The Good Doctor: Season 4/ Episode 9 “Irresponsible Salad Bar Practices” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

The Good Doctor moves beyond its usually subtle recognition of race and gets very in your face about how it plays a role in medicine and at the hospital.

Director(s) Felipe Rodriguez
Writer(s) Sam Chanse, Liz Friedman
Aired (ABC) 2/15/2021
Newly Noted Characters
Cintia D’Souza Priscilla Faia

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text may contain affiliate links, which, if a purchase is made, we’ll earn money or products from the company.


Racial Bias In Medicine – Claire, Enrique, Dr. Glassman, Dr. Andrews

A heavyset Black woman comes into the E.R., delirious, and while Enrique is proposing one solution to her ailment, Claire is ready to assume the woman isn’t taking her blood pressure medication. That and just generally not taking care of herself. Originally, the woman didn’t know this, so they were quite happy Claire, Enrique, Dr. Andrews, all people of color were treating her for she felt she would be seen, be heard, and get proper medical care.

However, upon learning Claire didn’t listen to her when she said she took her medicine and questioned whether she lied, she is ready to leave. The only thing which stops her is Dr. Glassman noting, of the nearby hospitals, within 100 or so miles, his hospital shows the least bias. It isn’t lost on the patient that Dr. Glassman isn’t defending the hospital and saying it shows no bias at all, but rather the least.

But, at the very least, the patient and Claire reconcile since, while Claire is taken off the case, she does end up helping to save the patient’s life. Thus, leading to Claire revealing her bias came from her medical education and in an effort to fit in, her developing a certain shame surrounding the stereotypes that often are inflicted upon Black people. For Claire, it was the perception that she was unqualified, given a hand out, or other things that diminished the work because she got into med school. And then, when it came to the patient, because of the self-hate Claire developed, seeing a loud and silly Black woman triggered her.

Claire questioning if they had to do what they did to get how far they have

Hence, like so many who would pre-judge her, she pre-judged the patient. She made them into a statistic rather than recognized her as an individual. One that felt safe in Claire’s eyes, for Claire could be her kin. That is, as opposed to those who usually would dismiss how she feels and her truth.

Having A Crush When In A Relationship – Lea, Shaun, Cintia

With Shaun just coming into his own, with the possibility of multiple women having an interest in him, it makes him question what does this mean? Especially since one of the reasons the relationship with Carly ended was because he had feelings for Lea. So, with that in mind, he wonders what does having a crush on Dr. D’Souza, a second-year radiology doctor, means? This question particularly bothers him due to having a dream that includes Dr. D’Souza.

So, what does Shaun do? Well, he tells Lea, even though he was advised not to. But what else is he going to do? He believes in total honesty, and while this shakes Lea a bit, as she has done before, she adapts. It begins by letting Shaun know it is okay to have crushes, as she has some herself – which freaks him out a little bit. But, to help Shaun deal with his feelings for Dr. D’Souza, Lea does what she needs to. That is watch Dr. D’Souza and find ways that her daily actions would irk the hell out of Shaun, and it works! Thus, while the crush isn’t dead and gone, both Shaun and Lea found a way to keep it at bay.

Reputation – Dr. Lim, Dr. Andrews, Dr. Glassman, Claire

Dr. Lim pushing back against Dr. Glassman's comments

Thanks to Claire, Dr. Glassman finds himself in Dr. Lim’s office, questioning how she is doing, and it makes Dr. Lim a bit defensive. What doesn’t help is Dr. Andrews gossiping about a woman at the hospital, another doctor, and implying she was crazy and forced on leave. The purpose of this is to reinforce why Dr. Lim’s fears of seeing a psychologist or taking time off are warranted. If someone like Dr. Andrews, who has improved over the years, can be so gossipy, like he is in high school, imagine the rest of the staff?

Heck, taking note of how much work it took for Dr. Lim to get her position, anything that could lead to people picking her apart has to be silenced, right? Yet, with her blanking out during a hazardous surgery, it pushes her to realize that if she isn’t going to take off time to mentally heal, she is going to need medicine. Thus, she reveals to Dr. Andrews and Claire, she is on medication for PTSD.

Why? Well, maybe to show Claire she won, and maybe even show her that even those in leadership need to listen to their underlings sometimes? As for Dr. Andrews? I’d say it was to rebuke him for his callous comments and make him more aware of how, what he says, it can hurt people. I’d even add, as an audience member, it proves that, as much as Dr. Lim may find Shaun’s questions, like that he poses to a trans individual, can be insensitive, it should be established he isn’t alone. Heck, considering Shaun is genuinely curious, while Dr. Andrews was just being an ass, Shaun is a saint in comparison.



