The Good Doctor: Season 3 Episode 20 “I Love You” [Season Finale] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

So, “The Good Doctor” decides to end its third season in a very dramatic fashion in ways which may make it unrecognizable in season 4.

Dr. Lim asking, "What did we do?"

So, “The Good Doctor” decides to end its third season in a very dramatic fashion in ways which may make it unrecognizable in season 4.

Directed By David Shore
Written By David Hoselton, David Shore, Adam Scott Weissman
Aired (ABC) 3/30/2020

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Is This The End?: Morgan, Dr. Andrews, Alex

While Morgan doesn’t do the full surgery for the ectopic pregnancy, based on Dr. Andrews examining her, it seems her days as a surgeon may have been cut short. For with her incisions traumatized, it is likely that Morgan can still pursue being a doctor, just not in the capacity she was. But, she isn’t alone in not being able to continue what she has become accustomed to. Alex, after being with a boy as he died, realizes he needs to be closer to his ex-wife and son. Signaling he too may no longer be in the same capacity, or around at all, when “The Good Doctor” returns for season 4.

Dr. Andrews noting the damage done to Morgan's hands.

A Beautiful Send-Off: Claire, Dr. Lim, Dr. Melendez

Despite Dr. Melendez playing down what was going on with him, we learn his internal bleeding was quite severe. So serious, in fact, that, after surgery, some of the best-case scenarios for him were diabetes or a ventilator. But, alas, he met a fate far worse: Death.

However, before he died, he and Claire got to exchange their feelings for one another. And while it is no consolation prize, in Dr. Lim losing someone she loved as well, this might bring her and Claire closer together.

When Perseverance Doesn’t Lead To Failure: Shaun, Lea

For a good portion of the episode, the idea of Shaun moving on is pushed. That the end goal for him isn’t necessarily Lea, but love. So with Shaun having shown himself able to adapt before, so comes the idea he needs to apply the same thinking to his feelings for Lea. After all, didn’t he pursue love with Carly when Lea wasn’t available and find it? But, with Lea hearing every word Shaun said as he tried to save a patient’s life, including how Lea made him more, but he didn’t make her more, something clicks in Lea’s mind.

Thus, when Shaun emerges, the next morning, she not only kisses him but confesses her love for him. Leading to us rolling our eyes so hard.

On The Fence

Lea Confessing Her Love To Shaun

Shaun and Lea kissing.

Here is the thing, I get Lea has been made to be Shaun’s end game but it taking him nearly dying for her to get on board just seems so phony. Granted, the potential of death is often a wake-up call for people, but there was so much teasing about how the episode could end that Shaun moving on was one of the things we dearly were holding onto. For while we have nothing against Lea, just as Lea was an easy choice for Shaun, Shaun seems like the safe choice for Lea.

But with the show clearing out two characters who were becoming dead weight, who knows what the future could hold? Maybe Shaun may realize what he had with Lea was an infatuation? And because he was so used to women not seeing him in a romantic light, he’ll recognize Lea is a better partner in theory, in dreams than in practicum? Which I say since I don’t think we should discount all the reasons Lea said she would be a bad partner as just her trying to push Shaun away. In our mind, we’re going to really see Lea, warts and all, as will Shaun, and it could lead to the next evolution in his development.

Which could be a slew of things. One option is him realizing that feelings are complicated and feeling close to someone, enjoying their company, and them so happening to be a woman, it may not mean you have romantic feelings for them. Also, as opposed to Carly, Shaun isn’t jumping into things with Lea, and they have a previously established relationship. So how she deal with Shaun as a girlfriend is likely to be compared to how Carly was. And it’ll be interesting to see if the tools Carly inadvertently gave Shaun can apply to Lea. Much less, if Lea is ready to possibly go through what Carly did, and beyond, to make it work. Especially if it took a grand gesture to change her mind after Shaun’s persistence for, what? Two to three years now?

The Good Doctor Cleaning Up Shop

Claire resting on Dr. Melendez's chest as he lays dying.

I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t think Alex was dead weight, and I didn’t call Dr. Melendez a succubus. However, I guess I never figured they’d write either one off. But, fourth seasons usually are a soft reboot. Also, lest we forget, since it hasn’t been mentioned in a long time, there was this idea only one person from Shaun’s year could get hired. So considering it is now down to Claire and Shaun, that makes things interesting. In fact, it makes a Dr. Lim v. Dr. Melendez like challenge, when both were up for Chief of Surgery.

