Doctor Slump is a show that places the lives of the working class in South Korea under the microscope. In a country where working hard is better rewarded than working smart, it’s no wonder that mental health has become such a “trending” subject in the country. From celebrities and K-pop idols finally taking breaks for health purposes to TV shows focusing solely on awareness about mental health, Korea’s recent obsession with just being better might have started as a superficial thing, but it’s definitely got to have impacted us all in some way. Doctor Slump is the latest to join the long list, and while it’s a comedy, it also showcases the many difficulties a person with depression has to face with a supportive family too. In the first two episodes, we learned about Ha-Neul and Jeong-Woo, high school rivals turned adulthood acquaintances due to accidental proximity and hitting rock bottom, or essentially in their biggest life slump. Let’s recap episode 3 to learn more about the two and how they’re getting closer to each other.
What Happens in the Flashback?
We already know that when Ha-Neul came to Jeong-Woo’s school, she managed to steal everything he had from him. Being first in class, being popular, and also his freedom to take things easy. See, Ha-Neul was always stressed and always had to work three times as hard as a normal person to achieve her mother’s goals for her. On the other hand, Jeong-Woo seemed to have everything on a platter. However, when Jeong-Woo was brought to his senses after Ha-Neul beat him in the midterms, he decided to work as hard as her and beat her at her own game. Unfortunately, he even ended up fainting in second place despite starving himself and changing up his lifestyle to make it worse than Ha-Neul’s (very unrealistic standards here). When they both wake up in the nurse’s room, Jenog-Woo has the courtesy to ask Ha-Neul if she’s okay, but instead of answering him and asking him the same thing, she brings out a mini notepad and starts to study! This is Ha-Neul’s life, and this is all she knows.
Why Does Jeong-Woo Sleep in Ha-Neul’s House?
In the present day, both Jeong-Woo and Ha-Neul can’t wrap their heads around the fact that they actually found comfort in each other’s hugs (fam, it could just be the hug and not the person at this point). They’re awkward around each other and can’t really look each other in the eye. Ha-Neul’s mom is now smothering her with love and kindness because she can’t bear the thought of her daughter being depressed. The family even throws her a depression party (I know); nobody needs this mollycoddling when they’re depressed, but sigh. She needs an escape, but her only friend is busy at work. She doesn’t have Jeong-Woo’s phone number, so she can’t even talk to him. The one good thing for Jeong-Woo is that the anesthetist has said he’ll testify for him in court. However, at night, someone breaks into his house and breaks the window. Ha-Neul’s brother finds out that the house has been broken into, and the family invites Jeong-Woo to come stay the night at theirs. He refuses at first, but Ha-Neul arrives later and convinces him that he needs to look out for himself, and the best way to do that right now is to stay at hers. She’s got him figured out quicker than he does, and he finally agrees.
At home, Ha-Neul’s brother is curious about the kind of person Ha-Neul was in school and asks Jeong-Woo to give them some gossip, but it only makes Ha-Neul’s mother sad because it reveals how hard the girl worked and how she never had any real school experiences like a normal kid. Jeong-Woo sweetly decides to give Ha-Neul some of that fun time in the present and takes her to the arcade, where he gets her to sing karaoke.
Why Has Ha-Neul’s Life Been So Miserable?
You can’t really say Ha-Neul’s had a bad life. Everyone assumes she’s worked so hard, so how could anything have gone wrong? It’s that fact itself that makes Ha-Neul a person who doesn’t know what to do with herself if she’s not studying or working. It’s the same reason why she’s had no positive memories of school and doesn’t know a single K-pop song, because she never had the time to listen to them. It’s never too late, though, so Jeong-Woo is determined to give her those experiences now! After having a blast together, Jeong-Woo tells Ha-Neul that because they’re both at the lowest point of their lives, instead of pushing each other to stand tall and face the storm, they should stay low and enjoy themselves a little bit (can somebody please tell me this?).
Why does Jeong-Woo distance himself from Ha-Neul?
Jeong-Woo wants an excuse to run into Ha-Neul, so he decides to gift her family some fruit to thank them for being so hospitable. When he’s about to knock on their door, he overhears a conversation between Ha-Neul’s brother and mother, where the brother is explaining who Jeong-Woo is and relaying his skepticism about having such a man live in their house. Jeong-Woo immediately turns on his heels and leaves, and Ha-Neul, who has just come home, happens to notice this from afar. She follows Jeong-Woo to the roof and tries to talk to him about how she’s sad about her severance fee and how her colleagues essentially hate her, but he tells her she should leave because he had forgotten his true situation for a bit, but now his memories have come back. Doctor Slump turns the trope around on its head, and instead of having her misunderstand Jeong-Woo, Ha-Neul puts two and two together when her mom asks her if the whole thing about someone dying on the table while Jeong-Woo was performing surgery was true.
What Happens at the Trial?
Ha-Neul spends all night reading articles and researching Jeong-Woo’s case. In the morning, she realizes that she’s found a case that is similar to Jeong-Woo’s, where another patient died. This would be perfect evidence, and she rushes to the court to hand it in. Unfortunately, it’s too late, and unlike the movies, the judge says they won’t accept this evidence until the next trial. But at least this has Jeong-Woo finding a little bit of sunshine in the darkness of it all.
At the end of Doctor Slump episode 3, Jeong-Woo takes Ha-Neul to go see the sunrise. When they get there, it’s dark and cloudy, and they can’t help but have a laugh about how it resembles their life’s current state. On the other hand, we see a clip of recording devices in Jeong-Woo’s house, which means there’s something sinister at play here. Finally, Jeong-Woo asks Ha-Neul to be friends with him for real, not just classmates (this could’ve been a running joke at this point if she wasn’t so serious all the time).
What Happens in the Epilogue?
In an epilogue, we see that back when the two of them fainted, Ha-Neul wrote a little note to Jeong-Woo (how cute), which read that she would take a step back and they could both get better together and work hard to do well. However, she had dropped the note by accident after overhearing Jeong-Woo’s mother complaining to the schoolteacher that the boy’s grades were falling, and he had dared to ask her to come to school for such a trivial matter as fainting. On the other hand, Ha-Neul’s mother is absolutely devastated that her daughter fainted, and is very affectionate towards her. You never know what’s really happening with someone until you see it.