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Thousand Day Promise: Episode 10

Yay for people finding out and moving plot along. When a drama basically features a central character harboring a secret that we know from Day 1, and people left in the dark for ages, it can feel like you’re treading water indefinitely. Now that we have people outside the core characters finding out and reacting to the news, it starts to have a ripple effect in the rest of their world.

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EPISODE 10 RECAP

Seo-yeon gives Ji-hyung’s mother the basic explanation for her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and how Ji-hyung came to know it. She says she never intended for Ji-hyung to know, much less cancel his wedding over her.

Now understanding her son’s motivation, Ji-hyung’s mother sighs, “We’re in big trouble.” She says that Seo-yeon’s condition is unfortunate but her concerns go with her son first, and apologizes for that. Seo-yeon tells her that she understands.

But Mom surprises her with her next words — that she had asked for this meeting intending to ask her to delay marrying Ji-hyung for just a year, or six months. She was going to do everything she could to convince her husband to accept the couple, and even if not, she would stand by her son — after all, this is the woman he gave up everything to be with, “And I want to accept you as my own child.” However, with this additional bit of news, she can’t do it after all.

Seo-yeon looks at her with startled eyes, maybe surprised that Mom wasn’t dead-set on hating her after all. She says she’s on the same page as Mom.

What kills me about this scene is that Mom’s sympathy is palpable, and her concern genuine. It doesn’t change her bottom line, but she’s conflicted nonetheless and it shows. She asks how Seo-yeon can be so strong and clean-cut about this break. Seo-yeon answers, “I’m using every last bit of my strength to be that way.”

When they head out to part ways, Mom asks to hold her hand for a moment, and tells her, “I’m so thankful I can’t tell you in words, but what about your pain? I don’t know how to help you.” Seo-yeon sends her away with a smile, telling her it’s all right.

As Seo-yeon walks away, she thinks of the words she almost said: “Please let me have him for a while — not long. Just let us have a year.”

Architect Alex has a character name — it’s Sohn Suk-ho — but he’s such a peripheral character, let’s just keep calling him Architect Alex. He gets called to meet Ji-hyung’s mother, who asks if he knew about all this.

For now, “this” refers to the relationship with Seo-yeon and the reason for the broken engagement, and Alex admits that he knew and tried to stop him. However, Ji-hyung was so stubborn and determined that he decided it would be better to help him than to keep fighting, and he helped find him an apartment of his own. Mom wonders how Ji-hyung could have afforded to strike out on his own, and it’s almost comical the dismay on her face when Alex tells her that it’s a monthly rental.

Mom prods, asking if he knows anything more about the reason for Ji-hyung’s abrupt change, wanting to see if he knows about Seo-yeon’s condition. He doesn’t, and just says that Ji-hyung must have figured life was short. Alex urges Mom to think positively, and that Ji-hyung’s father will come around in time to accept his future grandchildren.

He gives her one bit of encouragement, saying that Ji-hyung has decided to push back his plans to marry Seo-yeon, due to Mom’s reaction. I love how the bride’s continued refusal to marry doesn’t figure into the equation.

At work, Seo-yeon’s junior teammate notices her taking more painkillers for her headache and tells her to get checked out, wondering if it’s blood pressure related. Seo-yeon checks off the items on her to-do list and grabs her toothbrushing kit, but her teammate reminds her that she already brushed her teeth after lunch. That spins the room off into conversation about overbrushing your teeth, while she sits there shaken from the lapse.

The discussion hits a tangent when her boss recalls his father obsessively bathing in his latter days of dementia, and how those patients can’t even control their bowels. Seo-yeon declares that she needs to re-brush her teeth since she drank coffee in the meeting, but that leads to another slip and someone points out that she drank green tea. She covers for the slip smoothly, but walks away feeling panicked.

Ji-hyung’s mother arrives at Bride Central, where Hyang-gi’s mother is pitching a fit over Hyang-gi shutting herself in her room all day to quilt. Hyang-gi promises to stop, and Mom throws out the quilt in a huff.

Hyang-gi explains to Ji-hyung’s mother that quilting is the best way of making the time pass, but agrees to cut back on activities that make her mother screechy. Good luck with that one.

Hyang-gi’s mother wonders if Ji-hyung has a woman on the side, because that’s the only scenario that makes sense to her. Ji-hyung’s mother deflects but she’s a pretty poor liar, and can’t look the other woman in the eye. Thankfully for her, Hyang-gi’s mother is too busy complaining to pick up on it, although it makes it uncomfortable when Bride’s Mom gives Groom’s Mom a gift from her recent trip.

Hyang-gi walks her out and admits that she met Ji-hyung the other day, who treated her like a younger sister. Thinking on it, he’s treated her like that for the past year.

She asks if Ji-hyung’s mother has seen Seo-yeon, and Mom lies to say no. Hyang-gi asks her to be sure to tell her when she does see her — she’s curious to know what she looks like and whether Ji-hyung’s mother likes her, thinking it’ll make things easier to accept once she can feel the reality settle in.

