Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 16 (Final)
I really enjoyed the last episode, because it was satisfying in showing us the growth of the characters over some time without feeling too rushed. Alice in Cheongdam-dong was a bumpy but short ride, and somehow the writer still managed to make a point about class and wealth in Korean society, as well as poke holes in our expectations of Korean dramas. In the end, this was more than just a romantic comedy; it made you think.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Yoon-joo can’t believe that Seung-jo never thought his father bought him that painting. He’s a rich man’s son, so of course his rich father wouldn’t be able to stand to see him suffer. Seung-jo is in denial that his father could care for him; after all, he signed away his inheritance, so why would his father care for him? That’s what differentiates him from Yoon-joo and Se-kyung: Seung-jo is willing to believe that good things can come out of nowhere, whereas Yoon-joo and Se-kyung are skeptical when good fortune like that befalls them.
Once Yoon-joo leaves, Seung-jo looks up the business card for Carrey Park Gallery, where his painting was eventually kept. One of the associates informs him that his painting was sold a few days ago to the man who originally donated it to the gallery. As it turns out, that man was the father of the painter. That’s enough confirmation for Seung-jo, and he races to his father’s office.
Il-nam isn’t around, so Seung-jo searches through the rooms to find his painting on display. He finally finds it in the grand hall, framed with a plaque beside formidable wooden doors. The truth hits him full force as he realizes that Se-kyung and Yoon-joo were right in being skeptical of his sudden “good fortune.”
Il-nam appears behind him, and nonchalantly confirms that he did purchase the painting a long time ago. He doesn’t understand Seung-jo’s violent reaction, who feels like his father still dictated his path even though he tried to run away. But Il-nam never meant to control his son – he just didn’t want to see his son poor anymore. Buying the painting would allow Il-nam to give money without getting rejected.
Seung-jo bitterly realizes that because his father purchased the painting, he was able to get to his current position in life. Il-nam points out that he didn’t get him into Artemis, or make him CEO, but Seung-jo doesn’t care. To him, he feels like his revenge against his father failed because he wanted to do everything on his own. Il-nam: “So many other people are bitter for lacking what you have, but you’re bitter because you have it?”
All Il-nam wanted was to be closer to his son as a father, not because he needed a successor. And he feels that Se-kyung was right when she noted that Seung-jo wanted to be closer to him by going into business. Seung-jo isn’t ready to accept that yet, and staggers away. Il-nam sighs heavily, as if he doesn’t know what to do with such a stubborn son.
Meanwhile, Se-kyung goes through her sketchbook from her studio and finds sketches of the bunnies she made. There’s also the page where she made her list about Seung-jo and herself when she was first trying to rationalize how to use him while still maintaining her pure love for him. Suddenly, a text message – but it’s from Yoon-joo.
In the text, Yoon-joo wonders what their lives would have been like if they hadn’t met. It’s possible that Se-kyung would still be trudging through her unlucky life, but Yoon-joo might still have been found out by her family. While she may have started off angry and determined to get into Cheongdam-dong, she lost it all, and became more anxious. She didn’t follow her own advice in being “black” all the way and fearless.
But thanks to Se-kyung and the events in the past few months, she now knows what to do. The anger is back.
Yoon-joo heads to her husband’s office to give her answer: “You once said you didn’t think I was worth hundreds of billions of won. Well, I don’t think you are either. I choose divorce.” Fist pump! in! the! air!! Even the music takes on a joyful beat as she leaves her husband’s jaw dropped and walks confidently out.
She bumps into her sister-in-law at the elevator. In-hwa is still bitter over the fact that the Roman outlet deal gets to rest on Yoon-joo’s shoulders rather than her own, which makes Yoon-joo laugh. “Go cheer up your brother,” she tells In-hwa. “I just told him I chose divorce.” And she leaves In-hwa’s jaw hanging too. I wish Mrs. Shin were there…
Dong-wook rushes to Seung-jo’s place under Il-nam’s orders, both worried over where Seung-jo might have gone. Dong-wook finds him asleep in his bed, though he initially fears that Seung-jo could have overdosed on sleeping pills. Seung-jo just wants to sleep, as it’s his way of escaping his current reality. Even though his son is alive, it’s not comforting to know that Seung-jo chooses to sleep all day, so Il-nam texts Se-kyung. Perhaps she can help.
Seung-jo does get up for some cheese and crackers and wine, and then passes out on the couch. He hallucinates his younger self crying, and his mother comforting him. His cries transform into a doorbell ringing, and next thing he knows, Se-kyung is by his side, carrying that sketchbook.
