Drama Recaps
Nice Guy: Episode 20 (Final)
by | November 16, 2012 | 357 Comments

And so it ends, and we have to say goodbye to the nicest guy we’ve never seen anywhere in the world – the drama world, anyway. More than just coming full circle, our characters (and especially our side characters) are able to finally move on from the shackles of their pasts in a satisfying way, even if they might have had to jump through one too many off-screen hoops to do it.

Some payoffs inevitably feel more earned than others, but at least we’re offered something sweet and hopeful to chase away all the bitter suffering. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t need a box of tissues for the journey ahead.

Final episode ratings clocked in at an even 18.0%, a solid and successful finish to a solid and successful show.

 
FINAL EPISODE RECAP

Eun-ki doesn’t even seem to waver at Maru’s offer to run away together, and coolly pulls her hand away. “I think you’ve misunderstood something,” she says. “We have already ended our relationship long ago.”

And right now, justice for her father, Taesan, and Joon-ha are all more important to her than Maru.

He wrist-grabs her into a hug as she tries to leave, and it shakes her resolve. It’s with a smile that he tells her to go, but he steadfastly holds onto her sleeve until she’s out of reach. Even though he’s letting her go, he doesn’t want to.

(I had to go back and check another episode because I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but today’s opening credits are different – the clock in his hand is moving forward at a normal speed, not speeding backward, and he’s smiling through his tears. Seriously, what an awesome touch.)

Eun-ki confronts Secretary Jo about Joon-ha’s accident, and he chalks his appearance that night up to coincidence. She acts understanding and sweet as she asks him to take a seat… and then kicks the chair out from under him. Eun-ki-ya! Why did you ever have to have amnesia?! You and your bad self were gone for too long.

She grabs him by the collar and demands to know who hired him. To say that he’s afraid of her is an understatement, but neither of them are aware of the spy listening outside.

And of course, that spy reports straight to Min-young.

Maru tells Jae-hee that it’s time to turn herself in, since the death recording will make its way to the police tomorrow regardless. Jae-hee threatens to reveal the slush funds Eun-ki’s dad took out for her and ruin her, but Maru is unaffected.

He explains how he was so scared of her threat that he wanted to run away with Eun-ki, but she rejected his offer because of all that needs to be done. “Seeing that side of Eun-ki put me at ease,” he confesses. “Because it’s her, she would be able to handle anything that comes her way just fine. Now it’s okay for me not to be next to Eun-ki.”

Jae-hee still has no intention of turning herself in, and getting Maru’s empty shell as payment is unappealing to her. She’d rather die.

On that note, she asks Maru, “Do you want to die together? Let’s die together. Even if we live or die, we can only go to hell.”

Maru: “If you want to die, then die alone. I am not going to die. Why would I die? I didn’t even do anything wrong. Even without love, I can live fine alone. It’s not like I’ve always had what I wanted. I was never selfish or full of greed in my life, not even once. The things I want to do, the things I want, the things I wish for… Have I ever had any of those for at least once in my whole life? I can live fine without love. I will find a way to survive. Dying is hell. Why is living supposed to be hell? I definitely won’t di-…”

He gets cut off by a sudden wave of pain. Well, that hematoma certainly has a knack for dramatic timing.

Eun-ki thinks back to Maru’s offer as she tends to Joon-ha. She notices his fingers starting to twitch, and tears fill her eyes. He’s waking up. (Rejoice!)

Jae-gil comes home to find Maru passed out on the floor. His horrified reaction Breaks. My. Heart.

Choco can barely contain herself when she arrives at the hospital. Jae-gil’s eyes are bloodshot from crying as he stands vigil outside Maru’s door while the doctor is inside, and Choco confronts him about keeping Maru’s illness from her.

He doesn’t deny that Maru didn’t want her to know, and even admits he thought it was for the best, too. Choco breaks down, blaming herself for not noticing sooner, when Maru would be able to notice when she had the slightest fever. Time for a tissue break.

Jae-gil comforts her, at least, in telling her that Maru could do that because he’s her older brother, and she’s his younger sister.

She steels herself to go inside, but turns around at the last minute and leaves. Is it too much to hope she’s gone to get Eun-ki?

Maru finally stirs, and it’s Doctor Suk at his bedside. Yet they don’t act like strangers who haven’t seen each other in years, as Doctor Suk tells him that his surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning. And because of all Maru’s dilly-dallying, his chance of survival is now 50%.

