The bad news: there’s a time jump, sapping all the dramatic tension out of the surgery. Boo. The good news: still cute as ever, of course. Because I suppose in the end, it was never about whether he lives or dies, but how their love will survive in the real world. It just feels a little ass-backwards, in the whole gain-momentum-towards-the-finish-line school of thought, because last week was the height of drama, and now we’re back down to Earth. I feel like someone reshuffled the order of the episodes on me, when I wasn’t looking. Are you Episode 12, masquerading as 15? You know I’m terrible at math.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
So the news everyone is waiting for… Dokko Jin’s surgery is a success!
The only thing is, we skip all the good parts—all the dramatic tension that was built up from the previous episode gets totally deflated as we skip past the surgery and straight into the aftermath. WHY, Drama, why? Why you gotta build up a big climax and leave a recapper hangin’? LAME.
President Moon makes the big announcement that he’s recovering privately abroad, and speculation abounds because he has yet to appear in public. What? Who goes abroad after open-heart surgery?
Netizens turn Ae-jung’s escape from her SectionTV segment that day into a joke, re-editing the clip to make it look like she really, really had to go to the bathroom. Jenny sighs that public opinion can really turn a life-altering moment into a big joke.
Jenny asks what happens now between Ae-jung and Dokko Jin. When he returns to Korea, are they going to start over, or will he change his mind? Ae-jung sighs that one thing she realized during all this was just how much everyone loves Jin, and the fact that someone like him liked her… is hard to believe, even for her.
She says she promised that if he passed her by without a glance that she’d let him go, and she doesn’t want to be that person who has to ask, “So what are you going to do with me now? Now that you’re alive, are you going to jump into my dog shit pile?”
Jin returns two months later in secret, only alerting Jae-seok who picks him up at the airport. He’s fully recovered, and Jae-seok asks if Ae-jung is the reason he didn’t want to tell President Moon about his return.
Jae-seok asks if he’s planned anything romantic for the big comeback, and suggests he tie a ribbon around his neck and announce: “Dokko is Ae-jung’s preeeeeesent!” Pwahaha. Is he also nekkid in that scenario? Because otherwise that’s totally LAME. Jin looks at him like a little bug, “See that blue bag? Throw it away.” He asks what it is. Jin repeats his gesture, chirping back, “That’s Seok-ie’s preeeeeeesent!” Hahaha.
He announces that he’s the new and improved upgraded extra special Dokko Jin now. Is that like being a VVVVVVVIP? He declares that he is not some random present to throw at Ae-jung.
Ding Dong asks with a long face why Dokko Jin Ajusshi isn’t back yet, and takes out Ae-jung’s ring with a sigh. Grandpa interrupts and sticks the ring box up on a shelf to keep Hyung-kyu from messing with Ae-jung’s things, so he hides the ring inside the purple sneakers for now.
Jin returns home with a big smile on his face, and then is shocked to see the potato, now replanted in soil, sitting on his coffee table. Jin: “Potato, is that you? I thought you died!” Omg, so cute.
Jae-seok tells him that Ae-jung came with him a few days after the surgery, and they found it on the ground. He had been upset to find it like that, telling Ae-jung that this was something that Jin really cared for.
She had picked it up and replanted it, tending to it carefully so that it would recover. Ae-jung: “You’re a special potato. You can’t wilt and break like this.” Aw. And Potato lovers ’round the world cheer.
He claps in glee, “Good job, Potato! Because of Gu Ae-jung, you and I are both alive.” He asks Jae-seok why she came to take care of Potato instead of coming to see him in the hospital, and though at first it was because of all the reporters, he really doesn’t have an answer. Seriously, I’d like to know too.
It’s because of her promise not to stand in Jin’s way, which President Moon makes damn sure to remind her of at every possible moment. Now that he’s recovered, he’s got CFs and movie offers lined up for miles, and she reminds Ae-jung that it’s time for her to let him go with her blessings.
Jin looks at Potato and decides that his original plan to wait until Ae-jung came running to him isn’t going to work because he misses her so much. He asks Jae-seok to debrief him on his dumb bow-present idea, caving to the cheese and practicing his delivery. HA.
Time to catch up with Pil-joo! Is it just me, or is he looking hotter? He’s happily buying herbs himself at the marketplace, changing up his routine and getting ready to study abroad. He catches wind of one of his vendors being interviewed by Ae-jung, and sticks around to watch the recording.
He watches from behind the crowd, and the way he looks at her still kills me. When requested to make a flashier entrance, she decides to do a cartwheel in her hanbok, ever the plucky Gu Ae-jung.
Pil-joo watches as she does a test run, hurting her hands on the debris on the ground, and so he asks a nearby ajumma shopkeeper for a favor, to sweep up the sidewalk for her so she won’t get hurt. Wah, I still want her to marry him! Gah.
