Finale week means we’re wrapping up loose ends, and one nice side effect is that angst steps aside and lets cuteness and humor a moment in the spotlight. I won’t say it didn’t take forever and a day (or that everything makes the most sense, plotwise), but neither am I about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Jokes and smiles, come on in. We’ve all earned it, haven’t we?

SONG OF THE DAY

Yoon Gun – “Free” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 19 RECAP

The Jeguk family arrives at Tan’s birthday party, and by family I mean the entire dysfunctional brood including Chairman Dad’s own siblings and nephews. There’s a lot of false concern for the chairman’s health and superficial smiling, which seems like par for the course for all these heirs.

Our high school cast is mostly present, and Bo-na lights up in surprise to see an unexpected face: “Oh my god, Oppa?” She goes off after a very spiffy-looking Lee Hyun-jin (cameo!) and Chan-young furrows his brow. It’s so cute how he gets pissy, particularly when Bo-na links arms with Oppa and brings him over for introductions.

Chan-young starts in on her right away and crossly tells her to drop the linked arms, only to find out that Oppa is her real oppa, as in brother. Heh. Immediately Chan-young adopts a contrite demeanor and speaks politely.

Won arrives to see that his parents are sitting with his would-be fiancée, which isn’t a welcome sight as he has no interest in marrying that heiress. He asks where her boyfriend went and she says that he’s too poor to bring to places like this, and when asked whether he has a girlfriend, Won freely admits it. Not-Quite-Fiancée smirks that their similarity is why they’ll get along well, which he flatly contradicts.

Now Tan makes his grand entrance with Eun-sang, and the paparazzi go nuts. With flashbulbs going off madly around them, Tan takes her hand and tells her it’s an honor to be here with her, and in they go with heads held high.

It’s a sight that immediately hardens the faces of Chairman Dad and Madam Jung, while even Won looks stunned at the ballsy move. I have to say this does make a really nice point, because Won and his heiress both have “commoner” honeys but it didn’t even occur to them to break convention—they’re dating in secret, even if they say there’s no shame involved—while Tan is all, Fuck ’em all. I do have to admire that message.

Tan and Eun-sang head straight for the parents, who have no choice but to shut up and look pleasant for the sake of the cameras. Tan thanks his father for the lovely party, and Eun-sang offers a polite greeting. Tan then greets his uncles and cousins, and introduces Eun-sang to them as well. The wall of reporters clamors for a statement, but Chairman Dad says they’ve gotten their photos and has them ushered out.

Dad wastes no time pulling the two kids aside so he can yell at them, but Tan stands firm. He states calmly that he isn’t afraid of his father, nor does he desire the things Dad wants him to have above Eun-sang, and therefore asks for Dad to give his approval. Perhaps the chairman finally sees that Tan isn’t going to budge, or perhaps he’s got other thoughts in mind, but he grudgingly tells Tan to go ahead and date the girl. He says it’s not an approval and believes that both kids will regret it later, saying, “Don’t ever think I lost to you. I’m just letting you off the hook.”

But he leaves it at that, and Tan breaks into a huge smile of relief, telling Eun-sang that all of Dad’s bluster was to preserve his pride, and that they’ve passed one great hurdle. I’m not so sure this is a victory, but that may be a fault of the writing because this scene is no different from all the other showdowns we’ve seen and doesn’t feel like it’s arrived at any sort of resolution.

Tan and Eun-sang accept it as good news, though, and he takes her up to Mom’s new apartment to visit her, since she wasn’t allowed to his birthday party. Tan presents her with a cake and a gift—a necklace with a key pendant—that brings tears to his mother’s eyes.

Adorably, Madam Han asks after Mom, and the next thing we know a fancy car pulls up to Mom’s neighborhood. Mom lights up to see her, and Madam Han gives her a great big hug. Madam Han chides Mom with leaving so abruptly and asks if she missed her. Aww, I love this relationship. They’re gonna be the best moms-in-law ever.

