Thousand Day Promise: Episode 5
This episode just about killed me dead. It’s D-day, otherwise known as fan-hitting time for le shit. I love how quickly we get here, how raw the emotions are, and as always, I’m madly in love with Jae-min. He really ought to just dispense with that silly car and ride around on a white horse.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Ji-hyung and Jae-min share a drink, and Ji-hyung confesses that he regrets it – regrets thinking that being the dutiful son was the right choice, when all he had to do was cast off that burden. He says he should’ve let it go, that he mistakenly thought that not stirring up trouble was the most important thing.
Jae-min tells him that he gave Seo-yeon his message, and that she said not to worry about her. Ji-hyung asks him to tell her that it wasn’t because he loved her any less, and how sorry he is. “I already know how pathetic I am. That I’ll spend the rest of my life being pathetic.” Yes, while that’s not untrue, it also does nothing for anyone, does it?
He adds that she should forget him as quickly as possible, and Jae-min tells him it’s pretty funny for him to be worried about that – she’s her and he’s him, so it’s really none of his concern anymore.
Jae-min reminds him that Seo-yeon hates dangling threads, loose ends. Ji-hyung sighs, “I know. But Jae-min-ah, I think I’ll be dangling my whole life.” Jae-min counters that he’s overstepping to worry about her. He knows it, but can’t help worrying anyway.
Ji-hyung loosens his tie, sighing that at least sitting here like this with Jae-min feels like he’s got a needle’s worth of breathing room. It’s a nice visual both as an action and a metaphor, because he’s so utterly suffocated by his life.
Myung-hee denies Moon-kwon’s request to quit working at her bakery (because he brings in the high school girls, ha) and at home she wonders if it’s because Seo-yeon is mad at her or something.
She confesses to badmouthing her when her husband pointed out a picture in a magazine saying it looked like Seo-yeon, and now she’s convinced Moon-kwon overheard and now both of them are mad. Ha. If only that was the height of their troubles, lady.
Jae-min tells Ji-hyung to stop being a crybaby and get it together. There’s nothing he can do for her anymore because she wants nothing to do with him. “So just consider her dead.” Ji-hyung says he gets it, and tears brimming, he asks that Seo-yeon at least know that it wasn’t because he loved her any less, and that he’ll spend the rest of his life endlessly sorry. Dude, what good does that do for anyone? GUH.
They get up to pay, and Jae-min heads to the counter… where he runs into Seo-yeon’s doctor. Oh. The doc recognizes him as Seo-yeon’s guardian and asks if he’s spoken to her about needing treatment soon. Jae-min says he hasn’t yet, and they part ways.
But Ji-hyung’s heard enough to know something’s seriously wrong with Seo-yeon, if Jae-min has met with a doctor because of her, and that if it were really nothing as Jae-min insists, the doctor wouldn’t be concerned with her treatment.
He asks what it is, if it’s cancer, what’s wrong. Jae-min holds his ground, insisting that they’re over and it’s Seo-yeon’s business. It starts to get heated as Ji-hyung relentlessly asks what’s wrong, and how he could stand here and pretend not to hear.
Jae-min: “She wouldn’t want you to know and neither do I. It has nothing to do with you – it’s our family, our business!” It turns into a shouting match as Ji-hyung pleads, but Jae-min refuses and sends him away. I want him to know, but I adore Jae-min for not making it easy.
Ji-hyung runs back into the restaurant to look for the doctor himself, and catches up to him on the street. He pleads with the doctor to tell him what’s wrong, insisting that he’s Seo-yeon’s boyfriend and her guardian too.
The doc says he can’t tell him because it’s the family’s private matter. Ji-hyung begs, asking if it’s cancer. The doc tells him that if he comes to the hospital tomorrow with Seo-yeon herself, then he’ll tell him everything. He adds that even if it’s not with him, she needs treatment.
Jae-min walks along and runs into Seo-yeon walking home just ahead of him. She’s barefoot and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in English, for some reason. Well that’s just the oddest drunk behavior I’ve seen to date.
He runs up and finds that she’s had some drinks, which she announces happily, since it was to celebrate her surprise bonus. She grins from ear to ear as she tells him it’s lots and lots of money, and she had a great time singing and dancing and drinking.
