Ji-hyung faces the firing squad for his decision, and some of the bullets veer left and hit Seo-yeon instead. But when my heart isn’t breaking for them, mostly I’m spending the episode laughing my ass off because of Hyang-gi’s parents and their bizarre ideas about what is and is not right. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the first dramas where I love watching the so-called villains of the piece as much as the good guys. I could watch Lee Mi-sook be her character all day, every day.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Seo-yeon wakes up slumped over at her desk in the morning. Rather than turn off her alarm though, she just turns on the stereo to cover up the sound.
Aunt comes by with food for her, thinking that she’s sick, per Jae-min’s cover story. She hears Seo-yeon’s alarm still going off and wonders what that sound is, and Seo-yeon runs to her room, declaring that she knows what it is. The wording is peculiar: “I know what it is,” like every little thing has become a Name That Thing game.
Aunt worries about her and dotes on her, calling her “my baby.” It’s adorable. She gives her a comforting hug with reminders not to stress herself into sickness. She repeats her motto that if you treat your body well, it’ll always treat you well in return… which of course does no good to Seo-yeon, but she doesn’t know that.
Over at Hyang-gi’s house, Mom and Dad have come up to ask what she wants to do. Dad’s options: drag the groom to the altar, or end it. Yes, because so many married couples end up happily ever after when one party gets dragged into the wedding by force. Watching this family is not unlike peering into the lives of an alien race.
But Hyang-gi has no edgewise for her words to get in, because Mom and Dad are too busy arguing with each other about how mortifying it is to be dumped and what people will say, versus how important families always weather scandals. She insists this was a mutual breakup and she wants them to leave Ji-hyung alone, which makes Mom scoff at her simpleton daughter, and Dad whisper, “It’s because of your mom, isn’t it?” Ha.
Ji-hyung is still sitting numbly by his bed in the morning. Mom comes in to try and talk some sense into him, but he tells her to just think of him as the bad guy. He asks if she thinks he didn’t consider the two families and the fallout before making his decision.
Mom reasons that loving someone else and not loving Hyang-gi is not enough of a reason not to marry her. Um… okaaaay. There’s clearly no arguing with people like this. He tells her that even if the heavens collapse, he won’t change his mind.
Dad coaches Mom in how to deal with Ji-hyung, like refraining from words like “understand.” Heh. He tells her to focus on making him see how much he’d gain from marrying Hyang-gi, and how pesky feelings are nothing compared to practical matters of financial security. Yes, because clearly the thing to make your son who just overturned a wedding two days away to be with the love of his life is to argue that romance is silly.
Seo-yeon writes another journal entry, and though they are always a series of declarative sentences about what she did that day, they begin to take on a poetic cadence, mostly because each sentence ends the same way.
Seo-yeon: If it’s true that I have to live my days
Breaking, day by day
While I can think, decide
I have to erase anything that would be an unnecessary day
Will I be able to congratulate Moon-kwon on getting a job with a sound mind?
How much does That Person understand me?
Even if Aunt’s family, the office, the publishing house, all my neighbors knew
I wonder if That Person would understand my heart
That I didn’t want him to know
That I wanted that to be my last gift to him
Will he understand that?
Ji-hyung solemnly gets dressed to go speak to Hyang-gi’s parents, and as he showers and puts on a new shirt, he flashes back to Seo-yeon laying claim to one from his closet, deciding that it’ll be hers. She said she liked this place better than a hotel (what must have been an apartment or an officetel he got specifically for their affair).
She had said that hotels always seemed so fleeting, but that this felt more real. She had wondered if she was the only one he brought here (he insisted yes), and that she would hate it if he were with another woman in the same bed.
Hyang-gi’s mom comes storming over herself. She’s actually strangely calm as she tells him to sit down for a chat. She apologizes for her harsh words, her nasty habit of speaking to him that way, which she points out is because she thinks of him as her own son. It’s clearly taking all her strength to bite her tongue and apologize, which is fun to watch.
Kneeling, he tells her that it’s not because of any of those things, but because he didn’t think it was right for either of them to marry without love. And then off comes her lid, back to her normal high-volume excitable self. It’s honestly to Lee Mi-sook’s credit for making such a normally horrid character so fun and entertaining to watch.
