Witch’s Romance: Episode 8
It’s an emotional roller coaster as Ji-yeon finds out the truth of what happened six years ago, and why Shi-hoon never showed up to their wedding. She struggles with reconciling the pain of the past six years to the realization that Shi-hoon never stopped loving her, and it’s not an easy journey for anyone. There’s lots of tears, but there’s lots of awesomeness as Shi-hoon’s six-year disappearance is addressed, instead of just swept under the Dramaland rug of plot convenience. Dong-ha and Mom duke it out to be the favorite of the episode, for being both adorable and a voice of reason to help Ji-yeon navigate her confusion.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Prior to the press conference, Shi-hoon reveals the portrait of Ji-yeon to his assistant. He surprises his assistant even further when he admits that he decided to put it up because he felt like it would be the last time to confess, since he plans to go back to the U.S. after the exhibition. Even though Ji-yeon ripped up the invitation to the opening, he’s confident she’ll at least see the image in the newspapers.
But as Shi-hoon is making his grand confession during the press conference, the assistant recognizes Ji-yeon and hurries to the exhibit hall, furiously insisting the curators take down the collage before the reporters arrive.
But it’s too late: The reporters are here, and so is Ji-yeon. The cameras flash endless pictures as Ji-yeon stands frozen after Shi-hoon’s “Let’s start over.” Just as Dong-ha is rushing forward to save her from the situation, Shi-hoon grabs her hand and they run out of the exhibition room together, with the rest of the reporters in hot pursuit.
They hide out in the work room, where their breathless proximity unnerves Ji-yeon.
Meanwhile, the assistant is angry with Dong-ha because he allowed Ji-yeon to attend the exhibition. (Like anyone could “permit” Ji-yeon to do anything.) She says that Shi-hoon is leaving next week, so Dong-ha should make sure Ji-yeon doesn’t make a fool out of Shi-hoon, like she just did in front of all the reporters. Dong-ha points out that it was actually Shi-hoon who confessed — and besides, what kind of person does that when he knows he’s leaving in a week?
The assistant insists that this is better for everyone, because obviously a world-renowned photojournalist shouldn’t be pulled down by some tabloid reporter. Ji-yeon is a stumbling block to Shi-hoon, just like she was six years ago. The assistant is all crazy eyes as she insists that this was the reason why Shi-hoon never attended the wedding.
Dong-ha wonders if that’s really how Shi-hoon felt, or is it just the assistant’s biased interpretation. After all, why would Shi-hoon still have the ring Ji-yeon returned all those years ago? She awkwardly clutches the envelope she’s holding, and Dong-ha snatches it from her, revealing the contents to be the wedding rings and a photo of surgical instruments. On the back is written “Somalia” and the date: March 15, 2008.
Ji-yeon and Shi-hoon have managed to escape their sudden paparazzi onslaught, and she demands to know what the deal is with that picture of her — did he think she would be touched by it? She tells him that she only went into the exhibition hall to see exactly what it was that he deemed more important than her. For six years she wondered what it is she did wrong to cause him to abandon her. If she’d known, she could have fixed it.
Shi-hoon tells her that she didn’t do anything wrong, and that she’s perfect. Maybe so, but while he was off taking his super important photos, she had a very painful and difficult six years. She can never forgive him for that, which is why they won’t start over.
Meanwhile, the assistant continues to insist that she’s made Shi-hoon into the important, famous photographer that he is today, and that no one else cares as much as she does for him, not even Ji-yeon. Dong-ha is pained as he points out that she’s the direct cause of years-long suffering for both Ji-yeon and Shi-hoon.
She argues that if Ji-yeon and Shi-hoon resolve their misunderstanding, then Dong-ha loses his girlfriend, and she loses the only man in her life (not to mention the future she’s worked so hard for). Dong-ha, disgusted, says that he’s different from her, and walks away.
He shows up to where Ji-yeon and Shi-hoon are, and surprises Ji-yeon by showing her the old engagement rings. But since she doesn’t like Shi-hoon, they must not need them anymore — and Dong-ha chucks them into the pool.
