Answer Me 1997: Episodes 11-12
As high school ends, it’s time to grow up… and say goodbye. Why do I feel like Mom and Dad, not ready to let these characters grow up and leave the nest? As everyone faces the big changes ahead, we take one step closer to Shi-won’s self-discovery, and perhaps even discovering the one who’s in her heart.
[Note: There’s been a change to the broadcast schedule, because the final two episodes 15 and 16 are running long. So 13 and 14 will air as normal back to back this Tuesday; then 15 airs alone on the 11th, and 16 airs alone on the 18th.]
SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Seung-hwan – “가족 (Family)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 11: “The Definition of Relationships”
December 1998. Tae-woong gets a call in the middle of preparing dinner (with an adorable little apron on), asking if he wants to continue payment to store his parents’ ashes. The man asks his relation and he says that he’s their son.
He looks over at a family portrait and narrates:
Tae-woong: Since the day of that accident, I lived having completely forgotten the fact that I was someone’s son. A relationship determined before I was born, a relationship that ends against my will – that’s family. And now I only have one family relationship left.
He opens the door to Yoon-jae’s room and wakes Little Bro with a loving foot to the ass. Yoon-jae wakes at the smell of breakfast, and Shi-won comes by with the most giant tub of pickled quail eggs on earth, courtesy of Mom. How much you wanna bet there’s another five of those at home? She grabs Yoon-jae’s spoon to eat from his bowl, and declares she’ll eat here too. Yoon-jae’s mood turns sour.
Tae-woong opens the container and his jaw drops, “Did she leave any for you guys?” Um, do you even have to ask? Sure enough, there she is with two giant containers of her own, making Dad’s eyes bug out.
Tae-woong joins Shi-won in the kitchen to say that he’ll come by to see her tonight, and laughs at the mountain of rice she’s scooping for her breakfast. She argues, “You said you’d still like me if I was fat!”
He brushes the rice-covered hair out of her face and then calls out to Yoon-jae… who’s long gone. Aw, I don’t blame ya.
Yoon-jae sits at the bus stop and takes out that tiny makeshift “S” that Shi-won scrounged up for him as a present before exams, and finally chucks it in the trash. It hits the edge and falls to the ground.
The rest of the boys goof off in class and listen to a new song (Jo Sung-mo’s To Heaven). Sung-jae declares it a flop, convinced the singer hasn’t revealed his face because it’s hideous. Hur.
They decide to make it a bet: Yoon-jae and Joon-hee think it’ll be a hit, and Sung-jae and Hak-chan vote it’ll tank. But what to wager? Sung-jae suggests the losers run into the girls’ class and shout the name of the girl they like three times.
Hak-chan and Yoon-jae thwack him on the head, obviously the two who have a name to shout. Joon-hee wonders what the big fuss is—they just run in and shout Yoo-jung and Shi-won’s names…
And on cue, Shi-won bursts into their classroom: “Kang Joon-hee, Kang Joon-hee, Kang Joon-hee!” Haha.
Yoon-jae immediately puts his headphones on. She asks Joon-hee to borrow his headphones, but he forgot his, and Sung-jae’s are deemed unhygienic. He motions at her to ask Yoon-jae for his, but she looks at him warily and says nevermind, turning back.
Joon-hee looks down and sees that his walkman isn’t even turned on, and presses play. Of course Joon-hee would be the only one who recognizes his pain.
Dad complains that Mom is taking forever, as they prepare to leave the house for their first overseas vacation. Mom hops out in the cutest trying-too-hard-to-look-young outfit that’s probably straight out of Shi-won’s closet, which makes me love her even more.
Dad the worrywart decides he has to call Shi-won one more time to nag her about coming home early while they’re gone, especially with the rash of crimes against young women these days. Shi-won yells into the phone: “How can I sleep with Yoon-jae? HE’S A BOY.” Oh, so you do know?
Yoo-jung laughs and Shi-won complains that her parents think they’re still children. Yoo-jung points out that her relationship with Yoon-jae is unique though—she thought they were dating too, way back when.
