Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 16
Do-hyun and Ri-jin finally get to ride the Snowflake Train, but is it the end of the line for them as a couple? The sweetness is undercut by the reality of their situation, and the thread of melancholy that has been with us ever since Ri-jin’s memories started unfurling continues to grow.
We’re several steps closer to exposing the rotten core of Seungjin, and the black hearts inside it. But the question we’re left with is, as ever: What does it mean to be Cha Do-hyun?
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Do-hyun and Ri-jin separately get ready for their day out, and Do-hyun’s burdened expression contrasts sharply with Ri-jin’s excitement. He finds Se-gi’s toy train in his wardrobe, and it reminds him of little Ri-jin.
Finally on the Snowflake Train, Do-hyun writes busily in a notebook while Ri-jin enthuses over the scenery. She fakes seeing a deer to snatch his notebook from him, and reads off a list of questions: hobbies, favorite colors, favorite things. He defensively reminds her that she told him that if they took a trip together, he could get to know her more.
She laughs at his strictly regimented schedule, and pounces on one of his items… which finds them playing the Zero game. His slow reactions crack her up, and she gleefully delivers wrist-smacks as punishment. When he declares it all invalid, his callback to Se-gi makes her grin even more.
They scramble off at their stop. Inside the train hang postcards they’ve written commemorating the happy moment. Ri-jin’s thanks him for keeping his promise, and Do-hyun’s characteristically says, “Remember: 26th February, 2015.”
Skipping ahead, Ri-jin tells Do-hyun her newly remembered memory. She was playing with a train set with another kid, and they promised to take a faraway train trip when they grew up. She tells him that Ri-on would say the kid was him, but she knows it wasn’t.
Grandma gets the report that Do-hyun’s uncle is urgently seeking a child. Her aide adds that her longtime boardroom supporters had a secret conference with Uncle, and points out that firing Do-hyun has left her at a disadvantage for the upcoming shareholders meeting. The suggestion that she might want to recall him makes her grim.
On his way out, the aide catches Do-hyun’s mom listening at the door.
Mom dines with Uncle, who guesses the reason she summoned him is to take care of Do-hyun. Since she’s only after capitalizing Do-hyun’s interests, it doesn’t matter whether it comes from Grandma’s side or his. Mom wants him to fork over the management for the group’s department store and car subsidiaries to Do-hyun, which is more than Uncle has in mind. He wants to know what’s in it for him.
Do-hyun giggles at Ri-jin’s kimbap-fail, and she swears they didn’t look like that in the morning, ha. As they slurp noodles, she confesses her two failings: she can’t cook (unlike her mom), and she sucks at arithmetic (like Dad).
He asks her how she takes after her brother, and she quips that they have a tendency to use their fists before their words. Also, neither can refuse other people’s requests, and they share a fear of basements. The last almost makes his smile slip.
An interlude takes us back to his conversation with Ri-on the day before, when he told him he had read “The Child in the Basement.”
He fills Ri-on in on how the story continued: The girl and the boy promised to meet every night at 10 o’clock, in the basement where the girl was locked up. Ri-on asks why the girl had to be hidden away. Do-hyun hasn’t found that out yet, but he begins to tell the story of what happened there 21 years ago.
In the present, Ri-on packs up and drives somewhere while Do-hyun’s story continues in voiceover. Keeping their promise to meet was hard, he says, because if the boy was found out or did something wrong, his father punished the girl instead.
Ri-jin and Do-hyun madly pedal a railrider along a country track, cheering each other on, while Do-hyun’s narration continues:
Do-hyun: “The boy who could not protect that girl took his memories of despair, pain, and powerlessness and sealed them up. And then he carved up his own self into pieces. But the sealed memories went wrong. He mistook the terrible abuse the girl suffered as his own memories, because he had wanted to suffer that abuse instead of the girl. Because he’d earnestly hoped that he’d be the one to feel the pain that the girl suffered.”
