I think I have to start out with an apology, because I’m just so emotionally checked out of this drama that I can’t tell a good episode apart from a bad one anymore. I’ve read a lot of comments about how Episode 17 is so much better than the previous ones, which was promising to hear, but in the end all it gets from me is a resounding “Eh.” There are two conflicting adages that come to mind: “Better late than never” and “Too little too late.”
SONG OF THE DAY
Lemon Tree – “또 운다” (Crying again) [ Download ]
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Hyo-sun comes home in a daze and tells Eun-jo, “Mom ran away.” With her initial anger now replaced by little-lost-girl fear, Hyo-sun says dully that Mom ran away because she felt sorry to Dae-sung. Eun-jo looks at her in a mix of pity and disbelief, like she can’t decide whether Hyo-sun is that good or that stupid. Hyo-sun admits that she had used Jang ajusshi as a reason to hold onto Mom — that she didn’t want to kick her out, so if she could forgive Jang ajusshi, she wouldn’t have to.
Hyo-sun asks who Eun-jo and her mother are to her that she’s like this, but Eun-jo has no idea and asks the same thing back: “Who are we that you can’t let us go?” Hyo-sun counters by asking who’s acting more absurdly, her or Kang-sook. Touché, although frankly I think everyone in this drama is operating on some absurdity clause.
Eun-jo can’t take this — she and her mother have incurred so many sins against Hyo-sun and her father that she can’t stand it. She asks Hyo-sun to kick her away, but Hyo-sun refuses. If you feel that bad, you could try for some self-kicking, you know. You could ask Ki-hoon for tips.
Eun-jo starts to leave the room, but Hyo-sun grabs onto her leg and clings. Eun-jo tries to wriggle out of her sister’s grasp, but Hyo-sun grabs onto her arm, her ankle, her shirt — whatever she can hold on to drag Eun-jo back down. There’s a darkly funny undercurrent to this moment, reminiscent of that courtyard punch-a-thon in a long-ago episode, one where you can’t laugh outright but which has its own sort of pathetic-comic tinge.
Unable to get free, Eun-jo screams that she hates this, hates her, hates everything. Hyo-sun cries out, “How can you not know?” How can Eun-jo be so blind to a person’s feelings?
Resting her head on her sister’s knee, Hyo-sun says that Eun-jo and Kang-sook are sick people (sick as in suffering from illness rather than twisted, although I think there’s an argument for both) — how can they turn the past eight years into nothing? If she’s not ill, how else could Eun-jo act like they’re unconnected? I guess she’s looking for an answer other than “Because my heart is studded with spikes, wrapped in layers of ice, and dipped in a coating of fun-killing toxic goo.”
Hyo-sun argues that Jun-su ties Mom to Dad and sister to sister. (It makes me wonder if anything would change if Jun-su turned out to be Jang’s son, which is something I’ve always wondered. Probably not, given the way things are going, but there were a few episodes in there that could have gone that way. It sure explains Jun-su’s mean streak.)
Eun-jo sighs, “You’re really driving me crazy, Gu Hyo-sun.” Hyo-sun returns the sentiment, then asks her to bring Mom back.
Hyo-sun is still ill, so Eun-jo puts her to bed and tends to her, wondering if she ought to hug Hyo-sun — that if she held her feverish sister, she’d feel the heat too and be able to understand her for once. You know what would help with the understanding? If people just DID, instead of wondering about doing, and oh, maybe talked about the things they didn’t understand so that they could get understood.
Eun-jo is not that shocked by her mother’s departure, and narrates that compared to the shock it gave to Hyo-sun, her own is nothing. She asks Jung-woo to meet with Jang ajusshi just in case Kang-sook went to him.
Ki-hoon feeds Hyo-sun some lies (or greatly improbable ideas) that give her hope, saying that her mother probably just needed time to think, which she couldn’t have with Hyo-sun always around. She’ll come back once she’s thought everything over.
Eun-jo walks a glum Jun-su to kindergarten, telling him that Mom will be back soon. He isn’t satisfied with that answer and demands to know if she knows who SNSD is, or T-ara, or U-Kiss. He does some of their age-inappropriate dances — pelvic thrusting and all — and is annoyed that Eun-jo has no idea what he’s talking about. Mom knew them all.
What a random bit, but I’ll take the comic relief wherever we get it.