Tan drops by Young-do’s place to take care of some loose ends. Young-do sees what he’s driving at and suggests that they be neither sorry nor grateful to each other (particularly regarding each other’s mothers), in his characteristic if-we-don’t-talk-about-it-maybe-we-won’t-feel-it way (I never thought I’d say it, but avoidance does seem to be Young-do’s fatal flaw). But Tan says that while Young-do isn’t obligated to feel either way, he wants to tell him that he is both, and leaves it at that.

Young-do stops Tan’s exit to say that he knows his mother’s departure wasn’t Tan’s fault, but that he needed to hate him for it. Tan understands this and accepts it in his calm, composed way. Acknowledgment, not reconciliation.

Young-do sees a stack of photos of Tan and Eun-sang from the party, and Myung-soo tries too late to cover them up. Playing the part of supportive buddy, he shows Young-do the poster he made, which states that there are no Tans, Eun-sangs, or dogs allowed here. Young-do scoffs, “What crime has the dog committed?” Heh.

Over drinks, Mom cutely nags Madam Han for leaving the house when she has no skills with which to strike out on her own. Madam Han is feeling rather glum, owning that she is where she is because she wanted the home and life that belonged to another woman, and as a result she never was able to be a proper wife or mother.

Overcome with emotion, Madam Han steps out to sob on the beach. Mom quietly joins her, doing nothing but offering her silent support.

Tan and Eun-sang are surprised to arrive in the same cafe coincidentally, only to find that they’ve both been called by Won. The brothers want Eun-sang to move into that apartment, but she’s already decided to return to her old neighborhood with her mother.

Half-teasing and half-serious, she tells Tan that they could always break up and that would be mighty messy if she were living in a place he supplied, which leads to a round of bickering wherein they both ignore Won. She’s all, Sure we’re mad for each other NOW… and Tan’s all, We’re gonna be together forever!

Next, it’s time to win Mom’s approval for the relationship, and Tan kneels before her and asks for her to accept them. Mom takes a curiously long time to respond, and at that Madam Han bursts into the room (having eavesdropped, lol) and gets indignant at Mom’s hesitation. This leads to both women bragging about their kids being too good for the other, and Mom snappishly Eun-sang on curfew.

In the heated arguing that ensues, Mom raises a fist to hit Eun-sang in the arm, and Tan darts in front to take the hit instead, which makes all four freeze in surprise. So Eun-sang hisses at Tan to go with it and he drops to the ground, yelling in exaggerated pain, adding feebly, “But if she were to approve, I think I’d feel better.” HA.

Mom ain’t no fool, though, and hits Tan a second time, glaring. But they understand that she’s grudgingly onboard, and the kids thank her.

Eun-sang moves again, and to her surprise Tan is already there when she arrives. He’s prepared a surprise for her and leads her in with eyes covered, revealing a slideshow of sorts—it’s a compilation of videos featuring Eun-sang, cobbled together from handheld camera clips and, omg, his stalker security footage. Way to overtly romanticize the creepy.

He complains at her reaction, which isn’t nearly gooey enough for his liking. She reminds him that she prefers horror to romance, though she does sneak in a peck on the cheek. Not content with that, Tan mock-threatens more romance on her and ends up chasing her around the apartment.

At school, the mean girls are back to picking on the one who’s down, and today it’s Rachel. Armed with the gossip of her mother’s broken engagement, the girls snipe about people only tolerated her due to her connection with Tan. Leading the charge is Yi-sol, because nobody ever learns.

Young-do’s interference is enough to get them to skitter off, though, and he slings an arm around her and tells her to make it look like they’re on good terms. She tells him that his fear quotient is on the wane, but he’s okay with that and declares that he’ll continue being her oppa. I actually like that this duo never developed much romantic chemistry, because to me it’s somehow sweeter that they’ve got to this point of (grudging) mutual caring. They’d both rather die than admit it, but Rachel asks about his father’s company and is relieved to hear that things are okay for now.