As Ji-yeon reels from the knowledge that he’s kept the rings all this time, Shi-hoon angrily grabs Dong-ha’s collar before letting go, determined to fetch the rings out from the pool. Dong-ha lays down the truth about what really happened: The assistant lied to Ji-yeon when she said that Shi-hoon regretted ever getting engaged, and that Shi-hoon was shot in the leg and unable to attend the wedding due to the surgery.
Ji-yeon escorts Shi-hoon back to his office after he waded into the pool, concerned after learning about his getting shot and the fact that being the water could make his condition worse. She carefully tends to him, making sure he’s okay, while Dong-ha waits impatiently on a bench outside the apartment. He tries to shake off the thought that he’ll lose Ji-yeon now that they know the truth about Shi-hoon.
Shi-hoon explains why he never showed up for the wedding: He was sent on a last-minute assignment to Somalia, and was set to leave the day before the wedding, but war broke out. She tears up when he describes how was in a coma from his surgery for three months, and when he woke up, he saw she had returned her ring.
The next morning, Ji-yeon has a lot to think about as she sits outside on the same bench Dong-ha where had waited for her last night.
At the office, the Trouble Maker staff is pouring over news articles about Shi-hoon’s exhibition, in disbelief that the woman in the photo could be “the witch” Ji-yeon. Young-sik is the only one happy at the news as he fanboys that his two most respected sunbaes are actually a couple.
Director Kwon is delighted at the turn of events, gleefully plotting ways they can capitalize on this popularity. He suggests a tell-all article: “Phillip Noh and his Beloved Girl,” but Ji-yeon refuses. She isn’t even persuaded when he threatens to get Team Leader Byun to write the article and promises they’ll hide her face.
Ji-yeon ignores the multitude of calls that flood the office, even turning off her phone as good measure. She instead goes to visit with Na-rae for some girl-talk to try and figure out what she’s going to do. After all, Shi-hoon didn’t even try to contact her for six years, and Na-rae wonders why Dong-ha would have volunteered to tell them the truth about the misunderstanding, since it wouldn’t be to his benefit.
Watching a make-over show with her ahjumma workout friends, Ji-yeon’s mother is horrified at how painful it must be to go through so much plastic surgery. She thinks a person should just be happy with however they look naturally. But hearing the ahjummas talk about the benefits seems to change her mind and the next thing you know, she’s sitting nervously in a plastic surgeon’s office. HA. As he’s explaining some simple procedures to make her look ten years younger, she suddenly feels faint.
She’s taken to the hospital due to malnourishment for exercising on an empty stomach, but because Ji-yeon can’t be reached, Dong-ha is the one who rushes to the hospital to make sure everything is okay. All the other women in the ward are jealous of Dong-ha’s caring attentiveness (and pretty face), and Mom just lets them continue to think he’s her son-in-law. Dong-ha totally goes along with it. Aw.
Mom thinks he’s the perfect guy, except for the fact he’s just an assistant — until one of the doctors recognizes him as one of his hoobaes. Dong-ha admits that he was in medical school but hasn’t yet graduated, and Mom practically swoons at the thought that he’s a potential doctor.
When Ji-yeon rushes in to the hospital room, ready to kick up a fuss, Mom guilts her into seeing Dong-ha off.
They awkwardly stand side-by-side as they wait for the elevator. Dong-ha does an adorable and exaggerated lean to see her face and then smiles, glad to know that she’s not avoiding him any more. She tells him she was just troubled, and he snorts — it’s been hard for him, too, seeing her make the front page with “that polar bear.”
But apparently the polar bear is exactly who he wants to see, as Dong-ha visits Shi-hoon at his office. He’s there to return the wedding rings (Dong-ha fished them out of the pool instead).
Shi-hoon asks Dong-ha why he bothered to clear up the misunderstanding between him and Ji-yeon, and Dong-ha says that even though he may regret it a little, he did it because he hoped it would help Ji-yeon have some closure and free her so she can be with him without any regrets. After all, just because she now knows what really happened, that doesn’t negate the struggle of the past six years.
Shi-hoon admits those were six difficult years, but he and Ji-yeon also had ten wonderful years together, and that can’t be forgotten. Dong-ha says they’ll just have to wait and see who she’s with in ten years.
Back at the hospital, Ji-yeon is giving her mother grief for dieting instead of taking better care of herself at her age. Mom: “Do you think I was born your mother?”
