[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “The Good Doctor” Season 2, Episode 18, “Trampoline.”]
In “The Good Doctor” Season 2 finale, two characters have made breakthroughs in how they perceive Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), the surgical resident at St. Bonaventure Hospital who has autism and savant syndrome. Both situations demonstrate that it’s not only the responsibility of the person with autism to try and fit into society, but for neurotypical people to also understand the benefits of perceiving the world through a very specific and less conventional point of view.
In the episode, Shaun gives the rather cryptic diagnosis of “trampoline” to a patient before he himself passes out from a medical condition. Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) insists on standing in the same spot, at the same height in the hospital room as Shaun, hoping to understand what he meant to say. Oddly enough, the strategy works. She notices a symptom she had missed before and comes to the life-saving diagnosis that the patient has tertiary syphilis or “treponema,” for which he receives the proper treatment in time.
“The Good Doctor” showrunner David Shore spoke to IndieWire about Shaun’s evolution, romance, and whether or not Claire’s strategy could help in understanding how another person’s brain works.
“It’s a bit of a metaphor. I don’t think she’s having a Shaun vision in the same way that Shaun does. We can never become somebody else, but we can all recognize the validity of other ways of thinking about things and recognize that good ideas can come from that,” said Shore.
“There’s something to mine from just looking and looking and looking and focusing and focusing and focusing. Absolutely, of course, we all need to look at things differently, we all need to check out assumptions. I think that’s what Claire does there.”
Although Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper) doesn’t go as far as standing in Shaun’s shoes, the hospital president makes a major decision that reveals how his mindset about people with autism has changed. After the new chief of surgery Dr. Han (Daniel Dae Kim) fires Shaun for erratic behavior and lack of control, Andrews fires Han and reinstates Shaun.
“This is truly a heroic move by Dr. Andrews. It shows his change in thinking, his growth, his willingness to be openminded. I don’t think it’s simply he was getting rid of Han,” said Shore. “I think he was saving Shaun and I think he’s going to pay a price for it and he’s aware of that. He’s done a 180 from his way of thinking about Shaun from the pilot episode that takes place in the same room and is basically the same discussion.”
Although Shaun has his old job back, viewers should expect his job to stay secure. “[He’ll face these issues again] in different ways, different manifestations, but I do not want to be treading the same territory over and over again,” said Shore. “The reality is that I don’t think the challenges facing Shaun — the internal and external challenges — are simply going to go away because we like him.”
Besides getting his professional life back on track, Shaun also makes a huge leap in his personal life. He had shown interest in his friend Lea (Paige Spara) all season, and even practices with his friend Claire how to properly ask a woman out on a date. But the show executes a bait and switch at the end when Shaun shows up at the doorstep of his former pathology colleague Carly (Jasika Nicole). With chocolates and flowers in hand, he asks her out to dinner and is accepted.
“There were multiple, viable choices for who he would ask out for his first date. Lea was certainly an option. I think Lea is the one that most of us are rooting for the relationship,” said Shore. “But we like Carly and we like Claire, and they like Shaun and they accept Shaun. When [Carly] first came on the show, there was almost an instantaneous connection between her and Shaun in Season 1 and we got to explore her character when Shaun was working with her for a few episodes.”
“They’re going to go out, they’re going to learn about each other. He’s going to learn about dating. She’s going to learn to look at dating in a different light,” said Shore. “We want to explore it slowly. I think one of the great things about this character is that little victories can be huge. We don’t want to get to the end of that story any faster than we need to. We want to explore all aspects of his social life. That’s a lot of what Season 3 is going to be about.”
Shaun isn’t the only one lucky in love. The season ends with many happy romantic moments. Shaun’s mentor Dr. Aaron Glassman (Richard Schiff) proposes marriage to his friend Debbie (played by Schiff’s real-life wife Sheila Kelley), Dr. Alex Park (Will Yun Lee) gets unsolicited advice about living closer to his estranged wife if he intends to reconcile, and Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) and Dr. Audrey Lim (Christina Chang) come out with their relationship to the hospital staff.
The season ends on a wrinkle for the final couple though. With Han leaving, Lim has been offered the position of chief of surgery over her equally qualified boyfriend. She will now be his boss next season.
“Both were very viable candidates. We were teasing that all season,” said Shore. “Both choices made sense internally and dramatically. I think this one gives rise to most opportunities for stories. That is the whole reason for the show, to give rise to a debate among our doctors and the answers not being simple. That’s always been attractive to me.”
”The Good Doctor” is available on demand and on Hulu.