He comes up to Ae-jung after the recording and they greet each other with smiles. He tends to her twisted ankle, wrapping it up and offering a pair of flat shoes for her to wear instead of her heels. I half expect him to make another uneven-butt warning, but he refrains. He smiles at her so sweetly that I almost want Jin to go back to wherever he was hiding out. Almost.
Jin actually shows up at Ae-jung’s house wearing a giant red bow (HA), and Ding Dong finds him first, poking him to make sure he isn’t a ghost. They hug and after a whiff of Ae-jung’s face cream, they get to the task at hand: the ring.
Only, it’s not where Ding Dong left it last. Or rather, the shoes are missing, whole hog. Hyung-kyu now confesses that Ae-jung’s thrown them away before, and he’s the one who rescued them. He guesses she must’ve thrown them out again.
Jin muses that throwing away the expensive ring by mistake is one thing, but throwing out the shoes? The Shoes?
Ding Dong suggests that they dig in the secondhand clothing trash bin and Jin starts out, “I’m the upgraded special Dokko Jin! I… should do that. Okay, let’s go!” Haha. Hyung-kyu stands lookout while he digs through the clothing bin, only to be caught red-handed by some nosy neighborhood ajummas.
They catch the full wrath of the Korean ajumma’s number one pet peeve: bad trash behavior. Seriously. Try throwing away plastic in a trash can labeled “food.” You might lose an eye. It’s my main source of stress when in Korea—how to throw away what, where.
Anyway, they determine that the shoes aren’t in there, so they decide to retreat for now.
Pil-joo drives Ae-jung home, good-naturedly reminiscing about the P-line: “Don’t you regret letting it go?” Ae-jung: “The safe, comfortable, strong P-line? Yes, Yoon Pil-joo is the perfect man. But from a woman’s point of view, you’re not totally perfect…”
Genuinely surprised (ha), he asks why. Ae-jung: “Your mom is scary.” Hahahaha. True dat. But she adds that it doesn’t compare to the fear of having the entire population of Korea become her mothers-in-law, if she were to be with Dokko Jin. Even truer.
Ever the gentleman, he helps her upstairs, offering up his arm instead of a piggyback ride, knowing that it’d be crossing a line. Jin gets ready upstairs for her arrival, wearing his big red bow and practicing his delivery. He tells himself that he has to get the start right, and tells himself, “Close your butthole.” LOL. I swear, that’s the best alter-ego pun ever.
He gets ready, and turns around with his face cupped in his hands, “I’m Gu Ae-jung’s preeeeeeesent!” Only what he sees his Pil-joo. His hands clench into fists and he scowls, running for cover before being embarrassed publicly.
Pil-joo sees him though, and can’t resist purposely making a dig. Loudly he says that he should’ve piggybacked her anyway, and then tells her to take care with a hand on her arm.
Jin watches the exchange with a fist in the air, and mouths silently, “Don’t touch her!” Why is it so much funnier when things don’t go his way? I’m dying.
Once she’s alone, he jumps out at her like a scary ghost, screaming on and on in a meta quandary about how their reunion was supposed to be melodrama, or light rom-com, or even erotica, but, “What’s with the scream-track horror?” Heeeeeeee.
She gets her bearings and laughs that he really must be Dokko Jin, from the rant. Jin: “This time I really wanted to close my butthole, but I can’t contain it, and the things I’ve been keeping in are spilling out.” Eeeeeeeew! Metaphor gone too far! Too far!
She shuts him up with a finger to the lips and then takes a listen to his heartbeat for herself. She determines that he really must be better, since the heartbeat sounds altogether different. Jin: “If you really want to know, change the genre to something stronger and you’ll find out.” Rawr.
Ae-jung decides to switch to family drama for now, asking if he’s eaten. Ha. But once inside, she discovers that he tore her room apart like a loon, trying to find her sneakers. She takes them out of the shoe closet, and he quickly snatches them out of her hands.
He sneaks the ring out before she can see what it is, and refuses to show her, deciding that today is not the day, because the mood is shot. He tells her to edit all this out (heh) and that he’ll come back tomorrow, at which point she is to greet him with one of the genres he’s mentioned: “Melo, ero, or rom-com!” Hahaha. I don’t know what’s funnier—that he thinks life is a drama, or that it IS a drama. It’s a meta mirror funhouse up in here.
He leaves, all upset that she stuck The Sneakers in just any ol’ shoe closet, while she murmurs to herself that she took them out so that she could wear them to go see him for the first time. Aw.
He goes home and gives himself a pep talk, and then sticks the ring on Potato for now. Oh, the potato flowers via flower ring! Hehe.
While Jin contemplates his love token, so does Pil-joo, who takes out his two pens and wonders if wishing for a misunderstanding to make Dokko Jin fall away is childish, but an honest desire to hold on.
