The best medical drama I have ever seen, bar none, even better in my appreciation than Joo Won's classic Korean drama Good Doctor (2013). Beautiful Mind (2016) was on shaky ground even before it was fully cast. The lead role was turned down by four different popular Korean actors in their twenties, who wouldn't have been very good in the role anyway, for it required an actor with more maturity and finesse than any of them had to offer. Just the very fact that KBS would offer the role to actors in their twenties shows us right from the beginning that they didn't have a good solid grasp of what a powerhouse script they had on their hands. They didn't appreciate it from the beginning! I'd say they really need a shakeup in their executive department at KBS - they don't seem to be very bright, or very supportive of their drama producing department! They need a shakeup, just like the fictional medical executives in this drama's story needed one too!
Enter the incredible Jang Hyuk to save the day, a 39 year old veteran Korean actor of many Korean dramas and films, including the amazing Chuno (2010) and Thank You (2007) which both had huge ratings. Jang Hyuk had close to twenty years experience playing all kinds of roles (even other doctors) and he was not afraid to jump in and take this role, feeling a special kinship to this complex character who supposedly had a frontal lobe injury in childhood which rendered him incapable of normal human emotions. He made this doctor role his own, and it was so heartwarming for me as his long time fan to see the overwhelmingly positive international response he received in this role, despite KBS treating the production so poorly. Shame on KBS!
KBS timed this drama to play in the same broadcast time period as another medical show on another station, with a much bigger budget for promotion than Beautiful Mind had, and then they also scheduled it right before the 2016 Summer Olympics. Three quarters of the way through the drama KBS producers suddenly announced they would cut the last two episodes from 16 down to 14, forcing the writer Kim Tae Hee to re-write her script, so they could squeeze in some pre-Olympics coverage instead, a week before the games were to start.
I felt so sorry for this writer, she had written the brilliant 2010 script for Sungkyunkwan Scandal. She knew her stuff! She had written a complex and powerful script for Beautiful Mind, too; it was her "baby", and then KBS brutally cut off two of its arms!
Screenwriter Kim Tae Hee
(not the actress with the same name)
Thousands of fans of Beautiful Mind went nuts at the news, and within a few days they had started a petition that had over 10,000 signatures from around the world pleading with KBS not to cut this magnificent show in any way, signatures from as far away as Siberia and China and South America! Korean citizens may have preferred the silly fluff of the other doctor show playing opposite it, but it seems international citizens of the world fans knew which was the superior show and graded it higher than the other one. Some gave the excuse of mediocre ratings in Korea for the show's last two
episodes being cut, but that doesn't wash with me because the vast majority of Korean dramas have mediocre to average ratings similar to Beautiful Mind's, but they aren't cut. It's Okay, That's Love (2014), another show on mental illness issues, only averaged about 10% ratings in Korea and it's a veritable masterpiece, totally unforgettable. Just like with Beautiful Mind, international fans adored that show and many to this day claim it as their favorite K-drama of all time. However, it seems Koreans would rather watch fluff than intensive examinations of what makes people "tick" mentally. Hmmm .......
In any case, KBS's shenanigans in treating their own show so poorly backfired on them. The show became more popular than ever on the international streaming web sites and more people started watching, to see what all the fuss was about. The cast in Korea heard about the support the show was receiving from the international community and its director Mo Won Il said publicly they were all very grateful. More people were introduced to, and fell in love with lead actor Jang Hyuk, and he deserves every ounce of that love; he's a phenomenal actor. So all the controversy had a silver lining to it in the long run. Maybe someday KBS will wise up and put out a Director's Cut DVD or Blu-ray version with all the episodes intact. I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
The Story: Loosely inspired by Mary Shelley's gothic novel Frankenstein, Beautiful Mind introduces us to a fictional Hyun Sung Hospital in Seoul, which promotes itself as being the best private hospital in the city, with the most advanced medical techniques and patient care. They even have a research center within the hospital doing stem cell tests and regenerative organ studies. They've also opened a new cardiac center. It all sounds most impressive, doesn't it?
