There’s something to be said for a drama that ends just the way you expected but manages to be satisfying just the same. Which doesn’t mean it was flawless (and I’ll discuss that later) but for the most part, I ended this series with a satisfied sigh. Despite having a second season planned for later this year, we get a nice wrap-up for the characters and a general sense of well-being for their future.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sweet Sorrow – “예뻐요” (You’re beautiful) [ Download ]
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
After Jae Bin convinces Sun Hee to come outside, reporters swarm around and photograph the emotional moment between the couple. They barrage them with questions about Sun Hee’s identity (Who is she? Is she really a divorcee with a child?) but they ignore everyone else, focusing on each other.
In the car, mother and daughter express concern for each other, effectively mending their rift. Now that Jimin’s no longer angry at her mother, she’s curious about her relationship to Jae Bin, and is surprised when Sun Hee admits they were former classmates. Never one to leave a good thing alone, Jae Bin interjects (to Sun Hee’s dismay) that not only were they classmates, they were first loves. He goes on to describe their dramatic rooftop moment, which appeals to Jimin’s youthful love of romance.
Naturally, the story hits all the papers and causes a stir. Dong Hwa’s handling of the issue is to remain quiet until it dies down on its own.
Jae Bin gives up his room that night to Sun Hee and Jimin, the latter expressing ruefully that not long ago, she would have been thrilled to spend the night in Jae Bin’s room. Jae Bin wonders at her use of the past tense, and Jimin explains that now that she knows he’s her mother’s age, he seems different. She asks her mother what to call Jae Bin, and Sun Hee suggests “ajusshi,” to which Jae Bin balks — he’d rather Jimin continue calling him “oppa,” but Jimin scoffs that it’s ridiculous to call someone of his age oppa.
I love this conversation between Jimin and Jae Bin, which is both cute and funny — Jimin tries to fish around and gauge Jae Bin’s feelings towards her mother, thinking she’s being sly, but her intentions are obvious. She asks if there’s any particular person in his life who makes him smile for no reason, whom he misses when they’re gone. Jae Bin answers yes — there are four. Wide-eyed, Jimin assumes he means women.
Jae Bin identifies them: “Hoon, my brother, you, and your mother. That’s four. We’re family.” He goes on to explain that he likes her mother, and that he hopes Jimin will approve so that he can like her even more. He also promises to stick around and always be with them.
Wanting more of Sun Hee’s attention, Jae Bin invents an errand to call Sun Hee down to the basement room that night. When she arrives, he presents her with a box containing a gift: bank account records, insurance papers. She asks why he’s giving them to her, and Jae Bin answers, “When we’re married, you’ll handle those matters anyway. Apparently wives manage these things.”
Sun Hee starts to protest, but Jae Bin tells her, “I don’t want a lot from you — just your heart. Is that asking too much?” He then affects a tone of mock seriousness — he bares a shoulder and mimics her line from Episode 3 (when she’d offered one night in exchange for his help). Ever the jokester, he repeats her “Buy me” line, poking fun at her embarrassment.
Sun Hee doth protest too much, so Jae Bin confronts her with incontrovertible evidence of her feelings for him: her message on the wall, which reads, “19-year-old Sun Hee was Jang Dong Chul’s first love. 39-year-old Sun Hee wants to be Song Jae Bin’s first love.”
Sitting down to talk about their future, Jae Bin confides that he’d like to continue acting, although he knows he probably can’t go back to it right away. Sun Hee considers her skills, and muses that she’s pretty good at cooking and laundry. She explains (perhaps connecting with ajummas the world over) that doing those chores day in and day out might seem tedious, “But when Jimin comes to me because she’s hungry, or because she needs socks, I feel needed, and it makes me feel great.”
Jae Bin agrees that she’s a great housekeeper (whose etymology derives from the word “helper”) and asks her to be his helpmate for the rest of her life (“Your pay will be whatever I make”). He slings her arm around his neck, then presents her with a ring.
Jae Bin and Sun Hee are called in to the hot seat in Dong Hwa’s office under the guise of discussing Jae Bin’s career. Dong Hwa explains the difficult position he’s in — there are people demanding money in compensation for damages following Jae Bin’s scandal. Dong Hwa concludes that with things in this state, they should tie up loose ends and get married, giving them his roundabout approval.
Sun Hee is flustered by the suggestion — she sincerely didn’t intend to remarry — but you can tell the idea starts to grow on her.