He worries about her feet, and she says she didn’t want to stumble in her heels and there was no one, so she just took ’em off. He says that she should’ve called him or Moon-kwon, and says that he’s here now.
He bends down to put her shoes back on, worried about her cutting up her feet, and offers to walk her home. Swooooooon. He insists on carrying her purse too, and she takes his arm, laughing that it’ll look like they’re dating.
She leans on him as they walk. “Oppa, thank you.” She says she’s grateful to Aunt and Uncle, Myung-hee and her husband too. “But I’m most grateful to you. Why? Because you always quietly took care of me. You’ve never hurt me, or made me feel like it was a burden. To me, you were always my biggest background.”
He asks why she’s talking in the past tense. She quickly corrects herself, “No, it’s past, present and future. Oppa you need to protect me. Don’t find a girlfriend. If you find a girlfriend and stop paying attention to me, I’ll be mad.”
Jae-min smiles, “That’s a really selfish thing to say.” Seo-yeon: “That’s right. I’m selfish. I’m going to be selfish.” She lets out a heavy, shaky sigh.
These two kill me. I don’t know if I’ve ever watched a drama where I cared LESS about the romantic relationship than I do about the oppa one, but damn.
He walks her home and watches her go up with a heavy heart. He gets a text from Ji-hyung, naming Seo-yeon’s doctor and his appointment with him tomorrow at 3. He calls and Ji-hyung totally lies that he’ll hear it from the doc tomorrow anyway, so Jae-min should just tell him now.
Urg, I’m so torn between wanting him to know but not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing. He finally railroads Jae-min into coughing up the truth, after swearing to keep it a secret from Seo-yeon. “It’s Alzheimer’s.”
Stunned, Ji-hyung goes through the same process of denial, wondering how it could be possible in someone so young, if maybe she was misdiagnosed. But no, Jae-min’s been down that road already, and researched doctors to know that hers is a well-respected one in his field. According to the doctor, she’s had it for about two years now (which would explain the long-term use of painkillers without an end to the headaches).
Jae-min tells him to just think of it as Seo-yeon’s fate, and not to feel guilt over it. “Do you see now why I said there’s nothing you can do?” He points out that Ji-hyung’s a week away from his wedding. Ugh. Jae-min asks him to keep his promise and not get involved.
At home, Moon-kwon puts on a brave face and promises to deal with the part-time job situation himself, rather than have Seo-yeon get involved. He panics for a moment when she struggles to remember the word for cereal as they talk about what to eat for breakfast. Both of them lurch for a moment, but then she finds the word.
He worries under his breath about her drinking, but it comes out loud enough for her to hear. He covers it up by saying that he’s just worried that it’ll be hard on her in the morning, but she smiles it off and says to worry about himself.
Ji-hyung sits staring blankly, as it starts to sink in. He flashes back to a happy moment in bed, when he had lied about not being ticklish. She insisted on testing it to be sure, when he caved and admitted to lying about it.
She wondered why on earth he’d lie about that, and he says it was to appear impressive in her eyes. She in turn tells him that when she was young she had an outy bellybutton, but it just changed one day, and now when she gives a push, she can turn it back into an outy. He totally falls for it and she laughs, wondering who’d fall for something so dumb.
It leads him to another memory, of the time they ran into each other at an art gallery, the first time they had seen each other in over eight years. He had returned from studying abroad, and it was long enough of a separation for them to not recognize each other right away.
He points out that they saw each other three years ago, when he came in to see Jae-min, which she had forgotten. He marvels at how she looks the same, and notices that she doesn’t put sugar in her coffee. “Because they say it’s bad for you. I have to live a long time.”
She asks about his fiancée, and when he’s getting married. He says in about a year… and as they have coffee, he asks her to lunch. And then as they have lunch, he asks her to dinner.
After dinner they walk along the river, holding hands. Ji-hyung: “What is this feeling? As if… since ages ago, since before I was born, since a thousand years before… I’ve been waiting for today.”
She tells him for her it’s déjà vu. She doesn’t believe in past lives, but she has the feeling that they’ve been here before, just like this, maybe in memory, maybe in dreams. He adds a vote to the past lives theory.
Back in the present, he weeps.
The next day he heads out of the hospital and has another memory, of Seo-yeon singing him happy birthday. He kisses her before she can finish the song and she sighs that she’d like to die right then and there.
