Come Back, Ajusshi: Episode 9
We get more developments with Hae-joon this round, with the help of fellow death colleague Hong-nan. As Hae-joon continues to impose his one-sided views on restoring normality for his family, he slowly realizes just how myopic his views were. But as with anything in this drama, the realizations come with a load of hilarity and comedic misunderstandings. My heart aches in grief and regret, but my belly aches from laughter. Enough laughter to make me wonder if laughing was the secret to Rain’s chocolate abs…
EPISODE 9 RECAP
After his proclamation to live together, Hae-joon tries to convince Da-hye to agree to the cohabitation. As long as he can live with the family, they won’t need to move, which sounds like good deal to Hanna and Dad. He offers a bonus, in the form of reducing their debt, depending on how well he’s treated in the house.
Da-hye considers that a little too subjective, but Hanna has a solution. She brings a page of stickers and makes it a reward system. When they’re awarded all the stickers, Hae-joon will move out. Da-hye agrees, and Hae-joon has a cute little high-five celebration with Hanna. He adds that most importantly, he just wants to be treated like family.
In the kitchen, Da-hye tip-toes to get the dishes into the top cabinet, and Hae-joon swoops in to help. He leans closer, amused at how uncomfortable Da-hye gets, until she throws him a glare. He then gives her an envelope with advanced rent money to settle the immediate debt payments. She grudgingly thanks him, and he leans in close once again to ask for coffee.
She makes him a cup, and flips off all the lights to go to bed, leaving Hae-joon in the dark to drink his scorching hot coffee, which he spits right back into the cup. Ha.
Seung-jae finds Hong-nan practicing with the punching bag, and she challenges him with a punch, which he easily blocks. He warns her not to keep getting involved with Jae-gook’s business, and she, in turn, chides him for turning in Yoo Hyuk to Jae-gook. She wants him to live freely, but she worries for Yi-yeon without Seung-jae by her side. When she promises to recover the restaurant, he tells her to let it go and leave. Hong-nan says she’ll be gone in a month, whether he likes it or not. Seung-jae doesn’t look too pleased.
Hong-nan peeks into Yi-yeon’s room, where she’s sleeping with her son. Hong-nan smiles at Yi-yeon sleeping with Young-chan in a motherly embrace, her fidgeting sleep habits nonexistent. She watches Yi-yeon sleep, and we see Gi-tak in Hong-nan’s place. He lies down beside her and watches her peacefully.
Hae-joon crawls into his blankets in the attic and takes a long whiff of the familiar blanket smell. He pulls the covers over his head, and then we see Young-soo in his place. He smiles at the comforting smells and sounds of his family interactions. He’s missed this. He takes out the hair clip that Da-hye dropped in the storeroom and brings to his lips. Then, Young-soo is back as Hae-joon again.
Da-hye puts the envelope in her drawer and takes out the necklace box. She looks at the necklace, looking more determined than sad this time.
Da-hye pokes Hae-joon awake the next morning, and he pulls her into a hug as he tells her about his dream about dying. She begins screaming and chases him around the attic, hitting him with a pillow. Suddenly, he stops running and looks at her with sad eyes. He realizes that she’ll never recognize him because he’s dead.
The breakfast table is full of side dishes, but Hae-joon expresses discontent. He wanted to be treated like family, not a stranger. These extra dishes imply that he’s a guest in the house — if she really thought he was family, there would never be fish and meat on the table at once. In response, Da-hye takes the dishes away from Hae-joon, but he’s still not happy.
Hanna is impressed by Hae-joon’s car and jumps in with excitement. Hae-joon quickly locks the doors after Hanna gets in and zooms off, with Da-hye looking on with disbelief.
When Yi-yeon steps out of the car, she notices Hong-nan’s outfit and orders her to switch. After the switch, they come out of the van, and her son compliments Hong-nan’s new outfit. Yi-yeon orders her to switch again, and Seung-jae covers the Young-chan’s mouth before he causes more nonsense. Hee. Yi-yeon senses a strange familiarity with their location, and they realize they’re in front of the Sunjin Department store.
Joo-yeon thanks Jae-gook for approving their filming at the department store, but it turns out that Jae-gook isn’t the one to thank. It’s Hae-joon’s signature (with a smiley face) on the approval.
Hae-joon walk through the department store and decides to tell all the employees to not take their job so seriously. It’s all worthless when you’re dead. Take breaks if you’re tired, eat if you’re hungry, sleep if you’re sleepy. Manager Ma cringes while the employees applaud their handsome superior, leaving Da-hae wondering if she can trust this Hae-joon.
Joo-yeon tries to sweet-talk Jae-gook, but he’s not having any of it. He tells her to improve her stoic acting, and she storms out of the room with a warning about a special guest today.
