The husband is revealed! Ish. In true Answer Me fashion, a clue comes attached with a bunch of qualifiers that basically negate the clue-iness of that clue, putting us no closer to the truth than we were before. This show is such a tease, and I can’t decide if I like it or want to drop-kick it in aggravation. I suppose the fact that I’m not sure is a sign it’s doing something half-right… or something half-wrong. Ahem. Just sayin’.
SONG OF THE DAY
Shin Hae-chul – “내 마음 깊은 곳에 너” (You’re deep in my heart) [ Download ]
EPISODE 4: “Lie”
We open in 2013, still watching Na-jung’s wedding video. Haitai scratches his head trying to recall the name of the guy on camera, who jokes onscreen that Na-jung’s husband is the only guy who’d put up with her temper. She swears in response, to which Garbage chides her to speak prettily. She says okay, then immediately automatically swears some more.
Chilbongie sprawls on the couch, and Yoon-jin tells him to go take a nap. Ooh, another tease, since it sounds like she’s saying, “Go to your room,” but it could just as well mean “Use one of the rooms.”
Na-jung gets a call from the security desk about a package, and she confirms that it’s in her husband’s name—a name we don’t hear because of a convenient cut back to the gang’s conversation—before going down to retrieve it.
Finally they remember the guest’s name, and we jump back to 1994 to confirm it: Ki-tae, a batter whose reputation for hitting homeruns gets him into a nightclub (a “rockcafe”). Haitai and Samcheonpo are also waiting in line, looking adorably out of step in their wannabe ’90s fashions (one-strapped overalls! Colored bandanas! Saggy pants!) and are let in, but only to the basement level. Poor bumpkins.
It’s TV night at the boardinghouse, with Na-jung, Dad, and the two cousins Chilbongie and Binggeure. Aw, I love that Chilbongie’s become a fixture at the boardinghouse of outsiders, and that the boys bicker like real cousins. (Binggeure’s never seen this popular gag performance before, Chilbongie jokes that his dad must’ve thrown away the TV ’cause he was so addicted, and Binggeure retorts that SBS doesn’t broadcast in the countryside. Dad remarks that with all three broadcast stations available now, sometimes he’s at a loss with all the choices. HA.) And is it me, or is Chilbongie already looking at Na-jung with moony grins?
Mom serves the melon Chilbonggie brought over, which is a rare treat—you have to watch Na-jung’s silent reaction as she bites into one for the first time—and bought a department store. Eyes widen all around.
Chilbongie tries to play it off modestly, but it gets more awkward when Mom asks how much it cost and the family gasps collectively. I love that Mom chides Na-jung for calling Oppa Garbage, then asks Binggeure, “How does our Garbage act at school?” This family cracks me up; their motto may as well be “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Garbage is Binggeure’s sunbae in med school, and Binggeure says that he’s totally charismatic at school. Na-jung: “What, the charisma of wiping your face with the towel you used on your feet?” Cut to: Garbage emerging from the bathroom, using the floor mat to dry his hair.
Haitai gets in from another night at the club, though he didn’t get in this time. To explain why, Samcheonpo comes in wearing something you’d expect of a middle-aged businessman, and the others crack up.
Chilbongie is sleeping a few nights over in Binggeure’s room while his dad’s on a business trip and his mother’s on her honeymoon. Haitai doesn’t know about the divorce/remarriage and wonders what it means, while Samcheonpo guesses dimly, “His parents must have only now had the formal ceremony.” LOL.
He clarifies about the divorce and fidgets at the pitying look Na-jung and the country boys send his way… except it turns out to be awe as they absorb this added proof that Seoul is bigger, faster, and cooler: “Wow, a divorce! I’ve only ever seen those on TV!”
