This is an image of Dr. Shaun Murphy standing next to a hospital bed. There is a young boy in the bed. His parents are standing on the other side of the bed and look very upset.

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Five

This week’s episode, Point Three Percent, is about honesty and when it is appropriate to lie. While previous episodes have touched on lying as a social skill, this week the topic is approached in a serious kind of way, not in a “scaring patients by saying they might have flesh eating bacteria” kind of way. The theme was mostly successful.

Dr. Shaun Murphy continues to be an asshole, and I love it. At this point it’s established that if he thinks a rule isn’t important, even if he’s told explicitly about it, he’ll disregard it. I can’t actually tell if the writers actually realize that Shaun is being an asshole when he does this, rather than a precious cinnamon bun who has done nothing wrong. I hope they do, and I hope they continue to explore the consequences of Shaun’s actions. People are assholes. I’m excited that Dr. Murphy gets to be an asshole because it means that he gets to be a full human person.

Relatedly, is this a neurodiversity symbol in The Good Doctor intro sequence? Was it there last week!?

This is an image of a 19th century sketch of a human brain. The text "The Good Doctor" is superimposed over the image. The two o's in "good" form an infinity symbol.

I’m never sure if my favorite aspects of The Good Doctor are intentional or not. I’m beginning to feel like a conspiracy theorist.

‘I used a teleportation device.’

The episode opens with a man seeing his father after the death of his mother. His father is angry and disappointed, as the man missed his mother’s funeral by five weeks. The man attempts to hug his father, but his father remains stiff and distant. Suddenly, the father collapses. The son calls 911.

At the hospital, Dr. Melendez remarks that Dr. Murphy is on time. It is gratifying to see Dr. Melendez acknowledge when Dr. Murphy does something right. “What, did you sleep here or use a teleportation device?” Dr. Melendez asks. “I used a teleportation device,” Shaun responds. Everyone looks agog for a moment. Shaun explains that nonsensical questions are usually sarcasm, and should be responded to with sarcasm. I’m not sure why he knows that now but didn’t in previous episodes. The exposition was probably unnecessary. Still, it was a funny moment.

Dr. Melendez explains that they are doing a surgical consult on the father from the beginning of the episode. He had a severe allergic reaction. The surgical team is going to do a consult because he is apparently having excruciating abdominal pain. The groans of pain are too conveniently well timed and more than a little hammy. We learn that the father’s name is Mr. Wilks.

Across the room, Dr. Murphy notices a boy with a cast on his arm. The boy looks uncannily like Dr. Murphy’s dead brother. Drs. Melendez, Balu, and Browne argue about the cause of Mr. Wilks’ abdominal pain. Dr. Balu thinks that it may be pancreatitis. Dr. Melendez disagrees, and remarks that Dr. Murphy appears to be missing.

Dr. Murphy is in a private room with the boy who resembles his dead brother. He is showing the boy his x-ray, and remarks that the boy probably won’t need pins. “Young bones heal very,” he says reassuringly. “Young Bones. Is that a Star Trek origins novel?” the boy quips. Dr. Murphy doesn’t get the joke because he doesn’t watch Star Trek. I am pleased that Dr. Murphy doesn’t like Star Trek. I am a lifelong, die-hard Trekkie, but I also recognize that it’s a stereotype about autistic people. Dr. Murphy notices that the boy has an eye issue that might indicate an underlying neurological problem. He orders a CT scan.

Dr. Glassman notices that the boy, named Evan, looks like Dr. Murphy’s dead brother, Steve. He confronts Dr. Murphy. “He looks exactly like your brother,” Dr. Glassman points out. “No he doesn’t, his hair is shorter,” Dr. Murphy responds. “It freaks me out, it doesn’t freak you out?” Dr. Glassman asks. Shaun is pretty obviously freaked out, even though he claims to be fine. “No. He’s not Steve. Steve’s dead. I used a teleportation device was a joke,” Dr. Murphy says forcefully, changing the subject. It’s a little bit ridiculous that despite explicitly explaining the context and reasoning of the joke earlier, he doesn’t understand it now.

 

 

‘I need someone to lie for me.’

 

What worked

  • All the Dr. Murphy sass forever.
  • I love Star Trek. A lot of autistic people love Star Trek. I’m kind of happy Dr. Shaun Murphy doesn’t like Star Trek because it defies stereotypes, even if it’s technically a stereotype that is often completely true.
  • I love that the kid is completely unphased about having an autistic doctor and that it is at least partly because he had an autistic classmate. Integrated education is so important for achieving acceptance. #ADAGeneration indeed.
  • Dr. Murphy asking Dr. Browne to lie for him was uncomfortably real.

What didn’t

  • The pet rabbit getting thrown against a wall and murdered is back in the recap. Also young Shaun getting slapped across the face by his father. Can we not start every episode with that? It’s upsetting every time.
  • Dr. Balu doesn’t seem to have a defined character yet. He needs more fleshing out.
  • Why is a preteen boy teasing an adult man about stealing his girlfriend? It came off as uncomfortable and weird, not endearing.
  • Evan talking about how lying is an “important social skill.” Did he swallow a DSM along with that dictionary? What preteen uses that kind of clinical language?
  • So much of Evan’s dialogue was unnaturally well adjusted for a dying child.

Neurotypical Bullshit (NTBS)-O-Meter

  • I acknowledge the possibility that the (non-autistic) show writers don’t realize they’re writing Dr. Murphy as kind of an asshole. That said, Shaun intentionally, repeatedly being an asshole is what makes me love this show.
  • “With autism.” With autism. With autism.” Ad nauseum. Why doesn’t Shaun ever say he’s autistic? I understand he hasn’t had much exposure to other autistic people and autistic culture, but his phrasing is just so damn politically correct all the time. Even autistic people who prefer person first language aren’t usually so careful and fastidious about it.
  • Dr. Glassman’s conversation with Dr. Murphy about patient information and consent was focused on parental feelings to a degree that was somewhat upsetting, if totally in character.
  • “A lie is a stone on your heart” is possibly peak neurotypical bullshit.

So what did you think? Good, bad, or just indifferent? Weigh in on the comments below.

2 thoughts on “The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Five”

  1. A preteen who had an autistic friend – or who had been manipulated and bullied, because of his illness or something else.

    A preteen who had had way too many lies told to him and with that excuse in mind and up top.

    A preteen who wants to sort of have the upper hand over his situation – and knows lies may or may not get him through it.

    And yay! Murphy doesn’t like STAR TREK.

    I liked his calculation. It made me think of Doc Martin and how the missionary didn’t have terminal cancer after all, but malaria or some Kenyan tropical trouble.

    Tapeworms in the brain. Yes – they do exist. Along with other things like parasites.

    I think I might have asked the teen why they thought lying was “an important social skill” then I would find out more.

    Glassman, Glassman, Glassman!

    Murphy’s approach to rules – I don’t think he’s an arsehole or a cinnamon. I think it’s something else.

    I wonder if they picked up E from a telethon?

    And it would be good to see psychiatric and palliative care well-portrayed.

  2. I don’t think he’s an asshole, and I don’t think he’s driven by a need to be right about Evan’s diagnosis, so much as a need to save this kid. He’s essentially trying to save his brother. He knows his brother is dead, but the parallels between his brother and Evan are driving him to obsess over the case. He MUST fix Evan.

    It was sad but I liked that they didn’t go with the cliche that Dr. Murphy is right and the kid can live happily ever after.

    I agree that Evan was way too grown up, though it’s possible that is a facade he puts on to avoid being depressed about his illness.

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