Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) went on his first official date with Carly (Jasika Nicole) in the Season 3 premiere of The Good Doctor, and though he teased that the entire situation was a “disaster,” — and the show named the episode as such — it wasn’t the train wreck you might expect from Shaun trying to figure out how dating works.
There were a couple of things that could have lead neurotypical people to a disastrous date, like when the waiter tripped and sent an expensive bottle of wine flying through the air, but Shaun was able to catch it with his lightning-quick reflexes. The quaint dinner with Carly ended with another person in the restaurant getting injured on the couple’s way out, but Shaun performed an emergency surgery right there and ended up being a hero. He and Carly got home pretty unscathed.
The irony of the episode is that Shaun felt the date was a disaster because all of his attempts to be like everyone else around him actually worked. He wasn’t sure what to say to Carly or when the right time to bust out a joke was. He didn’t know whether to kiss her or walk her home, and that unknown was infuriating for someone who likes to know everything. That confusion isn’t because Shaun is autistic, though. The confusion is because that’s how dating works, especially first dates. While people without autism basically expect that from a first date experience, the discomfort was too much for Shaun to bear, and that’s where the heartbreak came in.
It seems like Carly genuinely cares for Shaun and is interested in exploring a romantic relationship with him. The episode ended with Shaun avoiding her in the pathology lab though, ditching the chance for a second date instead of trying again to get more comfortable around her. Carly saw him walking away and the disappointment on her face was very evident.
Just because Shaun has momentarily lost hope, doesn’t mean that viewers should, though! Nicole was promoted to series regular over the summer and the Season 3 trailer had scenes of Carly and Shaun getting cozy with two glasses of wine that we didn’t see in the first episode. All signs point to Shaun eventually trying again, but let’s just hope it is sooner rather than later.
The Good Doctor airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.