Since there was a soccer game on Tuesday, KBS decided to air episodes 1 and 2 on Monday. Brain, as the trailers and stills suggested, leans more towards heavy a la White Tower rather than lighter and more romance based a la Surgeon Bong Dal-hee. It started off slow with only a rating of 8.9% (TNmS) while its competition Thousand Day Promise and Kyebaek had 15.8% and 9.2% (TNmS) respectively. However, the ratings aren't that discrepant meaning the possibility of the rankings changing is still high.
Baby Recap: Episode 1
A young man collapses at the swimming pool and is rushed to the hospital. Dr. Lee Gang-hoon (Shin Ha-kyun) and Dr. Suh Joon-suk (Jo Dong-hyuk) rush over to the patient. Dr. Lee orders one of the residents to prepare for surgery while Dr. Suh suggests that they call Dr. Kim Sang-chul (Jung Jin-young). Dr. Lee is adamant and tells Dr. Suh he'll do the surgery. However, during surgery, one of the vessels was bothered causing blood to spurt out. Dr. Suh calls Dr. Kim Sang-chul who rushes over. Dr. Lee, fortunately, solves the problem.
Dr. Go Jae-hak enters the operation room and finishes up the surgery. Dr. Go tells Dr. Lee that next time he should do the clipping basically giving him the permission to finish up a surgery. While Dr. Go praises Dr. Lee's skills, he is still exerting his power as the section head chief.
Afterwards, Dr. Suh meets up with Dr. Lee who remains his prickly self and mocks Dr. Suh for uselessly calling Dr. Kim. He further degrades him by stating if Dr. Suh had more practice in surgery, he would have known something like that would have happened. One point for jerk-face Dr. Lee, zero for nice Dr. Suh. Dr. Lee's animosity doesn't stop with just the doctors but extends to the nurses as well. The head nurse Hong Eun-sook, though, is a fiery one and engages in some verbal jousting with Dr. Lee.
However, not everyone bows down to Dr. Lee's power and abuse. 3rd year resident Yoon Ji-hye (Choi Jung-won) follows Dr. Kim Sang-chul like glue and isn't afraid to call Dr. Lee out on his self-centered and exploitive behavior. Dr. Lee isn't a man to take criticism well and orders Dr. Yoon to write him a report. She complains to Dr. Suh about how Dr. Lee seems to hate her, and it becomes obvious that Dr. Suh doesn't see her merely as a fellow doctor.
A special patient has arrived at the hospital, and Dr. Go Jae-hak, the perpetual kiss-up, takes Dr. Lee with him to see the VIP guest not before getting ready to look his best, mind you! How could any self-respecting doctor not curl his eyelashes before introducing himself to the hospital's VIP?
The patient's daughter Jang Yoo-jin from his second wife (I'm also assuming it implies illegitimate) enters the room in all her spoiled-princessness for being denied entrance because the security guard did not recognize her. Her mood quickly perks up when she notices Dr. Lee and gives him an up-down. This girl is already getting on my nerves, and she's only been on screen for thirty seconds.
Dr. Lee's mother and sister come to hospital to drop off food and undergarments, but he treats them bluntly and asks them not to come.
We then see Dr. Go's sucking up to hospital's vice-director Dr. Park In-bum over some alcohol. Dr. Park tells Dr. Go to get on Dr. Kim Sang-chul's good side so they could use him as the poster-boy for the neurology department. They laugh together as they talk about their future promotions. If it wasn't already evident that Dr. Go wasn't a moral doctor, I think this little exchange seals the deal that Dr. Go's fawning knows no bound and all he cares about is power and prestige. Back at the hospital, Dr. Lee broods while running and goes into flashback. We see a young boy, presumably Dr. Lee, carrying a man on his back whom I'm guessing is his father.
His brooding is interrupted by a call from the VIP room asking for his presence. As he gets ready, he gets a call from Dr. Yoon who wants him to look at a patient. He goes over and quickly dismisses her worries and orders her to give the patient some medication. She calls Dr. Suh for his opinion who is at home with his family. The helper comes to drop off tea, and lo and behold, its Dr. Lee's mother.
