Here we are at the end of the road for the heartwarming weekend family series Ojakkyo Brothers, which concluded its 58-episode run today on KBS, recording series-high ratings at 36.3% for the finale. It was by no means a perfect series, and had stretches of episodes that could have been condensed or done away with altogether (there was an 8-episode extension due to the series’ popularity, which wasn’t bad enough to derail the thing, but did give us some sigh-inducing storylines).
But overall it was a lovely, worthwhile series, even at its length. And coming from me, that’s saying a lot—I rarely meet a 50-episode drama that I don’t think would be better in 20. But in the end I’m glad I went on this journey with these lovable characters, in a show that took its time to explore their mistakes and really earn their growth. This review covers Episodes 37-58, including today’s finale, so be warned you’ll find out how things end if you read on.
So when we last left off with First Son Tae-shik, he had finally come around to accepting his son Kook-soo and becoming a real dad. His final arc is in finding his confidence again after quitting his job, and of course coming to the realization that he’s in love with childhood best friend Mi-sook. Well, it certainly took you long enough.
Their courtship is as childish as their characters, full of mishaps, missed kisses, and jealous misunderstandings, but in the end they form a nice little family-to-be with their kids.
I love their piggyback kiss, where they’re both carrying home their kids and Tae-shik finally screws up the nerve to kiss her for the first time. It’s so mundane and sweet, and what this show does so well. He finally proposes and they start planning their spring wedding.
As he matures (thanks in large part to Mi-sook’s no-nonsense ways), Tae-shik finally gets his first praise from Dad, who tells him that he’s a good father to Kook-soo, and Tae-shik is near tears at the first kind words he’s ever heard from Dad. My heart actually swelled up with pride, and he’s not even my dad.
Kook-soo in turn becomes a part of the family, and even Grandma warms to him when she discovers that he holds her hand just like Tae-hee’s father used to when he was little. I also love his relationship with Maknae Uncle Tae-pil, who helps him accept Mi-sook as his stepmom-to-be, while Kook-soo gives him confidence by saying that he wants to grow up to be just like his uncle.
Mi-sook gets accepted by the family in a heartbeat, though she has a funny rivalry with Soo-young, who refuses to acknowledge her as “hyungnim” until she’s officially married into the family. But they’re a great example of two polar opposites marrying into one family, and when each finally acknowledges that they’re jealous of the other, they have a nice bonding moment, and Soo-young calls her “hyungnim” for the first time.
Maknae Tae-pil ends up falling for his boss Yeo-wool, who also happens to be his sister-in-law’s aunt. He kisses her in front of all her friends and plans this big dramatic proposal (of his feelings, not marriage) but she runs out before he gets to the over-the-top fireworks post-piano-serenade and turns him down cold.
So they promise to go back to a professional relationship, but can’t deny their feelings. It’s a nice slow progression, with cute little moments, like doing a speed quiz at a mall with the winning clue: “The thing I want to say to you right now!” / “I love you.”
Things come to a head when Yeo-wool gets set up on a blind date, and Tae-pil crashes it. They confirm their feelings for each other, but that’s just the first hurdle, because their families find out, and no one is ready to cheer them on.
They go to ask Soo-young’s parents for permission, which would normally be impossible, except Mom thinks she’s dying that week and gives her okay to love and live… only to find out she’s perfectly healthy and regret it the next day. HA.
He brings Yeo-wool to Ojakkyo to get his family’s approval, only to have Mom beat each of her four sons in turn—Tae-pil for his stupidity, and each of his hyungs in ascending order, for letting it happen. Hahaha. You can’t win.
The in-laws agree not to permit their relationship, and Dad tells Tae-pil that above all, he doesn’t think that Tae-pil is ready for marriage. That’s the one thing that hits home with him, which I appreciate. Because Tae-pil’s conflict has more to do with him needing to mature, not about some big dramatic family opposition.