Ri-on reassures Do-hyun that he isn’t to blame: He didn’t stand idly by, and was a victim himself. Pretending not to see anything is always easiest — if just one of those bystanders had done something, then the victim’s soul wouldn’t have been ravaged, Ri-on says.
Do-hyun asks him to write that novel on Seungjin. This time, Do-hyun will provide the material — his only condition is that Ri-on make it a bestseller.
Back in the present, Ri-jin reminisces with Do-hyun about fighting with her brother during a family holiday when they were kids. She tells Do-hyun that she learned some martial arts techniques from Ri-on, and laughingly notes that it’s been pretty useful in life — like when she needs rein in Yo-na. The mention makes him shudder, and she pokes fun at him.
In answer to his question, Ri-jin tells him her name means “bright treasure,” as in clever. Do-hyun tells her it suits her, and promises to remember it for a long time. Gah why does everything sound like goodbye?
They walk together along the railroad, and when she sees the sea, Ri-jin runs ahead into the waves. Do-hyun hangs back.
“Oh Ri-jin…” he starts. She stops him — she knows what he’s going to say. His lost memories have come back, haven’t they? And she’s in them. She thinks they must be bad memories that would be upsetting for her to remember, and that’s why he’s planning to say goodbye now. She faces out to sea, eyes full.
Do-hyun thanks her for all she’s done. He tells her that his grandmother and mother know about his illness, and he no longer needs her services. Therefore, their contract is over as of today.
Her back still to him, she keeps her tone bright and tells him he should leave first, if he has the confidence to show her his back. He goes.
Ri-on arrives as Do-hyun leaves, and drops a blanket over Ri-jin’s crouched figure. She takes it off, and he pulls out his usual bluster and takes her away to get warm.
Over a hot meal, she wonders if the two of them planned this whole thing together. He admits they did, the day before at the hospital. Do-hyun was going to break up with her, but couldn’t bear to leave her by herself.
She hasn’t got much to say to that, and just tucks into her soup like it doesn’t matter. Ri-on’s concerned and begs her to react, to curse him or Do-hyun (“that jerk”).
She tells him that Do-hyun wants to keep her from remembering the bad memories of her past. Ri-on agrees with that line of reasoning, and says that she’s been fine all this time without those awful memories. Her life is good. She has her family, and they have each other — can’t they go on as before?
Seeing her hold it in, he tells her to just let it out and cry, and she finally lets herself.
Do-hyun’s not doing much better at home. Chief Ahn finds him stretched out on his couch, arm over eyes. Do-hyun tells him Ri-jin’s last words, and how he turned away so coolly. Chief Ahn asks if he’s been drinking. He has, but he’s not drunk, Do-hyun replies. He wishes he were crazy-drunk right now, so that Se-gi or Perry would come out and take a year of his time away. But those guys are never around when you need them, he laugh-cries.
Chief Ahn, bless him, puts him to bed. He tells Do-hyun that the pain of heartbreaks is not to be scoffed at. It sounds like he knows all about it, Do-hyun observes. The chief just tells him that crying could help. It’s not the same as losing your country — but Do-hyun cuts in that he does feel like he unfairly lost his country: “The country I long for all the time, even though I left.”
Over breakfast at the Oh house, Ri-on mutters to Ri-jin that she should tone it down if she doesn’t want her heartbreak to be obvious. Mom and Dad both pick up on her forced cheerfulness and wonder what’s up. They bicker about the cause — could it be that she’s not eating properly? Or maybe she eats too much and that’s why she gets treated badly, Mom says. Dad is so upset by the idea of her eating habits being criticized that he tells Ri-jin to quit right away.
Right on cue, her luggage from Do-hyun’s house arrives back. They’re shocked that that she was fired, but Ri-jin points out that Dad told her to quit, and takes credit for obeying him so promptly. She shrugs off Ri-on’s help and leaves to unpack on her own, while Dad still thinks she lost the job because of her eating, lol.
Alone, Ri-jin sighs over her bunny pajamas, wishing she had given them to Yo-na. She’s interrupted by a call — it’s Grandma Seo.
