Scent of a Woman: Episode 10
Hurray for a plot that knows when to kick it into high gear. I worried at how closely this drama might follow the old-school melodrama recipe – heavy on the angst, double dose of misunderstandings, dash of happy just before death – and I’m happy to find that it plays with the conventions enough to keep things moving quickly and exceed my expectations. Though Yeon-jae stays true to the long-suffering heroine type, the hero breaks out of the mold enough to push us past familiar territory.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Yeon-jae doubles over in pain as Sae-kyung walks up, asking if this is her idea of revenge. She tells Yeon-jae that it doesn’t matter what she does to seduce him, because “Like marry like.” Gross.
Yeon-jae tosses back, “I don’t care what happens in a few months’ time. Today, right now, my feelings are most important.” She says that if Ji-wook wants to meet her, she will, because she wants to see him too.
Sae-kyung scoffs in disbelief, asking if this means she won’t give up. She tells her that if it were anyone else but her (she says it like, a thing like you), she might’ve let it go, but now she’s going to get her revenge.
Aaaargh. I suppose this at least provides her with some pointed motivation for meddling, since second leads so often do so for no logical reason. It still drives me batty, but I guess incendiary jealousy is better than “because I can”?
As soon as she leaves, Yeon-jae crumples to the ground in pain. Oh crap.
Thankfully, at the same time, Eun-seok is waiting for Yeon-jae to show up for her postponed chemo session, and he finally can’t take it any longer and calls to yell at her. He asks what could possibly be more important than her cancer treatment, and tells her to get her ass over to the hospital.
Tears streaming down her face, she finally ekes out, “Eun-seok-ah, it hurts.” He springs into action and gets an ambulance to bring her to the hospital, and runs out to meet her. She doesn’t look good.
He calls out her name to try and get a response, and she finally opens her eyes, “Eun-seok-ah, I think this time… it isn’t constipation.” HA. He yells at her for joking at a time like this. I love that she’s the kind of person who will make jokes to cope, while he remains humorless.
Eun-seok runs tests and finds that her tumor has grown. Oh no, that doesn’t shrink her already short time left, does it? He watches over her as she sleeps.
Her phone rings with calls from Ji-wook, and Eun-seok decides to reject the first call and then pick up the second. He tells Ji-wook that Yeon-jae can’t come to the phone right now, and Ji-wook freaks out at the man answering her phone late at night.
He asks who it is, and then guesses right away that it’s “her doctor friend.” Eun-seok just repeats that she’s not in a situation where she can answer the phone, and hangs up and shuts off her phone.
Haha. I love that there was absolutely no reason for him to answer the call to tell him NOT to call, but he does it purely out of petty rivalry. It sends Ji-wook’s head spinning, of course.
Yeon-jae dreams of her tent-toppling kiss with Ji-wook and wakes up with a smile on her face. Aw. Eun-seok is standing over her bed, and when she expresses relief that she suffered a complication and that she’ll be okay with treatment, he flips out at her again.
He tells her that there’s to be no more of this postponing chemo, and running around doing whatever it is she thought was more important. He basically tells her to get her head on straight, and adds that it’s time to tell her mother.
She refuses, of course, not wanting to make the people around her suffer, least of all Mom. Eun-seok asks what she plans to do then, just suffer alone? What happens when she’s hurting and no one is there for her?
Yeon-jae turns to him: “I have you. When I’m hurting, you’ll be there.” Aw, that kills me because it’s true on so many levels – because he’s her doctor, because he’s her friend, and because he’s in love with her. GAH. Just stab me and get it over with. Watching Dr. Poopypants be the stalwart friend by her side while hiding his ever-breaking heart is surely going to kill me first.
To his credit, Eun-seok tells her that “that man” called last night. She sees that he called all night long, and screws up the nerve to call him. He’s sitting at his desk unable to concentrate on anything, and lights up at her call. I love that after all that self-denial, he’s so transparent now.