She points out that a woman wants to look good at any age. Suspicious, Ji-yeon asks if she’s dating anyone, and Mom neatly dodges the question, turning the attention instead to Dong-ha. She mentions all the merits of “Mr. Yoon” and how, if he’d just finish medical school, he’d be the perfect guy. I love that Mom’s totally Team Dong-ha now.
Eun-chae, Dong-ha, and Rin-ji are cleaning up the Trouble Maker meeting room when Dong-ha gets a call from Soo-chul and rushes off. Eun-chae totally has puppy eyes as she watches him go, which does not go unnoticed by Rin-ji. She sits Eun-chae down to give her a little-heart-to-heart, telling her she should snap him up as soon as she can.
Particularly since it seems like there’s something fishy going on between him and “the witch.” Eun-chae’s eyes narrow at that news.
Director Kwon stops by the hospital to check on Ji-yeon’s mother, and she’s adorably flustered at his appearance. She tells him that it’s nothing serious — she just overworked herself by exercising too much because she gained some weight recently.
He surprises her by insisting she looks good just the way she is (since she thought he was only attracted to pretty models), and that more women should be beautiful by being healthy, like she is. Aw, I can’t blame Mom for finding him even more handsome after saying that.
The next day at the Trouble Maker office, Ji-yeon ponders the news articles about Shi-hoon and his “mysterious love” before going to the director and telling him she’ll write the article. Her only stipulation is they can’t use her photo at all, which Director Kwon agrees to.
Shi-hoon shows up unannounced at Ji-yeon’s mother’s house, and it’s like seeing a ghost. Voice shaking, she yells at him for daring to call her “mother” when he’s been gone for six years with no word. She spent months acting like a crazy woman, trying to track down any trace of him, but it was like he had disappeared into thin air.
He gets down on his knees as he informs her that he never once forgot Ji-yeon for a single day during those six years, and Ji-yeon’s mother once thought of him as her own son, so please give him another chance. Mom’s voice suddenly becomes much calmer as she agrees: Yes, she treated Shi-hoon better than she would her husband if he was still living — but Shi-hoon needs to “wake up” because Ji-yeon forgot about him years ago.
With that parting shot, she goes into the house — and collapses in shock after she closes the door. She weeps as she wonders how he could say that after being away for so long, her heart grieving for her daughter.
Suddenly wondering if Ji-yeon knows that Shi-hoon’s back, she hurries to Na-rae’s restaurant (where she thinks Ji-yeon has been staying). But Na-rae and Min-goo’s awkward attempts to cover for Ji-yeon lead to outing the fact that Ji-yeon is living at Dong-ha’s, and Mom rushes out.
Soo-chul preps for a night out clubbing when he goes to answer the door — and it’s Mom. She’s ready to storm in and yell at “Mr. Yoon” but is stopped by the sight of Soo-chul: “Who are you?”
Ji-yeon gives up on her attempt to hide (and also subtly makes it clear that Soo-chul should high-tail it out of there, ha). Mom yells at her for being an unmarried woman living with men, even wondering if she’s got more guys hidden around the apartment. Hahaha!
Dong-ha is on his way back to the apartment, but Soo-chul stops him, warning him that Ji-yeon’s mother is there, and it’s best he stay away. But that only prompts him to hurry up the stairs. He steels himself for the confrontation as he opens the door, but as soon he walks in, he hears them talking about Shi-hoon, and he stops in the entry way.
Mom is angry at the way Shi-hoon jilted Ji-yeon at the altar and then disappeared without a word for six years, but Ji-yeon explains the situation regarding his accident. Mom insists that he still could have contacted them.
Ji-yeon’s all fired up as she agrees: Even if it wasn’t six years ago, why not five? Or three? Or even last year? Good questions, all of them.
The two women take turns calling him names, and as Mom is ready to unleash more fury on Shi-hoon, she looks over to see Ji-yeon’s face crumpling as she starts to cry.
Ji-yeon sobs as she admits that her heart still hurts. Mom also tears up and pulls her daughter into a tight hug as Ji-yeon repeats over and over through her tears that her heart hurts so much. Having overheard everything, Dong-ha quietly slips unnoticed out of the apartment.