As he walks down the corridor, Young-do sees Eun-sang heading toward him and she prepares to say something… but he just passes on by.

Bo-na tells Eun-sang that the midterm rankings are out, warning her with vague dire threats should Chan-young have lost his place due to worrying about Eun-sang too much.
if she made Chan-young’s grades drop.

When Eun-sang gets to the bulletin board, a crowd has already amassed—they’re being blocked by Tan, who is blocking the sheet from view, HA. When he sees Eun-sang, he rips the page from the board and runs off, and she exclaims, “Are you last place again?”

Eun-sang snatches the sheet from him and he grabs her wallet in turn. He admits that he hasn’t looked yet—he isn’t ready to know how he scored. But as it turns out, Chan-young took a photo of the whole list and has uploaded it, HAHA.

Tan cringes to himself in dread, but Eun-sang sees that he’s made it to 50th place and he immediately puffs up in pride. Like you weren’t just about to dig a hole and crawl into it. He declares that his life has finally found a middle ground… and then gets pissy when Eun-sang marvels at Young-do’s placement, having shot up to 27th.

Of course, when Tan asks what place she is, she just runs away. Lol.

Young-do dedicates himself to improving his judo as well, practicing up a storm and then going up against his father again. And finally, he manages to take him down for the first time, and his father concedes the defeat. He asks what Young-do wants as reward, and Young-do answers, “Mom.” Aw. Unfortunately this is something his father can’t give him, because he doesn’t know where she is either. A bit bitterly, Young-do says, “That’s fortunate.”

So it’s back to that snack shop he goes, staring at that familiar wall. Today, however, the ajumma notices his name tag and realizes that he’s the Young-do she was asked to pass along a message to. (Seriously, Heirs? HOW CONVENIENT.) She passes him a business card that a pretty woman left for her a while ago, which belongs to the owner of a cafe named Secret Garden. Geddit?

The broadcasting club is working with a couple other students from another school, and Bo-na enjoys the idea of getting to hang out with cute boys. She and Eun-sang head off to meet with them, while Hyo-shin chuckles as he texts their boyfriends, stirring the pot with glee.

So it is that the girls are mid-introductions when the boyfriends arrive glaring, asserting their places and sending the other boys away. The foursome get into a four-way bickering match over this, because of course Tan can’t scold Bo-na without Chan-young butting in, and then Eun-sang has to defend Tan, and then everybody’s just snapping at everybody else. Oh, jealousy.

Still, this is the kind of fighting Tan is happy to engage in, as he tells Eun-sang later, because this conflict is solely between them—it’s not driven by others. I can get behind that statement, that’s for sure. Then he gives Eun-sang a new wallet to replace her old one, in which he has placed a photo of himself, of course.

Chan-young’s father drops by an old haunt in a rundown-looking building, the kind of musty coffee shop that plays old records. To his surprise he finds Rachel’s mother there, and they sit down for a coffee together, exchanging a few pleasantries before she admits that she doesn’t really know how to be in love. She explains that Rachel cried over her broken engagement, having liked Tan but not knowing how to handle it, and it’s something Mom was never able to teach because she herself never knew how to do.

Wistfully, she says that it made her reflect on the way she’s lived, thinking she only wanted to chase riches, that she could live without Chan-young’s father.

Tan wants his mother to move out of the hotel room and into a nice apartment, but she declares that she’s through with fancy houses and the like. She wants to wander the world with her own two feet, and tells Tan to return home to Dad. Tan just says that she’s his father now.

It’s a sad affair in the empty Kim mansion, with Chairman Dad having chased off everybody close to him. He envisions a younger Won and Tan coming home from school, and stops himself from hugging childhood Tan, stopped by Won’s harsh stare. But it’s only a vision, and Dad realizes he’s all alone in this room—just as a wave of pain hits and he collapses.