Dr. Lim’s Struggle

Dr. Lim, on multiple occasions, has made it clear that while she doesn’t suffer from imposter syndrome, she does feel the need to constantly prove herself. If not, be some form of perfection so that she not only maintains her position but can make it possible for Claire, Olivia, or Jordan to one day rise to be at her level or even president of a hospital.

I’d relate it to what Shonda Rhimes said in her book Year of Yes:

Second chances are for future generations. That is what you are building when you are an F.O.D. (First, Only Different). Second chances for the ones who come behind you.
“Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

For Dr. Lim, there is no second chance, there is no messing up, because if she does, how long will it be before someone who looks like her will get a chance? You see what happened to Dr. Andrews, right? He lost everything, and if it wasn’t for Dr. Lim, where would he be? If she didn’t vouch for him, give him a second chance, what would have happened? This is why he probably sensed he needed to make peace with her and why she was so upset. There was a moment’s recognition that, despite what a woman did for him when he was low, he’d throw one, maybe even her, right under the bus. Just to make her fodder for some childish joke.

Lea and Shaun’s Relationship

With the mention of Carly and why Shaun feels like that relationship ended, it pushes you to compare Shaun’s relationship with Lea thus far. When it comes to Lea, while she makes adjustments like Carly did, it isn’t without expecting Shaun to adjust as well. There is this certain equality to their dynamics because Lea doesn’t let things build up until she feels she can’t take it anymore. Shaun mentions crushing on a doctor, so Lea mentions she has crushes too. Not just to normalize how Shaun feels but so he can understand why telling her something like that wouldn’t necessarily make her feel good.

Shaun and Cintia D'Souza (Priscilla Faia) in one of Shaun's dreams
Shaun and Cintia D’Souza (Priscilla Faia)

And rather than say it is fine, let it stew and ignore it, Lea, while this can be seen as petty, maybe creepy, stalks Dr. D’Souza and comes up with a list of reasons Shaun shouldn’t like her. To us, that felt like Lea not only helping Shaun navigate his feelings but reminding you this relationship works both ways. Shaun is afraid to lose Lea just as much as she is afraid to lose Shaun. Both sides are dealing with insecurity that pushes them to work together rather than one side just suffer in silence.

A Brown/Black Face In A Traditionally White World

I’m not going to lie, between The Good Doctor and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, I’m a bit surprised how race and gender play a role in the workplace is being featured. With Claire, especially since, I’d say she more closely identifies with being a woman than being Black. Granted, she is seen as a Black woman at the end of the day, with one not exclusive of the other. But when it comes to Claire’s struggles, I would say her gender more often was treated as what made her struggle than her race.

Yet, through the patient, we’re reminded of that intersection and what it means. Claire felt uncomfortable, maybe disgusted, by the patient, for she represented every stereotype Claire fears being associated with. Which is that loud Black woman who takes up space and is unashamed for doing so. This is in comparison to Claire, who we often made herself small, speaks in hushed tones, and rarely speaks out of turn.

It really shifts the way you see Claire, for it pushes you to factor in that it wasn’t just because of her mom being an addict and that pushing her to be a nurturer that has made Claire who she is. It’s also just wanting to not be seen as part of the monolith of the stereotypical Black woman. Be it because she feared it would hold her back, would make it so she wouldn’t belong, or lead her to be underestimated.

On The Fence

While We Appreciate The Conversations About Race, It Sometimes Felt Heavy Handed

When it comes to how Claire handled reckoning with her Blackness and how her patient was used to highlight the bias in medicine, it did feel like the way Dr. Glassman played a role in the episode was heavy-handed. Be it Dr. Lim calling out his privilege in a way that seemed a bit inappropriate, to even how the patient spoke to him.

Now, were they wrong? No. However, it almost felt like Dr. Glassman was made into a punching bag just because he is the only white doctor that could have taken the hit. Especially since, when it comes to Shaun, he was already struggling with understanding what it means to be a trans man. Imagine if he had to confront his own possible racial bias. This, honestly, would have been interesting, but we do feel there is a certain line when it comes to shows trying to help their audience understand racism. There is doing so to illuminate and then doing so for drama.

After a certain point, The Good Doctor began to veer towards drama.

[amazon box=”B08M48CGQ1″]

[ninja_tables id=”46813″]


Lea and Shaun's Relationship - 86%
Dr. Lim's Struggle - 88%
A Brown/Black Face In A Traditionally White World - 87%
While We Appreciate The Conversations About Race, It Sometimes Felt Heavy Handed - 75%


As The Good Doctor addresses how race and gender affects how things work in the medical field, you are left wondering what will be the long term effects of the conversations of this episode?