Yi-yeon greets the traitor director with a smile, though he worries about the small role she’ll have despite her fame. She insists, “I’m okay, that’s okay,” and Hong-nan ensures him with a strong pat on his arm.
Hae-joon paces in front of the store waiting for Da-hae, and he quickly rushes her into the car, kidnapping her for a very nice lunch. It turns out to be the same place that Ji-hoon took her previously, and Hae-joon lies that he’s taking her out so she knows his taste for future reference. He puts a piece of meat on her spoonful of rice and cutely motions her to do the same.
He sighs in contentment and says that it’s been a while since they’ve eaten together, just the two of them. Of course, it’s the first time for Da-hae, but Hae-joon continues from his perspective and promises that this will happen more often.
Yi-yeon walks confidently in her waitress outfit, leaving the men in her path awestruck by her beauty. She’s stopped by Jae-gook, who taunts her about her absence of pride. She’s not bothered by his comments and takes pride in her role.
Hae-joon checks on the filming and finds Hong-nan (who he calls Han hyung) to update her about his progress. She teases him about his living situation but quickly turns frustrated when he tells her about his mediocre lunch choice. She slaps him on the head and pulls him into a chokehold. Seung-jae and Yi-yeon’s son catch their interaction, and they quickly smile and wave at the child.
Jae-gook tries to accuse Yi-yeon of being an irresponsible parent, but he’s quickly proven wrong when Hong-nan and Hae-joon interrupt their conversation with Young-chan. Hong-nan responds to Jae-gook’s concern by confirming with Young-chan that he’s here to see Mommy work at Daddy’s workplace. Young-chan nods and brags that Hae-joon gave him a finger heart. Aw, so cute.
Yi-yeon tells Jae-gook not to worry and walks off with her child in her arms. Jae-gook tells Hae-joon that family should be left alone, but Hae-joon makes a better point, “For someone who knows his family is important, why did you treat Kim Young-soo that way?” Touché.
The filming begins, with Yi-yeon as a silent waitress who serves the main couple. Joo-yeon spits out lines that seem directed at Yi-yeon, and they seem to hit home for Yi-yeon, whose hands tremble as they put down the cups. Hong-nan decides that she’s had enough and gives Yi-yeon a morale boost with an aluminum tray as a reflector plate. It messes with the filming, and Hong-nan gets carried away by Seung-jae, all while yelling compliments about Yi-yeon’s beauty.
It’s ridiculous and hilarious, but it’s just what Yi-yeon needed for a confidence boost. She literally glows as she puts down the cups on the table, and the male lead can’t help but stare at her mesmerizing beauty. The camera seems to follow her as well, until Joo-yeon snaps them back into reality.
Hong-nan quickly runs over to give Yi-yeon’s face a quick touch-up, and Jae-gook watches from the back. He doesn’t force the film crew to stop and decides to let Yi-yeon revel in her moment, for now.
Hae-joon intercepts an energy booster that Ji-hoon offers Da-hae and intentionally speaks to Da-hae about their dinner menu. Arms around her shoulders, Hae-joon suggests that they go home together as he looks to Ji-hoon for a reaction. Ji-hoon lifts Hae-joon’s sleeve off of Da-hae’s shoulder, calling it sexual misconduct, and Da-hae pulls him aside to talk.
In the stairwell, Da-hae turns angry and aggressive, asking if he’s taking advantage of her because she seems easy. “Is it a requirement for the privileged to be rude? It’s my late husband, not me, who has the debt. I’m not inferior to you in any way.” She dares him to fire her or get out of her house. Hae-joon shrinks down in fear and complies, but when he stands back to full height, Da-hae seems a little overwhelmed. She snaps out of it and yells at him to get out of her way.
Hae-joon slides to the ground, enamored by Da-hae’s fierce side, while Da-hae convinces herself that she did the right thing by standing up to him. She runs into Ji-hoon and breaks her heel, but she walks away in her lopsided heels in an attempt to avoid both men.
Suk-chul tries to talk business with Jae-gook, but Jae-gook merely orders him to look into Hong-nan. Then, he reminds Suk-chul that he should mind his own business and stop popping up out of nowhere. He almost mistakened him for a piece of trash and stepped on him. Suk-chul takes the insult well, laughing it off.
Yi-yeon and her son thoroughly enjoy food from the pojangmacha, and Hong-nan comments at how they awe over such ordinary things. But she brings back the excitement by feeding everyone, including Seung-jae.
Da-hae works in the storage room and breaks her other heel to balance out her walking. Ji-hoon finds Da-hae and sits her down to exchange her broken heels with a new pair. Hae-joon watches from afar, paralyzed by his own cowardice. He turns and walks away, missing the part where Da-hae takes off the heels and returns them to Ji-hoon. She apologizes for his misunderstanding, flatly rejecting him.