What a heartbreaking thing to remember – something she said to mean how happy she was, but now just ringing in his ears tragically.
Seo-yeon spends the day at work in good spirits, until she gets a call at her desk. It’s Ji-hyung, waiting for her downstairs. She braces herself and meets him, repeating herself curtly that she’s fine and he needn’t do this.
But he launches straight into it, telling her that he made an appointment with a new doctor, that they’re going to get a second opinion, that she needs to start treatment. She looks up at him in shock. “How? How do you know?”
He tells her that he found out from Jae-min. “Oppa? How? How does he know?” Ohgod ohgod ohgod ohgod….
Ji-hyung and Jae-min sit across the table from her, side by side. She buries her head in her hands, balled up as fists the entire time.
Finally she speaks, without looking up at either of them. She insists that she’s not a patient, not until she says she is. She’s fine. Jae-min agrees then that it’s possible if she gets reexamined…
But she cuts him off that she found the best doctor, and he should fold that last bit of hope. Ji-hyung tries to chime in but she cuts him off coldly, in jondae, not to concern himself with it.
She tells Jae-min not to concern himself with it either, and he bites back, “How can you say something like that?!” She asks what he can do about it, and he tells her that there’s ways to treat it, to slow it, to wait till there’s a cure.
Seo-yeon: “Oppa, rather than growing old and stupid, I want to hurry, hurry, and end it.” She tells him that she has no intention of becoming a useless burden to the people around her, just sucking up their pity.
Ji-hyung tells her that it’s different, case by case. She could have ten years, maybe more. Seo-yeon: “What use is that? If I live a long long time as an empty shell, getting into trouble, shaving precious time from precious people – will I be immortalized forever?”
Ji-hyung: “Do you want to be dragged there, or do you want to go willingly?” Seo-yeon: “Stop pretending to be the good guy and get the hell out.”
She throws his concern right back in his face, asking if he wants to drag her to the hospital so she can hear the same diagnosis all over again, so he can sigh and say he did all he could, and feel good about it? “My problem is so big, that I don’t have time to do that for you.”
Ooof. There’s just something so fierce and raw about her pride even in a situation like this – it just resonates with me.
She gets up to go, and Ji-hyung blocks her path. She tells him that she’s perfectly fine, and rattles off all the things she’s handling right now, at work, in her life, how she’s perfectly normal.
Ji-hyung says that maybe it means she’s really fine, so if they see another doctor… But she pleads them not to make her hear it again. If she hears that diagnosis one more time, she can’t ignore it, can’t deny it. She’s scared she’ll just give up and collapse.
She looks over at Jae-min, “Until I got into really big trouble, I didn’t want anyone to know. My pride… it hurts a lot.” She walks past him to the door, but falters as soon as she reaches the handle. She crouches down, unable to stand.
The guys get up and Ji-hyung rushes to her side. She leans on him and clutches his arm, but she turns to Jae-min. Trembling, “Oppa, oppa, take me home.”
He comes over and picks her up out of Ji-hyung’s grasp, and she hugs him for dear life, wailing like a child. She cries into his shoulder, as Ji-hyung stands aside and cries silently. I can’t even see them through my tears.
Ji-hyung watches silently from the sidelines, unable to do anything for her, as Jae-min takes her to the car, puts on her seatbelt, and drives her away.
Over at Ji-hyung’s house, the moms-in-law meet up, and despite my hatred for this world and all its ridiculousness, I do love these two moms and their hilarious conversations. Today Ji-hyung’s mom gripes about her friend’s over-shortening of words, which is totally a gripe I share about Korean slang and its obsession with senseless compounding and shortening till words are no longer words, and everything is an acronym.
Hyang-gi’s mom in turn wonders if she ought to buy Ji-hyung a new car. Mom says no, that’s silly, so then she asks, “Do you want a new car?” She asks what the obsession with cars is, and she admits that a friend of hers married off her daughter with five new cars. Ji-hyung’s mom: “Did she have two heads?” Hahaha.
Hyang-gi’s mom goes so far as to worry about Ji-hyung and his, er, reproductive health, making everyone else cringe at her boundary issues.
