Dal Ja’s Spring: Episode 22 (FINAL)
Episode 22: “Spring Comes Again, Flowers Bloom Again!”
If I had to sum up Dal Ja’s Spring’s last episode in one word, it would be “lovely.” So many sweet, funny, lovely moments! It made me laugh and cry, but did so without exaggerating any overly wrought drama, which I appreciated.
As we see a montage of all the scenes that have brought us thus far with Dal Ja and Tae Bong, Tae Bong narrates:
“That’s how we met… At first, I thought she was just an old maid clinging stubbornly to her pride. But… being together became more and more fun. And she’d get mad easily, too. She might come flying at you with her fists, but in actuality, she was more warmhearted than anyone. And as time passed, I kept wanting to see her… to be with her… “
And we see that it’s two years later, 2009, and Tae Bong is telling his mat-seon date about Dal Ja. (If you’ve seen a lot of kdramas, you’ll already know this, but a mat-seon is a formal blind date, usually arranged by parents, introducing two people with the hopes that they will marry.)
The date wonders, did Tae Bong just let her go? Didn’t he ask her not to leave?
And we’re back where we left off at the end of episode 21:
Tae Bong: “I love you. Don’t you understand?”
Dal Ja: “Thank you for saying that. So once in my life, I was loved. I’m so glad that it was with you… I won’t tell you to wait. And I won’t say that I’ll return to you either.”
Tae Bong: “Dal Ja.”
Dal Ja: “Let’s not make any promises, or any guarantees. And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that our feelings right now won’t change in two years. If I tied you down with those promises, it would be my selfish greed… That one phrase you just told me is plenty for me. Those were the greatest words of my life… I love you, Tae Bong.”
Back in the present (2009), Tae Bong tells his date that he only came to the mat-seon because his mother pressured him, but he felt it was only polite to tell her why he’s not interested in meeting anyone. She asks him if he’s had any contact with Dal Ja, and he says he only received one postcard in two years. The woman wonders if he’s been waiting all this time for Dal Ja, and Tae Bong says, “I want to try believing in what she believes in.”
As we wonder what he means by that, we see the postcard Dal Ja sent him. You can’t read it well here, but it says: “If it’s fate… maybe?”
Meanwhile, we catch up with everyone else:
Seon Joo arrives, as glamorous as ever, for her first day back at work with her and Sae Do’s baby, Dong Hee. She’s fiercely overprotective but dotes on the baby… and snaps at the office workers when they say what a cute boy he is. Because Dong Hee’s a girl. Ha!
Tae Bong’s father and grandfather have a great relationship…
Tae Bong’s mother frequently goes to play Go-Stop with Dal Ja’s mom and grandmother…
And Dal Ja’s mother and grandmother have a lovely conversation when Grandma tries to set up Mom on a blind date herself. Mom’s not that interested, but understands that Grandma wants someone to look after her, instead of being stuck taking care of her old mother-in-law forever.
Gran: “Aren’t you tired, taking care of such an old woman?”
Mom: “Aren’t you tired, looking after such a unsociable person like me?”
Gran: “Why would I be tired? With a daughter-in-law like you.”
Mom: “Same with me. Why do you say that to me when I’ve got a mother-in-law like you? Enough with that. If you continue, I’ll really be disappointed.”
Gran: “It’s because I feel shameless.” (i.e., sense of honor has gone)
Mom: “Rather than any man, you’re much more reliable and comfortable to me. To me, mother, you mean more than a husband, a friend, or a lover. Don’t you know?”
And with that, Dal Ja returns.
Tae Bong is out on the Seoul streets when he sees Dal Ja off in the distance. He goes through the busy traffic trying to catch up to her, but keeps missing her. Finally, he has to give up, dejected, and goes into work. (I’ll have more theme-related stuff to say on this later.)
At work, Tae Bong is what appears to be an assistant chef at a fancy restaurant. The workers gossip about the “Wednesday Man” who’s on yet another mat-seon date. He comes in every Wednesday with a different woman (therefore he’s always unsuccessful — the guys think he’s completely sleazy), and the chef jokes that he’s thinking of providing the guy’s 50th meal for free.
Tae Bong looks out into the restaurant and sees the man’s date… she with the curly hair and dark nail polish… But rather than rush out, he just smiles as he watches from a distance.
Meanwhile, Dal Ja’s barely paying attention to her date in favor of her food. She asks the guy if he knows her age, and he assures her he does — she’s 33. Dal Ja corrects him; that was her age two years ago. The guy breaks out into a sweat realizing she’s actually 35, and retreats to the bathroom, where he complains to his mother that she got the age wrong. She’s a whole year older than him! How can this be??
Tae Bong overhears the conversation, and when the guy comes out to wash his hands (thank god; it’s a pet peeve when they skip that part in dramas. Or in real life, for that matter), Tae Bong poses a rhetorical question:
Tae Bong: “There are two women. One’s 28 but looks 35. The other is 35, but looks 28. Which would you choose?”
Sleaze, with furrowed brow: “Hmm…. That’s a difficult question.”
Tae Bong: “So I see, that’s a difficult question to you?”
Sleaze: “What’s the answer?”
Tae Bong: “Whichever woman you choose, age is unimportant. What’s important are your feelings. That’s the answer.”