Sure, it’s an awkward in-law overlap, but that never struck me as that big a problem, as much as the fact that it’s a noona-romance with two people in very different stages of their lives. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but they face bigger problems than what-does-my-nephew-call-you.
In the end he realizes that he isn’t ready for marriage, and plans to work hard from the ground up and make something of his life, which is the first really big moment of maturity for the youngest. He asks Yeo-wool to wait two years, but she knows better and asks for a clean break.
They’re both heartbroken, but they leave it open-ended, and this is one relationship that I appreciated wasn’t neatly tied up in a bow. He’s still young and has a lot of growing up to do, and I think it’s enough for them to remain hopeful at a reunion but part ways.
He breaks down in tears as he tells his brothers, and his hyungs get him sloshing drunk as he swears to make something of himself, and never have to let go of the woman he loves again.
Second Son Tae-bum infuriatingly continues to let his marriage fall apart because of the black hole lifesuck that is his ex Hye-ryung, and it gets worse when Soo-young’s parents find out and insists they divorce.
Soo-young continues to shut Tae-bum out to protect herself, but when he quits the new show and tries to turn things around, she thanks him sincerely and asks one thing: “Do you love me?” But he can’t answer. It’s the worst kind of silence.
Her mom finally flips and sends him packing, and that’s when Soo-young confesses to both families that it was a contract marriage in the first place, which REALLY puts Tae-bum in the doghouse. But it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it.
It’s when he stands to lose Soo-young and the baby that he finally gets the wake-up call he needs – he realizes how little he’s cared about the baby, how alone she must’ve felt.
He shows interest in the baby for the first time, and buys a pair of baby shoes and gives their unborn baby a nickname. But at the same time, Soo-young is making the decision to leave him – so he comes home ready for a fresh start, when she announces that they should divorce.
There’s a hilarious brother drinking scene when Tae-bum tells them about the breakup, and Tae-pil, fresh off his rejection from Yeo-wool, lays into his hyung for everything he did wrong. It’s awesomely refreshing because he says exactly what we’ve been feeling all this time, but it’s so frank and overboard that they wonder what got into him.
I like the turn that happens in this relationship, because now Soo-young has cut herself off just when Tae-bum starts to fall in love with her. She keeps trying to push him away but his feelings just grow, and he finally confesses to her that he didn’t know that what they had was love.
“But now I can answer a hundred, a thousand times. I love you. I love you, Cha Soo-young.” Tears in her eyes, she says it’s too late and walks away. But he calls out to her that it’s not too late, and they’re not over—he’ll prove it.
He meets with Hye-ryung one last time to say goodbye, not so much to her, but to that ten-year relationship and his lovelorn self. He says that he thought he’d never get the chance to move on, thinking he’d just hate her forever, but now he can end that part of his life. He thanks her for sharing his twenties with him, but now, his thirties, and everything afterward, he wants to share with Soo-young. Thank the friggin’ STARS.
Soo-young tries to keep him at a distance, but when she has a scare with the baby, she calls and he comes running. At the hospital, he speaks directly to the baby for the first time, and says I love you.
He drops her off at home and tries to respect her wishes for distance, but this time she blurts out that he’s not trying very hard for someone who swore he’d prove his love. He asks if it’s okay to hold onto her and beg, and she tells him not to go. They kiss as the snow falls, finally in love with each other at the same time and place.
Once married life starts going well for them, it’s Soo-young’s mother’s incessant presence that starts to cause problems. Mom takes overbearing to new heights (and is probably every newlywed’s nightmare), but in the end, they reach a happy medium, though it takes a lot of embarrassment to get there.
In a nice little moment, when Soo-young has a hard time leaving her job to have the baby, Tae-bum sneaks her into a talk show stage at the studio to remind her that her dream is to host a show like this someday, and he gets her to play-interview, as a sign that he won’t let her give up on her dreams.
