The Good Doctor: Season 3 Episode 17 “Fixation” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

In “Fixation,” Shaun turns his hyperfocus onto his relationship with Lea as Kellan returns, and so does Claire’s old friend Dash.

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Dr. Lim and Max (Luke Slattery) in the hospital chapel.

In “Fixation,” Shaun turns his hyperfocus onto his relationship with Lea as Kellan returns, and so does Claire’s old friend Dash.

Directed By Lisa Demaine
Written By Jessica Grasl, Debbie Ezer
Aired (ABC) 3/2/2020
Introduced This Episode
Max Luke Slattery
Wes Harold Perrineau
Alice Ever Carradine

 Plot/ Recap

A Series Of Unfortunate Events With A Silver Lining: Max, Wes, Alice, Owen, Dr. Lim, Shaun, Morgan, Alex

For Shaun, the case of Alice, who has been struggling with doing something as simple as sitting up, is a hard thing to diagnose. Mind you, she has 5 years of medical records, has been through a litany of tests, and so much more. Yet, as always, Shaun being a savant leads to him, in a matter of days, finding solutions other medical professionals didn’t.

But, side-eye to the quick fixes Shaun miraculous comes up with aside, the case Morgan and Alex have isn’t so simple. It deals with a man, named Wes, who mentors at-risk male youth. All of which are in the hospital with him, see him almost as a father figure. But the one who actually gets to have notable lines is Max. He is 16, but emancipated, and while Morgan looks down on him as she does the other youths, his passion and volunteering to donate his kidney even gets her in her feelings.

Alice (Ever Carradine) in her hospital bed.
Alice (Ever Carradine)

Heck, even Alex, who can be as icy as Morgan sometimes, he seems moved. However, while they support the one, of many, surgeries Wes needs, Dr. Lim ultimately shuts it down. Max is 16, and sans the role of a hospital lawyer, since that aspect was cut when Jessica left the show, Dr. Lim decides it just isn’t worth it. Not only because of the legal aspect but considering the various complications, she can’t live with that. So, she informs Wes of the truth and uses his support to deliver Max the kind of lie so that he won’t make a scene and will accept Wes might struggle for a while.

The Return Of Familiar Faces: Dash, Kellan, Alex, Claire

Do you remember Dash? The husband to Claire’s friend, Kayla, we met in Season 2/ Episode 7? Well, Kayla is dead now and seemingly to fulfill her wish, he genuinely asks Claire out and while they stay in and attempt to cook, that awkwardness from last time isn’t there. Now, as for how Dr. Melendez feels about this? Well, there is a hint of jealousy but not enough to say he officially threw his hat in to win Claire’s heart.

Also, Kellan returns, and we learn he suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. Two things Alex didn’t know since he lives so far away and Kellan masks how he really is so his dad won’t worry.

Some Problems Cannot Be Fixed: Lea, Shaun

Between usually being able to diagnose what is wrong with patients, and the amount of work Carly put into her relationship with Shaun, it seems he is under the impression he can solve the problems Lea predicts they will have. However, the issue isn’t Shaun having the toilet paper one way or how he stacks cans, it seems what is both endearing to Lea might be what keeps her from wanting to take things further – Shaun being autistic.

This is something she danced around in the last episode, but after trying to be nice to Shaun and let him down easy, she realizes she has to be harsh. Otherwise, as the episode title implies, he would get fixated and go beyond testing the possibility of a relationship but potentially test their friendship. Though considering how Shaun reacts to hearing Lea admit his autism is a major obstacle, who knows if Shaun sees Lea as a friend anymore.

Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs

Shaun nudging Claire.


  1. So should we add Dr. Lim calling her mother to the dropped potential storylines list?

 Review/ Commentary

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Lea Still Rejecting Shaun

Lea rejecting Shaun.

In the kindest way, I’m happy Lea is remaining firm in rejecting Shaun. To me, I feel like Shaun has been put on such a path where there is no obstacle he can’t surmount that Lea proving herself to not be an obstacle, but a person is necessary. She doesn’t like Shaun romantically and, unfortunately, it is due to one of the qualities she likes in him as a person.

It brings back the whole concept that, on shows like this and “Atypical,” there is this romanticizing of certain features that are commonly associated with people who have autism, but it doesn’t dig into the day to day, the meltdowns, fixations, and perhaps the tantrums. All of which Lea can handle in a friend capacity when she can walk away but knows she can’t commit to in a relationship.

Hence her need to push she is selfish and things like that. In my mind, that is her saying that she isn’t willing to go through the compromises and all we saw Carly do in order to make things work. Lea simply wants chemistry and things to be chill. Hence why she is single now. Overall, Lea enjoys that honeymoon period and doesn’t want to deal with the fights, yelling, people hurting her feelings, and perhaps them going away after.

