Come Back, Ajusshi: Episode 7
Hey folks! Just popping in on Ajusshi to help catch us up, which I’m happy to do since the show is light and funny with heartfelt moments, making it one of those dramas I like to watch to unwind and relax.
Today’s episode has a few reversals in store for us—some expected and welcome, and others maybe not so pleasant for our characters. There’s always been a tension between truth and comfort in this drama, and today our characters come up against that uncomfortable meeting place, and have to figure out where they fall on the spectrum and what they’re willing to live with.
SONG OF THE DAY
Topp Dogg – “Feel Alive” from the Come Back, Ajusshi OST [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Hae-joon is shocked to see his trusted hoobae Ji-hoon arrive at the locker to pick up the bribe, and confronts him then and there. Ji-hoon feigns ignorance at first, but when Hae-joon demands to know what he’s doing with that money and whom he’s working for, Ji-hoon replies coolly, “You should know the answer.”
A series of quick sequences fill in the gaps for us: how Ji-hoon broke the CCTV camera and the hard drive, and how he’d been acting behind the scenes all along. Aw, so you were shady then? Sadface.
Hae-joon says he’d never thought to suspect Ji-hoon of sticking near him and carefully destroying each bit of evidence. Ji-hoon replies, “If not me, someone else would have done it.” Hae-joon exclaims, “I don’t know about anyone else, but you can’t be this kind of trash!”
Ji-hoon points out that both Hae-joon and Jae-gook are using a man’s death for their own purposes. Hae-joon shoves him against the lockers, reminding him that he’d said he didn’t believe Young-soo had committed suicide—how could he do this and look Da-hye in the eye? “You call yourself a human?” he shouts.
“Kim Young-soo was a stain on Shin Da-hye’s life!” Ji-hoon shouts back. “Do you know what his greatest wrongdoing was? Leaving Da-hye and dying, whether suicide or not.”
Oof, that lands hard with Hae-joon, who staggers back, reeling at the accusation. Wondering if it’s true.
Yi-yeon is called to her son’s kindergarten, where his teacher explains that the reporters have been sniffing around, even asking the other kids about him. The teacher worries that Young-chan will face greater difficulties if the other parents find out who his mother is.
Upon leaving the building, she’s hounded by the press, who ignore her request not to take pictures of the boy. Glaring, she stalks up to a smirky reporter and sarcastically tells him to shoot away, exaggerating poses for him. The guy says that remaining silent isn’t doing any good since people want to hear her explanation, but Yi-yeon replies that it isn’t like they’ll believe what she says.
“You can write whatever you want about me,” she says. “But don’t touch my child. Please. I ask this favor.”
And so, Yi-yeon calls Jae-gook to bring their son to him, tearfully saying goodbye before sending him off to his father. Jae-gook criticizes her for the reporters being at the school again, while Yi-yeon points out that he was behind her press conference fiasco. She makes a barb about him and rival actress Joo-yeon, and in a temper, Jae-gook grabs her hard and asks what she’s doing with Hae-joon.
Leaning in menacingly, he asks why he’s putting up with such disgrace, his tone so chilling that she trembles. He says she’ll find out soon and warns, “I won’t let you go.”
Yi-yeon ignores her van on her way out and ends up at Gi-tak’s old rooftop apartment, where she imagines him boxing outside and sitting next to her on the outdoor platform. They smile at each other.
Yi-yeon tamps down tears as she looks around his apartment, marveling at an old mix tape he still has. In flashback, we see a high school Yi-yeon on the bus, eyes widening when someone touches her butt. So she grabs his butt right back and challenges, “Do you like it?” only to belatedly realize that Gi-tak hadn’t been copping a feel—his boxing glove had bumped her accidentally. Whoopsie.
She embarrasses herself further when she accuses Gi-tak of following her, then realizes he’s heading to the boxing gym nearby. Yi-yeon hurries off cringing, but Gi-tak smiles.
Now Yi-yeon pours herself wine and toasts Gi-tak’s mug, and finally bursts into sobs—and outside, Hong-nan listens with a heavy heart and leaves wiping at tears.
Hae-joon broods in the bath, leaving Maya to ogle his body while worrying about his dark mood—she smells trouble. When Hong-nan bursts in, he asks her if she’s confident she can take down model-weasel Yoo Hyuk and president-weasel Jae-gook (I paraphrase), and she readily agrees.
Maya cuts in, reminding them that revenge is verboten. “It’s not revenge!” they yell in unison.
Maya pulls out her massive rulebook, which Hong-nan promptly throws into the bathwater. Clasping hands, she and Hae-joon vow to take them down.