Jae-min drops Seo-yeon off at home, and she insists that she’s fine and back to her normal self. She tells him that she doesn’t want Aunt and Uncle to worry, or to have Unni clucking at her, so to wait until after she’s lost her mind to tell them. He says he understands and promises to do so.
He calls Moon-kwon to tell him what’s happened, and he runs home with lightning speed, crying the whole way. He arrives out of breath and struggles to tamp down his tears before bracing himself and knocking on her door.
There’s no answer so he opens it cautiously. She lashes out at him, furious that he went through her things, that he told Jae-min. She asks how he could spill that secret so easily. Trembling, he admits the truth:
Moon-kwon: Because it was too big for me to handle! Because I was so scared!
Seo-yeon: So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to be sick in my place? Are you going to swap my head for yours? Can you do that?!
Moon-kwon: If that’s something I could do, I’d do it right now! If it meant that you could live, I’d jump off this roof right now!
Seo-yeon: You say something stupid like that one more time! Do you want to be beaten?!
Moon-kwon: How long did you think you could hide it? What is there to hide? Am I a stranger? If you’re hurting then I have to be hurting with you. Noona, if I were hurting, would you just be whistling and pretending not to know?
Seo-yeon: I’m not… ready yet. I can’t acknowledge it.
She refuses to face it, the dirty rotten luck of a girl abandoned by both her parents. He says that Dad didn’t abandon them, but she bites back that dying that young is the same thing as abandoning them. (Which means this is what she feels about leaving Moon-kwon behind, of course.)
He pleads with her to start taking her meds, but she ignores him, zooming past to change the subject and order food. She asks for her phone and he has to tell her that she left her purse at work, and that Jae-min is having it sent over by courier.
She flinches at the slip and then asks for his phone then, trying her damnedest to get past this moment and this conversation.
Ji-hyung calls Jae-min to check in, worrying endlessly with no outlet. He asks for Seo-yeon’s number, “just to have it,” but Jae-min tells him to back off from here on out.
He looks over the city at night, remembering Seo-yeon telling him that she loved him over and over, and the first moment when she knew, the day they first met. In voiceover, Seo-yeon: “Since the day I met you, I was zapped like lightning. Why, I wonder? You weren’t even that impressive. Why, I wonder?”
Every time I’m more and more impressed by Su Ae. Seo-yeon’s prickliness could be extremely off-putting if she weren’t playing it all with such a deep undercurrent of vulnerability and sadness. You can see it on her face – the mask of denial and strength that she’s so desperately trying to keep up, everything she’s feeling underneath the words that come out of her mouth.
It makes her character so three-dimensional for me, because real people don’t say what they mean. They coat it, in pride, in anger, in misplaced blame. I’d be the same way, clinging uselessly to pride and denial because it’s safe, it’s what I know. I love that she doesn’t sugarcoat things for other people—it’s for HER, because she can’t face losing control of her life. That feels so utterly real that it’s kind of gut-wrenching to watch her falter.
The brothers continue to be the real heroes of the piece so far, but we do get our first glimpse of Ji-hyung’s transformation, just on the brink. He has yet to actually act – to put his money where his mouth is, so to speak – but the courage seems to be rising. I’m just glad that this drama dispenses with the secret-keeping, and that people just find out what they need to know swiftly, refusing to let them live in the safety of denial. It’s like the world or Fate pushes everyone out of complacency, trauma be damned. It sucks for them, but it’s awesome for us.
Structurally, I love that the romance plays out in the past. Somehow keeping it trapped there, only in memory, is maybe the most tragic thing of all. They play out like bubbles of time that can’t help but be tinged with sadness, no matter how happy they are in the moment, because it’s already gone. That inside-out feeling is a nice effect because it puts them on the outside, looking in on something that is no longer there. I don’t know why, but that kind of sadness gets to me more than two people breaking down and crying over each other. It’s like how insisting that you’re not going to think about someone is proof that you’re currently thinking about them – the fact that they exist in memory is proof that they are in the past.
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 4
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 3
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 2
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 1
- Thousand Day Promise’s poster and trailer
- Kim Rae-won and Su Ae get close for Thousand Day Promise
- First stills from Thousand Day Promise
- Kim Rae-won’s comeback with Su Ae
- Su Ae cast in Kim Soo-hyun’s Forget Me Not