[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Doctor,” Episode 10, “Sacrifice.”]
On “The Good Doctor,” Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), who has autism and savant syndrome, has been figuring out how to work at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, but he’s also had a couple allies. Fellow resident Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) has been one of Shaun’s newer friends whom he’s relied on to demystify the female point of view. While Claire has had a troubled arc throughout the season so far — ranging from losing a patient to dealing with prejudice — her latest trial has cost someone their job.
When she first has concerns about working with Dr. Coyle (Eric Winter) after he inappropriately rubs her back, she tells her colleague and lover Dr. Jared Kalu (Chuku Modu), who dismisses the actions as Coyle merely trying to establish rapport. But the behaviors escalate, and when Claire rebuffs Coyle’s far more explicit invitation to sleep with him, Kalu is upset. He physically threatens Coyle while in the locker room, which leads to Kalu being fired from the hospital.
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Although the sexual harassment story is timely, showrunner and executive producer David Shore revealed that it was already in place before the daily misconduct reports made headlines.
“By the time we were shooting, we were well aware of what was going on and just how timely this has turned out to be,” said Shore. “But it’s not like it didn’t exist before everything. The shit was hitting the fan long before it was daily headlines, and we wanted to explore that. And we wanted to explore the difficult position that women are put in, especially in the more subtle forms where it is predatory and terrible, but not easily identified and dealt with where there’s deniability available to the perpetrator. Just the insidious everyday sexism, which she rises above in the sense that it certainly goes to a place that’s insidious, but a little more than every day.”
Although the show didn’t tweak its storyline in light of recent news, the show was more aware of how certain aspects of Claire’s story had an impact.
“I think internally our perceptions became slightly different,” Shore said. “Even though we were obviously dealing with the issue, it wasn’t changed dramatically, but we became more aware of the fact that it is not cool, for lack of a better word, for an institution to not take this very very seriously.
“We will find out what happens to Coyle,” he promised. “[This will be followed-up] not necessarily in a great way, but we will recognize that these are terrible things that are challenging to deal with.”
Shaun’s Extreme Measures
Meanwhile, Shaun had his own issues to address. Usually, he abides by a certain set of self-imposed rules to give himself order, but on Monday’s midseason finale of “The Good Doctor,” he broke all of them. After his mentor Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff) pushed the issue of Shaun hiring an aide/therapist one time too many, Shaun became distraught, hit himself and Glassman in the process, and then abandoned his apartment, leaving no word of his whereabouts.
“It’s something we discussed early on, bringing things to a boil a little bit between him and Glassman,” said Shore. “Actions have consequences, and we don’t want anything to be simple. He and Glassman, it certainly is a wonderful relationship, but that doesn’t mean it always resolves itself neatly. There are people who love and care about each other but also have different opinions on some pretty fundamental things.”
Glassman broached the idea of taking on an aide who could help teach Shaun to navigate the world more smoothly earlier in the season to no avail. In the last episode, Shaun dismissed one candidate claiming that she couldn’t be effective since her clothes didn’t match.
“It wasn’t about the fashion,” Shore said with a laugh. “He’s stubborn and he’s proud, and he doesn’t trust people. People haven’t always been good to him.
“Glassman’s as stubborn as Shaun is, and Glassman’s not wrong. Glassman has been doing his best to help Shaun and love Shaun,” he continued. “He hears that Shaun is saying, ‘No, no, no, no,”’ but he also firmly believes that Shaun is wrong in saying no, that Shaun does need specialized help to achieve what he can achieve – not to limit him, but the opposite: to open up door for him, unleash his potential.”
Shaun’s autism combines with savant syndrome to make him a skilled doctor, especially when it comes to diagnosing. His social interactions can be awkward, but the more he connects with people, the better he is at feeding his database of social cues and niceties. For example, in the last episode, he devised a spreadsheet to record other people’s interactions to assess if they were flirting or not.
In this episode, he’s driven not by interaction, but a need to avoid meeting the new therapist candidate. This wholehearted revulsion at relying on another person sparks rebellion in him, and he breaks with routine by hunkering down in the hospital’s broom closet overnight in lieu of meeting the therapist.
“There’s a lot of good things that Shaun does as part of what is not necessarily a good thing,” said Shore. “In the previous episode, when he was trying to prove to Glassman how he’s learned to read people by flirting, he actually did some clever things and then extrapolated. These are things that don’t come easily to Shaun… There was a straight ahead way of dealing with this [therapist situation] that he arguably should’ve chosen. He didn’t, but he did show creativity.”
Sadly, giving up a good night’s sleep to camp out in a broom closet and then fleeing the situation may demonstrate more doesn’t exactly prove that he’s capable of handling life calmly. “I think you could very much make that case, that he is proving Glassman right by doing this,” said Shore, “but it doesn’t really matter.”
What does matter is that Shaun is currently out on his own, and has lost faith in his one friend.
“He thinks he has grown to trust Glassman and he thinks that it’s enough,” said Shore. “This, to him, is an indication that Glassman doesn’t think it’s enough, which is kind of devastating to him. It’s almost like Glassman has given up on him. He views this as the one person on earth who he trusts has either given up on him or let him down in some way.”
When the show returns in the new year, it will pick up wherever Shaun is. “We are going to see both sides to this,” said Shore. “We’re going to see our hospital, but we’re going to see Shaun’s journey to figure out where he wants to be, and where he should be. I think it’s important that we continue to explore his life outside the job, but I think it’s also important to continue to explore the job: saving lives.”
And on a more positive note, Shaun’s burgeoning friendship with his neighbor Lea (Paige Spara) will also see progress when the show returns.
“One of the things I love about Shaun’s character is that when we see him make tiny little steps, they mean so much more than even huge steps mean in other characters,” said Shore. “I personally love the moment in an early episode when he simply asked her her name. It meant so much. It was such a step forward for him and so it was so emotionally gratifying.
“We are going to see him take a couple more steps,” he continued. “We are going to see him and Lea spending a fair bit of time together after the break, at least initially.”