But then she adds that Yoon-jae would be crazy to date her over aaaallllll the other girls lined up to be his girlfriend. Shi-won grumps that she’ll tell Hak-chan about Yoo-jung’s junior-year crush on Yoon-jae. I think he’s a step ahead there.
Yoo-jung swoons to hear that Tae-woong is the one sending Mom and Dad on the expensive cruise, wishing she had an oppa like that. She worries about Shi-won’s secret part-time job at the convenience store and her late hours, but she assures her it’ll be fine.
Hak-chan gets an earful from Yoo-jung, nagging him to show up to meet her friends tonight. He’s taken to just putting the phone down until she’s done yelling and then answering yes, and Sung-jae sighs at his plight.
Hak-chan argues that he doesn’t know about the relationship between men and women, but Sung-jae counters that it seems more like a misery-loving hostage relationship to him. Touché.
Tae-woong sees a news report about crimes against women (thefts ending in violence, sometimes murder) on the rise since the IMF crisis, and calls Shi-won to tell her the same thing that Dad did. She sighs that she’ll be fine, and rolls her eyes at his suggestion that she call Yoon-jae: “I’m stronger than Yoon-jae!” Ha.
But Tae-woong calls Yoon-jae to ask if he’ll sleep at Shi-won’s house tonight because she might be scared. He hears the request as she passes by him in the hallway, and they each look away to avoid eye contact. He sighs. Not exactly sleepover friends at the moment.
Yoo-jung is out with her friends and sneak-texts Hak-chan furiously, waiting to introduce her Seoulite boyfriend for the millionth time to her skeptical friends. He finally screws up the nerve to come in… and then turns right back out, too frightened to face four girls at once. Yoo-jung sees him flee and her face falls.
She keeps buying her friends more and more food to appease them, and then they finally give up. She heads to the counter to pay, but the clerk tells her a guy already paid her whole check. Aw.
She runs out and finds him waiting for her, and finally gets to introduce him to her friends. Whew, I was worried there for a second. But then just as he’s made a good impression, his mother chances upon the group and asks what he’s doing there.
He drops Yoo-jung’s hand like a hot potato, and when Mom asks who she is, he just stammers, “a girl I know.” Yiiiiiiiikes. And in front of all her friends too?
Shi-won finishes up her shift and heads home. I don’t like the look of the suspicious guy in the baseball cap who’s eyeing her exit.
Yoon-jae perks up at another news report of the increased crimes, and this story highlights a particular string of similar occurrences in Busan. He sits upright, suddenly all ears.
Shi-won walks home, and it’s not till she’s in a dark alley that she notices someone behind her. Augh, it’s Creepy Baseball Cap. *shivers*
Yoo-jung runs home in tears, and Hak-chan chases after her, apologizing for his mistake—he was just so flustered that it came out wrong. Tears streaming down her face, she asks, “Am I just a girl you know? And here I thought I was your girlfriend.”
He says he’s sorry, but she tells him he needn’t be, to just some girl he knows. He argues that it was just a dumb idiotic moment of mental paralysis, but she says coldly that they’re really over this time, and goes inside.
Yoon-jae sits at home on edge. Why are you still at home?!
He calls Shi-won’s house over and over, but there’s no one home. Shi-won feels someone behind her, and calls Yoon-jae on her cell phone… but his line is busy because he’s calling her. ACK! GET OFF THE PHONE!
He calls, over and over and over, and so does she, her pace quickening.
She finally calls his landline and he races to pick up. She whispers that she’s been calling and that someone is following her. He just asks where she is, and goes tearing out in his t-shirt and slippers, in the freezing dead of winter.
He runs and runs, and Tae-woong calls to check in on him, but he doesn’t have time to explain. He runs so fast he collides with a guy walking his bicycle, and takes a bad fall. But he just scrambles to get up and keep running. All Tae-woong hears is Yoon-jae huffing and puffing, and taking the fall. Shi-won grows increasingly panicked, and Baseball Cap gets unnervingly close to her… He inches closer, now just two paces away…
When Yoon-jae comes racing down the alley, “SUNG SHI-WON!” Ohthankgod. He runs and puts his arms around her, and stares directly at the creep, who turns and walks in the other direction.