Garbage joins them and settles next to Na-jung, putting his head in her lap while she gets this “Omgomgomg” look on her face. Then he proceeds to drip melon juice on her leg, and cautiously wipes at it, hoping she won’t notice. But the touch jolts her out of her stupor and she shoves his head away, yelling at him for being a mess. The others silently sliiiide away the melon tray from the bickering duo and continue their grilling of Chilbongie, asking if he’s ever flown abroad or eaten bananas.
Late at night, the core family sits at the kitchen table prepping for the next day. The parents are headed back to their hometown, and I’m guessing the occasion is a sad one from the way Mom is distracted and glum. Still, she makes sure Na-jung is on top of breakfast-making for the morning, since they’ll be leaving at the crack of dawn.
Na-jung assures Mom she’s on top of it as she does the dishes, when out of nowhere Oppa pushes his way to the sink and takes over. Then in the morning when Na-jung makes her sleepy way to the kitchen, she finds the rice already cooking—Oppa took care of it.
Na-jung struggles with the tap on the sink, and just like that Oppa is there to twist it open for her. Then he wraps his arms around her and leans, calling her a nice girl and dropping a kiss on the back of her head. She freezes as he jokes, “Wanna marry me? I’ll treat you well.”
He chatters on in a one-sided conversation as Na-jung struggles to keep her feelings under control, taking over cooking breakfast and telling her to rest. How’s a girl to resist?
Binggeure watches TV while cutting out the programming schedule from the paper—ha, he really is a TV addict. Five bucks says he becomes a PD. On the news is a story of a large fire, and Haitai’s mother is quick to put in a worried call to her son to make sure he’s safe. Aw. He tells her that the city’s big and the fire is nowhere near, but moms will be moms.
The boys sit down to breakfast, and Garbage’s saturi comes out in full force, which is doubly funny because he’s usually the Seoul-to-bumpkin translator of the house, but now he’s the one needing translation. (Garbage growls at Samcheonpo not to translate, saying he looks like a serial killer.)
Chilbongie joins them and thanks Garbage for breakfast, which Na-jung takes issue with since she’s the one serving them. Chilbongie says that with Mom and Dad gone, Garbage is the oldest, and that makes Garbage wonder if everyone thinks they’re blood siblings. Everyone gapes to hear they’re not.
Chilbongie asks why Garbage calls Mom “Mom” if she isn’t his mother, and the country boys inform him that it’s common to call your friend’s mother “Mom.” Highlighting that point is a phone call that Samcheonpo answers, saying, “Yes, Mom? Hold on. Haitai, it’s your mom!” (She’s seen another segment on the news about a college drinking death and has to be assured again that Haitai is fine.) Chilbongie decides he really likes this Mom practice.
Haitai is headed for the rock cafe again tonight, though he sighs that he doesn’t know if he’ll get in. Samcheonpo emerges from their room spiffed up in a full suit and tie, and the minute Haitai threatens not to take him dressed like that, he whirls around silently to go change. Ha. Poor Haitai is still deluding himself into thinking the only reason they didn’t get in was because they didn’t go early enough to wait—you know, 6 p.m. The blank look Na-jung gives him is priceless.
Binggeure finds his cousin smiling to himself and asks why, to which Chilbongie answers that he finds the people in this house really fun—he’d like to be reborn as a country boy in his next life. So cute. Binggeure seems determined to flunk out of his major and lies down for a nap to skip yet another day of classes. But today Garbage orders him out of bed and won’t be shaken off.
Chilbongie is the last to leave for the day, and Na-jung offers him lunch first (and then makes him cook the ramyun, haha). While he cooks, she gets a call from her fangirl friend, tipping her off on Sang-min Oppa going on an MT with his department. She makes note of where he’ll be leaving.
Chilbongie laughs to himself over the exchange, and then continues to laugh all through lunch—she’s not being particularly funny, but he seems to find everything about her interesting and hilarious. She looks at him blankly, half-convinced he’s making fun of her, though he assures her he’s not.