Now, granted, Shaun will probably beat Claire. However, think about what would come in season 5 and beyond, when Shaun becomes a mentor/ teacher. Making the fat cut from the finale seem like a necessary evil for it’s time to tighten up as we enter a rather intense year of Shaun’s life.


The Good Doctor Cleaning Up Shop - 79%
Lea Confessing Her Love To Shaun - 70%


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  1. Good points! I would rather see the show work with the existing characters, too instead introducing new. But we can’t say yet what is on the writers’ mind. So, let us hope for some compelling new plots at least. 😉

  2. Amari, I doubt that the nursing staff will ever get a more prominent role than now, simply because of the runtime. If they don’t bring in a replacement for Melendez, the screen time probably will be distributed to other regulars, e.g. Park (Shore plans to hold onto the character) and Andrews.

    But still you might have a point with the nurses. After all, this show is about overcoming obstacles. Shaun has mastered the basics of falling in love in season 3. Season 4 might refocus now his obstacles at work.

    We have seen that Shaun still has problems with proper communication at the workplace. You mentioned the rehearsal for his second attempt on his first lead surgery and the fallout with Nurse Hawks that followed in 3.6. This is indeed a possibility to address his weaknesses again.

    With the prospect of more responsibilities to bear near the end of his residency, I can very well see Shaun having to interact more with the nurses. There is now an established body of recurring characters within the nursing staff. Another possibility would be some new first-year residents to oversee, but this would again bring up problems with an already cramped main cast.

    1. I can’t see new first year residents as they barely have the current senior staff playing the roles of mentors consistently. If anything, as you noted, with each year dealing with an obstacle, I think the long simmering one has been the relationship between doctors and nurses. For it hasn’t just been Shaun who had issues with them. Heck, it could explain why Park was feeding them and why they played a notable role during the Earthquake episode and the main nurse spoke out against Morgan’s attitude.

      It could be they were setting up what’s to come by reminding us of the main nurses of the show since each one had at least one episode they were featured in.

  3. Taking into consideration David Shore’s post-episode interview, Shaun will have to navigate his new relationship next season – as opposed to start the relationship as we have seen it with Carly. Which translates to me less awkward firsts (but still enough potential conflicts with these two).

    For his professional life Shore teased that we would see Shaun in a more supervisory role when the show returns. Which could mean he is about to act more independently from the attendings or taking charge of some more procedures.

    But I agree with Amari that most likely we will see a competition with Claire over becoming chief resident. Claire’s idea of using a beer engine to pump a patient’s blood back was very reminiscent of Shaun’ one-way valve in the pilot.

    With two tragic losses in one season and all her love interests gone, the character needs a rest as well as new plotlines different from romance. There’s Lim possible mentoring her and bonding about Melendez’s death of course, but for her career this seems the next logical step to fight for chief resident. It also would tie in Lim more, since she has a soft spot for Shaun and might suffer a conflict of interests since she is probably the one to name the new chief resident.

    The most interesting aspect for me in such a scenario would be how Shaun would handle the race for a position since he still has to learn how to compete with colleagues. Fun thought: Morgan, about to change to ER or oncology, coaching Shaun in competitiveness… lovely. 😉

    1. I’m also hoping this will mean seeing the nurses more for I don’t think Shaun can get the job unless he wins them back. His attitude in the past definitely rubbed many the wrong way and he even got written up for it.

  4. Andreas – Instead of taking up valuable doctor/medical time, I like your idea of having Shaun and Lea’s scenes be “the opening and closing scenes of the episodes”. If they do that, it will give Shaun some semblance of a private life, like you pointed out. And hopefully Lea and her relationship drama will not overwhelm the episodes like I feel she did many times in season 3.

  5. Well, the good thing with the setup for season 4 is that the girlfriend for the time being works at the hospital, too. Thus, Shaun can navigate his new relationship similar to his friendships with his workmates or Carly before – a little more “integrated into the flow” of the episodes. And don’t forget that this will be a triangle of sorts. Glassman will have to deal with the new relationship status of his surrogate son, too, while both Shaun and Lea are his employees. As Glassman did put it, they still have to figure out how to stop them from killing each other…

    But I must say I also liked the way that Shaun and Lea’s scenes were handled in seasons 1 & 2 mostly. Often, they were the opening and closing scenes of the episodes, conveying the feeling of a workday covered with private life in the mornings and evenings. I would like to see this again, since for me a series lead should have some private life, too. It makes the character much richer.

  6. “…was the dramatic equivalent of a therapy session for the autistic lead.” I did not think of it that way, but that is a very interesting way to look at it! I guess I will rephrase my opinion. I know that the writers will spend part of season 4 having Shaun cope with a needy, messy girlfriend. But the show is called The Good Doctor, not The Good Boyfriend or The Good Autistic Doctor. So to me, the less time spent watching Shaun “grow” as a boyfriend or in his relationship with Lea, and the more time spent at the hospital, the better.