Ji-hyung requests Jae-min’s help again in convincing Seo-yeon to marry him, and gets another denial. Jae-min points out that he would’ve married Hyang-gi if not for Seo-yeon’s condition, so she’s going to read this as pity no matter how you slice it.

Jae-min finds Seo-yeon waiting for him, timing her meeting to get him to buy her dinner, which is so cute. I love that this cousinly relationship is so close and warm, but damn if it doesn’t make me wish they could be romantically paired in some way. It would almost make the cliché of a birth secret worth it…

They have a pleasant dinner, and as he finishes off the sushi, she tells him in a casual tone, “Oppa, now I’m even forgetting things I did 30 minutes ago.” She recounts her toothbrush incident, figuring that now she’ll have to start adding to her checklist in greater detail.

He urges her to start medication, and she replies that yeah, she’ll probably have to. Soon she won’t even be able to share things like this with him, “Because I’ll have forgotten that I’ve forgotten.”

Mention of Ji-hyung’s phone call reminds Seo-yeon that she met his mother earlier, and she explains how Mom had assumed she was pregnant, and she’d ended up telling her about her condition. Jae-min asks how Mom reacted, and she replies, “She said thank you. Or did she? I don’t know, I can’t recall.”

Seo-yeon tells Jae-min that if she weren’t sick, she would’ve been able to marry Ji-hyung in a year’s time, since Mom had taken their side: “I really have dirty rotten luck.”

Jae-min drops her off at home and asks if she’s resolved in her decision, acting like it’s someone else’s life. She says that’s what she wants, that she doesn’t want to add to her loved ones’ pain “before I turn completely into a me that’s not me.”

He asks what she really wants regarding Ji-hyung, without considering his family. She calls it a cruel question and says she doesn’t want to disintegrate daily in front of him either, or add to his pain. Jae-min says, “You’re already in his heart. Whether you see him or not, his pain will be the same.”

She calls him a dummy and turns to go up to her apartment, then turns back to face Jae-min. In surprise: “Oppa, when did you get here?” She lets him think that for a second before laughing, “At some point I’m going to turn into this.” Ugh, her joking about her impending doom is almost as tragic as her sobbing about it.

Jae-min calls Ji-hyung to tell him what Seo-yeon said. Ji-hyung fires back that he’ll take care of her, and that he can focus all of his attention on her in a way that her family can’t. Jae-min isn’t necessarily against this, but he points out that Seo-yeon’s wishes take precedence. She’s becoming sarcastic and mocking of her own condition, and he’s not sure what to make of that.

At home, Seo-yeon comes into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for the next day, briefly forgetting her purpose. Moon-kwon tells her that Aunt brought by enough food to last for a few days, so she heads back to her room, but turns back to take issue with Moon-kwon’s use of jondaemal with her. His way of talking is something I always assumed arose from him being such a troublemaker as a youth, and later deciding to show her extra respect to make up for it. It’s definitely unusual to use jondae among siblings, but since she’s essentially a mother-figure, it makes sense.

Moon-kwon points out that he’s always spoken to her in jondae. She says that he used to mix jondae and banmal, but now he’s using jondae exclusively. Is it because she’s ill now? Does he feel more distant with her? He says that he just thought she deserved the respect, but she’s in defensive mode and asks, “Why, because I’m sick?” Moon-kwon drops the jondae to appease her, and she tells him, “Let’s just live like we always lived and not change.”

Jae-min comes home to — what else? — another bickerfest between his mother and sister. Apparently his mother went out and bought stuff using Myung-hee’s husband’s credit card, although she argues that she earned the money to pay for her own purchases. Myung-hee argues that if Mom buys Dad a parka and Moon-kwon a T-shirt (“I can understand up to that point!” — wanna guess where she balks?) using their card instead of her own money, then buys Seo-yeon winter blankets with her own money, it’s like Myung-hee is actually buying the blankets. Or something. I don’t really get her calculation methods, and this time I don’t think it’s my math.

Mom calls out her daughter for not caring about her own flesh and blood relatives who moved out in summer and need winter blankets. Myung-hee shrills, “We bought them frying pans!” Her husband is embarrassed at that petty defense, but Myung-hee argues that they were strapped and that was as much as they could give. Mom notes, “But your husband still bought a car.” Myung-hee: “It was a used car!” Mom: “A used car is still a car!”

Myung-hee: “You fed those kids for twenty years, that should be enough!” Mom: “Did you feed them? No, your father did!” Mom reminds her that Seo-yeon started paying them for their keep once she entered college, and Mom was heartbroken every time she had to accept that money. Myung-hee’s husband chimes in, “So it was fifteen years, then.”

Good lord, Myung-hee is such an ugly person. What a piece of work. At least she’s entertaining for all her shrewishness.

What overhearing this argument does for Jae-min, however, is underscore Ji-hyung’s point about being better able to focus on Seo-yeon than Jae-min’s family can. He has a point.