Na-jung spends the entire day cleaning the house from inside out. She accepts a package that Oppa has been waiting for, and the show teases us with the glimpse of his last name: Kim. That’s all we get for now, folks.
Haitai and Samcheonpo spend all their class time primping for the club, determined to make it in today. Haitai pauses for yet another worried-mom call (she saw something on the news about an accident), saying whatever answers will get her off the phone quickest.
They arrive at the club extra-early… only to get told that they are again too late. Haitai’s not having it and glowers at the usher, who gulps under the scrutiny but sticks to his line. Haitai warns that he’d best not be lying, then turns to go dejectedly. Samcheonpo has been watching the whole thing with a look of resignation, and seems to have caught on. He tells Haitai decisively, “I think this is a case of… needing to get here earlier.” Ha. Good ol’ Samcheonpo, always on hand to miss the point.
Na-jung catches a news report on TV, this time about a gas explosion in a Suncheon apartment that seriously injured a middle-aged woman. Oh noes, not Mom! On the off-chance that it could be Haitai-related, Na-jung leaves him a message telling him to call home, just in case.
Unfortunately, he misses seeing the pager message since he and Samcheonpo are busy watching a movie in a DVD room. (Ah, remember those?)
Then Na-jung sees a framed photo of her family of four, picking it up with a teary eye. Ohhh, is today the memorial of her brother’s death? That would explain her mood and her obsession with cleaning. The photo reminds her of something, and she goes on a hunt looking for it. (Song: “You’re Deep in My Heart,” posted above.)
Haitai and Samcheonpo are shocked to see Ki-tae (the hotshot batter) here instead of the rock cafe. Ki-tae says he’s headed there later, flabbergasting our bumpkins, who are aghast at the idea that he’d jeopardize his chances of getting in. And then the ball drops as they realize what’s really been going on. Better late than never?
So they enlist Ki-tae’s help in getting past the gatekeeper tonight: Ki-tae stands in line and gets his party waved inside, at which point they step forward. The dismayed doorman is eager to avoid a confrontation and offers them free snacks, which gets Haitai to proceed inside, where he and Samcheonpo automatically head for the basement. Ki-tae’s girlfriend has to correct them, saying that the basement is the worst floor and that they’re headed to the top.
At that, Haitai flips his lid and seizes the doorman by the shirtfront, giving him what-for for his discrimination. Samcheonpo just moseys along, suggesting that they head upstairs, letting Haitai carry on. Hee.
There are only four at the dinner table tonight, and Chilbongie urges Na-jung to sit and eat with them, but she keeps getting up to serve and check on dishes. Her face is obscured by the brim of a hat the whole time, I’m thinking to cover her eyes, and she declines to eat. All through dinner, she sits dully in her seat, picking at her food.
Her melancholy mood is reflected in her parents’ demeanors as they take a taxi through the city. Mom sighs that their boy would’ve been just like those kids had he lived, going on dates and studying at college. She breaks down as she says it would’ve been so nice if today were his birthday and not his deathday, crying that time just makes her miss him more.
The clubbing boys get home, still seething at the idea of being shafted all this time. Na-jung asks Haitai about calling his mother, and he only now hears about the Suncheon explosion. In alarm, he bolts for the phone and calls home, only to get a busy signal over and over. His panic mounts as he redials, and finally she picks up with a cheery voice, having been chatting with a neighbor. His relief and worry mix as he barks that he was worried sick, and she chuckles back at him, using his own words about how the city is a big place and the accident site was allllll the way across town.
Haitai gets choked up as Mom promises to send up more of his favorite jam (which he’d told her in an earlier call that he’d finished, just to get her off the line), and then we see why: The big jar is still on the shelf, unopened. He opens it up and starts eating, blinking back tears.
Garbage shows up just as Samcheonpo is making a dig at him and gives him a whack on the head. It’s hilarious how Samcheonpo then gives Garbage a respectful bow goodnight, only to shoot him a dirty look when he’s not looking.