It turns out that Kang-sook has come to work at the restaurant run by the old friend she had run into. It’s a humble place and the riffraff can get a little unruly with a few bottles of soju in them. Kang-sook intervenes to help her friend fend off the drunken men’s groping and shoving, and sees that the woman’s daughter watches the scene, crying silently.
Kang-sook takes the girl outside to get away from the ruckus, and it’s a little jarring to see her showing compassion for a random daughter when she has left her own. But this supports the point that Kang-sook has finally seen the error of her ways and while she can’t comfort the children she has wronged, she can comfort this one.
Eun-jo tells Jun-su that she’ll learn the dance for him for his kindergarten class. Jun-su yells that he wants Hyo-sun to take him instead of his ugly older sister. (And I wonder, are we supposed to feel sorry for this kid? ‘Cause he’s kind of a mean bully. And while he has just lost his Dad and temporarily his Mom, I’m not sure they’re showing him in the most sympathetic light…)
Eun-jo persists, to which Jun-su shouts that she’s lying, and besides, she doesn’t know how anyway.
She comes upon Ki-hoon in the office, who is transcribing Dae-sung’s notes into the computer. He had intended to finish it before leaving the company, but may not have time and tells her she’d better have a look. Plus, the books contain personal notes as well. Inside one she finds a sonogram of Jun-su, which Dae-sung has labeled “my third gift.”
Ki-hoon leaves the office to let Eun-jo use the computer, but a sound captures his attention — it’s a live performance of T-ara that Eun-jo has pulled up on the laptop. She looks at the computer as though it’s a video of an alien ritual — which it probably is, to her. Still, she gamely gives it a go, awkward hand gestures and all. Ki-hoon can’t help but smile, because he’s just as surprised as we are to see a booty-shaking Eun-jo make an appearance in this drama.
The scene starts out funny, but it develops a sad undertone as Eun-jo thinks of the ridiculousness of dancing in such a situation: “My mother is a truly, truly unbelievable woman.” And not in the good way.
Eun-jo finally receives contact from her mother, who calls from a pay phone. Kang-sook reminds her that she had said she’d be happy living without her mother, saying that it would have been nice if Eun-jo had let her run away, and maybe then they could have met up once a year pleasantly.
Eun-jo talks urgently, telling her that Hyo-sun and Jun-su both want to see her. “Mom, do you think it’s fine to just run away like this? Are you saying you don’t care what happens to everyone else as long as you can get away? Even if you go, you can’t do it this way.” Perhaps those words connect with Ki-hoon, who may have not considered his own departure in those terms till now.
Kang-sook says that she hasn’t decided whether or not she will leave, and will let her know when she has.
Jung-woo tries to urge Hyo-sun to eat something, but she remains stubbornly sitting on the steps of the house, waiting for Kang-sook. Jung-woo tells her that she’ll come back, drawing upon his experiences with her in the past, when she occasionally went away but always ended up returning. She’d never leave her kids behind, which means she will come back to retrieve them. However, as Eun-jo won’t leave this house, that means Kang-sook will end up staying, too. He says all this with enough matter-of-factness to give her some hope.
Upon hearing that Eun-jo has made contact with Kang-sook, Hyo-sun insists on going with Jung-woo. They haven’t located the exact whereabouts, but Ki-hoon and Eun-jo are able to narrow down the source to a particular city.
Eun-jo tries to insist that Ki-hoon go back home to be with Hyo-sun while she can go on to meet her mother. He tells her that he feels relieved now that he has told her everything he has to say — it doesn’t matter if she hates him now, because he feels free to worry about her. He couldn’t do that before, burdened with guilt as he was, but now he’s unfazed by her glares and her ire.
A wrench is thrown into their travel plans when the car breaks down and they have to wait for a repairman. On top of that, it’s likely they won’t be able to fix the car right away, so Ki-hoon suggests leaving it with the mechanic and taking a bus for the rest of the way.
Eun-jo hates losing time and in her irritable mood grows angrier at the sight of Ki-hoon’s smile. But now that he’s finally been unburdened, it’s like nothing can ruffle his good mood or wipe the smile from his face: “Even in this really serious situation, I want to talk about things that have nothing to do with this. It feels like they’ll burst out. Will you listen to me?”
He grabs her by the shoulders and pushes her toward the car. If ever a moment called for a kiss, this is it — but by now I’m not even fazed when they don’t, because when faced with the option to either satisfy or frustrate, when has this drama ever chosen against frustrate?