However, all is not what it seems. The executives in charge of this hospital, its medical care and research branch, are of dubious moral character. Money from foreign sources interested in investing in their incomplete research seems to be more important to them than actual results in the lab, or patient care in the hospital. The most corrupt hospital executives include Dr. Chae Soon Ho (Lee Jae Ryong) whose title is Minister for Planning and Coordination in the Cardio-thoracic Department - his "god" is money, and Kang Hyun Joon (Oh Jung Se) who is Director of the Hospital Foundation, who comes from a wealthy family, is very ambitious, and is aiming for the top chairmanship position in the hospital - his "god" is power. What has held him back from getting it is an unusual, secret health condition he shares with his father - will someone ever uncover the problem and treat it effectively, and if so, what then will stop Hyun Joon from pursuing his ultimate goal of attaining full executive power over the hospital?
Jang Hyuk's character Dr. Young Oh trying to smile,
something that does not come easily to him
Both of these men secretly wanted the Hospital Director Shin Dong Jae (Kim Jong Soo), a good man, out of the way. Chae Soon Ho starts to mix toxic drugs into the drinks he hands Shin Dong Jae during their social times together, and one night while under the influence of these drugs he dies! How convenient!
There is also drug addiction going on within some of the hospital staff, which further makes their ethical decisions susceptible to corruption, especially one female anesthesiologist named Kim Yoon Kyung (Shim Yi Young who played the klutzy aunt in The Suspicious Housekeeper) whose little daughter is on a respirator. She is eventually discovered to be a drug addict by Dr. Hyun Suk Joo (Yoon Hyun Min from Falling In Love With Innocence), a cardio-thoracic surgeon on staff, whom it's insinuated (in a flashback) she once had a brief affair with years earlier which might (and probably did) produce her daughter. Dr. Yoon Kyung is hiding secrets about the truth regarding the corruption in the executive staff, and about something nefarious she was ordered to do as an anesthesiologist, and she eventually commits suicide by overdose because of the guilt, leaving Dr. Suk Joo in charge of their little girl's medical care.
Fooling The Polygraph Machine ... great scene!
When a new cardiac center attached to the hospital opens, an assemblyman politician named Kim Myung Soo (Ryu Seung Soo who played the veterinarian in the classic K-drama Winter Sonata) arrives at a hospital press conference celebrating its opening, but he is attacked by a "crazy" man and then the attacker is dragged away by hospital security staff. Then the politician himself has a health crisis while trying to leave the hospital after the attack. Could a doctor on staff at Hyun Sung help him?
Villain or good guy? Indecipherable Dr. Hyun Suk Joo
seems one moment to be one or the other
Later that evening, a female Rookie Cop named Gye Jin Sung (Park So Dam from Because It's The First Time) happens to be stood up for a date with Dr. Hyun Suk Joo, whom she has known for years as her own heart doctor; as she sits in her car, dejected, she sees a man walking on the street being hit by a car not just once, but twice, and she quickly jots down in her memory the license plate of the car that hit him, while trying to attend his wounds and calling her senior police captain at the same time. "Save me!" cries the victim, "I won't say anything!" So obviously he was attacked because he knows too much, about something.
She keeps telling the policemen she works with that she thinks it's an attempted murder case, not just a hit and run case, but they don't believe her because of her inexperience. She then notices that the victim is the same man who had attacked the politician at the press conference earlier in the day (why he was let go afterward is very suspicious too). Is the politician trying to bump this guy off and make it look like an accident? Or could it be someone else who wants to silence him?
The patient ends up dying, leaving his son, who is deaf and mute, an orphan, which touches Rookie Cop's heart. (Must add the young actor who played the deaf and mute son did an outstanding job in such a brief role ... keep hiring this incredible kid, Korea!). Then even more weird things happen, for instance, someone sneaks into the morgue and cuts the dead victim's heart out of his chest! Goodness gracious, what evil besets this hospital?
Rookie Cop Gye Jin Sung seems to be smarter
than the policemen she works with!
