Ah, the end is here! I suspect this episode made most if not all fans very happy, as it tied up the plot in a light-hearted but satisfactory way that was in keeping with the tone of the drama. It’s too bad that things didn’t get really compelling until about Episode 10 (then stepped it up with Episode 12 on — incidentally when Yura took a big step backward — coincidence? I think not) — which is frankly rather late for me to be connecting with a drama.

It’s to the actors’ credit that their amusing and sweet interactions were able to carry the plot until the story finally managed to tap into that emotional place with Min-woo’s growth as a father and as a person. I’m just glad that this one ended on a high note, because so many finale episodes feel like a letdown — they’re either too rushed or dragged out as an extended epilogue.

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Daybreak – “Popcorn” [ Download ]

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FINAL EPISODE RECAP

Min-woo asks Kae-hwa to be Ye-eun’s mother, explaining that he had purposely waited to ask her until after the musical premiered. Nobody could be as good a mother to Ye-eun as she is, “And I need you. Let’s marry.”

(Omo! Usually when episodes end on cliffhangers, the next episode drops the tension back down, but in this case they just upped the ante.)

Kae-hwa is stunned, but Min-woo adds, “I’m not saying this out of the blue. I’ve thought this over seriously for a long while. Think it over, then give me your answer. I can wait as long as you need.”

Min-woo is invited along for a celebratory drink with The Show Co. staff, and Jae-hee remarks that it feels like Min-woo’s a part of their office family now, seeing as he has come to all their gatherings. Min-woo smiles and, while looking at Kae-hwa, says pointedly, “I think so too. It feels like a family.”

He’s extra solicitous to her, offering little things like napkins and such, which Shi-joon finds amusing while Kae-hwa is exasperated. When the others urge her to drink more, Min-woo swoops in to play the “black knight,” i.e, drink for her.

Min-woo’s behavior is so noteworthy that Jae-hee asks teasingly if their fake scandal is actually real. Kae-hwa blurts, “No!” just as Min-woo answers, “Yes.” (Such a mixed reaction makes the others think there’s more to this relationship than they’re letting on, and they exchange knowing looks.) Kae-hwa rises to leave early because of the kids, and Min-woo hurriedly excuses himself too, accompanying her out.

Kae-hwa is impatient with his exaggerated attentiveness, and says that she’ll give her answer now: “I’m not going to marry again.” He asks her to think about it some more, but she replies that a lot of thought has already gone into making this decision (not to remarry).

A bit indignant, he says it’s cowardly to swear off marriage because her first one failed. Maybe she just met the wrong guy the first time — it’s always possible she’ll meet a good person the second time around.

Kae-hwa replies that she doesn’t want to entertain such an expectation, and besides, she has Min-ji. He counters that a daughter isn’t a husband — and once Min-ji grows up and gets married, will she be fine being alone? That makes her pause briefly, but she reasserts her stance.

Min-woo: “Are you that afraid?”
Kae-hwa: “Yes, I am! Do you know what marriage is?”
Min-woo: “‘What do you know when you have no life experience?’ Is that what you’re telling me?”
Kae-hwa: “You haven’t been hurt so you don’t know. You don’t know what that pain is of promising to love each other for the rest of your life and having that shattered. So please don’t talk to me about marriage again. I’m sorry to say it like this.”

She walks off, leaving him pondering her words.

Kae-hwa’s words make him look deeper into the cause of her resistance. Thus the next morning, he intercepts Byung-hak just as the latter is leaving his house (humming “Sorry Sorry” in a meta moment, lol).

Min-woo gets to the point, asking aggressively what the heck Byung-hak did to Kae-hwa to make her swear off marriage forever. Byung-hak returns that this is hardly his concern, but Min-woo says it matters “because it’s a hindrance to her marrying me.”

Byunk-hak’s reaction is pure confusion: “Why?” Why would he want a woman like Kae-hwa when he’s a star? Min-woo presses on with his question, which elicits a roundabout answer about how she’s a difficult and tiring woman to live with. Min-woo watches with narrowed eyes, reading between the lines — he cheated, huh?

Defensively, Byung-hak turns it around on Kae-hwa, saying she doesn’t know how to make herself pretty; it felt like he was living with a housekeeper. In fact, he never bought even her flowers — not because he forgot or anything, but simply because he never felt inspired to buy them for her. You know, since looks are the only reason for loving a woman and all. (I’m not even offended by this comment, because Byung-hak is such a silly idiot that the sentiment has no sting coming from him.)