Do-hyun and Dr. Seok talk, and Do-hyun tells him how he’s sharing Se-gi’s memories and also slowly recovering his lost childhood ones. Dr. Seok muses that only integration is left now, before he goes back to the U.S. Do-hyun doesn’t plan to return yet, though — he still has to uncover why that child had to be hidden and why she was abused, he says. Only then can he begin to make amends. Dr. Seok, who doesn’t yet know that child was Ri-jin, tells Do-hyun he should continue receiving her private help.
Ri-jin is shown into Grandma’s study and the housekeeper makes a secret call to Chief Ahn to let him know. He takes the call while meeting with Min Seo-yeon’s former driver, trying to track down the employees from the day of the fire.
Chief Ahn updates Do-hyun on the investigation. As an afterthought, he adds that Ri-jin was summoned by Grandma — news that sends Do-hyun racing to his car.
Grandma is displeased to find out Ri-jin is no longer Do-hyun’s secret doctor, and dismisses her. But Ri-jin pauses to say one more thing, as his former doctor: He can’t heal from his illness alone, and he badly needs his family’s care. If his grandmother helped him find out his past, it could help his treatment. Oh Ri-jin, if only you knew.
Grandma warns Ri-jin that she is overstepping. True to form, she only has scorn for Do-hyun and asks what help there is for someone who’s stuck on the past. Does Ri-jin want her to apologize?
Ri-jin replies with a quote from Swiss theologian Karl Barth: “While no one can go back and create a new beginning, everyone can start anew and create a new ending.” Grandma does not like being schooled, and orders her out.
As Ri-jin leaves, Grandma mutters that she’s impertinent, dislodging an old memory of those same words. She freezes. When she catches sight of the photos of Do-hyun’s dad, her breath catches and the room darkens around her. Grandma watches her like a hawk as the housekeeper helps her outside.
Before Ri-jin can exit the house, she’s gripped by another flashback. Little Ri-jin plays violin, accompanying the boy on the piano. He gets it wrong, and Evil Dad approaches Ri-jin with a cane, sneering that she’s just like her mother. He drags her away, while a sobbing Do-hyun begs to take the punishment instead of her.
Ri-jin stumbles from one memory to another: She’s locked in the basement, rattling at the handle. Then, she backs into a corner as Dad approaches with his arm raised. The boy’s appeals for her to be spared are constant, and little Ri-jin pleads for mercy.
Finally out of the house and in the present, Ri-jin recalls Do-hyun’s mission to find the child in his basement. She suddenly wonders if that child was her. The pieces come together in her mind, like Do-hyun’s apology for being late being an exact echo of the boy of her memories. Which means…that boy in her memories is Do-hyun?
She remembers Do-hyun telling her to stop searching out her lost memories for his sake. As the full implication hits her, she collapses to her knees.
Just arrived, Do-hyun sees her and comes running. But she’s lost in the pain of her memories, and reflexively curls into a ball, crying. He reaches for her — and stops himself, allowing the housekeeper to bundle her inside.
Do-hyun bursts into Grandma’s study, demanding to know what she said to Ri-jin. Grandma says she wanted to consult with his doctor, and Do-hyun asks what more she can possibly want to find out about him. Characteristically, she ignores him and instead tells him join the company. She wants him in the construction subsidiary, and tells him to prepare for a shareholder meeting.
Do-hyun declines (yeah! Stick it to her!). She’s taken aback by his refusal, and he repeats what he told her before, that he has things to do. He won’t return to the company. With that, he exits.
A dead-eyed Ri-jin meets with Ri-on. Staring out the window, she asks him to interpret her “nightmare.” She describes the boy playing on the piano who made a mistake, and how a man imprisoned her in the basement because of it. Every night at 10 o’clock, she waited for the boy to come and play with her. Was that boy Ri-on — or was it Cha Do-hyun?
Ri-on asks if her memories have come back. She wonders just how much he knew, and how much he and Do-hyun colluded to keep the truth from her. But, she tells him, she’ll find out for herself.