At home, Seo-yeon gives up trying to read a book and gets up to fix a snack for Moon-kwon. He assures her he’s not hungry yet, but it’s not until she asks the time that she backs down; it’s a lot earlier than she thought it was. She heads into her room and begins reciting that word game that’s become her mantra (it’s a word chain, where you start the next word using the last letter from the previous word).

Ji-hyung’s mother arrives at his officetel, all wound up with nerves. She knows about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and demands to know how he could hide that and still go through with the plan to marry her. What’s he going to do now?

He tells her he’ll marry her anyway, but not to consider this as him sacrificing himself for Seo-yeon. “I’m doing this because I need her, because I want to be with her. I love her. I love her laughs, her cries. Her warmth, coldness, when she’s good-natured, bad-tempered, her thoughts, her stubbornness, pride, candidness, transparency. I love all of that.”

He says that Seo-yeon revealed everything to Mom and rejected him anyway, not because she hates him but for his own sake: “Without her, I’ll turn into a scarecrow, like you.”

He kneels by his crying mother and takes her hand. She tells him that she knows that love isn’t just for the happy times, and that there are plenty of people in the world who stick by their love when things get hard, and the sight moves her: “But I can’t handle my son becoming one of them.” They repeat an exchange of “You can’t”s and “I’m sorry”s, neither one able to budge.

Mom drives home sobbing.

The dads have drinks and come home to the groom’s household, their friendship mostly intact although Hyang-gi’s father sighs at the sight of their empty staircase — he’d always expected to see his married daughter bounding down it to greet her father. Both Ji-hyung’s parents freeze when he drunkenly slurs that he and the wife had thought Ji-hyung must be having an affair, but then decided against it based on their reactions.

Ji-hyung’s mother and father get ready for bed and talk about their day, and Dad mutters that Ji-hyung’s going to have to pay for his sins against Hyang-gi. That gets Mom’s temper flaring — despite the situation, how can he curse his own son? Dad blames her again, saying that their son took after her way of thinking. How is the successful, grown middle-aged man always ready to make himself the victim in this? Oh, poor you.

Mom reminds him of their own marriage, which was not easily gained because of parental opposition, but they ended well enough. She tells him to take back his words (“They frighten me”) and grumpily, he does.

Mom calls Ji-hyung that night to plead again, urging him to back off and let Seo-yeon go. She offers to make sure Seo-yeon is taken care of instead, and says that she understands how he feels, but still can’t allow it.

Ji-hyung asks, “Mom, do you want me to live the rest of my life with a guilty conscious, full of regrets that drive me crazy? Is that living? Even if time passes, if I step aside unable to do a thing, I won’t be able to let go of her until the day she dies.”

She sobs. He asks her to let go of him.

The next day. As Seo-yeon and her co-workers head out to dinner together after work, she gets a text message from Ji-hyung. She checks it — it’s a standard “I’m working late, I’ll eat dinner out” message, like you’d send to a spouse — and when her co-workers ask about it, she replies coyly, “It’s the person I like… That’s the answer you want to hear, isn’t it?” They marvel that she’s finally loosening up on her secretive ways, and she wonders, “Am I secretive?” They laugh at the idea that she could have ever thought herself NOT secretive.

Seo-yeon’s aunt drops by her husband’s jewelry store on an errand, but instead of heading home, she ends up at a different neighborhood and approaches a shabby restaurant. Inside, the proprietor welcomes her guest, then freezes to recognize Seo-yeon’s aunt. Could this be the elusive mother?

 
COMMENTS

This episode was really Kim Hae-sook’s to shine as Ji-hyung’s mother finds herself reeling and trying to cope, while at the same time coming to like and respect Seo-yeon, which makes her decision that much more difficult to handle. This is a struggle I’m keen on seeing playing out, because more so than anybody she finds herself caught in the middle. Everyone else’s loyalties fall pretty clearly on one side or the other, but now that she has met Seo-yeon, she can’t help but feel for her. Maybe she sees some of her own self in Seo-yeon’s steel will underneath her gentle-seeming exterior, or maybe she’s just not as cold as she seemed at first glance.

I do have to say I’m finding the snippets of story a bit jarring, particularly when they aren’t really connected to the central story but just hang off as appendages. How great it would be if the brokenness of the narrative flow were intentional, as though mimicking the brokenness of Seo-yeon’s memories… but really, that’s a stretch. I think the conversations are well-written and witty, but we certainly don’t need so much of it at times. I do appreciate getting a sense of the world and a little bit of that meandering is welcome, refreshing even, but by this point we’re halfway through and we’ve got major story drama goin’ down here. This isn’t really a slice-of-life type of drama, so they start to feel extraneous.

They’re not like the intentionally fractured visual frames, for instance (see below), which I can see ARE a direct reflection of the theme. They’re excessively used, in my opinion, but they serve a purpose. I think this show tends to linger a moment too long, stretch a bit too much, and that isn’t always to its credit. It IS a deliberate directorial choice, though, so I figure that will just continue to be the case.

That said, how much do I continue to love the brothers? What does it say that I keep mistyping Oppa’s name as Jae-mine?

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