How do you create the most popular show on television? How is this the most popular show on television? Those were just two of the many questions I had about ABC’s new medical drama The Good Doctor when it first graced our screens in the fall of 2017. Certainly, the show knew how to manufacture serious feelings in the audience—and who among us wouldn’t want to root for Shaun (Freddie Highmore), the, ahem, good doctor with savant syndrome who wants to save people one improbable diagnosis at a time?
But The Good Doctor also consistently took things straight to 100. Within the first five episodes, Shaun operated on a liver in the middle of a highway, lanced a boil inside a porn star’s vagina, and generally solved complex problems as diagrams and medical definitions flew across the screen:
It feels like The Good Doctor has been on television for years, but actually, Monday night was the finale of only the first season. So how does TV’s most popular show close out its first season? With a timely treatise on America’s health care system? Perhaps by offering resonant commentary on our socioeconomic—
Oh. Sure. A drunk frat kid works as well.
This is Caden—an extremely frat boy name if I’ve ever heard one. Caden’s ankle was [pushes glasses up nose] really fucked up. That much was for sure, but aside from that purple foot and whatnot, it wasn’t clear there was anything else seriously wrong with the guy.
Thankfully, Caden’s concerned frat buddy Blake (also a good frat name) filled in the details. There was a “Wheel of Torture” at the frat house for the pledges, and Caden landed on “laundry.” As in, he had to do laundry for the entire frat house?, surgeon Jared (Chuku Modu) asked.
The Tide Pod Challenge was an internet-driven craze that began at the end of 2017. It started innocently with memes that joked about the prospect of eating Tide Pods because they look like thicc Fruit Gushers. But that observation quickly, for some reason, led to people literally trying to eat them in videos posted on Twitter and YouTube. One brave (“brave”) teen attempted to smoke one. It’s as stupid as it sounds. It was so bad, even Rob Gronkowski was hired by Tide to scold Tide Pod Challenge participants and ward away anyone else considering consuming laundry detergent. It was, briefly, an actual, serious crisis, because as it turns out, there are serious health risks from ingesting Tide Pods. (Who would have thought?!)
Our frat bro Caden was ordered to eat as many “laundry things” as he could in 30 seconds. He ate six of them—“maybe seven,” per Blake. That is too many Tide Pods. Most people who made Tide Pod videos took one bite of the pod and spit it out in a fit of revulsion. And for good reason—it is laundry detergent and it tastes very bad! Eating six or seven is truly absurd. If Rob Gronkowski was mad at kids for merely biting Tide Pods, imagine how he’d feel when he heard some ate seven of them. In short: Caden, through a combination of pod consumption and being drunk, was so messed up he fell and snapped a bone in his ankle.
So messed up, in fact, that the doctors couldn’t even give him proper anesthesia. The doctors explained that because he was drunk, they couldn’t put him under, but I feel like the Tide Pods complicated matters, too. I don’t know if there’s something specific about the chemical effects of laundry detergent on anesthetic, but I do know you shouldn’t receive anesthesia on a full stomach, which … Caden clearly had. So anyway, he was actually awake during his own surgery. Imagine a dentist giving you laughing gas, but also cutting your foot open.
Unfortunately for him, Caden in the Good Doctor finale was the physical embodiment of those “But wait, there’s more!” infomercials, because Tide Pods and a fractured ankle were just the beginning.
He had also taken Molly (he is in a frat, after all), and our good doctor Shaun accidentally nicked one of his arteries during surgery (Shaun was freaking out because his mentor, Richard Schiff of The West Wing, was diagnosed with brain cancer ... it was a whole thing), so Caden had a pseudoaneurysm, which sounds bad and was near-fatal. In the end, however, he was saved by Shaun’s ingenious methods (as per usual on The Good Doctor) so that he could live a full life, one that hopefully doesn’t involve eating Tide Pods ever again.
I’m not sure how Procter & Gamble feels about The Good Doctor—a show watched by a ton of people—bringing up the Tide Pod Challenge months after the company finally managed to make it go away. The average age of an ABC viewer is about 66, so there’s a chance the show just inspired a bunch of parents and grandparents to try this shit out. But on the other hand, I’d like to think this was actually a clever PSA; way better than having Rob friggin’ Gronkowski as a spokesperson. Folks, just listen to your (good) doctor, and never consume a Tide Pod. I can’t wait until Season 2, when Shaun has to perform brain surgery after the Backpack Challenge gone wrong.