He thinks that she’s only there because she wants to say “I told you so” for being right the entire time. Either that, or Dong-wook and Il-nam told her to go and make sure he didn’t die. He doesn’t want to see her, so Se-kyung grabs him in a back-hug. She only came because she missed him terribly. Whether he’s Jean Thierry Cha or Secretary Kim, she doesn’t care. All she knows is she misses Seung-jo, and if she doesn’t see him, she feels like she’d die. “I love you, Seung-jo,” she says, and embraces him as tears run down their cheeks.
Except… all that was a dream.
He wakes to find the coffee table littered with wine bottles, and Se-kyung does let herself into his apartment. Wondering if this might actually be the reality, he asks the same thing as he did in his dream: did she come to mock him? Nope – Se-kyung came to break up. To her, their relationship wasn’t over yet because she was still trying to find a way to prove her love for him. But she realized that just saying “I love you” to him every day wouldn’t prove it at all.
Seung-jo feels like he just woke up into a nightmare. Se-kyung tells him that the only way for them to stay together is if he can face the reality of who she is, and still accept her. Seung-jo is unwilling to accept the fact that she’s a gold-digger and wants her to prove her love. Since his father is worth a trillion won (~1 billion USD) and he’s worth 2.1 billion (~2 million USD), then she must make that much and then go back to him. Only then can she prove that she really loved him and not the money.
Se-kyung understands that they’re most definitely over, and she leaves with barely a look back. Seung-jo is left heartbroken as she shatters all his fantasies of her, but he strangely feels better because the burden is gone.
Some time passes, and Se-kyung heads to an expensive boutique to purchase a new outfit for an upcoming interview. Now instead of wearing all black, she at least has a white blazer on. She meets Ah-jung at a cafe, who still wonders what could have happened if Se-kyung promised to prove her love for Seung-jo no matter what. Se-kyung knows that if she continued playing the innocent “Candy” girl, and he kept looking for pure love, their relationship would not have lasted. Se-kyung doesn’t believe in anything such as 100% pure love; as Yoon-joo once said, “love” means loving the person entirely, both their faults and strengths.
Ah-jung is saddened by Se-kyung’s speech because she voiced a truth that everyone inherently knows, but Ah-jung – and others – won’t let that stop them from living their lives. She wouldn’t be able to say something like that to Jae-wook. Jae-wook?! Yep – she’s dating Secretary Moon!
Speaking of which, Secretary Moon briefs Seung-jo on his schedule. There are ten candidates for a new entry level position that Seung-jo will have to interview, and he gives him a portfolio. Seung-jo then heads on to his meeting with Il-nam. It’s surprisingly civil as they discuss the outlet and the 50/50 profit that they’ll split. Il-nam is relieved to hear that his son is finally sleeping and eating well, and Seung-jo no longer regards his father with animosity.
Se-kyung arrives at the location for her interview… which is not for Artemis. Right off the bat, her interviewers give her a B for her fashion choices and appearance. Se-kyung does not divulge many details, giving only a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to their questions. Her lack of details and study abroad merit her a D. They’re ready to dismiss her when she finally speaks up – not listed on her resume is the fact that she also worked as a personal stylist.
She gives the interviewers a portfolio, and they discover that she was Jean Thierry Cha’s personal stylist. One of them recognizes her as his former fiancee, and suddenly they mark out all her B’s and D’s, and give her only A’s. In the end, Se-kyung did end up using him for her own career advancement.
Meanwhile, Seung-jo does get an applicant named Se-kyung, which gives him a momentary pause. She’s Shin Se-kyung though, looking for a spot among Fashion Kings. This particular Se-kyung has similar credentials to Han Se-kyung, but she did manage to study at FIT in New York for a year-long course. Seung-jo asks why it took her so long to get a job, and she replies that having no study abroad experience is a detriment. In addition, because her family was poor she had to work to pay off her tuition.
Seung-jo notices her clothing though, which are all expensive and could have paid off a year’s worth in tuition. Shin Se-kyung: “In the past two years of job hunting, I’ve come to realize that I have to show good taste even in the interview. What I wear counts just as much as my competence and sense of style.” Her answer echoes that of our Se-kyung in Seung-jo’s mind, and he ends up with a more favorable impression of this candidate than he did before. Now he wonders how he would have scored Han Se-kyung if she had interviewed for him long ago.
Tommy picks Se-kyung up after her interview to go to lunch. Both are still having difficulty getting in contact with Yoon-joo and wonder where she’s gone. Tommy also has a gift for Se-kyung – the book Alice in Wonderland. The ending isn’t just that Alice wakes up from her dream, but that her older sister is left by the tree to also wonder if Wonderland is true. Eyes half-open, it’s as if the sister is half-believing in this fantasy world, even though she’s aware of the reality that she must continue to live in. Se-kyung feels that that is what it means to be an adult. Time to grow up.
Seung-jo arrives at the department store to look at the new line of jewelry recently launched, and he overhears a new intern rushing back into the store asking for a duplicate receipt. The saleslady kindly turns her down, and Seung-jo is once again reminded of the time Se-kyung came back to get a copy of the warranty.
