Boys Before Flowers: Episode 23
I watched Episode 23 with the critical dial turned down and enjoyed much of it — it was cute at points, and touching at others.
Then I turned my brain back on to address the commentary section and found a lot of bothersome points to take issue with. This makes for a somewhat lengthy commentary section today, but I’d like to preface it all by saying that despite the critique, I really did enjoy this episode. I’m watching with fondness, not bitterness, really!
SONG OF THE DAY
Instant Romantic Floor – “Lie” [ Download ]
EPISODE 23 RECAP
Jun-pyo and Jan-di’s zoo date marks their first chance in a long while for quality time, so Jun-pyo asks how she’s been holding up. He tells Jan-di, “I’ll take care of you,” explaining that Witch Mom isn’t the type to let the broken engagement and aborted merger slide — he’s preparing himself for her next assault.
However, Jan-di tells him she doesn’t want to be protected. Jun-pyo balks, because in his mind it’s natural to want to protect her, but Jan-di says, “I don’t like being supported by someone, or protected and taken care of. I’ve received many things from you, F4, and Jae-kyung. I want us to be equals, so I’ll face what I must.”
(And then the boy, Chan, whispers to Jun-pyo for a little bathroom assistance. He is so cute. Jun-pyo rushes him off, and the three enjoy their day at the zoo.)
I really like this walk home, which is characterized by calm contentment. Jun-pyo reflects, “It’s strange, it feels like I’m in a scene in a hazy dream right now.”
The words are spoken casually and Jun-pyo doesn’t mean anything by it, but they sure do make me uneasy. Their walk is cut short by a phone call from Mr. Jung telling Jun-pyo he ought to return home. Jun-pyo isn’t eager to go but he knows he should; he hands over the sleeping boy and reluctantly leaves.
Yi-jung’s studio. He examines the puzzle piece given to him by Eun-jae, and remembers when she’d first given him the present. When he’d asked what the characters meant, she had answered that it indicated “a once in a lifetime fate.” I suppose the point is that if it’s once in a lifetime and he had let her go, like the wind that never returns to the same spot twice, the relationship truly is over.
Ga-eul bursts in, nearly wilting with exhaustion but pleased to announce, “I found it.”
Ga-eul brings Yi-jung to the rooftop of a tall building and points in the distance, just as the rising sun illuminates the city skyline.
The billboards are advertisements for two different products, and when the sun hits, the light breaks and washes out the extraneous parts, leaving only “I love you” and “Yi-jung.”
Ga-eul explains how she came to discover this — three years ago, Eun-jae had asked Yi-jung to meet her at sunrise the next morning. That day’s recorded sunrise had occurred at 7am, so Ga-eul had been tracking down various locations until she found the right one, which displays this message only for a few seconds each day.
I’m sure Yi-jung has guessed the gist of Eun-jae’s message, but seeing it like this hits him hard. He breaks down, overwhelmed with regret, and sobs out wretchedly that he wants a do-over.
Ga-eul lets him cry, but his pained reaction affects her too, as she watches with pity (and probably some hurt feelings at this evidence of how deeply he cared for Eun-jae).
Ji-hoo and his grandfather fish together (while Jan-di prepares the fish stew that Grandpa Yoon likes). Dr. Yoon brings up the death of Ji-hoo’s parents, explaining that he was afraid of losing Ji-hoo as well, which is why he pushed him away. However, he’d thought of it as suffering alone — punishment for his lifelong pride — as though he hadn’t realized that Ji-hoo would misinterpret and shoulder the blame.
With things cleared up now, Grandpa Yoon is at peace, and feels he can die content. He asks Ji-hoo to take over his arts foundation and clinic when he dies.
That’s an idea that Ji-hoo isn’t ready to think about yet, and he doesn’t get much of a chance to protest because Jan-di announces that lunch is ready.
At the pottery studio, Ga-eul arrives with some apprehension, having been called there by Yi-jung. He’s in a much better mood than their last emotion-charged encounter, stomping on a mound of clay, barefoot.
Yi-jung has bad news and good news, then guesses she’s the type to want to hear bad news first, and indicates his right hand. He isn’t sure how it will hold up, and he won’t be as good as he was before. However — and this is the good news — he isn’t going to run away again: “Thanks to a certain someone, I’ve realized how much you can regret something after you’ve given up on it.”