Yoon-jae’s limping, covered in sweat, and shaking like a leaf. But the first thing he says? “I’m sorry I’m late.” And I immediately burst into tears.
She looks down. He only has one shoe. Up. He has blood on his face. He just limps along with his arms firmly around her, yelling at her for being out so late.
They reach her house, and then he finally lets go of her. She walks up to her door and stops to look back at him.
She doesn’t say anything, so he asks if she’s scared—does she want him to stay a while with her? But it’s his arm she’s fixated on: “You’re bleeding a lot.” He says he won’t die from it and brushes it off.
She turns to him and takes his bleeding hand in hers, but he pulls away on contact. He tells her to go to bed and leaves. She watches him limp away.
She sits in her room, still reeling in the aftermath. She narrates:
Shi-won: There are relationships of differing levels of difficulty. To me, Yoon-jae was the easiest of them, to explain or to maintain: that of childhood playmates. But on this day, contrary to everything I knew, I discovered… that there might be the possibility that we’d be the most difficult kind of relationship in the world. The relationship with the highest level of difficulty: that of a man and a woman.
Yoon-jae tends to his cuts and scrapes, and adds his narration:
Yoon-jae: Each expecting different things, each looking at different places, each dreaming different dreams… everything that happens between one man and one woman, is just continuous love and war. You sulk, you pacify, you fight, you make up, you hurt, you embrace. A relationship like a manic-depressive patient who can’t make up his mind. But the hardest thing about the relationship between a man and a woman is the timing—if the love doesn’t begin at the same time, it’s unlikely to ever begin at all.
He sighs that it’s the most fussy, annoying type of relationship, and then sighs that there is one other kind that’s just as messed up…
…as Tae-woong arrives home in a panic, shouting his name. Ha.
He gasps in relief that Yoon-jae is okay, having called a million times, not knowing what had happened. Yoon-jae just says he fell. Tae-woong rushes over to check on his scrapes, and that’s when Yoon-jae looks at hyung and notices that he’s rushed over here so fast his sweatshirt is on inside-out. AW.
Yoon-jae finishes off in voiceover: “The one relationship you can’t ever shake, no matter how sick and tired you get, that leads to a lifetime of tears: Family.”
He narrates it in the most annoyed tone (I love that the voiceovers have attitude), while Tae-woong bandages his cuts and bruises, and blows on the owies like mom. It’s freaking adorable.
Sung-jae and Hak-chan watch the big reaveal of Jo Sung-mo… and collapse in shock. Hak-chan screams accusingly, “He’s good looking!” And three weeks later, he’s still at number one, of course. Just wait till the epic music video explodes. Hak-chan’ll kill you.
This means that there’s the matter of a little bet to settle…
The four guys crouch outside the girls’ classroom, and finally Yoon-jae tells just one of them to do it before the teacher comes. Sung-jae gets up and says he’ll do it, and bursts into the room.
He stares at Eun Gak-ha and goes mute, and then takes a deep breath… when Hak-chan steals the moment and shouts: “Mo Yoo-jung! Mo Yoo-jung! Mo Yoo-jung!” Aw. She beams.
Hak-chan (voiceover): “The one benefit to that top-degree-of-difficulty relationship between a man and a woman is… one word can overturn its mood at any time.”
He makes a tiny embarrassing hand-heart at her, and narrates a big Phew, return to status quo.
Reunion, 2012. Shi-won sighs at everyone drinking beer but her, and finally gets up to stage a big rebellion… by declaring that she will drink coffee tonight. She’s so cute. The others call out drink orders after her.
She runs to the coffeeshop and stops in the bathroom, where she accidentally leaves her ring behind. Meanwhile back at the reunion, everyone’s gaping at the hideous wedding rings Hak-chan’s mother picked out for them.
