There is a reason The Good Doctor’s return had to be split into two parts. The title, “Islands”, referred to something other than its relation to Shaun Murphy’s spontaneous vacation. In a way, he did go off to an ‘island’ in his mind. It was a place he could be without pressure or expectation to behave in a certain way. Taking that time with his neighbor/love interest Lea allowed Shaun to feel free. More than that, he felt trusted to take control of his own life. That is such a rare feeling in a world where so many things are out of our control. As much as this lesson applied to Shaun, those he left behind at the hospital also felt this shift.
Suffice it to say, Dr. Melendez is not happy to hear that Shaun took time off for a road trip. He, however, is not personally invested in Shaun; Dr. Glassman is. Glassman allowed himself to become so emotionally attached to Shaun, to hover so much, that Shaun lost confidence in himself. Dr. Browne didn’t treat Shaun any differently, except to perhaps translate some jargon. Melendez certainly didn’t pull any punches. Yet now, when it counts the most, they are the ones who see Shaun as a capable doctor, and a capable man. Dr. Glassman needs to catch up, and he needs to do it before Shaun follows Lea to the chocolate capital of the country.
The hospital deals with a shift in staffing in the wake of Dr. Kalu’s firing, but it gets worse, not better. Unable to get his job back by simple apologies, Kalu sues for it. Jessica sees that Kalu might have a case, since other doctors, white doctors in particular, have had simple reprimands for much more than he did. Jessica can accuse Dr. Andrews and Ms. Aoki of a lot of things, but not racism. They just want to settle for the sake of the hospital. Dr. Kalu isn’t interested in a settlement. He wants his job back, and if you look at the hospital’s history, he may have a case for it. At least, he would have a case for it, if race had anything to do with his firing. It didn’t. Physical violence? Yes. A case for sexual harassment in the workplace? Absolutely, at least on Dr. Browne’s part. Kalu himself was not the victim of racism, but he used it to his advantage.
While the details of Shaun’s residency are sorted out, a large chunk of the surgical staff cares for the now separated conjoined twins. You would think that separated twins would have fewer health crises. The separation only revealed the true extent of the girls’ problems. Jenny has a failing heart, and the blood supply is being cut off to her brain. If nothing is done, the result would be Jenny dead, and Katie in a chronic vegetative state. Shaun suggests the only logical option: to take Katie off the machines and give her heart to Jenny. Miraculously, Katie continues to breathe on her own. This time, Shaun comes up with another logical, yet kooky idea. Temporarily rejoin the previously conjoined twins at the thigh. That way Jenny has access to her sister’s blood supply long enough for her own heart to be stronger for transplant. Jenny won’t even consider the possibility of taking her sister’s heart, but Browne comes up with an idea. By giving the sisters one more night sleeping next to each other, Jenny comes to terms with her sister’s fate. Katie can literally live on through her sister.
This next part requires you to believe in miracles. After rejoining the twins, Katie wakes up, with her full cognitive abilities intact. You would think this would solve things, but it only gives the twins a little more time together. The outcome is the opposite of what the doctors planned for. Jenny’s heart fails before the girls can be separated. She dies holding her sister’s hand. Now it is Katie turn to take the reigns for them both.
Taking control does sometimes mean letting go. Jessica realizes this applies to her and Melendez. They can’t be together with such a fundamental difference in what they want for their futures. Melendez wanting kids and Jessica not would only build resentment and regret if that relationship were to continue.
Lea does the same for Shaun, but in a less dramatic way. She lets Shaun go, with a signed baseball to remember her. As she says, it’s a loaner. She’ll be back for it once they’ve both gone after their dreams. And Shaun won’t forget her. She is so important that Shaun put Lea’s baseball right next to a picture of his brother. In a way, “Islands” connected Shaun’s past and his future.
Now that Shaun is staying, will Dr. Glassman continue to hover, or will he let Shaun be his own man?
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