Recaps are back! Sorry for the wait, but you know how these things go. The show recently wrapped and claimed the slot as highest-rated drama of the year, but as far as recaps go I think we’re just starting to head into deeper plot territory with these episodes, now that we’ve got one brother (Sun-pung) happily married off and out of the way.
Sun-pung’s had the least dramatic courtship so I think it was smart to start off the series with his and Eun-ji’s romance — I know I was tuning in to the earlier episodes mostly to follow their development. I’m a little sad that the Sun-pung–Eun-ji relationship will probably recede now, since they are my favorite pair, but I suppose they need to make room for the others now.
The foursome of Jin-pung, Dae-pung, Su-jin, and Bok-shil return from their fishing expedition with each person in dejected spirits. Jin-pung has shared some quality time with Su-jin, which both enjoyed, but then he had to witness his brother making the moves on her. Su-jin doesn’t encourage Dae-pung’s advances — nor does she welcome his demand for a do-over date, since she didn’t come to see the musical with him — but he just isn’t listening to her. If we’re cutting Dae-pung some slack, we could argue that he’s merely misinterpreting her lack of interest for coyness and thinks he can win her over if he just proves that he’s a decent guy. But on the other hand, he has to be aware of his brother’s feelings for Su-jin, and he’s taking advantage of the knowledge that Jin-pung isn’t going to fight him for her.
Bok-shil has gotten the message very clearly that Dae-pung has never seen her as a woman, and is heartbroken. Now, if you’ve been frustrated with Bok-shil’s lingering affections, I understand. So it’s with thanks that I see her deciding to get over it all and put this whole thing behind her, as she explains to Mi-ran over drinks.
Although Bok-shil has been clinging to false hope that Dae-pung may come around, she isn’t delusional — she admits it’s always been a one-sided thing, and she knows it sounds pathetic. Her mood is rueful as she decides that enough is enough. She does make one last speech explaining why she fell for him in the first place, though: “He’s a good man. On the outside he seems like a player and a jokester, but he’s innocent and naive, with a warm heart.”
Bok-shil: “But he has one flaw… He always confuses me. One day he teases me, another day he seems like he likes me, and another day he acts like he doesn’t notice me. One day I’m ‘Nurse Kim’ and another day I’m ‘Bok-shil puppy.’ One day he goes out to date another woman, but another day he holds my hand as we walk.”
She clarifies that she didn’t hang around the family because of Dae-pung: “I just liked to see a family living like that, and I wanted to be included.” She has no family, you see. Her mother died, and although her father is alive, she hasn’t seen him in years.
Sun-pung and Eun-ji return from their honeymoon, and first have dinner with her parents. The uncomfortable atmosphere is all Oh-Ma’s doing, as she criticizes everything Sun-pung does, while he nervously tries to please her. For instance, Oh-Ma points out her exquisite lace napkins, which he compliments and uses — only to set one on fire by accident from the candle.
Young-dal feels sorry for not warning him in advance about how difficult Oh-Ma can be. But more important than pity, “We have to unite forces now!” He’s relieved to finally have a fellow man to commiserate with, after all these years.
Eun-ji tries to smooth things over with her mother. She knows Oh-Ma is upset at her early marriage, but Sun-pung is a good man who loves her and makes her happy. Oh-Ma remains petulant, causing Eun-ji to storm off in tears at how unfair she’s being.
With Dae-pung pressing his courtship of Su-jin, Jin-pung grows short with him but keeps his dissatisfaction bottled up inside. Dae-pung tests the waters, asking for his brother’s approval to take Su-jin to a musical, and Jin-pung tells him to go. There’s a sweet and sad moment when Su-jin peers into the pharmacy, where Jin-pung broods, and lifts a hand to the glass. She obviously prefers Jin-pung’s company but she needs some encouragement from him, and because of Dae-pung’s involvement, Big Bro has retreated.
When she tries to talk to him in casual conversation, he draws the lines and backs off, telling her that his brother is looking forward to the date with her. His reaction upsets her, and she ends up going to the musical.
Dae-pung feels satisfied that she showed up, but she clearly isn’t enjoying herself. She’s quiet afterward, and when he suggests going out for some wine, she turns him down curtly. She thanks him for the date, but she maintains a distance, referring to their relationship as merely “neighbors.”
Dae-pung doesn’t understand her attitude. Does she hate him? He wants to stop the games, thinking she’s playing hard to get. He leans in to kiss her, but she averts her face — and Jin-pung, still brooding in the pharmacy, witnesses the almost-embrace.
Su-jin senses Jin-pung’s presence and rushes off home before Dae-pung can kiss her. When she later tries to explain that the situation was nothing special, Jin-pung loses his temper and doesn’t want to hear her explanation. Who are they to each other that he has to hear it? He hurts her feelings, and she turns away.
The newlywed couple moves in to the Song household, and Eun-ji takes her place as the newest addition (or, as they call her, “new baby”). It’s rather adorable how enthusiastically Gwang-ho and Grandpa Song welcome her into the family, and she does her chipper best to play the role of new daughter-in-law.
