Many fans of “The Good Doctor” have been looking forward to this week’s February 18, 15th episode of Season 2, “Risk and Reward” for weeks, while many others may have dreaded it. Daniel Dae Kim steps away from his executive producer seat to star as the new chief of surgery, Jackson Han, in this deep and deliciously-acted episode involving the frailty and dilemmas of being human, the worthiness of acceptance, and the constant challenge that comprises life.

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This is the first starring role for Kim on television since his departure from “Hawaii Five-O” after seven seasons. Freddie Highmore shows his multidimensional talents in directing the episode with incredible touch and deftness. Some may remember that another familiar “Hawaii Five-O” regular, Will Yun Lee, already stars as Dr. Alex Park on “The Good Doctor,” and the storyline set in motion with this stirring episode is sure to challenge not only Dr. Murphy but every resident and physician on the team.

Dr. Murphy (Freddie Highmore) hears a tough decision from Daniel Dae Kim on The Good Doctor. [Image source: TVPromos-YouTube]
Dr. Murphy (Freddie Highmore) hears a tough decision from Daniel Dae Kim on The Good Doctor. [Image source: TVPromos-YouTube]

No room for forgiveness

The story opens with life already in the balance as Diane Monroe (Robyn Lively) and her husband (Peter Benson) bring their daughter into the world, by delicate cesarean section [VIDEO], and only get the first glimpse of their daughter before she must be rushed into surgery. Percy (short for Persephone, the beautiful Greek goddess) clings to life with immense challenges, primarily with her heart and her bowel, and her entire team devotes all their energy to solving problems that baffle them.

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Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper) and Dr. Aoki (Tamlyn Tomita) are baffled as to why the new celebrated chief of surgery hasn’t yet appeared at his own welcome reception, but instead, he opts to “scrub in” to the intricate procedure with Dr. Lim (Christina Chang) and the residents. Within minutes, it's very clear that the new marvel on staff has done his homework on every member he will interact with on the staff and everything regarding the disciplinary actions after the quarantine.

Even the world-renowned Dr.

Jackson Han doesn't have “a fix” for the fragile Percy, yet he proceeds to question and demand responses from the doctors as if giving an oral exam. Dr. Murphy is immediately thrown by his new boss’ insistence on music playing during surgery, and he fumbles with forceps, dropping them on the floor. When Han responds by saying “5-second rule,” Shaun doesn't see it as a joke, he does respond with the correct heart rate ratio that his new boss was seeking.

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In his own way, Shaun credits his new supervisor for the temporary procedure that keeps the baby alive, but no compliments are coming Dr. Murphy's way.

When the Monroes' question Shaun, about the many birth defects assaulting their daughter, seeking some comfort and solace, “The Good Doctor” does what he always does. He tells the truth, quoting a study that does find a correlation between the mother’s medication for depression and birth defects.

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He also tells them that the doctors are doing everything they can to solve the baby's problems, but the parents are naturally devastated. Dr. Han dresses down Dr. Murphy, very publicly, telling him not to talk to the parents again. Dr. Lim intercedes, trying to offer that, when the new chief sees Dr. Murphy's talents, he will want him on his team. Dr. Han retorts that no matter how much support he is given, Dr. Murphy will never be able to master the communication skills necessary to be a surgeon.

Dr. Han is likely aware of the manifestations of ASD and savant gifts, just as he researched, and is aware of, the details regarding each staff member. This directive is the start of a deliberate showdown and the other residents may rally in unexpected ways for Shaun. Dr. Lim tells Shaun not to talk to Dr. Han “outside the OR” except in response to a direct question.

Dr. Aoki is correct in her assumption that those who come with Dr. Han’s price “tend to think they're worth it,” and that can be treacherous.

No such thing as certainty

One scene of delightful irony comes when Dr. Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) describes the new chief as “charming, sure of himself, big ego.” Those words completely describe the speaker himself as a surgeon, and Dr. Reznick (Fiona Gubelmann) wastes no time in heaping praise on the new doctor, who immediately notes her “refreshing” way of “sucking up.” In another priceless remark, Reznick relates that all her research into tactics with the new supervisor is “easier than being nice.” She knows herself well.

Dr. Melendez and his team are engulfed in performing a battery of tests on a high-profile patient of Dr. Han, Minesh Goyal (Ravi Kapoor). The business mogul is haunted by the early death of his healthy father, and despite medical odds, decides on having a very risky surgery to remove a tumor that is likely not cancerous. When the team has to go from “the back way” because of an artery, the process impacts the mobility of his left foot. When Melendez explains the outcome, his patient insists that the lab results don’t matter because “you can't put the tumor back in.”

Amidst these life-altering hospital crises, Dr. Glassman (Richard Schiff) encounters a talkative but truthful buddy at chemotherapy, Larry (Joe Adler), who plays the role to perfection. Larry persists through Glassman's avoidance techniques to insist that every cancer patient needs a “cancer community” of people who understand what others can’t about being under siege by disease. Dr. Glassman surrenders his stance of always battling cancer as an identity, and accepts a new circle of friends, feeling their strength and life, not just their struggle. He finally finds a card-playing partner, too, Candice (Candus Churchill) and finds her much more fun than solitaire.

Dr. Brown goes with Dr. Han to counsel Percy’s parents, and yet again, Antonia Thomas infuses her character with a quiet empathy and truth seldom seen in TV dramas. She tenderly conveys that Diane’s use of the medication allowed her to be ready to be a good mother and deliver her daughter. They assure that Percy will pass quickly once disconnected from life support. The wrenching situation is palpable.

Just as the surgical team is preparing to “make Percy as presentable as possible” to her parents, Dr. Lim suggests that they all “take a moment.” The scene is powerful, and as Dr. Murphy makes the disconnections, it comes to him to create a swinging type of heart valve that will serve as a “defect when she needs it.”

The parents are startled and overjoyed to hear cries from their baby girl, and rejoice that she is “OK” apart from facing more surgery.

Waiting for his bus, Dr. Murphy tries to engage Dr. Han, asking, “You ride the bus, too?” The new chief doesn’t have any friendly chitchat at hand. He tells Shaun that his diagnostic gifts would work wonders for patients as a pathology resident. Shaun declares “I am a surgical resident,” and agrees that he is an asset to the hospital---this takes courage from a challenged person and is affirming to see. Han dismisses that the resident is “working hard” on communication skills. He insists that “it's about doing the job.” Shaun again says “I am a surgical resident.” “You were,” replies his new boss.

Dr. Murphy is not about to lie down and take this decision, while still following the directive. The dynamic between these characters is bound to be riveting, and it will be a delight to see who and how allies step up in Shaun Murphy’s corner.

Dr. Melendez told his patient “Everyone's got abnormalities,” and that is true for every living person, each presenting in different ways. The challenges someone faces forges character and a philosophy of life and those kinds of lessons are universally worth learning.

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