Now both moms are in the room, and Hyang-gi’s mom declares that this is how it’s going to be: Ji-hyung will get his ass to the wedding tomorrow and marry Hyang-gi, and then in one year’s time, they will get a quiet divorce. HAHAHAHA.
Ji-hyung’s mom stares at her like she’s lost her mind, but she is totally serious that it would be better (that is, LOOK better) to get a divorce in a year than to cancel the wedding now. These people crack my shit up. She’s not kidding either.
I also love the contrast in the two moms, who are such good friends, but totally opposite personalities. Everything to Hyang-gi’s mom is at DEFCON 1. But Ji-hyung’s mom is always calm, collected, and cold. They’re fire and ice.
So when Hyang-gi’s mom gets told to calm down (because they want the same thing, but have different methods of getting there), she flips her lid at her friend: “You know what I hate the most? Is people who strike all the nerves they want, and then tell you to CALM! DOWN!”
I love that when she’s upset, the fact that Ji-hyung’s mom isn’t as excitable is yet another cause to be even more upset. She asks how her friend could’ve raised her son to be a monster, eventually slapping Ji-hyung across the face and beating his chest with her fists, as he apologizes over and over.
The dads get together for a summit meeting, or rather, Ji-hyung’s dad cowers in fear, while Hyang-gi’s dad hopes they don’t have to end up enemies. (A veiled threat that it’s a distinct possibility based on the outcome, so get your act together, buddy.)
But then his wife calls to declare Ji-hyung a lost cause. He stands up, “If a man can’t steer his own family…” Well so much for hoping. Looks like the dads are on the outs.
Ji-hyung’s mom calls Hyang-gi to ask her to hold on and not give up, reminding her not to say anything about Ji-hyung’s affair if she wants to salvage this. Hyang-gi’s heart sinks to know that Ji-hyung told his parents the whole truth, thinking it’s a sign that it’s really the end.
Her mom comes back to yell at her some more about how it’s really her fault, for being so needy and clingy and “Yes, oppa” that he got tired of her. Hyang-gi agrees that it’s her fault, not blind to the fact that she’s always loved him more.
It pisses Mom off to no end that Hyang-gi is so without pride. She says if it were her, she’d get out of bed and run around pretending that it was what she wanted all along, that she’s fine, that she’s grateful in fact, just to save face and keep her pride.
Mom and Dad have a powwow to discuss what to do. Mom’s pretty much ready to start circulating rumors about how Hyang-gi wedding-stressed herself to sickness, to the point that the wedding might not happen. Dad counters that they should’ve put her in the hospital then, to sell it. Yeesh. Is she Dokko Jin?
Dad thinks they ought to give Ji-hyung a little more time, just in case. But he asks for curiosity’s sake, “How do you plan to ruin him?” Dude, these people are funny AND scary.
Ji-hyung’s mom calls Architect Alex to ask him about Seo-yeon and where to find her. Oh no. He tells her, and then yells at Ji-hyung for being so old-fashioned as to hang himself by love. Ji-hyung: “Better to be old-fashioned than a con man.”
He tries calling, but he’s one step too late. Mom calls Seo-yeon and they meet. They’re actually quite similar, so they’re both very calm, exacting, and subdued, while being precise with few words.
Mom asks if she knew the wedding was tomorrow. Yes. Then did she know that Ji-hyung broke it off? Seo-yeon looks up in shock, and Mom can tell right away that she’s hearing it for the first time. Seo-yeon swears that she’s never once hoped to marry Ji-hyung, that she started seeing him knowing he had a fiancée, and that they ended things on the day he set a wedding date.
She tells Mom that she’s moved on. (She uses the word “tidy or clean up,” also meaning to straighten things and put them in order, which is the most common way people express ending a relationship.) Mom: “Clean up. It’s one word, two characters, but I know it’s not always that simple.”
Mom asks Seo-yeon for her help. This always frustrates me to no end. Isn’t it enough to tell someone to back off? She has to actively HELP you marry her lover off to someone else? Obviously she’s not blameless in this scenario, but uh, conflict of interest, anyone? Mom says that if it were long ago, she might’ve understood, even helped Ji-hyung with their relationship. But now they’ve come too far, and it’s too late for that.