Ri-jin finds her mom, and can’t help crying as soon as she sees her. She tells Mom that she’s curious now about her birth parents, and what kind of people they were.
Chief Ahn has some new documents for Do-hyun’s investigation. He gives him a copy of the family register, and Min Seo-yeon’s immigration records. The latter show her entering the country with Grandma and a 6-year-old girl in June 1993, but he points out that all official trace of that girl vanished thereafter.
But Do-hyun is confused by the family register. His dad returned to Seungjin with Do-hyun in order to enter him into the registry so he could enter school. But why is his name already registered here months before anyone knew of his existence? Oh man, I have a weird hunch.
Ri-jin’s mom gives her an envelope containing some of her birth mother’s effects. Ri-jin doesn’t have the courage to look at it right away and instead asks her mom to tell her more about Min Seo-yeon. She was capable and kind, Mom says, like Ri-jin. But marrying into a rich, messed-up family changed her.
Mom explains that Seo-yeon had loved someone else, but was pressured into her marriage. She was so competent that her father-in-law (i.e., Do-hyun’s grandfather) preferred her to his own son. In the end, her husband fell out badly with his father and left, finally giving her the divorce she begged for.
Seo-yeon confided to Mom then that she’d found her man, and she was going to the U.S. to be with him. Mom surmises that that man was Ri-jin’s biological dad. But he was dying, and Seo-yeon returned to Korea with Ri-jin.
Mom stops there, and promises to tell her the rest slowly. Ri-jin apologizes to her, and tearfully tells her it’s not because she doesn’t love her. It’s just that the memories keep rising up and torturing her. Mom, also crying, reassures her that she understands.
Do-hyun is studying the register again, when his head rings with the pain that usually signifies a switch. Memories of both Ri-jins, child and adult, overlap in his mind. The pain intensifies and he screams.
Ri-jin opens the envelope her mom left, and recognizes the burnt photo — but this is the original, including little Ri-jin with her arms around her mother. She spills the rest of the contents out and finds the locket.
Do-hyun bolts awake, a giant teddy bear lying beside him. He slowly approaches the foot of his bed — to meet a vision of little Ri-jin. She holds her hands out for the bear, and he smiles that broken little smile as he hands it over.
She says she’ll tell him her name now, since she couldn’t last time. He already knows it, he says — it’s Oh Ri-jin. She shakes her head. He’s surprised. What is it then?
Ri-jin opens the locket to her mother’s picture. In her memory, she hears a woman call, “Do-hyun-ah!” She wonders why she’s calling Do-hyun’s name, when another memory rises.
Little Ri-jin plays on a swing and a woman calls Do-hyun. She replies, “Mommy!” and goes running to her. Her mother chides her for playing dangerously, “If Do-hyun gets hurt, do you know upset mommy will be?” Ri-jin promises to be more careful, and Mommy wraps her in a cuddle, so proud of her super-smart daughter, Do-hyun. Oh man.
Shell-shocked in the present, Ri-jin thinks, “My name is…”
Little Ri-jin confides to Do-hyun. “My name is… Cha. Do. Hyun.”
Oh man. I totally have the chills. I saw this coming just a few minutes from the end, but it’s still a powerful twist. In a show that is everything to do with identity, I feel like this revelation subtly shifts my perspective of everything in the show so far, redrawing the show’s core motifs in a completely different light, like the “I’m you”/”You’re me” theme, or his “I’m Cha Do-hyun” refrain. It even changes the nature of the most fundamental question underpinning the whole show: Who is Cha Do-hyun?
What a simple, ingenious and cruel way to wipe out the existence of Min Seo-yeon’s child. No wonder Grandma is terrified by the idea of it coming out. Speaking of whom, it was so satisfying that Do-hyun incisively cuts her strings. The thing about puppeteers is that they can only manipulate you if you want something they have. Do-hyun doesn’t, so he’s free to rise above their game, and remind Grandma that she can’t just have something because she wants it. For now, I’ll take her getting a figurative slap in the face (though a literal one would be nice, too), but damn, I hope that by the end of the show, she and Mom are called to account and punished, even if, Brothers Karamazov-style, it’s in the stew of their own guilt.