President Moon presents Ae-jung with a new show that’ll take her around the world as she introduces local food, for two months. She doesn’t hedge about her reasons—this is to put distance between her and Jin, before he takes any action.
It’s undeniably a good opportunity for her, and Ae-jung guesses that if she were to go and return, Jin would be long gone working on a new movie overseas. President Moon brings Jin all his upcoming CF contracts and a new script to that end—the new Kim Ki-wook (As in an unholy marriage between Kim Ki-duk and Park Chan-wook? Ha.) film, set to premiere at Cannes.
She baits him with the picture of him sweeping up awards at Cannes. He was quickly willing to dismiss all those CFs for Gu Ae-jung, but this might be a different story. He reads the script with bated breath, looking over at Potato and then back at the script.
He realizes that doing the movie would mean putting Ae-jung on hold. So he tosses the script aside, “Potato, you see what I did there? I’m canning Cannes!” Hee hee. (Mostly I’m excited that the pun works in English, like a big nerd.)
But then the script sparkles at him, calling out to be read. He throws it back, exasperated that his charger isn’t here when he needs it most, but then the doorbell rings, as if on cue.
Ae-jung comes in, and Jin can still feel the awkwardness between them and asks what it’s about. She tells him that things are different than when they thought he was dying and felt that every second was precious; now reality has set in.
She asks what he plans to do now, and he just wants to be together. She asks if he’s okay losing all his CFs and movies because of her. Jin: “Gu Ae-jung, all I need is you… is what I’d like to be able to say, all romantically. But reality makes it hard to say things like that.” HA. He answers that he’ll recover.
She asks if he rents this house, and he tells her to stop worrying about such mundane things. Ae-jung: “But this isn’t some romantic comedy where Love prevails over all!” Haha. It’s not?
She asks if he’ll really be able to handle not being beloved by everyone. And that’s really the rub for him, isn’t it? Not the money or the sports drinks with his face on them, but the adoration, and the wall of protection that provides. It’s his whole identity.
He tells her that he’ll need her more than ever because that’ll be hard for him, which is adorable. She frets that she’s basically inviting him into her dog shit pile, and wishes that she could somehow clean up a little and make it slightly less dirty.
She moves over to his couch, making him all excited, but then gives him a two-second slap-charge, and then leaves, adding: “I’ll give you one more chance. To pass me by and go.”
He wonders who’s been filling her head with such fear, and goes straight to Jenny, asking if she’s the culprit. Jenny doesn’t deny it, giving him a harsh dose of reality. No matter how much he tries to shield her, Ae-jung will be the one to bear the brunt of the fallout. That’s just how that damn cookies crumbles.
He asks Se-ri about when they first started dating, and if she experienced any of that. She can’t believe he’s only asking her that now, and tells him about all the rampant speculation that she had tossed her body at him to move up in the biz, and all the fan-terrorizing she endured. It finally starts to dawn on him the level of terror that Ae-jung will face.
He frets over the ring while Hyung-kyu does his homework, and when asked why he hasn’t given her the ring yet, he tells him that there are problems a 7-year old can’t understand.
But Hyung-kyu has problems of his own—he likes a girl in his class and even made a paper necklace for her, but couldn’t give it to her because he got teased by his friends. Jin sees that Ding Dong’s got a love scandal of his own, and tells him that he’s got to stand his ground and make it known that the necklace is hers.
Jin: “If it’s true, then you have to withstand the teasing. The answer to the 37-year old’s problem is the same as the one to the 7-year old’s. Tell your friends whom this necklace belongs to. I’ll tell whom this belongs to.” He clenches the ring with determination.
The next day he records a tv interview and Jenny hopes that this means he’ll move on and do big projects, and that Ae-jung will go abroad to do her new show. She adds that she’ll go to China first, hoping that she can meet up with Pil-joo.
Ae-hwan finally tells Jae-seok to give up on Jenny: “You drank wine with her? I drank wine with her.” Jae-seok realizes that she “drank wine” with both of them, and they vow to stop being twin idiots. Ha. Good luck with that.
Jin tells Ae-jung about the interview and asks her to watch it, even though she’s got a recording scheduled that night. He tells her that he did what she asked and contemplated his last chance to leave her behind, and that he explains all his future plans in the interview. She promises to watch. He asks why she’s never once clung to him.
Ae-jung: I see clearly what’s in front of me, so how can I ask you to ignore it? I’ve plunged before. From that highest top, down to the ground, I fell. I’m so scared that you’ll experience what I had to, and I know how much you’ll resent me after. Because that’s what I did. Do you think I’m so endlessly nice that I never once resented Mina or Se-ri? I’m not. Truthfully, I resented and hated them a thousand, ten thousand times. My biggest fear is that you’ll feel that way about me.