Shi-won laughs to see it, and Yoo-jung sighs that she wishes hers could be a simple couple ring like Shi-won’s… which makes her remember that she left it on the sink.
Yoon-jae sighs that it’s a miracle she hasn’t lost it till now, and Tae-woong reinforces how special the ring is. Yoon-jae sort of half-smiles, cryptically.
Joon-hee says she never even wears her wedding ring, and always wears that one—the couple ring.
Sung-jae: “She likes comfort more than anything. Just like her husband.” Hm… The be-ringed finger returns and reaches for the extra-whip iced caramel mocha…
EPISODE 12: “The Meaning of a Hand”
SONG OF THE DAY
Sa Joon – “Memories” [ Download ]
January 1999. Tae-woong looks out his fancy new apartment window, and opens a tiny little box… with a diamond engagement ring inside.
Yoon-jae narrates: “Hyung always said that earning someone’s hand means you get to have their heart.”
At the same time, Shi-won is shopping for bows to clip in her hair, which says a lot about where these two are at in life. Yoo-jung tries on her best Hyori look, and then says she saw an interview where S.E.S. said they’d make each other their future wedding dresses.
Yoo-jung: “Can you imagine S.E.S. ever getting married?!” Funny how that seemed like such an impossibility at the time. Shi-won says that’s crazy. Yoo-jung tells her to pick out more stuff—she’ll spring for an early birthday present, and Shi-won beams.
But they spot Hak-chan across the street with Dan-ji… looking awfully chummy. They note that she’s expressed interest in Hak-chan on more than one occasion. But before Shi-won can even say a word of comfort, Yoo-jung is out the door and across the street. Whoa, did you teleport?
She confronts them and Hak-chan swears that Dan-ji is just helping him with “something,” and leaves to go meet the guys.
Shi-won packs up her room for college (awwwww), taking care to roll up all her H.O.T. posters and reassure them it’ll only be for a short trip. She kisses Tony oppa to say this was all thanks to him, and Dad interrupts with his usual pleasantries, picking at her nerves.
He does concede that he ought to buy the monkey a meal, since his daughter did get into college because of him (hilariously true). But mostly Dad’s annoyed that she’s so excited to go to Seoul, with no regard for how sad Mom and Dad might feel.
He takes issue with her packing up her room with a month left to go, thinking she can’t wait to get out of here. He sighs that it’s true what they say about kids growing up to become strangers, and decides he’s going to grow unattached to her from now on. Aw, I totally remember my dad doing this passive-aggressive pre-college freakout. Poor papa. Shi-won just sits in silence, watching Dad mutter to himself bitterly.
The boys hang out at Yoon-jae’s place, and Joon-hee makes ramyun while the other guys watch FinkL. Well, Yoon-jae’s mostly staring at the calendar above the tv that has “our Shi-won’s birthday” marked on it.
And Hak-chan is mostly staring at his cell phone. Sung-jae makes fun of his predicament, which turns out to be a biggie: his parents are forcing him to study abroad in Hawaii. How Eun-Ji-won-esque of him.
Yoon-jae says he has to tell Yoo-jung, and fast—she still thinks he’s going to remain in Busan. Hak-chan’s answer, as usual, is to ask for soju.
Yoon-jae grabs a bottle and tells Joon-hee not to pop the eggs in the ramyun, but he doesn’t hear him, with his headphones on.
So Yoon-jae sneaks right up to his ear, pulls back his headphones, and whispers, “Don’t pop the eggs.” But… did you have to whisper it in your sexy bedroom voice? Joon-hee just about has a heart attack.
Sung-jae ooohs jealously that Yoon-jae’s got it made—living with Joon-hee means lots of tasty ramyun like this. Omo, are they gonna be roomies?
Hak-chan asks if they aren’t sick of each other, heading off to the same school and living together too. Sung-jae says that’s silly, calling Yoon-jae the dad and Joon-hee the mom—what’s there to fight about? He snaps at Yoon-jae not to take Joon-hee for granted.