I’d say, when it comes to Lea, she is the prime example of how much characters suffer because what they need is a friend, and to obtain that they allow themselves to become someone’s significant other. A path I think Lea has been on enough that, with Shaun, she doesn’t want to repeat that.

The Guest Stars This Episode

After a certain point, you catch on to a show’s tricks and make it so they have to escalate things. For example, throughout most of the first season, I was crying left and right thanks to the guest stars. However, with knowing how “The Good Doctor” operates, I’ve usually been able to keep my composure.

Wes (Harold Perrineau) in his hospital bed.
Wes (Harold Perrineau)

But, Max, his love for Wes and hearing his story, alongside him breaking down to Dr. Lim, that got me. I wasn’t bawling tears but was getting teary-eyed since, if there is one thing this show doesn’t give us too much is passion. Because of their work, most of the doctors are stern and methodical. Making it so, outside of Shaun, the only time we see the majority of them becoming passionate is due to their ego. Specifically wanting validation for a diagnosis or surgical procedure – almost all purely work-related.

Which is why when characters like Max come on and show a sense of selflessness, a sense of vulnerability that doesn’t come from potentially feeling like they are a failure because they aren’t good at their job, it hits different. It forces you to remind yourself that while things usually go well for the characters you see day in and day out, their patients aren’t always so lucky, or their loved ones. Thus making each death or inability to cure more impactful than when Shaun pulls a procedure out of nowhere.

On The Fence


While “The Good Doctor” has downsized season to season by either eliminating characters, like Jessica, basically writing them off, like Allegra, or making them people we rarely see, like Kellan, it still feels bloated. Which, when I first was writing this section made me want to repeat the usual, “Can we please stop trying to make Alex’s family a thing?” But, perhaps the issue isn’t so much Alex and his family who I just personally am not invested in. It is more so feeling that too many storylines on this show are started and let go, which makes Kellan showing up frustrating.

Take, for instance, Dr. Lim calling her mom in the last episode. There was so much excitement that came from the possibility of meeting her family, maybe seeing where she is from, and so much more, it makes Kellan taking up all this screen time just bad timing. For I think I constantly forget this show isn’t an ensemble and that Dr. Lim and the rest will never catch up with Shaun, in terms of development. At best, we’ll get like we saw this episode where, after more than a season, a character we were introduced to, Dash, returns without any fanfare or marketing. And, at worst, like with Dr. Lim calling her mom or Morgan’s grandpa, and we’ll add Dr. Melendez’s sister to boot, you’ll get a nod that people not named Shaun Murphy have lives, but never the spotlight they deserve.

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Lea Still Rejecting Shaun - 90%
The Guest Stars This Episode - 89%
Kellan - 70%


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  1. I’ glad to hear that there are still enough neurotypicals willing to watch the hardships of a neurodivergent! 😉

  2. Changing the course of our thinking is never easy, Emil51. Being the mother of an autistic child imprints itself in your perception. Your love makes you (a) parent(ing). It’s nature. At our best, humans care for whom we feel inferior.

    It’s a trap!

    Shaun is neurodivergent and therefore impaired in a world made by and for neurotypicals. Yet, he is not inferior. He is high-functioning, meaning he can adapt and compensate.

    All children become adults once.

    Season 1 reserved lots of screen time for exploring Shaun’s emancipation from Glassman. The show dedicated several medical cases explicitly to it:

    1.6 Not Fake (parents seeing the child vs. bride seeing the adult)
    1.7 22 Steps (parents hovering over autistic adolescent)
    1.8 Apple (male date overprotective)
    1.9 Intangibles (mother protecting her child)
    1.11/12 Islands Part One/Two (twins becoming independent from each other, making their own decisions)

    Yet, most striking to me was the closing scene of “Not Fake”, where Shaun and Glassman reflect on the night and Shaun explains why he is not seeking love. The producers managed to pack all the complexity in one song underscoring the scene. It plotted the course of action for both these characters as well as the show as a whole:

    I don’t have all the words to say/
    Still healing from my mistakes/
    I’ll take the weight if it makes you stronger/
    I don’t wanna leave you in this place/

    Who am I/
    To try to save you/
    I ain’t gonna hide/
    You have to fight to change/
    In to the fire I’m standing beside you/

    (I Won’t Let You Down by Erin McCarley)

    Even if we love them dearly, they must fight for themselves eventually. We can’t shelter them forever. They must make their own mistakes (22 Steps). We must learn to stay at the sidelines eventually.

    The show stays on course in season 3. Do the viewers, too?

