Secret Garden: Episode 17
The final stretch brings us tears, tears, and more tears. Seriously, there’s a lot of crying; so much that I wonder that the actors didn’t collapse from dehydration. It also brings us decisions, some life-or-death, as well as goodbyes and angst. All with a liberal dash of Noble Idiocy. It’s Secret Garden: The Makjang Edition!
SONG OF THE DAY
Hyun Bin – “그남자” (That Man). Yet another version of this song. [ Download ]
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Witch-Mama kneels to beg Ra-im to let go of Joo-won, to not use this knowledge to cling to him. She offers enormous amounts of money as compensation for her father’s life, as though clearing that debt will let the couple end on a clean break.
But her pleas are short-lived, because Mom grows insulted to not gain Ra-im’s immediate acquiescence, and interprets her silence as more resistance. She orders Ra-im to end it with Joo-won in a way that will spare him pain, then come to her for money.
At first I thought we were meant to interpret Mom’s kneeling supplication as indication that she has a heart after all, but I’m not so sure based on the rest of the conversation. She tells Ra-im not to attach extra meaning into this coincidence — Joo-won was merely one life out of many that her father saved. So I don’t think she’s doing this because she can’t stand to be indebted to the hated girlfriend’s father; I think she’s just afraid that Ra-im will reveal the truth to Joo-won, whom she thinks is better off in the dark about his accident.
Joo-won heads to the action school to see Ra-im, since she told him she had to go back for an additional shoot, only to hear from the other stuntmen that there was none. He comes to Ra-im’s place and asks how her shoot went, knowing that her answer is a lie.
He sends Ra-im out on the pretense of wanting fruit, and asks Ah-young what the deal is. Ah-young answers that today’s the memorial of her father’s death, and she tends to get depressed on that day, but he doesn’t buy that.
Joo-won finds her sobbing at the fruit stand, and in his frustration he yells at her for lying and to stop crying. He softens that by wiping her tears and giving her his scarf and gloves.
He guesses that his mother dropped by again, which she denies; since she’s not willing to fess up, he heads off to get the truth from someone else.
Joo-won confronts his mother’s personal secretary, asking if his mother dropped by Ra-im’s neighborhood today. Joo-won sees through Secretary Kang’s uneasy attempt to claim ignorance, as well as the lie that his mother jetted off to Hong Kong for a break. He leaves a message for his mother that he’s going to do as he pleases now (hasn’t he been doing that all along?), raising his voice for his mother’s benefit since he’s aware she’s eavesdropping.
Perversely, Mom is proud of how smart her son is for cottoning on to her lie, then orders 24-hour surveillance on Ra-im.
Seul calls Oska over to inform him that Tae-sun is leaving Korea today. He muses that none of his girlfriends have played that hard to get — earning him a hard look from Seul — and thanks her for the tip, but adds that he’d hoped she called him to talk about themselves. He asks for another chance, sure that he’ll do better this time around.
Seul offers him the teeniest of openings, telling him to go ahead and keep begging every time they meet. If he does, she’ll consider it. Oska recognizes a sliver of hope and promises to beg his heart out, and even earns a smile from Seul for his boyish enthusiasm.
While waiting to depart, Tae-sun’s lingering look at a banner bearing Oska’s face indicates that he’s the reason for his departure. Although the drama hasn’t said as much, I think it’s pretty clear that he’s got a crush on Oska that he knows is doomed to remain unrequited.
Oska catches up to Tae-sun at the harbor (after first trying the airport), and pesters him to sign with him. Fine, if he doesn’t want to be managed by Oska, then how about Tae-sun be the one to manage him? Doesn’t Tae-sun want to help? Isn’t that why he wrote a song for Oska?
I do think it’s hilarious how easily Oska’s words can be interpreted in a romantic context (“Why do you keep your feelings hidden?”), which he remains oblivious to but which does not go unnoticed by Tae-sun.
Finally, Oska gets tired of arguing and picks Tae-sun up, slinging him over his shoulder like he’s a bag of rice (or Yoon Eun-hye), and carries him out.
Jong-soo gets the call from the American director that Ra-im has won the role in Dark Blood, and shares the news with a confused Ra-im. Jong-soo explains that she has Joo-won to thank, as he tracked down the director, flew him here, and set up a special audition for her. (Such VIP treatment in the name of love causes Jung-hwan to marvel that he wishes Joo-won liked men so he could date him, too.)
Ra-im remembers Joo-won promising a miracle to get her that role, and runs off to find him.
She arrives at LOEL as he’s being briefed on a new “wish upon a star” promotion by his executive team, and calls from just a short distance away. He accepts the call, telling her he’s not busy at all, and dismisses his team.
She tells him about her miracle, and he hears the good news with enthusiasm. She says that she knows what he did but he waves it off, saying that she got the part for herself by impressing the director.
