Good episode, or frustrating episode? I think a little of both.
But now that we’re in the last week, I’m just looking forward to tomorrow’s finale. Granted, this writer is not known for sweet, perfect happy endings, and given her track record I think we can hope for mild happiness (or bittersweetness) at best. But I actually remain confident that we’re going to get a reunion for our couple, because it’s the only way this drama makes sense. All this angst would really be pointless if there were no payoff — and a really big one, at that, given the buildup — so I’m expecting a satisfying ending tomorrow. Or heads will roll.
SONG OF THE DAY
Lucite Tokki – “잊혀진 이야기” (Forgotten Story) [ Download ]
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Backtracking a little bit from the end of last episode, we see Kang-jin and Ji-wan reading in the library together. While she sleeps, he covers her with his coat and presses a kiss to her forehead.
At the same time, Young-sook’s memory is jogged by Chun-hee’s pleas to let go of Kang-jin. Suddenly, she’s flooded with images and scenes from the time she has forgotten — Chun-hee moving back to Sancheong, the house fire, and that day when Ji-wan introduced her to Kang-jin as her boyfriend.
Young-sook heads to Kang-jin’s room to confirm her suspicions, digging through his desk. When she finds his family portrait in his desk — the one with him, Bu-san, and Chun-hee — she realizes the truth. She goes downstairs in time to catch Ji-wan’s soothing words to Kang-jin about not feeling guilty anymore, and how Ji-yong’s death wasn’t anybody’s fault.
Young-sook joins them, not betraying that she overheard or that she knows who Kang-jin really is. They react with relief to see her safe and sound, and Kang-jin acts in his usual caring way. However, Young-sook is rattled and distances herself, avoiding looking at him. She even removes her arm from his grasp and directs all her words at Ji-wan.
This conversation shakes her up further, and she retreats to her room.
In the car ride back to the hospital, Ji-wan tries to lighten the mood, saying that her mother is fine. She places a hand over his, and when he doesn’t react, she asks, “What, can’t we hold hands?” (This is an echo of Kang-jin’s words when the situation was reversed in a previous episode.)
Kang-jin remains nonresponsive, so Ji-wan then tries to crack a joke, imitating a gag comedian. She looks hopefully in his direction, but he makes no indication that he heard. She starts to bang her head against the headrest restlessly.
Kang-jin slides his hand behind her head to stop her, and says in his disgruntled voice, “Don’t go around doing that. Your gag impression isn’t the least bit accurate, and it’s not funny either.”
Despite the words, she smiles — at least he’s reacting to her now. And when he lowers his hand from her headrest, he grasps hers.
In the morning, Tae-joon surprises Woo-jung by giving her a ride to work. When asked why, he answers that he’s planning on scouting her, and offers to give her a ride every day if she joins his firm. She asks teasingly, “You know you’re going extremely overboard, don’t you?” He knows, but has found a certain fun in it. When he drops her off, he proposes, “Lee Woo-jung! Do you want to stop looking at the backs of frustrating people and start dating again? I’m going overboard again, aren’t I?” With a smile, she agrees that he is being excessive.
Young-sook is in better control of her emotions today, and brings Kang-jin juice at his desk as though everything is normal. When she hands the glass to him, she drops it, spilling the juice all over his computer. I’m not sure if this is a conscious move or a subconscious one, but in any case she doesn’t seem 100% sorry, although of course she does apologize. Kang-jin is clearly upset, but he tries to contain his reaction, even though his co-workers remind him that they need the material today and that the damages would be huge if they lost the client. Thinking of Young-sook’s feelings, Kang-jin shushes them and says tersely that they can take the damages out of his pay.
Kang-jin joins Young-sook upstairs as she folds laundry, assuring her that everything is okay. He’s being the good, thoughtful son as ever, even urging her to go buy some nice clothes for herself, so her coolness is perplexing. His confusion grows when Young-sook’s eyes remain averted and she keeps her answers short.
Young-sook has remembered Kang-jin and Ji-wan’s romantic history, so she knows what she’s doing when she suggests that they marry Ji-wan off this year. She adds, “And you should find a woman who suits you and marry.” (It’s her way of ensuring that they stay apart, which indicates that she has decided to continue her pretense.)
Ji-wan and Jin-kyung are both pleased to hear that Bu-san made up with his mother. It’s too bad that Chun-hee can’t move in with Bu-san despite their reconciliation, because he lives in a tiny place. Jin-kyung has always had a silly crush on Kang-jin, so she sighs over how hard this must be on him, not being able to call his own mother “Mother.”
