I’m terribly behind on recaps for Sons of Sol Pharmacy, and that is a grand freaking shame because I’m still very much enjoying this funny, heartwarming drama. This is such an easy-to-watch, pleasant show that zips along quickly that I feel bad about getting so far behind (in recaps, that is — I’m mostly caught up on the episodes).
Thankfully, a guest blogger, smallfish, has agreed to take over for this drama (this will be my last Sol Pharmacy post), so I hope you’ll enjoy reading her recaps! I’m actually pretty sure I’ll watch this through the end, but having someone else take over may give it more of the attention it deserves. So keep an eye out for smallfish’s posts in the future!
SONG OF THE DAY
Byul – “Kiss Day” [ Download ]
To remind us where we left off, since it’s been awhile since the last recap: in the previous episode, Jin-pung (Son #1) had discovered the truth of Hye-rim’s cancer and told Su-jin about it. Sun-pung (Son #3) had been growing closer to Eun-ji, whose (adoptive) mother was thrown into hysterics when Eun-ji’s birth mother, the chic and cool Jung-ok, suddenly reappeared after twenty years.
In this episode, Eun-ji happens to run into Jung-ok at a fashion show, not knowing that her birth mother is the designer. Jung-ok has followed Eun-ji’s career and knows who she is, but doesn’t give her identity away, and merely presents herself as a fan and gives her free clothing. Naturally, Eun-ji’s hypersensitive mother (who is actually Eun-ji’s aunt) flips out to see the clothing, which surprises and confuses Eun-ji, who doesn’t understand why she would blow up over such a little thing.
The fathers’ feud, meanwhile, is still going strong, and Gwang-ho (Sun-pung’s father) is irked to see his son being chummy with Young-dal (Eun-ji’s father). In his adorably childish way, Gwang-ho sees this as a betrayal but doesn’t tell Sun-pung he’s offended, and instead acts out the next day by tripping him unexpectedly and keeping food away from him. LOL.
As for Jin-pung, he sinks into a funk after hearing that Hye-rim is dying. What’s worse than that, however, is that this highlights (perhaps for the first time) what he’s missed out on by not having a wife or a family of his own, because he doesn’t have a claim on Hye-rim and therefore is left out of her last moments. He asks Su-jin for a brief moment with Hye-rim, but Su-jin answers that their family has little enough time together as it is, and apologizes but turns down his request.
Su-jin, meanwhile, continues to ignore Dae-pung (Son #2), who pursues her more seriously now. Despite his playboy tendencies, his feelings for Su-jin seem sincere, and he wants to date seriously. She, however, is preoccupied with her family and has no interest in dating him.
What I love about the Eun-ji/Sun-pung romance is that she’s very straightforward about her interest in him — it’s still in the developing stages, but she doesn’t play coy. For instance, she tags along as he goes out to interview a subject. Her well-meaning attempts to help are unfortunately marred by tactlessness, but Sun-pung recognizes that her heart is in the right place.
Episode 14 sees the introduction of a new character, Cousin Mi-ran — a loud, brash woman the same age as Dae-pung. Actually, she’s only two weeks older than him, but because she was born at the end of December and he in the beginning of January, technically she gets to be called “noona” (the Korean system ages you by the birth year, not actual birthdate), which has been a lifelong irritation for Dae-pung. Of all the cousins, they were the closest age so they had spent their entire childhoods — and now adulthoods — bickering. Mi-ran is Mama Song’s niece, and basically invites herself to stay over for a while (she had given up her apartment deposit to produce a musical, as she is an aspiring musical actress).
Mi-ran is an irritating character, always meddling and getting in our characters’ ways — but she does improve later, just like Bruce/Brutus was irritating at first and grows more likable. And as a plot device, she helps move things along between our characters.
Eun-ji, still unaware that her birth mother Jung-ok is actually alive, stumbles upon the truth when she overhears her mother on the phone with Jung-ok. The shock of hearing that her mother did not die, coupled with the realization that her parents have been lying to her all these years, causes Eun-ji to run away.
The mood at Hye-rim’s house is conflicted, with the family determined to make the most of their time together but fighting to hide their sadness at her impending death. Hye-rim teaches Su-jin how to cook, and Brutus gets rid of his bed so that the whole family can sleep together on the floor.