Team Leader Byun drags Young-sik into the Trouble Maker restroom (which is probably the coolest unisex bathroom I’ve ever seen), bribing him with promises of blind dates if he’ll take some pictures for him. At first Young-sik is adorably loyal to Ji-yeon, but is eventually persuaded.
Shi-hoon is at coffee shop, and when he sees a couple laughing as they huddle over a laptop, he remembers earlier days when he and Ji-yeon would spent their time in similar ways.
She was studying for an entrance exam for one of the newspapers so that she and Shi-hoon could fulfill a dream of traveling the world, sharing important stories — she would write them, and he would take the photos. I have to begrudgingly admit they made a pretty adorable couple back then, all smiles and playful banter. (It’s also super cute how she keeps protesting when he takes her picture, but she still poses anyway.)
Back in the current day, Ji-yeon arrives at his table, where he shows off that he not only remembers how she takes her coffee, but that she also doesn’t like cooked carrots, she squeezes the toothpaste tube from the middle, and she likes to kiss when she gets drunk. (Pretty sure Dong-ha knows that last one, too. Just sayin’.)
But this isn’t a friendly date — it’s an official interview. Ji-yeon tells him that with her article, she’ll bury all the other ones about the “Once Beloved” photograph.
Across the way from the coffee shop, Team Leader Byun and Young-sik have been taking photos of Ji-yeon and Shi-hoon (Team Leader Byun marveling that “the witch” is capable of smiling like that). It’s laughable the ridiculous way they’ve tried to hide themselves behind a newspaper and a magazine, so Ji-yeon notices them right away.
She walks straight over to them, and Team Leader Byun runs away, but at her command Young-sik stays and, with additional threats (and a smack upside the head), hands over the SD card of all the photos he took.
Soo-chul, Eun-chae, and Dong-ha meet up for their three-way date at Na-rae’s restaurant, and even though Soo-chul is at his charming best, Eun-chae only has eyes for Dong-ha.
Na-rae notices this right away, calling it an “ominous gaze” as she worries for poor Dong-ha. She also worries because he’s drinking more than usual. Dong-ha takes shot after shot of soju, until he eventually agrees that it’s time for him to head home, telling Soo-chul to take care of Eun-chae.
When Eun-chae says that they should go, too, Soo-chul tells her (out of concern) that it won’t work with Dong-ha — he can only ever be just an oppa she knows.
Dong-ha lies down on the benches outside the apartment, thinking back to when Ji-yeon cried about how her heart hurts, and laughs to himself as he says the polar bear is too strong.
Ji-yeon waits in the apartment with suitcase open, and any time she hears a noise she pretends to be focused on packing — but once she realizes that it isn’t Dong-ha, she sighs and takes out all her clothes. Aw, why so cute? But eventually she can’t figure out how to stall any longer, and she paces the apartment with her suitcase fully packed until Dong-ha finally arrives home.
She pretends that she just “happened” to catch him as she was on her way over to her apartment, glad she gets a chance to say “goodbye.” Dong-ha is slightly confused (and, y’know, still tipsy), because they’ll continue to live next-door to each other, not to mention see each other at work every day. But he still offers to carry her suitcase over.
Back in Ji-yeon’s newly renovated apartment, Dong-ha volunteers his services to help her unpack, and when she says she’ll take care of it later, he tells her she should use him while he’s here. She offers him a drink (beer? Maybe? Yes? Please?), but just then her phone rings and, sigh, of course it’s Shi-hoon.
Dong-ha’s face falls as she retreats to the kitchen to have a private conversation with Shi-hoon. He turns around to reveal the book he’s been hiding behind his back (Paulo Coelho’s The Magic Moment). Flipping through the pages, he reads one of the passages to himself:
True love sincerely wishes the other person to be happy. Life is short. So if there are any words you’ve been holding in your heart, consider this your last chance and try saying them today. The moment of magic you’ve been waiting for is, without delay, today.
On the title page of the book, Dong-ha has written: “Would you stay with me?”
He slides the book on the shelf as Ji-yeon returns with his drink (aw, just OJ), and when she turns towards the hallway, he hurries after. Pulling her into a back hug, he asks: “Can you not go back to him?”