(For the first few weeks or months of marriage, it’s customary for a new daughter-in-law to dress in hanbok to make her formal bows every morning to her in-laws, and to help cook breakfast for her husband’s family. This is an old-fashioned habit that is becoming less common these days with more married couples setting up nuclear-family households upon marriage, but as we know, the Songs are rather traditional.)
Mama Song is a little disapproving of Eun-ji’s free-spiritedness, but she means well: She advises Eun-ji that she knows how she feels, and that she will be uncomfortable in the coming months — she had grown up with luxury but this household lacks her usual comforts. And the honeymoon glow will fade in time. Eun-ji assures her that all she needs is Sun-pung to be happy.
Bok-shil, meanwhile, has made good on her intention to get on with her life. (Thank goodness! I’m thrilled that she’s let go of her lingering attachment and seems in charge of her life.) A phone call from her aunt in New York refers to her as “Jennifer,” and Bok-shil assures her aunt happily that she’s fine. She spends her time enjoying movies on her own and working out at the gym.
She’s so well-adjusted, in fact, that Dae-pung seems confused, which feeds his curiosity over what she’s doing now that she isn’t over all the time. She reminds him that he’d disliked her constant presence, and furthermore, they have a new daughter-in-law now. It’s like he was expecting a dramatic display (or the sulks) and is disappointed that he doesn’t get it.
Dae-pung’s dissatisfaction — with Bok-shil, Su-jin, his brother — grows and reaches a boiling point when he hears his mother “strategizing” with Jin-pung over how to meet women. Mama Song feels the pressure of her two eldest sons remaining unmarried, and the brothers have both promised to do their best. (Dae-pung says there is a woman he’s serious about. Jin-pung is still halfheartedly seeing the teacher he’d met on a blind date.)
At breakfast, Mama Song has cooked Jin-pung’s favorite dish and Dae-pung takes issue with their tete-a-tete. He’s in such a bad mood that he ends up talking back to his mother, accusing her of favoritism. Even if he has a point, his rudeness is excessive and his mother is duly offended. Eun-ji is uncomfortable to find herself caught in the middle of a family fight, and shrinks back.
And now, for my absolute favorite scene in this episode, perhaps this drama so far:
Jin-pung calls out his younger brother and delivers a quiet but forceful smackdown. Brotherly dispute is one thing, but disrespecting their mother is not to be tolerated. Dae-pung is still acting snotty, so big bro punches him and warns him not to talk back again to their mother.
Jin-pung: “Think of it from her point of view. Sun-pung got married and our young sister-in-law has moved in, and his two older brothers are hanging around unable to get married. Don’t you think Mother would feel embarrassed around her? Wouldn’t she feel ashamed?”
(Note: I actually respect Jin-pung for this, although punching a brother isn’t necessarily a tactic I’d advocate in real life. While I don’t really agree with the sentiment, in this sort of old-fashioned Korean family, it’s understandable how a mother might feel that her inability to marry off her sons is her failure.)
Dae-pung fires back sarcastically how great he must feel for being the good son: “You think you’re the only one who has to endure quietly, right? Well, I’m the one who’s enduring!”
In a wonderfully nuanced performance, Lee Pil-mo delivers in Dae-pung’s speech a mix of uncertainty, bratttiness, hurt, and bravado. Slowly, we start to see more of the little boy locked inside (perhaps the man Bok-shil sees):
Dae-pung: “You took everything of mine! Is there anything you didn’t take? New clothes, new shoes, new bookbags, new notebooks — you took them all! Have I ever had anything new? Have I ever had anything that was nice? Because you were the eldest, Mom and Dad always gave everything to you, but have they ever given me anything good? Until I became an intern and started making a tiny salary, I wore your old clothes, used your things. I got so sick of getting your things that once I wore new clothes, and do you know what Mom said? She called me a playboy bastard! Why don’t you try wearing someone else’s underwear. See if you don’t turn into a playboy bastard!”
Jin-pung may never have realized this side to the story, and he asks with heartbreaking gentleness:
Jin-pung: “So what is it you want to say?”
Dae-pung: “I want something of mine. Something I don’t lose to you, something that’s purely mine!”
Jin-pung: “What is it you want? If by chance, even if I didn’t mean it, if I took a lot of things from you, I’m sorry. But now I’m an adult, and you are too. And we’re brothers. So let’s not fight over things we want to have, okay? If there’s something you want, take it all. Don’t worry about me, and take it.”
Dae-pung: “What do you mean?”
Jin-pung: “Just take it. Do as you want.”
Dae-pung: “What about you?”
Jin-pung: “I’m okay.”
Jin-pung: “I’m your older brother. You’re my little brother. I have nothing else to say.”
At the same time, Su-jin is feeling increasingly burdened by her responsibilities. For instance, her brother is trying to be a good dad but still as clueless as ever, so he clashes with the other moms, who disdain his appearance and his seemingly careless parenting. The principal is understanding of the family predicament, but she asks Su-jin to handle the kids more at school to avoid conflict. Su-jin is finding it difficult to keep juggling her family and work responsibilities.
