Dr. Ken, Season 2, Episode 6: “Ken Learns Korean”
Original airdate November 4, 2016.
Ken needs the assistance of a translator when he examines a Korean-speaking patient. When he is also teased by D.K. and D.K.’s friends for not speaking Korean, he agrees to go with Dave to his Saturday Korean language class. Clark is elected by the nurses’ union to negotiate the new contract with Welltopia’s board. Molly, in preparation for her next shot at the SAT, practices her vocabulary in an ongoing showdown against Allison.
Wow. Everything and everyone are so over the top in this episode that Pat, as much himself as ever, seems normal here. The dialogue is heavy-handed. The acting is exaggerated. The sentiment is overblown. And I’ve never belonged to a union, so maybe I just don’t know what the protocols are, but Ken and Allison are employees of the HMO, and they are Clark’s friends; wouldn’t they have more to say to Clark than “We really don’t want you to strike?”
The culture-themed episodes of Dr. Ken have consistently been my favorite, which I swear isn’t because I have a predilection for topic episodes. I do prefer shows that attempt to say or do something different from what others have done, and since Dr. Ken is treading new ground just by existing, there’s a lot of unwalked territory just waiting to be explored.
“Ken Learns Korean” touches a lot of great ideas that ring true: the language thing, of course, but also older first-gen men playing cards, the expectation that Allison will play hostess, the alien-to-most environment of Dave’s weekend language classes, the consistent and constant stress of prepping for the SAT, the unique quality of Korean television, and (for just a little, deeply true moment) the daily disconnect when first-gen parents don’t quite understand all the words their later-gen progeny use at the table. Despite all its noisy obnoxiousness, this is in some ways one of the truest episodes of the show’s run so far.
At the very end of the negotiation scene, which is kind of a clown show, Pat steers the moment to its closure with his usual weirdness, but on his way out the door, he turns, looks Clark closely in the eye, and says in a friendly, comparitively downtempo, I-got-the-better-of-you way, “Hey, this was fun,” adding a gentle shoulder-slap. It’s the best acting in the episode, the rare moment where Dave Foley quarterbacks a whole scene with Tom-Brady-like dexterity. Props to Jonathan Slavin for the assist. Slavin can fill a room, but here he plays smaller while his character tries to play bigger, allowing Foley to work toward that great payoff line. Super impressive.
If good intentions and good ideas were all that mattered, this might be one for the academy’s consideration. However, it tries to use a chainsaw to carve something intricate. It’s doable, but this one just doesn’t pull it off. Two and a half prescription pads out of five.