Rookie Cop decides to do her own research and finds suspicious activity centered around the operation done on the man hit by the car, and her research brings her into direct confrontation with Dr. Lee Young Oh (Jang Hyuk), a new genius neurosurgeon on staff at Hyun Sung Hospital, who doesn't like it when he opens his office door and sees her sitting in the dark at his desk watching a confiscated security camera video of the operation! (This girl's got guts!). Their confrontation scenes in the beginning of the drama are often chilling!
There is professional jealousy and backstabbing galore at this hospital! They may be able to fool the press, which routinely investigates their claims of medical research brilliance, but other medical professionals in the hospital itself sense underhanded decisions are being made by executive staff and leading doctors in the hospital. They routinely gossip among themselves about it, including nurses, interns, low level administrators, etc. Secrets abound in this hospital. (I kept thinking to myself, "This is the LAST hospital I would ever want to go to, even if I was dying, and even if my doctor looked like Jang Hyuk!" LOL!).
I loved Park So Dam's performance
in this intense drama, she's a wonder!
One doctor on staff who seems to be detached from it all is senior physician Lee Gun Myung (Heo Joon Ho) the head of the cardio-cerebrovascular department. His grown (adopted) son, who just happens to be the secretive neurosurgeon Doctor Lee Young Oh whom Rookie Cop keeps butting heads with, is especially adept at noticing symptoms other doctors miss during diagnostic workups. Eventually he ends up operating on the politician and saving his life, though he wasn't able to save the life of the man who died after being hit by the car under mysterious circumstances (it turns out the car that hit him was a stolen vehicle, so the Rookie Cop's leads dry up).
Doctor Young Oh has grown up believing he has an anti-social disorder stemming from a childhood brain injury in his frontal lobe. However, the real circumstances of his supposed injury are shrouded in mystery and his father has never been open with him about them. This is where the real mystery of the story comes in, and it's fascinating to see it being uncovered bit by bit, episode by episode. Often flashbacks at the beginning of each episode give us important tips in solving the mystery of what happened to Dr. Young Oh when he was a child.
Basically the whole story, apart from the crime solving angle, is centered on learning what really makes Dr. Young Oh "tick" mentally and emotionally. Can he feel emotions at all, or has he been brainwashed by his father just to portray them like an actor would? Dad would use facial recognition cards to train his adopted son to decipher people's emotions. His father strangely didn't want his son to do more than "breathe and eat", and be programmed by him while he was growing up. Yet despite his weird doctor father, and despite his supposed disability, Young Oh is ever more determined to become a doctor. However, can he be truly "healed" and be a normal doctor, with any real compassion for his patients? It's insinuated that his father never really wanted him to be a doctor, either, concerned that he wouldn't be able to handle the emotional needs of his patients, but Young Oh disregarded his father's "advice" and followed his own talents and interests anyway. Good for him!
Something really bizarre occurs when Dr. Young Oh's own father gives Rookie Cop fake "evidence" that his son could be a murderer; Rookie Cop arrests Dr. Young Oh in the hospital, right when he needs to be in the operating room to work on a patient! Dr. Young Oh is eventually exonerated (that's a great and funny scene where he proves to the cops examining him that lie detector machines are a joke and can be manipulated by a brilliant mind! I laughed my head off! what a fantastic scene I'll not forget), and then afterward Rookie Cop feels guilty about how she treated him. Because of her guilt she has repeated nightmares about him, failing to recognize she is actually physically attracted to him.
Relations between father and son become very strained after the framing attempt by "Dad" to make Young Oh look like a murderer. To make matters worse, soon his own girlfriend, Dr. Kim Min Jae (Park Se Young from Faith), announces he has anti-social disorder in front of the entire hospital staff at a meeting. She knew by doing so, and maligning her boyfriend publicly, that she would be given a long-desired teaching position on staff, since the top hospital execs hate Dr. Young Oh and are jealous of his medical talents. What do you say about a woman who outs the man she supposedly "loves"?