Oppa’s been at home less than a minute before he catches on to Na-jung’s unusual demeanor, and he watches closely as she gets up to serve him soup. He takes off the cap blocking her face and checks her temperature, noting that she’s not well and sending her to bed. She lies in bed crying, and Oppa stops by to tuck a pillow under her head.
Dad stops on the way home to pick up fried chicken, since “our son” eats a lot. Heartsick Mom heads for bed upon arriving home, and Dad gives her a massage to make her feel better. Chilbongie knocks on their door to invite them to eat the chicken, but the parents decline and tell him to eat up. He pauses to wish them good night, tacking on a cautious “M…other. Mother? Mother.” He attempts his best approximation of a saturi accent, which may be the cutest thing ever.
Mom cuddles with Na-jung, both of them shedding tears. Na-jung asks if Mom knows where her stuffed seal doll went—the one she used to carry around as a kid that she’s been looking for all day. Mom reminds her that she’d given it to her brother on his last day.
Na-jung heads back to her own bed and lies down… and her hand notices something odd about the pillow lying under her head, which isn’t a pillow at all but a seal doll that looks just like the one in the family photo.
She barges into Garbage’s room and asks if he bought that doll, and he confirms that he did—that was the package that came earlier today. Ooof. He advises her to take it easy, noting how she worked herself ragged today, and tucks her into bed with some medicine.
Na-jung has something to say, though, and takes a moment mustering up her nerve. Garbage waits expectantly, and finally she manages to say, “I… like you oppa.” Then she repeats it for good measure, adding, “I like you. I love you.”
He looks stunned. He stares for long moments, and raises a shaking hand up to her cheek… and pinches. He laughs, taking the whole thing as a joke and saying she really had him for a second.
Na-jung’s voiceover: “Of all days, it had to be April Fool’s Day. The death that seemed like a lie, and the confession that turned into a lie—both had to be on that day. Nobody had told a lie and so nobody had been fooled. But more than the fool who’s tricked by April Fool’s, a thousand times worse was the terrible April Fool’s Day itself. Sometimes reality is crueler than lies.”
And there it is, circled on the calendar: April Fool’s Day, and under that, “Tae-hoon’s death anniversary.”
Outside, the others dig into the piles of fried chicken, and we get another name tease with Haitai asking about the cousins’ names, only to get cut off by Dad barking at Yoon-jin to cut her hair. The name conversation resumes with the cousins about to reveal their last name, and then Dad jumps in with hair complaints for Samcheonpo. Dad sniffs that Samcheonpo’s (real) name is such a mismatch for his face, and Samcheonpo protests that it’s not—his name is fine. It’s Kim—
—and again we get cut off, because we’re going to be coy about this forevah. Chilbongie gets caught up laughing at the bickering session and misses hearing his cousin calling him, so Binggeure switches to his name: “Hey, Joon-ah!” (But we already knew his name from yesterday!)
Back to 2013. Na-jung picks up her packages from the front desk, and the security guard squints to read the name: “It’s Kim…”
She cuts him off to say that yes, that’s her husband all right. She takes the boxes up to her apartment, where Chilbong joins the others after his nap, which means all five guys are sitting next to each other on the couch when Na-jung looks over and calls, “Yeobo!” (Used only with spouses.) Nobody reacts, so she says sharply, “Hey, Kim Jae-joon!”
Five heads swivel in her direction.
“Among these five men, there is my husband,” she narrates. “And my husband’s name is Kim Jae-joon.”
Back to 1994, jumping back earlier that day to Na-jung’s call about where to catch Sang-miin oppa when he goes on his MT. The caller hangs up thinking Na-jung bought the joke, but her friend scoffs that nobody would be dumb enough to fall for that, and that Na-jung was just humoring her: “She can seem uneducated, but she’s not an idiot.”
