Change is hard for everyone.
But when you have Autism and are struggling to understand relationships at work and in your personal life, it's almost impossible.
The Good Doctor Season 3 Episode 1 used flashbacks to build up the mystery of why Shaun's date was a disaster and drive the point home about how challenging and stressful something like a first date can be for someone on the spectrum.
Telling a story out of order can be a risky move.
Viewers may get confused, annoyed, or both. But in this case, the flashbacks were effective. Little by little, we learned what happened on Shaun's first date with Carly.
By giving us a few details at a time, the writers built up the suspense -- only to discover that the date went well by neurotypical standards.
Morgan might have been talking for the viewers when she expressed confusion about what the disaster was.
Park: That's it? It's over?
Morgan: Where's the disaster? I listened to an hour of this. I was promised a disaster. Where's the disaster?
Shaun: It was exhausting. Everything was always out of control. Anything could happen at any time. Anything did. There was too much to remember to do, too much to remember not to do, and none of it made sense. It was hard, uncomfortable, unpleasant. I spent the whole evening doing unnatural things to make her happy and I have no idea if she WAS happy, and I know I wasn't happy! It was all a disaster.
And then Shaun explained exactly what was so terrible: his confusion and stress from having to try to navigate neurotypical expectations.
As someone on the Autistic spectrum, I was thrilled with Shaun's speech. Television so often gets Autism wrong, and it was such a relief to hear my own experience reflected on national television!
Kudos to Freddie Highmore for that performance as well as to the writers!
That said, I hope that Shaun gives himself another chance to get to know Carly. So far, she seems like a better match for Shaun than Lea, who surely would have freaked out at any of the half-dozen weird-to-neurotypical things that Shaun did during the date.
Hopefully, Carly wants to be with Shaun, Autism and all. If he can find someone who doesn't expect him to fit into the neurotypical world's box, maybe he can relieve the pressure on himself and experience some happiness.
Shaun's relationship challenges spilled over into the workplace, as everyone wanted to know what happened on his date that was so terrible. But there was a definite connection between his relationship woes and his on-the-job challenges, too.
Melendez gave Shaun the task of delivering bad news to his patient for a reason.
Shaun has struggled with giving news in an empathetic manner -- during The Good Doctor Season 2, his job was at risk because of his difficulty in doing so.
Now that he's been reinstated, it's logical that his educational plan would include practice in giving patients bad news, and I'm sure this will not be the last time he's expected to do this!
Claire: You have to learn how to do this, and stalling just makes it worse. You know what I think? I think you don't want to think about your date and you're subconsciously burying yourself in things you think you can control.
Shaun: How does anyone know what's in someone's subconscious?
When Shaun told the patient that there was still hope, that was the most empathetic he'd ever been.
But Melendez undoubtedly thought Shaun was trying to soften the blow by giving a patient hope when none existed.
The surgery sounded complicated and dangerous, but it was typical of Shaun to find some solution that nobody had ever considered before! And telling the patient about it was only the beginning of his challenges with this.
Throughout the second half of the hour, Shaun struggled to follow Glassman's advice to get to know his patients.
Shaun's questions must have seemed intrusive to the patient and her husband. It's not usual for a doctor to ask a grieving husband if he's considering leaving his wife for someone healthier!
Yet it opened up a needed discussion between the patient and her husband so that they could get on the same page and make a decision about the surgery.
Score 1 for Shaun!
Shaun wasn't the only one dealing with changes in his life. Glassman, Lim, and Andrews were all adjusting to their new normals.
In Glassman's case, of course, his new normal is an old normal: he's going back to being the president of the hospital!
Glassman seemed more interested in working with low-income patients than anything else. Hopefully, McDougal will make good on her promise to re-open a clinic within the hospital and we'll get to see plenty of Glassman in action (and being bugged by Shawn.)
Nurse: Dr. Lim, I'm glad you made that decision on the overtime, but I thought you'd want to know the real issue isn't the overtime. It's being understaffed. We need two more nurses on this floor alone, one in ICU...
Lim: I'm sorry. I'm sure you're right, but we just don't have the budget.
Nurse: Oh. [walks away]
Lim: Excuse me?
Nurse: Nothing, ma'am.
Lim: I gave you the OT. You're not being fair.
Nurse: Aren't I? You told me I was right and you told me you're not going to do it. Who's being unfair?
I wasn't sure I liked Andrews' advice to Lim.
Lim was looking for a way to help the nurses as much as possible while preserving her relationship with the head nurse when she had to turn her request for extra staff down.
Being Chief of Surgery is a difficult job, and administrative positions in hospitals always involve balancing patient needs and budgetary concerns.
But that doesn't mean Lim has to play manipulative games. What kind of leadership is that?
Lim's solution to the nurse's dilemma was perfect, though -- until she told the nurse she owed her. If I were that nurse, I would have resented Lim's attitude!
Your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a leader was your stubbornness. Don't let it be your weakness today.Lim
In any case, Andrews' decision to come back to work as an attending should provide an interesting role reversal for these two. I'm also curious as to how Lim's continued relationship with Melendez will play out.
There was more than enough sneaking around for these two on The Good Doctor Season 2, so let's hope any nonsense is kept to a minimum!
Lim: What are you writing?
HR: I have accepted your explanation and report.
Lim: Thank you.
HR: But I don't believe it. You are going to keep seeing each other and I can't do anything to stop that, nor do I want to. But know this. Love doesn't conquer all and lust doesn't either, and like doesn't even begin to cover it.
Morgan and Park's argument over who gets Harvey's case was irritating, and at first, this storyline seemed like it was going to be silly.
Then Harvey turned out to be a cancer patient who couldn't remember he had cancer and things got serious fast.
It's hard to know what the right thing to do was. Morgan was right that Harvey's cancer was treatable and that his dementia didn't make his life less valuable.
But Park was right that it would be torturous for Harvey to go through chemo and its side effects without being able to remember what was making him sick.
Park: Fighting cancer takes a lot, and the surgery is usually the easy part.
Ruby: My husband is strong. He's healthy.
Park: He's not. Not mentally. And the burden on you -
Ruby: I am not letting my husband die because caring for him is inconvenient, because I'm going to have to repeat a conversation. Go to hell.
Ultimately, this had to be Ruby's decision. She was competent to make medical decisions on Harvey's behalf and it should be up to the patient and his proxy, not the doctors, whether or not treatment was worth it.
I give major props to Morgan for her conversation with Ruby about it.
Morgan started the hour as selfish and irritating as usual, but she had enough empathy for Harvey and Ruby to be able to talk to Ruby about what could happen.
Perhaps her grandfather has dementia too. Hopefully, her visit to him wasn't just a one-off to underscore the plot.
Your turn, Good Doctor Fanatics!
Did you like the out-of-order way Shaun's date with Carly played out?
Who did you think was right in Harvey's case?
And did The Good Doctor Season 1 Episode 1 live up to your expectations?
Hit the comments with your thoughts, and don't forget you can watch The Good Doctor online if you missed anything.
The Good Doctor airs on ABC on Mondays at 10 EST/PST.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.