Then the reveal, as Doctor Suk admits that what he regrets most is doing as Maru asked, and treating Eun-ki. So it wasn’t coincidence that she was seeing Doctor Suk – Maru had arranged for it all along. Which means he must have known where she was after the accident.

He regrets it because he knew Eun-ki would go after Maru the moment she regained her memories. But it’s with a smile that he tells Maru that he better live, or else.

Joon-ha finally opens his eyes. Eun-ki’s there for him and cries in relief.

Jae-sik saunters into Jae-hee’s dark dining room, nonchalantly munching on a corn-dog while she sits in silence.

He’s eating it for a reason, as he explains that he’d gone to juvenile detention once for beating up a kid who made fun of their mother’s prostitution. When he’d been released and found Jae-hee eating a corn-dog with her friends, he’d asked for a bite. She’d thrown it on the ground instead.

“Since then, you’ve treated me like this,” Jae-sik adds. “Like a stupid dog that’s just passing by. Not even once calling me Oppa.”

But then, he tells her that he was fully planning on killing Maru, despite Jae-hee being against it. He claims he couldn’t pass up on an officetel, and was planning on just shutting his eyes and killing Maru.

The only thing that stopped him and his greed? Choco, whom he affectionately calls Chici-Chici-Choco-Choco. Because she’d regularly fix meals for the man who came to kill her brother.

And even when he went yesterday to kill him, she’d cooked him seaweed soup for his birthday with the beef he asked for. “So how can I… how can I kill that guy, her oppa? How can I kill him after I ate her seaweed soup for me?” Pump the brakes, Jae-sik has a conscience? This scene is amazing in ways I can’t describe.

However, he’s NOT happy about losing the officetel, and blames it all on Jae-hee. If she’d ever shown him an ounce of human kindness, then Choco’s kindness wouldn’t have affected him as much, and he could have killed Maru for the officetel. Er. Well, when you put it that way, both Jae-hee and Choco saved Maru’s life.

Of course, Jae-sik is holding back since Maru’s dying anyway. His lack of conscience returns as he wonders if he can pass off Maru’s natural death as his doing so he can get the officetel, but Jae-hee has only heard the “Maru is dying” part and demands to know more.

That night, Maru thinks back to Doctor Suk’s words, about doing everything he needs to before tomorrow’s risky surgery.

Jae-gil finds Choco singing her heart out in a norebang, and chides her for not being at Maru’s side. She refuses to see him until after the surgery, because she doesn’t want him to feel at peace if he sees her.

She knows because she’d almost died while Maru was in prison, and the only thing that kept her alive was the thought that she couldn’t give up without seeing him. “So my Oppa, also, if he gets the surgery without seeing me… By chance, while getting the surgery, if he’s having a very hard time and is in so much pain, if he thinks he wants to quit everything… ‘No, that’s not right. I didn’t get to see Choco.’ He will think like that and gain strength, so he won’t die and come out alive.”

Jae-hee calls them to ask about Maru, and she can barely hold herself together as she dresses to go. She remembers Maru proclaiming vehemently that he wouldn’t die, and now understands the meaning behind it.

She catches Eun-ki on her way in for a change of clothes, and remembers Maru saying that he could survive without love. So when she decides to tell Eun-ki the truth about Maru being sick, she’s chosen the higher path – what’s best for Maru, and not herself.

As Eun-ki zombies her way through the hospital hallway, we hear Jae-gil in voiceover telling her that Maru sustained the hematoma from their tunnel of love. She’s also carrying the guilt of Maru delaying the surgery because he’d wanted to help her regain her position in Taesan first.

Eun-ki hesitates at the door, as Jae-gil’s voiceover continues: “Maru said he was very happy being together with you, Eun-ki.” As for the surgery outcome, no one knows.

She can’t work up the courage to knock. Maru, perhaps sensing her, opens the door… but she’s not there. Is someone going to be there for him?

The sad realizations hit Eun-ki one by one. She flashes back to the Wedding That Never Was, and all the cruel things she’d said to him. How he didn’t say a word in his defense. She eventually breaks down in tears.

Jae-hee, alone in her room, also breaks down into sobs.

Min-young calls Jae-hee from his car, his tone rushed and nervous. He’s taking the blame for everything, and says the story he wants to go to court: He manipulated Jae-hee out of his greed for Taesan. So he alone is responsible for the Chairman’s death… and Eun-ki.

Oh. No. You. Didn’t.