This discussion sours Ji-wan’s mood, and she excuses herself. In addition to reminding her of Kang-jin’s predicament, it also echoes her own — she’s another person who loves someone but isn’t allowed to show it. This talk of mothers must make her feel bad for Chun-hee too, and Ji-wan goes shopping for gifts (undergarments, nightclothes).
Kang-jin visits his mother’s coffee stand as she deals with a difficult customer. The man spits out the coffee and accuses her of lying that it’s premium coffee when it’s really low-grade swill.
Kang-jin angrily steps in and thrusts a few bills at the man (way more than necessary), telling him to go buy himself that fancy coffee and never come back.
He takes Chun-hee to lunch, and she assumes that he’s come to yell at her for making Young-sook collapse. She starts to insult Young-sook but catches herself, remembering Kang-jin’s reaction last time, and braces herself for his outburst.
Because he remains quiet, Chun-hee asks impatiently, “So what are you gonna do? Are you going to beat me, or what? Are you going to kill your mother?” She grumbles that she’ll go back to Young-sook to demand that she let go of her son.
Kang-jin tells her that he’s looking for an apartment for her to move into with Bu-san. He’ll cover her expenses so she can stop working at her coffee stand, and she should hire a maid to prevent further injury to her back.
Chun-hee protests, “I want to live in the same house with you. … I don’t need a maid or an apartment. Even if it’s a rundown shack, I want to live with you. Let’s live together.” When he doesn’t respond, she presses, “You’ve done enough. Three years is enough.”
He answers quietly, “I can’t do that.” From his reaction, it seems like he’d like to, but he still feels obligated to the commitment he made. Chun-hee is hurt by his answer and swigs from the soju bottle.
Ji-wan has been waiting for a long while in front of Chun-hee’s door with her gift bags, but finally decides to leave. As she walks away, she sees Chun-hee approaching in the distance, staggering drunkenly with a concerned Kang-jin a few steps behind her.
When he tries to help her, she casts off his arm. When Kang-jin wraps his scarf around her neck, she flings it off. Finally, he kneels in front of her and tells her to climb on his back because it’s clear she can’t walk straight.
Because of her hurt feelings, Chun-hee addresses him sarcastically as though he’s a stranger: “Excuse me, I don’t know who you are. I thought you were my son, but you say you’re not. Why would I get on the back of someone I don’t know?”
She starts to hit him on the back, crying and shouting, “You crazy fool who doesn’t even know his mother!” More insistently, Kang-jin grits out, “Get on, Madam Cha.” Instead, she falls to the ground sobbing.
He ends up carrying her home anyway. Now docile and half-asleep, Chun-hee softly sings the song he had once sung to her, in Episode 3 (“Hongdo, Don’t Cry”).
A montage shows us the thoughts running through his mind, and all his old memories of his mother. Perhaps the song choice is doubly poignant, because in the earlier scene it was a sort of love song from son to mother. Now it’s got a bite to it, because it had been his way of promising to take care of her. He can still treat Chun-hee well, but as long as he’s committed to the act with Young-sook, there are limits to what he can do for Chun-hee. Like living with her as her son.
Late that night, Woo-jung is the only one still in the office, and is searching for a flash drive that has disappeared from her desk. She finally finds it in the trash outside.
When she comes inside, she hands Kang-jin something, asking, “Wasn’t this a photo you really treasured? I don’t know what happened, but why did you rip it up? Even so, isn’t that your only photo of your mother? You’ll regret ripping it up in anger later.”
He has no idea what she’s talking about, but he does recognize the photo. Knowing that he wasn’t the one who ripped it up, he starts thinking of who could have done it…
In his room, he finds his photo frame now empty. Guessing the truth, he heads to Young-sook’s room, where she sleeps.
The next day, Ji-wan meets her mother at Miss Shin’s cafe after work. What she doesn’t expect is for Young-sook to have engineered a surprise blind date; Mom introduces a man as their neighbor’s brother and excuses herself, pleased with her clever trick.
Ji-wan puts a quick end to the date, explaining, “I’m sorry, before this becomes more of an inconvenience, I’ll speak honestly. I’m dating someone, but my mother doesn’t approve of him. I think she called me here on purpose, because he works here.” Hilariously, she calls Bu-san over, telling the date, “We go back a long while.”
And yes, because Go Soo isn’t cool enough already, the drama throws in a montage of him playing basketball. (Honestly, Kang-jin was pretty damned awesome already, without throwing athletics into the mix. Maybe they were afraid we’d forgotten that Kang-jin is hot. From two seconds ago. Well, I guess it’s the least they can do for Go Soo after putting him through the emotional wringer.)
Woo-jung finds him to let him know that Chun-hee is at the atelier, waiting for him.
Chun-hee greets Kang-jin, contrite now, assuring him that she called ahead of time to make sure Young-sook would be out. She intends to leave quickly, and is only here to give him a present. They’re gloves, because she’d noticed he wasn’t wearing any the other night.