Dal Ja, sitting alone while her date’s off in a tizzy over her age, receives a free cake from the server. The server tells her that the cook said Dal Ja looks like someone who’d enjoy cake. Accompanying the cake is a card.
Dal Ja tears up reading the note, and looks around, but no Tae Bong in sight. When her date comes back to the table, Dal ja’s gone. He grumbles to the server that it’s shallow of her, just coming for a free meal. The (female) server tells him, with an edge to her voice (hee), that the lady already took care of the bill. (So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, sexist pig. You know she was thinking that.)
Dal Ja is welcomed back to Handa Home Shopping. It’s all very lovely, to see her greeted with such open arms by everyone, who’s glad to have her back. Everyone’s also been promoted a level, so now Dal Ja’s the section head, and her former title is now held by one of her juniors.
They’re working with Eom Ki Joong on a new brand launch. She reunites with Soon Ae, too, who’s now pregnant with her third baby. She’s also looking really lovely herself.
Dal Ja talks with her mother, who asks carefully if she isn’t going to contact Tae Bong now that she’s back. Dal Ja says that if they’re meant to end up together, they’ll find each other eventually. Everyone has their time.
Dal Ja: “If Tae Bong and I are meant to meet, then someday, without even trying, we’ll meet. I believe that, mom.”
Mom: “Aren’t you worried about your age?”
Dal Ja: “Am I aging alone? If I age a year, so will he.”
And I think this ties back thematically into Tae Bong frantically trying to find Dal Ja on the Seoul streets. He worked himself up, anxious at the thought of not finding her, and wound up completely dejected… And then he walked into work and there she was. Simple and easy. I like to think that’s why Tae Bong didn’t run right to her immediately, too, because he said he wanted to try believing what Dal Ja believed. That if they are meant to meet again, it’ll happen, and when it does it’ll be simple and natural. (I don’t know how much I believe that in real life, but for drama purposes, it’s a lovely sentiment.)
Meanwhile, Tae Bong’s working hard — he found new space for lease, and is busy getting it in order to set up his own restaurant.
While he’s working, his chef friend brings by a card for him. Dal Ja had dropped by and asked for the cook who’d given her the cake, only to hear he’d quit two weeks ago. The card Dal Ja sends is an invitation to the launch of Handa’s new line. It says, “I invite you to spring!” (Meaning the spring collection, but it also carries, of course, the double meaning with the concept of life’s “spring.”)
The senior asks who the woman is, and Tae Bong answers, “She’s my fate.” The guy can’t believe Tae Bong believes in stuff like fate, and Tae Bong hardly can believe it himself.
As for Sae Do and Seon Joo, for the most part, they’re happy together, but Sae Do still wants to marry her. Seon Joo remains resolute in her intention not to marry. She doesn’t see much difference in how they’re living now, but marriage means something special to Sae Do, and he wants to share in it with her because he loves her. Seon Joo overhears him talking about it to Dal Ja, and perhaps realizes for the first time just how much it means to him.
So, after their big spring launch event, Seon Joo goes to Sae Do and, in her customary forward style, tells him: “I hate grand, showy things. Let’s just call both sets of parents and a few of our closest friends. I won’t wear a wedding dress either, I’ll wear what I want. That’s okay, right?” Sae Do’s speechless, so she continues: “Yes, I’m proposing. Let’s get married.”
Sae Do’s in disbelief, so Seon Joo tells him, “I love you.”
Sae Do: “What?”
Seon Joo: “I love you.”
Sae Do: “Can you say it… just one more time?”
Seon Joo: “I love you. I love you. I love you… I love you.”
And under those same fireworks, Dal Ja thinks to herself, “At one time, I thought that when my twenties ended, my youth [the springtime of my life] would be over. But even at 35, my youth hasn’t ended yet, and spring has come back and found me. And also… He once again drew near to me.”
He takes her to his shop, and treats her to his very first lunchbox. He waits nervously as she tries it, and she deliberately takes her time tasting. Finally, she tells him it’s good, and Tae Bong, relieved and happy, kisses her on the forehead.
Dal Ja looks at him in surprise, then after a moment, grabs his shirtfront and pulls him in for a kiss.
“There was nothing like an end, or conclusion. And so, there was no ‘happily ever after’ either. There was only, ‘Every day, we start today together again’….”
And Tae Bong’s revised postcard says: “If it’s fate… It must be!!”
And we get a final rundown of many of our recurring characters, like Eom Ki Joong’s ex-wife, who has her own pie business…
Tae Bong’s pretty-man friend, still working his clothing shop…
Announcer chick, whose name I’ve already forgotten, who appears to be auditioning for a film…
Hee Yeon, who starts a new job (perhaps her first ever)….
Even Soo Jin, who gets asked out by a co-worker who isn’t deterred by her lack of interest… which of course sparks her interest… (haha)….
And Dal Ja’s co-workers goof off with a song (and dance!) about the return of Dal Ja’s spring……
And there we have it! Dal Ja’s Spring.
This was such a great show… It was funny, heartwarming, meaningful, subtle… and without being heavy-handed or overly dramatic. It was realistic but still fulfilled our romantic fantasies, and gave us a satisfying, lovely send-off — even if there is no “Happily Ever After”!