Hae-joon calls Hong-nan in panic. He claims that he couldn’t do anything about it, but Hong-nan calls him a coward for not doing anything at all. She remembers the day that Yi-yeon ran away to Jae-gook ten years ago and wonders what would have happened if she as Gi-talk had more courage. She tells Hae-joon to face her like a man.
Hae-joon nods at the advice and tells himself, “I’m no longer Kim Young-soo. I’m Lee Hae-joon.” He walks toward Da-hae and tells her to listen carefully, all while she mutters about his constant nagging. She tells him to stop bothering her, but he pulls her into a surprise dip. He looks serious and tells her, “I wouldn’t have returned if that was my intent.” It’s almost romantic… until he slightly loses his grip and cracks her back, which causes her to pull on his hair. HA.
Walking home, Hae-joon cautiously walks behind Da-hae, now in a back brace, and offers his arm as support. She refuses and calls him crazy, but he feels good that Da-hae is at least cursing at him. He follows her into the house and finds that she still has her old broken heels. That makes him break into a smile.
Pacing in the attic, Hae-joon frantically calls Hong-nan again to complain about doing as she said, only to strain his wife’s back. She cuts to the chase and tells him to do everything that he couldn’t do for her before.
Hae-joon takes that to the extreme and sets up the morning with so much extravagance that Da-hae initially thinks it’s a dream. Maids line her path to the living room, where everyone is dressed up — even the dog. Her reverie is broken by Hae-joon’s appearance, and he proceeds with his extravagance by bringing in new furniture. But Da-hae isn’t having any of it and orders all the furniture out.
Instead of all the material goods, Hae-joon ends up cooking with Hanna and Dad, letting Da-hae rest and watch blissfully. She catches herself, looking almost guilty for feeling happy.
Hae-joon calls Hong-nan again in yet another emergency. They put mayonnaise in the soup (why?!) and don’t know how to fix it. Hong-nan proclaims the soup dead and offers to come over to save their meal. Yi-yeon overhears the conversation and decides to tag along, since she doesn’t trust any man in the Cha family. So of course, Seung-jae tags along, and it end up being two families face to face in the living room.
At the face-off, Hae-joon makes it very clear that he and Hong-nan are very close family-like friends, but Hong-nan seems to mess it up by calling him “yeobo” (equivalent to “honey”). Nevermind though, since Hong-nan gets straight to her efficient and impressive cooking.
She’s done in no time and tries to up Hae-joon’s appeal by talking about his chocolate abs. That only makes matters worse, and Hae-joon quickly covers his colleague’s mouth. Meanwhile, Dad and Seung-jae play a board game, and Hanna shows Young-chan folders labeled with bird names. She comes across one she doesn’t recognize and shouts a question about the name.
Dad innocently explains that it’s another type of bird, but Seung-jae freezes in recognition of the code name. Hong-nan stops feeding Yi-yeon and races to the room with Hae-joon. Hae-joon carries the children out of the room and finds Hong-nan indulging in the porn. Hong-nan begs that he share these files before he deletes them, but Hae-joon refuses. His reputation is on the line. So naturally, they fight.
Da-hae comes out of the bathroom and asks what’s going on. Just as she’s about to open the door to the room, Yi-yeon and Seung-jae come to the rescue. Yi-yeon distracts her by asking to have a drink but also genuinely asks to be friends. When they hear noises from the room, Yi-yeon and Seung-jae both cover up for the sex sounds by making a strange scene. It’s hilarious.
Inside, Hong-nan tries to seduce Hae-joon into getting her way, but he refuses. He ends up deleting the files, and Hong-nan is devastated. She laments her identity confusion and claims that this would have helped rediscover herself. Hae-joon promises to help her in finding new ones, and they hug it out. Unfortunately, that’s the exact moment the door opens, and it seems like they’ve been having sexy times in the room. Haaa.
Da-hae quickly avoids the scene, but Yi-yeon stops for a split second in recognition of Young-soo’s photo.
Hanna plays with Young-chan in her room and admits to Yi-yeon that she used to wish for a younger brother. Da-hae enters the room just as she says that, so she also hears Hanna remembering her dad not wanting to split his love for Hanna. Yi-yeon tells Hanna that she can be Young-chan’s older sister, and she gladly agrees.
It’s time for the meal, and boy, it’s a feast. Hae-joon and Hong-nan watch their families eat, and it’s probably the most smiles and laughter we’ve seen yet. Side dishes get passed down, and Young-soo’s dad even places one on Seung-jae’s spoon. It’s probably the closest to smiling we’ve seen from him thus far.
After the meal, Yi-yeon talks to Da-hae and asks if husband used to work at Sunjin. She nods, and Yi-yeon recalls that he was the one person who treated her the same, before and after her scandal. Then she look outside and notes that there’s also another person: Hae-joon. Outside, Hae-joon carries Hanna on his shoulders to trim the trees and winks at Da-hae.