He asks why Eun-seok answered her phone, why they were together so late, and what could possibly be a situation in which she can’t come to the phone but he’s answering for her. I really wish we could’ve entertained his horror-filled imagination with situations that fit the bill.
She tells him that she’s at the hospital… but lies that it’s because of her mom, and everything’s fine now. He breathes a sigh of relief and asks her to dinner that night, and she uses his line back at him, that it’s her turn to play him hot and cold so that he misses her. He smiles and relents, but makes her promise to answer her phone at all times.
Sae-kyung’s tactic for holding onto Ji-wook is basically all daddy-related, as she makes the rounds from her father to his father, trying to keep that engagement ball still up in the air.
Eun-seok braces himself to see Yeon-jae off, but doesn’t tell her about the tumor’s growth. She busies herself with makeup and asks if she looks sick, and he tells her with a smile that she doesn’t.
She apologizes for making him worry and promises to get her treatments on time and listen to him from now on. Well, at least she’s making baby steps out of denial land.
Yeon-jae comes home and uses Hye-won as a cover with Mom. She wonders if something serious is going on with Hye-won, but doesn’t push it, excited to show Yeon-jae the sprout from one of their plants that was broken and dying.
She looks at it with wonder, comforted by the symbolism, as Mom decides that it means good things are going to happen.
Ji-wook’s presentation on the Wando trip goes over well, or as well as begrudging acceptance gets you, and Yeon-jae calls to make a date, to give him something. He attempts to make her dinner, but when he announces that he’s going to make squid noodles, she has to point out the fact that he forgot to buy the squid.
He hangs his head in embarrassment, and announces that dinner will now consist of veggie fried rice. Heh. He cuts his finger while trying to hack at vegetables, and like a little boy, he just sticks his finger out at her.
She looks at him, wondering what he’s doing, and he mimes the thing that all moms do – blowing on a wound to make it all better. She laughs and shyly blows on his finger, and gives it a kiss.
But of course Dad chooses that exact moment to walk in the door. He doesn’t even seem surprised, so this is what Sae-kyung must’ve visited him to say earlier that day. Shouting at the top of his lungs, Dad asks if dating a “woman like that” was the reason he broke off the engagement.
Belittling her in all of the classic evil classist in-law ways, he declares that even if he dates this woman, they’ll never be able to marry. He adds that Ji-wook can do what he wants with her, but he’ll still have to marry Sae-kyung. To Dad she’s even more of an angel now that she’s stepped in to stop her father from further damaging their company.
Ji-wook tells him that that’s absurd, and that he’ll continue to see Yeon-jae. Dad tells Yeon-jae not to even dream of marriage and storms out. Wow, he managed to insult her age, class, character, and work ethic all in one blow. That’s some efficient evil daddying.
They both reel from the visit but try to ignore the giant elephant in the room. Yeon-jae gives Ji-wook her gift, the new sprout from her plant that she repotted, and puts it on a shelf.
She’s trying her damnedest to put on a brave front and he knows it. When she has her back turned to him, he walks up and backhugs her tenderly. He whispers, “I’m sorry,” and tears stream down her face.
He turns her around and tells her not to think weird thoughts because of his father, and she nods, understanding what he means. Despite the fact that she doesn’t intend to marry him because she isn’t going to live that long, it doesn’t stop her heart from breaking at being rejected by his family.
The next morning he goes to Sae-kyung right away to ask what her deal is, stepping in to save his company like that. She tells him that she wanted to do it for him, and says that she hasn’t given up on him yet. He doesn’t understand, having made his intentions clear, but she just tells him that they’ll be seeing a lot of each other for work.
Yeon-jae spends her time in the coming days looking for that hill that Ji-wook’s been searching for. He told her that he hid something there with his mother but can’t manage to find the right place, so she goes through her research from her years at the travel agency, looking for his hill.
She finally finds one that she thinks might be the right hillside, and takes him there. He tells her skeptically that he’s searched for over ten years, and she reminds him that she’s spent those years working as a scout for a travel company and tells him to trust her.
