Thousand Day Promise: Episode 15
A mostly contemplative episode, as the dust settles in each household. A cameo from another member of the Kim Soo-hyun family brings Song Chang-eui by, and it looks like he’ll stick around for a little while, which is awesome considering he’s pretty much the funniest thing about this episode. I can’t say anything good about the condition of his hair, but he’s delightful as the much-needed comic relief ’round these parts.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Happy times for the newlyweds, as they dance while sweeping, cook in matching aprons, and stop to give kisses before each parting. They shop for baby-mommy books and squeal over dessert. But there are tiny moments when each of them lingers on a nagging thought – probably that this will be over someday soon. You get the feeling that they’re forcing it, not that they aren’t happy in the moment, but forcing themselves to focus on the happy, rather than give in.
At night Seo-yeon sits in front of her computer, staring at what she’s typed: “It’s far away… It’s far away… It’s far away…” (It can mean a lot of things: that she’s got a long way to go, that she feels far away, or that she’s convincing herself that she’s still got lots of time before the illness sets in.)
The happy moments continue, as they visit Aunt and Uncle’s family, now filled to the brim with people in that small room, everyone laughing together. Aw. That one thing just brings a tear to my eye.
They flirt while making pasta, read together, and Ji-hyung even teaches her how to play video games. Aw, they’re so cute with the Wii-boxing.
Ji-hyung wakes up on a Sunday and watches Seo-yeon as she sleeps, and we hear his thoughts in voiceover: “I could not change her stubborn mind about having the baby. It’s been one month since she’s stopped taking medication. Seo-yeon still goes to work every day, and makes an effort to be the happy wife, meanwhile she devotes everything to the baby growing inside her.”
Seo-yeon’s voiceover: “We all live as if Alzheimer’s is nothing. We promised to live that way. But it’s not as easy as the words, to do. But I don’t want to waste my time thinking about Alzheimer’s, and I don’t want the people who love me to waste their time feeling bad for me.”
She greets her day with the announcement that she is still Lee Seo-yeon, and names “husband, Park Ji-young,” and “brother Lee Moon-kwon,” with a fist bump. The naming game kind of gets me in the gut, but the boys play along, clearly having adjusted to Seo-yeon’s methods of coping, gallows-humor style.
She follows her notes for what to make for breakfast, and Moon-kwon helps her, now having to remind her of far more steps than before. Over breakfast they have an adorable round of pass-the-fish, as Seo-yeon gives Ji-hyung the best piece, and then Moon-kwon fake pouts, prompting both Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon to give him all the fish. Then they realize Seo-yeon doesn’t have any, and all the fish lands on Seo-yeon’s plate.
The couple gets ready to go out, and Seo-yeon doesn’t feel like wearing a heavy coat today, but Ji-hyung won’t take no for an answer, taking care to bundle her up from head to toe. Something about that gesture is really sweet, because it feels like he’s really stepping up as the caretaker.
She asks for her daily love confession, and he hugs her, saying he loves her, and will love her tomorrow 151 times as much as he does today. She answers with her usual mantra: “I love you. I’m sorry. Thank you.”
They go for a walk and he offers to play her word-string game. She starts, “Hyang-gi.” Uhhh… He tells her to just say what’s on her mind, since she clearly didn’t mean the word scent, did she?
She wonders how Hyang-gi is doing, how she could’ve let it all pass without so much as one angry-jilted-woman phone call. She asks if Ji-hyung thinks about her. He admits that he does wonder how she’s doing from time to time.
Seo-yeon wonders what she would’ve done if it were her. Maybe she wouldn’t have marched over there and slapped her across the face or anything, but she would’ve made one phone call, just to say “You’re poop.”
She thinks fewer words are better, so as to appear less pathetic, as if the roles really are reversed. I’d say she’s twisted for even thinking through all this, but she really WAS the other woman for most of their relationship. That feeling, like taking what isn’t hers, clearly still haunts her.
Ji-hyung tells her that Hyang-gi’s innocent and sweet, and has probably used all her efforts to try and understand him rather than hate him. Seo-yeon: “She’s unrealistic, you’re cruel, and I’m a thief.” It’s a succinct but not inaccurate summary.