Yi-yeon is still at Gi-tak’s rooftop apartment (ignoring the soju bottles with effort, good for her) when she hears Suk-chul’s voice outside and quickly flicks off the lights. He notices—it’s very obvious—and heads inside warily, finding the light switch broken.
Haha, he’s still afraid of ghosts and slaps a talisman on the wall while brandishing a cross necklace, calling out to the ghost—and when Yi-yeon appears looking like the girl out of The Ring, he falls back screaming.
Of course, then Yi-yeon flicks on the lights and Suk-chul tries to pretend he wasn’t about to pee his pants. It gives her the upper hand when they sit to talk, since she giggles to herself at his reaction and he has to warn her not to spread stories.
But Suk-chul also has unsettling news for Yi-yeon, commenting that her manager friend sure seems ambitious, given her recent activities…
Cut to: fashion show preparations. Hong-nan and Hae-joon launch into full training mode, working on their best runway struts.
On the day of the show, they arrive ready to roll and drool over the models together, while Maya tut-tuts that they’re going to cause trouble today. (Then she promptly gets distracted oohing over all the makeup and accessories.)
While setting up for the show, Da-hye sees Ji-hoon’s bloody lip and goes over in concern. Hong-nan bristles, ready to stomp over and intervene, but Hae-joon keeps her focused on their goal: the show.
Da-hye asks about the rice cake bribe, confused when Ji-hoon tells her there were only gift vouchers in the envelope. She presses the issue, and he raises his voice in frustration and shuts her down.
As they wait backstage, Hong-nan gapes to see Maya twirling on the runway, decked out in full angel gear, knocking people aside with her wings. She’s absurd, I love her.
Hong-nan takes a moment to flirt with Yoo Hyuk to his face (and scowl at his back) before joining Hae-joon on the runway. He stands there a long moment staring at Da-hye, his gaze interrupted only when a helicam flying above runs into a lighting fixture and bursts into a shower of sparks.
This triggers a memory, and Hae-joon falls to his knees in shock, reliving his last moments as Young-soo when the sky was full of fireworks and he’d seen a dove flying as he fell to his death. Now he realizes it wasn’t a bird, but one of these helicams—which means his death may have been captured on camera.
Hong-nan assures him she’s good to handle the show, leaving him to run off to check out his hunch at the broadcast station, which aired the fireworks show. When Manager Ma picks up the busted helicam, it has a feather stuck in it—aha! So Maya did have a purpose for being here, other than to look fabulous.
Jae-gook and the chairman’s secretary run into each other in the elevator, and she warns him that it’s only a matter of time before his father hears about him putting the department store on the market. She hasn’t informed the chairman yet, because she’s waiting to see which of the two dogs wins this fight. The other side is putting on an event to save the store—what kind of event will Jae-gook prepare?
Hong-nan finds Yoo Hyuk in the dressing room being fawned over by the other models, and gets his attention using the direct approach: grabbing his butt. She says innocently that she was just reaching for a powder puff, and breathily flirts with him until he’s kicking out everyone else to be alone with her.
He wonders if they’ve met before, but thankfully he’s thinking of the phone swap incident; Hong-nan, on the other hand, thinks to when she threatened him as Gi-tak. She (mostly) hides her disgust to coo over him, agreeing to talk after the show so they can get to know each other better.
The insinuation that Hong-nan is up to something doesn’t sit well with Yi-yeon, who sees the viral video of her kissing Hae-jin in the store. She shows up in the dressing room to confront her, asking what she’s doing kissing her ex’s half-brother, or working for a Sunjin show that’s featuring Yoo Hyuk.
Hong-nan replies that Jae-gook was her target from the start, because Gi-tak wouldn’t be able to rest in peace otherwise. Yi-yeon hears this as accusation—that Hong-nan is taking revenge for her brother’s death, which Yi-yeon had a part in. She asks why she’s to blame for it, exclaiming that she didn’t tell him to die.
But whatever Hong-nan’s working on, she’s not about to share. She just asks Yi-yeon to leave so she can prepare, and Yi-yeon complies, in tears.
Hae-joon goes to the broadcast station to review the tapes of the fireworks show. The producer agrees, but still angles for that interview with Hae-joon and Yi-yeon as people who’ve een cast out by chaebol families.
Jae-gook hears that Hae-joon ran out of the rehearsal, and gives the order to have Yoo Hyuk apprehended after the show. The model had wanted a “bonus” for the show, so he’ll think about what kind of bonus to give him. Annnnnd around the corner, we see our trusted lackey Je-gil disguised as a janitor, listening to the exchange. He makes a call to report what he heard.
As showtime approaches, Hae-joon’s still gone and Hong-nan takes the opportunity to whisper a suggestion to the designer. He then fawns all over Jae-gook and heaps flattery on him, saying he ought to walk in the show too. Hong-nan smiles in anticipation.