Ahhhhhhh! Talk about your cliff-hanger. Even though I totally want her to say she’ll stay with Dong-ha (where they will of course drink beer as they set up her apartment, which would hopefully lead to — ahem — other things), I also can understand her confusion right now. I may not like it, but I understand it.
Honestly, this was a hard episode for me to recap, because so much of it was dwelling in Ji-yeon’s pain and confusion over what really happened with Shi-hoon, and trying to figure out she feels now that she knows the truth. I’m still totally on board with Shi-hoon sticking to his promise of leaving after his exhibition and never coming back, but Ji-yeon never really got to have the closure she needed from that relationship. There’s no doubt she loved him. She was going to marry him. He was an important, vital part of her life — and then suddenly he was gone.
She may have managed to move on and live her life, but that pain was somehow always there. She always expects, for example, that the anniversary of their non-wedding is going to be one of the worst days out of her year. The first item she was desperate to save from her apartment was the polar bear proposal photo. So to suddenly be confronted with the fact that he’s returned from out of the blue and still loves her as much as he ever did, her world has been turned upside down.
Which is why I think the most moving scene was when she and Mom were in the apartment, and Ji-yeon goes from calling Shi-hoon a bastard to bursting into tears. That was such a real moment — she knows that it’s ridiculous he’s spent all this time away without bothering to contact her even once, and she knows that it would be best to cut him out of her life, like she’s been used to for the past six years. But her heart is suddenly reeling from having what was thought to be a scarred-over wound now suddenly opened up fresh and new. It’s frustrating, of course, because we all want her to just be with Dong-ha (like, yesterday), but this is important because we need her to officially move on through her own free will, and not just because he’s suddenly no longer there.
As painful as it is, I really appreciate the writers for giving us a very real and accurate struggle of what it feels like to encounter an old ex that you thought you were over, and you know you should be over, but something still tugs at the heart, whether you like it or not. Which is why I (yet again) admire Dong-ha’s emotional maturity because he knows that this is a something Ji-yeon needs to work through, even if it means risking that he’ll lose her to Shi-hoon. But unlike that awful assistant (who Shi-hoon should seriously fire, because she’s crazy-pants), Dong-ha loves Ji-yeon to a point where he wants to make sure she’s happy, even if it’s without him. Even so, he’s not going to go down the path of noble idiocy and give up without a fight.
Even though I’m still worried that she’ll brush him off because she needs more time to figure out how she feels about Shi-hoon. Sigh.
But how about some happy thoughts? Like Mom — she totally gets MVP of the episode. How awesome is she? I love that we have a Dramaland mother who feels like a real mother and not just some two-dimensional character that just slides an envelope of money across the table so she can protect her chaebol son from some undesirable poor woman.
Yes, she wants Ji-yeon to get married and is totally willing to force her into going on blind dates, but mostly she wants to see Ji-yeon happy. She’s willing to fight for her daughter’s happiness, whether it’s spending her time and money trying to track down Shi-hoon when he first disappeared, or ordering him to get out when he reappears, knowing seeing him again will totally crush Ji-yeon. Not to mention how she saucily teases her daughter, pointing out just because she’s a mom, doesn’t mean she can’t have her own life and love (and aw, how cute a couple does she make with Director Kwon?).
When it comes right down to it, the reason I love Ji-yeon’s mother (and not just because she was totally the voice of reason) is that their mother-daughter relationship feels so real to me — I can see my own relationship with my mother reflected in it. I’ve mentioned before that Dong-ha and Ji-yeon impress me with how they are able to genuinely connect with one another, and this ability to connect is something I see spreading throughout the entire show. Characters that seemed to be plot devices at first glance are now given more depth and sincerity (not all of them, of course, but I find I keep becoming more and more surprised that there’s more to other characters than I originally gave them credit for).
A rom-com that gives me character growth also gives me hope, since now that we’re at the half-way point, I figure we’ll still be dealing with unpacking the rest of the emotional baggage that’s been sitting around for six years as Shi-hoon’s been off having surgeries and other adventures. While I would normally sigh at the promise of more angst, I’m actually hopeful that this means Ji-yeon will be able to move on and return to Dong-ha with clear heart.
And also some kisses. (Seriously, show. There needs to be more kisses.)