Jae-hee starts freaking out, knowing very well what he’s capable of. She tries to talk him out of it, but he’s intent on taking out Eun-ki so she has no more obstacles in her way. And then he’s ready to take the fall alone.

He puts on a black hat once he sees Eun-ki stumbling down the street. No. You. Aren’t. No you are NOT, you crazy bastard! (*flails*)

Jae-hee’s shaking as she tries calling Eun-ki to warn her, but Eun-ki ignores the call.

Jae-gil visits Maru to lie about being unable to get ahold of Choco, even though he’s more interested in the fact that Eun-ki came to the hospital, but never showed up. Aww. Was Maru waiting for her?

Maru runs outside to look for her, his spidey sense tingling. Just in case we forgot he made the “Run away with me” offer, Eun-ki flashes back to it again as she wanders on the street.

Finally, she turns around and starts running back toward the hospital. Maru spies her from the other end of the crosswalk. Please no Truck of Doom. Please no Truck of Doom. Please no Truck of Doom.

He smiles brightly, and the light changes. She notices him too, and they start closing the gap between them…

But Maru sees a shadowy Min-young approaching her from behind and runs forward, throwing his arms around Eun-ki as he spins around just in time to save her, getting stabbed by Min-young in her place.

Silence. Min-young leaves the knife in his back and walks away, disappearing into the crowd.

The light changes, and Maru just keeps holding her. Does she know what happened? Does she know what happened?!

Maru just holds her tighter in the middle of the crosswalk as traffic moves around them.

Cut to: Jae-hee, calm and collected in front of her mirror. She makes a call: “This is the police station, correct? I want to turn myself in. My name is Han Jae-hee.”

Maru sits on a bench with Eun-ki, using his hand to cover his stab wound. Eun-ki. I know you didn’t really pay attention when he was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but for the love of all that is holy, pay a little attention to how he looks. His hand has blood on it. Maybe try giving that the once-over.

To his credit, Maru struggles to hide his pain from her. Using the excuse that he’s tired, he tries to send her on her way. Everything they need to say can be said tomorrow. They both keep saying ‘tomorrow’ as though it’ll really come true if they say it enough.

She has one thing to ask before she leaves: “At that time, in that tunnel, why didn’t you avoid my car?” Question of the year.

His face is tense and his words are rushed, since he clearly wants to get rid of her before she notices he’s got a hole in his stomach.

He claims he doesn’t really remember why, but he’ll think about it and tell her tomorrow. She seems to accept it, only to surprise him by swooping in for a kiss.

Jae-hee gives her statement to the police, confessing not only for her crimes but Min-young’s as well. She even takes the blame for Joon-ha’s murder attempt, claiming that she seduced Min-young and forced him to help her.

She even brings up the murder from seven years ago, finally confessing as the killer and admitting that Maru took the blame. I love that even the policeman stops writing the confession, in a “Are you sure you don’t want to check yourself before you wreck yourself?” fashion.

But Jae-hee declines a lawyer, and chooses to keep confessing.

Eun-ki and Maru kiss, and he’s loathe to pull away. She tells him she’ll come back early tomorrow, and that she’s grateful to Jae-hee for one thing – in letting her meet Maru. (Girl, I love you and you’re my favorite character, but how dense can you possibly be? Even if you can’t see the blood, wouldn’t you think it’s odd that he’s keeping that hand to his side? AHHHH. *headdesk*)

Maru stumbles alone on a deserted street, his sweater dripping blood. He falls to the ground, struggling with all his might to get up. But he can’t.

“Eun-ki asked me, at that time in the tunnel, why didn’t I avoid the car? Even though I told Eun-ki that I don’t remember, I remember the reason very clearly.

At the time, I was exhausted by the world and by my lot in life. And this present life of mine, even if it ended this way, I thought it wouldn’t make a difference. And that in the next life, I would definitely meet Eun-ki, and we’d experience that ordinary kind of love that everyone does, the simple kind of love that everyone in the world, no matter who they are and what they do, gets to experience. That ordinary kind of love.

I want to start all over again. This is what I think I prayed to God.”

He gasps for air as he remains sprawled on the ground. Slowly but surely, his breathing begins to slow, until there’s only still and silence.

Seven years later.

A little girl smiles for the camera, as she says in both Korean and English that Park Jae-gil is her father and Kang Choco is her mother. Choco sighs – her name is Jeon Ji-yeon, not Kang Choco.

