"This room is filled with stories that were cut short, like ours. But you - you have an amazing story ahead. I can't wait to see it."
—Dr. Neil Melendez[src]

Dr. Neil Melendez was an attending surgeon overseeing surgical residents at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. He is a brilliant and highly skilled person. Melendez doesn't mess around, is frequently tense about work/business matters, and expects perfection from himself and his residents. However, he does have a lighter and sometimes a humorous side, which occasionally appears when he is not tending to work matters. Also, despite frequently being stern, he is often supportive, especially of his patients who are sick, and of their families and friends. Melendez has a younger sister who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child due to falling out of a tree. As a result, his sister is confined to a residential care facility.

At the end of season 3, Melendez suffers injuries in an earthquake that damages his bowels beyond repair and subsequently dies. In the first two episodes of season 4, a grieving Claire hallucinates Melendez.

History

Early life

Neil Melendez has a sister, Gabrielle Melendez. At some point in his early life, a fall out of a tree resulted in his sister having a brain injury that left her disabled.[2] Due to his family's lack of wealth, they were unable to pay for her medications or treatments[1] so he took care of his sister by brushing her teeth, combing her hair, and helping her eat.[2]

Season 1

He recognized Dr. Shaun Murphy's skills, but at first he wasn’t ready to take a chance on him, due in part to his general strict nature about work matters and also due to concerns about difficulties related to Murphy's autism. Then, as time went on, Neil began to respect Shaun and allowed him to work in surgery, doing more than just suction. Notably, when Shaun faces discrimination from the parents of an autistic patient, Melendez sticks up for him, acknowledging how hard he has been on Shaun but recognizing that Shaun had proved him wrong to the point that he threatened to not do the surgery if Shaun couldn't be part of it. After Shaun makes a surgical mistake from being distracted with Dr. Glassman's brain cancer diagnosis Melendez works to protect Shaun and even decides to share responsibility in the patient's surgery to fix the problem and thus the potential consequences rather than letting Shaun shoulder it himself.

Meléndez was engaged to Jessica Preston, until she ended the relationship. Her reasons for ending the relationship were a little unclear, but one major point of disagreement between them, was whether or not to have kids. The stressful nature of the surgery environment also resulted in a couple disagreements between the two.

Season 2

During season 2, Melendez begins a burgeoning romance with Dr. Audrey Lim, getting drinks with her a few times, particularly after they are both passed over for Chief of Surgery in favor of Andrews keeping the job himself. In "Quarantine," they sleep together, but agree to keep their relationship professional before a viral outbreak quarantines the ER. After Lim falls ill, Melendez is shown to be deeply worried about her in "Quarantine: Part Two" while struggling to perform a risky bone marrow transplant that leads to him violating a patient's DNR.

In "Aftermath," Melendez becomes frustrated when Lim rebuffs even his friendly concern as a colleague. They both later admit to having feelings for each other but being afraid due to their past failed relationships. As a result and because they and Shaun are facing a possible license suspension for their actions during the quarantine, Lim and Melendez decide to maintain a secret relationship which persists for the next few episodes.

In "Breakdown," Melendez considers making their relationship public, particularly after the new Chief of Surgery Dr. Jackson Han gets them out of trouble with the medical review board, but Lim refuses. Melendez leads a team to remove a 200-pound tumor from a man and argues with Han about bringing in Shaun, transferred to pathology by Han, to help. Han eventually agrees to let Shaun consult but not take part in the surgery and Shaun provides them with a solution that allows the team to successfully remove the entire tumor. After being confronted by her fears of commitment and being vulnerable, Lim decides to make their relationship public and goes with Melendez to see Andrews.

In "Trampoline," Lim and Melendez make their relationship public by kissing in the middle of the ER. After Shaun collapses from his injuries after being attacked at a bar, Lim, Melendez and Claire in trying to figure out what Shaun had been trying to say about the condition of the man who beat him up. After Lim rejects Claire's suggestion of waking Shaun up as it could put his life in danger, Melendez points out that they should be able to figure it out themselves without Shaun's help. At the end of the day, Andrews fires Han and rehires Shaun, leaving the position of Chief of Surgery open. Melendez points out that he or Lim could be offered the position, but it would put their relationship in jeopardy due to one of them ending up in a position of power over the other. After Lim admits that she wouldn't turn down the job, Melendez reveals that he already has in favor of her. Lim receives a call from Ms. Aoki offering her the position of Chief of Surgery as Melendez predicts, but it leaves the future of their relationship uncertain.

Season 3

In "Disaster," Lim's new job as Chief of Surgery causes her and Melendez to go to HR to officially break up. However, the HR director recognizes that they are merely pretending to break up and in reality intend to continue dating in secret as they did before. The HR director officially accepts their explanation, but unofficially tells them that she knows they are not going to break up and she can't stop them and doesn't even want to. However, she warns Lim and Melendez that it will be harder than they think. Throughout the episode, Melendez listens along with Shaun's friends as he describes his first date with Carly Lever which Shaun calls a disaster. Melendez is surprised when it turns out to be eventful, but not a disaster. Melendez is sympathetic along with the rest of Shaun's friends after he explains that the unpredictability Shaun experienced overwhelmed him and made Shaun doubt whether it was all worth it.

At the same time, Melendez and his team take on the case of newlywed bride who is discovered to have extensive cancer. Melendez assigns Shaun to inform her of the news and when he hesitates, drags him into the patient's room to tell her. Shaun proposes a radical surgery to save the bride who will almost certainly die otherwise and Shaun and Melendez lay out the risks to the couple. After Shaun's bluntness makes the couple confront their fears, they agree to the surgery which Melendez and his team perform. Though they successfully remove all of the cancer, complications mean that the bride will require an ileostomy bag for the rest of her life which her husband promises to support her with.