Min-woo asks if he ever apologized for hurting her. Byung-hak laughs, saying it’s embarrassing to do that. Min-woo tells him firmly, “Apologize to her. Ask her officially for her forgiveness.” Byung-hak finds this an odd demand coming from Min-woo, who replies, “I’m asking as the man who loves her.”

Now that Min-woo has made up his mind to woo Kae-hwa, he gets busy trying to win her over. For instance, he waits outside her apartment to give the girls a ride to school, and reacts in concern to hear Kae-hwa hasn’t eaten breakfast. After dropping off the girls, he takes her to a fancy buffet, where he even serves her.

Kae-hwa worries over the pricy food, trying to convince him to watch his spending because he must have lost a lot of money in the cancelled endorsement deals. Min-woo answers matter-of-factly that they probably add up to about 3 billion won ($2.5 million), but is unfazed. He’s got money in the bank and is confident he can get more work; he’ll consider this a luxurious hiatus from work.

Unimpressed, Kae-hwa urges him to adopt a frugal attitude and says she’s better off than he is, since at least she has a regular salary.

At work, a huge arrangement of red roses is delivered, addressed to Kae-hwa from Min-woo. While the other employees all smile at her knowingly, Kae-hwa tries to explain it away in innocent terms: “Can’t this be a thank-you?” They don’t buy it for a second.

Min-woo sends her a text, which is totally over-the-top and ridiculous (“More beautiful than a flower… Kae-hwa”). Embarrassed and uncomfortable, Kae-hwa says she’ll clear the flowers out of the office and takes them to the stairwell, thinking Min-woo is being shameless. But they do bring a smile to her face, as it’s been ages since she’s received flowers from anyone (which is why Min-woo made the gesture in the first place, in reaction to Byung-hak’s remark).

Next, Min-woo takes a cake to Bok-nim in thanks for treating Ye-eun, then asks for a favor, as she is a friend to Kae-hwa. His statement that “I’m intending to marry Yoon Kae-hwa” so shocks her that Bok-nim drops her coffee and stares at him incredulously.

Bok-nim rushes to ask Kae-hwa about it, wanting to know when the wedding is. She dismisses Kae-hwa’s grumbling that he’s just a kid — 28 is plenty grown-up, and the seven-year age difference is nothing. How can she let a guy like him slip through her fingers?

Kae-hwa grumbles that Min-woo’s proposal asked her to be Ye-eun’s mother, not his wife. Bok-nim sees through Kae-hwa’s complaining and smiles: “You really do like Min-woo.” That’s why she’s disappointed over the wording of his proposal, right? Bok-nim waves aside her resistance, saying that if they like each other, what’s the big deal? In her eyes, Min-woo is serious about her.

Min-woo takes the family out to a nice restaurant. Kae-hwa is self-conscious about coming to a place like this where they’ll be watched, but Min-ji enjoys eating out for once, and Min-woo tells her that it doesn’t matter to him. He pats Ye-eun on the head, saying, “I’m going to raise her proudly, since she’s my daughter.” Which is probably the most effective thing he could have said to impress her, and she allows herself to look at him with moony eyes (but only when he’s not looking back at her).

When Kae-hwa takes Ye-eun to the bathroom, Min-woo tries to make conversation with Min-ji. He sees this as a chance to suss out her thoughts and asks if she’d like having a sister like Ye-eun. Min-ji is pretty sharp and asks point-blank, “Are you going to marry my mother?” Her bluntness takes him by surprise, but he confides that he wants to. Still, he has to first hear out Min-ji’s opinion and wait for her mother’s answer.

She asks, “If you end up marrying my mother and then a prettier lady comes along, are you going to divorce my mom?” Min-woo gapes incredulously, but Min-ji points out that he works with beautiful actresses all the time: “If you betray my mother, it’ll be so sad for her.”

He tells her solemnly, “That’ll never happen. I’ll promise that to you.” They pinky-swear on it.

The musical continues its run and after another of Min-woo’s performances, he calls Kae-hwa, who is working late — or at least, she lies that she is. He offers to pick her up from the office, but for whatever reasons (fear, insecurity, nerves), Kae-hwa rejects the offer.

Reporter Han overhears Min-woo muttering to himself after the call, and says knowingly that he must be stuck in an unrequited love. Min-woo is wary, but Reporter Han has some insights about the situation, and his comments pique Min-woo’s curiosity. Wanting to hear more thoughts on his situation, Min-woo goes along with the reporter’s suggestion to grab a drink.

Kae-hwa works late, keeping herself busy to avoid going home right away. Finding her still in the office, Shi-joon offers her a ride home, and they pause for a break to talk. Tentatively, Kae-hwa says she hopes that he and his wife can give things another try, as it seems they still care for each other. Although Shi-joon doesn’t respond, he’s not offended by her statement and in fact seems to consider her words.