Aw, a sensitive moment from Sung-jae? Though of course he turns right around to call Hak-chan a moron for not being able to call his girlfriend and gets a beating for it.
Joon-hee says that Shi-won’s all packed and ready to head up to Seoul next week, and Yoon-jae just pretends to be disinterested at the news. Sung-jae jokes that if Shi-won could get herself into college with fanfic, he should’ve tried his hand at some girl group fanfic too.
Yoon-jae speaks up to defend her—it might’ve been fanfic, but her writing was good. That just leads Sung-jae to the obvious question: You mean you read the stories? With the guys and the unzipping of pants? Yoon-jae denies it a little too vehemently, almost leading to fisticuffs.
Tae-woong drops off his coworker, who catches a glimpse of the ring box sitting in his car. Tae-woong asks him for his opinion: is it too much to give to Shi-won for her birthday? He opens it, sees the diamond, and nods YES. Heh. He advises Tae-woong take it down a notch, like maybe a pair of simple couple rings. Omo! As in The Ring?
Mom is busy packing up the entire friggin’ kitchen for Shi-won to take to college, and Dad nags in his usual manner, Do you think they don’t have food in Seoul? But Mom, being Mom, packs like she’s feeding a hundred daughters.
Shi-won peeks in and watches them with a loving look, as Mom starts to worry that Shi-won doesn’t know how to use the rice cooker or do the laundry, and sighs, “I should’ve held onto her a little longer before letting her go…”
Shi-won speaks up to reassure them that she knows how to do those things, and Mom insists they go over it again before she goes. Dad takes issue with her going out this late at night and gets huffy, but softens when she uses Yoon-jae as an excuse (though she’s heading out to meet Tae-woong).
Joon-hee stays behind to do the dishes, and asks Yoon-jae if he’s going to Shi-won’s birthday party. No answer. He says it’s turned into a farewell party for all of them—Hak-chan, and the three of them going to Seoul—so he has to go.
He asks if he bought Shi-won a birthday present. After a long pause, Yoon-jae says, “Something cheap.” Cheap… rings? Say it’s cheap rings!
But he adds in a defeated voice that he’s probably not going to give it to her.
Shi-won runs up to meet Tae-woong as he arrives and hands him a present, saying that she feels like she’s always on the receiving end, so she bought him something with the money she earned from her part-time job.
It’s a red tie, and she says it’s for good luck and everything to go smoothly at work. He asks if she knows what giving a tie means between lovers. She shakes her head no.
He puts it on and tells her the meaning: “I want you.” She gapes and swears that’s really really really really not what she meant, and he pouts, saying that he’s disappointed then.
He takes a step closer and put his hands on her shoulders, and admits that it’s what he wishes she meant.
It’s that moment that Yoon-jae and Joon-hee walk out of the house. Oh noes.
And then Tae-woong goes in for a hug. It’s perhaps the most awkward hug ever. Like one of them is a porcupine and the other is a balloon.
But man is it enough to send Yoon-jae reeling. And Joon-hee too, because no one else knew about this relationship besides Yoon-jae.
Tae-woong kisses her on the forehead. And then there’s this great four-way meaningful lookathon: Joon-hee looks at Yoon-jae, who looks at Shi-won, who looks up at Tae-woong. Everybody’s brain explodes.
Yoon-jae finally can’t take it anymore and stalks off, and Joon-hee takes off after him.
Tae-woong tells Shi-won to expect a good birthday present tomorrow: “It has as deep a meaning as the necktie… between lovers.” I actually feel sorry for Tae-woong in this situation, because everything about Shi-won’s body language says I love you like a brother.
Hak-chan stops by to see Yoo-jung, who’s still upset about Dan-ji. She asks again what’s going on with him, and he swears it’s nothing and asks her to let it go. But she’s growing more nervous by the second, saying that he’s being so distant, not answering her calls, being evasive, and demands to know what’s going on right now.
