The Good Doctor: Season 3 Episode 16 “Autopsy” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
Alongside a hint as to what’s next for Dr. Lim, Shaun decides to tell Lea how he feels, and her reaction is…
Alongside a hint as to what’s next for Dr. Lim, Shaun decides to tell Lea how he feels, and her reaction is…
|Directed By||Freddie Highmore|
|Written By||David Hoselton|
|Introduced This Episode|
Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde: Aiden, Claire, Morgan
Claire and Morgan come across a curious case. One in which a man, when he is technically sleeping, becomes the polar opposite of who he is when awake. But, with a brain cyst drained, the young man, Aiden, returns to who he is.
But, while Aiden returns to some form of normal, things remain complicated between Claire and Morgan. For with Dr. Melendez, and Morgan’s complaint, still causing issues, it creates tension. Especially with Morgan revealing to Claire she made the complaint and Claire accusing Morgan of sabotage.
Yet, with a quick apology, it seems Claire accepts these kinds of actions are what comes with being in Morgan’s life. Which, be it as peers, maybe still friends, is what she has learned to deal with.
Platonic Friends: Dr. Melendez, Claire
With that said, Claire and Dr. Melendez put on a performance at the hospital so they can still see each other and hang out. Mind you, Claire pushes the idea they are platonic, but sneaking around does make you wonder how platonic is this? Never mind what is it about Claire that makes Dr. Melendez willing to risk further criticism? Especially knowing between Morgan and Alex, if either caught them, there would be no hesitation in them reporting him to Dr. Lim?
The Child Left Behind: Dr. Lim, Trinity
Previous to Dr. Lim and Dr. Melendez dating, it was noted back in season 2, episode 5, Dr. Lim is a divorcee. However, as for the possibility of children? That wasn’t really brought up. Making the appearance of Trinity, a child dropped off to the ER 8 years ago a surprise. One which triggers Dr. Lim to call her own mother. Perhaps leading to us finally getting to see some development from her after her character being stuck in relationship purgatory.
Do You Love Me?: Lea, Shaun
Naturally, Shaun breaking up with Carly makes the rounds and leads to everyone thinking because Shaun has autism, he isn’t expressing his feelings about the breakup. However, it honestly seems Shaun is fine with what happened. Well, better said, Shaun may not have liked that the relationship ended, but he isn’t necessarily heartbroken. Carly was his first in many ways, and when it comes to many things, but Lea was Shaun’s first in other things of importance to him. Plus, he got broken up with and encouraged to be with someone else. It wasn’t like Carly did something, or he did and got caught.
Hence why Shaun seems a bit unfazed when it comes to the Carly thing and struggles with not only telling Lea that he loves her but asking her out. For while her loving him back is likely, lest we forget, it isn’t like Lea hasn’t drawn a line and created boundaries with Shaun before. Note: she did kiss him, way back in season 1, but she hasn’t really tried to push anything since doing that. Shaun has pretty much operated as her best friend, the most consistent person in her life, and she never asked, or seemingly wanted, him to be anything more.
Which is perhaps why when Shaun asks her out, she comes up with every reason she can to make it so he’d rescind what he said rather than be forced to reject him. Yet, rather than try to do a 180 to preserve the friendship, Shaun asks if her passive rejection deals with him having autism? To which the only reply Lea can give is a sigh since she doesn’t have it in her to either say yes or reveal that she simply doesn’t, and may never, see Shaun in a romantic way.
The Possibility of Dr. Lim Having A Backstory Developed
As of this episode, I feel the only thing we know about Dr. Lim was revealed in the early part of season 2, and since then, she has either been Dr. Melendez’s love interest or the Chief of Surgery. Two roles that aren’t given much oomph. Add on she hasn’t really fostered the relationship she once pursued with Claire, in terms of them being women of color looking out for one another, and it left her on ice.
But, with her meeting Trinity and calling her mom, it seems beyond being divorced, and liking to speed, we may learn more about Dr. Lim in one episode, similar to the information dump we got with Morgan, than we have the entire series.
On The Fence
While I know many of the cases are real, Aiden having this anxiety-ridden studious kid matched with this frat boy partier broke the streak of good supporting characters. Which isn’t to say he was acted in such a way I couldn’t get into, but I’m starting to realize “The Good Doctor” does one of two things with its patients. Either they dump a whole lot of medical jargon to complicate their situation, and yet find the fix within 3 days, or else they write a tear-jerker story that genuinely allows the patient/ guest star to shine.