They have the baby, surrounded by family, with Soo-young doling out her labor pains to Tae-bum, since fair is fair.
Third Son Tae-hee finally begins his relationship with Ja-eun, having confessed his feelings and gotten confirmation of hers. Things start out adorably, with Tae-pil secretly blackmailing his hyung to keep their secret, holding his credit card hostage. Never give your little brother your credit card, no matter how big the secret.
He continues his crazy childish jealous streak with Kim Jae-ha, which start to go overboard for me, because at some point you wonder what the point is, since you already got the girl. I guess it’s something for the otherwise useless character to do?
Jae-ha does have a secondary goal with Tae-hee, though he doesn’t do a good job of being trustworthy—he needs to deliver something that his mother left for him, but Tae-hee refuses to accept it. With Ja-eun’s help he finally comes around and Jae-ha gives him a mountain of shoes—a pair she bought every year for his birthday but never sent, in a futile attempt to fulfill a promise she had made to him as a six-year old.
It’s around that time that Tae-hee starts to be curious about his father’s death, and begins to look into the car accident that killed him 26 years ago.
Ja-eun comes home late one night after a date with Tae-hee, and Mom is up late waiting for her. She rips her a new one for making her worry, bringing Ja-eun to tears. But upstairs in her room Ja-eun smiles to herself in this way that just warms your heart—you can see that it makes her happy to know that Mom cares enough about her to be mad.
Meanwhile Grandma gets antsier and antsier by the day for Tae-hee to find a girlfriend, and he keeps deflecting (but not outright refusing, which makes Ja-eun secretly miffed). Ja-eun asks if they shouldn’t just come clean with the family, but he says no, because Granny will insist they get married.
She gets immediately huffy, but he doesn’t pick up on it, and she whirls around, “Then are you not going to marry me? Are you not going to marry me?!” …Awkward silence… Tae-hee: “Of course I am.”
The directness of his answer startles her, even though she’s the one who asked the question. Ha. He clarifies it’s because Granny will tell them to get married right away, and he’s considering Ja-eun’s age, for her sake. And then he adds, “Did you just propose?” Hee.
He asks if she wants to get married young, and it’s no surprise that Ja-eun, who grew up so lonely, says that her biggest wish was always to live with a big bustling family. He casually asks if she wants to get married earlier then, like within the year… She says okay, like she’s saying yes to ordering dessert or something, and they just giggle at each other. It’s so adorably low-key.
So Tae-hee announces to the family that he’s got a girlfriend… just as Dad does some digging and finds out that the prime suspect in Tae-hee’s father’s accident was Ja-eun’s father, Baek In-ho. OH NOES. He starts to unwittingly lash out at Ja-eun while guarding this secret, and meanwhile we start to get hints that Baek In-ho might still be alive.
I love that before she finds out about their relationship, Mom asks Ja-eun if she wants to be her daughter. Ja-eun quickly says no, because since she wants to marry Tae-hee of course, but since Mom doesn’t know that, she feels slighted.
Tae-hee finally introduces her to the family as his girlfriend, and after they recover from the shock, Mom and Grandma rejoice, but Dad blows a gasket. He finally tells Mom what he knows about Ja-eun’s dad In-ho.
Mom begs Dad to bury it because she can’t bear to hurt the kids with the truth. And now it starts to make sense why Dad was given the farm suddenly by In-ho’s father all those years ago. They plan to sell it and move out.
Dad delivers a heartbreaking blow to Ja-eun, beginning a long span in the series where I really start to resent Dad – to keep the couple apart, he tells Ja-eun that she’s not good enough for Tae-hee, and that he doesn’t want his son marrying an orphan. At least Mom berates him for those hateful words, not wanting to believe that he broke Ja-eun’s heart like that. I get why he does it, but I don’t hate him any less.
Ja-eun goes straight from that conversation to see Tae-hee, requesting a children’s song and dance from across the street, saying that she had a crappy day. I love that he complies, no questions asked. She watches with tears streaming down her face, and runs across the street and bear-hugs him.