  7. Emily51, Shaun immediately going onto his search for Lea was a narrative device. He displayed with that yet again his ASD-related tendencies of singlemindedness and fixation. In finding Vera instead of Lea and letting go his desire for rescuing Lea, Shaun made a much-needed learning experience: stalling his own desires to attend to the needs of others. In doing that he broke the unhealthy behavioral patterns we witnessed and criticized for so long.

    It is no coincidence that only after this Lea was ready to accept Shaun as her boyfriend. The two-part season finale was the dramatic equivalent of a therapy session for the autistic lead.

    This was emotionally draining to watch, but a better choice for TV than a lengthy therapy process consisting only of sitting and talking… It’s one of these instances where drama and real-life part for good reason.

  8. Andreas, that’s a good point. I just hope that Lea’s flakiness and selfishness do not aggravate me (and Shaun) to the point where it distracts from my enjoyment of the show and distracts Shaun from being able to be the best doctor he can be. For example, in episode 3.19, the minute Dr. Glassman told Shaun that Lea was trapped below-ground, Shaun abandoned Dr. Lim and all of those people injured by the earthquake to go after one person. That is just one reason why I was not happy to see Shaun and Lea romantically get together. But we shall see what season 4 brings.

  9. Emily51, Lea did not reject Shaun in 3.16 because of his autism per se, but because she feared a behavioral consequence of his autism would not work with her: him attending to her needs (thus her emphasis on her neediness and selfishness within the dialogue).

    Lea clarified that in her first scene of 3.17: “Your way of proving that you’re flexible and attentive to my needs is to pull mee away from work with no notice, make me drive all the way across town just so you can show me you un-alphabetized your beans? Doesn’t that seem a little… inconsistent?” To which Shaun concludes he should have waited until after work but does not realize that Lea isn’t speaking about canned goods at all. It’s an example of Shaun failing to take perspective due to his condition. Thus, he lacks reciprocity in relationships of all sorts.

    Now fast forward to 3.20 and him making Lea to count to 180. He did not need Lea to give him the seconds, he asked her to do so to distract her from Vera’s screams. He concluded in advance that Lea would be impacted by the screams and he took measures against it. He took perspective and attended to Lea’s emotional need – all while trapped in an unstable basement filling with water and amputating a limb. Shaun demonstrated to Lea he now can adjust to her needs despite his ASD. That a relationship with him can be the two-way street she expects from a vis-à-vis (2.3 “36 Hours” closing scene!).

  10. Andreas – While you make good arguments, I have one thing I disagree with. When you wrote that Shaun would not want to be seen as the autistic boyfriend. I know Shaun feels Lea makes him more. And nothing will change that. But in episode 3.14, he asked both Carly and Lea if he should do the interview Dr. Glassman wanted him to do so people would know the hospital had an “autistic” doctor. Carly said something like to do what he felt was best for him. But Lea said something like he HAD to do the interview so he could be an inspiration to autistic people everywhere. Be the good autistic doctor. And also, that’s why Lea needed the grand gesture to come around – because Shaun would be the autistic boyfriend, someone she refused to date.

    P.S. Amari – I read an interview with one of the Executive Producers. Regarding Alex’s character, he said, “We’re not planning on losing him from the show.” Boo!

  11. Thank you for your thoughts on this, Amali. I guess I understand now better how and why we look at this matter with so different eyes.

    I still have to earn my full degree in psychology yet, but I work sometimes with adults on the spectrum roughly the age of Shaun. They present with emotional problems and maladaptive behaviors of all sorts, yet they are successful students of IT, physics, etc.

    Trying to help these individuals means to walk a fine line because in my position one must avoid imposing their own ideas or likings onto the clients.

    So, the first step is always to fathom the client’s reasoning on a given behavior or cognition, as curious it might be. In this position I have to accept ways that are very different from my own.

    Of course, I look at Shaun in a similar way. For me, the most important question is not what I find a reasonable choice, but what are the reasons for his choices? And how to proceed from there for a positive outcome?

    Shaun (or rather the showrunner) has chosen Lea over Carly – why? Shaun gave us his reasons in 3.19. Lea makes him more. This is an intriguing notion. We’re dealing with a work of fiction, so we can assume there’s a message for the audience embedded in this line.