The brothers and Madam Han rush to the hospital, where they are told that the chairman is in a coma from his brain hemorrhage, and unless he wakes, they can’t operate. Madam Jung, on the other hand, realizes that this is the moment she’s been waiting for, and moves into action. While Won is distracted, she calls a meeting with the chairman’s brothers and nephews to state her case—she has little faith in Won or Tan to run Jeguk, and she can’t entrust her husband’s hard work into their hands.

The uncles are of the same mind, and the carrot she dangles in their faces is a tempting one: If they will throw their weight behind her (and not Won or Tan), she can help regain the chance they had thought lost to them. After all, Chairman Dad did not create Jeguk, and whoever takes over can rewrite the story their way.

Thankfully Chan-young’s father is shrewd enough to realize this as well and warns Won and Tan of this likely development. They anticipate that Madam Jung will call a stockholders meeting to take over the chairman’s voting rights, which would essentially give all the power to her.

Young-do broods over his mother’s business card a while, but it’s his father who ends up presenting the more immediate concern. In response to the prosecutor’s investigation, a team of authorities barge in on the president’s office and raid his files, confiscating evidence. Young-do bursts into the room angrily and tries to stop them, but his father orders him to stand down and do nothing. In frustration, Young-do is taken out of the room while his father stands by.

Tan is keeping vigil at his father’s bedside that night when Madam Jung finally drops by, and the air is icy between them. She says cavalierly that there’s no hope of Dad’s recovery, while Tan insists that he will recover. He warns her not to think of taking control of his stocks, because he will have his legal guardianship transferred from her to Won.

Madam Jung just tells him to go ahead, smirking that he can learn life lessons the hard way. Welcome to the cold hard world, she says, which is full of ambition and stealing and being stolen from.

Won enters the room just as she leaves it, and advises little bro not let whatever she may have said upset him. It’s not for him to worry about, Won says.

He sends Tan home for the night, but instead of to the room, Tan heads up to the hotel roof to brood.

And what do you know, Young-do is there too, dealing with his own pain.

They lock eyes for a moment, then stand there looking off into the distance. Both close but far, side by side but lost.

 
COMMENTS

Why do we finally get a hint of some interesting character development, only to have it happen literally with ONE hour to go? Happy and Wise Adviser Won should’ve put on his big bro pants earlier instead of pouting about some damn stocks, Young-do should have been allowed to confront his mother woes sooner, the Tan/Young-do grudging truce would have been amazing if we’d gotten to spend any time with it, and Madam Jung should have made her move eons ago.

Best of all, that means Chairman Dad would’ve had to get hit with a coma much earlier, and that could’ve spared us a lot of needless (and boring) pain. All drama long I was thinking that Dad was a lazy narrative device because he was just a blanket villain, when really it’s his absence that would have made for the interesting conflict. Having to sit through less of his sneering god complex would’ve just been the bonus to having a power scramble that would actually have been fun to watch, or at least compelling.

Instead, we got so much of that mopey teenage romance, and there just wasn’t enough there to actually sustain So Much Dramz. The “resolution” of both Mom and Chairman Dad’s approvals just highlighted how empty that whole storyline was, because basically they opposed the match, and then they changed their minds. Happiness button activated, and we move on just like that. What was the point of all that pain if this was the way to end it?

I suppose later is always better than never, so at least the wrap-up is giving us a few nice character moments to end on. I found the ending scene surprisingly affecting, especially with no Eun-sang between the boys to represent a prize to be won, and it gave the former friends a moment of connection over something real—shared pain, loss, fear at being eighteen and powerless despite feeling like they’re on the cusp of adulthood—instead of just, you know, liking the same girl. Oh, Heirs. I was all set to write you off as a drama that was never going to be anything but meaningless pretty fluff, but now I’ll have to actually sigh over what you could have been but chose not to be.

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