Yong-pal: Episode 2
Even if we knew that our hero wouldn’t be able to keep his nighttime activities a secret forever, I bet no one would have guessed that his alias would be under threat so soon in this series. Knowledge is power, especially when it’s given to someone who knows what a dangerous card it is and will seek to use their newfound authority however they wish.
If only that same person would pay more attention to the one slipping in and out of consciousness and getting one step closer to becoming a more immediate threat. But it seems that in this hospital, as long as you don’t go into cardiac arrest, you won’t have any chance of dying anytime soon.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
After injecting himself and the gangster boss with an adrenaline shot, both men jump into the water. Yong-pal comes up for air, then dives down to retrieve the gangster hyungnim who nearly drowns them both.
Whereas his partner believes that no one could have survived such a fall, Detective Lee is convinced that Yong-pal did because he definitely shot himself up with something. Not only did he survive, he’s made it to shore with the mobster and made contact with Man-shik about his location (and ha, you can still see the police boats in the river).
Once there, the gangsters rush over to attend to their hyungnim, who’s left impressed by Yong-pal’s balls of steel. Recalling how Yong-pal had told him it didn’t feel right to leave the old man behind, he orders his lackey to look into the mysterious doc.
In the Hanshin VIP suite, Yeo-jin starts showing sign of life. Entering her mindspace shows her reliving the same nightmare we’ve seen before—those horrific minutes of the car chase that led up to her lover’s death.
Her heartbeat quickens with every swerve and her body convulses as the dream becomes increasingly more terrifying. Her health monitors go haywire, and just as Yeo-jin lets out a piercing scream in her dream, her eyes open.
Alerted of the sudden activity, the nurse in charge gasps to see Yeo-jin not-so-comatose anymore.
Yong-pal grows upset when his scalpel has gone missing, since the police could look into the serial number to find him. Man-shik laughs in return—the cops have way too much on their plate already to be dealing with small-time underground docs like him. He’s not that notorious, you know.
That puts him at ease, so he asks if the gangsters have paid for tonight’s job, because it’s no use if those guy end up behind bars. His fixation on money even in a time like this has Man-shik wonder if he dreams of eventually entering the loan shark business. And getting caught now isn’t an option for Yong-pal, as that would spell the end for him.
He has good reason to worry though, because Detective Lee retraces his steps back to the room salon where he discovers the bloody scalpel half-tucked beneath the table. Well, crap. He lets out a triumphant yell: “Yong-pal-ah!”
Chief Lee happens to catch Tae-hyun getting dropped off when he arrives at the hospital. Although it pings his suspicion radar, he presently has more urgent matters to take care of, like keeping Yeo-jin in her drug-induced coma because this is the second incident that nearly brought her back to consciousness.
It’s apparent that Tae-hyun is the favored resident of the bunch, getting hand-picked to assist in surgery and visiting wealthy patients on the VIP floor. None of CHIEF SHIN’s praises (who is actually the head of the surgery department, and I mistook him for the hospital director, yikes!) escapes Tae-yong’s notice, as he tells the others that this is all just temporary—no resident from another school has gotten a fellowship at their hospital before. In other words, Tae-hyun’s golden era will soon come to an end.
The overseer of the VIP floor is none other than Chief Lee, who explains away his noticeable fatigue to an early morning house call. He’s none too pleased to see Tae-hyun here since he won’t tolerate him squeezing money out his patients again.
Tae-hyun bows his head in apology, and Chief Shin encourages his colleague to let it go since they’re bound to cross paths in the operating room in the future. That statement bothers Chief Lee, who simply glares at Tae-hyun before entering Yeo-jin’s room.
Seeing him enter that restricted area on the 12th floor has Tae-hyun wondering about the mysterious patient in the VIP suite. He’d heard Chief Lee refer to the patient as “Young-ae,” but Tae-yong doesn’t know of any patient by that name and thinks of the actress Lee Young-ae (of Dae Jang Geum) instead.
The head nurse sets the doctors straight: “Young-ae,” is a formal address for daughters of prominent families. Tae-hyun scowls when Tae-yong nods in belated realization—he didn’t know what the term meant either.
That instigates a petty argument between who’s more ignorant between them, and Tae-hyun tells him to go ahead and say what one would address a son of an influential family then. “Don’t tell him,” he tells the head nurse. LOL.
Instead of answering outright, Tae-yong assigns him a case in the ICU by the name of “Young-shik” aka “Your Lordship.” It isn’t until Tae-yong’s gone does the head nurse giggles and tells Tae-hyun that he’s just been schooled. Still, Tae-hyun is curious about the VVIP patient whom the Hanshin Group CEO paid a visit to. But the head nurse avoids answering and Tae-hyun isn’t interested enough to take the junior nurse up on her offer.