Kang-jin hesitates, remaining at a distance, which Chun-hee takes as a rejection. Wondering if he’s turned into a snob (who would only wear fine department store clothes), she retracts her arm and puts the package back into her purse. At that, Kang-jin steps forward and takes the box from her and opens it. As he puts the gloves on, Chun-hee’s hurt expression fades, and she smiles.
Ji-wan drives Young-sook back from the aborted date, saying that her mother shouldn’t have sprung this on her. Plus, she’s not in a rush to marry anyway, and she’s not so old. Ji-wan becomes subdued when Young-sook says that she already spoke to Ji-yong, whom she wants to marry off this year as well.
They pull up to the house just as Kang-jin is walking his mother out, and everyone pauses for a moment, not sure how to let this play out.
Surprisingly, Young-sook greets Chun-hee with friendliness, saying that she’s sorry for worrying her last time. The other three hang back in uncertainty, but Young-sook ignores their discomfort and urges Chun-hee to stay for lunch. Addressing Kang-jin, Young-sook adds with (false) innocence, “This woman is a good friend of mine. Have you said hello?” As though Kang-jin had never met Chun-hee before.
(I say that it’s false because we know that Young-sook is continuing to act as before, even though she now knows the truth. The others don’t know that she has regained her memory, so she takes advantage of that to feign innocence while delivering hurtful barbs, as we’ll see in the following scene.)
As they eat, Young-sook makes a show of fawning over Kang-jin, asking Chun-hee, “Isn’t my son so good-looking? He’s so devoted, too.” The three others eat in strained silence, leaving Young-sook to chatter on alone. She asks Chun-hee what her son does for a living, and Chun-hee grudgingly goes along with the farce, answering, “I don’t know what he’s doing.”
Young-sook prods, “How can a mother not know what her son is doing?” Biting back less civil responses, Chun-hee says that she’s such a thoughtless mother that she doesn’t know. Still acting innocent, Young-sook wonders, “Then why have a son in the first place, if you can’t take responsibility for him?”
Ji-wan tries to shush her mother, and Chun-hee glares in indignation. Under the table, Kang-jin covers his mother’s hand with his own and squeezes it in support.
Young-sook continues blithely, “I was watching television, and even animals that can’t speak take care of their young. No matter how difficult things become, even if their own lives are at risk, they didn’t abandon their children to live alone.” Kang-jin’s grasp tightens as Young-sook continues with false concern, “I’m just saying what I saw on television. I wasn’t directing this to you, Chun-hee.”
Chun-hee shakes off Kang-jin’s hand and excuses herself. Kang-jin starts to follow her out, but Young-sook stops him, saying meaningfully, “Don’t go.”
Ji-wan assures him that she’ll go, so she follows Chun-hee outside while Kang-jin stays stuck in place, figuratively and literally. (Nice image above, isn’t it? Kang-jin is stuck in his little box, kept there by Young-sook’s guilt trip.)
Young-sook feels (feigns?) ill and asks him to take her to her room. After tucking her into bed, he turns to go — eager to get back outside — but she grabs his hand and pleads, “Don’t go, I’m scared. Stay with your mother, okay? Stay with me until I fall asleep.”
Ji-wan chases Chun-hee outside and apologizes for her mother, then asks her to wait while she grabs her car keys so she can drive Chun-hee home. However, when Ji-wan comes back outside the house, Chun-hee is already gone. And so, Ji-wan drives to Chun-hee’s home and waits outside.
Chun-hee is in a quiet mood and largely ignores Ji-wan, who keeps an upbeat tone and sets out the food she had brought, urging Chun-hee to eat. Chun-hee flatly refuses, then tells Ji-wan to leave.
Ji-wan apologizes for her mother again, but that’s not enough to mollify Chun-hee, who demands angrily, “How long does my Kang-jin have to live like that? HOW LONG?”
Ji-wan is quiet for a few beats, then answers, “Until today. Just until today.”
Kang-jin gets up to leave the room now that Young-sook is asleep, but turns back when her phone vibrates. He checks the display, and the message makes his eyes widen in shock. It’s a text from the Sancheong charnel house, which is the facility that maintains burial vaults where people’s ashes and remains are stored. The message is responding to Young-sook’s phone call yesterday about moving Ji-yong’s remains.
The pieces start to fall into place, and are confirmed when Kang-jin calls back and hears that Young-sook had asked about moving Ji-yong’s vault. Now Kang-jin makes sense of Young-sook’s odd behavior, and how she had acted distant around him, and how her lunchtime conversation with Chun-hee was particularly cruel given that she knew the truth.