Ra-im’s voice starts to waver as she cries, overwhelmed with the lengths he went to for her, and cuts the call short with a lie about filming. And then she leaves. (WTF? You ran all the way over, and you don’t even bother to show yourself, or tell him the truth? Sometimes Ra-im is just too meek for words.)
As she turns away, she runs into Seul, who sees her teary face. At Ra-im’s suggestion they end up at the museum again, where Seul asks what the matter is, offering to help.
Ra-im repeats the familiar refrain about how she and Joo-won are so far apart, and that the distance makes it feels like they’re not together even when they physically are. This line of reasoning drives me absolutely nuts (not least because it’s been stated many times before), but that’s mitigated by the fact that Seul has the same reaction. Seul tells Ra-im that she’s encountered the most obvious of obstacles, and that she didn’t give up on Joo-won only to have Ra-im falter at this:
Seul: “Are you going to dump Kim Joo-won over outside reasons that don’t have to do with the two of you? Were you so cool-hearted as that? If the distance between you is too great, then run. If it doesn’t feel like he’s next to you, then hold him.”
Who knew Seul would be the calm voice of reason here?
Mom hears about the strings being pulled for Ra-im’s audition, and again marvels at Ra-im’s audacity. Finally she concedes that she picked the wrong target, and starts calling stockholders.
Joo-won finds out an hour before a special stockholders meeting is to take place… whose purpose is to dismiss the CEO. Meaning, him. Mom’s playing hardball.
Mom ignores Joo-won’s call as she sits with Ra-im, presuming that the latter has done as bidden, broken with Joo-won, and is here to collect her payoff. She’s affronted when Ra-im says she cannot give Joo-won up, and surprised as well, although it defies logic that she could expect Ra-im to have agreed this time when she hasn’t all those times before. Has Mom been in a different drama for the past dozen episodes? Or maybe she’s the one with memory issues.
Ra-im says that since her father gave up his life to save Joo-won’s, she will live her life protecting him. Mom barks that Ra-im will be the sole flaw in her perfect son, which makes me think she doesn’t understand the meaning of the word perfect — I know mothers are blinded by love, but really?
Ra-im cries that she’ll do better, and work hard not to bring him down. Mom bites out that the only thing she can do to help him is disappear. To which Ra-im says that she loves him, and that their love is real, pleading for her to approve to the match.
Mom makes a decision, and answers the phone that has been ringing constantly. It’s Joo-won, and she puts him on speaker as he confronts her about her sneaky maneuver with the stockholders. Ra-im is horrified to realize that Mom has attacked Joo-won as well, and chokes back sobs as he declares, “Fine, take everything away. I can’t give that woman up, ever.”
Mom accepts that challenge and tells him to go ahead. Then she assures Ra-im that she is done messing with her — now she’s just going to ruin her son’s life: “Joo-won will never beat me. If a child goes astray, the parent has to go even further astray to beat him. I’m telling you I can do anything! Even if that means breaking Joo-won.”
Uh, if I can’t have him, no one will? I think this is the moment when Secret Garden abandons all pretense of being a fantasy rom-com and goes full-on makjang. Please tell me there’s a birth secret in there too, and maybe some incest? Enemies switched at birth?
Mom tells Ra-im that the stockholders meeting is approaching, where he’ll be betrayed, all because of Ra-im. Um, Mom? I think you’re the one doing the betraying here. Again, she fails to recognize the meaning of words.
Ra-im can’t have that on her head, and at the last minute she breaks. She kneels and agrees to break up with him, sobbing as she promises to disappear into bubbles like the Little Mermaid, and begs her not to ruin Joo-won.
Mom’s so ice-cold that even at this juncture, she’s just annoyed that Ra-im forced her to go this far to prove her point. How awful that ruining lives is so inconvenient for you.
Joo-won accepts that he’s going to be fired, because that’s preferable to leaving Ra-im. He’s a bit surprised at himself for finding himself in this situation because of love, but it doesn’t appear he’s too bothered about it.
Secretary Kim is much more worried about the consequences, and offers to resign if his boss is fired. Joo-won answers that he’ll be fired automatically since he’s Joo-won’s hire, and tells him not to call him “President” anymore. To which Secretary Kim immediately whines, “Joo-wonnie hyung!” LOL. This man is hilarious.
Ra-im heads to Joo-won’s library, where she picks up Alice in Wonderland from the bookcase and inserts a sheet of paper into its pages.
Oska finds her there, and she tells him they won’t be able to continue their “one-on-one fanmeetings.” He assumes she means she’ll be too busy with Dark Blood, and she lets him believe that.
