The Good Doctor Recap: Big Little Lies


Need to catch up? Check out the previous Good Doctor recap here.

This week on The Good Doctor, Shaun struggles with Lea’s return while treating one of the hospital’s own. Glassman, meanwhile, stalls on an important decision, as Lim puts her career on the line to protect a teenage girl from her own family.

Shaun arrives early to work, uncomfortable with the current situation at home. Lea, who has returned from Pennsylvania, is sleeping on his floor until she finds a place of her own. At the hospital, Shaun tells Melendez that he suspects custodian Paul has pancreatic cancer, which he deduces from his jaundice skin and frequent belching. Melendez tells Shaun to order a series of tests, but not to upset the janitor until they’re absolutely certain it’s cancer — even if that means telling a little white lie. Before long, though, Shaun lets slip his suspected diagnosis. A scan later confirms that Paul has Stage 3 cancer.

Without a procedure known as whipple surgery, Paul will not survive. Melendez tells Shaun that he, not Claire, should be the one to break the news to his patient. Shaun approaches Paul and asks to speak privately, but when Paul hesitates, Shaun comes right out and tells the janitor that he has less than a year to live. Paul’s wife and adult children come in to discuss the potentially life-saving procedure, which Shaun and Claire emphasize is high-risk. “Having the surgery could kill you,” Paul’s daughter points out, “but not having the surgery will kill you.” 

Later, Paul visits the hospital chapel to pray. Shaun walks in and apologizes for how he relayed the earth-shattering news, but Paul isn’t upset and understands that Shaun did the best he could. Shaun then asks if he thinks praying will help him come to a decision, but Paul has already made one. He’s going through with the surgery, not because he wants it, but because he made a promise to always be there for his family. And so, they proceed with the whipple surgery, which is initially deemed a success. Shaun and Claire then deliver Paul’s family the good news.

Shortly thereafter, Lea turns up at the hospital and surprises Shaun. She’s hoping to get lunch, but Shaun walks away, claiming he’s too busy. Claire senses that Shaun’s upset, and follows to ask what’s wrong. He’s unable to articulate what he’s feeling, and says he doesn’t know how to be honest with Lea.

Paul, meanwhile, eventually experiences complications from the surgery. An artery ruptures, and ultimately proves fatal. Shaun wants to tell the family, but Melendez insists it’s Claire’s turn. Paul’s kids turn on each other after receiving the news, causing Shaun to intervene. He assures them that Paul’s death isn’t their fault. Paul told him that he wanted the surgery… even if that’s not exactly what was said in the chapel. Afterward, Shaun tells Claire as much, reiterating something Paul told him earlier. “When the truth can’t help someone, we should lie,” Shaun says. He walks away, and Claire smiles, proud of her friend and fellow surgeon for finally making the distinction.

The following morning, Lea wakes up to find Shaun’s still home and no longer avoiding her. He makes her breakfast, then hands her back the signed baseball she left him and asks that she return to Hershey. He breaks down in tears, saying it hurt him deeply to have to come home and see it every night, knowing she wasn’t there. He’s afraid to open himself up to her any more than he already has if she’s just going to leave again. She knows he doesn’t mean it, but the conversation stops there. Shaun goes to work, leaving Lea time to think.

The B-story, meanwhile, begins in the emergency room, where Lim examines a teenager named Asha. She comes to the St. Bonaventure requesting vaginal rejuvenation, and when Lim proceeds with a vaginal exam, she discovers that Asha’s the victim of genital mutilation; she was tied down and circumcised when she was only two years old. Lim brings the case to Morgan and Park, and says they’ll proceed with labiaplasty as an out-patient procedure, per Asha’s wishes. This way, she doesn’t have to reveal to her parents that she’s rejecting one of their cultural traditions. Morgan and Park point out that they can’t proceed without her parents’ permission, and the state ID she’s provided Lim saying she’s over 18 is a fake. Lim, however, decides she’s willing to take that risk; if she believes the ID is authentic, she’d have no reason not to go through with the procedure.

The surgery seems to go according to plan, but Asha wakes up in extraordinary pain and is unable to go home. Morgan suspects that the pain is a sign that the genital mutilation didn’t cut off all of Asha’s viable nerve endings. If that’s the case, they might be able to reconstruct the clitoris with full sensation. And while this all may be true, Park points out that Asha will never be home in time to hide this from her parents, and they need to bring Andrews up to speed.