She tells him that if he’s decided to pass her by and leave, to do it without remorse. She promises not to hate him, “…because you sincerely loved me.” Aw, the fact that she uses past tense is heartbreaking.
Se-ri continues to have a one-sided crush on Pil-joo, requesting her assistant to photoshop her and Pil-joo onto a composite of Paul and the Mushroom from his Strange Land story. Her assistant doesn’t think it’s a good idea to show him though, and Se-ri agrees, “Yeah, I’ll seem like a stalker pervert.” HA.
Perfect Man Pil-joo eats at Jenny’s, and it looks like perfect men are still the hot commodity ’round here, because Jenny’s still trying to revive the P-line, while Se-ri shows up to flirt.
He doesn’t like her back, but she adorably doesn’t care, just wanting to be left alone to like him however she wants. He’s clearly not over Ae-jung yet, but his friendship with Se-ri is cute.
It’s the night of his broadcast, and Jin holds the ring in his hand. He asks Potato: “Why is it so hard to get you to flower?”
Ae-jung gets ready for her show, back in her Dae Jang-geum costume, and the owner of the restaurant sits down and tells her that they grow their own potatoes. Ae-jung thinks it must be hard, since potatoes are so hard to grow.
But the woman tells her that potatoes are easy and grow so well, and they even flower beautifully. Ae-jung: “Do potatoes really flower? I’ve never seen…”
Lady: “It’s right in front of your eyes. Don’t you see it?” Huh? Is this the Samshin Grandma or something? But no, she means literally—there’s a picture of her potato field, full of flowers that have bloomed. Oh, cute. I love when two characters are having one conversation but talking about two very different things.
Ae-jung looks at the picture of the potato field, “If our Potato grows flowers, they’re this beautiful. I thought it was something that wouldn’t flower. It flowers beautifully.”
They start recording the show, but the patrons in the restaurant insist on watching Dokko Jin’s interview on tv, so they break to watch it. Towards the end of the segment it’s time for the Dokko Jin World Cup, a common game on variety shows to have celebrities pick their ideal woman/man from a group, by process of elimination. This group happens to be a collection of the Hong Sisters stable of actresses, from their previous dramas, natch.
And one by one, he picks Gu Ae-jung over each starlet, to the rising oohs and aahs in the studio, and at the restaurant where Ae-jung is watching. Her eyes grow wide, as he calls out her name over and over, and over…
She starts to walk slowly towards the tv, and it comes to the final round: “Gu Ae-jung!” Everyone reels. But then he adds:
Dokko Jin: My ideal woman is Gu Ae-jung. But she’s not only my ideal woman. Gu Ae-jung is the woman I love right now. Yes, we’re dating. We love each other.
I’ll be honest—I was more than a little let down by the time jump, just because I really wanted Ae-jung to have her heroic moment to run to his side and be there for him. I wanted the song to be literal and in person, not just a far-off wish from her. I know that the big love reveal is his to do, because he’s the one who loses in that equation, so it’s his big gesture and not hers. I just wanted her to get her moment too, because now all that surgery angst feels useless, like we got spun in circles needlessly when she didn’t even get to be there for him.
Case in point: this current conflict didn’t need the surgery storyline at all. It’s entirely separate. I don’t mean to say that I dislike the life-and-death conflict that carried most of the show, because actually that’s what I liked about it all the way through. I just wish the climax of that gripping storyline wasn’t so strangely tossed aside, like an afterthought.
Had it simply been wrapped up dramatically with a satisfying grand gesture from Ae-jung, it would’ve been perfect. That conflict being dealt with dramatically doesn’t negate their larger real-life problem of how to be together in the celebrity world, so it confuses me why it was tied up with so little oomph. It feels like they let the air out of their own tires for no gain, which I don’t understand.
That of course doesn’t make me love the characters any less, or make me feel less invested in the outcome. The main conflict between these two was always the image-vs-love conundrum, which is always endlessly fascinating to me. The way that the industry is portrayed through their relationship is neither rose-colored nor overly harsh, but just a shark-infested business that they have to navigate.
His big confession at the end is perfect, mostly because Gong Hyo-jin plays the reaction so well. She goes from surprise, to growing anticipation, then letting herself hope, and finally moved to tears at his public confession of love. She makes it feel like it’s the best anyone could do, ever. And it’s her grounded reactions to Dokko Jin’s crazy antics that make this couple so beautifully matched and mis-matched.
- Best Love: Episode 14
- Best Love: Episode 13
- Best Love: Episode 12
- Best Love: Episode 11
- Best Love: Episode 10
- Best Love: Episode 9
- Best Love: Episode 8
- Best Love: Episode 7
- Cha Seung-won: I am Dokko Jin
- Best Love: Episode 6
- Best Love: Episode 5
- Best Love: Episode 4
- Best Love: Episode 3
- Best Love: Episode 2
- Best Love: Episode 1