Instead, Ki-hoon leans against the car and tells her to lean, lest she tire herself out. He starts to reminisce, saying she hasn’t changed in eight years. Eun-jo can’t bear to go down memory lane and turns away, but he grabs her arm and tells her, “Just lean somewhere,” and this time he doesn’t just mean the car. They wait.
This means Hyo-sun and Jung-woo arrive in the neighborhood first, and without much to go on, they walk around asking locals for information. They have no luck all day and Jung-woo suggests they stop for meal break, overriding Hyo-sun’s resistance to arrive at the restaurant run by Kang-sook’s friend.
Kang-sook is in the kitchen cooking, and recognizes Hyo-sun’s voice. Seized with panic, she escapes to the adjacent room and urges her friend not to say anything about her, and to serve the kids as slowly as possible so as to buy her some time.
However, the woman’s daughter asks her mother where the ajumma went, especially without her wallet, which Hyo-sun immediately recognizes as Kang-sook’s.
Leaving the car behind, Ki-hoon and Eun-jo take the bus, and Eun-jo nods off during the ride. Her head lolls uncomfortably, and as Ki-hoon watches her sleep, he slowly moves her head to rest against his shoulder. Watching her sleep, he smiles like a little boy.
Jung-woo texts him to say that they found Kang-sook, whom Hyo-sun faces with indignation.
Kang-sook keeps her gaze firmly fixed away from Hyo-sun and tells her to leave — even if she and Jung-woo dragged her back home today, she’d find a way to run off. Hyo-sun demands to know why, and Kang-sook answers that for the first time in her life, “I’ve realized what it means to not be able to show my face.” She can do so when she’s here, but not at home — not in front of her children. Not wanting to accept her mother’s departure, Hyo-sun tells her to live with her with her head bowed, then. That was her punishment.
Kang-sook urges her to ask Eun-jo all about the horrible things she had done in the past without even batting an eye, as though that will convince her that Kang-sook isn’t ready or worthy to return yet. She says she will go home if/when she finds that she can. Hyo-sun tearily agrees to leave now, but only if Kang-sook promises that she’ll come someday, and that until she does, she’ll stay here with her friend. Kang-sook makes the promise.
When Eun-jo wakes up, she’s surprised to find herself leaning against Ki-hoon and the bus now empty. He’d asked the driver for ten minutes, but now it’s been thirty since they arrived.
He tells her that Hyo-sun found her mother, which is why he agreed to meet them back at home. There’s no need for them to also seek her out, so they can head back now. Eun-jo naturally balks at that — no decision is satisfactory unless it was her own, and even then she’s hardly ever satisfied — and insists on going to seek her out anyway.
With her usual charm, Eun-jo harangues the restaurant ajumma, calling her a liar (for saying Kang-sook isn’t around) and demanding that she tell her where she went. The ajumma tamps down her irritation and says that Kang-sook immediately packed up after the other kids left, which Eun-jo doesn’t believe. Finally the ajumma has enough of Eun-jo’s shouting and retorts that even if she DID know, she’d want to lie because of Eun-jo’s attitude. Seriously, you’d think the girl would have figured this out by now, with all her business experiences. Instead she keeps yelling, which gets her kicked out.
And even then, she continues to bang on the door and insist that the ajumma tell her where her mother went. Ki-hoon stands by quietly throughout this whole exchange, but finally he steps in and pulls her away from the door, grabbing her in a hug.
The gesture is partly to contain Eun-jo’s reaction and partly to soothe her, and he holds her tightly as she fights him at first, then gradually calms down as he pats her head like a gentle father might. Eun-jo says, “She said she’d never once considered abandoning me, but she did anyway.”
Ki-hoon continues to pat her comfortingly, and shares a story of his own. How back in his youth, he had been taken away by these big men, against his mother’s wishes. She had run crying after the car, even though she wasn’t supposed to run. And that’s how he was separated from her.
One day, his mother had come to find him in the house where he’d lived with his brothers. That’s when his brother had given her the runaround — literally — to lose her, and she had run after him. (That’s how she had died, as we already know from Ki-jung’s admission.)
Eun-jo hears him recount a part of his life she’d never known before, possibly feeling a certain bond with the scars they carry because of their mothers. He promises, “I’ll find her for you. Don’t worry.” And for once, she lets him comfort her.