Hah, and her daughter even says “heol” (bull) like her mother. As they go downstairs to meet Dad, we see Choco and Jae-gil’s wedding pictures on a shelf. Look what happened while we were gone!

Jae-sik is making an honest living working in a fried chicken shop, which Jae-gil stops at in the morning. Secretary Hyun pops in too, to sourly give back a love letter Jae-sik had written to her. Aww. That’s weirdly adorable.

She’s not totally averse to the idea of Jae-sik, and they bicker back and forth over the “love letta” while Jae-gil smiles knowingly.

We find Jae-hee sleeping in her car outside of a prison, apparently waiting for Min-young’s release. He sees her waiting, but chooses to leave before she wakes.

She tries to follow him, but she’s stopped by Joon-ha, who really looked like Maru for a second. (Or is that what they wanted us to believe?) He tells her to respect Min-young’s decision. And by his words, it sounds like Jae-hee was only released from prison a few months prior. Her dreams these days are much more simple than they ever were.

Joon-ha asks her about Eun-suk, and she admits she hasn’t seen him yet. Apparently Eun-ki has been taking care of him, and they’ve been getting along great. That’s so sweet – he finally got his Eun-ki Noona.

Speaking of, we see Eun-ki in Maru’s old neighborhood hiking a sick child up to the local health center. But the doctor isn’t in. Can we dare to hope…?

When she returns to the clinic later, we hear a familiar voice. And the doctor is, indeed, Maru.

Alive. Maru’s alive. Cue collective gasps of relief.

He explains everything that happened in one convenient fell swoop, but all we need to know is that he got the brain surgery, and it was obviously successful. And now he’s a doctor again.

BUT, the little girl goes on with her exposition sickness to add that Maru lost his memories after his big hematoma surgery. He can’t remember anything or anyone he’s ever loved, nor can he recognize faces. (It explains why he looked a little confused when he first saw Eun-ki in the office, even though he smiled soon after.)

Despite his lost memories, the little girl mentions that it’s odd for Maru to always go to Eun-ki’s Bakery, because the food there is terrible and everyone knows it. But he eats there every meal. So why?

Maru just smiles. We find him next at Eun-ki’s Cafe, and she sneaks a couple of pictures of him. (If there was a drinking game for how many products have been placed in just this final episode alone, I’d be getting my stomach pumped right about now.)

He discovers her, and with a sour look, ushers her over. Her camera is full of his pictures, and he asks, “Are you interested in me?”

Eun-ki shyly admits that she is, because he’s her ideal type. “Since when have you been interested in me?” Maru asks.

She pauses. “It’s been a while.” He presses her for more details, but she doesn’t give them because she’s embarrassed. He scoffs and leaves.

We hear him in voiceover as he ends up wandering back to her shop when she’s not there – what we’d heard as he was not-dying, about wanting to start over again with Eun-ki in another life and experience an ordinary kind of love.

Maru: “What kind of person she is… I would ask those who know her. And at times, I’d hang around outside her house. And at times, because I want to look good in front of her, I’d learn the old school trot dance that her father likes, and learn baduk, and learn how to eat all different kinds of foods without being picky. And at times, I’d memorize all the songs of her favorite pop artists. And at times, I’d go to the place she frequents and wait for her the whole day.”

He says this as he ends up waiting for Eun-ki on a road she frequents, and she goes to sit by him once she sees him.

“I’d tell her I miss her if I miss her, and I’d say I long for her when I do. I’d feel excitement and gratitude. To date like other people… I think I prayed for it.”

He sits awkwardly for a moment, before he passes over a ring box. She opens it to reveal two couple (wedding?) rings inside.

Maru turns to look at her, the old him filtering through his gaze as he smiles.

They stare at each other, both smiling happily. The last lines of Maru’s voiceover follow:

“And I say my prayers again: Thank you. Now, I am happy.”

 
COMMENTS

What a ride that was. And were it not for these final minutes, I would have walked away feeling a lot more dissatisfied. Not that a happy ending cures all – the ending could have been happy or sad, as long as it made sense – but thematically, it definitely worked. Narratively, not quite as well.

I couldn’t help thinking, once Maru was revealed to be alive, how moot most of the big conflicts ended up being in the long run. There was an inevitable rushed feeling that came from having so much thrown at us in these final two episodes, yet most of it didn’t emotionally resonate with me as it should have, simply because we weren’t given adequate time to really process what was happening.