Despite the family’s troubles, perhaps Jin-pung has it equally hard. Or is it unfair to compare his pain with theirs? He is anguished to be losing Hye-rim, and yet he isn’t entitled to time with her, as he wonders, “Am I her boyfriend, her husband, her brother? What am I? I’m just the neighborhood pharmacist.”
It’s fortunate, then, that Jin-pung crosses paths with Hye-rim in the neighborhood, and they spend the afternoon together, which sends both down memory lane. Maybe the hardest irony to take is that Hye-rim confesses she really liked him when they were younger — she waited for him while he was in the army. But he never made a move or confessed how he felt (which we know was because he was too timid), and then she moved away.
Hye-rim says they must say their goodbyes now, particularly since they never did before, when he went to the army or she left for the States. He’s not ready to say goodbye, but she tells him, “Meeting you, I was really happy. And thank you.”
And then, Hye-rim falls on her deathbed. She’s been gradually growing weaker, but insists that Brutus/Bruce take the kids for a fun day at the amusement park. He doesn’t want to leave her side, but she insists. (I wonder if she purposely sends them away because she doesn’t want her family to see her die.) Hye-rim has some last words for Su-jin before she grows too weak to continue, and Su-jin senses the end is near. She desperately calls her brother to hurry back, and when Bruce hears the call on his way home, he is so alarmed that he runs off without the kids, trying to make it in time. Alas, he isn’t fast enough, and Hye-rim fades away.
As can be expected, Bruce does not take his wife’s death well, although the kids are still so young that it doesn’t seem to have sunk in yet. They wonder, “Why did Mom go to Heaven?” Su-jin tries to explain it in a way they can understand:
Su-jin: “Everyone goes to Heaven, but your mom just went a little sooner.”
Su-jin: “To wait for us.”
Mari: “To save us a space?”
Su-jin: “Yes, to save us a space in the clouds in Heaven.”
Eun-ji’s parents are frantic over her disappearance, fearing her anger as well as worrying for her safety. It turns out she has gone to Busan to her manager’s new place, and she calls Sun-pung for some moral support, asking if he would come visit her. Sun-pung is unaware of the household drama and (gently) declines, because he’s a busy reporter with things to do and thinks she’s just being capricious. On the other hand, as he heads over to the hospital to visit his sunbae’s daughter, he sees a stuffed animal and thinks back to Eun-ji’s teddy bear.
Eun-ji’s father (Young-dal) tracks her down and brings her home, telling her the truth of everything. Her birth mother Jung-ok (Young-dal’s sister-in-law) had a bad relationship with her mother-in-law, and her marriage deteriorated. After the car accident, Eun-ji’s birth father died and Jung-ok was hospitalized for a year. The mother-in-law blamed Jung-ok for her son’s death and told her to leave, after which Eun-ji came to live with her uncle and aunt.
Yet this story leaves Eun-ji unmoved, and when she arrives home, she very deliberately calls her mother “Aunt.”
As I said, Mi-ran is pretty annoying, but she does serve a purpose; plus, when she’s up against Dae-pung, it’s almost like their respective annoying habits cancel each other out because they have to deal with it from each other. Lol.
For instance, Mi-ran is privy to all of Dae-pung’s youthful offenses, and wields her knowledge like a big, blackmailing bat over his head. She is also the only family member, amazingly, to pick up on Bok-shil’s feelings for Dae-pung. She immediately sizes up the situation and makes innuendos that throw Bok-shil in a panic, and taunts her with it. (Personally, I don’t think she’d ever tell, but she enjoys freaking Bok-shil out of her complacent crush.) Mi-ran is the exact opposite of Bok-shil, in that Mi-ran gets on everyone’s nerves and is completely forthright; Bok-shil, on the other hand, is the meek, demure almost-daughter-in-law whom everyone likes and respects, but often forgets to appreciate.
Following Hye-rim’s death, Jin-pung grieves privately. His parents don’t understand — as they don’t know he was in love with her — why he shuts himself up in his temporarily closed pharmacy, refuses to talk or eat, and keeps to himself. His mother worries, but Dad Gwang-ho assures her that Jin-pung will come out when he’s ready.