When the show gets going, Jae-gook has a prominent place as one of the models, and Hong-nan drapes herself over him in poses. Yi-yeon informs Seung-jae that Hong-nan is working on a revenge that she won’t explain, and instructs him to keep an eye on her, in case she gets into trouble. Make sure she stays safe.
On the runway, Hong-nan can’t resist sticking out a foot and tripping Jae-gook, which is pretty satisfying. After the show, she and Yoo Hyuk leave together, only to be surprised by Suk-chul and his thugs in the parking lot. Whatever they want can’t be good, since they’re acting on Jae-gook’s orders, and Hong-nan and Yoo Hyuk make a break for it.
The gangsters chase Yoo Hyuk’s van through the streets, and his muttered comments give Hong-nan the confirmation that Suk-chul was behind his staged scandal with Yi-yeon. Unfortunately for them, the gangsters force their car to a stop, then shove them into their van.
Hae-joon combs through a stack of tapes before finally landing on the crucial footage from that night: his fall from the building. Elated at his breakthrough, he hurries back, growling that Jae-gook is dead now.
Da-hye is left to clean up the fashion show aftermath on her own, since the other employees make excuses to leave early. Ji-hoon shows up to help out, apologizing for his outburst earlier. She treats him coolly, but he grows very earnest, saying that he’s wanted to say something to her for nine years but hadn’t had the chance, and that they never properly broke up.
“Let’s start again,” he says. Startled, Da-hye tries to excuse herself and says she’ll act as though she didn’t hear that, but Ji-hoon grabs her arms to keep her there. He says he wouldn’t have spoken up if nothing had happened to Young-soo, but now insists that she has to hear him out.
“Let her go,” Hae-joon calls out, and steps in to remove that hand for him. He informs Da-hye that he’s found the answer to why her husband died the way he did and asks her to come with him. Ji-hoon argues that she doesn’t have to listen, but reels when Da-hye agrees to go.
The hostages are taken to a dark, empty warehouse, bound with tape and quivering before the shadows of their captors. Well, Yoo Hyuk quivers—Hong-nan’s spitting fire and rarin’ to go, demanding that Suk-chul take her on in a fight like a man. Yoo Hyuk (hiding behind Hong-nan, heh) sputters that Suk-chul can’t treat him like this after he did them all a favor in acting like Yi-yeon’s boyfriend, but the gangsters declare it’s time to die.
Hong-nan and Yoo Hyuk struggle and panic, just as another figure steps into the scene—it’s Seung-jae, having followed them from the parking lot. Now he charges in and takes down the thugs one by one, working his way toward the captives and the boss.
Then Seung-jae kneels before the hyungnim to ask forgiveness for his immature sibling—and gets slammed in the back with a beam. He’s knocked out cold, while back in Gi-tak’s home, the framed photo collage of his gangster family falls off the wall and shatters. Symbolism!
Hae-joon walks with Da-hye, and is curiously quiet—he explains that he’s holding himself back, wanting to tell her everything but needing to prepare a bit more before he does. He asks her not to listen to anyone else before he does, and when she gets a call from Ji-hoon, he’s relieved to see that she rejects it.
He gives her a sweet goodbye wave, and for a split second Da-hye sees her husband’s face instead of him.
In the gangsters’ lair, Yoo Hyuk cracks and asks to talk with Jae-gook, willing to do whatever he wants. At that, the lead gangster clicks off his recording device—it’s Je-gil. Ahahaha.
Immediately everyone drops the menacing air and starts bickering, and one by one the fallen gangsters pick themselves up, Seung-jae included. Hong-nan leads the victory strut out of the place—sting operation complete! Muahaha.
The next day, an executive meeting starts off with Ji-hoon making a presentation, and he plugs in a flash drive to begin. But what plays is Hae-joon’s newly discovered footage of Young-soo on the ledge, struggling to secure the loose banner.
Hae-joon takes over the proceedings, starting by confronting Manager Ma about framing Young-soo with that bribe. He makes them sweat with references to golf club locker rooms and accuses them all of using Young-soo’s death to cover up for their own bribes and corruption.
Da-hye is called into the meeting room, and Hae-joon explains that her husband didn’t commit suicide—his actual cause of death was overwork. Pointing to Da-hye, he insists they apologize immediately. But Da-hye, overcome with emotion, runs from the room.
In a righteous fury, Hae-joon asks how much the profits gained from obstructing the truth are worth—do they compare to the loss suffered by the deceased’s family? “If I were Kim Young-soo,” he seethes, “I could chew you all up and still be furious!”
“What will you do?!” he screams at the room, slamming his hands on the table.