They walk up to the top of the hill, and come upon a giant tree at the top. He stumbles closer to it in awe, as his memories come flooding back. He starts digging feverishly and Yeon-jae joins him, and he finally uncovers his time capsule.
He takes it out of the ground, overwhelmed with emotion. He tells Yeon-jae that he and his mother buried it there and he promised to come open it when he turned twenty. “But I couldn’t keep that promise. I forgot this place. And my mother, who did remember it, was no longer in this world.”
Trembling, he opens it up and finds an array of toys, and a letter from his mother. She wonders if he’s all grown up now, and if he’s found someone to love. She writes that she’d be happy if he came to read this letter with the person that he loves.
She tells him not to hate his father too much, since he’s making sacrifices for their family, and she writes that even in that moment, she loves his father, and loves him too.
He breaks down and weeps at his mother’s words, and Yeon-jae puts her arms around him and comforts him as he cries.
He tells her about his youth, he and his mother always left alone, even after Dad had come back to move them up to Seoul and into a fancy house. He thought they’d finally be happy, but Dad just continued to be away. One day Mom had asked him to go to the grocery store, and he ignored her because he was busy playing games, and that’s the last impression he left, because she died of a car accident that day.
In tears, he tells her that he decided that was the last time he’d ever send someone off like that again. Ruh-roh. You’re putting him back in that exact situation. But it does mean that he’ll have the chance to do things differently with her, once he does find out.
On their way back, Yeon-jae struggles with pain and rushes to take her medicine in secret. While he waits, he sees her bucket list notebook with her Junsu picture sticking out of it, and laughs to see that she carries the picture around like an adorable fangirl.
He flips through the first few pages of the bucket list and sees a few of the things on the list like making Mom smile and learning to tango. He smiles, assuming that it’s the normal kind of bucket list that people make to try new things, not the dying kind.
One of the ones he finds is “To live for a day like a heroine in a movie,” and smiles as he ponders it.
Yeon-jae goes to see Eun-seok the next day, after struggling with pain all night. She tells him that the painkillers aren’t working anymore, and asks worriedly if something’s wrong. She can feel that she’s not the same as before, and asks for the truth.
He braces himself, and finally tells her that her tumor has grown, and that he’s planning to adjust her treatment accordingly. She asks if she’s going to make it to the end of her five months.
He doesn’t answer, and she asks again angrily, tears spilling out. He answers back in frustration that this is why he told her that nothing is more important than her treatment.
She comes home to find Mom hurriedly drying the laundry in the yard before cranky landlord gets home. She asks how Mom felt when Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Not knowing Yeon-jae’s intentions, she says the exact wrong thing – that it was torture to know when the person you loved was going to die. That it felt like someone hammered a nail into her living heart, and then day by day, hammered it in just one centimeter more.
Oh no. I don’t doubt that it was true, but couldn’t Mom have picked a different way to tell it, like she was glad to have the time to send him off without regret?
Ji-wook adorably asks the women in his office about this living-as-a-movie-heroine thing, and he nods at the makeover shopping spree idea, but doesn’t like the two men fighting over her idea. It’s so cute that he’s doing research.
Hye-won asks why he’s interested in this, and he lies that he thought it might be helpful for a trip package he’s working on. Uh-huh.
Yeon-jae thinks about Ji-wook’s decade of regret over never having told his mother that he loved her before she died. She gets so lost in thought that she ends up at the end of the line in the bus depot, with the driver having to tell her to get out.
Hye-won calls, and over drinks she angsts over getting her first marriage proposal, only she’s come to find out that the guy is poor. This time it’s Yeon-jae’s turn to be a terrible friend, because she just gives her half-assed advice like, “Don’t marry him then,” followed with the equally blank, “Then marry him.”
Hye-won calls her out for her thoughtless answers, throwing back that she doesn’t understand her worries, dating someone like Ji-wook. Yeon-jae spills her angst in turn – what’s the point of dating someone like him? Will she be able to marry him, or have children? She reminds her that she has none of that to look forward to, and storms out.