With Aiden, they went the jargon route, and thus we were left with a strange patient who fulfilled an obligation.
Shaun Losing A Patient Didn’t Feel Like A Big Deal
Have most of the residents lost a patient? Yes. However, even with Shaun going overboard to get an autopsy, even dragging Carly, using guilt, to do so, it seemed Shaun losing a patient wasn’t as big as when Claire and others did so.
Mind you, the whole idea of you will lose a patient eventually, and will need to move on, has been put out there before. However, considering the amount of blood and how the woman died, you’d think that would haunt Shaunt a little bit more. Especially since that was someone’s mother and, throughout his venture, it seemed like the show could have shifted and made the woman’s story trigger Shaun’s feelings towards his mother.
Lea Taking The Cowards Way Out
Lea not seeing Shaun in a romantic light has long been established. For, if she did like him romantically, we’ve seen Lea have no trouble being the aggressor. She initiated a kiss with Shaun, and from that point, she backed down from doing anything which would imply she has romantic feelings for him. Yet, since that kiss, we’ve seen her with many a guy, smiling in their face, kissing them, and definitely having sex.
So, at this point, I wish Lea would have just made it clear to Shaun, and fans, she and Shaun are not end game. Yes, they get along, and she has adapted to many of his neurosis, but she isn’t into Shaun romantically. Be it because of the side effects of his autism, or just seeing him as someone she can cuddle with, but not go beyond. And, hopefully, she isn’t demonized for feeling how she does, no matter what the reason.
Claire & Dr. Melendez Sneaking About
I get Claire doesn’t have friends and has been skipping therapy for who knows how many weeks now, but nothing about this Dr. Melendez situation seems right. Them sneaking around, faking arguments to keep people off their trail, or spending time alone rather than rectifying the issue by simply inviting Morgan or Alex to join them. For isn’t that the issue, fear of special treatment? Something that could easily be abated by Dr. Melendez fostering relationships with everyone, equally, rather than honing in on Claire.
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Lea Taking The Cowards Way Out - 75%
The Possibility of Dr. Lim Having A Backstory Developed - 85%
Aiden - 74%
Shaun Losing A Patient Didn’t Feel Like A Big Deal - 73%
Claire & Dr. Melendez Sneaking About - 72%
While it seems the show will continue to allow someone not named Shaun to get the spotlight, so begins the need to question, once more, how long can “The Good Doctor” go on, considering its trajectory?
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Oh dear, this is awkward! Could please somebody delete the two older versions and just keep the most recent? Since I thought there went something wrong I waited and improved on the text. SORRY! Hope you enjoy the reading, though!
-Amari: Fixed it
Actually, Lea has a well-established life. But it that takes place off-camera mostly. We are informed of her life (and thoughts) by little titbits of dialogue and context since the very first beginning (which speaks for the showrunners, because as we know, the character was scheduled for two episodes only but they were quick to pick up on the potential and expanded it slowly).
When Lea was introduced in 1×3 “Oliver”, she was playing a video game – alone – and run out of batteries. Her appearance is sloppy and dull. Her hair is a mess.
In 1×4 “Pipes” she picks up Shaun at a bus stop and while they chat this are some of Lea’s lines: You’re funny. I stink. You’re anxious. You always say exactly what’s on your mind. It’s the total opposite of most guys. It’s nice.” Lea appreciates Shaun for being different to other men she knows.
In 1×8 “Apples” the writers expand on that when she replaces Shaun’s half-eaten apple: “I may have overreacted this morning … a little. And you were honest, brutally honest, but you shouldn’t have to wear ear plugs in your own home. And don’t start lying to me to make me feel good. You’re the only honest guy I know.”
As you might remember, in the beginning of this episode she storms into Shaun’s apartment and stress-eats his apple, ranting and raving about the power cut because of her loud music. When Shaun suggests headphones, she storms out.
What we gain from this is that Lea is short tempered and does not consider the needs of others very much (by playing music very loud and eating Shaun’s breakfast) – and she has none other to vent than a neighbor she hardly knows and who has to use ear plugs because of her. Further, she believes that all men lie to her – except Shaun. This implies many relationships that went sour. And undoubtedly, her own behavior was a factor in that. But she does not want to acknowledge that by blaming men. Yet, Lea starts to reflect on her behavior towards Shaun and she wants to make up for it. And she hugs him.