Na Yoon calls Sun Hee for one last talk, having come to terms with the situation. She gives Sun Hee some advice about her demeanor — the last time they’d met, Sun Hee was strong and forthright, but today she’s meek, as though apologetic for the way things have turned out. Na Yoon advises her not to weaken — life will become harder for her, with her actions viewed through a lens of jealousy and criticism: “You’re in a position that will invite insults more than praise.”
Sun Hee asks what Na Yoon means to do about Hoon. With tears in her eyes, Na Yoon asks Sun Hee to take care of him, just until Na Yoon is able to be like Jae Bin and be willing to give up her stardom to be a parent.
Byun Jung Soo isn’t a good cryer (she falls into the category of actresses who try really hard to cry, but come off looking like they’re trying really hard to cry), but she does her best to act like the mother who knows she’s selfish but still loves her child, which I think is a relatable enough character. So it’s with surprise that she arrives at the airport to leave for the States and finds Dong Hwa waiting for her at the terminal with Hoon.
Dong Hwa gives Na Yoon a moment with Hoon and steps aside. For once, Na Yoon’s unsure how to act, but Hoon breaks the ice first. He takes the initiative and hugs Na Yoon goodbye, which causes her to break down into tears and tell him, “I’m sorry.”
Next it’s Jimin’s turn to meet with her father, who wastes no time blaming her mother for putting Jimin through hardship. Jimin asks him point-blank, “Dad, what if I live with you?” — which makes Yoo Shik immediately nervous, because he wants to be thought of as a good dad without actually having to be one. Jimin wants to know how he really feels, and says she’ll consider living with him if he wants.
Yoo Shik tries to come up with alternatives — he can send her abroad, or whatever else she wants other than living together: “If it bothers you that much, stop your mother from seeing that Dong Chul guy. She listens to what you say. Honestly, what is she thinking, dating at her age? Tell her you’re embarrassed, that you don’t like it.”
But Jimin defends her mother: “What did she do wrong? Why would I say that? Mom’s a person too, and a woman. Why can’t she like somebody?” Understanding her father for who he is, Jimin tells him levelly, “I’m never going to marry a man like you.”
Dong Hwa visits Sun Hee to thank her for everything, crediting her for helping everyone find their rightful places in the family. He also lets her know that he’s moving out of the house — she’ll move in after the wedding, and he wants to try living on his own.
And then it’s wedding day. (Small beef: I didn’t love how this sequence was filmed with soft focus and bright lights, because it gives the wedding a dreamy, unreal quality. I suppose that’s the point, but for most of the scene I was wondering if it was a dream, or a fantasy, or a metaphor. Lol. But the song — an a cappella version of the series theme — was a nice touch.)
In any case, as the poster indicates, fans have come to embrace Jae Bin as Dong Chul, and the response to the marriage is overwhelmingly positive.
As the kids precede them down the aisle, Dong Hwa walks with Sun Hee and thanks her for taking responsibility for Jae Bin. He congratulates her, and gives her away to Jae Bin. Fans cheer, flashbulbs go off, and everyone practically swoons at the wedding of the year. Or decade, perhaps.
Sun Hee’s voiceover: “Dong Chul, the reason I fell for you was because of your childlike honesty. If you missed me, you’d say so. If I called, you’d come running. At 39, I put up with so much merely because I felt the weight of my age, but through you, I could return to 19, and love. Because of your love for me, I’ve found my confidence. Like you said, I like 39-year-old Sun Hee better than 19-year-old Sun Hee too. Thank you for enabling me to live my own life.”
Jung Sook watches the event on television, practically melting at the romance of the occasion. She wistfully tells (an irritated) Yoo Shik, “That’s the kind of romance I’ve been dreaming of.”
It’s a little pat as a resolution, but I suppose there’s satisfaction in showing Yoo Shik’s wine bar continuing to post losses, as well as the irony that in attempting to re-create Jung Sook’s perfect romance, Yoo Shik has enabled his ex-wife’s. Plus, there’s also the fact that Yoo Shik is now stuck with the consequences of his bad choices — he doesn’t love Jung Sook but he’s locked into his role, perpetually jumping to do her bidding and living in fear of her ire. But I don’t reserve much sympathy for gilded cages, so just deserts indeed.
The couple have their blissful wedding night, but the comedy comes in the morning when Hoon accidentally walks in. The scene is totally PG and everyone is clothed, but it’s his reaction that makes the scene — his eyes widen in shock, and he immediately turns and leaves without missing a beat.
At breakfast, Jae Bin takes issue with the way Hoon still calls Sun Hee “ajumma” and Jimin calls him “Jae Bin oppa.” I suppose it IS a pretty funny-sounding combination, and Jae Bin (ever impatient to change things overnight) is ready to jump headfirst into typical family life. Sun Hee reasons that they need time to get adjusted to their new roles.