So she’s feeling raw as she comes home and runs into Jin-pung, still hurt at his dismissal of her. She’s struggling so much already: “Can’t you cut me some slack? Why can’t you treat me a little nicely? Why do you have to make it hard on me too?”
She asks for him to console her, and when he asks why, she says, “Because… I like you.” In a little-girl voice, she asks uncertainly, “Can’t I like you?”
Yet Jin-pung thinks of the emotional confrontation he just had with his younger brother, and he tells her, regretfully, “Don’t be in pain, or feel lonely. You have Dae-pung.”
With the brotherly smackdown behind him, Dae-pung begs his mother for forgiveness. He can explain his stance more calmly now, saying that it’s true that she did favor her firstborn. (His explanation is sort of hilarious — Jin-pung is the thumb who gets all her attention. Sun-pung is oblivious, and Mi-pung they can discount since he’s off doing his own thing. But the index finger, the number 2 digit, always gets passed over!) Mom uses an old adage to make a point, that if a person bites his fingers, is there one that doesn’t hurt? (i.e., they’re all important.) To illustrate, she chomps down on his index finger. Haha.
Dae-pung apologizes to his brother, and their good relationship is restored.
Su-jin asks Bruce (Brutus) to try to get along better with the other mothers at school. He feels wrongly accused because he’s never done anything wrong, but she gently says that it’s for the kids’ sake. If they want to fit into Korean society, it’ll be important for them to not antagonize the others.
Now that Jin-pung has decided to forgo his feelings for Su-jin to allow Dae-pung his happiness, he gets back in touch with the schoolteacher he had previously met. Jin-pung invites her over to meet in his neighborhood, so she drops by the pharmacy. Su-jin, seeing this, is hurt and annoyed.
The teacher is a very sweet, kind woman from a good background, so Mama Song is very eager to claim her as her daughter-in-law. In fact, when she sees that Jin-pung has taken the initiative, she is absolutely thrilled and insists on inviting her home for some coffee.
At the Oh household, Jung-ok gets a call from France that requires her to return for a few months. Somewhat surprisingly, Oh-Ma takes this news rather hard, and although she scolds Jung-ok for being flighty and irresponsible to come and go as she pleases, we can see that it’s because she’s feeling abandoned.
By Jung-ok’s departure date, however, Oh-Ma sends her off with a lot of affectionate nagging. Eun-ji is late arriving at the airport to see her mother off, but her emotional goodbye makes up for it. Jung-ok is a little surprised — she was holding back her disappointment that Eun-ji didn’t spend her last night with her — but she feels better as Eun-ji cries that she couldn’t get away from work. Eun-ji apologizes for being bratty before and tells her mother, “I love you.” Oh-Ma is satisfied to see her daughter sending off her other mother with love and respect, and everyone makes their teary goodbyes.
When Mari falls sick with a high fever, Su-jin panics. Bruce had already taken her to the hospital earlier but the medicine hasn’t worked, so she brings her to Dae-pung’s clinic. She’s pretty ill, so Dae-pung gives her an IV drip, bribing her with promise of a big present afterward.
He makes good on his promise by taking the kids to the amusement park once Mari is better. Contrary to the last time he tried to take the kids out, now they get along well, and the day is pleasant for everyone.
However, once they get back home, Mari relapses, and Su-jin calls Dae-pung late at night. He’s asleep and doesn’t hear his phone. Although Jin-pung sees the call, he doesn’t wake his brother, but he does pick up when Su-jin calls Jin-pung next, frantic and crying.
Jin-pung hurries over and takes them to the hospital. The doctor recommends keeping Mari overnight, and sends the two home to gather the girl’s clothes and belongings. On top of her concern for Mari’s health, Su-jin feels guilty for being a bad caregiver, and Jin-pung tries to assure her that it’s not her fault. She cries that the children have no mother, and she’s not sure she’s up to the task of raising them.
Dae-pung awakens in the middle of the night and sees that Su-jin had called — but in her hurry, she rushed out of the house without her phone. He walks over to her house, concerned… and sees his brother comforting her.
I feel bad for leaving Mi-pung’s story out of the recaps proper, but his storyline tends to be pretty separate from the others. He is a half-generation younger than the main cast, and he has his own issues going on, but it’s too bad he’s not more integrated with the others. (For instance, I liked seeing the interactions earlier in the drama when Bok-shil helped him with baby Hana.)
To summarize Mi-pung’s story: Su-hee is currently living with the Song family, at the insistence of the adults who tell her that she cannot move the baby until she’s recovered from her illness. Su-hee hates feeling dependent and would prefer to go out on her own. However, I think she’s probably lacked a firm parental force in her life, so the more she gets used to the discipline in the house, she takes to it. Still, she hasn’t completely gotten rid of her bad habits, and Mi-pung blows up at her when he finds empty soju bottles and tells her she can’t drink around the baby. As the days go by, however, he finds that she’s becoming more attentive to the baby and better in her care.
Slowly, Su-hee is changing from a rebellious teenager to a responsible mother, and I think her maturation shows that sometimes if you give people low expectations, they’ll never move past them — but when you expect more from them, sometimes you can motivate them to expect more of themselves.
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