In 1×9 “Intangibles” Lea starts to flirt with Shaun. She is interested in him romantically to some extent. Her clothes don’t match, and her hair still is a mess.
Now we move to 1×11/12 “Islands Part One/Two”. Here we see the playful side of Lea when she takes Shaun to the road trip. Note her colorful striped sweater and her pretty hair. She saves him from Glassman and she takes it up on her to expand the tight boundaries of Shaun’s life and thinking. Lea is very acceptive of Shaun’s autism but does not see any reason to coddle him (“You have autism. You’re not blind”). She teaches him to drive – with the precious old-timer inherited from her Grandpa Rod, nothing less – introduces him to music, teaches him to drink and to end a date. She tricks him into kissing, probably hoping to seduce him (and is cut short by him throwing up). But most important is the karaoke scene in which they sing “Islands in a Stream”. It gave the two-parter its title, but when you look up the lyrics, there’s a lot more to this:
“Baby, when I met you there was peace unknown/I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb/I was soft inside/There was something going on/You do something to me that I can’t explain/Hold me closer and I feel no pain/Every beat of my heart/We got something going on/Tender love is blind/It requires a dedication/All this love we feel needs no conversation/We ride it together, ah ha/Making love with each other, ah ha”
It’s a love song and a road map for what to expect with these two characters. We know from 1×6 “Not fake” that Shaun does not quite understand the different dimensions of love yet, especially romantic love. He loved his rabbit, he loved his brother ,and both went to heaven. Therefore, he does not seek love anymore. But now, there’s Lea and there’s something about her he must figure out.
The song is a clear match for both characters. They are both somewhat isolated from their environment. Shaun because of his autism, Lea because she can’t commit to a job she loathes (as we will see soon) and her distrust in men. They are lonely islands in the stream of life, reaching out for each other.
In these two episodes we learn a lot about Lea. She was an outdoorsy girl, her grandpa Rod took her fishing and skiing every year in Alaska. In her apartment we see a surfboard. She’s from Hershey, Pennsylvania and probably got her degree at the Swanson School of Engineering in Pittsburgh (the “nebby” thing). She’s an automotive engineer, which means she is very smart but also working in an environment dominated by men. So, we can assume that she’s dealing with prejudice and sexism at her workplace. This probably affects her self-perception, self-esteem and her psychological well-being in general. She is working constantly without any vacations but not enjoying it. She’s good at it and therefore got offered a promotion and pay rise. But she isn’t competitive and does not value money that much. She does not like San Jose.
And she does not like her current job either because it’s to intangible. She prefers to build something for real. Lea does not feel life-fulfillment and therefore quits her job to pursue her dream of rebuilding old cars in dead Grandpa Rod’s garage with her brother Donny (which ultimately fails). The only thing that makes her sad about leaving San Jose is leaving Shaun behind. Shaun is inclined to follow her.
Now I could go on with her departure, the baseball and season 2, but this is already getting long, so let me link to a reddit thread, where we discuss all of this in further detail.
Adding to this, take note of Lea’s appearance after she moves in with Shaun. 2×12 “Aftermath” is the best example, her hair is still pretty and her business clothing very neat. And she uses headphones now! Shaun is a good influence on her, and she acknowledges that in 2×13 “Xin”:
SHAUN: “Thank you, Lea. My life is better with you.”
LEA: “Mine, too.”
Also in “Aftermath”, Glassman mocks Lea for not having other friends than Shaun and not meeting any colleagues when she invites them over for lunch at her workplace YAUTO (because she has a really crappy day). She complains to Shaun that she’s fed up with nobody taking her seriously: “Actually, I do understand. And I’m getting really tired of people treating me like I don’t.” (prejudice against women in STEM?)
And recently in 3×10 “Friends and Family” we were reminded, that her family is a “disaster” (we already did know that her brother did not want to talk with her because of the garage fail since 2×7 “Hubert”). Lea is still very isolated, probably filling the void with casual sex.
So, there’ a lot to Lea’s story, it is just not that obvious. There was only one big problem to solve for the writers, which you already mentioned – she didn’t work at the hospital. The writers fixed this in 3×14 “Influence” in a way that was totally in-character: Lea was still disgusted with her job and quit – again.
I don’t agree that Shaun wasn’t affected by the patient’s death. Indeed, he was very much affected by it, but in a very different way as neurotypical person would think.