She arrives home late that night to find Jun-su crying for Mom, and Hyo-sun trying to comfort him, making up a story about how she’s nursing her sick friend back to health. To help him back to sleep, Hyo-sun carries him piggyback in the courtyard, murmuring affectionately just like Dae-sung used to do, “Our puppy, our adorable, awful kiddo-kiddo-kiddo…”
As they lay side-by-side with a sleeping Jun-su between them, Eun-jo asks if that’s what “he” used to do for Hyo-sun when she couldn’t sleep — is that what Dad used to say?
Eun-jo’s use of the word “Dad,” which she so scrupulously tried to avoid in the past, makes Hyo-sun sit up immediately in surprise. Sadly, Hyo-sun asks, “Why am I hearing this for the first time? You should have said that sooner.” Why did Eun-jo insist on being such a brat before?
Everyone has been saying that they’re sure Kang-sook will return — as though there’s no way she wouldn’t — but Eun-jo needs to voice her fears and she asks Hyo-sun what she’d do if Mom never comes back. However, Hyo-sun would rather answer the question of why she believes that Kang-sook WILL come back: “Because Mom said she can’t hold up her face.” But abandoning Jun-su is an even worse act that should make it even harder for Kang-sook to hold up her face; ergo, she will come back.
That so surprises Eun-jo that she sits straight up in disbelief. This is the first indication that Kang-sook is really feeling remorse for her actions and, more than that, shame. Hyo-sun adds that she believes that Kang-sook won’t want to spit on the last eight years, no matter how hard they were, because that’s like spitting on Dae-sung. Doesn’t Eun-jo feel the same way?
Eun-jo’s narration: “It was really hard to believe, but she’s telling me that Mom has realized what shame is. Without me knowing, Hyo-sun was growing up from the ridiculous girl who used cutesy antics to gain anything into an adult who knew how to respect the time that had passed. Only I with my bared claws stayed the same.”
And can I say that I’m greatly relieved that Eun-jo has finally realized that she has not changed. Well, she has mellowed out since Dae-sung died, but her view of the world and unwillingness to bend has remained a constant. Perhaps this will prompt some real progress in her, which has been a really long time coming. Again, it’s better late than never, but rather too little too late to make a convincing impact at this late stage.
Ki-hoon returns to the restaurant the next day to try approaching the ajumma’s daughter for information, as he’d seen her the night before. He flashes his winning smile at her and asks about her mother’s friend, but the girl is wary of the strange man (smart girl!) and says that the woman is gone. Rather than pressing her, Ki-hoon employs some reverse psychology and backs off, affably saying that that’s too bad. Oh well.
As he leaves, he sees the girl running for her mother. An important phone call sends him away before he sees Kang-sook, however, who hears that a man had been by inquiring after her.
The call is from Director Park, Ki-jung’s resigned Hong Ju employee. And this drama is making it WAY too easy to joke about Ki-hoon’s lethal telephoning powers, because apparently Mr. Park is dying. (For reals!) He feels burdened by all the shady dealings he has been a part of and is giving Ki-hoon vital information about Hong Ju misdeeds via email. How convenient! It’s like he knew this was Episode 17 and swooped in with a deus ex machina plot point!
Also on the docket for today is a last-minute visit by the Dae-sung Co. elders. Knowing it can’t be good, Ki-hoon tells Jung-woo to make sure Eun-jo doesn’t return to the winery today, as he doesn’t want her present for this meeting.
They are here to inform him that Hong Ju has accepted their shares in Dae-sung Co. in exchange for Hong Ju stock. Ki-hoon asks for the conditions of the exchange, arguing that this company cannot be swallowed up by them. The head elder cuts him off curtly — they came to tell the two daughters, not to consult with him. They will return tomorrow to talk directly with Eun-jo and Hyo-sun.
Ki-hoon tries to explain that the two sisters are going through a lot right now — if they hear about this, they’d lose the will to endure. He asks for more time and the details of Hong Ju’s offer. They remain silent and leave.
Next, he meets with Director Park to ask about his intentions — the sudden help is a little suspicious, to say the least. Park merely explains that part of him would like for Ki-hoon to take that information and stick it to the Hongs in his stead, but more prominent is his desire to die with a clean conscience. At the end of the day, no matter his personal motivation, what’s wrong is wrong.