Hye-won catches up to her outside and apologizes for her shortsighted comments, and Yeon-jae finally confronts the source of her angst.
Yeon-jae: What do I do? What do I do about that person? I must’ve been crazy. There’s nothing I can do for him. I can’t even stay by his side. I shouldn’t have fallen for him. I shouldn’t have confessed. I shouldn’t have accepted his heart. I didn’t think. I was so crazy about him. When I die, how he’ll be… I didn’t think. What do I do now?
She breaks free and walks away, tears still streaming down her face. It’s nice to finally witness her confronting the fact that she’s started a love with only one thought, only to realize that she never considered the back end – what happens to him once she’s gone.
Eun-seok takes Malbok-ie for a walk, smiling to himself as he thinks back to the day that Yeon-jae brought him over. Just then, she appears right in his path, still crying.
She comes right up to him pleading, “Eun-seok-ah, save me. Save me. You’re a doctor, so you can save me.” She falls to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably as she says over and over, “I want to live. I want to live.”
Ack, she breaks my heart. Eun-seok struggles to hold back his tears. He crouches down to the ground and puts his hand on her shoulder, comforting her as she cries.
He drives her home and tells her that maybe she should tell Ji-wook the truth. Yes, you really should listen to Poopy-seok about most things. But of course she refuses, saying that it’s better if he doesn’t know, since they’re bound to break up anyway. Aaaargh.
Ji-wook watches Pretty Woman and Roman Holiday, taking notes for his big movie heroine project like a big dork. Yeon-jae thinks over his confession about his mother, and braces herself as she makes a decision. Oh, why do I have a feeling this is your stupid noble idiot turn we’re about to take?
She calls and asks, voice trembling, if he has time tomorrow. He answers in his trademark goofy, “Tomorrow, I’m sorry… yes I do!” They make plans for a date. Aargh, it’s already breaking my heart that she’s planning to break up with him while he’s watching Pretty Woman for ideas.
He waits for her outside the next day, and she comes up with a wave. Ji-wook: “I have a present for you…” He presents his face: “Me.” Pffft.
They stroll along with ice cream cones, and he holds her hand with glee. Out of the blue, he attacks her dress with his ice cream, and then oh-so-casually decides he’ll have to buy her another one. HA. This is your attempt to be Richard Gere? So funny.
I love that he tries so hard to couch it in real-world motivation, with the ice cream attack. So off they go to a fancy boutique, where he tells the manager that he spilled ice cream on his girlfriend’s dress so he’ll be buying her replacements, and many many of them at that. He presents his credit card with panache.
It cracks me up that he’s enjoying this more than she is. She tries on a few dresses and he shakes his head no, following the script, until she comes out in a dress that makes him slack-jawed.
On their way out, he asks disappointedly why she only bought one dress, apparently having failed at the spree part of shopping spree. They come across a flower vendor on the street, and she starts to tell him that she has something to say…
But he interrupts her, saying that maybe the dress is missing something, and purposely backs up right into a bucket full of red roses, knocking them all over. He does the whole – Aw shucks, guess I have to buy them all now – and smiles at his genius plan.
Hee. Your attempt to be suave is so awesomely un-suave in every way.
So they head to the river (Oh no, mistake!) and he waits awkwardly for something to start that isn’t starting. She starts to say that she has to tell him something, but he tells her to say it later, and runs off to make a call.
He tells somebody on the phone to start in two minutes, and puts a headphone in her ear, saying that he knows she likes Junsu’s songs. They listen to the song together and he tells her that something amazing is about to happen.
And this time, on cue, fireworks go off over the river. She asks starry-eyed if he prepared all this for her. He’s a little disappointed as he asks if she noticed, and she confesses that she caught on a long time ago.
He leans in for a kiss as the fireworks go off overhead. A tear falls from her eye, and once the sky clears it’s like she comes back down to earth. She struggles to keep back the tears.
He takes out a ring box and opens it up. Inside is a kid’s blue plastic ring, and he tells her that he remembered this ring that he found inside the time capsule. He had put it in there as a kid, intending to someday give it to the person he loved. “I think I’ve found its owner.” Gah, why is he so perfect?