  1. Aspie’s Log, Supplemental: I have an idea how “Irresponsible…” might resonate with Claire in the upcoming episodes, thanks to the promotional pictures of 4.11 “We’re All Crazy Sometimes”. Interestingly, it does not follow up on the topic itself but rather causes character growth.

    Claire loosens up!

    The pictures show Claire enjoying time off with … Asher; and her on stage with a guitar.

    4.09 stressed how racism caused Claire to work harder to be better than others, to fit in. That meant to be hard against herself with strict work ethics and hiding parts of her personality such as her musical talent (Isn’t increased musicality among Black people another stereotype? It probably did not help either that it was a reminder of her mother).

    There is some hope that Claire as a character might evolve without doing the emotional labor for others, as you coined it Amari.

    Now, what Claire spending time with Dr. Wolke might mean for his character in the light of a certain pattern of doom… let’s see.

  2. What partner is really -the- perfect match? Perhaps neurotypicals think of their partners that way? I never did. For me, every girlfriend was an unique mixture of pros and cons – although I never compiled a list for comparison like Shaun did last season… ?

    I don’t think Shaun was tormented by guilt, but genuinely confused about his feelings – which is in line with his often-alluded alexithymia. The script says: “When I was with Carly and had feelings for Lea, it meant I was supposed to be with Lea. What if this means I’m supposed to be with Dr. D’Souza?”

    Because Shaun is easily confused by feelings, he rather relies on logic instead. Shaun was supposed to be with Lea – by Carly and Glassman in episodes 3.15/16. Now he fears the same logic would apply to his crush.

    For the need of presenting Shaun with new stimuli I concur that the show naturally runs short of new stimuli in the hospital because Shaun is now a senior resident; many situations in the workplace have been dealt with by now. The newbies were announced to be a new milestone for Shaun. Yet, he has adapted quite good by episode 6 (which makes me somewhat suspicious plot-wise). Consequently, Shaun’s relationship with Lea now has come more into the focus in the recent episodes – which in turn somewhat marginalized Shaun’s role with the cases of the week.

    Which gave room to other characters. Christina Chang’s performance in the PTSD plot is outstanding, especially when playing against Antonia Thomas. It is a cruel thing to say, but to me both their characters were bogged down by their attachment to Melendez the serial workplace dater; without him they are free to blossom.

    So why do you still long for more individual storylines? My best guess – it’s the newbies taking up much screen time but contributing little more than a new potential love interest for Claire. A lot of time went into establishing the new characters and this might even have contributed to a jam-packed episode 4.09.

    As you wrote, Amari, taking up on race was a given as much as the pandemic. Yet, because the show took its time for a (well executed) two-parter on Covid, and one episode to choose 4 newbies, the number of episodes left until the mid-season climax shrank. And let’s not forget the excellent focus episode on Lim introducing the PTSD story arc.

    So, there was some obligation and much ambition, but little room. So, we got a rushed 4.09. With lots of talking points for dialogue in a take on racial bias in medicine; a transgender plot with charismatic guest stars but too little room to breathe; and a jammed-in PTSD milestone (Lim now is taking an antidepressant, she is still due for cognitive therapy). In the end, these stories canceled each other out, indeed.

    This episode made me especially sorry for Claire as a character. Her patient presented in the ER with an altered state of mind, therefore I still have a problem to attribute Claire’s misdiagnosis to racial bias rather than the manic behavior. How was Claire supposed to take everything the patient told her for face value under these circumstances? Because of that every following step felt construed, even as I see racial bias in medicine as a real danger. I simply failed to connect cause and effect in this case.

    How to proceed from here? Racial bias as an issue might linger in the background for a while and give Claire a new plotline, bonding with Boardshorts; since her relationship with Lim is damaged now. Lim’s PTSD hasn’t vanished. The SSRIs improve on her mood, but she is still vulnerable, and this might come into play right next episode.

    The mid-season episode usually was pivotal for many characters and gave the season a new direction. What was a Corona virus in season 2 is now a computer virus. As foreshadowed in 4.03 and 4.05, a cyber attack hits the hospital and in its wake many dominos might fall.

    The new crisis might give Lim another blow when her career is most vulnerable. Morgan could raise to the occasion again, highlighting her leadership potential. The hospital might get under investigation again, looking into how this could happen in the first place, putting Lea and Glassman’s hiring policy under scrutiny. How will Lea react to being responsible for many lives and how will this affect her relationship. Somebody might get fired because he opened an infected email. And the subsequent episode might add even more stress on the residents because Glassman might start the race for Chief Resident.