    1. Taking your last question literally, so far from season 1 to season 3, the show has lost viewers, but most shows here in the U.S. have. But since The Good Doctor continues to be in the top 20 ratings-wise week after week, ABC (the network it airs on here) has decided to give it another season. Thus, so far enough viewers are watching the show.

  3. See what the writers have done, Emily51: they have shown the autistic protagonist in his vulnerability and incapacity – and have made forgotten that he is a capable surgeon and a highly intelligent adult with the ability to change, adapt and grow.

    Many fans see Shaun nowadays a child that needs parenting in romance. The writers have them made to forget the lessons of season 1, when the theme of self-agency was addressed for first time in Shaun emancipating himself from Glassman’s sheltering.

    Being a high-functioning individual with ASD myself, I’m painfully aware of my impairments, but I sure do not need nor wish a romantic partner who feels the need to parent and therapize me.

    1. Andreas – Such interesting comments! Include me as someone who thought that Shaun was like a child instead of a romantic partner because of all of the things Carly had to for Shaun just to get him to hold her in a romantic way. I do remember Shaun declaring his independence in Season 1, but with Carly, all that seemed to be gone. So while Carly felt the need to act like a therapist for Shaun, Lea refused to. And this is where you have pointed out to me that Lea will not be a therapist for Shaun and will put her needs ahead of his, much to Shaun’s dismay.

  4. Emily51, this was easy to miss but Lea was wearing a totally different set of clothing in the second scene (most notably the leather jacket instead the black and red checkered wool jacket), indicting that the second scene took place on another day. So, Shaun wasn’t following up on Lea suggestion, but doing something new.

    Furthermore, there was a different quality to the scenes. At the first incident, Shaun was gently offering his will to change for her. In the second scene was forcefully adding the demand for her to date him.

    Both implies an escalation in Shaun’s obsessive behavior – he was getting more and more “fixated” on “fixing” it – and on Lea.

    Off course, Lea did not communicate properly either – but this is in-line with her character. Lea is not Carly.

    Carly always saw her little sister in Shaun and tried to “fix” that to some extent. She accommodated to Shaun’s needs, giving up her own needs at great lengths in this course (e.g. sheets, lightning ). Simply put, Carly coddled and even therapized Shaun (exposure therapy in 3.8 “Moonshot”). That is the reason why so many fans root tor her. Carly was doing good to the beloved hero. But is coddling the best solution for dealing with a self-sufficient, highly intelligent adult or is it degrading them to a minor?

    Carly mingled being a girlfriend with being a therapist.

    Lea represents the other extreme of the spectrum of how to handle individuals on the autistic spectrum (pun intended). Lea always saw Shaun as a capable adult that should not be coddled but encouraged (e.g. learning to drive; her to Glassman in 2.11 “Quarantine Part Two”). And Lea is not willing to put her own needs behind her partner’s ones.

    So, she communicates with him in an adult and neurotypical manner, hoping for him to get the point (first scene in 3.17 “Fixation”) but failing and growing frustrated (second scene).

    Lea does not wish to be a therapist, but to be loved.

    Putting Carly and Lea side by side, the writers address again a fundamental question: how should society deal with impaired persons? Autism is no superpower, it’s a developmental disorder.

    Shaun’s storyline with Carly and Lea is not a question of doing right or wrong. On the meta-level it is an allegory on society dealing with the impaired. Since we see both extremes fail in season 3, we might assume the writers prefer some middle ground.

    And it is a convenient build-up to some climax – it’s a drama series after all. 😉

    1. I did not notice the different clothing Lea was wearing in the second scene with Shaun – good catch! I see your point of how Carly and Lea each dealt with Shaun were totally opposite. In being the mother of an autistic person, a LOT of times I’ve been more of a therapist then a mother. Even after reading (and agreeing) with your explanation of how each woman treated Shaun, I still preferred Carly’s way and disliked Lea’s way. I see now that I completely brought my personal experiences into watching the show. I am wondering now if there will be more relationship drama. (Side note: Before Carly became a love interest for Shaun, I thought Claire was best suited for him.)

  5. Emily51, Lea’s mean behavior has good cause: Shaun isn’t just ignorant towards Lea (which she tolerated due to his autism in their friendship). As often before, Shaun is violating social boundaries – a very typical problem with ASD.

    As in 3.16 “Autopsy”, Shaun is being obsessive in 3.17 “Fixation”, hence the title – now about making Lea dating him. And he is arrogant because he firmly believes he can fix it by hanging toilet paper Lea’s way instead listening to her needs and desires. Lea tells him that her rejection is not about his idiosyncrasies: “This is not bothering me at all.” (3.17)

    But Shaun doesn’t stop because he is a surgeon nevertheless: “But I am very good at solving problems. I saved a woman today who nobody thought I could save. […] I can fix this.”

