As with the last episode, I thought the first half of the episode started out a bit tired. Things were kind of expected and I was feeling antsy.
However, the last half makes up for it — things pick up and get more exciting, and there are some really interesting, complicated dynamics at work that I love digging into. (More on that at the end.)
SONG OF THE DAY
Eco Bridge – “You Said Goodbye” [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
When Kang-jin comes home, Young-sook is preparing a dinner spread — it’s his birthday. (Or rather, Ji-yong’s.) A flashback to the day of the fire fills us in on how this charade started.
Note: I know the quick way to refer to Young-sook’s condition is amnesia, but that’s not really it. It isn’t that Young-sook has reverted to a prior state in her life when Ji-yong was alive. She knows that adult Ji-wan is her daughter. Rather, she believes that this grown-up man IS Ji-yong, and he has come back to her after being away for a long time, and now they’re going to be a happy family together. Any blips in logic that this may cause (such as, uh, the holes in his life as an adult) are shoved aside by her brain, which just fixates on the fact that he’s here.
At the hospital, after Young-sook had mistaken Kang-jin for her dead son, he and Ji-wan had been too stunned to react immediately while Young-sook had gotten out of bed to clasp him to her. Horrified, Ji-wan had told her mother that it was Kang-jin — Ji-yong died, remember?
This only made her mother angry, and she had glared at Ji-wan. Cupping Kang-jin’s face in her hands, she had told him, “Ji-wan keeps saying weird things, that awful girl. That wretch must be crazy.”
When Ji-wan repeated that this wasn’t Ji-yong, her mother had screamed at her and collapsed. Worried, Kang-jin had rushed to help her, and she had told him, “Ji-yong, don’t go anywhere. You have to stay with your mother. You can’t go away.”
Conflicted, Kang-jin had remembered his mother’s insistence on being with Jun-su, and Ji-wan’s reaction to her father’s disappearance as she cried, “What about my mother?” Feeling the burden of the sins his family committed against hers, he had told Young-sook in an unsteady voice, “D-don’t worry. I…I… won’t go anywhere.”
Now in the present day, Ji-wan arrives at the house for her brother’s birthday dinner. Ji-wan and Kang-jin carry on with their normal lives outside the house, but at home with Young-sook they preserve the illusion that he is Ji-yong, at Kang-jin’s insistence. That’s why, when Ji-wan walks up Kang-jin and hugs him, his expression darkens.
She pulls back and says, “Oops, I forgot, sorry,” not sounding sorry at all. “We aren’t supposed to do this, right?”
Kang-jin takes her face in his hand and stares at her sharply. How can she “forget” a thing like that? She’d better be careful, he warns.
Kang-jin has been living with Young-sook over the past three years, but Ji-wan wants to take over her mother’s care now, even if she has to take her away forcibly. Even if Young-sook comes back to this house, Kang-jin should turn her away.
Kang-jin dismisses that idea — her mother already panics if she doesn’t see him every day. How will she deal with that? When Ji-wan replies that they’ll just have to deal with it, he asks, “Even if she dies of shock?”
Ji-wan has forgotten to buy Ji-yong’s birthday cake, but I’m betting it’s really more of a conscious decision to participate in this farce as little as possible. Like a little rebellion.
Young-sook mentions a new neighbor, and the daughter of the family has been begging for an introduction with Kang-jin, because she’s interested in dating him. Ji-wan plays along to say that yeah, he should go on the date, as though challenging him. But when he accepts the idea, her face falls.
That night, Ji-wan watches her mother sleep, and asks:
Ji-wan: “Are you happy, Mom? Living without knowing anything, are you happy? Forgetting oppa, and Dad, you’re happy like this, aren’t you? But this isn’t right. Doing this to Kang-jin oppa isn’t right. Only caring about his mother’s happiness and her love, he makes us unable to acknowledge Father and turned you into this. I’ll hate Cha Kang-jin, that selfish jerk, for the rest of my life — I won’t forgive him — so that’s enough, Mom. Come to your senses.”