It’s poignant and sweet, therefore, that the person to draw Jin-pung out of his closed-off misery is young Mari. Her father is lost in his own grief and spends all his time crying or sleeping, and aunt Su-jin isn’t around, so when Mari grows hungry, she walks down the street to the pharmacy to ask Jin-pung for the vitamin drops he’d given her before. Su-jin witnesses this exchange, touched to see Jin-pung hugging the girl gently, and his vulnerability makes her feel sympathy for him.
Eun-ji storms in to Jung-ok’s apartment to confront her about abandoning her all those years ago, but to her disbelief, Jung-ok is calm and aloof and makes Eun-ji wait while she finishes her yoga session. Eun-ji seethes, and bursts out that her mother is embarrassing and audacious. But Jung-ok continues calmly, criticizing Eun-ji’s career choices and fashion decisions, calling her a bad actress and instructing her to fire her manager. Eun-ji is not only insulted, she’s furious; Jung-ok tells her that this is her way of saying that she’s thought of her all these years, “So don’t be so mad.”
(I suppose this juxtaposition highlights that the adults may have been wrong to lie, but parenthood is about much, much more than blood ties. Not to say that Jung-ok isn’t deserving of the title of mother — she, like Mi-ran, improves a lot in future episodes — but that her position as biological mother did not make her any more maternal than Eun-ji’s actual, though adoptive, mother. Again, this ties into the overall motif highlighting families that are built by close relationships as well as families that are born related.)
Sun-pung waits outside Eun-ji’s house for an hour and greets Eun-ji cheerily as she comes home. The sight of him renews her hurt at how he previously had blown her off for work, which, added to her horrible day, puts her on edge emotionally. However, when he dashes back to his car to deliver a gift — the oversize teddy bear, which is adorable, as it looks just like Sun-pung — she becomes overwhelmed. He tells her that he’d remembered her old bear, the one that makes her sad once a year, and hopes that this one will enable her to make a fresh start. At that, she flings her arms around him and bursts into tears.
This is the most adorable scene ever, as Sun-pung is completely shocked by Eun-ji’s hug and doesn’t know what to do, and she is too overwrought to care about appearances. He tries to gently suggest that she let go, but she clutches him harder. This is the moment when his feelings for Eun-ji really hit him on the head, and when he comes home that night, he barely even looks at Bok-shil and heads straight to bed, deep in thought.
I was afraid that once Hye-rim died, this drama would sink into depression and gloom, but thankfully it doesn’t. However, it does use her death to forge some new bonds and reinforce others, like Grandpa’s relationship with Bruce, who has been laid up in bed. Grandpa cooks for the kids and comforts Bruce, and shares what it was like when he was younger and had lost his wife at around the same age. He’d thought he would die then, but who would take care of the kids? He assures him that the living have to keep living, and reminds Bruce that he has his children to care for.
As Gwang-ho wanders by in their line of sight, not seeing them, Grandpa tells Bruce, “That guy doesn’t know how hard his father had it. He doesn’t know that I live on because of him. So be strong.”
While Su-jin is still not romantically interested in Dae-pung, her initial dislike of him has eased with his recent thoughtfulness (he helped with the funeral and tries to cheer her up). Therefore, when he asks her out on a date, she goes along with him.
Dae-pung is excited at this sign of progress, and it’s sweet to see that he does like her a lot. First, he takes her to a nightclub, where he dances ridiculously to make Su-jin laugh. Then he takes her stargazing, and shows an unexpected flash of depth as he explains why he likes stars: he’d had a friend who died when he was young, and when his teacher saw him crying, she had told him that when people die, they become stars. Su-jin confides that hadn’t treated Hye-rim as well as she should have, which she regrets now.
Still upset, Eun-ji calls Sun-pung to meet her at a pojangmacha — and this scene also marks the first time she calls him by his name, rather than “Reporter Song.” Eun-ji bawls about being deceived by her parents, and Sun-pung again takes her home on piggyback.
The best part of the following exchange is in the way Sun-pung admonishes Eun-ji for her behavior, managing to tell her without hurting her feelings that she’s acting immaturely. He asks her age (25), then gently points out that she is therefore an adult, old enough to stop crying about things her parents have done to her. She and her parents are all adults, and she can stand on her own now. He philosophizes, “[Parents] just live their lives ahead of us, but their lives aren’t any easier.”