Before the families part ways, Da-hae and Yi-yeon hug, both agreeing to meet again as friends. Hae-joon covers Da-hae with his jacket and suggests they go out for drinks. She agrees but only if she decides what to order.
Yi-yeon expresses her approval of Hae-joon but still disapproves of him as Hong-nan’s match. She doesn’t want Hong-nan involved with that family in any way. Hong-nan laughs at the misunderstanding and clarifies that Hae-joon likes someone else, implying that it’s Da-hae. Yi-yeon and Hong-nan fanaticize about their relationship, to which Seung-jae looks upon with disbelief.
At the pojangmacha, Hae-joon instinctively orders pork belly, but Da-hae reveals that she actually doesn’t like pork. She only ate it because her husband liked it. She orders chicken feet instead.
A drink in, they start talking about life. Hae-joon tells Da-hae that his mother passed away early and his father is still alive, but he can’t call him his father. It’s cleverly accurate for Young-soo and Hae-joon. Da-hae asks about someone he loves, and he says he used to have someone he loved for ten years. But he realizes his love may have been one-sided. What if it was all a lie?
Da-hae responds from her perspective that the other person must have matched everything to him. If it’s been ten years, then it must have been very hard. She continues to drink, and Hae-joon comments that she’s different from what he’s heard — that she can’t drink a lot. But once again, Da-hae gives us the hidden truth that she could drink; she just didn’t drink. Hae-joon looks at her, slowly realizing his oversight.
Seung-jae helps Hong-nan practice, but his memory of her and Hae-joon in the room provokes him to get revenge on her. He gets back with annoying blows to her head. Yi-yeon watches from inside, where Young-chan plays with paper planes. One of his paper planes flies under a shelf, and when he reaches for it, he finds a photo. It’s young, beat-up Gi-tak and a younger boy next to him.
Da-hae firmly tells Hae-joon to let their family be. It’s up to them to live without Young-soo. Hae-joon asks, “Who will fill that spot?” Da-hae tells him to stop meddling, but Hae-joon asks he can be the one. “Can’t I like you, ajumma?”
Epilogue: The real Hae-joon runs across the island looking for firewood and works through the night trying to get a spark. He finally gets a spark the next morning, and his tinder catches on fire. He yells in celebration, only to see the pilot ajusshi take out his lighter. His celebratory yell becomes yelps of frustration.
What a fun time. As ridiculous as these epilogues are, they provide a funny additional side story. They’re essentially meaningless but add to the laughs. It shows that this drama isn’t taking itself too seriously, and I like that. It really can’t take itself seriously with such great comedic talent in Rain and the rest of this cast. Our four main actors have a strong grasp on their comedic potential, effectively delivering the laughs but always following with the right emotional beats. I am most pleasantly amused by the Honey Lee and Oh Yeon-seo pair, who is so incredibly funny but carries their story with enough gravitas.
The humor is always a strong suit, but I enjoyed this episode more so for its heart. I loved seeing the two families come together and enjoy each other as if they were one big family. It was in the little interactions between the characters that really warmed my heart. It’s a great way to foreshadow the potential that maybe these two dead guys in disguise came back together to bring their families together, that the inadvertent result of their afterlife fumbling is bringing together two heartbroken families to heal and support each other.
I’m happy that we’ve moved past the dragging storyline about Young-soo’s cause of death. Yes, it was not suicide, but what was it, really? An irrational decision to hang onto the ledge for the sake of the department store’s placard. It was not a very compelling death, and it surely left no satisfaction or further understanding for Da-hae to know that her husband was still dead. We’ve moved on, now focusing on how Young-soo as Hae-joon will discover the real Da-hae. Much better stuff.
It was about time for Hae-joon to start making real progress in his afterlife journey, and I’m relieved to see that he’s becoming more self-aware. His character, Young-soo, is a clueless workaholic who prioritized the material things in life, and he definitely had a thing or two to learn from our veteran lover, Gi-tak. So I found it fitting that Hae-joon used Hong-nan as his love help hotline throughout the episode. The advice was that extra boost of confidence that Hong-nan is always great at providing, and I’m satisfied with how things are unraveling. More and more, Hae-joon realizes that his life as Young-soo was spent never really understanding the woman he loved.
I don’t think it’s quite hit Hae-joon yet that he is dead. Dead. And while it’s heartbreaking to realize that your loved ones will never believe in your present and future existence, I think Hae-joon tends to pretend he’s not dead. No matter how many times you prove to him, he’ll still take the second chance at life, as if he really could relive his life. His desperation and insecurity have accumulated into a big ball of regret, and I hope he’ll come to terms with his death and regrets by making the most of his time with those he loved so much but never really knew.