Beeing autistic myself, I can understand Shaun’s train of thought. In the beginning of the episode his mind was set on doing what Carly had told him – confess his love to Lea. But he was scared of the outcome, he explained that to Glassmann in the car. It was a task he needed all his resources for.
Now, there was this patient he lost due to an unknown cause. We have seen before that Shaun wants closure with his patient’s cases (think of the time when he was transferred to pathology, he felt unsatisfied, because he was told to pass on the results).
In his mind it was not the loss of a life. Shaun is very rational about the possibility of death (think of S1 E2 “Oliver” where he said it was a good day because they saved a life, just not Oliver’s). But he had a big problem with not knowing what caused the death. And therefore, he started ruminating.
Now, rumination is a common problem with autistic people. Once their mind is set on a problem or a distraction, they often can’t let go as easy as neurotypical persons. This one thought is constantly dominating everything else. It causes anxiety and it can shut down the individual completly. The only resolution is to eliminate the cause. In this case, it was not knowing the cause of death. And that’s what started the whole quest and drove Shaun to rave all over.
He had to get this out of his hair. He even explained that to Carly in the autopsy bay: “I can’t do what you told me I should do. Until I solve this distraction.”
Way in season 3 the writers of the show are so well attuned to autistic thinking that I’m forced to say it is breathtaking. But the downside is that it is hard to understand for someone who has no insight.
They did explain it – but with a single line of dialogue and some indirect reference to previous behavior on behalf of Shaun – and that is easy to miss for the casual viewer.
I can definitely see and understand that. To me, the show doesn’t want to make Shaun into a guide to what it is like for some people who are autistic, and with that, there is a need to either hear from people like you, who can explain the nuances, or do your own research. Otherwise, so comes the issue that comes about when any group not commonly focused on is given a prominent role – The need to question what is true to life accurate and what is for the sake of creating drama?
Thank you for bringing insight into Shaun that I didn’t pick up.
You are very welcome! I enjoy it to give a autistic perspective.
I guess, the writers acknowledge that they face a very mundane obstacle in their course of storytelling: they only have 42 minutes to do so. And excessive dialogue gets boring fast.
And so, they make use of all the trades they have: acting, dialogue, , camera perspective, symbolism, insinuations – even the lyrics of the songs always tie into the scenes they are used and give away additional meaning.
The Good Doctor is no Saturday morning cartoon one can watch while munching on their beloved cereals. It has multiple layers and is a finely crafted piece of drama.
Its something to see through rather than to look at.
With Lea’s feelings about Shaun, I’m thinking Andreas is right. Lea told Shaun she loves him too (as Andreas previously wrote), but Lea didn’t quantify it by saying it was loving him just as friends or she was not “in” love with him. And Lea never went after Shaun romantically because she knew, with all of her selfishness, neediness, etc, that being more then friends with Shaun would not work. Should she have said more in that scene? Yes. Hopefully the next time they see each other, she will have had time to come up with a proper explanation.
Claire and Dr. Melendez – I can see why they didn’t want to invite Morgan and Alex along. First of all, Morgan and Alex can be annoying people. Second, if for some reason they both cancel at the last minute, what do Claire and Dr. Melendez do? Stay home? Go out anyway? It just seems easier if they go out without involving Alex and Morgan.
Dr. Lim got a story this episode! And she might have more in the future! Yay!
You made a good point about how the death of the patient hardly affected Shaun! It was like the writers were on a mission to focus on Shaun’s romantic life and only his romantic life this episode, to the detriment of any other storyline, no matter how interesting those other storylines might have been. I guess they didn’t want to distract Shaun or the viewer with anything other then Carly or Lea.
Talking with a friend, I think maybe the death did affect Shaun. With Carly breaking up with him, that is why he went all in with the patient. He needed to know how he made a mistake for he did so much to be with Carly and still failed to be the boyfriend she wanted. So, he had to focus on the one fallback he has.
It’s like he said before, about everyone leaving him. I think losing that patient was a breaking point for if he loses his ability to be a good doctor, than what would he have left? He has no family, he’s very limited on the amount of people he would call a friend, outside Lea, and he settled for friendship.
If I recall right, when he and Lea moved in together and she started dating, he modified what he could accept so that he could find some means to be in her life, even if platonically. But, as usual with this show, people push a thought or feeling on Shaun, in this case him loving Lea and how he should tell her, and so Shaun is forced to act. Maybe due to them planting the seed, perhaps because he wanted to know if he should, or in the pursuit of normalcy, he follows the path the people he thinks are normal set out.