He finally explodes and tells her the truth, that his mom is sending him abroad to become a human being, and he asked Dan-ji to borrow her family’s restaurant after hours so he could confess to Yoo-jung and ask her to wait a year for him, because he’ll do whatever it takes to get back here in a year.
But now his lid is flipped and he screams at her for making him say it like this and not trusting him and waiting a few more days. Seriously, dude? He screams, “Do you still not know my heart?”
She slaps him and says through her tears, “How could I know your heart? You don’t tell me! How could I know your heart?!” She crumples in sobs.
Shi-won tosses and turns in bed, and Mom and Dad sneak in to watch her sleep. It’s maybe the sweetest little family moment ever. They don’t know that Shi-won isn’t asleep, and sit down on her bed, worrying that she might have a hard time up there with all those uppity people in the big city.
Mom worries that she’ll cave and come running home, while Dad sighs that if she had met a Seoulite father instead of him, she might not have had to suffer such a rough transition, and pets her on the head lovingly.
Mom walks out and Dad lingers a little longer, clinging to her empty desk like it’s a piece of his droopy soul.
The gang gets together at a noraebang for Shi-won’s birthday and everyone’s farewell party, though the mood in the room is no party. Yoo-jung and Hak-chan sit silently stewing, and Yoon-jae glowers. Well, glowers more than usual.
Shi-won blows out her birthday candles and Sung-jae MCs send-offs for Seoul-U-bound Joon-hee and Yoon-jae, and Hawaii-bound Hak-chan. He says if they come back for break with uppity Seoul accents, they’re all dead.
But then even jokey Sung-jae’s voice falters as he tells everyone to raise their contraband beers for a toast, “To our… last night…”
It’s really only a party for Sung-jae, Shi-won, and Joon-hee, who sing and dance while the other three sit in silence. Finally Sung-jae calls Yoon-jae out, saying they’ve never heard him sing—is that perhaps the perfect boy’s one weakness? So he takes the mic to sing “Memories” and is awesome, of course. Sung-jae siiiighs, “I hate him… that bastard.” Hee.
As Yoon-jae sings, one by one they start to leave—Sung-jae and Joon-hee because they get calls, and Yoo-jung because she starts to cry. Hak-chan runs out after her. That leaves Shi-won in there with him alone, and she looks up him, singing with such heartfelt emotion about hiding his true feelings and pleading for someone “to return to me.” This song is so perfect for him.
After an awkward silence, she asks if he doesn’t have a birthday present for her. She mentions having asked for something on her birthday last year…
Flashback to last birthday, when he gave her a book of coupons. The theme was “together” and she complained that she’d outgrown coupon books. He asked if there was something she wanted, and she said, “Yes, but from anyone but you.”
She slipped the little key ring on her finger and said she wanted a ring from a boy who likes her.
Oh my gaaaah, she asked for a ring? You had better have a ring in your pocket right now. I love that when she asked for one, she said it would have to be from anyone but him to count, but now he’s the person she’s asking it from.
He finally confronts her about it all, by saying that that’s a present she should get from Tae-woong. “You’re really cruel, you know that? How could you ask me for that right now?”
She just asks why, not getting it, and tells him to explain it to her. He sighs and finally says the words: “I like you. I like you a lot.” HE SAID IT!
He says they’ve been together since they were born, and there hasn’t been a single day of his life that he hasn’t seen her, but… “I still see you as a woman.” He confesses that the first day of high school was when he first thought she was pretty, and ever since then, he was always around her, giving her signs: “that I like you. And for you to like me back.”
He understood that maybe she wouldn’t know because they were such good friends, and so planned to confess on his D-Day. But then Hyung beat him by ten minutes, and told him that he liked Shi-won.
Yoon-jae: “What should I do? There are two people I love the most in the entire world. One is my hyung, who gave up everything because of me. And the other is you. It’s you… and Hyung says he likes you. A lot. Like I do.”
He asks over and over what he should do, erupting in a yell, when Sung-jae comes back in to say they only have a minute left. He picks up the mic and starts to sing “And Now Goodbye,” while Yoon-jae and Shi-won sit in the worst awkward silence.