In "Debts," Braden Cantrell, an infant Melendez previously operated on, is brought back to the hospital by his worried parents when Braden begins displaying the same symptoms again. The parents accuse Melendez, who understands that they are just frightened and concerned for their child, of having made a mistake in the surgery, causing the issues. This leads to a clash between Lim and Melendez when Lim suspects Melendez did make an error and takes over the case herself at the insistence of the parents. However, Lim, Park and Morgan discover that Braden has a second unrelated condition that is causing the same symptoms as the first which they wouldn't have even known about without the first surgery, exonerating Melendez. With Melendez having been proven not to have made any mistake at all, Lim has him take lead on the second surgery to fix the new problem. Though Braden goes into distress and they are forced to remove part of his bowel, the surgery is a success and Lim and Melendez give the parents the good news together. Braden's relieved father shakes Melendez's hand as the mother embraces Lim.

In "Claire," Melendez supervises the treatment of a teenager named Michelle whose gallbladder removal could potentially become Claire's first surgery as lead doctor. Melendez initially expresses doubts about Claire's ability to perform the complicated surgery with Claire deferring to him as her boss, but Shaun proposes a solution that fixes the potential problems and Melendez agrees. Michelle's mother is later angered when Claire convinces Michelle to see a therapist about her self-harming, forcing Lim to remove Claire from the case and assign the surgery to Melendez instead. Michelle later insists upon having Claire perform the surgery anyway, but Claire calms her down and assures Michelle that Melendez is perfectly capable of doing it. To Claire and Lim's surprise, Melendez reveals shortly thereafter that he talked the mother into allowing Claire to do it after all by reminding the mother of Claire's commitment to her daughter. When Claire thanks Melendez for fighting for her, he simply relies that that is what bosses do.

During the operation on Michelle, Melendez supervises, but otherwise stands back and lets Claire and Shaun handle the procedure. When Claire becomes nervous due to more scarring than shown on the imaging, Melendez helps her work through it by getting her to voice her plan out loud. After the gallbladder is removed, Michelle begins hemorrhaging and Melendez puts his hand inside of her abdomen to temporarily stop the blood loss. Claire realizes she likely nicked an artery with her scissors which Melendez admits happens sometimes and has even happened to him. Melendez agrees with Claire's proposed solution and keeps pressure on the bleeding long enough for Claire to clamp the artery and begin repairs, allowing Claire to successfully complete the surgery.

In "Hurt," Melendez is injured in an earthquake, though he brushes it off to work with Claire on saving a patient. After an aftershock, Melendez suddenly vomits and collapses.

In "I Love You," a protesting Melendez is transported to the hospital by Claire where he is determined not to have a head injury, but does have internal bleeding. Melendez chooses to go with Claire's suggestion of a surgery which proves to be correct as the bleeding is from his superior mesenteric artery and not his pancreas as Melendez and Lim believed. However, during the surgery Lim and Claire discover damage to Melendez's bowel that, if he fails to improve, could lead to septic shock and death. Despite Lim and Claire's efforts to treat Melendez, his condition deteriorates to the point that he accepts his impending death and Glassman tells Lim that any possible solution, if successful, would leave Melendez in a debilitated state for the rest of his life. Melendez and Lim make peace over their former relationship and Glassman expresses his admiration for Melendez and his skill. Claire and Melendez admit their love for each other and Claire spends the night at his side. Melendez dies the next morning and Lim and Claire comfort each other over their loss.

Season 4

In "Frontline Part One," Claire and Lim continue to mourn the loss of Melendez together a few weeks after his death.

Weeks later, while being overwhelmed looking at the personal belongings of the hospital's COVID patients, Claire suddenly hears a voice telling her that "things will be okay." Turning around, Claire sees Melendez standing behind her.

In "Frontline Part Two," Claire is shown hallucinating Melendez talking to her over the course of several weeks as she attempts to find the owner of a set of dog tags left behind by a deceased patient. Melendez commends Claire because, unlike when her mother died, she is actually grieving his loss instead of burying herself in work and other pursuits. Despite Melendez's pessimism about her search, Claire eventually succeeds in finding the owner of the dog tags and returns them to the man.

After Claire returns to her car, she sees Melendez sitting in the passenger seat who calls what she did beautiful and that the room of belongings is filled with stories that were cut short like theirs. "But you -- you have an amazing story ahead. I can't wait to see it," says Melendez. Tearing up, Claire looks away for a moment and when she looks back, Melendez has vanished. Claire later tells Lim that while she's not ready to move on, she thinks maybe its time for them to stop meeting at the park to mourn Melendez's death. Melendez will still be with them wherever they are and Claire feels that Melendez changed her which is something that is never going to go away.

Trivia

  • He worked with foster kids.
  • Tom F. Kennedy was his best friend and had been since 2007.
  • Once he became an attending cardiothoracic surgeon, Hunter Denoble was his first patient, whom he had to inform that he wouldn't be able to walk again.[2]
  • He and Audrey Lim were in the same year of their residency programs. He called her one of the best trauma surgeons in the country.[3]
  • In the pilot, it's suggested that Melendez was once more rebellious when he first started working at the hospital. Melendez brushes it off as being young and stupid.
  • He wanted to be an astronaut when he was a child, it had been inspired by Star Trek.

Appearances

Gallery

Promotional Photos

Season 1

Episode Stills

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Intangibles": Season 1. Episode 9. Karen Struck (writer) & Bronwen Hughes (director). [November 27, 2017].
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Pain": Season 1. Episode 16. William L. Rotko/David Renaud (writer) & Allison Liddi (director). [March 12, 2018].
  3. "Two-Ply (or Not Two-Ply)"
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