Ga-eul smiles in relief, and he invites her to join him in working with the clay. As they stomp on clay together, she wonders how he knew she’d prefer the bad news first. He replies: “Good girls all want happy endings.”
She stumbles, and he catches her. There’s a brief moment between them, so Yi-jung reminds her, “I may be cool, but I’m not a good guy.” Ga-eul returns that he should get over his misconception that good girls always want good guys.
At that, Yi-jung leans in for a kiss, and Ga-eul closes her eyes… which is when her phone rings.
We don’t hear what the problem is (yet), but it’s bad news from her mother. And unfortunately, this time her bad news isn’t followed by good news or an almost-kiss.
Dr. Yoon’s heart condition is triggered when he receives an upsetting phone call, which sends Jan-di fumbling for his medication. However, Ji-hoo is frozen in shock, and Jan-di’s words all sound muffled to his ears — it’s like he can’t focus on anything, lost in his own fears.
Grandpa’s okay (or as okay as he can be). At the hospital, Jan-di tells Ji-hoo that his grandfather hadn’t wanted him to know, thinking all would be well if he was careful.
Mama Kang is once more on alert. Not only is she still upset about the broken merger, she has seen a TV news report that included footage of Shinhwa Zoo — which happened to include glimpses of the Jun-di date.
Madam Kang’s next plans are so harsh that even Mr. Jung speaks up, reluctant to carry out her orders to proceed. Having seen Jan-di’s attachment to Ji-hoo and Grandpa Yoon, she plans to take advantage of her Achilles heel. Namely, she will retaliate by lashing out at Jan-di’s loved ones, starting with Ji-hoo’s grandfather’s art foundation. She says, “We have to take this opportunity to yank out the roots. It’s fortunate that there’s something more important to that foolish girl than money.”
It works out nicely for her, then, when Jun-pyo comes in with a request. He owns up to the broken engagement and says he’s sorry. However, while their relationship with JK is shaky, it’s not destroyed — he promises to restore the alliance and asks Witch Mom to entrust him with the task. To show he’s serious, he will accept all her rules and restrictions, whether that that includes being followed around or being locked indoors. In exchange for one thing: “Just leave Jan-di alone.”
He’s told her this before, but he’s never really offered up serious collateral, which makes this time different. Mom asks, “You’re saying all I have to do is not do anything to Geum Jan-di?” At his yes, she agrees: “I’ll promise. I won’t lift a finger against her. But don’t forget what you’ve just said.”
Jun-pyo assures her, “Don’t worry,” and leaves with an almost puzzled expression — he was expecting more of a fight, so he’s unnerved by her easy acceptance.
Grandma Housekeeper echoes those sentiments, warning Jun-pyo not to let his guard down: “Don’t you know your mother yet? This isn’t the time to rest.” Granny also wonders how he means to manage Shinhwa when he can’t even watch over his girlfriend:
Granny: “I didn’t raise you to be so pathetic. Just being born male doesn’t make you automatically a man. One must take time — experiencing anger at losing, the injustice of stepping aside, shame at running away — until he can overcome his weak self to finally become a man.”
Jun-pyo finds encouragement in those words, and grabs her in a sudden hug, saying, “Thanks.”
As Jan-di packs Grandpa Yoon’s things to take to the hospital, she comes across a box, which she hands over to Ji-hoo once she realizes what’s inside.
The box contains items from Ji-hoo’s childhood, such as his school backpack and child’s shoes. It also includes a series of drawings of his family, from when he was very young to the present day. Because his parents are in the pictures, I’m guessing this is Dr. Yoon’s own creation (and not based on, say, photos or real life) of how Ji-hoo and his family would have aged over the years.
And then, Madam Kang strikes. First, Ga-eul’s father is forced into early retirement, without warning. Jan-di overhears Woo-bin discussing the matter with Yi-jung, both of whom guess that this is the work of Witch Mom. Rather than hitting at Jan-di directly, she’s exerted her influence with Ga-eul’s father’s company, a Shinhwa subsidiary.
Furthermore, signs indicate that Ji-hoo will be next; it looks like she intends to shut down the art foundation entirely.
This weighs heavily on Jan-di’s mind when she visits Grandpa Yoon, who by the way fires up his matchmaking again by urging the two kids to go out.
(Given his statements to Ji-hoo in the last episode, I’m inclined to believe that Grandpa was pointing out their character differences — that Ji-hoo is too cold for Jan-di’s bubbly personality — rather than trying to drive them apart. But I’m still not entirely sure what his intentions are — whether he really means to marry the kids off or whether he truly feels that Jan-di and Ji-hoo aren’t compatible.)