The next day, Na-jung dutifully waits in front of the station, approaching the group of students that is curiously Sang-min-less. She asks about him and gets confused looks as the students depart, but still she hangs around, hopeful as always.
There were some really moving scenes in this episode, but I’ll say this: There is no reason this had to be an hour and 15 minutes long. Zero. If this extra-long running time continues, I’m going to be a grouchypants shooting curses at the writers—they’re taking a sharp, witty thing and dulling all its edges and thinning out the good stuff. I don’t mean the show isn’t good anymore, because it is, but it could be really amazing and instead it’s shooting itself in the foot. Which makes my heart sad and my back hurt. I really feel the excess fat when slogging through the scenes for recaps, and when “slogging” becomes a word you use to describe a show, that’s not a good thing. I’m hoping this is a one-off deal, and we’re back to one-hour episodes next week (which is already about 15 minutes too long, in my book).
Haitai’s story was one of those moving scenes of one of those scenarios we’ve all experienced—not appreciating your mother and then feeling the weight of that guilt when you realize it. It’s also an example of this drama doing what it does best, weaving in its sense of humor and the theme of the day into a heart-tugging moment. And there’s that universal truth of how sometimes the best way to show momma your love is to eat what she makes you.
On to the big reveal, which isn’t so big after all: Kim Jae-joon. Which could be annnnnybody. Let’s see what we’ve got so far: Oppa’s last name is Kim, Samcheonpo is also a Kim, Haitai is unnamed and therefore still in the running, Chilbongie is “Joon” and thus potentially Jae-joon, and Binggeure both shares last names with Chilbongie and a character in his first name, which means he could also be a Joon.
How like this show to give us a huge clue and then obscure the whole thing anyway, because nobody’s going to reveal his name until the end anyway, are they? This is still a clear two-way race between Garbage and Chilbongie, but they’ve kept the others around just for funsies, and at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if we finally hear that Garbage is named Kim Jae-joon, only to have Chilbongie chime in, “Oh, me too!”
Still, if this series does one thing better than the original, it has to be in the question of who the husband is, which feels a lot more like a real question this time around. We all have our suspicions, but I suspect that if we had to poll ourselves the numbers would be pretty neck-and-neck.
Well there’s a thought. Let’s do this thing:
For some reason I feel like it has to be Chilbongie, even if I think so based more on meta information than the plot itself. The plot thus far has been leaning heavily toward Oppa, with the way he reads Na-jung so well and is there for her without her even asking for it, and even with zero romantic strings attached it would be enough to make me cry a little at the sweetness. What kills me more about his seal doll gift isn’t just that he knew she’d need the comfort, but the way he presents it silently, without fanfare or drawing attention to himself. You know he’s got to feel his best friend’s loss too, but he’s not in the inner circle of the family grief and therefore steps up to ease their burden on their tough day.
But it’s like watching a mystery where the clues all lead in one direction, and that pings your suspicion radar because it’s too simple. Plus, the failed confession is such a gut-punching moment for Na-jung that feels so true to life about that love that went unrealized. Maybe I’m wrong and the story will turn back around, but that achy unrequited feeling will always be associated with Oppa. We haven’t had the time to get to know Chilbongie, and he’s clearly not wearing a wedding ring in the 2013 scenes, which ought to take him out of the running right away. But instead it feels like the show is setting us up for a misdirect—only time will tell… and I suspect it will take a loooot of time.
For now, I’m going to enjoy watching him try to puzzle out Na-jung like she’s a quirky alien creature; his fascination with her every move is adorable, especially when she’s not doing anything special. And that’s what gets me, more than his longing for a family life or calling Mom “Mother”—the fact that he finds her special just for being normal ol’ her.
- Answer Me 1994: Episode 3
- Answer Me 1994: Episode 2
- Answer Me 1994: Episode 1
- Answer Me 1994: Episode 0 Preview
- Answer Me 1994 revs up for broadcast with Episode 0
- Character posters and intros for Answer Me 1994