The same evening, when Dr. Young Oh saves a new male patient's life, whose wife had told him he had an End of Life Directive that stated he wanted to die instead of live, Dr. Young Oh's father calls him a "monster", in front of what seems like the entire hospital staff! So in one day Dr. Young Oh has been stabbed in the back by both his father and his girlfriend!
Dr. Young Oh is reeling, leaves the hospital and walks into traffic, oblivious to the danger he is in because he is in so much pain from being betrayed by two people he had trusted. Then suddenly Rookie Cop is there to help him, and he collapses onto her, exhausted by all his internal troubles and grief. (All this time I kept thinking to myself, "This is a guy who isn't supposed to be able to feel emotions? he sure seems like he's experiencing a lot of them to me!).
The most delicious parts of the show arrive afterward, in seeing Dr. Young Oh come out of his father inflicted emotional prison cell, with Rookie Cop bringing some normalcy to his life. He starts to fall in love with her, and starts calling her his "Wi-Fi". "I need my Wi-Fi to tell me what to think of this, how I should feel." So cute! He tries to find opportunities to be with her, even when she is on duty as a cop. He even saves her life when someone tries to kill her. She takes him to her home to meet her mother and brother, and while there he is able to diagnose a seriously ill patient in a wheelchair, and re-unite her with her mother-in-law, who had mistakenly been accused of harming her. Rookie Cop becomes very grateful to Dr. Oh.
Finally there is some levity in a very serious show as their relationship expands, and it's like putting icing on an already delicious cake -- it just makes it better to see them together, bantering with one another, going out to eat and relaxing, playing basketball together, watching him waiting for her answer when he admits he likes her, but does she like him too? At first she thinks when he talks about love he means he is finally growing to feel some love and concern for his sick patients for the first time, but then he blurts out that's not the case. "You", he tells her. "It's you."
But of course, just when we think they will find happiness together more trouble ensues. (This is a K-drama, after all!) Dr. Young Oh, hopeful that maybe his brain has healed because he seems to be truly happy for the first time in his life, goes to get medical tests done (suggested to him by his old girlfriend, the jealous Dr. Min Jae -- watch out, after treating him like dirt she wants to go back to him!), and she tells him it looks like there's "no change." (I immediately yelled out, "Liar!" and probably a million other fans around the world did too!).
So, just as soon as Dr. Young Oh seems to be happy, he is crushed again instead. He doesn't want to inflict his "damaged" self on Rookie Cop, so he tells her he can't see her anymore. She is shaken, but tries to be patient, still tries to be there for him in the background if he changes his mind. She is accepted into the violent crimes division of her police department, which had been her long term goal all along. Professionally her life is going well.
Then suddenly the medical treatments she had been taking for years for an old heart condition cause a relapse in her health, and tests show her heart is fine, but the drug treatments have caused problems for her lungs. It's suggested to her that she could take advantage of the hospital's research on organ regeneration as a treatment. Dr. Young Oh becomes involved because he doesn't trust the hospital's claims that their research advancements are as sound as the publicity makes them out to be by the top brass at the hospital.
Will her illness shake up Dr. Young Oh and cause him to throw caution to the wind regarding their relationship? Will he do something self-sacrificial to help save her life? So much for a man who supposedly isn't capable of emotions! All through this drama I saw him portraying emotion after emotion and grew to mistrust his doctor father, not him.
~~~~~~~~~~~Beautiful Mind is simply a fantastic medical and suspense drama that should not be missed. It's so much better than the drama that got all the publicity on another station at the same time. The acting by the entire ensemble was perfect, and it's yet another tour de force performance for Jang Hyuk. This show deserved all KBS's devotion and dedication. Really, shame on them, for disappointing so many fans of this remarkable K-drama and cutting it short by two episodes. So unfair it's beyond belief!
The gorgeous love song called Dirt sung by Bernard Park
with some haunting scenes from the drama
I am happy, though, that so many newbies to K-dramas discovered actor Jang Hyuk's talents for the first time, and were also introduced to lead actress Park So Dam, who really added a tremendous amount of warmth to her character, and sweetness to the drama overall.
Don't miss it!