Ji-hoo spies a piano in the lobby and takes the seat, starting to play. He smiles at Jan-di several times, but she can’t quite return them because she’s preoccupied with the knowledge that his foundation is about to be ruined because of her.
As they walk along the river, Ji-hoo says that he hadn’t ever wanted to protect anything before meeting her. But now, there are more things in his life he wants to protect, such as his grandfather, the foundation… and her.
Just as he says that, his words are drowned out — the bridge lights up and fountains roar to life. It’s kind of hilarious how Ji-hoo, twice thwarted now from making a sincere confession, is so exasperated that he rolls his eyes.
Timing (and therefore fate?) is clearly not on Ji-hoo’s side.
Jan-di, meanwhile, is lost in her own thoughts: “Now that you have your grandfather by your side, I’m glad. You don’t know, do you, that you were always like sunshine to me. Goodbye, Geum Jan-di’s honorary firefighter.”
Why the goodbye? Jan-di’s made a decision in light of recent events. She tells her unconscious patient of her intentions:
Jan-di: “Sir, I don’t think I can keep coming by. I wanted to see you improve and read you more books, but I’m sorry. I can handle being hungry and cold, but there’s one thing I can’t handle — when people I love are hurt because of me. It’s not anything I can fix by working hard. It’s really unfair, isn’t it? I’m not running away, you know that, right? Even without me, you must get healthy.”
Just as Jan-di leaves, his hand moves.
She then visits Madam Kang, but we don’t see the scene play out yet, and instead resume as she’s leaving the meeting. Jan-di walks through Gu Manor, for once not tiptoeing around, instead chatting openly with the housemaids, who wish her well, as well as Granny Housekeeper.
She even calls loudly for Jun-pyo from the hallway, which makes him think at first that he’s hearing voices. Seeing her there, he panics and drags her inside, afraid that she’ll be noticed by Witch Mom, not understanding why she’s being so boisterous.
Jan-di suggests they go on a picnic and outing, as they’d once agreed to do.
(And now I can rest at ease, because Jun-pyo finally sees his Jun-pyo Face Rice!)
The following date is super-cute, although it’s almost so sweet that it makes you worry (or maybe that’s just me? — scenes like this that are so full of contentment always give me a sense of impending doom).
As they walk along the beach, Jun-pyo wonders if this is some kind of special day for her. He’s enjoying it so much that he wishes every day could be like today — after all, she came to him first to ask him out, and they haven’t fought once.
Going with the good feeling, he asks one more thing: “Why haven’t you said that you like me? I’ve told you several times.”
Jan-di: “Do I have to say so in words?”
Jun-pyo: “I want to hear from you what I mean to you.”
Jan-di: “I like you. So much that I couldn’t stop myself even though I tried, and got angry that I couldn’t forget you when I wanted to.”
This time she’s the one who draws him close, surprising him as she pulls him in for a kiss.
On the drive home, Jun-pyo can’t stop smiling, but Jan-di’s expression grows more and more somber. We find out why as she flashes back to her meeting with Madam Kang.
Jan-di had asked Mom to leave Ga-eul and Ji-hoo alone. Ever the cold businesswoman, Mom had asked what Jan-di would do in return, not expecting Jan-di to be able to offer anything worthwhile.
But Jan-di surprises her: “I’ll leave. I’ll leave Jun-pyo. I’ll change schools and homes and go somewhere he can’t find me. Will that do?”
Oh, that’ll do. Madam Kang accepts. Still, Jan-di feels the need to clarify:
Jan-di: “I haven’t lost to you, and I am not running away either. You’re the worst person I’ve ever met. I’m leaving because I don’t wish to connect the ones I love to you. I’m just sorry that I can’t save the one person I love the most from you.”
This explains the date: Today is really a farewell trip for Jan-di. Coming back to the present, she asks Jun-pyo to pull over, then she gets out with her luggage.
He laughs, wondering if she’s planning another surprise event, and doesn’t immediately grasp her meaning when she tells him, “I’m not going to see you again. Today was our last day together.”
He grows more serious but still doesn’t understand, and asks if something happened with his mother. Jan-di answers simply (and coldly), “I’ve decided to remove you from my life.” She tosses out a casual “Thanks for everything. Take care.”
