This week’s episode, “Not Fake,” preserves Shaun Murphy’s complexity and humanity for another week. While this episode was excellent from a neurodiversity standpoint (everyone struggles in stressful situations, not just neurodivergent people), it completely failed when it comes to physical disability. Rather than live with an amputation and a prosthetic, a man’s wife fights to have a risky, experimental surgery that would preserve his leg. To be fair, it is entirely realistic that doctors have a poor understanding of disabled quality of life. This episode didn’t highlight that lack of understanding, though. Instead, it plays into one of the most negative tropes about living with a disability: That it is worse than death.
‘I don’t like coffee.’
The episode opens with Dr. Kalu sharing his own special blend of coffee. He roasts the beans himself. Dr. Murphy is as sassy as ever. “Smells like leather,” he remarks. “And none for you, Murphy,” Kalu quips back. “I don’t like coffee,” Dr. Murphy replies, undeterred. They are at the hospital late at night, doing a rotation with a trauma surgeon.
“It’s dead in here,” Dr. Kalu complains. “That’s why they call it the graveyard shift,” Dr. Browne points out. Christina Chang guest stars as a brassy trauma surgeon Dr. Audrey Lim. “I call it paradise,” she points out. Dr. Kalu offers Dr. Lim coffee. “He roasts the beans himself,” Dr. Murphy explains. “Kiss ass,” Dr. Lim responds.
Suddenly, the tranquility of the hospital late at night is disrupted. There has been a wedding bus crash, and dozens of people are injured. Everyone springs into action. “Call everyone on call, I don’t care what department they are. Tonight, everybody’s trauma!” Dr. Lim announces. I don’t think that’s how hospitals work, but OK. “No one goes home until everybody’s clear!”
‘I made a REBOA.’
The doctors wait anxiously for injured patients to come in. “I love these blank faces before Armageddon,” Dr. Lim remarks. No one is prepared for what happens next. Injured patients begin to stream in on stretchers. Dr. Kalu is assigned a burn patient. Dr. Melendez teams up with Dr. Browne to treat a patient who has what looks like a small statue lodged in her neck.
Dr. Murphy, however, seems frozen. No one assigns him to a patient. At first, I was worried that either the writers were giving Dr. Murphy a shutdown, or that this was yet another sign of others failing to see his competence. Dr. Murphy, standing alone, like the kid picked last for dodge-ball in gym class. Fortunately, neither of these situations were the case.
Dr. Murphy is assigned a patient who is bleeding uncontrollably. He freezes for a moment before asking for a motley assortment of medical supplies. Dr. Murphy uses those supplies to MacGyver something called a “REBOA.” It works. Everyone is impressed. “Nice Work, Dr. Murphy,” Nurse Farrar tells him. “I made a REBOA,” he responds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kalu seems to be panicking. Dr. Andrews comes over to help. “Get this patient out of this petri dish and to an isolated burn unit, stat,” Dr. Andrews barks. “Yes, sir,” Dr. Kalu responds.
Simultaneously, Dr. Glassman and Dr. Melendez are treating a patient who appears to have some sort of heart problem. Dr. Melendez is anxious about performing a necessary procedure without high tech imaging. “You could puncture his heart,” Dr. Melendez states. Dr. Glassman seems unperturbed. “Is the xiphoid in the same place as was 20 years ago?” Dr. Glassman snaps back. He performs the procedure successfully.
Dr. Glassman chuckles, “A REBOA. Ballsy.” “Could have gone really wrong,” Dr. Melendez replies. He never seems to miss an opportunity to doubt or criticize Dr. Murphy. “Yes, well it didn’t. It’s a cowboy move, something you would never even dream of trying,” Dr. Glassman says. He then asks the question that is probably on every viewer’s mind: “How many times is Shaun going to need to prove himself before you give him a shot?”
‘You need to think a little more like Shaun.’
Dr. Melendez approaches Dr. Browne. “What happened in the ER. You hesitated,” he points out, concerned. “I was thinking of a game plan,” Dr. Browne lies. “Murphy was thinking of a game plan. You got overwhelmed,” he tells her. “First trauma. It happens. You need to think quickly, clearly, methodically. You need to think a little more like Shaun.” Does this mean Dr. Melendez will stop being such a dick to Dr. Murphy? “A little more. Not identically,” he qualifies carefully.
In the burn ward, Dr. Balu begins debriding a woman’s burns. It looks very painful. She cries loudly. Dr. Balu is visibly shaken. “How are you doing?” he asks, trying to make small talk. “Sorry, sorry, that’s a stupid question,” he realizes. Dr. Balu can’t give the woman more morphine yet, so he opts to wait to debride the wound until she can receive more. The woman ask for a mirror. “It’s the least you can do since you can’t even look me in the eye.” I’m not an expert, but I feel like maybe Dr. Kalu could have helped emotionally prepare the woman a little more before showing her a mirror. She worries that she will never get married. “I’m Freddie Krueger. Who’s going to marry this?” I want to tell her about friends with extensive burns who have been married and have even had children. Dr. Kalu seems completely unaware of the possibilities as well.
Dr. Murphy and Dr. Melendez go to speak with the family of one patient, Marco. Marco was the groom on the doomed wedding bus. His femur was crushed. Dr. Melendez informs Marco’s bride and parents that he will need to amputate Marco’s leg.
“Why did Nurse Farrar ask if I wanted love?” “Because she’s a nosy B—-.” Sometimes I love Dr. Glassman. This was one of those times.
My favorite ship in The Good Doctor so far is Shaun/pancakes. You can have as many pancakes as you want, Shaun. You even have the right to eat too many pancakes and take a nap if you feel like it.
I have mixed feelings about Dr. Melendez’s statement that Dr. Browne should, “be a little more like Shaun.” On one hand, Dr. Melendez is finally acknowledging Shaun’s competence. On the other hand, this seems to play into the unfortunate stereotype that autistic people lack empathy.
It seems odd that Shaun is totally disinterested in romance, since it was only last episode he was talking about how much he liked his neighbor Lea.
People with scarring and other skin differences get married all the time. I wish Dr. Kalu and the woman with burns knew that.
AMPUTATION IS NOT WORSE THAN DEATH.
PEOPLE WITH AMPUTATIONS CAN BUNGEE JUMP, ROCK CLIMB, AND SCUBA DIVE. YOU DO NOT NEED TWO LEGS TO DO ANY OF THESE ACTIVITIES. YOU CAN EVEN DO THEM WITH NO LEGS. HOW DO NON-DISABLED PEOPLE NOT KNOW THIS!?
No really, here’s a video of double amputee Oscar Pistorius winning a gold medal at the Olympics. The regular Olympics that able-bodied people participate in. He was so fast there was argument about whether it was even fair for him to compete with prosthetics. Many felt that they gave him an unfair edge.
Neurotypical Bullshit (NTBS)-O-Meter
“Will I have to testify?” Dr. Murphy asks. “I hope not,” Jessica and Dr. Melendez reply simultaneously.
Someone needs to tell Marco’s family that yelling doesn’t usually help people respond faster, autistic or not.
Everything Nurse Farrar says and does to Shaun seems to be peak neurotypical bullshit.
So what did you think? Good, bad, or just indifferent? Weigh in on the comments below.