But is Mom worse? Grandma has (relatively) no soul to begin with, but it looks like Mom cashed hers in to buy a place in Seungjin, and sold her son out at the same time. If there’s a more reprehensible motive in renaming your own child, denying how your actions contributed to his mental breakdown, and refusing to stop despite his begging…I don’t even want to know. She obviously loves Do-hyun after a fashion (I think?), but what kind of love is it that doesn’t see the person he is and the suffering he endures? So Mom, you win at failing, and if Grandma is Lucius Malfoy, you — weak and greedy — are Peter Pettigrew.
Do-hyun’s question begins to be answered: Why was Ri-jin abused? I think his dad saw Ri-jin as little more than an avatar of her dead mother, and you can’t get back at dead people. Overshadowed by a capable wife whose love he could not win, and belittled by a father whose confidence he couldn’t gain, his sense of inferiority and his ballooning resentment against them both probably fed into each other. And with an enabling mom at cross-purposes with accepted morality, reframing his feelings and actions as legitimate wouldn’t even have needed much effort.
I wonder if the show’s slightly Nietzschean undertones are intentional, like the idea of redefining morality for one’s own purposes, or the role of action versus inaction (although I hasten to add I am an amateur at philosophy, so please do correct me if I’m wrong). With the belief that the capacity for guilt is embedded into the human psyche, and innately connected to the capacity for memory, the idea that “only something which continues to hurt stays in the memory” makes a triangle of memory, guilt and pain — a trifecta that is at the root of the majority of ills in this show.
Do-hyun’s overwhelming guilt comes to the fore again this hour, really epitomized in that moment he’s about to reach for Ri-jin, but pulls back. Grandma has a point about not holding on to a past that can’t be changed or undone, but Ri-jin is more right — if the injuries of the past aren’t treated, the pain will prevent them from moving forward. And that’s why “heal me” isn’t just a gimmick, but a necessary measure to ensure they can moor to their lives in the present.
Ri-jin’s indomitable spirit bore out in what was really her episode. I’m glad she got angry with Ri-on, who in being a good brother, can be high-handed to the extent that it erases her agency. She gets to choose if she gets hurt, it’s not up to him (or Do-hyun) to decide. So I agree with her cutting loose from him. For now, she needs to do this on her terms, and if that means on her own, then on her own it is.
That’s why I actually think the couple need to be apart for now (so they can be together later, of course). Both of them have things they need to do alone. Ri-jin is beginning to regain her own lost memories and Do-hyun can’t help her deal with them, not when he’s struggling with his own. The caregiver dynamic makes Ri-jin protective, instinctively putting him first. His break-up is partially acknowledgement of that inequality and his current inability to level it even though he badly wants to. He’s already wracked with the guilt of failing to protect her in the past, and nor can he protect her now, as the previous episode proves.
I’ve heard some unhappy rumblings about this week’s episodes (purplecow and I aren’t friends anymore)(lol no, just kidding). On the opposite end, I really liked the tone and direction of the story this week, and feel the characters stayed true to themselves. Ri-jin proved she isn’t playing second fiddle (hur) in Do-hyun’s hero’s journey, but is forging her own path. Nor do I see Do-hyun as a noble idiot: He leaves her because he can’t live with himself, not for her own good. After three-quarters of cute/funny, I think the show’s earned its angst — purposeful and necessary given where things are headed. Mental disorder and child abuse are not, after all, light topics, and addressing them properly can’t be a jovial affair. Like I said at the beginning, the premise is only a comedy on the outside, but at its core, it’s always a tragedy. Let’s weather it with Do-hyun and Ri-jin.
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 15
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 14
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 13
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 12
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 11
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 10
- Kolorful Palette: Split [Kill Me, Heal Me]
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 9
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 8
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 7
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 6
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 5
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 4
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 3
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 2
- Kill Me, Heal Me: Episode 1