Jun-pyo knows this has to do with his mother, even if she won’t admit it. She contradicts him:
Jan-di: “This time I realized that you and I are from different worlds. We met as though in a dream, but now it’s time for us to return to our own worlds.”
Jun-pyo: “You’re lying. Tell me, I’ll figure it out. I’ll protect you!”
A bus stops, and Jan-di heads to board it. Jun-pyo follows her and asks her not to go: “You said you liked me. Is this what your love is like? You say you like me and end things so easily?”
Leveling a firm gaze at him, Jan-di explains that her love must have had its limit, and she’s reached it: “It must have been exactly this much.”
He asks, “Taking away Shinhwa or my chaebol status, have you ever once just seen me as one man?” Without hesitation, Jan-di responds, “No. No matter how you try, you’re still Shinhwa Group’s Gu Jun-pyo. I’ve never forgotten that for one second.”
Her answer leaves him stunned. He doesn’t snap out of it until she boards the bus and it starts moving, which is when he starts to run after it, yelling for the bus to stop.
Inside, Jan-di cries, looking back as Jun-pyo grows smaller in the distance. She thinks, “After I fell for you, I’d always wished you were a normal man with no relation to Shinhwa. I’m sorry, Gu Jun-pyo, for not keeping my promise. I’m really sorry.”
So Jan-di arrives in the remote fishing town where her family has relocated, and finds her mother in the marketplace. After the initial giddy reunion, however, she’s dismayed to hear that the family situation is no better than it was before — faced with growing debts, Dad had to go away on a boat (to escape debt collectors, I assume?).
Jan-di wishes they’d told her, but they didn’t want to worry her. They didn’t want her to drop out of school to work, which is exactly what she would have done. She has to finish high school and go to university. Because of her mother’s reaction, Jan-di is unable to admit that she’s left Seoul for good, and merely says that she’s here for a family visit.
Meanwhile, Woo-bin and Yi-jung sigh at the way things have changed following Jan-di’s departure. They’ve looked everywhere, but she’s hidden herself well. They’re worried about Jun-pyo, who is apparently acting out worse than he was even in Macau.
Even worse, they fear more for Ji-hoo. He may be getting along with Grandpa, but Yi-jung points out that immersing himself in foundation and clinic work — for a guy who used to laze around napping all the time — is a drastic change.
I suppose the difference between Ji-hoo and Jun-pyo is that the former is internalizing his pain, exerting strict control over himself and his environment, while the latter is all about acting out and losing control. He sinks into self-destructive behavior.
For instance, when being driven home after a drunken night at a club, Jun-pyo sees a toy machine on the street, and recalls the double date when he failed to win Jan-di a toy prize from the claw machine. Now he staggers out, intent on winning the prize.
I was thinking there would be a beautiful sort of irony if he were to succeed now where he failed before — because now he doesn’t have the girl so it would be a pitifully empty victory — but no, Drunk Jun-pyo is not any better than Sober Jun-pyo.
In a rage, he lashes out at the machine, kicking and beating it until he attracts the attention of the police, who arrest him for (I’m guessing) causing a public disturbance. It’s in the holding area of the police station that Jun-hee finds Jun-pyo, staring emotionlessly in the cell, alone.
Before commenting on this episode, let me add a few thoughts on the previous one:
I was reading some of the dissenting opinions on the Jun-di relationship, seeing who sided with Jan-di and who sided with Jun-pyo. It’s probably not fair to charge those who think Jun-pyo acted more understandably with being clouded with Lee Min-ho affection, because (1) Well, yes, I think he’s quite a good actor, but (2) I figure at this point I’ve written enough on this drama, and in enough depth, to escape the tag of judging purely based on a hormonal reaction. (Honestly, y’alls, he’s cute but he ain’t my type.)
Here’s what it boils down to, for me: Both Jun-pyo and Jan-di have been shown, unfortunately, to be weak. This is problematic and has significantly hindered my regard for the second half of the series. I wish both had more backbone and were more forthright about their true feelings. Of course, if they did that and had a functional relationship, we wouldn’t have much of a drama to tune into every week.
Both parties have reneged on promises; both have been guilty of giving the other person mixed messages. Jun-pyo called Jan-di a stain, which is pretty harsh stuff, and obviously Jan-di has a right to be hurt. On the other hand, Jan-di has given Jun-pyo no indication that she wants to be with him following Jae-kyung’s arrival on the scene. She may not feel she’s in the position to do anything about it, but she did actively step back and even aided Jae-kyung in getting together with Jun-pyo — that certainly sends the message that she no longer cares for Jun-pyo. She also said that her promise from Episode 10 is no longer valid.