Joo-won drops by bearing flowers and presents Ra-im with the bejeweled Cheshire Cat accessory he had made for her. Steeling herself for the eventual break-up, Ra-im keeps her distance and knocks his gift aside, picking a fight about the bag instead of accepting his gift gratefully.
He asks if he’s made a mistake, but she tells him coolly that she’s about to become very busy, and wants a break from their relationship. He should know how important this opportunity is for her, and he shouldn’t call anymore: “It’s just annoying and difficult.”
Hurt, he tells her he has no intention of agreeing, and bursts out, “How can you act like this too? Do you even know what I’ve given up to be with you?”
She returns, “If you were going to give it up eventually, you should have done it sooner — before I tired of you.” Ouch. When she asks him to leave, Joo-won gets up without a word.
As soon as he does, she lets her tears fall, while Joo-won goes home and drowns his sorrows in drink, then finds his pills and takes one.
But it’s not long before he goes back, telling Ra-im that he doesn’t know how to navigate this kind of conflict — he knows how to fight about petty things like being jealous of another man, but not this.
Ra-im cuts to the chase, telling him that the man who died rescuing him thirteen years ago, in that accident that he can’t remember, was her father. She thinks of her father every time she sees him, and can no longer look at Joo-won comfortably — it makes her feel too sorry toward her dead father.
She reminds him of his offer to be the Little Mermaid: “I’m asking you, disappear like those bubbles.” And while that isn’t how she really feels, it’s as effective a reason as anything she could invent, and Joo-won has no defense against it.
He researches old papers until he finds an obituary, which confirms that Ra-im’s father did die saving him. (For the curious, the obit explains that Dad died in a house fire while rescuing someone from the elevator, which then fell with him in it. The rescuee was identified as the heir to a certain “L” department store.)
As he makes this realization, again we hear narration from Ra-im’s father. It’s not something being said in the present day but a part of his prayer to God to look after his wife and child if he should die in the line of duty.
Ra-im heads back to her father’s memorial tablet to tell him, “I’m sorry for loving him. Dad, I’m truly sorry.”
As Ra-im gets ready on the morning of the movie’s first shoot, Ah-young shares another of her dreams, which she’s convinced is a good one this time. In it, Ra-im and Joo-won were sitting at a gorgeous table in a snowy field, drinking flower tea. There was a third person there, someone she didn’t recognize, and when the couple drank the tea, rose petals rained down from heaven.
Ra-im briefly considers that the tea could have been wine, but doesn’t really give the dream too much thought.
The day starts out with a high-speed car chase along roads that have been blocked from traffic. Driving a car, Ra-im skids, spins, and weaves among the other stunt cars, repeating the stunt multiple times.
Everything is going well until an impatient driver refuses to yield to the production team, annoyed that the road has been blocked, and just drives through the barricade. Really, drama? That’s the best setup you could come up with?
The trucker gets in the way of the high-speed pursuit being filmed, and comes into the intersection just as Ra-im’s car comes in the other direction. Oh, so the stupid driver not only ignores traffic blockades, but he doesn’t even pause at intersections? Argh, I hate this plot point so, so much, especially since it could have easily been done better.
Ra-im sees the danger and swerves, but it’s too late to avoid collision. She clips the truck and spins into a tree.
Joo-won is standing at his window when Secretary Kim rushes to him with the bad news, and he accidentally knocks over a vase, sending red roses crashing to the ground.
At the hospital, Ah-young is a sobbing mess, the stunt crew is fighting their own tears, and Joo-won walks with leaden steps. Not only may Ra-im never wake up again, the doctor believes she is brain-dead.
Fade to white.
Joo-won narrates, “Half a month has passed. She is still in a dream. Seeing her peaceful face, that means I’m not in her dreams. So, she must be waiting for me. She must be waiting until I go to her.” He visits Ra-im day in and day out, spending nights in her room, always holding her hand.
Joo-won looks up information online, which appears to be an address… until we realize he’s looking for rain forecasts. Okay, that’s just the saddest thing ever, that he’d want to swap souls at this stage just to let her live.
Oska finds him in the library to tell him that he saw Ra-im here some days ago, and it had given him an odd feeling. She’d told him to be happy, like they wouldn’t see each other again, and had been looking at one of his books.
Joo-won heads to the shelves, where he finds the paper she’d left in the copy of Alice in Wonderland. Opening it, he finds the last page of The Little Mermaid, which ends, “And the Little Mermaid turned into a bubble and disappeared.”
Ouuuch. As if it weren’t bad enough that she’s possibly brain-dead forever, for this to be her goodbye? It’s like telling him, “You got what you wanted,” even if that wasn’t her original intent. That’s harsh.
Clutching the page to his chest, Joo-won sobs and falls to the ground.
Mom receives a flower delivery with a note from Joo-won telling her he loves her. Mom smiles for perhaps the first time ever, thinking this reminds her of his twenty-year-old self.