Later that day, Jae Bin appears at his first press conference as Jang Dong Chul, and addresses the press while Sun Hee slips in quietly. She hadn’t wanted to come to the event because she wanted to avoid the attention, a decision which upset Jae Bin. So he’s happy to spot Sun Hee in the back of the room and (of course) perversely points her out to the press. He introduces her as his wife, drawing her into the spotlight.
Since we need to give Dong Hwa his potential happy ending, we bring in Choi Jung Yoon (Bad Couple, That Woman Is Scary) for a cameo. He reads alone at an outdoor café and notices a woman sitting nearby staring at him, who smiles politely when she notices him noticing her.
She then answers a phone call from her mother, and it’s obviously one of those “Mom, stop nagging me” phone calls. Dong Hwa is amused to see her fake an excuse to hang up, and resumes his reading.
It’s with surprise that Dong Hwa meets with a writer, Kim Min Hee, to discuss business, and recognizes her as the woman from the café. He’d been forewarned that she’d be difficult — she’s resistant to licensing her novels because she’s seen too many books ruined in their drama and film adaptations, and has rejected several of the agency’s attempts to win her over.
Min Hee boldly asks if he liked her novel. He answers (prettily, I might add) that her story was fresh, her plot engaging, and the content well-suited for adaptation — isn’t it a waste to limit the enjoyment of the story to the book when they could bring it to the screen? Thinking she’s caught him in a lie, Min Hee counters that if it was so entertaining, how is it he yawned three times while reading it? (She’d spotted him reading her book at their first encounter and took offense.) Dong Hwa answers that he hadn’t been reading her book for work, but had chosen it as leisure reading while taking a break. Min Hee apologizes for overreacting and agrees to work together.
That weekend, Jae Bin insists on a family outing (already, they’ve assumed a family dynamic — the kids grumble that they’re busy and Jae Bin acts as insistent father dragging his family along for mandatory bonding time). They have a picnic in the park, and Jae Bin tosses around a football with the kids while Sun Hee watches. She finds another cute note tucked in the lunch box, and looks up at Jae Bin, who mouths to her, “I… love…you!”
Jae Bin recruits the kids to drag Sun Hee out to join them, and the four family members play, happily ignoring the curious onlookers on the sidelines. Jae Bin wonders to himself, in a reversal of the question he’d asked Sun Hee previously: “Hong Sun Hee, if I hadn’t met you, what would’ve become of me?”
If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I have to admit I was disappointed that the two weakest episodes (in my opinion) were the last two. I think the series knew where it was headed all the way through so it’s not the content that bothered me, but the tone. Series that are well-received and popular through their broadcast runs tend to elicit heightened expectations for good endings, so I think producers try their best to meet those expectations. That does, however, increase the likelihood of going too far, and I think they overdid the dramatic moments at times.
Another of my small complaints: I understand that Sun Hee’s character is a bit of an old-fashioned type. She’s a regular ajumma, and in this regard I have to say she’s a very realistic character because I recognize her in dozens of ajummas I know. But sometimes I wish she had more spine. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because if she reacted the way I wanted her to, that would contradict the point of the drama, which is the story of an ordinary ajumma’s second chance at love. I actually didn’t have much of a problem with the way she tried to preserve her marriage — if she hadn’t tried so hard, she wouldn’t be the meek, self-sacrificing wife who then comes into her own. (If she’d already been completely self-possessed at the outset, her character wouldn’t undergo much development — and that reclamation of her sense of Self is a big point of the series.) For instance, I suppose if she were super-sharp and strong and confident, she’d be more like Na Yoon — and then Sun Hee would cease to be the everywoman that so many identify with.
But still, despite that I wanted her to be more expressive of her feelings, especially since Jae Bin has been so forthcoming with his own. Plus, a married woman with a kid being so bashful in The Morning After just seems so odd. I think part of that may stem from the show being a family-friendly program, but I would’ve liked to see Sun Hee being more outwardly affectionate and less embarrassed with PDA.
That said, The Last Scandal of My Life was a ton of fun, and a refreshing surprise for me. I’m approaching the second season with a little hesitation, but if it’s anything like the original season, it’ll be a cheery, fun watch. Till October (or November, or December)!
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 15
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 14
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 13
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 12
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 11
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 10
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 9
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 8
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episode 7
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episodes 5 & 6
- The Last Scandal of My Life: Episodes 1-4