With that being the case, Jun-pyo has no reason to believe he has a future with Jan-di, and he walks down the aisle believing that his One True Love is over. In real life, we know that we get second chances and that a person can fall in love more than once, but in dramaland and in Jun-pyo’s heart, as he explained to Jae-kyung, he knows that it’s Jan-di or nobody. Therefore the question isn’t “Should I marry Jae-kyung or not?” but rather, “Is there any hope at all for a future with Jan-di? — because if not, I really don’t care about marriage and might as well do this political union.”
Meanwhile, Jan-di has been the poster child for passivity. WE know she loves Jun-pyo, but she sure as hell doesn’t let anyone else know that. As some commenters said, perhaps she’s not in a place to demand a relationship with him, but if she hides all her feelings and mopes privately, well, that’s just wallowing in one’s self-pity. She tends to just accept whatever happens to her, and that frustrates me. Jun-pyo is also weak, but at least his feelings — and his desire to escape from the influence of others — are clear. He’s bad at following through on his feelings, but Jan-di doesn’t even get that far — she keeps hers bottled up and unspoken, and that does nobody any good.
And yes, I recognize it’s a pointless exercise to say who was MORE wrong in this situation — but it’s always fun to do it anyway.
Now, for this episode:
I understand Jan-di’s actions and her rationale for leaving, and I actually kinda agree with her decision. Or at least the reason for her making the decision. However, this plot device suffers from overuse — it’s a tactic used in all those classic (read: outdated) Cinderella kdramas, where the girl selflessly gives up her love — even though the guy is prepared to fight for the relationship — to save those around her.
I suppose we’re supposed to feel admiration and pity for the woman who sacrifices her own happiness for the greater good, but what she’s really doing is taking away the choice from the other person, who deserves to have a say in this. Just as Jun-pyo (wrongly) asserted his will one-sidedly earlier in their relationship, she’s disregarding his feelings under the excuse that “I know what’s best for him.” I hate that.
Now, IF she had believed everything she said before getting on that bus — and I think her words had a point — then I wouldn’t have complaints and would probably back her up. (I think it makes sense on one level to want to say, “I gave it my best shot, got my heart broken a couple times, and want to believe that Love Conquers All — but maybe all this fighting isn’t productive if I’m just fighting a losing battle against this all-powerful, evil force who is going to hurt everyone I love.” It’s not fair, but sometimes you have to think of self-preservation.)
However, that’s not the case here: As we can see from her reaction afterward, she lied purposely to get Jun-pyo to let her go, believing that he didn’t need to know the truth. And that her decision was right no matter what he thought. By the way, they’re both guilty of this — him most notably when he turned Jekyll-and-Hyde in Macau — so it’s not like I’m only blaming Jan-di for the tendency.
I might have let this go otherwise, but it really doesn’t help that PD Jeon’s prior two series also employed this exact same scenario (girl leaves selflessly to spare the guy pain, but in a way that removes his choice from the equation). When Chun-hyang in Delightful Girl Chun-hyang did it, I actually enjoyed the ensuing angst (and the anticipated reunion!), but I watched that series earlier and didn’t have a slew of similar dramas to compare to. Also, Jae Hee really rocked the emotional turmoil in that drama’s breakup and reunion.
In My Girl, I hated the ploy because it seemed like a direct ripoff of Chun-hyang (same director, same writers), plus it seemed more forced into the story for manipulative reasons.
Here, I don’t hate it as much as in My Girl but I think it’s definitely less effective as a plot device than it ought to be, because (1) it’s so overdone at this point, and (2) this whole drama has been full of dramatic angsty moments like this, so this one doesn’t particularly stand out for me.
But on the upside, we’re so very close to the end that all this analysis is really just extraneous stuff. Mostly I’m watching with half my brain turned off, and at least there isn’t enough time to drag this storyline out into as painful an arc as the Jae-kyung one.
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- Boys Before Flowers: Episode 21
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- Boys Before Flowers: F4 Talk Show Special
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- A day behind the scenes of Boys Before Flowers
- Boys Before Parodies
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- A closer look at Boys Before Flowers scripts
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- Behind the scenes with Kim Bum in New Caledonia
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