Ja-eun doesn’t give up, and begs Dad to reconsider, and Mom continues to beg for the same, saying that she’s only Ja-eun’s mother right now, and not his wife, or even Tae-hee’s mom. I love her. He finally caves and agrees to bury it for their sake as long as there’s no marriage.
Mom asks Tae-hee what he likes about Ja-eun, and he confesses that he’s always had a hole in his heart—a small one where rain would seep through and wind would blow—and he tried not to let it, but it always made him feel lonely. “But ever since I met Ja-eun, it feels like that hole is filled.”
Mom and Dad think they’ve buried the secret long enough to let the kids date without plans for marriage, but Granny pushes a spring wedding, and Tae-hee and Ja-eun agree. Mom tries to intervene, and at the same time, Tae-hee gets makes some headway on his father’s case… and finds out that Ja-eun’s father killed his.
He begs Dad to let them stay together, but Dad forbids it. Tae-hee gets on his knees, crying, and asks him to forgive Ja-eun just once. Tae-hee argues that he doesn’t even know his biological father, but he can’t live without Ja-eun. But Dad says no, over his dead body, and threatens to tell Ja-eun if Tae-hee doesn’t agree to end things with her. He finally succumbs to Dad’s wishes, not wanting to hurt her with the truth.
But the problems just keep piling on, because Baek In-ho returns, alive and well. Damnit. You couldn’t have stayed dead? Apparently the result of the accident 26 years ago is news to him—all he knew was that he drove drunk and hit someone, but he was told the man lived.
He finds out what he’s done, and goes to Ojakkyo to beg forgiveness, which is when Ja-eun finds out the whole story. And then to add even MORE trauma, Grandma collapses, and Ja-eun can only stand outside the hospital the whole night, not able to go inside, but unwilling to move a muscle until she knows Granny’s okay.
Once the truth is out, they can’t go back, and thus begins the your-father-killed-my-father-so-I-can’t-be-with-you span of the series that goes on seemingly forever. Mostly because you know it’s stupid. And here I was thinking that Kim Jae-ha was the worst thing about this show, just ’cause he was pointless.
So Ja-eun and Tae-hee make a date, knowing it’ll be their last. While the reason for their breakup is infuriating, it was really touching and sad to see how they handled the family opposition. This is a case where you don’t want them to denounce their families and run away—it’s more heartbreaking that they attempt to do the right thing, though the whole time we’re screaming at Granny because if she just forgave them, it would change things.
For their last date, he comes with tie in hand and she ties his tie one last time. He’s never answered her question—when he first knew that he liked her – but he answers it now: “It was when you tied my tie… it was then that the whole in my heart began to be filled.”
She says she first knew when he came charging into her tent with his shoes tied around his neck, and then sighs regretfully that she liked him first after all. Aw. She runs up and gives him a kiss, saying that she’s going to live showing her feelings from now on.
She breaks up with him over dinner, and what kills me is that they know it’s sad and we know it’s sad, but they’re trying so hard to smile and give that stiff upper lip, that crumples your heart. It’s only after she leaves that he lets himself break down in tears.
He runs out after her in a heart-wrenching goodbye, and tells her that he’ll learn to tie a tie so that no one else can tie it for him. Tae-hee: “The reason I’m letting you go is… letting you go is the only way I can keep loving you.” He kisses her, and again, as they cry and hold each other one last time.
They both end up in a tailspin—Ja-eun goes on a self-destructive streak, and Tae-hee drinks himself into a stupor night after night. He finally comes home to Grandma and begs her in the most sorrowful tears to please forgive Ja-eun and let them be together.
He tells her on his knees that he can’t stand it, can’t breathe, that every second is hell. Oof, it just kills. It’s the scene that rips your heart out, even more than the breakup itself. Usually the aftermath of this sort of thing is typical angsty stuff, but Tae-hee’s breakdown here is great stuff. Yunno, in that stomp-your-heart-into-pulpy-goo way.