    How much 4.09 will resonate is therefore hard to say.

  3. P.S. (I should think things through before hitting the send-button): In Shaun’s dream, his crush acted like an autistic female version of himself, finding the weather channel soothing, being irritated by sensory input such as the volume and reflections on the screen. Shaun was projecting his wish for acceptance and understanding into Dr. D’Souza

    Though, by her little private investigation, Lea proved that Shaun already has found the person who is willing to provide him with that. Now, isn’t that some poetry within this heavy-handed episode?

    1. I think it also explores that, as much as Shaun loves Lea, and he knows she loves her, she isn’t perfect and he still does fantasize about finding a perfect woman. Hence the guilt and even temptation because he has been lucky to have two fairly good relationships in the last few years. Which is perhaps part of the reason he felt guilty since, as I believe he said, he went from Carly to Lea, and considering things got better, I think his dream represented that transition. That, like how Lea showed him off to her family, and made being in a relationship easier and more of a partnership, with Dr. D’Souza, he would get that and someone who just understands him without explanation.

      And I think that was my issue as well, in terms of mixing Shaun having a crush, the issue of race, and having a trans patient. Even though Shaun only dealt with two out of three, I feel like the show always struggled with presenting Shaun new stimulus, and having him explore how people live their lives, while giving other characters individual storylines. Now, I recognize I, every so often, wish for Claire, Dr. Lim and others to be treated as individuals, and not members of Shaun’s universe, but the writing of this episode felt very reactive.

      I’d say, similar to the Coronavirus two-part season opener, it felt obligatory. With this season mainly having doctors and characters who are people of color, and the Black Lives Movement which followed the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, addressing race was bound to happen. However, I feel that, as noted, when it came to touching on differences with characters, like how Claire felt when dealing with Dr. Melendez when she pushed back or Dr. Coyle when she felt harassed, there was nuance and the desire to bring real life to the screen. With Zara’s storyline, it was definitely a presentation of real life, but it felt less personal and more about presenting statistics dressed up in a storyline.

      Then with the trans storyline, as you said, it felt like something which deserved singular focus. Yet, rather than present it on its own, or as the main patient storyline, paired with one that drew less attention, a part of me feels like the two stories were left to compete, and eventually canceled each other out. But with no known trans characters on the show, that storyline now has no means to be beefed up and be used to explore what it means to be trans, and in Rio’s situation vs. Zara’s situation, calling out racism in medicine, likely reverberating for at least 2 or more episodes. Assuming The Good Doctor plans to really explore what appears to be an internal issue with not just the hospital, but also the characters and their relationships with one another.

      (I keep thinking about switching to a comment plugin with an edit function, but there are just so many out there and importing existing comments, or exporting if I leave that plugin, has been a past struggle)

  4. On the bright side, I concur on how delightful the relationship dynamic of Shaun and Lea is right now and compares to Carly. Perhaps because of her autistic sister, Carly’s interactions with Shaun always carried some undertone of her compensating for that. Carly went miles to help Shaun, but her expectation for Shaun was to adjust to her neurotypical needs (e.g., holding hands). Carly did not compromise easily – and neither does Shaun, so they butted heads frequently.

    Lea, on the other hand, was more proactive and open to flexible approaches from the very beginning and this now pays off. Yes, Lea stalking Dr. D’Souza, literally sniffing at her is creepy and compulsive. But it communicates very effectively the character’s needs and fears as well as their determination to keep onto their loved one.

    It also demonstrates Lea’s ability and willingness to immerse herself in Shaun’s differing cognition and perception. Making a field study at the hospital, taking notes, and compiling lists – this is all very much Shaun-like. Lea is adapting to Shaun’s ASD and by that acting a little more autistic herself. Which is hilarious to watch but also a real phenomenon reported for NT/ASD couples in the literature.

  5. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who felt some unease with the execution of this episode, Amari. It is somewhat ironic that you just recently wrote very fondly of how Shaun is given the room to ask questions other don’t dare to ask, because this episode decisively broke with that.

    When confused by the transgender patient and his fiancé, Parks cuts Shaun short: “Questions you’re not supposed to ask him.” […] If I can’t ask questions, how do I understand?”

    Usually, The Good Doctor makes a fine job with looking at a controversial theme from different angles and having the protagonists reach some form of (mutual) understanding. Not this time.

    The episode tackled two very complex social matters in one episode. It might have served each of these topics better if it had been done in separate episodes, allowing for better focus and more nuanced dialogues.

    Also, the juxtaposition of two serious topics with a goofy comic relief about attraction to another woman felt off, tampering the seriousness of all issues touched. The episode felt imbalanced and dissonant to me.

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