The Good Doctor: Season 4/ Episode 1 “Frontline Part 1” [Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Shaun and Lea on the opposite sides of a door

Weeks have passed since the 3rd season finale, and with “The Good Doctor” integrating COVID-19 comes a show with renewed energy.

Weeks have passed since the 3rd season finale, and with “The Good Doctor” integrating COVID-19 comes a show with renewed energy.

Director(s) Mike Listo
Writer(s) Liz Friedman, David Shore
Aired (ABC) 11/2/2020
Introduced This Episode
Mildred Jamillah Ross
Rochelle Bethany Brown
Lily Carly Pope
Martin Lochlyn Munro
Ambar Arlen Aguayo-Stewart
Walter Jerry Wasserman

This content contains pertinent spoilers.


And So It Began – Mildred, Rochelle, Lily, Martin, Ambar

First, there was Mildred, someone who had a simple cough but ended up on steroids, a ventilator, and so much more – with her daughter Rochelle pushed further and further away for her own safety. Following that, Martin, who had mild symptoms, but his essential employee wife, Lily, pestered him, and with learning he had COVID, she was lucky that his phone kept them connected.

Lastly, there was Ambar. A young woman, pregnant, and due any day now, with no one. Yet, even if the father, her parents, or anyone was in the picture, how could they get close when she had COVID? Never mind, as more and more was learned as days went on, and information sometimes changing as soon as you believe something is a fact, how to handle a newborn in a COVID infested area?

The Stress Of It All – Dr. Lim, Claire, Morgan, Shaun, Dr. Glassman, Debbie

As you can imagine, the stress of not being able to treat people, just try to focus on one symptom at a time, usually by severity, is frustrating. Add on losing patients, being unable to do much, if anything, for their loved ones, it’s taxing. Add in Dr. Lim and Claire are trying to grieve their own loss, and it becomes a lot.

For Dr. Lim, she has the benefit of at least trying to negotiate for PPE and other supplies. However, for Claire? There is no distraction, and her ability to be empathetic and the nice one wears thin. Mind you, not in front of patients, but she does snap on Shaun, who is joyous that people are forced to understand how difficult things are for him. Alongside people having to verbalize what they need which makes his job all the more easier.

However, this joy isn’t taken well by Claire, so she snaps at him, and when Morgan tries to defend Shaun, Claire unloads on her noting Morgan is probably happy there aren’t any surgeries being done so, like her, no one can perform them. This leads Alex, who is Shaun’s roommate during the pandemic, to step in since clearly, Claire is cutting with her words.

Switching to Dr. Glassman? Well, his whirlwind romance with Debbie, once again, takes its toll as there is a reminder that while they share some interest, there might not have been enough time between them dating and marriage. Case in point, while you understand Debbie’s frustration of not being an essential employee, so she can’t work, her consistent pushing against Dr. Glassman is not just irritating to him, but could be for you.

After all, imagine being the president of anything, feeling responsible for people’s lives, and rather than, like your staff, Dr. Lim, for example, being in the thick of it, you are at home. Granted, working around the clock but feeling you are not where you could contribute the most. This isn’t to downplay Debbie’s feelings, because going stir crazy is a real issue, but you continue to see that, as much as they can bond over cars, these two have a real difficulty seeing eye to eye it comes to living their lives together.

The Toll It Takes – Lea, Shaun, Mildred, Rochelle, Claire, Lily, Martin, Dr. Andrews, Ambar, Dr. Park, Walter, Morgan, Nurse Deena, Dr. Melendez

Ambar (Arlen Aguayo-Stewart) in critical condition
Ambar (Arlen Aguayo-Stewart)

Before the lockdown, Shaun and Lea were having sex, Shaun was talking with Lea about her sleeping over, and while you can see Lea was adjusting to it all, she was making it work. However, once the pandemic hit, as much as Shaun deeply misses Lea and having sex with her, he is amongst COVID patients all day. Making it so, to avoid possibly infecting her, he lives in a bubble with Dr. Park.

Someone who, when it comes to his patient, Ambar, he is struggling with since she has no noted next of kin yet, with a baby on the way, and her on a ventilator, what can they do? After all, as Shaun bluntly tells Martin and Martin’s wife Lily, the ventilator is not only a last resort but not something many people come off of alive. Case in point, Mildred dies after everything Claire tries to do, and all Rochelle can do is wait outside the hospital and deal with getting hit with the news without a chance to even say goodbye.

Heck, her mother’s necklace, if it wasn’t for Claire breaking down after saying no so many times, she’d have to wait until after the pandemic was over to get said necklace. Yet, all Claire finds down there is the ghost of Dr. Melendez. Meaning he isn’t written off the show just yet.

Beyond those characters, we see Dr. Andrews, who is often paired with Shaun, forced to sleep in his garage to keep his wife safe and then with Morgan? Well, you knew at least one person had to get exposed of the doctors, right? Alongside Nurse Deena, she was with a patient named Walter, someone who is asymptomatic, and Morgan realizes he has COVID and was all through their non-COVID-related floor.

