Oof. Hold on to your hats, folks, this one’s a doozy. But a good kind of doozy, especially for a show where not a lot changes from episode to episode, since we’re focusing more on the little changes from day to day and the characters’ reactions to the illness, which is taking up a larger and larger place in their lives despite their efforts to live around it.
With two weeks left to go, finally the truth is out and free, and without that last bit to hide behind, Seo-yeon finds herself just a little more exposed and defenseless. But what’s beautiful is in how this reveals how very much she is loved.
SONG OF THE DAY
Dear Cloud – “기억에 흩어지다 (Marcescent)” (Scattered in my memory) [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
After submitting her resignation, Seo-yeon meets with Jae-min at a cafe to tell him the news, which he tells her to consider a good thing for herself and the baby. She says that she had to tell her editor about her Alzheimer’s because he was unwilling to accept her resignation, and figures that this also means it’s time to tell Aunt. She’d decided to do it on the way home today, but now finds the idea too daunting.
Seo-yeon asks, “Oppa, tell her for me. I can’t say the words myself.” Aw. It’s quite a burden to put on her oppa, but I love that she can burden him with it, she of the steel armor that never lets herself ask for help. Jae-min tells her not to worry because he’ll take care of it, adding that he was thinking it was about time.
Seo-yeon agrees, admitting that she’s making a lot of mistakes. She frames this in terms of turning herself in, as for a crime: “They say that when criminals surrender themselves, they feel more at ease.” She asks him to tell Aunt right away, today, and also, “Find a girlfriend soon, oppa. I want to see you marry.” Oof. That kills me, that little thing. It’s a reversal from her earlier comment about not wanting to see him married off, and she says if she doesn’t see him happily settled, she won’t be able to “close my eyes,” i.e., die in peace. Jae-min promises to try.
Myung-hee calls Moon-kwon to try to wheedle him into covering his old job at the bakery for a few days. Or maybe wheedle is too mild a word; threats of disowning him forever are more like it. She argues that it’s a teeny little favor and she really needs him…so she can go on a weekend trip with the girls to the hot springs. Psh, Myung-hee, you are a piece of work.
He says that he can’t interrupt his studying rhythm, and that if he fails his exam, noona’s going to throw him out of the house in nothing but his underwear. Haha.
Seo-yeon surprises Moon-kwon by coming home early and tells him she quit her job. He’s relieved, but also so tentative around her — trying to read signs, anticipate her mood — that it’s heartbreaking. She hasn’t told Ji-hyung yet, planning to do so when he comes home from work, so when he calls to suggest a date tonight, she defers and asks him to just come home instead.
She sits in the bath, reciting a mournful poem to herself entreating a lover to remember her after she’s gone (Musset’s “Rappelle-toi”). Then she sits at her computer to write a journal-like entry about how she’d thought she could last longer at the job, and use her pregnancy as an excuse to quit. If not for that error, she could have held on longer: “But the moment I was caught in my stocking feet, I wanted to run up to the rooftop and jump.”
She greets Ji-hyung cheerfully when he comes home, and almost as soon as she kisses him hello, she tosses out, “I quit my job today” in that way she has of saying huge things in light tones. I think my favorite aspect of the way Ji-hyung is stepping up to the plate is in how he takes everything in stride, not reacting big, not freaking out, but matching his mood to hers.
She tells him she made a huge mistake on the book jacket that would’ve been a disaster if the cover went to print, and starts to tell him about the shoes, but he smiles and says she doesn’t have to explain because he’s happy about the news. She confirms that she made the right choice, acting like she’s satisfied with the decision, which kills you because just an hour ago she was admitting to herself with raw honesty how much this is killing her.
Jae-min comes home with Moon-kwon in tow, ready to tell Aunt the news. Both men sit with dark faces in front of Aunt and Uncle, who can tell this is going to be bad. After warning them to prepare themselves and getting Aunt thoroughly nervous with anticipation, Jae-min says simply, “Seo-yeon has dementia.”
Aunt’s first reaction is denial and she tells Jae-min to cut out the joking, but her husband has already jumped to acceptance and Moon-kwon sits there silently crying. Aunt looks from face to face, the truth slowly sinking in.
Jae-min explains the gist about Seo-yeon being diagnosed and hurrying the wedding because of it, and how she’s had to stop her meds because of the pregnancy.
Aunt is so shocked that she passes out, and when she comes to, she sobs her heart out. There’s something stirring in the way she wails, swaying unchecked in her grief, while her three men sit stoically around her, her silent pillars.
Myung-hee hears the crying and bursts into the room, wondering what has happened. I actually feel kind of sorry for her when the first question she asks is, “Did Seo-yeon die?” As though that’s the only thing that would get her mother this sad. Aunt turns on her and wails, “Are you happy now?!”
Moon-kwon tells her about Seo-yeon’s dementia, shutting her up for the moment. Jae-min continues his calm explanation, and Aunt’s cries grow quieter as she thinks back to the signs of Seo-yeon’s illness. She wants to see Seo-yeon right away, but Jae-min tells her to wait a few days. Uncle agress, telling her to have her cry, and once she’s empty of tears, then she can go.