Mom goes to make sure that Ja-eun is okay, and I love the pep talk that she gives her. It’s so no-nonsense: “Are you the only person in the world who ever had her heart broken?” She tells her to stop crying and to eat and sleep and live her life.
I love that Mom never takes Tae-hee’s side, but always takes Ja-eun’s side. It’s so cute. She tells Ja-eun to screw all that can’t-live-without-you stuff and go be successful and happy, like a real mom would tell her, with no bias to her own son.
It FINALLY dawns on Tae-hee to turn his attention towards solving the case, and discovers that maybe Baek In-ho didn’t drive the car that night. Oh, YOU THINK?
While he focuses on clearing Baek In-ho’s name, Grandma sees Ja-eun leaving flowers at his father’s grave, and it starts to move her heart. More than anything, she sees Tae-hee so broken-hearted day after day, living like a zombie.
Mom asks permission to go see Ja-eun for a few days, and Grandma not only says yes, but tells her to bring Ja-eun back with her when she comes home. She tells Dad that this is what’s right—that they oughtn’t pass on their pain to the kids. Well thank goodness. I was seriously a few episodes away from disowning you two.
I think it’s important that Granny comes around before any innocence is proven, because that’s what I wanted for them—an acknowledgement that the sins of the father don’t just get passed on. ‘Cause that’s lame.
But of course Tae-hee proves that her father didn’t kill his, and goes running to her. It’s a tearful and happy family reunion for all, and we can thankfully get back to business.
They originally plan on a late spring wedding, but Tae-shik gets so excited about Mi-sook in her wedding dress that he twirls her around and breaks her arm, which means they have to postpone theirs. That prompts Granny to say hey, why don’t Tae-hee and Ja-eun just get married in March? Haha, nothing like an antsy Granny to push your plot along.
Ja-eun finds herself at a crossroads as the wedding approaches – she gets offered an internship in the states for a year. Oh THAT ol’ nugget. Wouldn’t be a dramatic wedding otherwise, eh?
Mom’s in a funk about what her life amounts to, and when she hears about Ja-eun’s internship, she urges her to go and pursue her dreams, and not get tied down by marriage like she did. But Ja-eun says she respects Mom more than anyone, and wants to grow up to be like her.
Ja-eun chooses to marry Tae-hee right away instead, deciding that she can’t be apart from him, so the wedding goes on as planned. I love that they’re delightfully as awkward as ever at the wedding, true to character.
They get all the timing wrong on their bows (each peeking up and re-bowing because they think they’ve risen too fast, hee), sending everyone into fits of laughter. Their vows are so sweet—he promises to be her shade and she promises to be his tree. I love that.
Their speaker ends up not being able to make it, so Ja-eun comes up with a last-minute plan to call Mom up to the podium to give them her blessing/words of advice, only Mom goes up and says: “Honestly, I’m against this wedding.” HAHAHA.
What a great place to cut out of Episode 57, just when you think it’s a straight shot to happiness. When we resume in the finale, to everyone’s horror, Mom says that the saying that a wedding is a bride’s grave is true. She cracks me up.
She confesses that she wanted Ja-eun to take the internship, but then shares the story of Ja-eun asking her if she regrets her life. Mom says she thought about it—the hardships, making three meals a day every day for the last forty years of her life—and feels like she can answer now…
No. She doesn’t regret it, because seeing her table filled with her family is what makes her the happiest in the world. She says that marriage may be a bride’s grave, but it’s a happy one. HA. That’s the most inappropriate wedding speech I’ve ever heard, which is why Mom is awesome.
So the wedding successfully completed, hitches and all, they head off to their honeymoon. He tries to set the mood and she nervously deflects by saying that it’s time for 1 Night 2 Days. You’ll remember that Ja-eun is a huge fan, prompting her initial farm camp-out, but it’s even funnier meta now, since Joo Won is joining the second season.