He turns the topic to Min-woo, asking how things are between them. Kae-hwa can’t feign ignorance since Shi-joon knows too much, but first she asks how much he knows. He answers, “One person is sending flowers, but the other person doesn’t seem ready to receive them.”

She confirms that Min-woo seems to be serious about a relationship but she’s not sure; she doesn’t feel confident that she can be seen “as a woman” to anybody. Shi-joon tells her she can — enough that he felt something for her for a short while. This stuns her, as he had never given any hint of his interest, but Shi-joon assures her that there is no cause for alarm. He has dealt with his feelings, and things won’t get awkward between them.

Liquor loosens Min-woo’s reserve (and his tongue) enough that he starts to talk freely about his woes, wondering how Kae-hwa can reject his proposal. Grabbing his laptop, the reporter starts to take notes, asking questions about why she rejected him and how long he’s had feelings for her. And I love Min-woo’s answer:

Min-woo: “Since we went looking for Ye-eun. No — since she had to go to the sauna because of me. No — since she fought with Mr. Jung [Yoon-seok]. Or was it from the beginning?”

Reporter Han says he must like her quite a lot, and Min-woo answers, “Yes, an awful lot. She’s different from the women I dated in the past. She’s beautiful. That’s why I think, ‘This is my woman.’” With that, he falls asleep, his head coming to rest on the tabletop.

Huh — well, this is a new side to Min-woo, and the reporter finds him pretty pure-hearted after all. It’s nothing like the partying image he’d had earlier. He starts typing a story about Min-woo’s “heartfelt love story” and uses words like “rebirth as a real actor.”

Han’s article spawns a wave of press, which now portrays Min-woo in a much more down-to-earth, humanistic light. They even declare that he has now washed off the disgrace of his former image as a lousy actor.

Yoon-seok is dissatisfied — I guess this good press does him no good, since he has lost his hold on Min-woo — but everyone else’s opinion of Min-woo makes a drastic upswing. He presents himself modestly in interviews, and even producer Eom is impressed with him. In fact, Eom gives himself credit for having recognized Min-woo’s talents early on, but Byung-hak scoffs since he didn’t do anything about them. Eom counters that he’ll get Min-woo for his next production.

Eom isn’t the only one wanting to cast Min-woo, and Shi-joon conveys an offer to Min-woo from a Japanese producer colleague, who has sent a proposal for Min-woo to take a role in a Japanese drama. Min-woo is pleased with the news, but as soon as he sees that he’d have to live in Japan for a year, he declines. Shi-joon thinks it’s a great opportunity, but Min-woo answers that he has somebody to watch over here.

And that’s not all: Jae-hee hands Kae-hwa some documents to give to Min-woo, which are papers for a new advertising contract offer worth 1 billion won (nearly $1 million). Apparently advertisers love his new image as a dedicated young single father.

Kae-hwa takes the documents to Min-woo’s photo shoot, where he takes a break from posing for a makeup touchup. The makeup artist tells him that his “scandal partner” (Kae-hwa) is really below his level, and offers to introduce him to a younger model friend. She describes the girl as one of those innocent-looking beauties, to which Min-woo answers, “I like sexy women.”

Naturally this is hardly thrilling for Kae-hwa to hear, even though Min-woo is actually making that quip as a way to reject the date. (Rather than saying no outright, saying that he prefers sexy women is a way of declining her friend, who is the opposite.)

Feeling dispirited, Kae-hwa decides not to approach and starts to leave. She runs into Yura, who congratulates her on her relationship and assures her that she has decided to move on.

Kae-hwa hands the envelope to Yura and asks for her to give it to Min-woo, making up the excuse that she’s busy and has to leave. Yura does, and when Min-woo hears the reason, he hurries out and tries to call Kae-hwa. Alas she isn’t answering the phone, so he goes to the theater, where he is told she is still back at the office.

Shi-joon finds her on the roof ignoring Min-woo’s phone call, and offers her a beer. In her melancholy mood, Kae-hwa offers to tell Shi-joon a “really funny story” and confides that Min-woo proposed to her. Even funnier is the fact that her heart thrilled to hear it. It was exciting to be seen as a woman again — but today, that feeling was shattered.

I’d assumed she was hurt by the makeup stylist’s dismissive comments about her, but I’m actually relieved that those words weren’t the cause of her mood. In actuality, it was the sight of him in action, looking like a star, that made her feel like they were completely unsuited for each other: “He seemed like someone from another land.”