Moon-kwon’s phone rings while he’s still out, so Seo-yeon answers the call from Myung-hee to say she’ll tell him to call her back. But Myung-hee says through a sniffly voice, “Did you really have to make me into such a horrible bitch?”
Through tears, Unni says that this is why she doesn’t like Seo-yeon — because she messes with her and gets her all upset, but in the final moment flips the situation and makes her into the bad guy. She says she’d wanted to drag her out to the Han River and beat her on more than a few occasions (see? Someone wants to take you to the river — you say no). But now she’s made Myung-hee into an idiot.
Seo-yeon says she understands, and that she hasn’t behaved the best either. Myung-hee sobs that even now Seo-yeon has to act all cool, and hangs up abruptly. Funny how normally she’s so seething with jealousy and resentment, but this time I feel that Myung-hee’s harsh words are coming from a place of affection. But because Myung-hee’s not a soft person, the only way she can express her sorrow is through her usual tough speech and backhanded insults.
Seo-yeon keeps an even keel throughout this conversation, but after hanging up she blares classical music on the stereo, staring off into space.
Ji-hyung texts his mother, but it’s Dad who sneaks a look first while she’s out of the room. Clearly he is still interested in his son’s life, just not interested enough to drop the aloof act and actually display that interest.
Ji-hyung’s Dad chuckles over the developments at his friend’s house, since Hyang-gi’s father is morose without his little girl, while her mother is happy as you please to be reunited with her son. And sure enough, over in the Noh household, mother and son are dancing the tango in the living room while Hyang-gi’s father glowers.
Dad shuts off their music and takes issue with his wife gallivanting around without a care while he’s nursing a hole in his heart without dear daughter. Mom retorts that when Hyang-gi was being born, he was off with that hussy… and Dad hurriedly hushes her, conceding defeat. HA.
Mom turns the conversation to her son’s love life, telling him he should settle down and marry soon, rather than playing around and risk knocking someone up. He assures her that he’s not that reckless, but says that marriage might be difficult for him. (Why, because you have to reunite with your Life Is Beautiful lover, Jae-min oppa? Wouldn’t that make my day.)
But no, he sweet-talks, “It’s all because of you, Mother. Every young woman I meet will be compared to you, and I’ll wonder, ‘When she’s your age, will she be as elegant as Mother?'” Mom knows he’s laying on the charm but she loves it, soaking in the flattery. Wastrel Song Chang-eui cracks me up.
Moon-kwon comes home to a convivial atmosphere, with Ji-hyung giving Seo-yeon a foot massage. The mood immediately crumbles when he says he’s coming back from Aunt’s house, and he tells her that Aunt took it well. She cried a lot, but she didn’t collapse.
He finds a new text from Myung-hee on his phone, which reads simply, “I’m not going on my trip.” Instead, she’s sitting in her room sobbing. Her husband assures their worried son that his aunt isn’t going to die, and comforts Myung-hee.
Jae-min sits with his thoughts, thinking back to the time Seo-yeon had found out that he knew about her illness, and broken down at how much it hurt her and her pride.
At home, Seo-yeon bursts into laughter over something, and Ji-hyung asks to be let in on the joke so he can laugh with her. She tells him that they say you can fool yourself into feeling happy through the act of faking laughter, and since she’s going to get dumber anyway, maybe she can fool herself more easily than the average person.
Ji-hyung’s smile fades, but then he bucks up and says he’ll try it out too, and forces laughter of his own. Agh, that’s so sweet, and heartbreaking, as they sit there forcing laughter to cope with the pain.
But it doesn’t last long, because Seo-eyon goes directly from laugh to sob, and Ji-hyung comforts her. He thinks to himself, “It’s okay, Seo-yeon, it’s okay. These empty words are all I can say. But it’s not okay.”
Seo-yeon wonders to herself why the the baby’s heartbeat sounded so beautiful on that day she went to end the pregnancy, as though it were whispering her not to go through with it. But even now, she can’t be sure that this was the right decision, and that makes her fear the child: “Should I resent you, or be grateful? Should you be ashamed of me, or thankful? How will you, who will have no time to love me, remember me?”
Seo-yeon gets an unexpected visit from Myung-hee and Aunt, who are calmer today. It’s actually Myung-hee who’s closest to tears, who hastily tells her that her husband has been reading up on the latest treatment developments in the paper. And on her way to the door, Myung-hee says in a small voice, “Be strong. Have hope. Fighting,” and holds up a fist of encouragement. Now that warms my heart.
Aunt stays and gets to work preparing food. She keeps her stoic face on as best she can as Seo-yeon comes up behind her and says she’s sorry, and that life isn’t as hard as Aunt is thinking, since she has Ji-hyung. Aunt starts to cry but keeps her sobs inside, her face averted.