Ji-wan isn’t really saying she’ll hate Kang-jin, or that she blames him. She recognizes that he’s playing along as Ji-yong because he feels guilty — twice now, Ji-wan’s family has lost two people because of his family. Perhaps playing along with Young-sook’s delusion is his way of doing penance, but it’s too much to ask of him, it’s too unfair. However, maybe it’ll seem too unfair to let him off the hook completely — so in order to lift him of this burden, she’ll hate him, so Young-sook can stop insisting he’s Ji-yong now. It’s her way of bargaining for Kang-jin’s freedom.
Ji-wan finds Kang-jin working and, in a fit of pique, knocks over his model. He straightens it, and she knocks it over again: “Aren’t you going to look for your mother? What kind of son are you? Why don’t you look for your mother?”
Kang-jin answers, indicating the room where Young-sook sleeps, “The only mother to me is that woman over there.”
She asks, “I keep getting confused, so let me ask. What are we? Are we strangers? Siblings? Since you’re so smart, let me know clearly. If other people ask, what should I answer?” He replies, “Answer however you want.”
She says that makes them siblings, as long as he acts like Ji-yong. She wonders, “What if we run away? What happens if we run away like your mother and my father, without thinking of anything else?”
He won’t respond, so she grabs his face to ask what happens. He tells her, “I won’t run away.”
Young-sook cries out in her sleep for her son and her husband, and Kang-jin calms her down. She had dreamed that Ji-yong and Jun-su both said they’d go away and not come back. Kang-jin assures her that it was a bad dream.
As she settles back to sleep, Young-sook asks when Jun-su is getting back — he’s been away on his business trip for a while now. (This suggests that the family doesn’t know that Jun-su and Chun-hee decided not to run away together, and that he (most likely) died.)
As she sleeps, Kang-jin tells her, “If you don’t want to remember, don’t remember. If it pains you, don’t remember, for ever. I’m fine. I’m… fine.”
Although she had been told to pack up her desk for her previous outburst, Ji-wan isn’t actually fired from her job. She is instead given punishment to sterilize an entire batch of materials by tomorrow morning. It’s a task that would be difficult even if she stayed up all night, and she pops out to the store to buy some milk. She’s saved from the embarrassment of not being able to pay when Tae-joon shows up.
As he’s working on the hospital design project, it’s not the first time they’ve run into each other. They joke pleasantly, and she even teases that his future wife will be lucky.
Jae-hyun tells Kang-jin that Woo-jung has gone to try to win over a client who had previously rejected them. It turns out that she’s acquainted with him, and in fact has once been the target of the client’s crush (though she had rebuffed him).
Woo-jung’s method of winning him over is by engaging in a drinking contest, where she and the client down shot after shot of hard liquor. He finally slumps over first, and when the guys arrive at the restaurant, she gives them a triumphant smile. She slurs, “I won the art center project! Didn’t I do good?” and then passes out.
Kang-jin takes her back to his home (they call it an atelier), where he lets her sleep it off. Young-sook is curious about the woman, and shoots Kang-jin a knowing look, but he laughs that they’re not in a relationship. She used to be a director at his old company.
And now for another mystery solved. Tae-joon is a daily patron of a coffee ajumma who runs a stand outside his office building, who turns out to be Chun-hee. He doesn’t know that this is Kang-jin’s mother or any of the family history, but he has a nice relationship with her, bringing her warm bread as a nice gesture for serving his favorite coffee.
Next, he brings Ji-wan food, since she’ll be spending the night at the hospital working. At first, her insulted reaction startles him, but she’s just teasing: “How can I eat all that? Am I a pig? Eat with me.”
He helps her through the night, and together, they finish. She’s grateful for the assistance, since she might not have finished without it.
Woo-jung wakes to find herself in Young-sook’s room, and comes downstairs where Kang-jin is working late. He felt bad that she would actually harm herself (in the sense that drinking herself into a blackout is harmful) for his sake, and asks why made such a dumb bet. She’s just happy she won, and proud of herself. She also asks to be a part of the project, since she helped him attain it. Playing on his sympathies, she pouts that she sold all her designer bags and has to find a way to feed herself. Won’t he hire her?
