Doctor Cha – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Liver Transplant

Episode 1 of Doctor Cha begins with us following Cha Jeong-suk. It’s been 10 years since she and her husband started sleeping in separate rooms, which Jung-sook writes off as just part of married life now. She’s a full-time housewife now after initially getting her medical licence, and she chalks it up to having two kids to look after.

On her way out the door, Jeong-suk looks over various frames on the wall of medical licences and awards, and clearly has a deep sense of longing. Given she has a medical licence, she contemplates whether it could be a waste of time… until a guy suddenly collapses on the floor in the bus she’s riding

As Jeong-suk sees this and contemplates whether to get involved, someone overhears her mumbling and immediately brings her in to help. The guy needs intubation, so Jeong-suk calls an ambulance and tells them to hurry. Doctor Roy Kim is there to help, and he rides along in the ambulance with her as they head for the hospital.

On the way they do just as Jeong-suk thought with the intubation, and manage to save his life. She’s grateful that he was saved and admits she got her medical licence 20 years back and since then, hasn’t practiced. She blanked on the bus and that’s why she called the professionals in.

Speaking of professionals, Chief Surgeon Seo In-ho happens to be Jeong-suk’s husband, and he’s well known in hospital. He also seems to be having an affair with one of the women there, Seung-hi, as they hold hands in the elevator.

Back with Jung-sook for now though, she mulls over her time in the medical profession and the way her life is going, typified by her mother-in-law heading over. She’s obsessed with living a healthy lifestyle, going to numerous clinics and drinking detox juice too. She believes these career women, typified by Director Baek, are empty shells and don’t have the same fulfilling family life that they do as housewives

That evening, with Jung-sook making dinner for the family, she listens as In-ho grills their kids, I-rang and Jung-min. He’s pretty cold toward Jeong-suk too, giving her orders and calling her old. In-ho reaches into his Sky Castle repertoire for his despicable character, as Jeong-suk struggles to keep it all together.

That night, she shows up to help In-ho pack his bags and attempts to be romantic with him. In-ho is heading off to Europe but he’s not flying alone. He’s going with his mistress. He pushes her off though and claims this is too abrupt for him. Sighing heavily, Jeong-suk heads out and begins painting instead, trying to get her mind off what her life has become.

In the morning, Jeong-suk collapses while she’s out shopping and is rushed to hospital. Just before In-ho leaves with Seung-hi on a plane, Jeong-suk rings him to let him know what’s going on. But he simply tells her to wait for the results, Well, the results aren’t good as they confirm that she has acute hepatitis.

Jeong-suk needs to be admitted to the hospital and she’ll also need a guardian to accompany her too. Given In-ho is indisposed on his trip, it’s left to her own mum to come in, given her mother-in-law finds it an inconvenience to her “busy” life. But while she’s waiting at the hospital, Jeong-suk thinks back over her own time as an intern in hospital.

As Jeong-suk heads up to the fifth floor, she sees Doctor Roy with a young woman, who claims that she’s hurting. Jeong-suk misinterprets the situation, believing that he’s forcing himself on her but in reality, he’s just helping patch up a cut on her cheek. Jeong-suk apologizes and the pair bid their farewells, but it’s immediately clear that they’re going to be seeing more of each other… and what do you know? It happens immediately! She’s the patient he needs to see.

Jeong-suk doesn’t have her guardian present and she’s on her own, which worries Doctor Roy. He points out that her jaundice level is high and she needs to phone her guardian immediately… so of course it’s her own mum who shows. Jeong-suk needs to stay in until her levels decrease.

30 days pass and Jeong-suk is brought in along with her husband, who is actually a match to be a donor for her liver. In-ho needs to consent though, and In-ho’s mother is not happy, refusing to allow this. She wants to wait for a braindead donor instead. When she feigns fainting, In-ho shows more care for her than his own wife, and everyone sees it.

Jeong-suk has a terrible outlook on life and she clearly doesn’t know hardships like Jeong-suk’s mum, Oh Deok-rye. She had a herniated disk in her back in the past, but she sits and talks plainly to Jeong-suk now, pointing out how cold and fussy her husband actually is. Deok-rye is angry and lashes out at everyone, but similarly she also needs to try and find a donor too.

Doctor Roy sits with Jeong-suk in the waiting room and tells her that it’s not an easy decision to decide to be a donor. Jeong-suk though feels bad for putting pressure on her family. Jeong-suk admits to him that she misses the operating room so Roy does something nice for her and lets Jeong-suk see the room for herself, getting all dressed up in scrubs too. He lets her be his colleague for the day, observing a surgery. Now, as she actually has a medical licence, she’s not going to get into trouble.

Jeong-suk finds a suitable donor in her cousin… but he changes his mind and decides not to go at the last secind. As Jeong-suk makes it back to her bed, in a terrible state and struggling, Deok-rye finds herself twiddling her thumbs as Jeong-suk takes a turn for the worst.

Both of Jeong-suk’s kids put pressure on In-ho to donate his liver, but he decides to ask his mum for permission. He even drops on his knees too. Eventually In-ho reluctantly agrees to do this. Similarly, Seung-hi is not happy either.

In-ho is unbelievable and speaks to Roy about his chances doing this liver surgery, but specifically about his own side effects. When it comes time to signing the consent form, In-ho stops just as his mum shows up, running toward him. She pleads with In-ho to stop and rips up the papers. Jeong-suk actually happens to have seen this, and then we cut to Jeong-suk’s liver transplant, or at least the aftermath of it anyway. After Jeong-suk awakens, she leans forward and calls In-ho a little bastard.

The Episode Review

The first episode of Doctor Cha is a lot of fun, with great acting across the board. Kim Byung-chul, the guy who plays In-ho, is effortless in his role as a despicable husband and that balance between comedy and drama is quite hard to get right and he does it so stylishly.

There’s a good deal of drama overall and it’s immediately clear that sparks are going to fly between Jeong-suk and Roy Park; they seem made for each other. But then there’s still the subject of the transplant and I’m not sure what happened there. It could well be that Jeong-suk knows In-ho didn’t go through with it and someone else stepped up, or she could know that her husband is having an affair.

The preview for tomorrow is telling though, as it seems like we’ll be diving into lots of comedy as Jeong-suk exerts her confidence and starts to live the life she was always meant to live.

This is looking like a lively and very fun drama to sink your teeth into. Roll on tomorrow’s follow-up!

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You can read our full season review for Doctor Cha here!


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