Shi-joon points out that Min-woo was a star from the start — it’s not like she didn’t know. Kae-hwa answers that at the beginning, he had nothing to do with her so that wasn’t an issue. But as they got to know each other, she saw him struggling and felt sorry for him, and nagged him when he said silly things — and those things felt comfortable and manageable. Now that he’s doing better… it’s like he’s back to being a lofty star and the chasm is growing between them.

Shi-joon tells her that Min-woo likes her very much — enough to give up a drama opportunity for her. “Min-woo has changed this much — shouldn’t you recognize his feelings?”

Min-woo arrives at the office to find it empty, then recalls the roof. He arrives outside just in time to see Kae-hwa wiping away some tears. So much about this situation upsets him, and he strides up to her, grabs her wrist (urg!), and takes her downstairs.

He feels hurt that she has been ignoring his calls and avoiding him, particularly when she knew he was waiting for her — and now she’s here crying in front of Shi-joon — and raises his voice to a yell. Kae-hwa tells him levelly that she has already given him her reply, but he ignored it. No matter how she thinks about it, they don’t suit.

He argues that if he cared about those things — age, status — he would never have liked her from the start. She returns that this is just proof that he’s young, and they should quit while they’re ahead. And he should go to Japan.

That gets his attention: “Is that why?” He explains that he didn’t tell her about the Japan offer because he never intended to go. She takes issue with his high-handedness in dragging her away, saying that she’s ashamed of him when he does that, and gets angry and starts fights out of misunderstandings.

Min-woo asks, “So are you saying you can’t marry me? Are you saying I won’t do because I’m immature and young?” Kae-hwa answers yes. She can’t marry someone who reacts in such unpredictable ways — it makes her feel uneasy. She storms off, leaving him to shout her name in frustration.

You know, I’m actually relieved that they had this fight. They’ve never fought for real, and this addresses issues that they’ve been skirting thus far. It’s also nice to see some real conflict — genuine emotional clashing and hurt feelings — rather than the glib, fluffy sort of conflict that has characterized most of this show.

That night, Byung-hak calls Kae-hwa, who finds him drunk and in a thoughtful mood. To her surprise, he tells her, “I’m sorry.” He acknowledges that he never apologized properly, so he’s doing it now. She did nothing wrong — he’s the bad guy — and they divorced because he wronged her. But he felt too embarrassed to apologize, so he couldn’t do it: “But after listening to Sung Min-woo, I felt I was really wrong, and that I had to apologize. So I came here.”

That surprises her — he met Min-woo? Byung-hak gives Min-woo some credit for the way he had insisted he apologize, admitting that the kid was pretty impressive with the way he said, “As the man who loves Yoon Kae-hwa, please apologize.”

He says it one more time: “Kae-hwa, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I pushed you aside and hurt your feelings — forgive me for everything. Forget that all, and make a new start. And if he upsets you, come and tell me right away, and I’ll give him a scolding.”

(Aww. An unexpectedly touching moment from Byung-hak. As with the last time he defended Kae-hwa, this gives us a glimpse into why they were married in the first place while also showing us why they didn’t work. It’s rare to see ex-spouses in a drama ending on amicable terms, and it’s a nice change.)

Min-woo comes home feeling frustrated, and looks over his drama proposal documents. This gives him an idea, and he starts typing away. And when we see what he’s drafting — gahhh, Min-woo is so cute. I about died reading the title of his document: “Proposal On Living For Yoon Kae-hwa.”

In the morning, he comes to her apartment and gives her the envelope. He looks at her with puppy dog eyes and tells her to give her response after reading it.

Kae-hwa reads Min-woo’s proposal, which is formatted like a business document. In keeping with the theme of the drama proposal packet, he has drawn up Kae-hwa’s resumé, only it’s more like a life resumé than a professional one, outlining her traits and skills such as “she has a loud voice,” “makes killer ddukbokki and kimbap,” and “she likes Kim Myung-min better than Sung Min-woo, but I want to forgive her anyway.” Also of note: she has become a mother to Ye-eun, “and now is the woman in my heart.”

Under the “future plans” column, he has scheduled marriage in a month, a vacation cruise to celebrate their one-year anniversary, and so forth. Byung-hak’s apology had started to melt her resolve, and now she has to smile a teeny bit at Min-woo’s document.

Jung-ah has been offered a job in Daejeon, which is located in central Korea and about a two-hour drive from Seoul. She asks Shi-joon for his approval, suggesting that they need some space between them. As she leaves, she tells him that she realizes she hasn’t been the best wife to him either (I presume she means before the adultery, since otherwise that statement would be met with a resounding DUH).