They go grocery shopping and things are fine until she reaches for the milk, and then not two steps later, goes back to reach for the milk again. Ji-hyung’s heart lurches, but he beams her a smile and she does the same, to cover it up.
On their way home, she says out of nowhere, “It’ll take a long time.” She’s back to Hyang-gi again, meaning that it’ll take her a long time to get over Ji-hyung. He just says good-naturedly that he hopes that isn’t the case.
Hyang-gi seems like she’s doing well, and bounds up to greet her prodigal brother, who’s finally returned. (A cameo by Song Chang-eui). Can we set HIM up with Jae-min oppa? Hee. That perm looks ridiculous on him, but that might be the point, since his character is a ne’er-do-well type anyway, taken seriously by no one.
He tells Hyang-gi that it’ll all pass, and that in a year she’ll wonder when all this happened. Mom melts into a puddle of goo at the sight of him, clearly favoring her son. He in turn sweet-talks Mom in about two seconds flat. She complains that Dad is stupid for his daughter, and warns her son that Dad’s in no mood to deal with his usual requests (he’s been described as a money-pit movie producer, who basically spends his parents’ money in failure after failure).
He rushes to greet his father timidly, and Dad ignores him at first, and then at his wife’s nagging, he acknowledges his son’s presence with sarcasm. Dad’s preoccupied, beside himself because Hyang-gi is leaving tomorrow. (It’s funny that these parents have zero qualms about favoring one child over the other, but I guess at least it evens out?) Upstairs Hyang-gi packs her bags for a trip abroad to see a friend, which is a good sign that she’s moving on.
Over at Ji-hyung’s house, the air has turned even icier between Mom and Dad. He sees her packing up food, obviously to take to the kids, and he blames her, saying that clearly Ji-hyung took the plunge to disobey knowing that he could cling to Mom, and she would eventually take his side.
Mom just spits back that a thousand times over, she’d do the same thing, because she’s a mother. She wonders what the hell happened to him to make him change, and says it’s a good thing she remembers what he was like in their youth. She murmurs that she wouldn’t marry him now if she knew how he’d change. Ouch. Nice one, Mom.
He blusters that he hasn’t changed one bit, and asks her sister if he’s different. Sister totally swoons to describe how romantic he used to be, and how uncomfortable he is to be around now. This family is so weird.
Ji-hyung’s mom gets a call from Hyang-gi, who tells her that she’s leaving for the States today, and decided to go visit a friend on a whim, after being yelled at by Mom for the thousandth time. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be gone, and just says that she’ll return whenever she wants to.
Mom tells her to just enjoy the trip and not think of anything else. Hyang-gi does ask after Ji-hyung, but doesn’t want her to say anything to him about her leaving. “I don’t want to concern him… though I don’t even know if he’d be concerned.”
She adds one last thing, which she asks to be kept a secret from her mom: “I pray every day for a miracle,” referring to Seo-yeon as “Ji-hyung’s person.” This girl floors me, every time. Just when I think, there’s no such person, she goes and does something even more Hyang-gi-esque. As if answering my question, she says into the phone, “I like being stupid like this. I’m going to continue being stupid till I die.” It really is a wonder how she’s related to her own mother.
At Seo-yeon’s house, Moon-kwon makes lunch while the couple sits on the couch playing their word game. One word-slip from Seo-yeon makes Moon-kwon worry, then another makes Ji-hyung worry. She starts mixing word-stringing with word-association, and though he doesn’t make a big deal of it, he looks at her with a stricken expression, her confusion clearly breaking his heart. It breaks mine too – that game was like her lifeline.
Hyang-gi’s family sits down for lunch, and Dad dotes over Hyang-gi even more than usual, fretting over the tiniest details of her trip. Mom snipes at him, asking if his son is invisible, but that only leads to an outburst where Dad rattles off all the ways in which his son is a disappointment.
Hyang-gi just sits in silence, and Mom goes so far as to plug her ears, which cracks me up, considering how much SHE usually rants people’s ears off. Son brings up his next project, a musical for which he needs another mound of cash, and Dad flips his lid over the gall at even brining up another investment.
HA. This is hysterical. He’s exactly the same as Mom, when it comes to the other child. It’s a perfect mirror – Mom : Hyang-gi :: Dad : Son.