Thus leaving them having to deal with a potential spread featuring dozens of people.

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

Dr. Lim and Claire sharing a moment to mourn Dr. Melendez

  1. Where was Allegra during that board meeting?
  2. Did anyone else feel shocked by the number of times people spoke without masks? Especially in the hospital?
  3. Is Jessica going to join Claire and Dr. Lim in mourning? She was engaged to him.



It Reminds You Of When The Good Doctor Got You Consistently Emotional

Admittedly, we’ve not only built a tolerance to a lot of the characters and storylines of “The Good Doctor” but have long set expectations to that point of expecting far too much. Which, after the first season, I hope you can understand. With nearly every episode causing an emotional reaction, it makes you think this show can’t get better, and when you realize, in fact, it can’t, that’s frustrating.

When you add in forgetting this show is about Shaun, featuring these other characters, and their journeys are by no means the priority, you can have misplaced emotions. Yet, with a late start and being topical, “The Good Doctor” seems to have really broken out of its rut. Its focus on COVID finds a way to both continue sometimes slow and season-long storylines with an added sense of urgency.

This helps the guest stars as you aren’t sure if they will live or die because everyone, including Shaun, can’t pull out some random medical journal article and discover a cure. They are facing the unknown, and their frustration is your frustration. Especially since you and the doctors are so used to a last-minute save due to an obscure procedure.

Take Mildred’s situation. Watching her daughter, Rochelle, outside, pushed room by room, floor by floor, until she is waiting outside to hear about her mother’s state, was heartbreaking. Then when she was told she would have to wait to claim her mother’s possessions? It helps you understand the utter rage that many have because they felt helpless and like they abandoned their family.

But, as shown with Claire, what can you do? You are given orders, and while some, like the necklace thing, you can maybe bend? The others? Well, bending and breaking those could mean someone’s life, if not yours. Add in your job is to help and heal, and now you are just putting bandaids over gashing wounds, and it pushes you to understand that while there can be a certain amount of PTSD in the medical field, COVID has taken it to the next level.

Dr. Lim’s Role In The Pandemic

Yet, there is also the need to note Dr. Lim’s role. Her negotiating deals bring about the business, for a lack of a better word, aspect, and tough decisions like choosing what is an elective surgery. Which, going by an interview in the recent season of “Black Love,” can include cancer treatment! So here is hoping, rather than see Dr. Lim on the phone, talking to no one there, we can also see the flip side of people like Rochelle who don’t quietly accept what is told.

This isn’t to say I want to see Dr. Lim cursed out, but there is a certain amount of catharsis that can come from seeing patients speak for those who may have felt too powerless in the moment.

Dr. Park Paired With Shaun

Dr. Park may never be our favorite, but having them live with Shaun does make them feel less separate. This could help the character since Shaun is the lead and look at what his connection to Claire, and especially Morgan, did for those characters. So here is hoping the close proximity could revive a character who seemed a bit more expendable than Dr. Melendez.

A Reminder That Asymptomatic People Exist

Being asymptomatic has exited the conversation, at least in our lives. For with numbers peaking again, the active and clear carriers are far more important than those stealthy. Yet, people like Walter remind you that wearing your mask, inside, maybe even outside, is critical. Because you can look fine, maybe have what appear to be unrelated symptoms, yet be a carrier. And while no one wants to create a sense of paranoia, you have to appreciate “The Good Doctor,” showing the evolution of how doctors responded to the coronavirus and how, with as many precautions taken as possible, it is nearly impossible to safeguard against everything.

On The Fence

Morgan’s Storyline Swept Under The Rug, For Now

Morgan no longer being a surgeon was a major storyline for a character who pushed and shoved her way to being second to only Shaun. So her now being benched a bit, and their personal storyline set aside, we admittedly are disappointed. Yet, look at Claire, she gets benched every handful of episodes. So I guess with Morgan getting a bit too much spotlight, it was time to redirect the resources pooled into her – especially as new residents are on the horizon.

Dr. Glassman & Debbie Fighting

It remains immensely challenging to get into Dr. Glassman and Debbie’s relationship. Likely because Debbie is just so rude and can come off self-absorbed. Granted, there is such a need to give her the benefit of the doubt and push the narrative that she doesn’t mean to come off as she does. Debbie just wants to have some fun, yet also keep Dr. Glassman safe. Two things which sometimes, in his mind, come in conflict.

Yet, there are times when you really do feel the need to wonder at what point should we just consider her selfish? What does Debbie need to do to not be seen as someone judged too harshly but deserving of criticism? It’s honestly hard to say since the character is made into such an easy target.