But the door isn’t closed on them forever — with Shi-joon now opening up more to Jung-ah and realizing his part in driving his wife away, it looks like they’re leaving room for a reconciliation later, after they’ve both healed. Shi-joon even says he’ll go down to visit her on the weekend.

Min-woo performs another show, after which he checks his phone and tries to contain his disappointment that Kae-hwa hasn’t called. To his (happy) surprise, Kae-hwa finds him sitting in the empty theater, here with a much more conciliatory attitude than the last time they saw each other.

As we know, important conversations must always relocate to prettier environs (can you imagine that car ride over to the waterside? Most awkward silence ever).

Kae-hwa apologizes for her harsh words, telling Min-woo that she didn’t mean it when she pushed him away. She asks for his understanding and also thanks him for thinking of her life and her future (i.e., in his proposal) in such a serious way.

Min-woo has been looking pensive and tense throughout her speech, like he’s bracing himself, sensing that she’s ready to deliver her final decision. So it takes a moment for her next words to really sink in, as she tells him:”So I’m thinking of being courageous now. Thanks to you, I think I can do that now.”

She adds that she’d always thought she would just focus on being a solid support for Min-ji’s benefit, “But if things get hard, it’s okay if lean on someone now.” Min-woo smiles and steps forward to hug her gently, thanking her for her answer. Kae-hwa thanks him back for letting her be courageous again.

Min-woo then thanks her for watching over him and Ye-eun all this while. He promises that from now on, he’ll protect her.

And then they get the swirly-camera kiss — which is a nice way to bookend the drama, considering that this is very similar to how we started. Only, now it actually means something.

The end!

 
COMMENTS

I picked up Oh My Lady because (1) when it started I had the time, as none of the current Wednesday-Thursday shows had premiered yet and I had no other recap commitments, (2) I had just finished its timeslot predecessor Wish Upon a Star, which was a happy surprise, and therefore anticipated a similar tone for this one, and (3) I wanted to keep up the watching and recapping momentum. There’s also (4) the matter of loving Chae Rim (and wanting her to pick a more enjoyable project than her last, Good Job, Good Job) and (5) the fact that I had pegged Choi Siwon as an idol-star-turned-actor to watch out for after Story of Hyang Dan back in ’07. (See? There IS some thought that goes into these decisions, however random the choices may ultimately seem!)

About halfway through the drama, however, I found my interest flagging, but not enough to drop the show. Even the less interesting episodes were easy to watch, and it wasn’t a challenging show in either theme or plot, so keeping up wasn’t too much of a hardship. I did, however, start thinking that if the actual plot development got any SLOWER, I would seriously consider dropping it.

Ultimately I’m glad I stuck with the show, and the last four episodes in particular gave me a sense of satisfaction about the drama as a whole. It turned into a different drama than the one it originally seemed — which pointed at the hijinks of a star falling for his ajumma maid/manager — and focused much more on Min-woo’s development as a father than as a romantic partner. I don’t think the romance came out of nowhere, but it wasn’t a priority, and that was actually refreshing.

I won’t call Choi Siwon a brilliant actor — he’s pretty decent, but he’s still got a long way to go if he’s going to keep pursuing an acting career, and I think he should — so rather than pure acting skills, it’s his personal charm that carries the character. I mean, just look at that smile, right?

It doesn’t hurt that he’s perfectly cast — image isn’t everything, but it’s a pretty significant part of how we approach a character. And when you cast a star to play a star, you’ve always got that benefit of the audience’s meta awareness of the actor’s real-life fame. (Also see: Choi Ji-woo in A Star’s Lover, Rain in Full House, Jang Geun-seok in You’re Beautiful, Kim Ah-joong in Accidental Couple.)

It was a leetle disappointing to have so little screentime for the two girls in the last episode, but we’ve seen enough of the Cute in previous episodes that I was content to let this finale be Min-woo and Kae-hwa’s exclusively. (Well, there were a few Shi-joon and Jung-ah moments, but I choose to skip right over them in my mind. Yawn. I’m satisfied, story-wise, with where they ended, but don’t need to dwell any longer on them.)

And then there’s Chae Rim. To be honest, I don’t think this is the best vehicle for her, even though the drama really benefits from having her in it. Therefore I’m glad for the drama’s sake, but she’s an actress whose talents weren’t fully used here — particularly since her character was less developed than Min-woo’s, and hardly changed at all. She made the most of it, tapping into a vulnerable side of Kae-hwa that gave the character a hint of depth. But I hope to see her tackling something more challenging in the future, and something out of the ajumma mold, as she’s done two in a row.

All in all, Oh My Lady was a sweet, cute series that could be a fun way to spend a breezy weekend with some unchallenging but personable characters, and that will leave you smiling at the end.

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