By the way, sorry for the misspellings – I’m of German language and the auto correction did not do as well as I would like it to do… 😉
On your presumption of Lea not seeing Shaun in a romantic light and this being long established…
Sometimes what people don’t say is as important as what the say! 😉 Lea friendzoned Shaun back in S2 E5 “Carrots” as she said: “But I don’t want my feelings to change. I like being your friend, and romantic relationships a-are unpredictable. So much can go wrong, especially when I am involved. […] Anything that puts our friendship at risk isn’t worth it to me.”
At this point, she valued their friendship more than any try on a romantic relationship that might break up fast because her own shortcomings. Yet, what she did not rule out was the possibility of her feelings changing – she only expressed her resolution to not let it happen.
And Lea stood true to her friendship with Shaun, from actively supporting his pursuit of happiness with Carly to dropping everything on a moment’s notice to accompany Shaun at his father’s deathbed.
But, while they were living together as roommates, the writers spread some easy to miss breadcrumbs that her resolution to stay friends might weaken a little. This was often done by the subtle, non-verbal cues in the acting of Paige Spara.
Think of the closing scene of S2 E7 “Hubert”, when Lea looks at Shaun realizing that he might not take her hand to comfort her, as the thought in the scene on the couch after the fish had died, but that he had found a very unique way to take the pain form her. The scene resonates with the opening, where Lea said “Don’t worry, Hubert. Daddy just shows his love in a different way.” In the opening, “Daddy’s unusual display of affection was directed towards a fish, in den ending towards his roommate.
Or look at her and Glassman sitting by Shaun’s hospital bed in S2 E18 “Trampoline”. Glassman very bluntly predicts that Lea will reject Shaun again (which she does in “Autopsy”):
GLASSMAN: “He likes you, you know?”
LEA: “Yeah, I like him, too.”
GLASSMAN: “He likes you more. When he gets rejected, I’m glad it’s coming from somebody who cares about him.”
Lea does not respond to Glassman, she does not protest. She only looks at Shaun, somewhat caught red-handed and shifting her position uncomfortably.
Then, after the emotional – but totally non-romantical – closing of S3 E10 “Friends And Family” something cuts hard trough the established routines of their cozy roommate-life: by Carlys request, Lea has to move out and she finds herself reevaluating her current life as she explains at lunch in S3 E14 “Influence”: “You kicking me out is just what I needed. […] I was in a complete rut. In my personal life, at work, super stale.” This re-thinking obviously includes her friend Shaun, since she displays a totally new behavior – steeling food from Shaun’s plate all trough S3 E15 “Unsaid”, a very intimate gesture at least – but being an automotive engineer she also is willing to take a surely less well paid half-time job in IT or whatever at the hospital, with a boss that drives her crazy constantly.
Now, in the closing scene of S3 E16 “Autopsy”, all of this comes into play again, but with one big difference to its beginning in S2 E5: When Shaun says he loves her in a clearly romantical context, she responds equally, without rejecting the romantic connotation. But what she also does is to list the same reasoning against the idea as the did almost two years earlier.
SHAUN: „I love you, Lea. I want to be your boyfriend.”
LEA: “I love you, too. But Y-you know me. I am selfish, and I am so, so needy. I-I’m I mean, listen to me right now. I can’t even put a complete sentence together. I am a… I’m a total mess.”
What I read out of this: she loves and cares for Shaun, but she still does not feel a the right fit for this role in his life. And because she does not want to hurt him constantly, she has to hurt him now once more. It’s a very classic trope of drama, but executed in a very long run and on a level that plays more with insinuations than bland exposition.
And – another problem especially in our fast-paced times – it requires the audience to know the whole arc well in a stretch over two years. So, it is easy to miss, when you watch it one by the week on TV. It’s easier to catch by binge-watching.
I bow to your citations and just… my goodness. But it does make me wonder, is the value Lea puts on that friendship because she, like Shaun, feels that she doesn’t have solid connections with anyone? Be it co-workers, family, etc? We don’t see much of Lea’s own life since she exists in Shaun’s orbit. Thus, while we may see her with a random guy, thus far, we rarely saw her at her previous jobs or have any notable interaction with anyone who wasn’t something to Shaun.
Which helps the show, for if Lea is not on camera, what is there to miss? She doesn’t have a storyline of her own. Yet, with it consistently pushed she could be the love of his life, shouldn’t she had a life of her own established by now?