What really sells it is Song Chang-eui’s earnestness that it’s a really good musical, like he’s really that oblivious to Dad’s source of anger. It turns into a shouting match, and Dad gets up, and Son promptly flees from the table. Ha.
Ji-hyung’s mom tells Dad about Hyang-gi’s trip, and after a long pause, Dad asks about Seo-yeon’s condition. Mom perks up at that, saying that she’s still going to work every day, and asks him to meet her, reminding him that he’s a doctor, and one who used to be quite popular with his patients too.
But he balks at that, refusing to cave, repeating his line that Ji-hyung’s the one who turned his back on his own father. Mom sighs that Hyang-gi, of all people, is more understanding than he is. Dad: “What about ME? Who’s going to understand ME?” Oh my god, really? REALLY? Still all about you, huh?
Ji-hyung comes downstairs to receive a food delivery from his aunt, who updates him on his father, and tells him about Hyang-gi leaving. He sighs at the news, feeling guilty. Meanwhile, Seo-yeon gets a call from her aunt, wondering why she still hasn’t called when they were supposed to go to the public bath together.
She totally blanked, of course, and it rattles her. She offers to meet her there now, and Aunt happily heads out, cheerfully telling her husband that she loves going to the bath with Seo-yeon because Myung-hee is so rough at the exfoliating. Why does that not surprise me?
She runs into Jae-min on her way out (Oppa! There you are! Where have you BEEEEEEEN?) and tells him about Seo-yeon forgetting their date, taking it as a sign that being married has made her push Aunt down on her priority list. Jae-min gives a worried look but says nothing, and smiles to cover it up.
Ji-hyung insists on dropping Seo-yeon off, but she refuses, walking the whole way saying over and over, “Aunt. Bath. Aunt. Bath.” She admits she doesn’t even remember making the date, and struggles with her anger at forgetting. “What is the point of making notes, when I forget that I’ve written them, forget to look at them? Every time I become an idiot, I laugh. As I laugh I want to die. I want to kill me.”
Ji-hyung silently follows behind her, walking her there the whole way, without her knowing. Gah, that kills me. He’s clearly having a harder time than he lets on to anyone else.
That night he’s startled by an outburst in the kitchen. Seo-yeon is screaming bloody murder at Moon-kwon for laughing, thinking that he’s belittling her for putting a bag of trash in the fridge. He swears up and down that he’s not, he wasn’t, but she tells them both that no one can laugh, no one but her. “I’m the only one who gets to laugh, because it’s my illness!”
She calls them out for following her to and from the bath. “Did you think I wouldn’t know?!” Ji-hyung apologizes, but she’s inconsolable, and screams that she’s not a child, and not an idiot.
She turns to Ji-hyung, “Go. Go now, before it’s too late.” She tells him that she can see it, feel it, how hard it is for him. Oof.
Moon-kwon pleads with her through tears, asking why she’s doing this: “This isn’t my noona!” Augh, that kills me more than anything. She storms off, and Ji-hyung calmly asks what happened, and assures Moon-kwon that her becoming defensive is natural.
Moon-kwon says that she shouldn’t have stopped taking her meds, that keeping the baby was the wrong choice, because his noona is what’s most important, not a baby who won’t even have a mother.
Ji-hyung holds Seo-yeon as she sobs, and reminds her of her own words, that the baby feels everything that she’s feeling. That gets her to calm down and meditate with clenched fists, to stop the crying.
Meanwhile Hyang-gi’s dad and brother return home after dropping her off at the airport, and Dad suddenly bursts into tears. Hee. And awwwww. Big Bro urges him to stop crying in front of the staff, and tells him especially not to get caught crying in front of Mom. “If you invest in my musical, I’ll keep my mouth shut.” HA. Dad finally snaps, and then chases his son up and down the lawn. Hahahahaha.
Something keeps Seo-yeon’s aunt up late into the night, as she goes from room to kitchen and back out with a perplexed look, as if trying to puzzle something out. She finally comes to see Jae-min and tells him that she thinks something is… off with Seo-yeon.
She tells him that Seo-yeon left her key in her locker at the bath, which is no big deal in and of itself, but then afterwards she put on Aunt’s shoes instead of her own. Aunt had to point it out, and then Seo-yeon stared dumbfounded for a moment, and then laughed.