As Chauffeur Kim drives him home, Seung-jo recognizes a familiar figure in the street. It’s Yoon-joo.
Yoon-joo invites him to her humble cramped apartment. He remembers that Yoon-joo was given a particular opportunity that he could have helped her with, which would have resulted in her staying in Cheongdam-dong. But she doesn’t tell him – what use is it to go over the past? She does wonder if he and Se-kyung broke up, since there hasn’t been any news about them lately. Seung-jo says she ran away first because she couldn’t prove her love. All Seung-jo wanted was to hear her say something like, “I can’t live without you!” but Yoon-joo scoffs. She knows him better, that he must have said something truly horrible to make her prove it. The Se-kyung she knows would never have run away.
Seung-jo insists he never did such a thing, as he’s no longer the “Seung-jo of the past.” Thanks to Se-kyung, he can now face reality and see that all the dramas he saw were lies – how could the “Candy” heroine love everything about the male lead except his money? He knows for a fact that he didn’t tell her to prove it, not even in his dreams.
But that triggers it – dreams… And suddenly he realizes that what he thought was a dream was not a dream. When Se-kyung had given him the back-hug, that was real. And he had pushed her away and asked her to prove her love for him. He no longer wanted to doubt her feelings.
Se-kyung didn’t know how to prove it, and all she could show him was her sketchbook and her list. She can only prove that she loved Secretary Kim first, and when she learned that he was rich, she loved him more. Because she was happier, she felt guilty, but it doesn’t mean she loved him any less. But Seung-jo couldn’t accept that, and he then told her to earn that 1.002 trillion won to prove her love. Se-kyung understood that meant it was over, and so she disappeared from his life.
Seung-jo dashes over to Se-kyung’s home. She’s not home, but her sister is, and he barges into Se-kyung’s room looking for the sketchbook. Finally, he reads the list in its entirety, and learns that Se-kyung supposedly changed from being a “Candy” and then changed back for him. With the startling realization that the Se-kyung he loved was the same Se-kyung that manipulated him, Seung-jo runs in the hope of reuniting with his love.
Se-kyung begins her first day of work, this time as an intern designer and not some lowly temp. She still has to do the grunt work, but she has learned that she can’t just keep complaining about her situation in life. She needs to just keep on living and working, and truly stand on her own two feet instead of dreaming of a prince who will eventually save her from her position in life.
Se-kyung delivers a box to the waiting messenger man at the lobby, and finds Seung-jo standing there. It rattles her, but she resolves to not let herself be caught up in that “white knight fantasy” again. When she asks what he’s doing there, he tries to coolly pretend he has business there, and walks past her. But after a couple of steps, he’s astonished to find that she hasn’t grabbed him or stopped him. Isn’t she supposed to? (And here I thought you stopped imagining your life as a drama!)
Se-kyung doesn’t have time to fool around, and she can recognize that he’s becoming her knight in shining armor again. She refuses to fall for the fantasy again. He accuses her of running away when she promised to never leave and to show him her entire self. To him, it makes no sense that she’d leave him just because she couldn’t prove she loved him. “It’s ok,” he says, “you don’t have to act.” Seung-jo can’t distinguish the Se-kyung before she “changed” and after, but it doesn’t matter – because he loves the Se-kyung who’s in front of him right now.
And they embrace. Yay! Se-kyung pulls away first – does he believe in her? Does it mean she doesn’t have to act to fit his dream girl anymore? Seung-jo promises he’ll try, even though he’s not confident in himself just yet. They may not understand each other quite perfectly yet, but they are certainly willing to try.
As for the 1.002 trillion won? Well, Seung-jo says she can earn it. In a way, it’s his way of declaring that they will live their lives together. Seung-jo finally wants to get something off his chest, even though he’s not sure if it will make him feel any better. He turns around… and with a flourish declares, “Winston Churchill once said, ‘Immature love says I love you because I need you. Mature love says I need you because I love you.'” HAHAHA – he finally got to tell her – for real!
Seung-jo: “I need you because I love you, Se-kyung. Because I need you, I love you. Now I can no longer distinguish the difference between that.” *Tear*
Tentatively, he reaches forward and kisses her gently. She’s not pushing him away. He leans in again, and they kiss passionately in the lobby of her new office building. Big smiles, everyone!
It’s Christmas time again, and Tommy exits the Dongdaemun shopping center to see Yoon-joo dragging out bags of her clothing. They sit down to catch up. Tommy knows that she must have had a chance to keep her rich lifestyle, but wonders why she gave all of that up. Yoon-joo: “Because… I got angry.” She thought her situation was going to be hopeless, but then she realized that she could take it out against the Shin family by ruining their chance at making billions of won. It was incredibly gratifying, but now with all the hard work she has to do she kind of regrets it.
