[What Mary Thinks] Doctor Cha: Episodes 1-2

Some of the dramas I’ve been watching this year has involved darker more grueling themes related to revenge and action so I wanted to watch something a little lighter and less intense. I then decided to check out new drama ‘Doctor Cha’ starring Uhm Jung-hwa (Our Blues) and Kim Byung-chul (SKY Castle). Uhm Jung-hwa plays Cha Jeong-suk, a housewife of 20 years who decides to take control of her life once again and pursues medical residency after giving up her medical dreams at a young age. Kim Byung-chul plays Jeong-suk’s husband, Seo In-ho, who is the chief surgeon at a university hospital cheating on Jeong-suk with his first love, Choi Seung-hi. To round out the cast, Jeong-suk gets entangled with the second male lead, Roy Kim, who is also a surgeon at a hospital.

‘Doctor Cha’ was another one of those dramas I briefly heard about but had no intentions or plans of watching. But with two of my dramas ending earlier this week, I wanted to pick up another drama that wasn’t so dark or intense or action-packed. I had no idea as to what to expect with ‘Doctor Cha’ and it actually didn’t take me until the end of episode 1 to realize what type of drama it was. I took the majority of the first episode a little too seriously and was puzzled at some of the decisions or actions the characters made. Jeong-suk hadn’t practiced medicine in two decades, why did she whisper she was a doctor when there was a health emergency on the bus? And then once the ambulance arrived to care for the citizen, Roy just magically happened to be there right at the perfect moment to join Jeong-suk in the ambulance? Later on, Jeong-suk and Roy got to know each other a little bit better and he suddenly gave her access to employee-only permitted walls so she could relive her moments as a medical student and they took a few selfies together. There were definitely a few moments and scenes sprinkled throughout the first episode alone that made me confused as to what type of drama this was. And then it wasn’t until there was a scene involving In-ho with Seung-hi towards the end of episode one that I finally understood the vibe and genre of this drama. Because while this drama could be classified as a medical drama, it’s definitely satirical, comedic, and exaggerative even. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously.

So with that information in my mind, I went into episode two definitely enjoying the drama a lot more. You sympathized and rooted for Jeong-suk who’s experienced quite a lot over her 20 years as a housewife. It’s one thing to give up on your dreams of becoming a doctor (which I’ll dive into a little bit more later on) but it’s also another to give up on your dreams to transition into becoming a housewife who no one in your family respects. It didn’t take long to learn the challenges and struggles that Jeong-suk suffered as a housewife and, therefore, to root for her as a character. Her husband is cheating on her with his first love Seung-hi and has no affection or love for her. He’s a mama’s boy who goes to his mother for permission for everything. Their two kids are pretty spoiled and also doesn’t treat their mother with respect, demanding certain things or complaining about the smallest things. Then there’s also In-ho’s mother who lives with her son and pretends to care for her daughter-in-law. She pretends to be kind and nice on the outside, lending all her used luxury items and products to Jeong-suk but she doesn’t care for Jeong-suk one bit. Mother-in-law didn’t even like or approve of Jeong-suk and In-ho’s marriage and enjoys making Jeong-suk run errands for her. The family dynamic between Jeong-suk and her family members are toxic and unhealthy and it was heartbreaking to watch the way Jeong-suk was treated by her own family members. There was a scene in particular in episode 2 that highlighted the divide between Jeong-suk and then everyone else.

It was obvious that Jeong-suk was lonely and felt even lonelier when she experienced a health emergency and received little to no support from her family members. Her cheating husband, of course, was busy spending time with his mistress while her kids were too young or too busy to be with their mom. And we learned that we could not trust Mother-in-law nor rely on her to do anything out of sincerity for Jeong-suk. So Jeong-suk’s Mom came to the rescue which was the silver lining. It was also thanks to Mom that Jeong-suk was reminded of studying and resumed her studies for the residency exam. In the end, Jeong-suk passed her exam and was accepted to be a first-year medical resident in the same department as.. well.. none other than Seung-hi. LOL. Talk about karma!

Ultimately, this health scare was an alarming wake-up call for Jeong-suk and made her realize that she was lonely and that she had no one in her family to rely on. She couldn’t depend on any of them to support her, especially her husband. This health scare was also the catalyst that not only shifted the way she perceived her husband and Mother-in-law but also changed her behavior towards her self-absorbed, self-centered family members. After almost losing her life, Jeong-suk did what was right for herself for once. And of course, the family was confused and shocked at the sudden change in behavior because they had been so used to tossing Jeong-suk around. It had become so routine and things had become so stagnant that the moment things weren’t the same as they had always been, they simply couldn’t understand or accept it. Jeong-suk was stressed because of her family and her health suffered as a result. But it was a blessing in disguise in that it taught her to prioritize herself and helped her start a new chapter in her life.