Woo-jung asks who the older woman is (Young-sook), and Kang-jin hesitates.
We don’t hear the explanation onscreen, but Woo-jung is dismayed after learning the gist of what has happened. I love the sad, melancholy way she looks at Kang-jin as she sighs:
Woo-jung: “Birdbrains. Idiots. And after I let you go like that. Fools. Even when I let you go, you couldn’t go to her? Stupid. Idiot.”
Flashbacks take us through some of the happier moments of the previous episode, representing the contents of his dream-thoughts as Kang-jin sleeps at his desk — their kiss, the proposal in the cabin, and his comment to Ji-wan that “I couldn’t sleep, thinking someone might come by and tell me it was a dream.” It’s as if to say that maybe all the happy moments were a dream, and he did wake up to find it wasn’t real. While he sleeps, a tear falls from his eye. Woo-jung sees it and wipes it away.
Kang-jin and Jae-hyun have been working for the past few months on a design presentation, and on their way to give the PT, they run into familiar faces in the elevator. Tae-joon is also giving a presentation to bid for the project, and they greet each other warmly.
Bumseo is another participant, who present first while the other four teams wait and go through last-minute preparations. Jae-hyun receives some bad news at the last minute, which makes no sense — they’ve been cut from the final group of presenters. Clearly, this is the work of Bumseo interference.
Tae-joon looks over in concern and asks what’s wrong, but he doesn’t have much time to feel sorry for Kang-jin, because next he finds out that he’s been screwed, too. Bumseo’s presentation was almost identical to the one they prepared — somehow their design ideas were stolen. They’ll be forced to forfeit.
Both men are left stunned, and after taking a few moments to regroup, Kang-jin approaches Tae-joon outside to propose a bet: “If Park Tae-joon and Cha Kang-jin join forces, do you think we’d be able to beat Bumseo?”
Tae-joon’s opportunity to compete has been stolen, and Kang-jin was disqualified — so what if Tae-joon presents Kang-jin’s idea? It’s better than both of them sitting out the competition. Kang-jin bets 100,000 won ($80) that they’ll lose. This, of course, prompts Tae-joon to decide, “Then I’ll bet 100,000 won that we win.”
So they hunker down in the hall, while Kang-jin shows Tae-joon all their files and explains their concept so Tae-joon can present.
Ji-wan again encounters that troublemaker at the hospital, and today she tries harder to control her temper. He takes advantage, knowing that she’ll get in trouble if she fights with him, and provokes her temper. She threatens that he’d better move out of her way on the count of three, but he doesn’t budge. Twice she counts to two, but stops herself. He continues his taunts.
The last time, she growls, “One… two…!” And then, another voice chimes in, “Three!” and whacks the punk on the head. Woo-jung hits him with her bag, calling him names and handing out the smackdown that Ji-wan had been itching to deliver.
Woo-jung notices that Ji-wan’s changed and comments that she’s gotten really cool. They smile when Ji-wan answers, “I was always really cool.”
Woo-jung is here to bring her clothing she’d left behind at the house, per her mother’s request, figuring this presented a good excuse to come see her. They have a friendly rapport with each other, but Ji-wan’s reaction becomes subdued when Woo-jung explains that she’s working for Kang-jin now.
Ji-wan asks if Woo-jung has married, a little disappointed to hear that she hasn’t. Woo-jung explains, “Someone raised my standards, so nobody else seems satisfactory. There’s someone I couldn’t forget, so I returned to Korea. I thought that if I confirmed things again with my own eyes, I might be able to give up.”
Ji-wan has heard that Woo-jung was kicked out of her job and her family when she chose to save Kang-jin, which greatly embarrasses the latter. (Another thing I like about Woo-jung — she’s bold and open about things others would be ashamed of, but hides the things other people would use to feel superior.)