Up until the forty-five minute mark, almost every auxiliary story going on was more interesting and immediate than Maru and Eun-ki’s story, which shouldn’t have really been the case. But it’s a small complaint, considering that we did get such nice wrap-ups for our side characters. Excluding Joon-ha, even though it’s good to know he’s fine. I do wish there had been more time dedicated to his accident and subsequent coma, because as it was, it felt like a throwaway device employed to spur Min-young into action. And Joon-ha, as a character, deserved a little more respect than that.

Nice Guy was never a show that delivered huge twists and jaw-dropping surprises, and most of the time it was just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The surprises sprinkled in, like Joon-ha’s accident or even Maru’s stabbing, didn’t pack as much punch as was probably intended. Joon-ha’s accident-and-recovery inattention was probably a time constraint, but Maru’s stabbing was just frustratingly meaningless. And it had the added side effect of making me think less of Eun-ki, a character I love, because too many coincidences had happened just so and at just the right time to allow Maru to do what he does best: Sacrifice. And she got to do a whole lot of nothing.

And in that sense, his saving her was absolutely nothing new. I had hoped that Eun-ki could regain some of her lost traction by saving him from saving her, which would have done a nice job of subverting expectations. But then we’re supposed to believe that even after ALL of that, she couldn’t be bothered to notice a thing? And then it was never brought up again on screen where we could see the aftermath? Yes, his face is beautiful and it’s hard to look away, but the whole stabbing/noble sacrifice scenario felt oddly fabricated compared to the fairly organic storytelling we’ve had till now.

I loved how Jae-hee’s trajectory ended, and thought her arc was one of the more satisfying ones of the series. While I wish we had been able to learn a little more of the Jae-hee that left Maru for the Chairman, I appreciated that she was never evil just to serve the plot, nor was she ever without her own twisted justifications for her actions. The way her morally questionable actions always had immediate and terrible consequences fit in nicely with the eventual change she made for the better. Her choosing to turn herself in, without being literally forced, was as perfect an ending for her as any.

In that same vein, I was surprised that Jae-sik was also afforded a decent arc, and found myself liking his character regardless of his moral compass. This might speak more to how well he was acted, with an ease and total lack of self-awareness that you don’t normally get in your usual villain stock these days, but his refreshing honesty about how awful he was made what could normally be a frustrating character not only palatable, but also dynamic and interesting.

His realization that he couldn’t kill Maru because Choco treated him like a human being was moving, even when his thought process remained so very flawed. The fact that time was spent giving him a happy ending was a little surprising, but it was nice to see that both siblings were able to correct their past mistakes and turn over a new leaf. That was some 2+ Grade Satisfaction.

Where I find myself held up is the completion of Maru and Eun-ki’s arcs, and more Eun-ki’s than anyone. The epilogue we reached was sweet if not slightly confusing (as to whether he had his memories or not), and even though everything changes with time… What happened with Taesan, again? Not that I held any love for that company, but after making it the biggest deal for the past nineteen episodes, was it all for her to give it up and own a shop in the countryside? Not that there’s anything wrong with that decision, but if that’s where we were going, then why oh why did we spend eternity trying to get her to the top of a company she may or may not have wanted?

By leaving the hematoma reveal until the last minute, and by not letting Eun-ki catch on to Maru’s sacrifice, she ended up being so woefully removed from what was happening around her that it felt almost criminal. She was in control of nothing while Maru, up until what might have been his last moments, protected her from everything. This speaks more about him than it does her, since I think that by the time the hematoma news hit her I’d lost sight of who she really was. Who knows, maybe it dates back to the car crash, when the first sprinklings of disillusionment hit. Or maybe it was when Eun-ki 3.0 took the stage.

While I do wish we were allowed more time to spend in the aftermath of the reveals we all saw coming, I did like that the ending worked so well for Maru thematically, and thus worked for Eun-ki by extension, in allowing her to be happy with the man she loves. And while his journey wasn’t about faith, the fact that he started with none and gained it by the end to pray for what he wanted – a fresh start – was a nice touch. He was granted what he needed to live again, not in another life, but in this one. Finally, time is moving forward again. Maybe it’s moving forward for the first time.

In the end, and to an almost frightening degree, Maru proved that there is such a thing as nice guys. Endlessly fascinating and fantastically portrayed by Song Joong-ki, Maru will probably forever remain as one of those characters I liked watching from a distance, but one I wouldn’t necessarily want to know personally. I’ll gladly leave him to Eun-ki and their future soccer team of the world’s most beautiful children. They’ve earned it.

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