Ki-hoon warns the man that he’s inviting investigation of his own deeds, but Director Park is prepared for even worse than that. He tells him to use that information however he wishes, whether it’s to publicize Hong Ju’s deeds to the world or to help restore Dae-sung Co.
Jung-woo has done as ordered and taken Eun-jo away for the day, ignoring her insistence on returning to the winery. For once he even yells at her to listen to him, which is quite a surprise since she’s the only one who’s ever yelling in this relationship.
Still, she continues to complain, until he whips out his hidden (but probably faked) card: It’s his birthday. He hadn’t wanted to be the guy who insists that someone celebrate his birthday with him, but he’ll take it where he can. And that finally convinces Eun-jo to go along for the day. She even enjoys herself.
This sequence injects some much-needed levity into the episode, and is worth it just for the cake scene alone, which I admit was the one truly winning moment in this episode for me and made me laugh out loud. Eun-jo dips her finger in icing to dab it on Jung-woo’s nose, displaying a rare flash of her playful side. Jung-woo takes this as encouragement and dips HIS finger in the icing, holding his finger out toward Eun-jo’s face, which is when she levels THIS stare at him:
“You are writing your epitaph” seems to be the closest translation of that sardonic look, and Jung-woo sheepishly retracts the finger and licks the icing off himself.
They go on to enjoy the date-like atmosphere, where he compares her to a round-faced stuffed animal (to which she protests) and even persuades her to wear a silly pink headband. She’s reluctant to do it, but the guilt of “It’s my birthday present” is too strong for her to deny. She does, however, refuse to succumb to the supreme cheesiness of allowing him to wear a similar set of ears, and he pulls his off with some disappointment. So cute.
All in all, not a bad night. Upon arriving home, she bids Jung-woo good night and heads on to her room, but just as she rounds the corner, there Ki-hoon is, sitting out in his pavilion.
He calls out to her, “Eun-jo ya,” and gestures her closer. She thinks he’s crazy — has he forgotten all the angst between them? (And I’m like, honey, we’re all trying to forget that!)
She thinks, “He’s smiling. He’s definitely crazy.” But then she starts to head toward him, thinking, “And I’m definitely crazy, too.”
I’ve been hanging in there because I’d committed to finishing this drama, and there’s only one more week left, and I do feel a sense of responsibility to projects I’ve taken on. I’m trying not to let my personal fatigue weigh down the recaps although I’m sure it comes across, plus I’ve never made it a point to leave out opinions just because they weren’t positive; I don’t want to write recaps as a mere dry recounting of events. But just know that this is me being as positive as I can, which is nowhere near how frustrated I feel on the inside. It’s gone beyond Will It Snow For Christmas levels of angst (bearable) and is hovering right on the border of A Star’s Lover (unbearable).
One light at the end of the tunnel is this: As with Will It Snow For Christmas, I was pretty certain we had to get a happy(ish) ending because otherwise, the angst wouldn’t make any sense. There can’t be a point to all this Sturm und Drang if we were going to end up on a depressing note, because I firmly believe that a tragic ending would require more up and down in the middle. Not this solid plateau of moodiness. This drama isn’t tragic enough for a tragic ending, so we’ve got to be angling for a (semi-)happy one. I don’t mean wedding scenes and trumpets blaring, but a hopeful ending that points at a satisfactory end for most of our characters.
One thing that struck me with this episode — though it has been the case throughout the drama — is that I really hate how the men treat the women. Like they’re helpless idiots incapable of doing anything for themselves, and must be “shielded” from the truth. It’s as though these men must keep secrets from the frail women because their frail women minds and hysterical emotions wouldn’t be able to handle the hard truth. I mean, WTF?
For instance, Ki-hoon taking the meeting with the elders and keeping it a secret from Eun-jo because she wouldn’t be able to endure this news. What drama have you been watching, Ki-hoon? Girl is about as soft and weak as a cast-iron skillet thrown at your head, which is what I’m tempted to do. She is less tough with emotional traumas originating from her mother, but in other respects she’s pretty solid; she’s hardly going to have a breakdown because of some sold shares. Jung-woo isn’t as bad (for example, worrying that she’s not eating seems like a reasonable concern) but he displays the same tendencies. Then again, you can’t blame the men that much since the women do have a history of collapsing from emotional blows. I’m annoyed with the men for treating the ladies like this, but I think I’m more annoyed with the drama for supporting their beliefs.
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