The truth delivers a crushing blow. Bleakly, Kang-jin wonders, “But why are you lying? Why? What is it you want to do? Don’t do it.”
Ji-wan comes home to a darkened house, finding Kang-jin sitting in a moody daze at his desk. She sits in front of him, sighing, “I’m tired. It was a really long day, wasn’t it?”
She says she’ll only stay here for three seconds (as Kang-jin had once said to her when he needed her companionship after a bad day), and they both close their eyes. A tear trickles from hers.
In the morning, Ji-wan makes good on her promise and starts packing Young-sook’s clothes. Her mother wonders what she’s doing, and she replies that they will live together from now on — she’ll take an apartment near the hospital: “Live with me, Mom. I’m your child too, not just oppa. Is oppa everything in your life? Without him, will the world end? Will it collapse?”
Young-sook is puzzled at Ji-wan’s sudden decision. Ji-wan sticks to her guns, her voice growing more heated as she argues:
Ji-wan: “Then why did you have me? You should have just given birth to him, then. Am I not your child if I’m a bad student? Am I not your child if I’m not first place? Am I not your child if I’m dumb and immature? Remember that you have me in your life too, not just oppa! I may be foolish and inadequate, but remember that I’m your child!”
Kang-jin walks into the room in the midst of this and asks what’s going on. She announces that she’s going to take Young-sook now, answering defiantly:
Ji-wan: “Are you the only one who’s so great, Han Ji-yong? Do you know how much I put myself through trying to catch up to you for the last thirteen years? Now step aside. Get lost. I’m going to take care of Mom.”
He steps forward and orders her to unpack: “I’M going to take care of Mother.”
I was loving this episode’s buildup — until that last scene just had to come along and be a killjoy! I groaned, “WHAT THE—?” when Kang-jin had all the tools for extricating himself from this cage of guilt/lies, and then he went and shut the damn door himself! Urg. I’ll attempt to make a more tempered explanation for that choice below, because I can sort of see from a narrative standpoint why the writer chose to do it. But my first response was definitely not satisfaction.
But first, let’s address Young-sook’s condition. This episode finally lays to rest the suspicions that she had been faking for the past three years. It’s clear that she has had the truth tucked up in her memory somewhere, but she had honestly believed the lies she had told herself. As we can see from her reaction to retrieving her memory in this episode, she isn’t a good enough actress to have faked the whole charade.
I was a little wary of the choice to make Young-sook fake her continued illness in this episode, because it was hard enough to be sympathetic when she was genuinely confused. Now that she’s faking, doesn’t that make her irredeemably hateful? I’m not a fan of having people do really evil things to jerk around our star-crossed lovers.
BUT! I accept this turn because I’d be even more dissatisfied if Young-sook merely “awoke” from her delusion and bam, problem solved. That would be too easy, and it would also make the last three years feel like such an unfair loss for everyone. If the only thing keeping them apart was Young-sook’s illness, and then she just woke up from it, the arbitrariness of her recovery makes all the recent melodrama seem so unnecessary. It would have made the past two or three episodes rather moot.
Since she actually IS faking, it opens up a few more last-minute conflicts that we wouldn’t get to explore otherwise. For instance, I was thrilled when Ji-wan announced that she would put an end to this, and wanted her to confront her mother with the truth. Therefore I was disappointed when she merely suggested that they move out together. However, when Ji-wan addressed her mother’s favoritism for Ji-yong, I realized that this is a much more satisfactory route, because in order to heal this mother-daughter relationship, they have to address the root of the problem. And the root of the problem isn’t insisting that Kang-jin is Ji-yong, but that Young-sook has such a co-dependent attachment to Ji-yong that she will lie and hurt everyone around her just to preserve her illusion. Ji-wan has never faced her mother about being the less-loved child, and I was really proud of her (in the sense that you can be proud of a character!) for bringing it up.
As for Kang-jin’s decision to perpetuate the farce… sigh. I can’t say I love it. In fact, I can say quite honestly that he’s really trying my sympathy, because there’s a line between being noble and being a stupid martyr. I think he’s being both.
The only reason I’m willing to give this a go (other than the fact that we’re only an episode from the finale anyway) is because this drama has always been about the characters’ internal struggles. The person who can end this ruse most satisfactorily is Young-sook herself, and perhaps Kang-jin believes that as well. Even if he knows she is pretending, he feels he’s locked into playing her son in order to repay the wrongs his family has dealt hers. So until she is willing to release him, he’s still not free of his debt, regardless of whether her memory is back. She has to come to her own decision to face the truth and let him free of his “obligation.”
Oh, of course in our eyes he’s absolutely free to go and I still think he’s being a dumb glutton for punishment. But SIGHHHH for noble heroes.
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