Hak-chan doesn’t know how else to deal with Yoo-jung’s sea of tears, and yells at her, asking what she wants from him. She asks if he really thought she wouldn’t be able to understand that he has to go abroad, and more importantly, it’s that he told all his friends, but not her.
He finally gets a clue, and she stalks off, leaving him feeling like a heel.
Sung-jae finishes singing his moment-appropriate goodbye ballad and then runs out to get their tape. Ah, good old days.
Shi-won speaks up at last, “Yoon-jae-ya, can’t we just be comfortable friends, like we were before? Like you said, we’ve always been together, from the day we were born. I’m not so smart… you know that… but I do know that you are the most important friend I have in the world. You’ll still be my friend, right?”
She looks up at him so nervously. He gives her a piercing glare and puts his hand to his heart. “A guy emptying out what’s in here, to the girl he likes? It means I have no intention of seeing you ever again.”
Oof. Sock to the gut.
They each hold back their tears, and he gets up. He puts a box down on the table, “You throw it away.” She looks down. It’s a ring box.
He opens the door and says bitterly, “Friends? The hell…” and walks out.
She picks up the box and cries as she opens it… to find a little ring inside. It’s The Ring! It’s The Ring! He fights back his tears outside the room.
Shi-won walks home in a daze, and Tae-woong waits for her outside her door. He holds out his hand to give her a present…
Whatisit, whatisit, whatisit…
It’s a key to his new apartment in Seoul… with a little couple ring attached. OMO. It’s the SAME FRIGGIN’ RING. Aaaaaaaaack. Do you brothers only have like one goddamn jewelry store in town? Was there a two-for-one sale? What the bloody hell!
She looks down at it and then up at Tae-woong, “Oppa… I have something to say to you…” Aw, my heart sinks for Tae-woong. I don’t think it’s good news. But whatever it is, we don’t get to hear it.
Shi-won comes home to find Mom and Dad screaming at each other… over what to turn her room into. HA. Daaaaad! He wants to turn it into a putting green, and Mom’s like, “Where will Shi-won sleep when she comes to visit?” I love that twelve hours ago he was a blubbering mess, and now he’s like, she can sleep on the floor!
She interrupts them screaming, “Should I just pack up and leave NOW?!” They hang their heads and rush out. Pfft.
And then it’s time for Shi-won to leave for college. She tells them to go, and Dad grabs her bags and ticket and climbs onto the bus, sniping all the while just to keep from crying.
Mom cries, and Shi-won wipes her tears away, like the adult in the relationship. It’s so very sweet.
And then she gets on the bus, where Dad is fidgeting over every little thing. He tells her to call as soon as she arrives and then lingers to make sure she wears her seatbelt, and then shows her how to use the footrest…
She tells him to go and keeps saying he will but he can’t bring himself to get off the bus. It’s killing me. He finally turns to go, turns back to reach out for an almost-hug and then stops himself, and just gets off.
I’m crying and laughing at the same time. How can he be so funny while so clearly on the verge of total meltdown?
She waves down at them through the window, and Dad mime-nags her till the very end, as they wave their goodbyes. She starts to cry, and then we see that she’s wearing someone’s gift ring on her finger… Shi-won narrates:
Shi-won: The reason my teen years are like a rushing wind is because I don’t yet know the answers: what it is I really want, who really loves me, who is it that I love. The time of life when I tumble here and there, searching for the answers. And then in the end, the moment when I figure out the answers to everything like a miracle… we had already become adults, and been doing big and small things. And like that, that winter was full of goodbyes.
As the bus heads from Busan to Seoul, the journey marks years that pass and how much the world changes from 1999 to early 2000s. Sechkies breaks up. So does H.O.T. “and the heavens collapse.”
September 11 happens, Incheon airport opens, the World Cup, and then the invention of the KTX, that takes her from Seoul to Busan in two hours. “This is how the 21st century began, and our ’90s disappeared into history. And I thought that my ’90s had ended forever that way…”
We catch up to Shi-won in 2005, sleeping on a bus. Someone calls out for her, “Maknae!” We’ve skipped ahead to after college, when she’s already a maknae writer on staff.