He heads straight to the ICU to examine Patient Young-shik, who recently underwent surgery and has no known family. Nurse Oh isn’t afraid to give her two cents on how it took an entire day before a physician finally showed up to check in on a patient who was only partially operated on because he had no family.
She doesn’t buy the counterargument that the surgeon probably had his reasons, because now the patient is more at risk of other complications. Moreover, they both know that a guardian’s consent is required to operate in the first place, and they’d need further consent for a second operation.
What’s more is that no one, including his workplace, will take responsibility for him, because they suspect he might be from China. Now what will Tae-hyun make of this?
To that, Tae-hyun smirks—he neither caused the patient’s injuries nor cut him open. Why get pissed at him for it? At his suggestion that the patient be transferred to a care facility, Nurse Oh can hardly believe her ears.
Meanwhile, the detectives find out that there’s only One Hospital in Korea which bought this particular brand of scalpel: Hanshin. So when the cops show up to the hospital administrator’s office to inquire about the scalpel in question, Tae-hyun tenses immediately.
At that moment, the administrator calls Tae-hyun out by name: “Doctor Kim… isn’t this your scalpel?” Detective Lee’s eyes widen and Tae-hyun stares back, slack-jawed…
… and then the administrator breaks into laughter at his own joke, much to Tae-hyun’s relief. Whoa, that was close. With that, the man turns back to the detectives to explain how it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint a culprit given the dozens of hospital employees who handle the hundreds of similar-looking scalpels every day.
But Detective Lee is nothing if not persistent, and he won’t back down—either he can return with a search and seizure warrant or they can peacefully cooperate now. Tae-hyun gets called away just then because Patient Young-shik has gone into cardiac arrest, but he’s stabilized by the time Tae-hyun gets there.
We can presume it’s thanks to Tae-yong, who responds to Tae-yong’s explanation that he was busy arranging a patient transfer with a hard slap across his cheek. “And you call yourself a doctor?!” he asks incredulously.
Tae-hyun owns up to his actions, but Tae-yong won’t stand to hear another peep and hands over the case to someone else.
After seeing the detectives being handed off to Chief Lee, Tae-hyun follows up with the administrator. Evidently Chief Lee was the head of the surgical department around when the hospital discontinued using that particular brand of scalpel, so he just shunted off the responsibility to him.
While Tae-hyun finds any excuse to linger outside Chief Lee’s office, the nurse in charge of “Patient Young-ae” aka Yeo-jin, is alerted of another episode. He offers his help, which she immediately declines.
At the same time, the detectives inform Chief Lee that this conversation is less about the hospital’s current supply distributor than to ask what happens to discarded scalpels like this one. To that, Chief Lee replies that disposed tools are sanitized and given to medicals schools or sold for scrap metal. Basically, they can’t account for how these supplies are used once they’re consigned away.
But he does look up the serial number in the equipment log… which reports that this scalpel went missing in the general surgery department. Uh oh. Interestingly, Chief Lee lies that it was sent to the scrap yard.
Still, the fact that said scapel somehow fell into Yong-pal’s hands niggles at Detective Lee’s mind. He ignores his partner’s mutterings that investigating the scalpel was a far-fetched hunch in the first place, but then a thought occurs to him—what if Yong-pal is a real doctor? He says in an elevator full of doctors and nurses.
That’s one very keen guess to make, since Yong-pal could lose his medical license if he were to be found out. Why else would he risk his life by jumping that bridge if getting arrested would mean a six-month jail sentence for anyone else?
Little do they know that Tae-hyun happens to be riding in that same elevator, and he sighs knowing that Detective Lee won’t let this go. He honestly doesn’t understand why the head nurse is suddenly giving him the cold shoulder either, so they sit outside on a bench to chat.
Even if everyone else in this hospital ridicules Tae-hyun for his money-grubbing ways, she always came to his defense, because she knows about Tae-hyun’s poor upbringings and how he lost his mother. Tae-hyun recalls that fateful night all too well, when his mother was taken to Hanshin Medical Center.
The ER doctor had pronounced her dead on arrival, but then quickly changed his mind and admitted her upon hearing that her son works at this hospital. That was when Tae-hyun was still an intern and ran to the ER as soon as he heard the news.
He’d arrived to see an empty bed, but thankfully that was because his mother was still clinging onto life. He’d caught her in time to see her being wheeled into emergency surgery, and pleaded with the surgeon to save his mother’s life.
But that very surgeon had been pulled away to operate on another ER patient — who happened to be a VVIP — leaving no one to perform surgery on Tae-hyun’s mother. The head nurse had been in the operating room that night, and the assisting resident was reluctant to perform an operation on his own.