Ji-wan: “It’s good that you came back. It’s fortunate that at least Kang-jin oppa has you with him.”
Woo-jung: “What does that mean?”
Ji-wan: “Kang-jin oppa gave up on me, though I haven’t yet. But I’m thinking to get over him soon, cleanly. It’s really fortunate that there’s someone like you with him.”
Ji-wan says this with a forced smile, which turns into a pained look as she leaves.
Bu-san is doing well, now working at a nice cafe alongside their former cafe waitress (Miss Shin). Like his brother, he treats Young-sook well and plays along with her Ji-yong delusion. Rather than identifying him as Chun-hee’s son, Young-sook merely sees him as the cafe ajusshi (and it’s a recurring joke that she thinks he’s much older than he really is).
Miss Shin can’t stand to see them treating Young-sook so nicely, and shoots her dirty looks. She fumes and asks why they put up with it when Young-sook isn’t outright crazy; she’s quite sane, actually, so what is she doing messing up Kang-jin’s life? Why do the brothers treat her so nicely? Bu-san explains, “The reason she’s like that is because of our mother.”
Even so, Miss Shin can’t stand watching this and asks why Kang-jin has to sacrifice himself for his mother’s sin. She’s sorely tempted to sit her down to lay out the truth plainly that her son is dead.
Kang-jin interrupts, warning her not to do that. His tone is harsh and he reminds her not to use his real name in front of “Mother.” Miss Shin grumbles at his usage of that word, saying Chun-hee would go crazy if she witnessed this, and calls Young-sook a crazy woman. Kang-jin says sharply, “She’s my mother. Watch your words.”
Kang-jin ushers Young-sook out of the cafe, pausing to take a phone call from Tae-joon. Unfortunately, they lost the presentation — he must not have been able to convey Kang-jin’s intention as well as it could have been done.
Tae-joon stops by the coffee stand as he talks, and when he leaves his gloves behind, Chun-hee chases after him to return them. A motorcycle honks, skids on the sidewalk, and crashes into the booth.
Tae-joon ushers Chun-hee to the hospital, where Ji-wan encounters him on her way to treat the patient. The coffee ajumma had refused surgery at a Western hospital, so Tae-joon brought her here to the Oriental hospital instead. Ji-wan hurries inside to join the team treating the patient with acupuncture, but the more the woman talks, the more she sounds familiar…
When Chun-hee turns her head to the side, Ji-wan recognizes her. Staggering in surprise, she leaves the room to call Kang-jin. However, he’s busy helping Young-sook with the kimchi, and doesn’t see his phone ring.
Ji-wan enters the patient’s room with a solemn look on her face, but Chun-hee doesn’t recognize her. Even when Ji-wan introduces herself, the name doesn’t ring a bell — it’s only when she says that she’s Han Jun-su’s daughter that the realization dawns on Chun-hee. With a cold, impersonal tone, Ji-wan asks, “Have you been well?”
It’s then that Kang-jin, seeing his phone’s log of missed calls, rings Ji-wan back. Still in her cool, formal tone, Ji-wan answers, “Yes, I called you, Kang-jin oppa.” She says his name deliberately for Chun-hee’s benefit, whose eyes widen at mention of her son.
Ji-wan: “I’m curious about something, so I wanted to ask you. Why can’t we be together? Why? You’re the only one in my heart, and I know you feel the same for me. So why can’t we be?”
Realizing that her son hasn’t been happy in love, Chun-hee’s eyes start to well with tears. Ji-wan repeats her questions in an increasingly emotional voice, her voice raising to a shout:
Ji-wan: “We love each other so much. Why can’t we be? We went through so much to come this far — why can’t we be?! Because of who?!”