Dr. Suh arrives at the hospital and the patient's condition has gotten worse to the point where surgery is needed. They call Dr. Kim Sang-chul. Meanwhile, Dr. Lee goes t o the VIP room where the prissy daughter is waiting for him like a hyena. The patient is deep asleep, and Jang Yoo-jin bats her lashes and says that he should have known why he was called. Dr. Lee is not amused by her little antic and tells her he is too busy to be playing games with her and leaves.
He goes back to the ER to find only an empty bed. A nurse tells him that the patient left for surgery, and he dashes off in a frenzy. Just as Dr. Kim is about to begin, Dr. Lee bursts in. He yells at Dr. Yoon for ignoring his order, and Dr. Kim yells at him to leave his operation room.
(Onwards to Episode 2)
Dr. Lee relents and leaves in a huff. However, Dr. Yoon is frazzled by his appearance and feels a pang a guilt from what he's said. After the surgery, Dr. Lee approaches Dr. Kim and gets rebuked for his actions. To add salt to the wound, Dr. Kim then banishes Dr. Lee from the operation room for a week.
The residents call take out and Lee Hyun-woo cameos as Park Dong-hwa, a delivery boy whose dream is to become a doctor. He's so adorable!
Dr. Yoon goes to find Dr. Lee to hand in her report. He then promptly tears it in two and tells her that she still has her report saved in the computer, but how will she fix his torn reputation. She chases after him and tells him that even if she is his junior, he does not have the right to treat her this way. He turns her words back on her and tells her she was the one who disrespected and ridiculed him.
An accident occurs, and Park Dong-hwa is rushed off to the operation room. Dr. Lee comes into the ER and tells the residents to take another CT scan on the other patient from the car accident.
Her condition has gotten worse, and he tells one of the residents to get a room ready. They call Dr. Go to ask him to come operate but he hands the reigns over to Dr. Lee because he's busy. Yeah, busy sucking up to the rich patient. Dr. Lee gets ready for surgery but acts in stealth because he can't be caught by Dr. Kim who's operating in the other room.
The surgery is going well until blood starts spurting from the brain. Dr. Kim finishes first and notices blood being delivered into another operation room. He enters and orders Dr. Lee out. Dr. Kim questions Dr. Lee and tells him he wasn't allowed in the operation room for a week. Dr. Kim asks him why he didn't call Dr. Suh and calls him overconfident. He increases his punishment to two weeks.
Dr. Lee goes to Dr. Go's office. Dr. Go tells him that things have changed a bit and that they'll have to get on Dr. Kim's good side for a while. They need Dr. Kim as the neurology department's poster boy because he's recognized by the outside community, and their department needs more funding. Dr. Lee's mom says she'll have to quit but is asked to work until they've found a replacement. She reluctantly agrees.
Back at the hospital, Dr. Lee gets called to the VIP room where he gets asked to drive his daughter somewhere because all his secretary and chauffeur aren't available right now. He drives her for a while but pulls over and leaves.
Dr. Lee asks for Dr. Kim's surgery schedule and goes out of his way to meet him before he enters the operation room. He tells him that he wants to learn by watching him operate, and Dr. Kim tells him to do whatever he wants.
The woman from the accident earlier in the episode wakes up but starts trying to kiss the doctor. Dr. Lee comes in and tries to explain that the surgery went well, but his people-skills are horrible. Dr. Kim enters and takes the mother aside to properly explain what might be wrong with her daughter. Dr. Lee thanks him and asks him if he could accompany him during his rounds. Dr. Kim refuses him flatly and tells him to just take care of his own patients.
Dr. Kim is called to the vice-director's office where Dr. Go is also present. Dr. Park In-bum puts on the kind act and praises Dr. Kim. He then goes in for the kill and asks him to be the head researcher in the neurology department. Dr. Go adds that the other departments are trying to get funding and that they need their help. Dr. Kim shoots down their offer and tells them that things should be shared. Not all the patients are coming into their department, so the other departments need money, too.
