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[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Good Doctor” Season 2, Episode 3, “36 Hours.”]
In its Oct. 8 episode, “The Good Doctor” contains one of the most accurate portrayals of everyday sexism on TV. When Dr. Claire Browne (Antonia Thomas) voices concern about a hospital policy, president Dr. Marcus Andrews (Hill Harper) takes umbrage, chastising her for even questioning him and turning his counterargument into a personal attack: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree about whether my foolish new policies make any sense,” he said. “I know I told you to be more assertive, but you also need to make sure you don’t forsake your normally excellent judgment in that effort.”
In a previous episode, he did tell her to be more aggressive at work, and nothing in her approach was disrespectful or warranted Andrews’ anger or condescension. When Browne discusses this interaction over surgery with cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) and fellow surgical resident Dr. Alex Park (Will Yun Lee), neither man can understand why she’s troubled. As men, being outspoken is praised as strength, and their privilege doesn’t allow them to see the inequity of her treatment; it isn’t part of their reality. Park even suggests that she should have chosen her words more carefully.
Nurse Ann Flores (Liza Lapira) jumps into the conversation, but her anger is targeted at Melendez, whom she feels alternately punished or rewarded Browne during the surgery for her attitude. Whether Flores’ criticism is warranted or not, she gives voice to the simmering anger and resentment that many women feel in response to the frustrating gender politics at work. If her comments seem harsher than the situation calls for, it’s because she’s responding to a cumulative experience of inequality and being silenced.
Everything comes to a head when Andrews notices the bickering and demands to know who is at fault for the unprofessional behavior. At this point, Melendez claims everyone is just tired from the 27-hour surgery and then praises Browne’s aggressiveness during the operation. In turn, Flores praises Melendez for being open to input from the surgical staff.
It’s not an entirely satisfying ending because it’s not clear if the change of heart comes from a genuine place of understanding, or if it’s done out of self-preservation to look good in front of the hospital’s president. Their comments could also be viewed as manipulation designed to ensure better behavior in the future. In any case, Andrews never received any blowback for his manner, and likely never will.
The decision to devote an episode to mundane conversations is impressive: Calling attention to how people conduct themselves every day generates powerful drama. Just as important is how these interactions are often swept under the rug, which allows the cycle to continue. Here, “The Good Doctor” names it so we can claim it.
”The Good Doctor” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.