    Shaun ambushes Lea leaving the hospital: “You have to give me a chance. You need to let me try.” Shaun is starting to stalk Lea, another known problematic behavior with ASD. Lea is now getting plain: “I don’t need to do anything. You need to listen to me.”

    This is all about failed communication again. Failed communication due to Shaun’s autism and his ignorance about it. Lea is brutally honest with Shaun – the one personality trait she always valued most in him – to make him face his biggest flaw: his growing arrogance.

    1. Andreas – I agree with you that in episode 3.17, Shaun was being arrogant when talking to Lea.. That’s on Shaun. But I feel Shaun ambushed Lea when she was leaving the hospital because Lea never finished the conversation she was having with Shaun from the night before. She told Shaun she loved him but never fully explained why he could not be her boyfriend before running out the door. And then Lea never bothered to find Shaun in the hospital the next day to finish her explanation or to arrange a time when they could sit down and talk. And after Lea gets mad at him at lunch and tells him that after work would be the time to show her re-arranged cans of beans, of course Shaun is going to think he should find Lea right after work to talk to her. I just figured Shaun was following Lea’s instructions exactly, not ambushing her.

      This brings me back to what I wrote before – That despite Shaun’s arrogance and failed communication skills, Lea, because she is not autistic, should have been more patient and less mean when talking to Shaun. To me, Lea’s brutal honesty seemed to be too much rudeness without trying to reason with Shaun first.

  6. I agree with you and Andreas that Lea should not date Shaun with her personality traits (i.e. selfishness) and Shaun’s communication problems due to his autism. But I think Lea was just plain mean to Shaun. In the last episode, she confesses her love to Shaun and then runs out the door. But instead of sitting down with Shaun and calmly explaining why she can’t be his girlfriend in this episode, she rudely says it’s because he’s autistic and then storms off. Was Shaun getting emotional and upset? Yes. But that doesn’t mean Lea should be getting emotional, too. Lea doesn’t have autism, so she should have shown more patience in trying to calm Shaun down and get through to him. A person can stand firm without hurting someone’s feelings in such an awful manner. Maybe I’m going overboard, but I just don’t think that’s the tone you use when talking to someone you love.

    On to Kellen. Ugh! I agree with every word you wrote!!! We gave up time with Dr. Melendez’s sister or Dr. Lim’s anybody for this?!? Ugh!

    I like having Dash come back. As cute as Dr. Melendez and Claire are together, he’s her superior. We don’t even call him Neil! Those two can date when she’s not a resident anymore.

  7. What I’ve learned about The Good Doctor: when you watch this show, you have to pay close attention to the details and need some good recall of past episodes for context. The show continuously cross-references with other episodes.

    Lea refusing to date Shaun is not a question of liking him in a romantically sense or not – they confessed their love to each other in 3.16 “Unsaid” – what Lea rejected then was being his girlfriend.

    Because romantic relationships aren’t all about romantic feelings, love and making babies – they are first and foremost about successful communication. A theme of Shaun’s character arc from the very beginning, professionally but now also in his private life.

    If one whishes to understand Lea’s rejection than they should look at Shaun having lunch with Lea in 3.14 “Influence”. Applying the communication square by Friedemann Schulz von Thun (four-sides model/four-ears model) with its four channels factual (1), self-disclosure (2), relationship (3) and appeal (4), a very flawed communication sequence is revealed.

    Shaun took with him the fact (1) that Lea was quitting her job and acted accordingly – he got her a job interview. But this was not what Lea was talking about in the first place! Lea was emphasizing their relationship (3) by disclosing (2) her self-doubt and frustration with life and reaching out (4) to Shaun for comfort. This information was all lost to Shaun because he was preoccupied with his medical case.

    And Lea does not blame him, because she knows his ways. But she also knows that he cannot meet her needs (3.16 “Autopsy”) of comfort and being seen. Therefore, she starts to stress-eat his ice cream (ref. 1.8 “Apple”). She knows she would always have the backseat to whatever other his mind is fixated at a given moment. Because of his autism.

    “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and a restricted repertoire of activities and interests. Deficits in social cognition, e.g., inferring others’ mental states such as emotions and perspective taking, are at the core of the disorder.”

    Within the communication square, Shaun’s autistic brain is pre-wired for channel 1 only. Channels 2-4 are easily lost on him. It would take conscious effort and years of practice. And without his ears tuned to all four channels, he lacks the reciprocity a fulfilling romantic relationship needs. This is Lea’s concern.

    Again, the writers know what they are doing. It is in-line with all I know about autism and social interaction between neurotypicals and individuals on the spectrum. But one must pay close attention, or many aspects are easily lost on them, so that they get confused.

    One might even say, if the viewers’ ears are not finely tuned to all the channels, the show gives them an autistic experience.


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