Everyone squirms a little through his tirade, until Jae-gook calmly suggests they not blow this out of proportion. He agrees to “seriously look into” the matter of apologies and compensation, which I suppose is as good as we can expect for now.
Hae-joon leaves the room to catch up with a distraught Da-hye, who isn’t as happy about the discovery as he’d expected. She asks if he’s using Young-soo in his power game, wondering why he’d do this to her.
Hae-joon asks, seemingly genuinely confused, “Aren’t you happy? It wasn’t suicide.”
She asks, “Should I be happy? Is this better than suicide?” Stricken, Hae-joon doesn’t have an answer.
Epilogue: Maya adopts a meek demeanor as she addresses her Big Boss in the Sky, saying in her defense that she didn’t mean to do that (with her angel wings). She just wanted the ajusshis to resolve their issues and offered them a teeny-weeny tip, which wasn’t overstepping her bounds, honest! The Boss thunders at her in response, and she dutifully raises her arms in punishment like an errant schoolgirl.
And over on the uninhabited island, the real Hae-joon is still stuck with his simple-minded ajusshi pilot, and they struggle to fend for themselves. Hae-joon suggests they be responsible for their own food… and then gets caught red-handed eating ajusshi’s seaweed in the dead of night.
This isn’t a criticism of the show but more a commentary on the character, in that Hae-joon/Young-soo often frustrates me with his shortsighted approach to justice, righteousness, revenge, whatever you want to call it. Young-soo’s an emotional character, and certainly he’s earned the right to be emotional given his circumstances, but that often manifests in behavior that’s at best perplexing to others (and at worst makes him look nuts). He’s so fixated on doing what he can for his family and clearing his name that he doesn’t stop to consider how that comes across to the outside world, coming from the shell he inhabits.
For instance, he thinks that his family would be happy to know how he died and presents this video like it’s the answer… only I think he’s asking the wrong question. The actual problem is that he’s dead, not that people misunderstand how he died—sure, the frame job was rubbing salt in the wound, but to his grieving loved ones, it’s more painful to be constantly reminded of his death. Which he doesn’t personally feel, naturally, since he’s right here, alive and all. Except he’s not really himself since he’s supposed to be this other guy, and while the body-possession element does give us rich comic fodder at times, I do think Young-soo is approaching things from such a self-centered point of reference that sometimes I think he’s getting in his own way.
Again, that’s not a knock on the show, and in fact I think it he’s a very sympathetic character—I’m moved when he gets thunderously angry and rails at executives and shoves their noses in their own dirt. I’m rooting for him to clear his name and leave his family a bit more at peace. And I find Rain’s performance spot-on and stirring. I just wish he’d think things through a little more, even though I won’t hold it against him—perhaps reassessing his goals in this afterlife/re-life mission will be part of his journey.
Hong-nan had the lighter, feel-good thread today, and I’m glad s/he did because it was a hilarious counter to the other half. How much did I love the gangster family reunion at the end, pulling their elaborate con game with the weaselly pretty boy? I knew something was going down behind the scenes, but it didn’t take away from the satisfaction of the big reveal (and having Je-gil be the face of the shadowy “hyungnim” was icing on the cake).
It was a little bittersweet to see the distance open up between Hong-nan and Yi-yeon today, and after they’d been getting along so well—enough to lull me into the false sense of security that they could continue on being besties and girlfriends indefinitely. Which, of course, is unreasonable. I’m sure it’s a temporary thing since Hong-ran was keeping Yi-yeon in the dark because of her plan, but I was touched that Yi-yeon’s reaction was to still think of Hong-nan’s safety. I find it really interesting to watch these extra relationships spring up in the wake of the two ajusshis’ fake identities—extra in the sense that we’re getting added dimensions to the existing relationships because one party thinks they’re somebody else. So while Gi-tak already had a history and relationship with Yi-yeon, now he’s developing a whole new one because she naturally treats Hong-nan differently than she treated him. Same with him and his gangster underlings, or Young-soo and his family. It’s a rich setup, and you get the sense that these characters are growing even after death.
I continue to find the physical comedy and sight gags to be laugh-out-loud funny, and both actors are making it work. I’m actually amazed that I fully believe that they are their ajusshi souls—I’m always aware, for example, that inside Oh Yeon-seo is a Kim Su-ro itching to burst out and beat someone up. Body-swap premises can be difficult to buy into if you can’t get past the suspension of disbelief with the characters, but this drama takes us there readily, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m able to believe it. Honestly, the Sunjin backstory and the bribery subplots are necessary in a perfunctory sense, to give our characters reasons and motivations to do things, but not really all that interesting beyond that—nobody’s watching for those plots yeah? It’s the big heart and off-kilter comedy that draw me in, and I’m glad that those elements aren’t fading even as the serious moments get more serious.