And in the end, because of all this waffling and waiting, Tae-hyun’s mother had flatlined. Oh god, so Tae-hyun lost his mother because the hospital had ranked social privilege higher than whoever came through those doors first when it came to saving a life.
“So?” Tae-hyun asks flatly. That reply puzzles her, since she thought that Tae-hyun of all people would never turn away a needy person like Patient Young-shik because of what he’s been through. But Tae-hyun disagrees—he’d still be hanging onto the illusion of humanism doctors spout off if he hadn’t lost his mother.
He’s learned that money is what get people treated quicker in this hospital. He lacked the financial resources to save his mother in time, and the same goes for this patient. All Patient Young-shik needs is an incredibly wealthy guardian to be treated, Tae-hyun argues. “What? Am I wrong?” he asks.
“No,” she replies. “The doctor is who ultimately saves the patient. Talking about money or guardians are simply cowardly excuses. As long as you have the will to save [this patient], there will surely be a way to do so.” Preach it, Ahjumma… er, I mean Head Nurse.
Tae-hyun knocks down those ideal notions with his practical reasoning for requesting transferring Patient Young-shik to a public healthcare facility in the first place: a diagnostic test he’d performed in secret revealed that the patient is suffering from an infection. Because of his socioeconomic status, transferring him to the National Health Center (a government-owned, non-profit care facility) as soon as possible would be his only chance to receive the antibiotics the patients needs to live.
Tae-hyun is called into Chief Lee’s office, where the latter invites him in and asks, “Would you like some tea, Yong-pal-ie?” When Tae-hyun stiffens at the question, Chief Lee asks again: “Something the matter, Yong. Pal-ie?”
Instead of denying it, Tae-hyun immediately gets down on his knees and pleads for mercy. Chief Lee knows he has Tae-hyun right under his thumb and relishes in this dominion over the once-arrogant resident.
When asked if he needs to explain how he arrived at his deduction or hand him over to the police, Tae-hyun replies that there’s no need: “Please just tell me what you want, sir.” Chief Lee wonders why Tae-hyun would even think he’d be interested in striking a deal, but Tae-hyun knows the chief would’ve already handed him over if he didn’t.
Grabbing his jaw, Chief Lee tells him that he’ll call the shots from now on, which Tae-hyun agrees to. Chief Lee cackles in triumphant glee. Once Tae-hyun leaves, Chief Lee calls up the hospital director that he’s found just the person to do their bidding.
Up in the VIP suite, Nurse Hwang, the one in charge of our sleeping beauty, treats Yeo-jin like her own personal doll, literally dolling her up with makeup for her own pleasure. So. Creepy.
Chief Lee introduces Tae-hyun to the actual hospital director Byung, citing that he’s smart, greedy, and therefore, trustworthy enough to work for them. Tae-hyun’s reputation of fixing up gangsters precedes him, and he honestly replies that he did it because he needed the money.
Visibly afraid for his own fate, Tae-hyun drops down to his knees to ask for mercy. Director Byung seems pleased with his subservient attitude, and Tae-hyun says he’s willing to do anything.
Tae-hyun is so desperate that he even uses the words, “I render what little humble service I can offer you,” and speaks of his willingness once more. He’s told that he won’t be able to treat gangsters from here on out—which he readily agrees to stop—but then hesitates at the idea that he won’t be able to perform surgery anymore either.
“Yes, it doesn’t matter as long as you save me,” Tae-hyun concedes, trying hard so that his sadness doesn’t betray his words. Chief Lee tells the hospital director that it’s no problem since Tae-hyun has no self-respect or pride as a surgeon. The men share a drink to seal the deal.
In the car, Chief Lee remarks that Tae-hyun got off easy tonight. What were his post-residency plans anyway? He chuckles at Tae-hyun’s modest answer of being employed as a salaried doctor—why Tae-hyun would probably still go running around making house calls for the mafia.
No, Tae-hyun will start working on the VIP floor starting tomorrow. From there he’ll obtain a fellowship here, join the permanent staff, and eventually become a chief surgeon: “Like me,” Chief Lee finishes with a smirk.
Dropped off at the hospital entrance, Tae-hyun sighs at how he won’t be able to pick up a scalpel anymore. He calls up his sister to tell her about his “promotion” to the VIP floor, where the patients are referred to as “guests” or “patrons.” He admits that he had a few drinks tonight, and says this promotion is a big deal.
He walks in just in time to overhear that Patient Young-shik has gone into arrest. The resident is able to bring him back, but doesn’t think he’ll make it through the night. They both know how another cardiac arrest could kill him, so Tae-hyun resolves that this will be his final surgery. Whoa there buddy, you’re not sober.
The other resident can pick up on that too, but he’s so happy that Tae-hyun will take over his shift that he just skips off. To think—someone gave that kid a medical license.