Score 81.83
With “The Good Doctor” returning with COVID-19 as its focal point, you can see how a lot will be shifted around the current pandemic. Yet, with the show in need of a shakeup, taking on the deadly disease and showing the lives of front line workers, patients, and those fearful for loved ones, is just what the show, and people, need.

Listed Under Categories: ,

User Review
0 (0 votes)


  1. Hi Emily 🙂 I get the feeling that you might have to bear with the Glassman/Wexler household a little longer this season because they are probably going to be the show’s alternative draft to Shaun and Lea’s relationship dynamics (there’s little choice unless the show reintroduces us to Andrews’s wife Isabel).

    In the season premiere, the couple fills another role of course. As the two-parter is dedicated to the effects of the pandemic on personal and professional lives, Glassy and Debbie were meant to represent the experiences of families that had to struggle with raised interpersonal tensions caused by home office and self-quarantine.

    Concerning Morgan, I think we’ll get to see much more of her in Frontline Part 2 already, since the synopsis tells us that Nurse Petringa passes some wisdom of hers to the doctor while hospitalized for Covid-19. Part 1 did not place Morgan in front & center, but still the episode subtly laid the groundwork for Morgan’s story in season 4: in the beginning we see the ex-surgeon working in the examination room of Glassman’s free clinic, which informs us that she is no longer a member of surgical team (later reinforced by Clair); now on uncommon medical grounds, Morgan misjudges the then mostly unknown viral infection two times, endangering the life of a nurse somewhat close to her since the earthquake. This will probably be a major influence on the character’s motivations and deeds in the near future.

    Keep in mind that Morgan already lost a wanna-be-boyfriend under similar circumstances in season 2 – it was after this that Morgan came out of her hard shell and reached out to Claire for the first time (Amari called it “The Rise of Morgan” 😉 ). It is also noteworthy that Morgan – not for the first time – took side for Shaun. The show reminds us that Morgan is still on her way to a less selfish but a more balanced personality.

  2. Amari – I’m so glad you were able to watch and review The Good Doctor! I love your reviews, and this one was no exception!! I found myself agreeing with so much of it, like how this COVID-centric episode was one of their best in a long time, and also wondering why more people in the hospital were not wearing masks. And interesting point about how none of the doctors could save a patient’s life with some obscure cure they thought of at the last minute. I got a kick out of Shaun when he said “The symptoms for this keep changing. It’s really annoying!” I think once they are done with the COVID episodes, then the show will turn its focus on Morgan again. I’m pretty sure there is only one more show with both the coronavirus and Dr. Melendez in it.

    Andreas – Good to see you back here! I like your thoughts on Glassman and Debbie and how they are contrasting Shaun and Lea. I did not think of that. I still find them boring, however, and wish the show would spend less time with Glassman and Debbie and more time at the hospital, where the real drama is.

  3. Glad we’re all back and well! 🙂

    The Good Doctor had a lot on his table for the premiere of season 4 – too much to serve it all at once and so they had to choose wisely from the menu.

    They did what was the most sensible thing to do and shifted their focus to how the pandemic effects people in general and health care workers especially. Of course, that meant that some character arcs of season 3 had to be postponed until later in the season. We have to remember that production of season 3 only had ended when the pandemic hit the US (and the production site in Canada) – nobody in the writing room had planned for this intrusion of real-life and they were probably as startled about that as Glassman about Debbie asking nuts or no nuts while in a zoom meeting…

    With that in mind I think the show did it’s best to adapt to this new reality while not giving up the core plot, namely Shaun and how he adapts to challenges – which is now the pandemic and his relationship with Lea.

    And kudos to the writers for the scene with Shaun explaining how wearing face mask constantly levels the field between neurotypicals and him – THIS captures perfectly how I and other autistic people have perceived the situation in the last months. Autistic people seem to cope a lot easier with social distancing and lockdown in general and I even said the same about wearing masks in my support group some months ago.

    As to Shaun and Lea’s relationship, the pandemic even seems to play in favor for this subplot, since the social distancing forces them to address a core deficit of Shaun early on that we have discussed before often enough: his lack of reciprocity in any social interaction.

    In Frontline Part 1, we see Shaun operating on the same grounds as with Carly before: he over-emphasizes the sexual aspect of the relationship. Yet, with their failed attempt on phone sex, Lea introduces Shaun to the importance of an emotional bond in a mature relationship. Shaun’s first step in this respective is inviting Lea to stay on the other side of the door for talking instead of touching. Or more poetic: Shaun is starting to learn touching Lea’s soul instead of her body alone. Shaun is in transition from sexual to emotional intimacy – a lesson hard to learn for an individual with difficulties in identifying and expressing emotions in themselves and others!

    As for Glassman and Debbie – my take on why they got so much screen time compared to other cast members is that they were meant to contrast Shaun and Lea: two relatively fresh couples find themselves in in opposing positions. One couple struggles with being forced apart while the other struggles with being forced together. TGD often applies this “mirror-universe” approach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.