Yoon-joo happily notes that Se-kyung must have rubbed off on her, and inspired her to give up everything she had to keep her pride. As for Tommy, he admits that though he’s happy not to be taking matchmaking commissions anymore, he’s not making as much money as he used to. Ho-min then arrives to tell her their bus has come, and she hands Tommy her card. Perhaps he can recommend her humble boutique and designs to someone.
They both reckon that Se-kyung has rekindled her romance with Seung-jo, and both are genuinely happy for her. Yoon-joo knows that she’ll do well; Se-kyung always succeeded doing things her way.
As for the in-laws, Il-nam tries to convince Se-kyung’s parents to move into a villa in Cheongdam-dong. Deuk-gi refuses to because he doesn’t want to make it seem like he sold his daughter into a rich family. Reporters be damned. Even Se-kyung’s mother doesn’t wish to get involved in this petty fight between the fathers, siding with Deuk-gi since it’s safest. Heh.
As for Seung-jo and Se-kyung? They live in their own private mansion, happily together. Like Alice’s sister in the book, they are choosing to live with their eyes half-closed, living out their romanticized fantasy, but still knowing that they can open their eyes and still see the reality.
That was a very very very satisfying ending for me. Aside from having everyone’s stories wrapped up (yay for Yoon-joo standing on her own two feet!), I ended up very satisfied with the way the drama left our main characters, who were the most conflicted characters ever.
First off, I have to applaud the writer for sticking with this storyline and the themes of rich versus poor, high class versus low class. The writer had a statement to make about class, and certainly upended our expectations of what a heroine should be like. I felt I was watching a totally different drama by the end. I expected a romantic comedy, got served with a melodrama, only to have it taste like a romantic comedy, and then only to realize that the writer was trying to give me a realistic portrayal of how life can be. The themes and the purpose were all there – but I do feel the plot line suffered somewhere in the middle because of these broad themes and an unwieldy handling of the tone. This drama was somewhat ambitious because it wasn’t just about external obstacles that our characters encounter, but about the internal obstacles that they need to get over. If anything, this was truly a character drama. I also appreciate that the writer never gave up on the ending, and made Seung-jo and Se-kyung keep asking questions until they realized that they were a paradox, and there was nothing they could do but to accept both the good and the bad.
I was initially frustrated with Se-kyung because I felt like she had never become that gold-digger she thought she was. But now I also see that she was also not a “Candy Girl” – at least, not in the way that we know. She’s someone who hates her situation in life, not someone who smiles and continues to work hard no matter her circumstance. It took me a while to realize that, but it also made me appreciate this drama even more, and appreciate what the writer was doing. Instead of watching a “Candy Girl” who was hardworking and could stand on her own two feet, only to fall on her knees and depend on her knight in shining armor, we got a jaded and angry “Candy Girl” who chose to fall on her knees but in the end had to learn how to stand on her own two feet.
I am glad that Yoon-joo also became a woman who could stand on her own two feet. Since high school she always relied on others – usually men – to get ahead. I’m happy to see her at peace finally because she knows that she is worth something, and not the useless trophy wife that others regard her as. I hope that Se-kyung does not end up quitting her job, as I’d like to imagine her future to be full of success. I truly enjoyed watching So Yi-hyun in this drama, as I think this is one of her better roles yet.
As for Moon Geun-young – I know she attracts haters as much as fans, as evidenced by many of the comments written in earlier recaps. I for one am not a fan of her, but it doesn’t mean I hate her; I just don’t really watch her dramas. After this drama, I can see that she is a subtle actress, and she underplays Se-kyung’s turmoil and emotions most of the time. Except for the few moments when she becomes angry and tough, she maintains one look of sadness – which for me makes it feel like one-note acting. When she’s in a scene with Park Shi-hoo, he practically overwhelms her with his ferocity in his acting and (sometimes) over-acting. She didn’t match Park Shi-hoo in intensity, and her youthful face makes her look like she hasn’t really lived the hard life that she supposedly has. I wonder how this drama would have been if we got someone who was just as intense as Park Shi-hoo and could really portray the complexities of Se-kyung more outwardly, and not just someone who was good at crying.
There were a lot of lighthearted moments in this drama that made it very addictive, and then there were the predictable moments that were standard in a Korean drama. But what I enjoyed the most was the fact that it never shied away from making us question what our own values were, and from a harsher reality that is rarely seen in most romantic comedies. After all – how does a poor, simple girl manage to love a guy so completely that she doesn’t even care about his money?
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 15
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 14
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 13
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 12
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 11
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 10
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 9
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 8
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 7
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 6
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 5
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 4
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 3
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 2
- Alice in Cheongdam-dong: Episode 1