Later that night, the cousins drink beer together and Joo-won laughs his head off while Oska shares a funny story. It’s evident that he’s overdoing it, and Oska points out that the story’s really not that funny, but he laughs himself red in the face.
(The anecdote: At a restaurant, Oska’s manager had gone up to pay, and the proprietor asked what was with the cameras. He answered that Oska is a singer, and the lady exclaimed that she’d have to be sure to get an autograph: “But… is that a man or a woman?”)
Joo-won surprises him by offering him a gift, which turns out to be a bunch of designer accessories that Oska had been coveting.
After going through more beer, both cousins sleep on the couch. Joo-won opens his eyes and addresses the sleeping Oska, “I knew all along that you always lost to me on purpose. Thanks for that, hyung.”
At the hospital, Joo-won overhears from the doorway as Jong-soo sits with Ra-im, showing her footage from her sageuk action role. He urges her to wake up, trying to bargain with her, saying that if she wakes up, he’ll let her go to Joo-won. Aside from the fact that she was never his to begin with, it’s sorta sweet, and I’d venture to guess that Joo-won thinks so too.
Joo-won writes a letter to Ra-im, which starts out fairly prosaic about the wind in the trees and such.
But as he continues, his meaning becomes clearer as he writes, “I hope you’ll see the things I see. You’ll stand at the window where I stand, and lie down in the bed where I lie down, and read the books I read.” It’s like a goodbye and a welcome all at once, as he prepares her to live out his life, pending another body-switch.
He starts to cry in earnest as he writes on:
Joo-won: “If we could be together even in that way… then that’s enough — let’s think of it as being together. That’s enough for us to consider ourselves as happy as other lovers.”
Aw, you’re sort of breaking my heart here. The whole double-sacrifice thing is not my cuppa tea, but if you’re gonna do it, I suppose ripping out the hearts of your audience is an effective way to go all-out.
With that, Joo-won takes Ra-im’s body from her hospital bed and drives them off in his convertible to await the coming storm.
As he sits in the car, he tells her, “Don’t love some other man — live alone while thinking of me. And don’t be too friendly with Choi Woo-young. That’s incest.” LOL. He just had to get that in.
He adds, “This may be the most selfish decision of my life, but since it’s the decision of a leader in society, respect it. You were always really cool — be cool in the future, too.”
He kisses her forehead and says, “I’m going to miss you a lot. I love you.”
And then, he drives into the storm.
A caveat: I hate when a drama’s key angst comes from Noble Idiot Syndrome, and this episode is all about it, on several fronts. But putting aside my personal pet peeve about people sacrificing themselves and breaking up under the logic of “It’s for his own good,” this episode does a pretty good job with the setup. Or rather, it goes completely trite and tiresome with Ra-im’s part, but then punches you in the gut (in a dramatically effective way) with Joo-won’s.
I have long since tired of Joo-won’s witchy snake of a mother pulling shenanigans and being offended when she doesn’t get her way. All of her stunts in this episode are, frankly, things we have expected of her and have been done by her in previous episodes (with the exception of going freakishly possessive with her “I’ll ruin him, just to prove he can’t beat me” speech). I understand why Ra-im still treats her with respect, but her meekness has been wearing thin, so forcing her to break up with Joo-won under false pretenses is one of those scenarios you just know is gonna happen, and drives you up a wall when it does. Not to mention that it’s been used in so many dramas that it’s already a well-worn trope.
On the other hand, Joo-won’s decision to literally swap out his life for Ra-im’s works a lot better for me on an emotional level, and also on a dramatic/mythical level. It recalls the best part of My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, when you give us the dilemma that only one can live, and the couple is desperate to find a solution that doesn’t require one or both of them dying. That’s a conflict I can get behind, and it’s unexpected and has true stakes, other than “Mom’s gonna be mad at me and cut off my credit cards.”
I suspect that the next episode will give us Ra-im’s half of this story, because this episode was all about Joo-won coming to this decision. Frankly I haven’t been too happy with Ra-im’s passive, withdrawn attitude as of late, and I hope that her reaction to waking up in Joo-won’s body will give her the chance to do something other than cry.
- Secret Garden: Episode 16
- Secret Garden: Episode 15
- Secret Garden: Episode 14
- Secret Garden: Episode 13
- Secret Garden: Episode 12
- Secret Garden: Episode 11
- Secret Garden: Episode 10
- Secret Garden: Episode 9
- Secret Garden: Episode 8
- Secret Garden: Episode 7
- Secret Garden: Episode 6
- Secret Garden: Episode 5
- Secret Garden: Episode 4
- Secret Garden: Episode 3
- Secret Garden: Episode 2
- Secret Garden: Episode 1