    More than a good doctor? Obviously: drive a car [freedom], enjoy music [art], sing karaoke [being seen], taking tequila shots [orgy], fall in love. These are basic human conditions. There’s no mention of his autism in this.

    In 3.14 “Influence” Shaun wanted to be known as a good doctor, not a good autistic doctor. I’m inclined to believe he neither would like to be seen as the autistic boyfriend only.

  12. The board said he cannot be a surgeon because of his autism.
    Dr. Melendez said he will not be allowed to do more than suction because of his autism.
    The parents said he will not be allowed to operate on their autistic son because of his autism.
    Dr. Glassman said he needs a live coach because of his autism.
    Dr. Han said he cannot be a surgeon because of his autism.
    His father called him weak because of his autism.
    His co-resident told him what to think and do because of his autism.
    His patients told him what to think and do because of his autism.

    The recurring theme of all three seasons of The Good Doctor was Shaun’s emancipation from prejudices and paternalism. The last example in a long line now is Vera, telling him yet again what to do and not listening what Shaun has decided for himself. Or… Vera would be the last example if it were not for the critics and the audience.

    Ask yourself: are you in the corner of the autistic guy or are you with the others?

    1. I think there is a difference between Shaun dealing with prejudice at work and seeing this pending relationship with Lea as unsavory. For the challenges and prejudices at work usually came in the form of people being ignorant about what Shaun was capable of and with Dr. Glassman, it was due to him trying to force Shaun to be dependent on him and, when Shaun pushed back, him thinking someone else should be in play.

      When it comes to Lea, I think the main issue here is that we saw what he was like with Carly and how that relationship was. Did it have troubles? Yes. However, Carly worked through them without having to see Shaun perform a grand gesture. She knew it would be hard, and we saw her hardships, but she stuck it out, found different studies and methods and, for a short period, it seemed like she and Shaun were getting a rhythm.

      And for me, that is one of the many reasons I don’t necessarily like this Lea thing. She would never do that much to make things work! So it makes it seem Carly was made semi-regular (she won’t return in the next season I read), just to prep a handoff to Lea. Someone who, as Vera said, seems less so Shaun’s goal, in finding love, and more so what is present. But rather than switch gears, and find a better option, he is fixated on Lea like she is the goal. Thus, it almost makes him seem stunted.

      Which, based off our conversation in the comments of the last episode, I realize Shaun is lucky he had not only a full blown relationship with Carly, but within a month or two will likely start another with Lea. But that’s sort of the double edged sword here. You want to root for Shaun yet I see a world of difference between how Dr. Glassman and the hospital staff changed their perspective of Shaun vs. Lea.

      Shaun’s work in convincing his colleagues he deserved his place and he was superb at what he does I wouldn’t equate to what is happening with Lea. And the main issue that this season created was bringing Carly in and how, at least for me, she showed me an example of Shaun not having to constantly prove himself worthy. So with Lea, and her sudden change of heart, it makes me want to call BS. You loved Shaun as a friend for so long, tried your best to have him lose feelings for you, but this one grand gesture makes you reconsider and then the show ends things like a romance movie?

      To me, it leaves far too much to unpack and a part of me hopes that, for Shaun, who seems lucky in love, Lea ends up another lesson. One which teaches him the difference between someone like Carly, who really put in a lot of effort, and someone like Lea, who is likable and loveable, a good friend, but that sometimes not being enough for a lasting and healthy relationship.

  13. Great recap!! I laughed so hard at “she not only kisses him but confesses her love for him. Leading us to rolling our eyes so hard.” So funny, yet so true! And phony was such a good word for this! I, too, was waiting for and led to believe that Shaun was going to move on. It seemed like bait and switch instead of a romantic twist the writers probably intended it to be. And Lea is such a flake! I hope this turns out to be interesting like you proposed and not annoying like it well could be.

    I was surprised at how nice Alex’s good-bye storyline was that I didn’t mind how much time it took up. He can say his goodbyes to everyone for a few minutes in the first episode of season 4, but then he better be gone after that!

    Claire and Dr. Melendez’s good-bye was so sad and sweet! Like you mentioned, it would be cool if it led to a storyline of Claire and Dr. Lim getting closer next season. And then maybe Dr. Lim is fighting for Claire to get hired and Dr. Glassman is fighting for Shaun to get hired. But with Dr. Melendez gone, maybe they hire both of them. (Claire and Shaun do make a good team!)

    I hope they follow Morgan and what she does if she can’t be a surgeon anymore.

    I will say one thing for the writers – They did recognize their inability to come up with interesting storylines for Alex and Dr. Melendez, so they cut them loose. (Or did the actors want out because they were bored?!)

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