The PD yells at her to hurry up, and she gets on set to find that the star she’s putting a mic on today… is Tony oppa. Aw. She goes weak in the knees and falls to the ground in a stupor, just mouthing “OPPA” over and over.
She narrates that she had lived mostly ignoring her ’90s, but like sense-memory, “My body remembered my ’90s. The moment I saw the person I had once been crazy about, I immediately returned to that ’90s fangirl, and my ’90s, which I thought were over, began all over again…”
A little later, she heads into a coffee shop to pick up drinks for the staff, and a man in a suit steps up next to her, and orders an extra-whip iced caramel mocha. Eep!
At the order, she turns around, stunned, and there’s Yoon-jae, looking all grown up, in a suit.
He turns to her, and they lock eyes, and stand there, completely stunned.
Tae-woong finishes his lecture, now a college professor. Three students plead with him to chat over coffee and offer him his choice of drinks. He picks…
The whipped-cream-topped iced caramel mocha. AAAaaaaaAAAAAaaaahhhh! Must you two have the same taste in everything?! You’re killing me here!
They ask if it isn’t too sweet, and he smiles, “Nope, I like sweet things.”
Just when we think the ring might finally be a definitive clue… it’s another squirrely mislead, along with that iced caramel mocha business. I find it funny that the brothers’ similar taste in girls actually extends to their EXACT same taste in everything, just throwing us for loop after infuriating loop.
But more than those clues, it’s Shi-won’s reactions that inform where she stands, even if that’s in a murky I-don’t-know place. We don’t know what’ll happen in 2005, but at least in 1999, she’s not anywhere close to being in love with Tae-woong or ready for a real relationship, and tellingly, her tacit rejection of both guys is a choice about her, not either of them.
Yoon-jae thinks it absurd that she could hear his confession and then ask if they can remain friends because he’s so far gone in one version of their relationship—a pained one-sided love—that he can’t go back. But she’s still very much at that first realization when her feelings are starting to make her question what their relationship is, and it makes sense that she’d want to hold onto what feels familiar and comfortable. Everything is changing in her life, and Yoon-jae is the one thing that’s supposed to remain the same. He’s her constant. I completely understand her desperation to cling to that, as much as I understand how impossible that is for him. It’s their crossroads, and I appreciate how organically we come to that point with both characters, facing their first real foray into adulthood.
I was grateful for a pair of episodes that stuck closer to our core characters and the shifts in their relationships, as well as a simpler chronology that just focused on that pivotal time before moving away from home. Mom and Dad slay me every time—with the laughter and the tears—but they really blew me away with that perfect balance of mundane-yet-epic as they prepared to send Shi-won to school. They are so mind-blowingly realistic. Dad’s not-a-goodbye in the bus just turned me into a puddle.
The emphasis on family was really touching, especially for Tae-woong and Yoon-jae, whose relationship (in a different drama) could go any number of warped, melodramatic, angsty ways. But at the core, they’re all they have left of their family, and that comes first. We see Tae-woong being both mom and dad to Yoon-jae, and then in Yoon-jae’s confession to Shi-won, we get to hear how much he loves his brother, and that he knows what Tae-woong sacrificed to raise him.
Yoon-jae’s big heroic rescue was amazing, not because it was heroic, but because of his single-minded all-consuming worry for Shi-won. He puts her first, to the point that he’s not even aware of what’s happened to him on the way to get to her. But then when it’s bookended by Tae-woong doing the same to get to Yoon-jae? That blew me away. It’s so simple and yet speaks volumes about how much love there is, in all these relationships, and what they all sacrifice to preserve their friendships and families despite life hurtling them towards change.
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- Answer Me 1997: Episodes 7-8
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- Answer Me 1997: Episodes 5-6
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- Answer Me 1997: Episodes 3-4
- Answer Me 1997: Episodes 1-2
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