Complaint first: There’s a lot of coincidence in this episode. I’ve liked that this drama has created conflicts that remain true to the characters and relationships, so until now I haven’t felt that there has been much random coincidence. Which is why I rolled my eyes a little at Tae-joon meeting Chun-hee in the street. And Tae-joon being brought to the hospital for an architecture-related job. (The Woo-jung reunion is not a problem since she actively seeks out Kang-jin and Ji-wan, but Tae-joon and Chun-hee is way too It’s-A-Small-World-After-All.) I do understand why they did this, because if Tae-joon is familiar with Chun-hee, then it would make sense that he would bring her to a hospital he knows. I’m just saying. It’s a small gripe.
While I am not ruling out the possibility that Young-sook is faking this all, I’m really skeptical about that. It seems too evil a thing for her to do, and this drama has always been about tragedy arising through circumstance, not through the machinations of evil-minded people. I think she is so miserable in her real life — dead son, daughter in love with her rival’s son, cheating husband — that she has retreated to a place where everything is just as she wants it to be. I don’t think it’s a conscious choice, more subconscious — as in, deep down, she can be reached. That she’s just forcing the fantasy to act as reality. As everyone comments, Young-sook is far from crazy. Everything else in the world functions normally; her condition strikes me as someone clinging to a huuuuge state of denial.
Speaking of which, how devastating was Kang-jin’s face when he made his choice to preserve Young-sook’s fantasy? Damn but my heart broke for him, yet again.
I will say that I am okay with Kang-jin’s act of sacrifice in keeping up the pretense of being Ji-yong. On the surface, it seems like he’s martyring himself, and it’s TOO much pain to heap on our gloriously tortured hero, right? But I don’t think that he’s only sacrificing his happiness out of a guilty impulse, like he has to compensate for stealing Young-sook’s son and husband. Accepting this role also allows him to be angry with his mother. Not that being angry with your mother is a good thing, but it is long overdue. As he yelled at Chun-hee the day before, he’s always accepted her mistakes and selfish behavior. How much is he supposed to just take? At what point can he actually express his hurt?
It ties into the same concept as when Ji-wan had the conversation with her sleeping mother, that if Mom “woke up” from this delusion, Ji-wan would take over by hating Kang-jin for the rest of her life. Kang-jin has taken a lot from the Han family (in his way of thinking), and if he ignored Young-sook’s delusion and went on his merry way, he’d have to live with the guilt of hurting Ji-wan. His mother stole her father, and wrecked her family. I think Ji-wan would have insisted they could still be together, but this setup is reminiscent of her vomiting episodes, when she wanted to be happy but her body wouldn’t accept it. Now that Kang-jin is the one suffering, not only does he take on the mantle of being Young-sook’s son, he has gone one step further by forsaking his mother. He’s not looking for Chun-hee, and he calls Young-sook his only mother.
Here’s what I do love about this drama: Fate — or call it Life Circumstances — has intertwined everyone’s lives so tightly that the actions of one person have ramifications on others, so that one can’t act for one’s own happiness in a vacuum. Ripple effect. Often, one person’s happiness ends up harming another’s, not on purpose but just because relationships are complicated. It’s not about one evil person wrecking everyone else’s lives.
This creates an unbalance every time someone acts — if Kang-jin kept his mother from running away, he’d preserve his chance at love with Ji-wan but ruin his mother’s. Preventing Chun-hee’s happiness would mar his own, so he can’t insist that she forsake her love. He sends her away to pursue that love, but he gives up his own chance at happiness because now he’s incurred debts against Ji-wan’s family.
Of course, you could say that he and Ji-wan could just get married and live happily and forget the rest. It’s not like there’s an irrefutable reason they must be separated, right? They’re not really siblings, they’re not dying, they’re not mortal enemies. So what if their parents had an affair, that has nothing to do with them, right?
But it’s not even about Your Happiness stealing My Happiness. It’s my happiness stealing from my other happiness — and when one part of yourself comes at the expense of another, how do you pick which one to preserve?
I like that if we must have a separation, at least it’s not external forces keeping them apart through tired manipulations. No, we’re talking in terms of debts and sins against loved ones, the currency being guilt. It’s like a complicated math problem where you’re trying to barter with uneven bills — there’s no way to even the score perfectly. Someone’s always paying too much or being shortchanged.
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