I think there’s a certain notion or stigma that is associated with the role of a housewife or stay-at-home mom where it’s looked down upon and underestimated. In addition to the traditional gender norms and expectations that wives stay at home while the husband is the breadwinner, there’s also the notion that all you do is stay home so it shouldn’t be that hard or difficult, right? And in the case of Jeong-suk, her husband is a successful surgeon, he makes good money, her two kids are smart, everything looks bright and shiny.. that means Jeong-suk’s life must be perfect, right? But it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife nor is it an easy role (it’s pretty much a full-time job) and for Jeong-suk, it wasn’t easy for her to live her life and give in to all the demands of her family members. There was this pressure for Jeong-suk to maintain this kind of image and reputation as a housewife. Her identity was tied to her role as a housewife and, therefore, her family so she felt as if she was responsible for their health and well-being. She placed herself in the back-burner because she was a mother and wife and daughter-in-law first and foremost and anything that she wanted or cared about was always second to them. That’s why her sudden change in behavior to put herself first and force her family members to have to do things for themselves for once was so satisfying to watch.

It was heartbreaking to learn about Jeong-suk’s story and her journey into giving up medicine to raise her first child. She actually was pretty smart (even smarter than her insecure husband) when they were still students and it seemed as if she had so much potential to become a successful doctor. From the first two episodes, it was obvious that In-ho took pride in being the breadwinner of the family so he enjoyed the power and control that came with that. It also made sense then that he was insecure and upset when Jeong-suk vocalized her wishes to pursue residency once again. He couldn’t bare the thought of his wife, after having been a housewife for 20 years, doing something that she wanted to do. He could barely process and accept the fact that she had stopped doing things for them and that she was using all his money to treat herself to nice, expensive luxury products. But to go back to school on top of all of that? In-ho is going to be in for a really nice treat now that Jeong-suk has been accepted to be a resident in the same department as Seung-hi. Haha. That should be fun and interesting.

There’s something that’s definitely so satisfactory about watching Jeong-suk do things for herself and giving her family members a taste of their own medicine. The luxury bag that her mother-in-law persuaded her into picking up for her at the department store? Jeong-suk got herself the same exact bag too while she was there. The coffee that In-ho always nitpicked about and demanded that his wife make for him every morning? He can just drink some instant coffee instead. The breakfast that her kids complained about and didn’t even bother eating all that much? They can find something to eat instead and make their own food. Watching these moments unfold was already so satisfying but then to watch Jeong-suk study for the residency exam, pass and succeed, and get accepted to become a medical resident? Yes, yes, yes to all of this!

If there is one thing about Jeong-suk that I’m a little hesitant about, it’d be the story of how she became pregnant with her first child, Jung-min. I’m going to root for Jeong-suk as this is about her and her story and I want to see her succeed. But I also found it interesting that she wasn’t all that innocent as I initially was led to believe. Based off of my interpretation of her story about how she got pregnant, it seemed as if she too played a role in In-ho’s cheating by having intercourse with him while they were on a road trip with some of their classmates. Given that Seung-hi wasn’t there, there was no one to stop them and they ended up doing it. And a part of me is willing to look past this given that they were young and their hormones in that moment was on fire (literally) and they had this strange attraction to each other and that they were bound to make mistakes at a young age. But at the same time, I also didn’t feel all that good about it because I think Jeong-suk knew that In-ho was in a relationship with Seung-hi but still chose to do it with him (and Seung-hi was on a trip abroad so she wasn’t aware of this until later on). Jeong-suk played a role in his cheating so she’s just as guilty as well. But obviously, the most evil and irritating person out of this entire situation is In-ho himself. Whether it’s on Seung-hi or Jeong-suk, he’s a cheater. The phrase ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ can definitely be applied to In-ho. And I really hope the drama won’t try to give him a redemption arc later on as he doesn’t deserve it.

‘Doctor Cha’ will essentially focus on Jeong-suk’s journey to becoming a doctor like how she wanted and was destined to be. It won’t be easy, there will definitely be bumps on the road, she’ll still have all the family drama and responsibilities to deal with. But she also has support such as her mother and surgeon Roy who encouraged her to pursue her dreams and to focus on herself. Jeong-suk was proof that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams. Now that she’s reached a new chapter in her life, the fun is only getting started.

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