In any case, Tae-hyun starts detaching the patient from his monitors under the pretense that he needs an x-ray. Nurse Oh isn’t inclined to let this patient go anywhere, to which Tae-hyun stresses that they need to get him an x-ray if they want to save him.
Patient Young-shik is suffering from internal bleeding, and the increased pressure in his abdomen is pressing upon his heart. So what does he need right now? Nurse Oh: “He needs surger–” Tae-hyun: “No, he needs an x-ray.”
He starts over again and repeats the patient’s current state and the question. Every time Nurse Oh starts saying “surgery,” he cuts her off. As per hospital policy, they cannot operate on a patient without a guardian’s consent and who does not have the means to pay for the procedure. So what can they do for free?
It takes Nurse Oh another full minute to catch on to his meaning, and once she does, they wheel Patient Young-shik into the elevator. Tae-hyun gives her an out, but she refuses to leave now, and so they hurry to move the patient into the operating room.
Upstairs in the VIP floor, the health monitors start to go haywire again in Yeo-jin’s suite. And then her eyes fly open.
Nurse Hwang enters the room to check in, but gasps when she discovers the empty bed and a broken vase on the floor. Just then, a bloody hand appears followed by a very much alive Yeo-jin with a broken shard in her hand.
And when Nurse Hwang approaches warily, Yeo-jin raises the shard to her throat. “Don’t come near me,” she warns threateningly.
I had no idea that the Yong-pal alias would come to light so early in the game, least of all by Chief Lee. Since the series has decided to introduce this revelation now, it establishes an intriguing power dynamic between Chief Lee and Tae-hyun because now that once tense working relationship between sunbae and hoobae has transitioned into a frightening master-slave contract. The once insecure senior doctor now has the resident eating out of the palm of his hand.
For a second there, I thought that Tae-hyun would at least try to avoid the direct accusation, but he turns to subservient damage control instead since even if Chief Lee can’t directly pin the scalpel on him, it would be the chief’s words against his. Even if we haven’t been strictly told what sort of nefarious deeds the corrupt hospital director and Chief Lee have for him, I’m inclined to think that it does involve Yeo-jin to some degree, whom they’ve been having increasingly more trouble keeping under in a medically-induced coma (that’s seriously messed up, Do-joon. What the hell, oppa.) At least having Tae-hyun start work on the VIP floor gives him the opportunity to cross paths with the mysterious patient he knows nothing about. And Tae-hyun can’t afford to get caught when he’s the sole provider for his ailing sister.
Speaking of money, Tae-hyun’s love for treating the wealthy patients—er, patrons always felt rather forced, and now we know why. His mother was left without anyone to operate on her because of someone richer despite being wheeled in first. Losing a loved one that way would certainly explain Tae-hyun’s deep resentment for the private, for-profit hospital system, and to a fixation that oodles of money is the only way anyone can receive necessary treatment as soon as possible. Everyone in the hospital knows him as someone who only thinks of money, so I’m glad that there’s at least one head nurse who knows where that bitterness stems from and still tries to get through to him, bless her heart.
And now he’s about to wheel a guy into surgery because the clock has yet to strike twelve and he’s technically still a surgical resident. Have we forgotten about the fact that you’ve been drinking and that both another resident and the ICU nurse just let it go? I know that starting tomorrow, you probably won’t have to pick up a scalpel ever again (and we know what a long absence from the OR can do to people. See: Chief Lee) and you really do want to save this patient by breaking a million hospital rules, but never has anyone been okay with a slightly tipsy person being responsible for saving a life, let alone cutting them open again. I’m sorry, let’s use your words: Pull yourself together before you get them an x-ray.
Stepping back though, if Tae-hyun does get to continue doctoring (which at this point, I presume he will, lest we have a completely different medical drama on our hands about a former doctor performing without a license), I hope we still get to see more of him as Yong-pal. I assume that while he’s stuck under Chief Lee’s thumb, Yong-pal will be more of an errand boy making house calls for the wealthy, but I liked the angle of Yong-pal performing surgeries on the sly and saving people’s lives outside of the traditional operating theatre setting.
On a production front, I do like this second episode more than the first, which I watched with a more cautious attitude. I liked what I saw and heard, and yet found myself finding it difficult following the editing in-between the action scenes and a boatload of super close-up screencaps. The writing on the other hand, has proven itself to be more intriguing, with its tiny moments of humor and the characters written to be more cunning (for the most part) than you’d usually find in dramaland. Even with its early shortcomings, the show continues to pull me in, leaving me with a desire to try and unpack the mystery of this dramaverse filled with a detective who just didn’t take a look at the equipment log himself, and a heroine who’s just inches to death mere minutes after waking up to a hellish reality.