He leaves the office and then thinks back on a few past events. Dr. Kim may be an idealist and a bit quirky but he isn't blind and ignorant. He recalls Dr. Lee's sudden change in attitude and is taken aback about how a person could act in such a way.
After Dr. Kim finishes his surgery, Dr. Lee greets him outside. Dr. Kim faces him and tells him to stop the act.
"I'll be honest: no matter what you do, I won't look upon you well. Be diligent in your work, and watch over the patients well."
Dr. Kim leaves and Dr. Lee can only stare at his receding back with disbelief and, dare I say it, sadness in his eyes.
Dr. Yoon gets a call and rushes over to where Dong-hwa is. A group of doctors surround him, and Dr. Kim looks up and smiles at Dr. Yoon, "He's awake."
She holds his hand and cries as she smiles down at him. In her ecstasy, she runs into Dr. Kim and grabs in hand in joy. She jumps up and down telling him that Dong-hwa woke up, but Dr. Lee doesn't share in her happiness and simply takes his hands away.
Dr. Lee gets a call from his younger sister reminding him that it's their mother's birthday today. He leaves the hospital and heads home but notices his mother getting out of a taxi. He trails behind her and follows her into an apartment complex. Dr. Lee is stunned and hurt as he sees Dr. Suh come out and call his mother the cleaning lady.
Once Dr. Suh leaves, Dr. Lee rings the doorbell and silently stares at his mother. She chases after him but he just asks why and leaves without looking back twice. Dr. Suh happens to forget his cellphone and witnesses the cleaning lady yell after Dr. Lee calling him son.
Dr. Lee drinks his sorrows away over some soju by himself and keeps thinking back to that incident. In a drunken stupor, he returns to the hospital and throws himself on the couch.
Dr. Yoon, looking for a book, goes to Dr. Suh's office which is shared with Dr. Lee and knocks but no one answers. She calls Dr. Suh who tells her that he's almost there and has food for her, so he gives her the password to the room. She enters but notices Dr. Lee sleeping and decides to tiptoe out. Against her better judgment, she approaches Dr. Lee and leans over a bit studying his face. (I'd be studying his face, too, but that's just me.) He wakes up and startles her. Dr. Lee, though, grabs her wrist and as she tries to free herself, he yanks her towards him just inches away from each other's faces.
Well, that wasn't too bad. Everything went according to what I had more or less expected. Shin Ha-kyun and Jung Jin-young are awesome, Choi Jung-won is "eh", the plot and characters are predictable and clichéd. One of the weaknesses that is inherent in all Korean medical dramas is that a lot of things have been done already. The serious, talented, and unemotional doctor? Check. The more humanist, kind, and talented doctor? Check. The bubbly and optimistic doctor (usually female)? Check. Power hungry doctors? Check. Rivalries? Check. And the list goes on. However, some of these points are crucial to storytelling, and I don't condemn a story for using old plot points and characters. What does bother me is when a story becomes a rehashing without sustenance and fails to deliver. At least the main actors are fabulous, so that puts the drama at an advantage. If I had a gripe about the acting department, all I would like to say right now is for the rich, princess daughter to be sent off to America or some other foreign country to further her studies because she's just a horrible caricature of a character and the actress isn't helping her become any more likable or human. There are a couple other points that semi-irk me, but I'll allow those people some room for improvement in the episodes to come. To balance out the negative, here are some positives about the acting: Shin Ha-kyun is wonderful, and I love the way he emotes with his eyes. Jung Jin-young is also fantastic, and I'm enjoying his portrayal of wacky and serious. I don't have much to say about the plot or characters besides what I've briefly mentioned. Well, here's hope that the ride gets better from here or at least doesn't get worse and lose steam like so many potentially great dramas often do.
Overall verdict: I enjoyed it and will continue watching especially since I'm not watching any currently airing dramas anyways.