operation, to keep Shaun focused on his next driving day. His performance is not perfect. He runs into a trash can in order to miss a child chasing a soccer ball. Lea magnifies the very fact that he did not have a major incident or injury as momentous. She put a feather in his cap, and she is showing him that she is up to his challenges, and maybe in it for the long haul, maybe.

Shaun and Lea pull up in the “red tomato,” last seen in “Islands” from Season 1, and open the door to take Dr. Glassman to his radiation appointment. Dr. Murphy is inescapably showing the joy that “I can drive now,” and the object of that goal gets in the back seat.

Dr. Murphy lucks out in the betting, too, when Dr. Andrews announces that he will be keeping the chief of surgery post. Shaun takes the kitty, as jaws literally plop.

Dr. Melendez and Dr. Lim toast to learning lessons on how unity always beats being played at a local bar.

Next week's episode, “Quarantine,” marks the winter finale for this season of “The Good Doctor,” but it doesn't get much better than this one.

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