When he drops her off, Eun-ji hugs him tightly and vows to get revenge, but she says this in a childish way, more to make herself feel better than anything.
His words seem to get through to her, because by morning, she is back to calling her mother “Mother,” and then demands how long “that woman” (Jung-ok) is going to sleep in her room. Jung-ok isn’t hurt by this, and threatens to tell the others that Eun-ji was hugging a man outside last night — she’d seen them from the window.
After a few days of brooding, Jin-pung quietly gets up, opens the store again, and resumes his life. He even goes on another blind date, and feels that he may have a decent shot at a continued relationship with the woman. Actually, he’s not desperate to get married for his own sake, but feels he ought to for his family’s sake. Su-jin is curious about the type of woman he likes, so he responds, “She just has to be a nice woman. She can look after my parents and get along with my brothers, that’s all. I don’t hope for a lot from her.” (And then Su-jin flusters him by being distracted by a dangling button and insisting on repairing it. Hehe.)
Meanwhile, Bok-shil still struggles to get along with Mi-ran, who pokes at her crush on Dae-pung constantly. So when Dae-pung sides with Bok-shil over a petty argument (who broke a dish), Mi-ran gets her petty revenge by graffiti’ing the clinic wall with a huge pink scribble announcing that DAE-PUNG LOVES BOK-SHIL. It embarrasses Bok-shil but doesn’t even faze Dae-pung, so she’s left alone to erase the chalk. Sun-pung comes by and helps her erase the scribbling, saying encouragingly, “My brother will come to see your feelings.”
I was dreading Hye-rim’s death because I thought that it might change the tone of the show. Seeing how they handled her death, however, just made me appreciate more how pleasant this drama is, because it treats the issue with respect but doesn’t transform the show into a different kind of drama altogether. The lighter moments didn’t feel disrespectful, either, since the characters who are most affected by the death get their moments to grieve.
My favorite aspect in this regard is also one of my favorite aspects about the drama overall, and that is the attention given to acquired families, not just the homegrown ones. I’m not saying one’s better than the other, but it’s lovely to see how the heartbroken, for instance, find comfort in unlikely places. In the above two screencaps, that’s Bruce hugging Jin-pung and Su-jin being comforted by Bok-shil.
Grandpa’s affection for Bruce is another example of a similar dynamic — they’re seemingly such polar opposites that part of the humor is in how well they relate despite their differences. Grandpa’s a rigid stickler for tradition and a strict disciplinarian, whereas Bruce is a touchy-feely, happy-go-lucky irresponsible type. But they relate particularly well where it really matters, as Grandpa encourages Bruce to carry on and be a good father for his children.
Mari’s bond with Jin-pung is also unusual and unexpected. Jin-pung isn’t particularly kid-loving (not that he dislikes them, but he doesn’t have much experience with them), and Mari doesn’t even do much to actually comfort him. It’s sort of a “right place, right time” moment for them: her simple request forces him to surface from his grief and brings him back to the present. It’s really very sweet.
Of course, I can’t leave out my favorite couple! I’m thrilled that they’re both confronted with their feelings openly now — they were flirting with the issue before, but now it’s un-ignorable. Particularly for Sun-pung, who feels this realization more keenly. The night after Eun-ji hugs him (the first time), he can’t sleep and mulls over his new feelings (or, his newly acknowledged feelings) all night, while Eun-ji goes to sleep hugging his teddy bear.
Sun-pung is a lovable character, but I can sort of see why he’s made it to the age of 35 without much romantic success. Or, should I say, romantic experience, because “success” would imply that he’s been trying when it’s more that he hasn’t had much interest in romance. He’s very good at his job, but he’s thick-headed about women and it’s no wonder that even if one had been interested in him, he would probably have remained oblivious and let that opportunity sail by. So it’s only when Eun-ji takes an interest that he finally opens his figurative eyes because she’s just too durned impossible to ignore, with all her forthrightness and exuberance. Cuuuuute!
- The Sons of Sol Pharmacy House: Episodes 9-12
- The Sons of Sol Pharmacy House: Episodes 5-8
- The Sons of Sol Pharmacy House / My Too Perfect Sons