Lim confronts Andrews on her own. The hospital head agrees to handle the administrative fallout, but tells her to contact Asha’s parents immediately. He also makes clear that Lim’s decision to operate without parental approval might have cost her the position of Chief of Surgery. Once she gets in touch, the parents come in and reveal their daughter’s name is not Asha, but Mara. Lim tells them that clitoral reconstruction is the only way to relieve Mara’s pain, but her father is not convinced and wants her transferred to another hospital for a second opinion. That’s when Child Protective Services worker Ellen Vahtra arrives to tell Mara’s father that Mara’s under the custody of protective services for the time being, and he won’t be allowed to move her.

Afterward, Mara’s parents sit down with Lim and Ellen, where it’s revealed that the genital mutilation was done without her parents’ consent; the circumcision was allowed by her grandmother and aunt while on a family trip to Kenya. Nonetheless, Mara’s parents view the circumcision as a rite of passage and insist Mara’s never complained about it before. But now they have all but two options: (1) Lim can proceed with clitoral reconstruction, giving Mara a chance to grow up and have a healthy sex life, or (2) Lim can remove the entire clitoris, which is a simpler, safer procedure but would leave Mara without any sensation or pleasure. Ellen tells Lim to wake up the patient and let her make the decision for herself, at which point Mara tells Lim to go with Option No. 2.

Lim, Morgan and Park meet with Andrews shortly thereafter. Lim insists she won’t do the surgery, and Andrews tells her she’ll be fired unless she does. That’s when Morgan steps in and insists they wake up the patient again, this time without her parents hovering over her, and ask her one more time what she wants to do. Andrews approves, and Lim goes back down to see Mara. She wakes Mara up and shares an anecdote about her own childhood, revealing that her father caught her with a boy at age 15 and hit her, resulting in a facial scar. Their relationship was never the same, but it didn’t matter, because “that’s what growing up is,” Lim says. “Everyone gets called a slut, not everyone gets butchered. But everyone becomes a man or a woman and stops being a child.” She then explains the procedure that would repair her clitoris, and gives her a chance to one day feel love. Yet Mara refuses to turn her back on her family or their traditions, no matter how antiquated they may be. She tells Lim to proceed with the second option, though her face says otherwise.

Once Mara is put under anesthesia for the procedure, Lim tells Morgan and Park to prep Mara’s cheek as well, so they’ll be able to take the necessary tissue and repair the clitoris. She tells the residents that Mara consented verbally, which she didn’t. Morgan is hesitant to move forward, but Park takes Lim’s side and the procedure is ultimately a success. Lim comes to check on Mara, who touches her cheek and realizes what the surgeon has done for her. She smiles big and thanks Lim for everything. Now, her parents will never have to know, and she can go on to have a happy, healthy sex life.

Lest you think the episode forgot about Glassman’s ongoing storyline, we check in with him in the new office that Andrews has provided him while on medical leave. (I guess he’s no longer president, but still employed as a surgeon?) He later brings a list to Dr. Blaize of everyone he’s approved to participate in his surgery… except for the surgeon. He’s struggling to come to a decision, fearing one screw-up will cost him everything, but Blaize refuses to let him delay the procedure. She tells him he has 48 hours to pick a surgeon, or he’ll have to get himself a new oncologist.

Shaun visits Glassman at his home, where his mentor reveals his greatest fear about moving forward with the procedure. It’s not dying that scares him most, but losing his identity should the surgery alter his mobility or cognitive function, even in the slightest. “Brain surgeries can be considered a success even when the patient is compromised,” Glassman explains. “I’ve been terrible at a lot of things in my life, but I am damn smart and I am a damn good surgeon, and if I can’t be those things then I don’t know who I’d be,” he says, to which Shaun replies, “My friend.” By the end of the hour, Glassman’s decided on a surgeon: Dr. Ko, who viewers may remember from the conjoined twins case in Season 1. She thanks him for putting his trust in her, then has him count down as the anesthesia for his surgery takes effect.

What did you think of Monday’s Good Doctor? And how are you feeling about Season 2 thus far? Hit the comments with your reactions! (Looking for our next recap? Read about The Good Doctor Season 2, Episode 3 here.)