Later Seo-yeon forgets where she left her book. Moon-kwon finds it for her in the bathroom and she tries to shake it off, but she declares she wants to go out for a walk because it’s too stifling inside. She starts to head out before Moon-kwon reminds her to put on a coat. She says, “Ah, I forgot,” using the same word for forget that also describes flickering lights, and then calls herself Christmas lights, flickering/forgetting all the time.
As they walk, Seo-yeon gives Moon-kwon some sisterly advice, but in a tone that has his heart sinking in dismay. She says he has to live his life to the fullest, enough for the both of them, so that in the end he won’t have regrets. She says that she finds it harder and harder to pull her thoughts together, as though it takes an effort to be lucid that she finds wearying. Moon-kwon gently says she has to make that effort for the baby’s sake. She calls herself a crumbling brick wall, which no amount of effort will stop from crumbling.
She gets a phone call from Ji-hyung, and lies that she’s reading a book because he was insistent that she stay out of the cold. He asks which book and she fumbles for the title, and Ji-hyung guesses she’s outside. She tells him Moon-kwon’s with her, then quickly hangs up to keep him from scolding her brother. Ji-hyung calls her back to invite her and Moon-kwon to dinner with his mother.
Moon-kwon bows out of the dinner but drops her off, and she’s greeted by Ji-hyung’s aunt at a fancy members-only restaurant. The ladies begin dinner without Ji-hyung, who’s running late, and Mom asks after her health and the baby’s condition. Mom admits that while she didn’t agree with her decision at first, she understands and has decided to respect it.
But then…a voice sounds outside the door, impatiently insisting she’s going to go inside and say hi. It’s Hyang-gi’s mother, here with her son to suggest joining parties. Ohhhh crap.
Hyang-gi’s mother sizes up the room, and Ji-hyung’s mother identifies Seo-yeon as her daughter-in-law. This sets off Hyang-gi’s mother, predictably, who rails against her so-called friend for humiliating her daughter — who listened to Ajumma more than her own mother, by the way — and then bringing the Other Woman to this fancy place for dinner. Like this is a blight on decency. Through this all, Seo-yeon sits there stricken, unable to say anything.
Ji-hyung’s mother says that she isn’t obligated to get her approval or cower in fear while dining with her own daughter-in-law. She acknowledges that they were cruel to Hyang-gi, but reminds her that their children have worked through that on their own. But Hyang-gi’s mother is on a verbal roll and scorns her for coming here: “Is a daughter-in-law with dementia something to brag about?”
At that, Ji-hyung interjects, having just arrived. His hard words set off Hyang-gi’s brother, and the two sons get in each other’s faces until they have to be pulled apart. Hyang-gi’s mother shouts after Ji-hyung for being the guy who spit on her family to marry a dementia patient.
To which Ji-hyung’s mother warns, “Don’t you dare say dementia one more time.” Hyang-gi’s mother huffs, “What else would I call dementia but dementia?”
So Ji-hyung’s mother throws a glass of water in her face. Omo!
Hyang-gi’s mother sputters, more shocked than anything, “Y-you dare…?” Ji-hyung’ s mother says, cold as ice, “Dare? What about you? Who do you think you are?”
Dinner continues afterward, a silent affair. Seo-yeon cries silently over her plate, and Ji-hyung excuses themselves. Mom apologizes for subjecting her to this kind of treatment, but all Seo-yeon can do is bow her head and say she’s sorry.
Mom hugs her, pats her hair, and tells her while a tear runs down her own cheek, “There are friends you can neither kill nor save. Please understand.”
They drive home in quiet. Seo-yeon touches Ji-hyang’s face as he drives, and he kisses it. Once home, he holds her close, trying to offer comfort.
Aww, yeah. I knew Ji-hyung’s mother would step it up, and she did it admirably. Despite the fact that some of the parents in this drama are questionable parents — heck, human beings — I like the variety we get in parent-child relationships, whether blood-related or surrogate or neglected.
I do appreciate how the broken wedding wasn’t enough to splinter the friendship, but that Mom’s protectiveness over Seo-yeon is. And how tone-deaf of Hyang-gi’s mother to feel slighted that her own child gravitated more toward her friend rather than herself — really, ya think? She’s a hilarious character to watch, but someone I’d dread knowing in real life.
Seo-yeon doesn’t have a mother — not one who cares, or who merits the term — but she has Aunt who loves her like a daughter, and now Ji-hyung’s mother is stepping into that role as well. I like that Mom doesn’t hide her disapproval of her husband’s childishness, even as she cuts him slack (too much, in my opinion) and says she understands his reaction. But I did wonder at one point if her own marriage was doomed the moment she chose to support her child and her husband had a problem with that. Good riddance, I’d say.
It makes it all the more wrenching that Seo-yeon won’t have much time to be a mother of her own, but even still she’s made this last decision regarding her illness in order to preserve that very motherhood. It’s partly the reason for her journal writing, and if that turns out to be her own book, I can’t think of a more satisfying way to leave behind something of herself, something permanent, to mark that she was here and that she lived.
- Thousand Day Promise: Episode 15
- 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