Aunt describes her laugh as unnaturally long, like not hers. Well they don’t call it mother’s intuition for nothing. Jae-min offers that maybe she thought it was really really funny. Heh. You are really not the best liar ever.
Aunt says something about it is wrong, something she can’t quite put her finger on. She says that Seo-yeon used to be so lightning-quick, but something about her seems slower than before. Jae-min suggests that being a newlywed, and pregnant, and still working is probably just stressing her out.
It’s enough to convince her, that maybe Seo-yeon’s just let go of being a control freak now that she’s got Ji-hyung to lean on and a baby on the way. She goes to bed satisfied at that answer, in turn leaving Jae-min worried.
Seo-yeon sits up alone that night, with nothing but the darkness and her thoughts.
At work the next day, everything boils over, when Seo-yeon is confronted with her first big mistake on a proof for a book cover. It almost makes it worse that her boss so fervently takes her side, not willing to believe it was her mistake. She apologizes, but he says that anyone could make the error, and chastises the team for not better checking each other’s work. Thankfully, they caught it in the proofing stage, but Seo-yeon is rattled at what it means for her.
And then when she gets up from her desk to go to the bathroom, her co-worker stops short to see her walking around without her shoes on. She has to stop Seo-yeon to ask if she isn’t going to put them on.
Seo-yeon freezes at her second mistake, and quickly puts on her shoes and rushes off to the bathroom. The team wonders if something isn’t really wrong with her, and head out for coffee to discuss how to bring it up with her, intervention-style.
Seo-yeon stands out on the balcony, reeling from the shock, and leaves a message for Oppa, who’s in a meeting. And then, while everyone is out of the office, she begins to pack up her desk. Her boss is the first to come back in, and she hands him her resignation.
He tells her that she’s overreacting, and that if it were a mistake to resign over, he’d have said so. Clearly she’s also his favorite, and he’d never make her resign anyway. But she braces herself, and with tears brimming, she tells him the truth: that she has Alzheimer’s, that she thought she could work a little longer, but she can’t.
In voiceover she thinks to herself that lying to him and making up an excuse wouldn’t be right, wouldn’t be the way to repay him.
He falls back into his chair in shock, and she thanks him sincerely for everything. But this breaks my heart: “That I won’t forget it… is a promise I can’t keep… because I have dementia.”
We knew it had to happen eventually – that she couldn’t keep working with her condition worsening. But it still kills me that she has to do it. For someone like Seo-yeon, her work is her life, her pride. Her biggest fear at having Alzheimer’s is not forgetting, but as she says over and over, becoming stupid. Her fear is in losing words, which is the scariest possible thing to a writer.
I know that Seo-yeon’s coping style is highly abrasive, but I like that she’s not cookie-cutter, or just angelic and hopeful. If it were me, I’d be pissed too, and it feels honest when she roars back at the universe for her cruel fate, or when she gets defensive at being coddled because she’s not ready to face being stripped of all her agency as an adult.
The tragedy is that she’ll never be ready, and they’ll have to take care of her anyway, even if she doesn’t want to be taken care of. Her independence, the thing that’s carried her through her whole life, what has defined her as a person, is now the thing most at odds with what’s best for her. It’s not that she can’t see it; it’s that she doesn’t want to give up the reins to her own life, despite it all. And who can blame her?
But so far Ji-hyung is handling her admirably, letting her make decisions and trying to convince her of what’s best rather than railroad her into what he thinks is right. Though he really isn’t my kind of hero, he’s growing on me, and he’s starting to shape up, the more and more Seo-yeon begins to crumble. I suppose that’s their sad fate, but it’s beautiful in a harmoniously balanced, yin-and-yang kind of way too.
I like the thematic cohesion in this episode of laughter, from genuine laughter in happy moments, to fake laughter to cover up her fears and cope in the everyday, how someone can tell you’re not yourself when you don’t laugh the same way, laughter as a contract between Moon-kwon and Ji-hyung and Seo-yeon to live like Alzheimer’s is no big deal, and then finally how that laughter betrays her in the end.
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 14
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 13
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 12
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 11
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 10
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 9
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 8
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 7
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 6
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 5
- 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