He takes her hand and says, “Stay by my side for a long, long time,” and takes the ring to put on her finger.
But she curls up her hand to stop him. She sighs and tells him that she can’t accept it. She tells him that she doesn’t want to see him anymore. Stunned, he asks why all of a sudden… and asks if maybe it’s because of his father.
She uses that as her excuse and through her tears, she says that she thought about it and realized that she didn’t need to hear those things from his father and suffer that kind of abuse.
She pulls her hand away from his, and he calls her timing cruel. Dude, you never should have brought her to the Han River. That was your first big mistake. She tells him that she’s not going to feel burdened about it, since he said that breaking off his engagement wasn’t about her, but about himself.
And with that, she gets up and leaves.
Unable to accept it, he chases after her and tells her that he’ll do whatever it takes to turn his father around. But she tells him that she doesn’t want to see him anymore. He apologizes, thinking he’s done something to make her angry, and grasps at straws.
He tells her to rest and that they’ll talk tomorrow, but she shuts him down again and leaves in a cab.
Eun-seok waits all evening for Yeon-jae to show up at the hospital, staying past his shift and pacing back and forth. She finally arrives, in a daze.
Eun-seok rushes up to her, and she tells him tearfully: “I hate myself. I really really hate the fact that I have cancer. Because I’m this kind of person… The fact that I can’t even love… I hate it like crazy.”
She drops her roses, and then collapses to the ground.
Ji-wook calls over and over again, to no avail, so he shows up at her house the next morning. He asks Mom if Yeon-jae is home, and Mom says that she’s away on a work trip. He’s obviously confused at the answer, he doesn’t press it.
He goes to work and asks the planning team if they asked Yeon-jae for her help again, but the manager says no. He asks Hye-won if she knows where Yeon-jae is, but she lies that she hasn’t talked to her in ages, and runs off.
He has a hunch so he follows her outside, and overhears part of her phone call to Yeon-jae that she’s nervous about being found out, and that she’s on her way to see her. He decides to follow her. Oh, awesome.
He tails her all the way to the hospital, and walks a few paces behind her. He looks up at the sign and stops cold as he realizes they’re in the cancer ward.
He watches as Hye-won walks into one of the rooms. He walks down the hall with determination and dread, half marching forward, half sinking backwards in fear. He stops in front of the door and looks over at the patient’s name written on the outside: Lee Yeon-jae.
He trembles as he raises his hand to the door…
Eun-seok’s voice calls out his name. Ji-wook turns to see him and asks, “Is the Lee Yeon-jae here the Lee Yeon-jae I know?”
Oh thank goodness he knows. Yay for speedy developments! I knew the noble idiocy was going to rear its ugly head, but I didn’t expect that he’d find out the reason for it so soon after. I’m so very pleased that he only had to spend one night thinking that she didn’t love him, because there’s so much real angst to be had with her dying, that it seems silly to waste time on fake angst from her stupid plan to push him away to spare him pain. Why do people still do that? That never works, people. That’s like telling someone with a mack truck headed straight for them to think happy thoughts, instead of getting them out of the goddamn way.
I liked the developments in this episode, because while I’m actually one of those people who’s okay with Yeon-jae making supremely selfish choices in light of her condition, I still wanted her to acknowledge the fallout from doing so. I don’t need her to be heroic or noble, and in fact I prefer her to be realistically selfish, but it’s time she faced the shitstorm she’s sitting in, and confronted the consequences of her choices.
The still stupid part is her decision to break up with him, since that doesn’t actually stop him from suffering (see: mack truck, above). But clearly, the drama knows what it’s doing in letting her make the attempt to break it off and having him so quickly discover the truth, just as the drama’s second half gets going in earnest. I know it would’ve been nice if she had actually chosen to tell him the truth, but it’s consistent with her character that she thought this was for the best. Oh that I could beat the long-suffering heroine out of you. Thankfully all that really matters is that he knows now, which changes the whole game.