He keeps asking her if she wants to go to bed and she uses the show as an excuse not to, which I find hilarious: his future variety hyungs are cockblocking his drama romance. I’ve never seen someone more disappointed to be watching that show. But eventually, romance wins out.
Kim Jae-ha leaves for New York, and asks Tae-hee to call him “hyung” just once. Tae-hee refuses, but sends him one of his trademark one-syllable texts before he boards the plane: “Hyung.” Aw. Too bad he was a wasted character. I wish this would’ve been his angle from the get-go.
The four brothers unite to buy the farm from Ja-eun’s family, using an inheritance that Tae-hee’s birth mother left behind. It’s just the house and a small plot of land on the farm, but the brothers promise to someday buy them the rest. Aw. Mom finally gets to have her dreams come true.
Tae-hee sees Ja-eun still slaving away over her passion and asks Granny for permission to go study abroad together. Yay, I knew he’d come through. I was on Mom’s side at the wedding, wondering what the big hurry was to get married, but this makes up for it. Now they can go together.
Granny and Mom have a nice moment out in their new field, now only a patch of dirt. They reminisce over how fast the boys grew up, and Grandma pats Mom on the back, saying that she’s worked hard.
It’s such a nice cap to the series, because though it’s a world populated by boys, the heart is in the found relationships between mothers and daughters—Granny to Mom, Mom to Ja-eun. Grandma telling her “job well done” is so quiet and small, but it means so much to her.
We end with Mom waking up to the smell of spring, ready to get to work on her farm.
There were certainly stretches of time in the last third of the show where I sighed and wished they didn’t rely on such obvious machinations to keep Tae-hee and Ja-eun apart. I understand the desire to give them big drama, because the resulting emotional beats were beautifully played. It’s just that the logic behind WHY was hard not to resent.
It didn’t help that it was so obvious that Baek In-ho wasn’t guilty. It actually made me doubt how effective Tae-hee was at his job, because for crying out loud, it took you that long to figure it out? That whole run of the show (in this particular story thread) was clearly motivated by plot trappings rather than character logic, which is where this drama teetered a bit in the final act.
I just hunkered down and got through it, because though the outcome was plainly written on the wall, I cared enough about the characters to get past this cycle and back into family hijinks territory. It’s probably a testament to how endearing they were as characters that I didn’t lose any love for them, though I did honestly feel less invested when they were apart.
But the reason I loved their story was the little moments they shared, rather than the big dramatic stories, which is why I thought that tragic-father turn was unnecessary. It was in watching their millionth kiss or Tae-hee singing to her, or Ja-eun getting caught play-kissing their ducks that the show had its charm. At least when I look over the show as a whole, there’s a lot more of the good and funny that outweighs the bad.
The resolution felt assured and made me happy that I invested the time in a longer-running show, but what I’m happiest about is that the show began and ended with Mom. Her love for Ja-eun always got me in the heart, but when Ja-eun returns it with a sense of respect for how much Mom has accomplished in her life, she finds meaning in what she felt was a wasted life.
I love that in acknowledging women like Mom and Mi-sook alongside Ja-eun and Soo-young, it says something really simple yet profound, about how much a mother and a homemaker should be given as much respect as a careerwoman. I like that it’s a celebration of both, and that it takes someone like Ja-eun who grew up without that love, to see that worth in Mom. As much as Ja-eun filled that hole in Tae-hee’s heart, Mom is the one to fill the hole in hers.
Overall the show had the one thing that mattered: lots and lots of heart. Every time the brothers gathered to pick each other up, or took hits for the other, or even yelled at each other to do the right thing, it grounded all the bigger drama in loyalty and love. At the end of the day, it was a drama that found the funny in realistic, everyday conflicts, and made me appreciate simple things like family in a big, big way. And for that, it will always have my heart.