Seo-yeon returns to work frazzled, and beyond being emotionally distressed, the office is demanding a lot of her today, which she struggles to keep up with. She calls Jae-min over and over but he’s in a meeting, so she texts him about Ji-hyung’s mother asking for her help. She tells him that she doesn’t want to get involved, and asks Jae-min to talk to Ji-hyung, “I sincerely, absolutely, do not want him doing something stupid because of me.”
She adds that he should beat him until he listens. He beats up people for her too? I want one, please. She pours out all her stress into this one massive text message, about how her head hurts, this Ji-hyung problem, and wondering why Jae-min isn’t answering his phone – there’s something about it that just breaks my heart.
She leaves work early and heads home lost in thought, and receives a short text from Jae-min that he understands and will take care of it. She stops by the bakery to pick up some pastries, and then stops by the convenience store to check in on Moon-kwon (where her brother-in-law is also hiding out).
She buys some milk and at home she stuffs her face with bread and milk, saying in voiceover that she had always wanted pastries as a kid but couldn’t afford them, didn’t want to ask Aunt for them, and then as an adult, somehow continued to suppress her desires. But suddenly today, on the way home, she had an overwhelming craving for them, and wanted to eat to her heart’s desire.
She wonders if she’ll someday be unaware of chewing, swallowing, or if she’ll forget what a toilet is, and just sit there in a daze, and soil herself. Tears start to pool as she eats mouthful after mouthful of bread. “Park Ji-hyung turned around and broke off his wedding, but I don’t want to think about anything. I’m too tired.” She tries to swallow her tears like her mouthfuls of bread, but can’t, and cries and cries at her desk.
Hyang-gi continues to cry and throw up everything she eats, unable to keep down even a glass of water, and the housekeeper informs her parents that she should probably go to the hospital. Dad’s all huffy with the I-told-you-so’s, while Mom just calmly keeps eating dinner, refusing to take the hit to her pride by admitting that Hyang-gi’s so broken up about it that she has to be hospitalized. Ha. You are a piece of work.
She declares that she’s going to make it so that Ji-hyung can never marry ANYONE. Ever. Heh. I kind of can’t wait to hear what her evil plans are.
Jae-min meets with Ji-hyung and relays Seo-yeon’s message about not doing anything stupid on her account, asking if he thinks Seo-yeon will take him back like this. Ji-hyung just says it wasn’t about her, but just that he couldn’t marry Hyang-gi.
Jae-min quite rightly points out that he should’ve done something about it before Seo-yeon got sick. “Do you have a savior complex?!” He assures Ji-hyung that he’ll take care of Seo-yeon.
Ji-hyung: “How am I supposed to ignore it and just get married? How am I supposed to pretend not to know?” He knows that he’s messing up his parents’ lives, treating Hyang-gi inhumanly. He knows that Seo-yeon is strong and independent. He thought that he’d be okay, just checking in once in a while, missing her, secretly being happy for her on his own. “I thought that kind of sadness wouldn’t be too bad.”
Jae-min cuts him off with a reality check to think about his life. Seo-yeon’s condition isn’t something where she dies in six months. It could be five, seven, ten years. “It’s not a romantic drama!” Thanks for the shout-out. Though I’d have to agree – so far, not so much romantic as it is just realistic about love and loss.
Ji-hyung, to his credit, refuses to be talked out of his decision. He knows the road ahead but he’s not going to turn around. I love that this drama’s triangle is not a romantic one. It’s still a love triangle, but it’s family love one way and romantic love the other way, with fierce protectiveness from both sides.
Hyang-gi does eventually get taken to the hospital, and Ji-hyung’s dad comes by to eke out his condolences. Pfft… Mom has brought along her bottle of wine to the hospital, just sipping casually with zero urgency on her face. Who stops to pack wine when taking her daughter to the hospital?
She declares that she’s done trying to track down Ji-hyung and fix things, and that it’s not like they’ll go bankrupt without this marriage, or that there aren’t any other men in the world to marry. Heh, when it comes down to it, Mom feels more dumped than anyone.
Ji-hyung refuses to answer his parents’ calls, so Mom finally sends him a text saying that she met with Seo-yeon to make sure that they ended things, and that she even understands after meeting her why he’s having trouble letting go of her.
But that doesn’t mean she understands his selfishness, and tells him that she and Dad are still holding onto hope. She adds that Hyang-gi has been hospitalized, and that he should go to her side, playing on his guilt.
Then, a short text from Seo-yeon that she’s on her way to the officetel. And like a bolt of lightning suddenly zapped him to life, he shoots out of the office to run to her.
He arrives outside just behind her cab, and he leads her into his car without a word. And then they end up at the officetel anyway, so I’m confused about where he picked her up and what the second car ride was for.
As they take the elevator up together, he asks if his mother said anything bad, and she tells him that his mother is so impressive that she almost died of envy. He leans down toward her and puts his forehead on his, with a long sigh of relief, as if just touching her allows him to breathe again.
She asks if Jae-min didn’t contact him. Ji-hyung says he came by to deliver her message. “I asked him to beat you, but I guess he couldn’t,” as if sorely disappointed in her oppa’s gangster skills.
But then she says that she can’t get in touch with him, and that he’s not answering his phone… even though Jae-min is currently leaving her apartment after trying to contact her.
They walk down the long hallway hand-in-hand, and then once inside, they hold each other for a moment in the dark.
Over coffee, Seo-yeon tells him that if she hadn’t gotten sick, he wouldn’t have wreaked such havoc. She says she asked Jae-min to handle it for her, but then thought about it, and realized that it was too big a problem not to deal with herself.
She says that his running into her doctor was just her dirty rotten luck curse, trying to ensnare him too, with her fate. She tells him that while she can still say these things, she needs to say them, which is why she came running over.
Seo-yeon: I can’t swallow up your life too. Remember those words… even after I forget your face, your name, and get pushed from this world as an idiot who forgets who you are. Remember that. I can’t mess up your life too. That’s not the love I know. The love I know is not pulling someone into the sandpit that I’ve fallen into.
Ji-hyung: The love I know is not living my life with no concern for you in the sandpit, as you sink further. Don’t push me away. I’ll protect you.
Seo-yeon: Have you studied Alzheimer’s? I will grow less and less and less myself. I will disappear!
Ji-hyung: You’re still you. Even if you die. Even if you stop breathing. You’re you.
Seo-yeon: If you were me, would you spread your arms and say, ‘Great, let’s die together,’ and welcome me?
Ji-hyung: If you were me, would you say, ‘Thank heavens for dodging my fate,’ and go running in the other direction?
That gives her pause. But she will not be beat at this game, and says that yes, she would run. She snaps bitterly that she’d be crazy to tie up her life to someone who shits himself. He finally relents that fine, she’s her and he’s him.
But when she calls his concern charity, pity, it cuts him. He wonders if she could really be sick, when she’s so obstinate, so cold and malicious. Trembling, she rattles off more names from one of her memorized lists.
“Even as I say this, I know… I’m gradually breaking.”
Gah, how can someone be so cold and harsh and yet be so sympathetic and fascinating? She plays that vulnerable edge underneath the brittle exterior so well, it’s enthralling. I think for the first time I’ve begun to feel for Ji-hyung, mostly because it’s clear that Seo-yeon calls the shots and he’s completely enamored and along for the ride, as far as emotions go.
While I have zero sympathy for him where Hyang-gi is concerned (he really IS the bad guy there, like he claims), I have loads of sympathy for his position when it comes to Seo-yeon because he seems kind of like a lost puppy. He certainly has made some questionable choices, but the more we pull the curtain back, it seems to be that his character is entirely reactive, not just in the follow-the-rules in a good son way, but in his relationship with Seo-yeon as well, because she’s the one to keep him always at arm’s length.
He’s bound by his heart while she has no such tether, because she doesn’t allow herself that kind of abandon. Perhaps it’s like their pride issue—that he can do without, while she doesn’t have that luxury. It makes their relationship always imbalanced, always at odds. An arm’s length seems like a mile in Seo-yeon’s world. I can’t fault her for her desperate attempts to hold onto her denial that she’s perfectly fine, but I love that to Ji-hyung, and only to him, she will admit that she’s breaking. It’s surely not the end of her attempts to keep everyone away from her fate, but it’s a start.